COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two years ago Khalil Mack had an interception return for a touchdown taken off the board. Game officials ruled that in holding the ball outward as he crossed the goal line Mack was guilty of showboating. Mack vowed that if given another chance he’d never make that mistake again.
Mack received the same opportunity Saturday midway through the second quarter of UB’s season-opener against Ohio State. He picked off a Braxton Miller screen pass, took off toward the end zone and — by necessity and quite allowably — dove and stretched the ball over the goal line to complete the 45-yard scoring play.
“I had to look back and see who was close,” Mack said. “I knew I could stretch out and try to get the pylon.”
Mack continued his assault on the school record book and his pursuit of national standards. With 2.5 sacks he vaulted past NFLers Trevor Scott and Steven Means and into third place on UB’s career list. He’s at 20, four behind co-leaders Rich Dadabo and Vince Canosa. With 2.5 tackles for loss, Mack is up to 58 career, 17 shy of the national mark of 75 by Western Michigan’s Jason Babin.
Coverage responsibilities were an issue on the game’s first touchdown, a 47-yard pass from Miller to junior wideout Devin Smith on Ohio State’s fourth play from scrimmage. Cornerback Najja Johnson and safety Adam Redden immediately conversed in the end zone.
“We weren’t on the same page there; it was miscommunication,” Johnson said. “I thought I had outside help on that play and I turned around and the guy was wide open. We hate to give up cheap plays like that because those add up in the long run. We tightened down in the second, third and fourth quarters but just to allow them to get out fast like that is unacceptable.
“At the end of the day we felt we could have played better, especially in the first quarter. You hate to give up 16 points so fast.”
Ohio State’s Jordan Hall ripped off touchdown runs of 49 and 37 yards before halftime en route to a 159-yard afternoon. They came on identical plays and neither time was he touched.
“We just mis-fit,” Bulls coach Jeff Quinn said. “Give credit to them, they’re blocking us. They created some seams and that’s what that offense does.”
Defensive coordinator Lou Tepper said the Bulls were surprised by a couple new wrinkles Ohio State introduced. Tepper said UB made the necessary adjustments at the half.
UB was down 17 when Ohio State produced a goal-line stand early in the fourth quarter. The Bulls had a first-and-goal from the 3 following a 25-yard pass connection between Joe Licata and Devin Campbell. Oliver gained a yard on each of two attempts and Licata missed Alex Neutz on a corner route. On fourth down, Licata mishandled the snap and the opportunity died.
“It was on me,” Licata said. “The ball hit my hands, I just didn’t squeeze it. Totally my fault. I was going to hand the ball off and” Branden Oliver “was probably going to score.”
Licata conceded the heat and humidity were a factor in the game.
“We had to change our towels on our belts a couple times. It was very humid out there. Everything was wet, the ball was wet, but that’s no excuse. I got to squeeze the ball.”
Ohio State wideout Corey Brown floored UB linebacker Jake Stockman on a blindside hit with 2:22 left in the first quarter. Stockman, in pursuit following a downfield reception, remained down for a couple minutes before walking off under his own power. He returned to the game … Neutz finished with nine catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. He’s now sixth at UB in career receiving yards with 2,168, 22 behind Brett Hamlin. Neutz has 143 career catches, tied for fifth with Chris D’Amico at 143. … The Bulls make their longest road trip of the season to play Baylor in Waco, Texas at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.