For the large part of Ohio State’s game against Indiana, the Buckeyes, along with most of the crowd of 101,426 at Ohio Stadium, seemed to be sleeping through the icy conditions in Columbus.
It took until 2:20 left in the third quarter for both parties to wake up.
With OSU down 20-14, and not having scored since its second drive of the first quarter, redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall took an Indiana punt 54 yards for a score to give OSU the lead and the Buckeyes did not look back as they defeated the Hoosiers 42-27.
Marshall said he thought he had to make something happen in order to spark the OSU comeback.
“They (Indiana) were pinned real deep, and I felt like I had to make that to turn this game around for the team,” Marshall said. “It felt real good after I did that.”
Even though Marshall committed two turnovers in a 31-24 win over Minnesota last week, OSU coach Urban Meyer said he never worried about Marshall’s ability.
“He’s a talented guy. I think that was good for his confidence,” Meyer said. “He’s going to be around here a while; only a freshman and very talented freshman. Carrying a lot of the load.”
With the win, the Buckeyes clinched their second straight appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game, something Meyer said was gratifying, but he acknowledged there is room for improvement.
“We’re conference division champions, won a bunch of games in a row,” he said. “We have some work to do.”
The Buckeyes started fast as sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott took off untouched for a 65-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the game, and it looked as though the Buckeyes were well on their way to an easy win.
But after trading punts to start the third quarter, the Hoosiers took the lead on a 90-yard touchdown run by junior running back Tevin Coleman to make the score 20-14 Indiana with 7:17 remaining in the quarter.
Meyer said that the crowd, along with his team became complacent after scoring the first 14 points of the game.
“Sometimes in college football, things don’t go exactly as scripted, and (we) kind of went out, jumped out to 14-0 lead and the stadium was dead and we were dead,” Meyer said.
But after Marshall’s punt return gave the Buckeyes the lead back, the Middletown, Ohio, native prepared for an encore performance.
Marshall added three more scores after the return, as he caught redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett’s school record-breaking pass for passing scores in a season from six yards out to extend the OSU lead to 28-20. Then, Marshall hauled in a one-handed catch from Barrett for a 15-yard touchdown with 4:21 left in the game giving the Buckeyes a two-score lead.
He also took a touch-pass from Barrett 54-yards for a touchdown less than two minutes later to conclude the Buckeye scoring.
Marshall said it was relieving to play so well after struggling against the Golden Gophers.
“It’s definitely a little bit of redemption. It does feel good to have it off my back and move away from all the negatives of last week,” he said. “I had a lot of support from my teammates, coaching staff and family. The whole week they kept my head up.”
After being included by many in the Heisman Trophy discussion, Barrett threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns. Barrett also threw two interceptions for the first time since a win over Penn State on Oct. 25.
Despite two first-half turnovers, Barrett said he didn’t believe the Heisman talk affected his play against Indiana.
“When I think of that, Heisman and all that, I can’t control that. I try to handle things that I can control, and one of those things was so the offense could go out there and play well today,” Barrett said after the game. “And we didn’t start out like that today.”
Elliott, who surpassed 1,000 yards on the season on his first carry of the game, finished with 107 rushing yards and a score to go along with 39 yards receiving.
The Hoosiers were led by Coleman, who rushed for 228 yards and three scores on a Buckeye defense which surrendered 100 or more yards to a running back for the third straight game.
Meyer said he believes Coleman, who’s big day put him atop the Indiana record books for most rushing yards in a season, has the abilities to be successful in the National Football League.
“I asked (Indiana coach) Kevin (Wilson) about him, a great Christian kid, great kid,” Meyer said. “Wish him well in the NFL if that’s what his desire because he’s a really good back. Top-10 back. Maybe higher than that.”
After scoring on its first two possessions, the OSU offense stalled, committing three straight turnovers and being forced into two three-and-out’s to close out the first half, much to the chagrin of most at Ohio Stadium.
Despite two of the three turnover’s being Barrett interceptions, Meyer said he was pleased with how the Wichita Falls, Texas, native bounced back.
“J.T. also missed about three of them today that were pretty open,” Meyer said. “And so, but he also made some great throws. So J.T. responds past his years.”
Elliott, who joined former OSU running back Carlos Hyde as the only two players to rush for 1,000 yards under Meyer in a season, said he was not surprised to see the way Barrett responded to a subpar first half.
“(Barrett) is a redshirt freshman but he is a very mature player,” Elliott said. “He never backs down and you saw that as the game went on, his game elevated after he made those mistakes.”
After a half of football, despite averaging 7.7 yards per play, the Buckeyes took just a 14-13 lead into the locker room.
On his second possession of the game, Barrett tied former Buckeye quarterback Smith’s school record for touchdown passes on the following OSU drive, as Barrett found senior tight end Jeff Heuerman on fourth and three from the four yard line to give the Scarlet and Gray a 14-0 lead.
As it looked like the game might slip away early from the Hoosiers, Indiana freshman quarterback Zander Diamont took a third down scramble 53 yards down to the OSU two-yard line, where Coleman would score one play later to bring the Hoosiers within seven.
On the ensuing drive, OSU redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas fumbled the ball on the Buckeye 31-yard line which set up a 30-yard field goal by Indiana freshman kicker Griffin Oakes reducing the Buckeye lead again to 14-10.
After putting the ball on the ground three times last week against Minnesota, Elliott said that ball security should be a point of emphasis moving forward.
“It’s something we have to work on. With the one with Michael Thomas, he just hit the ball perfectly,” Elliott said. “Sometimes there’s nothing you can do when the defense makes a great play. We need to tighten up and play better if we want to be a championship-caliber team.”
After back-to-back drives ending in interceptions thrown by Barrett, the Hoosiers were only able to manage three more points on a 37-yard field goal from Oakes.
Coleman concluded the day’s scoring with a 52-yard touchdown run with 1:13 left in the game.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to finish their regular-season slate against Michigan on Nov. 29 at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.