Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Though first-year head coach Luke Fickell projected the defense would need to record “at least four turnovers” against Indiana, the Buckeyes forced only one during their 34-20 victory against the Hoosiers on Saturday.
Luckily for OSU, the lone turnover was a fourth-quarter interception by redshirt junior defensive back Travis Howard, which halted a potential game-tying drive for the Hoosiers. The Buckeye offense drove for a touchdown on the ensuing possession, capping the scoring.
It wasn’t as pretty as some might have hoped, but the OSU defense made enough plays to complement an offense that saw three players eclipse the century mark in rushing yards for the first time since 1989.
Senior center Michael Brewster said the game was a good wake-up call for the team, but he was proud of the way the defense kept fighting.
“On defense, we kept grinding it out,” he said. “It’s good to see guys have the ability to stick it out and get the win.”
The Hoosiers were an impressive 10-of-17 on third down, which allowed them to prolong drives and even lead the game in possession, despite the dominance of the OSU rushing attack. Indiana’s success on third down aggravated the Buckeye defense, said senior defensive back Tyler Moeller.
“It’s the goal for every defense to go three-and-out,” he said. “It was a little frustrating at times. It wasn’t our best game. We’ve got to keep going and get better.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins agreed.
“(Indiana) came out ready to play and we came out a little slow,” Hankins said. “We got the job done and got the win but there are always places to improve.”
The Buckeyes held the Hoosiers to three points below their scoring average entering the game. OSU also snapped Indiana’s streak of three games with at least 200 yards rushing. Junior defensive lineman John Simon, who led the Buckeyes with a career-high 10 tackles and notched a team-high sixth sack of the season, said after the Hoosiers took a 10-0 lead to start the game, the defense refocused and began to execute better.
“The key to this week was everyone doing their job,” Simon said. “Even though we bent a little bit on that this week, I think held our own and executed well.”
Simon said that the game against Indiana will be a reminder of what intensity the team needs to have success late in the season.
“In November every game is going to be a challenge; every game is going to be a battle,” he said. “Everyone is out to win in November. That’s when the going gets tough.
“We just have to come out with enthusiasm and focus. If we do that and we execute, we’re usually a successful team.”