BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The much-anticipated debut of the Kevin Wilson era is in the books.
It didn’t go like most people expected.
Wilson’s reputation is that of a play-calling guru who can bring life to a sleepy offense, specifically the kind of sleepy offense the Buckeyes put on the field too many times last season. Wilson was expected to be the guy to wake it up with creative play calling and especially with a revival in an OSU passing game that struggled mightily last season.
After one drive, it looked like Wilson might be the answer. OSU took the opening kickoff and moved the ball efficiently down the field utilizing a passing game that took advantage of space in the middle of the Indiana defense. The drive stalled in the red zone, however, and the Buckeyes settled for three, but they moved the ball, and there was hope.
The rest of the half wasn’t as exciting, and the hope was fading.
Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett struggled to hit open receivers and the OSU offensive line had trouble creating space for the running game. The Buckeye offense sputtered for most the half, but got a gift when the sophomore safety Jordan Fuller came up with an interception to give the offense the ball near midfield. Barrett and the Buckeyes moved to the two-yard line, but settled for field goal.
Indiana, meanwhile, scored on two long scoring drives powered by an efficient passing game. The Hoosiers managed just two yards rushing in the first half, but got enough out of their passing game to put two touchdowns on the board.
Trailing 14-6 in the second quarter after Indiana’s second TD, the Buckeye offense finally showed some life. True freshman tailback J.K. Dobbins gave the Buckeyes a spark in the running game and Barrett had just enough success in the passing game to allow OSU to go 75 yards in 9 plays to keep the game close at 14-13.
The half ended at 14-13 Hoosiers, and the Kevin Wilson era was off to an underwhelming start. The third quarter, however, changed a lot of things.
OSU found some consistency in the running game and finally – finally – hit some big plays in the passing game. Dobbins began gashing the Hoosier defense with regularity, and the Buckeye passing game found some things that would work.
Instead of forcing the ball downfield they went to crossing routes to their playmakers, and their playmakers responded in a big way. Parris Campbell, who earlier in the game had a drop in the end zone of a sure touchdown, made up for his miscue when he took a short pass from Barrett and set sail on 74-yard touchdown play. Johnnie Dixon, who also had a bad drop earlier, nearly matched Campbell when he took a short pass 59 yards for a touchdown, outracing the Indiana secondary for the score.
The Buckeyes put up 22 points in the third quarter. Indiana managed just seven to make it 35-21 heading to the final quarter. OSU added two more touchdowns, one on an 11-yard pass from Barrett to sophomore wideout Binjimen Victor.
The OSU defense allowed 420 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air, but completely took away Indiana’s running game. The Hoosiers managed just 17 yards rushing and were totally reliant on the pass for offense. They put the ball up 68 times for 42 completions, but also were victimized for two costly interceptions. The Hoosiers also gave up a fumble deep in their own territory that led directly to an OSU score in the fourth quarter.
The final stats showed Ohio State with 596 yards of total offense, 292 rushing and 304 passing. Indiana’s 437 yards passing was impressive, but their inability to run the ball made their offense inconsistent.
The numbers say that the OSU offense is better this year, but watching the first half had the effect of tempering optimism. The passing game and running game both sputtered. Dropped balls and missed receivers brought on flashbacks to last year’s woes on offense. The second half, however, gave some room for hope that the OSU offense is at least headed in the right direction, even if it hasn’t yet arrived.
One of the most positive stats in the game was the OSU sack numbers. The Buckeyes got after Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow and recorded five sacks and numerous hits. Meanwhile J.T. Barrett was sacked just once, a welcome improvement after last season when OSU had trouble protecting him consistently.
Barrett ended the game with 20 completions in 35 attempts for 304 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Dobbins gained 181 yards on 29 attempts in his Buckeye debut.