COLUMBUS – Ohio State gave the fans what they came out to see after a lot them decided they’d seen enough.
A weather delay of 50 minutes following a 20-minute halftime left Ohio Stadium at least half empty by the time No. 4 OSU delivered the dominating performance that was expected in the second half after a sluggish first half in a 48-3 win over Tulsa on Saturday.
Rain began to fall late in the first half and lightning was spotted several times, which required the delay to be extended.
To be fair, Ohio State’s defense dominated often in both halves. In fact, it was the best offense Ohio State had in the first half when it returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the final 3:02 of the second quarter and set up a field goal with another earlier pick.
But in the second half, the offense caught up with the defense and scored on two long drives of 84 yards and 72 yards and abbreviated marches of 46 yards and 28 yards.
Ohio State got 259 of its 417 yards total offense in the second half. Quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 14 of 22 for 149 yards in the game. Tailback Mike Weber had 92 yards on 17 carries and Curtis Samuel rushed for 78 yards on 8 carries and caught 5 passes for 62 yards.
“We came out and played our best football, at least on offense,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said about the rain-delayed second half.
“But to sit in a locker room for an hour and a half, that’s a good sign of some maturity. I saw some maturity in the locker room. I saw some disappointment with the way we played offensively in the first half,” he said.
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore said the Buckeyes were “getting coached the whole time” during the 70 minutes they spent in the locker room.
Lattimore and Malik Hooker broke open what had been an unexpectedly close game with interceptions that became touchdowns late in the first half.
With Ohio State leading just 6-3, Hooker got his third interception of the season when he stepped in front of a pass by Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans and took it to the end zone with 3:02 left in the first half.
Lattimore, who had two interceptions in the game, picked off a pass by Evans and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown 33 seconds before halftime for a 20-7 lead.
For most of the first half, Ohio State’s offense looked almost nothing like the nearly unstoppable machine it was when it rolled up a school-record 776 yards in a 77-10 win over Bowling Green a week earlier.
The Buckeyes started the game by settling for a 29-yard field goal by Tyler Durbin and a 3-0 lead after Lattimore intercepted quarterback Dane Evans at the Golden Hurricane’s 16-yard line on the first offensive play of the game.
The first three plays after that interception were a two-yard run by tailback Mike Weber, a two-yard run by quarterback J.T. Barrett and an incomplete pass into the end zone.
OSU’s second possession ended with a fumble on a botched hand-off between Barrett and Weber.
Tulsa tied the game at 3-3 on a 37-yard field goal with 3:22 left in the first quarter. By the end of the first quarter, Ohio State had totaled only 40 yards.
OSU’s offense picked up the pace somewhat in the second quarter, but a 22-yard field goal by Durbin early in the quarter was the only Buckeyes score that was not preceded by a turnover or the direct result of a turnover in the first half.
“Good teams pick each other up,” Meyer said about the heavy lifting the defense did in the first half.
Ohio State raised its record to 2-0 with the win. Tulsa dropped to 1-1. Next up for Ohio State is a trip to Oklahoma this Saturday, which Meyer referred to as “the challenge of challenges.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau