Indiana came into last Saturday’s game looking to get their first victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes since 1988, and start their season 5-0 for the first time since 1967, the season they played in the Rose Bowl.
The Hoosiers led the entire first half of the game, but the Buckeyes took over the lead for good on a 65-yard touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliot with one minute remaining in the third quarter and would go on to win 34-27.
While the Indiana defense did force three turnovers in the game and hold the buckeyes to 2 for 14 on third down conversions, they had trouble stopping big plays on the ground.
“We only had eight big plays, which was really one of the huge differences in the game,” said head coach Kevin Wilson. “Their big plays versus our lack thereof.”
Elliott was held to 31 rushing yards in the first half, but would go on to finish the game with 274 yards and three touchdowns of over 50 yards.
“Ezekiel Elliott is a guy that you can’t give a crease,” IU defensive coordinator Brian Knorr said. “Whether it’s a 25 or 30 yard gain, we have to be able to down it and play another play.”
Run defense is something that the Hoosiers had excelled in recently, allowing an average of 102 yards per game in their last three games. A key factor to this was the return of standout defensive lineman Darius Latham from his suspension that kept him out of the season opener vs. Southern Illinois.
However, with Latham again suspended for last Saturday’s game, the Hoosiers struggled to stop the run. In the two games without Latham, the defense has given up an average of 260 yards per game on the ground.
The length of Latham’s latest suspension is indefinite, so it is unclear whether or not he will be available in Indiana’s road game vs. the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Penn State enters this Saturday’s game averaging 158 yards per game on the ground. It has shown the ability to have very big games rushing the ball, totaling 200 yards vs. Buffalo and 330 yards vs. Rutgers.
Saturday’s game in State College, Pennsylvania could come down to who plays in the game and who does not. Both Indiana and Penn State have key players that are battling injuries that could potentially keep them out of the game.
“They’ve won four in a row,” Wilson said. “It’s their homecoming. It’s going to be a tough environment.”