After getting off to a rough start to the bowl season, the American Athletic Conference looks to be in good form this afternoon thanks to Tulsa. Tulsa is leading Central Michigan in the Miami Beach Bowl at halftime, 27-3.
A pair of Central Michigan turnovers have led to 10 points for the Golden Hurricane. CMU quarterback Cooper Rush had a first-down pass inside the red zone picked off by Kerwin Thomas in the second quarter. Tulsa turned that interception into a touchdown eight plays later with Keevan Lucas pulling down a 13-yard pass from Dane Evans to push the Tulsa lead to 17. An earlier interception led to a 46-yard field goal by Redford Jones, his second of the game.
Tulsa has accumulated 18 first downs already and looks to be by far the superior team so far in the Miami Beach Bowl. If they can finish this one off in the second half, they will put the AAC in the win column this bowl season. The MAC is also looking for its first win of the bowl season.
No. 4 Ohio state (2-0) got off to a rough start at home against visiting Tulsa (1-1), but some key defensive plays at the end of the first half and an extended delay at halftime due to severe weather rolling through Columbus allowed plenty of time to regroup and make some adjustments. As if Ohio State really needed any extra help in the first place. Ohio State outscored the Golden Hurricane 17-0 in the second half to pick up a second straight win to begin the season, winning 48-3.
Ohio State was locked with Tulsa in a battle of field goals and missed opportunities in the first half until a pair of pick-sixes by the Buckeyes defense provided much-needed energy to Ohio State right before the half. Malik Hooker returned one interception 26 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and moments later Marshon Lattimore returned one from 40 yards to turn a 6-3 dogfight into a 20-3 halftime lead as Tulsa was imploding as the rain started to drop on Ohio Stadium.
J.T. Barrett rushed for 52 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 149 yards in the victory for Ohio State, and Mike Weber emerged as the Buckeyes’ top running back with 92 yards and a score. Ohio State’s defense caused six turnovers as well as held the Golden Hurricane to fewer than 200 yards of total offense (189 yards). There was room for improvement for Ohio State, but credit should be given for Tulsa coming out and playing as they did. Tulsa showed it could have what it takes to be competitive in the American Athletic Conference this season, until they started making mistakes that could not stop developing. It also showed Ohio State’s overall talent advantage is difficult for most schools to overcome.
It may not have gone quite according to script for Ohio State, but they will most certainly take it as the next challenge looms.
Ohio State’s next test is a big one. The Buckeyes travel to Oklahoma to take on the Sooners in Norman next week in a clash between preseason favorites in the Big Ten and Big 12. Oklahoma may have stumbled in Week 1 against Houston, coached by former Ohio State assistant Tom Herman, but they present Ohio State with their biggest test in non-conference play during the regular season since a home-and-home series with USC when Pete Carroll and Matt Barkley were falling shy of expectations on the west coast. Yes, Ohio State did lose two years ago to Virginia Tech, but this will be the biggest regular season non-conference game for Urban Meyer since his arrival in Columbus.
Tulsa gets a chance to bounce back next week when they host North Carolina A&T before making a trip to California to play Fresno State the following week. Reaching conference play with a winning record is within sight. Tulsa’s offense is not as bad as it looked today. The chances Dane Evans has a four-interception game again are probably not very good.
One might say Ohio State looks like a team not trying to show off too much on the game film with a trip to Oklahoma looming next week, but another team from Oklahoma is determined to make the Buckeyes try a little harder to get a win. Tulsa’s defense has been hanging with Ohio State’s offense from the jump, but a late pick-six by Ohio State’s Malik Hooker has given the Buckeyes a little breathing room at halftime. The defense would come up with a second pick-six in the final minute of the half, this time with Marshon Lattimore doing the honors. Ohio State leads Tulsa 20-3 at the break.
Ohio State picked off a pass from Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans on the very first play of the game, to set the Buckeyes at the Tulsa 16-yard line just seconds in, but Tulsa’s defense hung tough and forced a field goal try by Tyler Durbin. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett fumbled away the football on a first down run on their next offensive series, but Tulsa was unable to take advantage with a turnover on downs at the goal line. Starting deep in their own end, Ohio State was forced to a three-and-out, giving Tulsa good field position to eventually set up a short field goal, which tied the game at 3-3.
Ohio State’s best drive of the half covered 59 yards but once again had to settle for three points. The 11-play drive stalled at the Tulsa five-yard line. Ohio State would have a turnover on downs on their next possession, once again deep in Tulsa territory at the four-yard line. Ohio State’s defense would score the first touchdown of the game with Hooker’s pick-six shortly after.
Severe weather is working its way through Columbus right now as well, as the rain started coming down pretty good late in the half.