COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- After barely beating Ohio University, No. 3 Ohio State was not a happy football team. In fact, the sluggish win felt more like a loss.
"That was pathetic. It was a pathetic performance," Buckeyes wide receiver Brian Hartline said after the Buckeyes rallied in the fourth quarter for 26-14 win over plucky Ohio, a 33 1/2-point underdog. "OU should've won the game. I don't know how we came out with it."
Maybe Ohio State (2-0) had next week's opponent -- No. 1 Southern California -- on its mind. Or maybe it was the loss of injured running back Beanie Wells .
"It kind of looked like [what it] might look like between your opener and your big 'national stage game,'" Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "Which is disappointing."
Lightly regarded even in its own the Mid-American Conference, Ohio put a huge scare into the Buckeyes before they righted things by scoring the last 20 points. With 14 minutes left in the game, the Bobcats led 14-12.
With Wells watching from the sideline with a foot injury, the Buckeyes struggled to move the ball until Brandon Saine's short plunge on the third play of the final quarter finally put them on top. Ray Small added some breathing room with a late 69-yard punt return.
This was not the tuneup the Buckeyes needed before meeting the top-ranked Trojans.
"I guess we move on and get ready for USC, but overall, that's not good football," Hartline said. "That was just one of those ones where you want to crawl into a hole and get ready for next week. That's exactly how I feel."
Ohio (0-2) had five turnovers to help the Buckeyes escape.
A week after a capacity crowd sat in stunned silence when Wells was injured, the fans and the Buckeyes were again quieted -- this time by Ohio's inspired play.
"In the first half when we were stopping the run everybody [for Ohio State] got quiet," cornerback Mark Parson said. "They weren't talking as much trash."
Ohio State had not lost to an in-state foe since a 7-6 setback to Oberlin in 1921 -- a string of 36 victories, most of them lopsided. Yet Ohio, sporting "O-S-Who?" T-shirts during its Friday walkthrough, led 7-6 at the half, 14-6 midway through the third quarter and 14-12 heading into the fourth.
"We made plays," coach Frank Solich said. "We just didn't make enough plays."
And Ohio did it without its starting quarterback. Theo Scott was brought to his knees by a hit late in the first quarter and was replaced by Boo Jackson. Scott had an injured shoulder and did not return.
Jackson did just enough to bedevil the Buckeyes, completing 9-of-25 passes for 86 yards with three interceptions and rushing for 55 yards on seven carries.
With Ohio State trailing 7-6 in the third quarter, Ohio drove to the Ohio State 34 and punted, with Matt Schulte's kick downed at the 6. Three plays later, center Jim Cordle's snap was 3 feet over quarterback Todd Boeckman's head and flew into the end zone. Boeckman lost the handle, the ball slipping to his feet where it was recovered by defensive end Curtis Myers. Barrett May's extra-point kick made it 14-6.
"We did some things out there we're not proud of," said Boekman, who passed for just 110 yards and was sacked three times.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Buckeyes put together their first extended drive of the day, capped by Dan Herron jutting off tackle for a 2-yard touchdown, capped by a missed point-after kick.
The Bobcats then began to falter. Parson fumbled a punt, with Ohio State's Shaun Lane falling on the ball as it tumbled out of bounds at the Ohio 25. The recovery was confirmed on video review.
Six plays later, the Buckeyes were back in the end zone -- and in the lead -- on Saine's 2-yard run, with Ryan Pretorius' point-after making it 19-14. Small then sailed 69 yards with under 6 minutes left to essentially end the threat.
The Buckeyes netted just 272 yards. Herron had 50 yards on 12 carries, Maurice Wells 48 on nine and Saine 15 on five in place of Beanie Wells.
Hartline cautioned his teammates to not be satisfied with such a lackluster win.
"If you're happy with that kind of play or performance, there is something terribly wrong," he said.