All week, the Ohio State football team said they were focused on the task that lay before them in Indiana, and not on next week’s matchup against Wisconsin. The Buckeyes appeared to be a little distracted in the first half, but ultimately pulled away in the second half, picking up a 38-17 victory.
The first quarter has been slow for OSU this season, and Saturday, things were no different. Both teams’ offenses struggled to find a rhythm early on, resulting in just a field goal apiece.
On the opening drive for the Buckeyes, redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber mishandled a pitch, resulting in a recovered fumble by Indiana redshirt junior defensive lineman Patrick Dougherty. The short field allowed the Hoosiers to take a brief 3-0 lead.
Junior H-back Curtis Samuel, the early season hero for OSU so far, failed to touch the ball until the second quarter. With under six minutes left in the half, OSU decided to uncage Samuel, resulting in four carries for 46 yards on one drive.
A normally stout defense for the Buckeyes was exposed at times in the first half by Indiana, including a 50-yard completion from redshirt junior quarterback Richard Lagow to sophomore wide receiver Nick Westbrook. The drive eventually ended in a Hoosier touchdown, with Lagow finding senior wide receiver Mitchell Paige wide open in the middle of the field for a score.
“A lot of their formations, we kind of expected what was going to come,” redshirt sophomore Sam Hubbard said.” What we saw today was not what we saw on film. They kind of totally switched it up on us. We just had to make adjustments as the game went on.”
OSU continued its trend of scoring in the final two minutes of the first half, as a long kickoff return by redshirt sophomore Parris Campbell returned the ball to the six yard line of Indiana, which eventually led to a 5-yard touchdown run by J.T. Barrett.
After setting the record for most passing touchdowns for a quarterback in OSU history last week, Barrett struggled to connect with his wideouts, going 4-for-9 with just 41 yards. He failed to find a score through the air.
“I didn’t play particularly well in the passing game by any means,” Barrett said. “So I just have to do a better job of reading the coverages better and getting the ball to our playmakers.”
The second half got off to a bad start for the Buckeyes, as Indiana marched 89 yards down the field, chewing up nearly five minutes before Lagow found redshirt junior tight end Danny Friend in the end zone. Both redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore and redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker bit on the play-fake, giving Friend the opening.
The play is a staple of the Hoosier offense, but even a secondary that has been as successful as OSU’s will make a misstep from time to time.
“They did the fake tunnel screen,” Lattimore said. “We (were) in man, and I guess Malik thought it (was a screen pass). We made the adjustment though. We knew they was going to try something, but they got us on that one.”
OSU answered back with its own long drive, using 13 plays and grinding out 85 yards to find the end zone again. Weber picked up his second score of the day by diving over the pile.
After failing to pick up redshirt senior center Pat Elflein against Rutgers, Weber turned and made sure to hoist the anchor of the offensive line as high as he could after crossing the goal line.
Back-to-back three-and-outs by both sides gave Indiana the ball back, but another punt inside the 20-yard line kept the Hoosiers on their heels, forcing another three-and-out. Redshirt senior Cameron Johnston had three punts inside the 20, along with four punts over 50 yards.
The wide receivers for OSU, who showed promise last week against Rutgers, were nearly a non-factor against Indiana. Redshirt sophomore Noah Brown was the only Buckeye receiver to catch a pass throughout all four quarters.
Early in the fourth quarter, a Barrett pass intended for redshirt junior tight end Marcus Baugh was tipped right into the hands of Indiana freshman cornerback A’Shon Riggins. Riggins returned the ball to the OSU 13. After nearly giving up a fumble, Indiana was stuffed on the six yard line on fourth down, turning the ball back over to OSU.
“It’s not the sharpest thing in the world, we have our own thing to work on,” co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “That relentless mentality to get a fourth down stop on the goal line, huge momentum swings, things like that, they’re doing exactly what the culture of the program is and what we are asking them to do. But there’s a lot of things we can sharpen up as well.”
After drives by either side, the Buckeyes dealt the decisive blow on a 37-yard touchdown reception for senior H-back Dontre Wilson. Wilson now has two touchdown receptions this year.
Redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker picked off a deep pass from Lagow, giving the ball inside the Hoosier 20. OSU proceeded to run the clock out. Hooker now has four interceptions this season.
Meyer said Barrett would be running the ball less this year, but that wasn’t the case Saturday. The Texas native had 21 passes, compared to 26 carries. The inefficiency did not hurt the Buckeyes, but it appears the wide receiver position is one that finishes the game either on fire or stone cold.
Although it was a brutal thing to put his signal caller through, Meyer stood by the choice to run Barrett so frequently.
“We had to win the damn game,” Meyer said. “And he’s one of our best players.”
Weber continued his streak of efficient games, finishing the day with 15 carries for 71 yards. The two touchdowns he scored are the most in one game for Weber this season.
Samuel did not register a catch for the first time this season, but was able to pick up 82 yards and a touchdown. The score brings his season total to three touchdowns.
The defense for the Buckeyes went through its roughest games this year, allowing 281 yards and two passing touchdowns. Freshman defensive end Nick Bosa, who picked up four tackles and earned considerable playing time this week, said the defense did what they had to to ensure a win.
“It started off a little rough, we had some put-backs, but we stood together strong,” Bosa said. “Coach Fick(ell) had a great gameplan and we stuck to it. I think it was 98 yards rushing?”
Even with a poor showing compared to other games for the Buckeyes this season, the win improves their record to 5-0, with a perfect 2-0 mark in the Big Ten. Next week, OSU travels to Madison, Wisconsin, to face the Badgers.
Wisconsin is ranked No. 11 and coming off a loss to No. 4 Michigan. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Oct. 15.