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Buckeyes make statement in final game without Urban Meyer

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    Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) and Ohio State tight end Luke Farrell react during the second half of Saturday's win over TCU.

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    Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins finds running room against TCU.

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    Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell (21) runs for a touchdown as TCU defensive tackle Corey Bethley can't catch up in the second half of Saturday's game in Arlington, Tex.

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    Ohio State defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones (86) jumps on a TCU fumble that was recovered by Ohio State for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

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    TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney (12) defends a pass intended for Ohio State wide receiver Austin Mack during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

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    TCU wide receiver KaVontae Turpin (25) catches a pass in front of Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah (1) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

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    Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) looks to throw against TCU during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

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    TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson (3) throws against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

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ARLINGTON, Texas — When Ohio State’s season teetered into dangerous territory Saturday, it was the defense, not the high-powered offense, that came along to save the day.

The No. 4 Buckeyes escaped North Texas with a 40-28 win against the 15th-ranked Horned Frogs, yanking away momentum and the lead late in the third quarter on a 28-yard interception return by defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones. It was the defense’s second touchdown of the night after tackle Davon Hamilton fell on a fumble in the end zone during the first quarter.

If defense wins championships, perhaps Ohio State wanted to prove that motto true.

RELATED CONTENT: In familiar setting, Ohio State puts nation on notice ■ Ohio State schedule ■ BGSU earns first win ■ UT falls to No. 21 Miami ■ Michigan overcomes slow start, tops SMU

Ohio State acting head coach Ryan Day

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Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell (21) runs for a touchdown as TCU defensive tackle Corey Bethley can't catch up in the second half of Saturday's game in Arlington, Tex.

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What happened: A lot. It felt like TCU was in control of the game in the third, leading 21-13 and taking the pro-OSU crowd out of the equation. A landmark victory was on tap until a disastrous 241-second span when an eight-point lead turned into a 12-point deficit.

Ohio State, which had spent the first half squandering opportunities, happily took advantage of a turnover and blocked punt. And without All-American defensive end Nick Bosa, who suffered a lower abdomen strain, the defense clamped down in the game’s biggest moments.

Dwayne Haskins completed 24 of 38 pass attempts for 344 yards and two touchdowns. J.K. Dobbins averaged 6.7 yards per carry, rushing for 121 yards on 18 attempts.

TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, a former Texas Tech quarterback, dialed up the tempo and had Ohio State out of sorts. The Buckeyes allowed 511 total yards and 203 rushing yards. TCU averaged 6.7 yards per play and 5.6 yards per rush.

It was over when: Ohio State led 26-21 late in the third, but the offense still felt like it wasn’t in sync. But momentum had returned to OSU’s sideline, and when the Buckeyes blocked a punt and took over possession at the TCU 25-yard line, a knockout blow felt inevitable. It came two plays later thanks to a Haskins 24-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Hill, which gave Ohio State a 33-21 lead.

He said it: “I do feel a little bit of relief right now, after that game and the last three weeks.” — Acting head coach Ryan Day

Buckeye standouts: The offensive MVP was Hill, who celebrated his birthday with a team-high six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown. Despite suffering an injury, Bosa was in his usual form, forcing a first-half fumble that resulted in a touchdown. However, Jones’ six tackles, two tackles for loss, sack, and interception return for a touchdown highlighted the defense’s efforts.

Play of the game: Trailing 21-19 in the third, Jones’ interception return gave OSU a lead it never relinquished. The touchdown came two plays after Ohio State scored on a 63-yard Parris Campbell catch and run.

Statistically speaking: ■ TCU’s 511 yards was the first 500-game for an OSU opponent since Clemson recorded 576 yards in the 2014 Orange Bowl. 

■ The game featured three turnovers, all committed by TCU and leading to 14 Ohio State points.

■ The Buckeyes own the nation’s best third-down offense, but OSU only converted four of 12 attempts against TCU. Opponents were only converting 32 percent of third downs against OSU — TCU finished 7 of 15.

■ Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman pinned TCU inside the 20 on five of his six punts. Urban Meyer, who coaches OSU’s special teams, opted to send fast gunners down the field and punt to the boundary to eliminate TCU returner KaVontae Turpin’s big-play ability. 

■ Hill, Terry McLaurin, and C.J. Saunders — all receivers — were each born Sept. 15. They combined for 176 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. Fellow receiver Johnnie Dixon had four receptions for 39 yards. His birthday is Sunday.

■ Ohio State has allowed touchdown runs of 93, 80, and 78 yards through three games, a trend that can’t continue against Big Ten East Division heavyweights Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State.

Next week: A supercharged atmosphere will welcome Tulane (1-2) to Ohio Stadium. Not exactly the environment that greets a non-Power Five opponent at the Horseshoe. But this isn’t any nonconference game — it’s Meyer’s first game back as head coach after a three-game suspension.

Contact Kyle Rowland at: krowland@theblade.com, 419-724-6110, or on Twitter @KyleRowland.

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