COLUMBUS – For the second game in a row #3 Ohio State (4-0) jumped out to a big first-half lead then struggled to maintain it.
It happened against Rutgers two weeks ago and again this week against #9 Indiana (4-1). ‘
The Buckeye start was absolutely torrid. Indiana managed one first down after taking the game-opening kickoff before punting the ball away to OSU. OSU took just two plays, a 65-yard completion and a ten-yard touchdown completion, both from Justin Fields to Garrett Wilson, to put seven points on the board just 2 minutes and 28 seconds into the game.
OSU’s defense followed up by forcing a three-and-out that resulted in the OSU offense taking over at midfield.
This looked like it complete mismatch, but on the first play of OSU’s second possession Fields threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted. It was an uncharacteristic play from Fields, and it was a portent of things to come.
The teams played the remainder of the first quarter to a stalemate on the scoreboard. OSU hurt themselves with critical penalties and the blitzing Indiana defense kept relentless pressure on fields. Indiana eventually tied the game at 7-7 in the second quarter with 11:03 remaining when they cashed in for a touchdown from two yards out. The score was set up but a 69-yard pass play by the Hoosier offense that carried to the OSU two-yard line.
OSU wasted no time regaining the lead. On the next possession Ryan Day leaned heavily on the OSU running game and got what he wanted when Master Teague went 41 yards off left tackle and down the sideline for the score. A three-and-out got the ball back for the OSU offense and once again the OSU ground game delivered a scoring drive, this one going 75 yards in eight plays. Teague went the final yard, but the big play in the drive was a 31-yard rush by fields to set up first and goal at the one-yard line.
The OSU defense gave up another big play on Indiana’s next possession, this one a 51-yard pass that carried to the OSU 13-yard line. On first down however the defense force a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Baron Browning to put OSU in possession on their own seven-yard line with 3:11 on the game clock. The Buckeyes were able to drive the length of the field behind a mixture of running by Teague and passing by Fields to reach the Indiana nine-yard line with 25 second left to play in the half. On first-and-goal from the nine Fields kept the ball and dove over the last defender at the goal line for the score with 17 seconds remaining in the half to make it 28-7 Buckeyes.
OSU looked to be in total control when they took the second-half kickoff and marched 75 yards to a touchdown to make the score 35-7. A nine-yard pass from fields to Wilson accounted for the score and it looked for all the world like this game was over.
Someone forgot to tell the Hoosier.
On Indiana’s ensuing possession they hit a 63-yard scoring pass play to cut the Buckeye lead to 35-14. Two possessions late I.U. hit another big play, this one a 33-yard pass for a touchdown, and suddenly it was 35-21 and a game that looked like it was all but over was suddenly not over all all.
OSU’s offensive woes continued on their next drive when they drove to a first down at the Indiana 24, but a sack left the Buckeyes with third and thirteen at the 27. They could not convert the third down and settled for a field goal attempt that went wide left.
The drive came up empty on offense, but the OSU defense changed that when on second and 10 from the 27 Shaun Wade intercepted a Charles Penix pass and returned it for a touchdown to make the score 42-21 as the third quarter came to to a close.
The Hoosiers had every excuse to fold at the point. They did just the opposite. They responded to the OSU score with a scoring drive of their own to cut OSU’s lead to 42-28. The Buckeyes failed to move the ball on their ensuing possession and punted. The Hoosiers then connected on yet another big pass play, this one a 44-yard touchdown toss to make it a one-score game at 42-35 with 10:26 left on the clock.
The OSU offense finally came back to life. They took the kickoff after the Hoosier score and drove from their own 25 to a fourth-and-one at the Indiana seven-yard line. OSU Head Coach Ryan Day elected to forego a field goal attempt and instead ran a bootleg pass with Fields rolling to his right. The pass was overthrown and the Hoosiers took over on downs with 4:39 remaining.
Indiana could not move the football and ended up punting it back to OSU when they faced a fourth-and-16 at their own 12-yard line. OSU’s offense was able to keep the ball long enough to run the clock down to 38 seconds before having to punt it away. Indiana was then unable to pull off a miracle finish and the Buckeye victory was preserved.
Indiana quarterback Charles Penix threw for 491 yards on 27 for 51 passing. He threw for five TDs and one interception. OSU quarterback Justin Fields threw for 300 yards on 18 completions in 30 attempts. He threw an uncharacteristic three interceptions.
The difference in the game was in OSU’s ability to run the ball. OSU ran for 307 yards, led by a career-high 173 yards on 26 carries by Master Teague. Fields rushed for 100 yards on 15 carries and Trey Sermon added 60 yards on nine carries. Indiana rushed for a total of -1 yard.