DALLAS – The momentum, if not the force, was with TCU.
Ohio State’s offensive and defensive struggles in the first half had spilled over into the second half, allowing TCU to build a 21-13 a little over four minutes into the third quarter. Ohio State’s best defensive player, Nick Bosa, had gone down with an injury and was done for the game.
And then everything changed. Boom, boom, boom. Three touchdowns in four minutes and one second in the third quarter put No. 4 OSU (3-0) solidly in control for the first time in its match-up of ranked teams with No. 15 TCU (2-1) at AT&T Stadium and sent it on its way to a 40-28 win over the Horned Frogs on Saturday night.
TCU led 21-13 when Parris Campbell grabbed a short pass from Dwayne Haskins just a few steps past the line of scrimmage and took it 63 yards to the end zone to cut the lead to 21-19 with 6:58 left in the third quarter.
A two-point conversion after the TD was no good, but just over a minute later Ohio State took the lead at 26-21 when defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones intercepted a pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.
The defense struck again with a blocked punt to set up a 24-yard touchdown pass from Haskins to K.J. Hill for a 33-21 lead.
Haskins was 24 of 38 for 344 yards and two touchdowns after a slow start and ran for a touchdown. J.K. Dobbins had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season with 121 yards on 18 carries.
For TCU, quarterback Shawn Robinson was 24 of 40 for 308 yards and a touchdown. Darius Anderson rushed for 154 yards on 12 carries and got into the end zone twice.
“We really turned the momentum there in the third quarter,” acting Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “The defensive score was the biggest one. We were kind of trying to find our way a little. It went fast there and that’s where it turned.
“When you go into a fight you’re going to get hit and you can’t flinch and our guys didn’t flinch,” he said. “You think you know you’re going to respond, but you don’t know.”
Jones said the defense stepped up when Bosa went out. “We lost our best guy. We had to go out there and play. We had to rely on ourselves, there was nobody else to rely on.”
Day said he didn’t have an update on Bosa’s injury and said it was being evaluated.
TCU coach Gary Patterson said, “I promise you we’re not going to be very happy when we watch the film.”
“I think they (Ohio State) are going to walk away and say they’ve got some things to fix, too,” he said.
Despite the mistakes he saw his team make, Patterson called it a good game. “If anybody was here and didn’t think it was a good football game maybe they should start watching some other sport,” he said.
While Ohio State finished strong, the first half was a very different story from the final quarter and a half.
Ohio State put its best foot forward in the first minute of the game then spent much of the last 29 minutes of the first half tripping over its own feet.
Back to back completions from Haskins to Austin Mack for 16 yards and 48 yards set Ohio State up with a first down on TCU’s 2-yard line only three plays into the game.
But in what might have been a portent of the problems that were coming in the rest of the first half the Buckeyes had to settle for a field goal after Dobbins was dropped for a one-yard loss and Haskins threw two incompletions.
Ohio State’s defense got its only touchdown in the first half when Bosa blindsided TCU quarterback Robinson, which caused a fumble that defensive tackle Davon Hamilton fell on in the end zone for a 10-0 lead with 7:13 left in the first quarter.
TCU answered with a 7-play, 84-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown run by Sewo Olonilua with 4:28 left in the first quarter.
Dropped passes by OSU receivers and the defense allowing too many big plays were two of the most obvious problems in the first half. TCU had nine plays of 10 yards or more in the first half.
TCU took its first lead of the game, 14-10, with nine minutes left in the first half on a 93-yard touchdown run by Anderson after punter Drue Chrisman had pinned the Horned Frogs inside their own 10-yard line for the second time in the first half.
That run was the longest rushing play in TCU history, breaking Ladanian Tomlinson’s record of 89 yards.
But in the end, after more than a few struggles, the game belonged to Ohio State.
And now Day hands the game day reins back to head coach Urban Meyer, whose three-game suspension is over. Meyer will be back on OSU’s sideline on Saturday against Tulane at Ohio Stadium.