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Published: Sunday, 9/23/2012

Little-used running back Smith takes advantage of playing time

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ohio State's Rod Smith is knocked out of bounds just short of the goal line. Ohio State's Rod Smith is knocked out of bounds just short of the goal line.
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COLUMBUS -- Ohio State turned to an unlikely source when it needed a lift most on Saturday.

Trailing by nine points in the second quarter, the 16th-ranked Buckeyes hopped on the broad shoulders of … Rod Smith. The 6-foot-3, 228-pound reserve tailback with less than three dozen career rushes to his name carried the ball on the final three plays of a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.

Smith followed a 12-yard dash on the edge with a bruising one-yard dive into the end zone.

"He's earned it," Meyer said. "That was not a hit-or-miss deal where, boy, I hope this works out. He's done it in practice."

Smith is listed as the third-string tailback and had done little on Saturdays to inspire much confidence. The sophomore had rushed for 26 yards this season and lost a fumble on one of his six attempts. He did not touch the ball against California last weekend.

Meyer, though, was impressed by Smith's work on special teams and felt he had earned another shot in the backfield during the week.

"I had to show them I could do it in practice," Smith said.

Smith finished with 24 yards on six carries. He and senior back Jordan Hall, who rushed for 105 yards on 17 carries, helped ease the burden on quarterback Braxton Miller.

Miller had a season-low 11 carries for 64 yards, though Meyer said that was in part a product of UAB's efforts to slow him.

"That's the way the game unfolded," Meyer said. "We were very conscious of it. I'm exhausted talking about how many hits he takes and all of that. He's going to play quarterback in a spread offense, and we're going to do what we're going to go do to win a game. We're not good enough to start worrying about that."

DEPTH TESTED: How shallow was the Buckeyes' depth Saturday?

"I think we had six true freshmen starting on kickoff," Meyer said. "I hope we don't have to do that very often. But it is what it is. We have to continue to develop these guys because those freshmen are no freshmen anymore. They're sophomores. They're second-year players because they've been in the mix."

The Buckeyes were without three defensive starters -- two of whom play on special teams. Safety C.J. Barnett (ankle), cornerback Bradley Roby (shoulder), and defensive lineman Michael Bennett (groin) all watched from the sideline.

TOUGH SLEDDING: Meyer said he plans to put Ohio State through a week of helmet-scraping practices.

While Meyer normally has his teams hit once a week during the season, he doubled that last week in response to OSU's poor tackling against California. Expect more of the same after the Buckeyes allowed UAB 403 yards of offense.

"Tuesday and Wednesday we'll tackle again," he said. "We're facing a 250-pound back coming in [Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell] next week. I still see guys flailing across and missing tackles."

EXTRA POINTS: Ohio State won its 400th game at Ohio Stadium -- a milestone also reached last year before the 2010 season was vacated. The Buckeyes are officially 400-109-20 in the 90-year-old stadium. … Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier led OSU with 13 tackles, while senior linebacker Etienne Sabino added 11 stops. … UAB kicker Ty Long's 54-yard field goal in the second quarter was the third-longest by an opponent in Ohio Stadium and the longest in Blazers history.



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