Ohio State went to Bloomington Saturday night to have a little scrimmage with the Indiana Hoosiers. Or at least that's apparently what the majority of the Buckeyes on the team thought at the beginning of the game. From the outset the Buckeyes looked very much like they did in the first couple games of the season. They seemed to feel that the Hoosiers were not going to offer them much of a game, so there was no reason to put a lot of effort into it.
Then the Buckeyes found themselves down 14-10.
There had to be a severe ripple through the Buckeye bench when that happened. After all, Indiana came into the game 2-3 having only defeated Indiana State and UMass, and they had lost to Ball State. How could they offer much of a challenge to the great Buckeyes? But they did. And Ohio State found themselves having, once again, to fight their way back.
It appeared through the majority of the first half that Urban Meyer was using this game to experiment with some new ideas. Perhaps they were things that the Buckeye players are having trouble learning, or perhaps they were things that the players are just unable to do, but it wasn't working well. And when Ohio State tried to go back to normal operations, Indiana was able to key on Braxton Miller and play even with the Buckeyes. The score at the half had Ohio State up by 10, 24-14, but it didn't seem like a comfortable lead at all.
To the average Buckeye fan, this was a very frustrating game.
The second half started off questionably when Indiana was able to move the ball down the field and get into the red zone. Ohio State held, forcing Indiana to settle for a field goal, but it wasn't the overwhelming force that Buckeye fans were expecting from their team.
Ohio State excited the fans when they got the ball, and reset expectations when, on the first play from scrimmage, Braxton Miller ran 67 yards for a touchdown. At that point the game appeared to be totally in the hands of the Buckeyes.
But the Hoosiers never lost confidence or sight of their goal. Each time the Buckeyes scored, Indiana worked hard to answer. The one question that many Buckeyes fans were asking was "where's the traditional Ohio State attack?" In other words, where is the ground game? Where are our running backs? What they wanted to see was Braxton Miller give the ball to someone else – like Carlos Hyde – and let him run over the other team.
It finally happened.
Spanning the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth, was one of the best drives of the game. On this drive the Buckeyes primarily used Carlos Hyde to run the ball. On several short runs and one very long run. The drive was capped by a 22 yard touchdown run. That run was later ruled down at the one yard line, but he was given the ball on the subsequent play and made the touchdown official. That gave the Buckeyes an 18-point lead, 45-27. This was the drive that looked like Ohio State was going to start running away with the game.
But Indiana was not discouraged. Their ability to slice and dice the Ohio State defense had already been proven, and they stayed within striking distance the entire game. Then, after being down 52-34 with only 3:58 remaining, the Hoosiers launched their attack. Starting from their own 26 yard line, they drove down the field, slicing through the Ohio State defense like a knife through hot butter. Hoosier quarterback Nate Sudfeld managed his time well, and with 1:40 left on the clock, they scored to close the gap to 52-41.
As expected, the Hoosiers went for the onside kick. The Buckeyes were letting it flip out of bounds when Hoosier wide receiver Nick Stoner made a tremendous acrobatic move to bat the ball back inbounds, and Indiana recovered it. The Hoosier began another great attempt to make the score even closer, and after 35 seconds had clicked off the clock the Hoosiers were in the Buckeye end zone. They went for 2 and made it, putting them 3 points behind the Buckeyes.
This time the Buckeyes were ready for the onside kick, and covered it up quickly. Ohio State was content to run the clock out, and with no time outs remaining, the Hoosiers were unable to do anything about it. The Buckeyes end up winning the game, 52-49, the most points Ohio State has ever given up to Indiana.
This game was a miserable one for the Buckeyes, and hopefully one that will teach them to underestimate no one. Kudos to Indiana and to their true freshman quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, for his composure during their last two drives of the game. He did a great job.
On the positive side for the Buckeyes there were some moments of brilliance. Early in the game the punt receiving team blocked a punt which rolled into the end zone where the Buckeyes recovered it. Without that touchdown, Ohio State would have lost this game. The drive that was primarily led by the strength of Carlos Hyde was brilliant, and is something that Coach Meyer should consider doing more often. Braxton Miller's long pass to Devin Smith for a touchdown was perfectly handled by both players, and should have occurred on at least one of the other 5 times it was attempted.
So the Buckeyes had their moments.
But in this game those moments were few and far between. It's hard to believe that this is the same Buckeye team that defeated Nebraska last week. It's also hard to believe that this is the same Hoosier team that lost to Ball State. So put this one in the book and move on. Next week Ohio State plays Purdue at home. Let's hope that they don't underestimate the Boilermakers.
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