First-year Ohio State football head coach Luke Fickell said Thursday he thought that Indiana was a “scary crew,” even though people wouldn’t believe him.
Fickell’s statement was prophetic, as the Hoosiers (1-9, 0-6) hung with the Buckeyes (6-3, 3-2) for large portions of Saturday’s game. OSU’s rushing attack was more than Indiana could cope with in the end as freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, sophomore running back Carlos Hyde and Daniel “Boom” Herron each ran for more than 100 yards. The three players each scored a touchdown and combined for four in the game to help the Buckeyes to a 34-20 win.
In addition to having a winning record in Big Ten play for the first time this season, the win also makes OSU eligible for a postseason bowl game. The NCAA’s pending announcement regarding program violations could exclude the Buckeyes from postseason play, however.
After the game, Fickell said the most important thing was that OSU won despite what some may have considered an unexpected fight from Indiana.
“We regrouped there in the second half,” Fickell said. “I think our guys will continue to grow.”
Indiana jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter with a 35-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Drew Ewald on its first possession and a 5-yard touchdown by sophomore Stephen Houston on its second drive.
Less than a week after heaving the game-winning touchdown pass to freshman Devin Smith with 20 seconds remaining in OSU’s 33-29 against Wisconsin, Miller again provided a spark for OSU.
A quarterback-draw play turned into a historical, 81-yard touchdown run for Miller. The run, which cut the Hoosiers’ lead to 10-7, was the sixth-longest rush in program history and the longest ever by an OSU quarterback.
After the game, Miller said it was great to be in OSU record books.
“I took advantage of the offensive line’s blocking,” Miller said. “It was real good.”
From there, the Hoosiers and Buckeyes exchanged field goals and went into half tied at 13. Two OSU field goals by sophomore kicker Drew Basil from 36 and 45 yards, respectively, put OSU up 13-10 before Ewald hit a 25-yard kick to tie the game.
The second half seemed a competition between Miller and Indiana’s quarterback Tre Roberson, two scrambling, true freshman signal-callers.
OSU retook a lead on a 15-yard touchdown run by senior Herron, but Roberson led Indiana back, and a 34-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Tre Roberson to unmarked sophomore receiver Kofi Hughes tied the game at 20.
“(Hughes) really stepped up a lot,” Roberson said of the receiver’s game-tying catch. “He continues to work hard and get better every day. He’s a great target to have.”
Hughes said the score was just one of several positives in the game for the one-win Hoosiers squad.
“That (Hughes’ touchdown) was a big positive for us,” Hughes said.” ‘We don’t believe in moral victories, but we’ve been getting up to our potential as a team.”
Roberson finished the day 11-of-21 passing for 174 yards . Roberson also tallied 70 yards on the ground.
Miller had an answer, though.
With nine seconds remaining in the third quarter, Miller scored the touchdown of the game on a 20-yard run to put OSU up, 27-20.
The OSU defense had an answer on Indiana’s next drive, too.
The Hoosiers used 12 plays that covered 49 yards and appeared to threaten again in with just more than nine minutes remaining to play.
The drive ended when Ewald’s 40-yard field-goal attempt sailed left of the south end zone uprights. The stop was the second of the half for the Buckeyes’ defense, which had allowed 319 yards of offense to that point in the game.
Junior defensive back Travis Howard provided another stop for the OSU defense on Indiana’s next drive when intercepted a Roberson pass and returned it 14 yards to give the Buckeyes possession with 3:35 remaining.
“It (the interception) was awesome,” senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said. “(Indiana) was driving and they had already gotten a couple of big first downs. If they would have scored there, they would have tied the game.”
Hyde put OSU in scoring position again with a 47-yard run to the Hoosier’s 7-yard line. Hyde then finished what he started, scoring on a 2-yard run to clinch the win.
“Today, I was being patient,” Hyde said after the game. “When you run with power, it’s important to be patient. Things open up when you’re patient.”
Things have opened up for the entire OSU squad as it continues for to fight Penn State for Big Ten Leaders Division supremacy. The race to the inaugural Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis Dec. 3 continues Saturday when the Buckeyes travel to Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium. The game against the Boilermakers (4-5, 2-3) is set for noon.