It's hard for a football team to make things happen when you can't establish any kind of a rush game. That's a big reason why No. 2 Ohio State earned its 21st straight victory over Indiana today, 38-17.
Indiana made things interesting as the Hoosiers have often done in the Urban Meyer era, pulling within 24-17 early in the second half. That happened thanks to an impressive 13 play, 89 yard drive capped by a seven yard touchdown throw from Richard Lagow to a wide open Danny Friend.
Ohio State responded with its own 13 play touchdown drive, regaining a 14-point advantage. The drive was one of the few letdowns from the Hoosier defense in Ohio Stadium. The two first half touchdowns by the Buckeyes were set up by Hoosier mistakes. The first came after OSU recovered a fumble by Richard Lagow at the Indiana nine-yard line. Then just before the half after Indiana had pulled within 17-10 on a 18-yard touchdown throw from Lagow to Mitchell Paige, Parris Campbell returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to the Indiana six yard line. Ohio State quarterback J.T, Barrett ran it in from five yards out just two plays later with 30 seconds left in the half.
"It's kind of a slick game except for the two mistakes," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said.
Punts by Indiana's Joseph Gedeon to the Buckeye one and another to the Buckeye two yard line helped the Hoosier defense with field position in the first two quarters.
The first half saw Indiana run the ball 25 of its 35 plays from scrimmage. Those 25 rushes, however, netted just 44 yards, just 1.8 yards per carry.
"They're really good and they're going to outnumber you and play the man coverage outside, 1-on-1, so it's hard running," Wilson said. "We just felt that if we got one dimensional (with passing) it would be easy for them to get after the quarterback, harass us and with the way the crowd can go here, you see a lot of games that can get away."
Ohio State had already established that its defense is one of the best in the country, topping the nation in fewest points given up per game. When you add in the continued absence of Indiana's right side of the line, All-American guard Dan Feeney (concussion) and tackle Dimitric Camiel (back), it was probably going to be difficult for the Hoosiers to run the ball.
The second half did see Indiana become more balanced as the Hoosier passed it 18 times and ran it just 15 times. Running it less actually netted 11 more total yards of rushing versus the first half as Indiana finished with 99 yards on 40 rush attempts. Richard Lagow ended his day completing 14-for-28 for 182 yards with one interception and a pair of touchdowns.
The inability to get short yards on the rush also took away Indiana's final chance to make this an interesting finish. After A'Shon Riggins returned a Barrett interception to the Ohio State 13-yard line, the Hoosiers were poised to make it a 31-24 score with over 11 minutes remaining. But with second-and-two from the OSU five-yard line, Indiana was stuffed on two runs that were sandwiched around an incomplete pass. The second rush was a Redding run on fourth down that went for a two-yard loss.
"We thought about a possible play-action pass but we went big set to either run it or play action but went with the run and didn't get it," Wilson said. "They loaded up and kicked our butt at the line of scrimmage."
The final dagger came with four minutes left when Barrett hit Dontre Wilson for a 37 yard touchdown reception.
Redding had 22 rushes for 78 of the 99 yards for the Hoosiers. He blamed the "lack of flow" in the offense for the scoreless final 25 minutes.
"Whenever we get going we can really be a threat but that is something we have to be more consistent on and we're going to go back and get things right," Redding said,
Ohio State finished with 383 total yards to Indiana's 281 yards. Most of the OSU yardage came via a rushing attack that netted 290 yards, including 137 yards by Barrett. The Heisman trophy candidate did not have a great passing day, completing 9-for-21 for 93 yards with an interception and one touchdown.
With the loss the Hoosiers fall to 3-2 and 1-1 in the leage. Next up for Indiana is a homecoming game against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. It will be the first Big Ten match-up between the two programs.
Another tall task but Wilson likes the toughness of his team, something that showed itself often today against the second-ranked Buckeyes.
"We're playing without Dan Feeney, playing without Simmie Cobbs, but we're playing. Jacob Robinson. We have four or five starters out and that used to be our excuse. It's not next guy up, the team just kind of keeps playing. There's more depth and with the way coach (Tom) Allen has the defensive guys going, they have confidence in themselves, the offense has always had some confidence, and I think collectively we're kind of believing."