Ohio State remained undefeated this season after Saturday’s game against the Hoosiers, but the game was far from easy. The Buckeyes stumbled mightily in the passing game, and allowed big plays to Indiana’s offense.
Statistically speaking, the game was ugly compared to the other games for the Buckeyes this season. Redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett completed just nine of 21 passes, but did pick up a passing touchdown late to senior H-back Dontre Wilson.
On defense, the Buckeyes held Indiana to 17 points, but sacked redshirt junior quarterback Richard Lagow just once. Redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard said the team may not be picking up sacks, but they are still doing their job.
Moving forward, OSU is still undefeated, but looked like a much different team from the first four games. Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s game against Indiana.
Nick Bosa has arrived
The 2016 season is well underway for the Buckeyes, and freshman Nick Bosa is making an impact in his limited role.
Bosa has been earning more playing time each week, and his presence was especially felt on Saturday. Picking up four tackles, he was in the backfield on multiple occasions, earning 1.5 tackles for loss.
Even though he’s been playing since Week 1, Bosa said he finally feels like he is where he needs to be.
“It took me a couple games to get my feet under me,” Bosa said. “I think I’m getting better every week, so I’m ready to go.”
All told, Bosa has 13 tackles and a pair of sacks so far this year, along with a handful of hurries and hits on the quarterback.
His brother, Joey Bosa, at this point in his freshman season: 11 tackles and no sacks.
Looks like the younger Bosa may have a leg up on his brother.
There’s a reason teams don’t target Gareon Conley’s side of the field
Redshirt junior Gareon Conley might not be producing eye-popping numbers this year, but he is still the Buckeyes’ primary cornerback, and Conley proved why Saturday against Indiana.
Conley deflected away two passes, with both nearly resulting in turnovers for OSU. An Indiana receiver had to wrestle the ball away from Conley each time.
The big story of the season has been the ability of redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore to make big time plays. However, Conley has had the ball thrown to his side of the field less, resulting in fewer opportunities to make a play.
He may not have an interception this season, but Conley showed he is the lead guy for the Buckeyes’ secondary. He makes a great argument to be called a shutdown corner.
Weber can be a workhorse for the Buckeyes in the redzone
After Saturday’s 38-17 victory, redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber said he wished OSU would stick to the stuff that works earlier in games, a strange proposition for a guy who scored two rushing touchdowns for the first time in his college career.
“When we realize (our week’s game plan) it don’t work, we go back to our normal traits,” Weber said. “I feel like we should do that from the start, but a win’s a win so that’s all I go for.”
Regardless, OSU does struggle in the first few minutes of games. That much has been seen multiple times this year.
But, something else was clearly established in the game against Indiana. Weber is a load to bring down near the goal line.
Weber received the ball twice within the 10-yard line, and proceeded to barrel through the defense on both occasions. The second time, he lept over his own offensive line.
Standing at 5-foot-10 and 212 pounds, Weber runs like a man who is more like 6-foot and tips the scale at 240. OSU would be wise to keep feeding him the ball when drives are down inside the redzone.
Cameron Johnston is a gem
The punter from Down Under who apparently doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving (because he’s Australian) is better known as redshirt senior punter Cameron Johnston. Punting is an underrated skill in football, but it is valuable to have a punter who can boom the ball deep and pin opponents within the 20-yard line.
Johnston, playing off his Australian Rules Football roots, can easily do both.
Against the Hoosiers, Johnston had three punts land inside the 20, and four travel 50 or more yards. Flipping the field is a big reason why the defense for OSU has been able to give the offense good field position, forcing the opponents’ punter to kick from deep in his own territory.
Johnston will be moving on from Columbus after this year, and most likely won’t be hearing his name called early, if at all, during the NFL draft.
Be that as it may, the Geelong, Australia, native is having a great year to go along with a solid career with the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is not invincible
After the first three weeks of the 2016 season, OSU looked like they were an unstoppable force in the world of college football. After a slow start against Rutgers in which the Buckeyes were able to eventually pull away, most fans still felt OSU was the team to beat.
Now, after playing a hard fought game against Indiana, Urban Meyer’s squad seems much more vulnerable than before. After the secondary showed they can be fooled, Barrett played rough and the special teams unit continued to give up big returns and make mistakes.
Sure, OSU might be 5-0 at this point, but for the first time this season it appears that some of the youth on the team is showing through, along with the occasional inefficient play at skill positions that haunted the team last season.
The Buckeyes will most likely be staying at No. 2 in the AP poll, but don’t expect teams to be blown out week in and week out like the first few weeks. Opponents may be ready to exploit the obvious holes OSU showed against the Hoosiers.
Meyer and company will be quick to address the problem areas. But for now, it appears that OSU has shown the chink in its armor.