Until this point in the season, all of the Buckeyes games this year have been functionally over long before the final whistle blew.
Not this week.
Luckily, the 3rd-ranked Buckeyes escaped the contest with a victory, but only after the Hoosiers were able to log a lateral-filled hail mary attempt with five seconds remaining in the game, one that, if successful, would have likely resulted in a 42-42 tie. And overtime.
Indiana–fighting tooth and nail like the scrappy, well-coached underdog they were–managed to defy each of Ohio State’s efforts to pull Saturday’s game out of reach. They trailed OSU by 21 points in the fourth quarter, and still almost found a way to tie the game. Not only did they have a shot to even the score on their dramatic final drive (one that started with 38 seconds remaining), Indiana’s penultimate possession began with 4:39 left on the clock, and an identical 35-42 score: it ended up a nail-biter.
“We let up some big plays, we let them back into the game; we’ve got to figure out a way to close out games. This is kind of the second week now where we’ve let a team hang around a little bit, and we’ve got to get that fixed,” said OSU head coach Ryan Day. “But so many great things in this game. Indiana’s a good team; they’re a top ten team. This was not easy.”
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While the Buckeyes are seemingly still on the fast-track for a playoff appearance (win and they’re in, barring something bizarre), the Hoosiers truly tested the nation’s 3rd-ranked team.
And it started with the Indiana defense. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields had not thrown an interception yet this year heading into Saturday’s game, but the feisty Indiana secondary managed to pick off the Heisman hopeful three times. With two of these coming in the game’s first quarter, it felt a bit like a proclamation that Indiana was the real deal. He was also harassed throughout much of the afternoon by the Hoosier’s blitz-heavy defensive scheme, as the Indiana pass rush logged five sacks on the day.
Fields did still make an impact through the air, as he completed 18 of 30 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns. His two favorite targets hauled in the lion’s share of the OSU passing game as well, with Garrett Wilson catching seven passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, and Chris Olave hauling in eight passes for 101 yards. In fact, outside of the performance from Wilson and Olave, the Buckeyes only completed three additional passes.
The engine for the Ohio State offense this week, though, was a ground game that saw the team churn out 307 total rushing yards. Master Teague saw 26 carries for 169 yards and two touchdowns (averaging a robust 6.5 yards per carry), and Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon contributed nine carries for 60 yards as well (averaging 6.6 yards per carry).
And while Fields turned in his first three interceptions of the season, the quarterback–who has displayed underrated athleticism since his time with the Buckeyes–contributed 78 yards on 15 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and one rushing touchdown as well.
Defensively, the Buckeyes managed two sacks of quarterback Micahel Penix Jr. on the day. And while sacks have still been slightly difficult to come by for this Buckeye team, they found a way to make impactful plays when they were needed, none larger than cornerback Shaun Wade’s pick-six of Penix Jr. at the end of the third quarter to put the Bucks up 42-21. The Buckeyes also managed to recover three Hoosier fumbles.
Next up for Ohio State is a noon kickoff on Nov. 28 against 2-3 Illinois.