COLUMBUS, Ohio — Braxton Miller threw for two touchdowns before fighting leg cramps and Jordan Hall ran for two touchdowns to lead No. 2 Ohio State past Buffalo 40-20 on Saturday.
But the Buckeyes were far from perfect.
After taking a 23-0 lead, they missed a punt block while roughing the punter. Hall fell short on a fourth-and-1 run near midfield. And tailback Dontre Wilson fumbled. Meanwhile, Joe Licata threw two touchdowns, and linebacker Kahlil Mack returned an intercepted screen pass 45 yards to pull the Bulls within 30-20 in the third quarter.
"I preached all week about coming out fast and playing hard, and they did it. You can't play much better than our guys did," said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, whose team had 216 yards of offense in the first quarter. "And then we rough a punter, and we have a fourth down we don't make and then we throw a screen and it goes the other way. In a tight game, you're going to lose."
It almost got worse for the Buckeyes on their possession after Mack's touchdown.
Miller went down with cramps. He returned a play later only to lose a fumble while sacked at his 1. Mack, though, was called for hands to the face, nullifying the turnover. Soon after, Miller was sidelined with cramps for a second time. But Kenny Guiton threw a 21-yard touchdown to Chris Fields, and Ohio State wasn't threatened from there.
"After we created a little momentum going our way, then all of a sudden — BAM! — they're right back in the end zone," Bulls coach Jeff Quinn said. "That's the mark of a good football team."
Licata finished 19-of-32 for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
"If you're looking for a moral victory, that means you lost the game," he said. "No, we don't feel good about losing."
Licata did say playing at Ohio Stadium was an experience he will never forget.
"You walk out, and you hear 100,000 people booing," he said with a smile. "That's awesome. It really is awesome."