Prior to Ohio State’s 34-27 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers, The Lantern’s sports editors Ryan Cooper and Kevin Stankiewicz tossed out their five things to watch for on Saturday. Here is how the five storylines played out in Bloomington, Indiana.
The “Silver Bullets” had a three-game streak of scoring a defensive touchdown prior to the tilt against the Hoosiers.
It ended on Saturday afternoon.
For the first time this season, the unit failed to even force a turnover.
The Buckeyes did have chances do so, mostly notably by safety Tyvis Powell, but the redshirt junior dropped a gift-wrapped interception early in the fourth quarter deep in Buckeye territory.
In the past three games, the defensive touchdowns have helped make up for the offense’s struggles. But on Saturday, junior running back Ezekiel Elliott and his 274 rushing yards did just that.
Overall, the defense was not as impenetrable as it had been the weeks prior. It surrendered 402 yards of offense to the Hoosiers and fell to No. 14 in the country for total defense.
Can the defense contain Jordan Howard?
The box score would indicate that the defense was indeed able to slow Indiana’s junior running back Jordan Howard. And while that’s true in some regards, it doesn’t paint the whole picture.
Heading into Saturday’s game, the transfer from UAB was leading the nation in rushing with 675 yards, which equated to 168.7 yards per game.
Howard put up no such numbers again the Buckeyes, as he finished the night with just 34 yards on 14 carries; but a main reason for the lack of production comes from an ankle injury suffered in the first half.
Prior to the injury, OSU’s defense was still doing a nice job containing Howard, as his longest rush was only for nine yards.
He tried to come back and play on it in the second half, but he was unable to accelerate and cut like he usually could. Howard had just three carries for four yards in the second half.
The defense did a nice job prior to Howard getting hurt, but the injury certainly played a part in his poor statistical performance.
He Cam, he punted, he conquered
Cameron Johnston has been a bright spot for the OSU special teams so far in 2015, and he continued to shine against Indiana.
The junior punter from Australia had seven punts for an average of 43.4 yards, including a long of 61 yards and one that was downed inside the 20-yard line — which moves his career total to 65, just 14 shy of setting a new school record.
Johnston should have been able to add one more to his total, as he placed a kick perfectly that bounced inside the 10-yard line and junior safety Vonn Bell was there to down it at the one-yard line. But Bell lost his concentration and the ball squirted out of his hands and into the end zone for a touchback.
Heading into Saturday’s contest, opposing teams only had eight punt return yards through four games. The dominance in the punt coverage continued against Indiana, as the Hoosiers were only able to return one punt for two yards.
Where is Cardale’s arm strength?
OSU coach Urban Meyer was critical of the way redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones threw the deep ball last week against Western Michigan.
Typically considered to be one of Jones’ strengths, the Cleveland native had multiple under throws that, according to Meyer, cost the team a huge day through the air.
During the week, Meyer said the team would work Jones’ mechanics to get it fixed.
Whether or not it actually got fixed remains to be seen after Saturday’s game because Jones did not really let one fly.
He finished the game 18-of-27 for 245 yards and a touchdown, while throwing one interception.
Jones had a couple of completions over 20 yards — including his 23-yard touchdown to redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Thomas — but none of them were like the deep balls he underthrew last week. Most were intermediate throws that featured the receiver picking up yards after the catch.
There was a swirling wind on the field in Bloomington, but Jones said after the game that the weather did not affect his throws.
Despite the victory, the jury is still out on whether the deep ball issues that plagued Jones against Western Michigan are fixed.
What will Jalin Marshall’s encore look like?
Against Indiana in 2014, then-redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall had himself a day, as he scored four touchdowns over a 14.5-minute span that catapulted the Buckeyes to victory over the Hoosiers.
For his encore on Saturday, the Middletown, Ohio, native did his best Jekyll and Hyde impression
Marshall, who debuted his new No. 7 jersey, led the team in receiving with six receptions for 110 yards, as well as five punt returns for 76 yards. But he also had two costly fumbles following catches.
The first came midway in the second quarter after a 34-yard catch-and-run deep into Indiana territory. It did not do much damage, as OSU forced the Hoosiers to go three-and-out, followed by a bizarre fake punt enabling the Buckeyes to regain possession in essentially the same spot. The fumble, however, was a momentum killer, as OSU had to settle for a field goal on its ensuing drive.
Marshall’s second fumble came late early in the fourth quarter as the Buckeyes appeared to be pulling away. He caught a pass near the sideline for a nine-yard gain, and as he was fighting for extra yards, an Indiana defender jarred the ball loose. On the ensuing possession, the Hoosiers converted a field goal.
Fortunately for Marshall, OSU was able to hang on and secure a victory, but his two fumbles detracted from his team-high receiving day and could have been very costly for the Buckeyes.