COLUMBUS, Ohio -- While Cardale Jones played better than his previous game, he still is a work in progress.
The Ohio State quarterback Jones threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns and the defense again contributed a score as the No. 1 Buckeyes beat Western Michigan 38-12 on Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State (3-0) has won 17 straight.
Jones completed 19-of-33 passes and had a third-quarter interception. He also had an intentional grounding penalty that snuffed a drive to complete the first half.
"I definitely felt more comfortable," Jones said. "We're starting to get on the same page as not just receivers or offensive line or things like that. I think everyone felt way more comfortable today."
A week earlier against Northern Illinois, he was pulled in the second quarter of the 20-13 win after throwing two interceptions but his coach maintained faith in the quarterback that led the Buckeyes to the national championship last season.
"Overall, I thought Cardale played OK," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "He threw for 288. I still give him the OK because we have high expectations."
Jones fired a 38-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Thomas on Ohio State's first series and connected with wide receiver Jalin Marshall for 37 yards early in the second quarter to put Ohio State ahead 14-0.
Western Michigan (1-3) came up empty on two sustained drives because of penalties. The first resulted in a blocked 37-yard field goal attempt by safety Tyvis Powell and the second was a 47-yard field goal miss by Andrew Haldeman.
Those miscues proved crucial in ruining any Broncos hopes of an upset.
"At times we beat ourselves," Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck said. "We never gave ourselves a chance. We had plenty of opportunities to take advantage of but we didn't."
The Broncos got on the board with 8:19 to go before the half when quarterback Zach Terrell found wide receiver Daniel Braverman along the right side on a third-and-11 for a 55-yard touchdown, but Haldeman's point-after try hit the left upright.
Braverman's reception put the Broncos at 155 yards through the air, the first time that Ohio State allowed more than 100 passing yards in the past three games. Terrell finished with 169 yards on 18-of-33 passing.
For the third straight game, the Ohio State defense scored when tackle Adolphus Washington snagged a flare screen and used all of his 6-foot-4, 290-pound body to barrel 20 yards for a 24-6 lead with 4:02 left in the first half.
Washington's touchdown came seven seconds after Ohio State had to settle for 30-yard field goal by Jack Willoughby after a first-and-goal at the 8.
"It's the style of defense where we are aggressive," Meyer said. "We challenge throws. All I saw is Adolphus running with the ball. I'm not quite sure what happened. The ball was tipped. But that's obviously a big momentum pickup for us."
Running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for an Ohio State score to start the third quarter to put it up 31-6, but Western Michigan went 57 yards on the ensuing series, capped by Terrell's 1-yard pass to tight end Jeremiah Mullinax. The two-point conversion failed.
Elliott finished with 124 rushing yards, including 80 in the second half, for his ninth straight game of 100 or more.
"It was a great game plan by the coaches and the line definitely stepped up and played great today," Elliott said."
Ohio State running back Curtis Samuel ran for a 40-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to make it 38-12.
J.T. Barrett replaced Jones with 6:34 to play in hand and threw an interception on his first drive.
Western Michigan is 1-3 but lost to the current top two teams. The Broncos lost 37-24 to Michigan State on Sept. 4 when the Spartans were ranked No. 5.
"That's a national champion," Fleck said of Ohio State. "That's an elite opponent with an elite coaching staff, elite football coach. They never panicked. They eventually knew they'd get in the fourth quarter and wear us down. Their plan worked."
NOTES: Ohio State is 32-1 all-time vs. MAC opponents with the win. The Buckeyes also beat MAC foe Northern Illinois 20-13 on Sept. 19. ... Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck started his career as an Ohio state graduate assistant to Jim Tressel in 2006. ... The only previous game for the Broncos against a No. 1 team was Sept. 14, 1991, when they played at Florida State and lost 58-0. Western Michigan finished 6-5 that season.