Ohio State’s defense bent on Saturday against the Toledo Rockets.
It didn’t break, though.
The No. 15-ranked Buckeyes (2-0) held on for a 27-22 victory against the Rockets (1-1) at Ohio Stadium Saturday thanks to two late defensive stops.
Protecting the 27-22 lead in the fourth quarter, OSU junior defensive tackle John Simon sacked Rockets’ senior quarterback Austin Dantin on third-and-9 to force a punt with just under six minutes remaining.
Toledo then recovered a fumble by redshirt freshman Rod Smith with 3:08 remaining in the game, halting any celebrations.
The Rockets’ mounted one final comeback attempt from their own 28-yard line after the recovery and came within 16 yards of the end zone. Simon again provided pressure and forced sophomore quarterback Terrance Owens to throw the ball away on fourth down with 48 seconds remaining to clinch the win for OSU.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” first-year coach Luke Fickell said after the game. “We’re excited about how the guys fought, how they battled and how they kept their chins up.”
The win proved to be a back-and-forth affair, though OSU did strike first in the game.
Redshirt senior quarterback Joe Bauserman led the Buckeyes to an opening-drive score, and found a familiar target in the process.
Bauserman connected with junior tight end Jake Stoneburner on a 26-yard touchdown pass.
Stoneburner split the Toledo defense up the middle, ran uncovered and hauled Bauserman’s pass in with one hand as he crossed the goal line to put OSU up, 7-0.
The touchdown reception was the fourth in two weeks for Stoneburner and the first since he received the John Mackey Tight End of the Week award midweek.
“I guess (Bauserman) just likes finding me out there,” Stoneburner said. “I was supposed to take it up the middle of the field and he made a great pass.”
A lapse on special teams caused headaches for most of the 105,016 fans in attendance at the ‘Shoe.
OSU junior punter Ben Buchanan had his punt blocked by freshman cornerback Kishon Wilcher. Junior defensive end T.J. Fatinikun then returned the ball 22 yards to the Buckeyes’ 1-yard line.
On the next play, junior quarterback Austin Dantin connected with junior receiver Eric Page on a 1-yard touchdown pass.
Page then took the extra point snap and completed a pass to junior defensive end Hank Keighley to give the Rockets an 8-7 lead.
“Obviously, we cannot have the special teams lapses,” Fickell said. “We just can’t have it.”
OSU could only muster a 45-yard drive in response to the Rockets’s score — 30 of the yards it gained came as a result of Toledo penalties. Sophomore kicker Drew Basil then pushed his 47-yard field goal try wide left.
Basil is now 0-for-2 on field goals tries through Week 2.
Owens came in at quarterback for Toledo on the ensuing possession. The result was the same as its last drive, though.
Owens completed a pass to Page, who then high-stepped 66 yards down the sideline and into the end zone to give the Rockets a 15-7 lead.
Page finished the game with 12 catches, two touchdowns and 145 yards.
Two crucial punt re-kicks after Toledo penalties allowed OSU to begin to climb back into the contest midway through the second quarter.
Sophomore punter Vince Penza was forced to re-kick a punt from his own end zone after a Rockets’ false start penalty. The ensuing punt gave OSU the ball inside Toledo territory.
Three plays into the Buckeyes’ drive, sophomore running back Carlos Hyde scampered 36 yards into the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns in the game to bring OSU to within a point at 15-14.
“I think (Hyde) has done a very good job,” Fickell said. “We’ll continue to feed him and, you know, I believe he’s only going to get stronger.”
Penza was forced to re-kick for a second time with 1:00 remaining in the half after an illegal formation penalty.
Buckeyes sophomore Chris Fields then collected Penza’s punt and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown. OSU took a 21-15 lead into halftime.
“I saw a clear lane,” Fields said of his touchdown return. “All I saw was the punter. And coach says you can’t be tackled by the punter, so it ended up being successful.”
Toledo senior running back Adonis Thomas restored the Rockets’ lead soon after the intermission.
A 44-yard pass reception by Thomas, coupled with an OSU face mask penalty, put Toledo on OSU’s 13-yard line. Later in the drive, Thomas took a direct snap on fourth-and-1 and ran four yards into the end zone to put Toledo up, 22-21.
The Buckeyes kept themselves within a point, denying a 50-yard field goal attempt on
Toledo’s next possession. Senior holder Bill Claus bobbled the snap and the OSU defense swarmed him on its own 45-yard line.
The Buckeyes used the short field to their advantage and scored to take a 27-22 lead. Hyde capped a 55-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
OSU was then unsuccessful on its two-point conversion attempt.
The drive following Simon’s sack of Dantin saw the Buckeyes attempting to run the clock out in the fourth quarter.
Then came Smith’s fumble, and OSU’s final late-game stand.
“We knew we had to stop them or they were going to win the game,” Simon said. “The secondary did a great job in coverage and getting me some extra time to get back there.”
The Buckeyes took over on downs and kneed the ball to finish the Week 2 win.
“You never want to be the team that losses to a MAC team in the ‘Shoe,” Stoneburner said. “We were all hoping and praying that the defense would go out there and make a play, and they did.”
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Whiting returned the Buckeyes’ lineup following his one-game suspension for selling OSU football memorabilia and receiving improper benefits in the form of tattoos. Dan Herron, DeVier Posey Mike Adams and Thomas Soloman will remain suspended until the team’s Oct. 8 game at Nebraska.
running back Jordan Hall, sophomore defensive back Corey Brown and junior defensive back Travis Howard were banned for a second consecutive game after receiving $200 at a charity event in Cleveland.
OSU athletic director Gene Smith told The Lantern he plans to meet with the with the NCAA as early as Sunday to address the suspensions of Hall, Brown and Howard.
The Buckeyes will now travel to Miami Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Hurricanes (0-1) at Sun Life Stadium.