BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The dream of an undefeated season is still alive for Ohio State football.
OSU’s defense allowed 481 yards to the Indiana Hoosiers, but its offense did just enough to outlast a late-game push by the hosts and emerge with a 52-49 win Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
That the Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) were able to avoid complete late-game collapse was about all the team had to hang its hat on after narrowly escaping IU (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten).
The finish was furious as the Hoosiers, trailing by 18 points, scored two touchdowns sandwiched around a successful onside kick recovery. After IU’s second late-game touchdown – a 25-yard touchdown reception by redshirt senior running back Stephen Houston that brough the Hoosiers to within a score – the next onside kick attempt was unsuccessful.
The dramatics ended and the Buckeyes were able to remain undefeated on the season.
“Everyone was kind of just hanging their heads (after the game), but we just kept saying ‘you know what? It’s better than a loss,'” senior right tackle Reid Fragel said. “Our record is still 7-0, so it’s nice.”
OSU quarterback Braxton Miller was again a steady source of playmaking for the red-hot Buckeyes’ offense.
Miller ran for 148 yards and threw for 211 more on 13-of-24 pass attempt. He threw one interception on the night, but also scored his ninth rushing touchdown of the season on OSU’s first play from scrimmage in the second half. Miller also found sophomore receiver Devin Smith for two touchdowns, the second of which appeared to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
For the third consecutive game, Miller was forced from the game after a hit along the sideline. Against IU, the hit came in the third quarter and forced redshirt junior quarterback Kenny Guiton into the game, but Guiton didn’t miss a beat.
On his second play in the shotgun formation, Guiton flipped a shovel pass that junior running back Carlos Hyde took 13 yards for a score. The touchdown pass was the first of Guiton’s collegiate career, and made the score 38-24.
Hyde finished the game with 151 on 21 carries and one rushing touchdown, which came on the second play of the fourth quarter to put OSU up, 45-27.
“Even though we won, some people was down,” Hyde said after the game. “That ain’t us, how we finished like that. That ain’t us. But we got a win, so, we enjoy a win, but that ain’t us.”
Houston, who finished the game with 91 yards rushing, helped put his side in front during the second quarter as he two touchdowns to erase the Buckeyes’ 10-0 advantage to start the game.
OSU junior receiver Corey Brown scored on a 12-yard option pitch from Miller. OSU junior kicker Drew Basil hit a season-long 35-yard field goal at 3:06 in the first quarter, but IU answered back on its next drive with a 59-yard run by Houston.
OSU then stagnated on its next drive as IU forced a punt, but it was no routine punt. IU blocked the punt attempt and recovered on the Buckeyes’ 16-yard line. For OSU redshirt senior Ben Buchanan, it was the second blocked punt of the season.
Working on a short field after the block, IU needed only two plays to punch the ball in and take the lead at 14-10. Houston did the damage to OSU again, this time on a 7-yard run.
Then came a Travis Howard punt block, which might very well have saved the game for OSU.
With OSU trailing in the second quarter, 14-10, Howard, a redshirt senior cornerback, barged through Indiana’s line and swatted Hoosiers’ sophomore Nick Stoner’s punt. The ball dribbled into IU’s end zone. There, sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby scooped it up to put OSU up, 17-14.
The momentum was back with OSU and Miller capitalized, going up top to Smith on a 60-yard touchdown with less than three minutes to play in the half. Smith brought the ball in and danced away from a diving defender to score, putting OSU up, 24-14.
Smith finished the day with 106 receiving yards on two catches.
OSU won on a night of notable personnel changes, including senior fullback Zach Boren’s debut at the linebacker position. Boren entered the game on the defensive side of the ball, replacing starter and senior linebacker Storm Klein, during OSU’s second defensive series of the game.
OSU sophomore defensive end Steve Miller started for the Buckeyes in place of redshirt senior Nathan Williams, who missed the game due to a concussion.
At halftime, freshman defensive lineman Noah Spence led the Buckeyes in tackles with three.
Spence helped anchor an OSU defense that, despite trailing for a long stretch of the second quarter, allowed only 150 total yards of offense in the half.
When play resumed, IU drove down the field and pulled three points closer after a 22-yard field goal by redshirt junior kicker Mitch Ewald.
Miller upped the Buckeyes’ advantage on the next series, tearing through the heart of IU’s defense on the 67-yard run to increase OSU’s lead to 31-17.
OSU threatened deep in Hoosiers’ territory on it’s next drive, but Miller threw an interception to IU redshirt junior corner Greg Heban on 2nd-and-goal. The interception led to a possible 14-point swing in IU’s favor and sophomore Cameron Coffman took the ball and threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Shane Wynn three plays later.
Coffman finished the game 22-of-44 passing for 275 yards.
Guiton would restore a safe margin for OSU on when his flip-pass to Hyde on the Buckeyes’ next series.
Ewald connected on his second successful field goal kick late in the third quarter to cut IU’s margin to 38-27, but the Hoosiers were trading field goals for OSU touchdowns at that point. Hyde delivered his long rushing score of the game on the next possession.
With 10:30 to play, IU sophomore running back D’Angelo Roberts scored on a 1-yard run to bring his team to within 11 points at 45-34, but fans had already begun to exit the stadium at that point.
Smith grabbed his second touchdown pass of the game with 6:47 to play in regulation to firmly put the game out of reach – by then, maroon-clad IU fans merely peppered the grandstands.
The fans that left missed IU’s furious comeback, however, OSU managed to hang on when IU’s second onside kick of the game was smothered in front the Buckeyes’ bench by Brown.
OSU will return to Ohio Stadium next Saturday for a game against Purdue. Kickoff for the game is set for noon.
OSU’s 52 points against IU bring their Big Ten Conference scoring output to 132 points in three games. The Buckeyes posted 17 points in a one-point, Sept. 29 win at Michigan State. In its second conference game last Saturday, OSU posted 63 points against the Cornhuskers at Ohio Stadium.
During the same stretch, OSU’s defense has allowed 104 points to conference foes.