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Buckeye Breakdown: Ohio State Holds Off Hoosiers In Close Win

Our weekly Buckeye Breakdown goes over how the Buckeyes beat Indiana and which units fared best against the Hoosiers in the 34-27 victory.


Ohio State Run Offense: To say the first half was night and day from the second half would be an understatement for the Ohio State Buckeyes. OSU had just 14 yards rushing at the half, yet quarterback Cardale Jones threw for 200 yards, and in the second half the Buckeyes flipped the script. Running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 243 of his 274 yards in the second half, while Jones threw an interception and just 45 yards in the second frame. The Buckeyes gashed the Hoosiers for three runs of 55 yards or more in the second half alone, constantly pulling guards and tight ends through the hole for Elliott to run through. Moving forward, I fully expect the Buckeyes to stick with their counter and misdirection run plays, especially against the 3-4 odd front defense which is what most teams seem to be showing the Buckeyes. And for Elliott, even though he was doing it against Indiana, he might have re-entered the Heisman talk with yet another stellar showing. – James Grega

Ohio State Pass Offense: While not the abject disaster that some perceive it to be, the Ohio State pass defense has to get better. Junior quarterback Cardale Jones actually put up respectable numbers in the first half – 13 of 17 for 200 yards – but only added 45 yards to that total in the second half. Part of that can be attributed to yards that Ezekiel Elliott ate up on three long scoring runs, but the Ohio State passing attack wasn’t as dependable as it could have been in the second half. The Buckeyes ran the ball on five of their final six plays, with the only exception coming on a pop pass to Jalin Marshall that gained zero yards. Whether that’s a misplaced lack of confidence or not, it still seems like the offense doesn’t have the full trust of the Ohio State coaching staff when it comes to passing the ball. – Ryan Ginn

Ohio State Run Defense: Ohio State gave up 402 total yards to the Hoosiers, and that includes 176 yards on the ground, but that’s about the best 176 yards a defense can give up. It took Indiana 55 rushing attempts to rack up that total, good for just 3.2 yards per carry, and that’s including a 79-yard home-run from backup quarterback Zander Diamont. Without that play, the Buckeyes gave up just 1.8 yards per rushing attempt, although two other touchdowns don’t look great in hindsight. Generally, it was a streaky day for the Ohio State defense, but none of the issues the Buckeyes experienced in the game can be attributed to an inability to stop the run. – Tim Moody

Ohio State Pass Defense: The Buckeyes were pretty uneven against the Hoosiers in every facet of the game, but the pass defense may have been the most consistent unit Ohio State had on the field against Indiana. The Buckeyes limited starter Nate Sudfeld to less than 50 percent passing on his 21. Zander Diamont was equally ineffective when he entered for the injured Sudfeld as he completed just six of his 14 tries. Indiana finished with 226 passing yards, well below the more 285.8 the Hoosiers were averaging entering Big Ten play. Indiana also failed to find the end zone through the air. The pass rush was uneven and the Buckeyes over-pursued at times to open up screen plays, but overall a solid showing from the back end of the defense. – Blake Williams

Ohio State Special Teams: Jalin Marshall had two fumbles on offense that were key turning points in the game, but he must be credited for his work on special teams, including a 38-yard return and some other big ones in the second half. He was helped by Indiana punter Erich Toth, who was happy either kicking the ball badly out of bounds or hitting line drives right at Marshall, setting up good returns. Cam Johnston also had a solid day, and I'll say Jack Willoughby did, too, making two field goals and narrowly missing a third by hitting the upright. – Jeff Svoboda


Ryan Ginn: I’ve always assumed that Ohio State would turn things around, and while I still feel that way it doesn’t seem like such a certainty. After the game, Ohio State’s offensive players were quick to point out that turnovers, penalties and a general lack of execution have prevented the unit from reaching its full potential, but nobody seems to be able to pinpoint the cause. Head coach Urban Meyer is fond of pointing out that college football teams, with more than 100 college-aged players on the roster, are incredibly complex organizations with a lot of moving parts. It’s up to Ohio State to figure out what ails it. Meyer has a track record of doing so, but it’s still not a certainty that happens before a loss – or at all.

James Grega: Ohio State’s offense will only go as far as Ezekiel Elliott takes it. Cardale Jones is very hit or miss behind center, and has yet to go a game this season without turning the ball over or putting the ball on the ground. The read option is not Jones’ strength and I really expect the Buckeyes to rely on the misdirection, counter type plays as their go-to plays. Jalin Marshall’s ball security is an area of concern for Ohio State as the Middletown, Ohio, native will likely be taking more reps for the Buckeyes, who lost wide receiver Corey Smith for the game with what looked like a severe leg injury. On defense, Ohio State gave up some big plays late but likely did not game plan for Zander Diamont who came in for injured Nate Sudfeld. At least for Ohio State, it wasn’t as bad as 2012 in Bloomington, when the Buckeye defense allowed 49 points.

Tim Moody: Ohio State football in 2015-16: Still not at its best. It would be hard to say the Buckeyes took a step back this week, but it would be impossible to say they took a step forward. Turnovers are a huge problem, as are penalties, but those are relatively fixable issues going forward. That said, relatively fixable is no guarantee, and if Ohio State has another performance like this down the line — say against Michigan State or Michigan — the outcome won’t be quite as favorable. There’s ample room to improve still, and it’s important to remember the Buckeyes weren’t the best team in the nation this time last year either.

Jeff Svoboda: The Buckeyes have to stop turning the darn ball over, as Urban Meyer might say. He said if not for the turnovers it would have been a solid performance by the Buckeyes, and he's right; Jalin Marshall's first fumble took points off the board, while Cardale Jones' interception set up a momentum-shifting Indiana score and Jalin Marshall's fumble in the fourth quarter was another game-changer. Obviously there are still some big issues facing Ohio State, but if the Buckeyes had just held on to the ball this would have been a different game and a much more comfortable scoreline. Fixing the turnovers -- an issue dating back to the postseason last year -- will make a lot of things better for the Buckeyes.

Blake Williams: This Ohio State team doesn’t know how to finish. Urban Meyer and multiple players and staff members said as much after the game and the team proved it on the field against Indiana. The Buckeyes couldn’t step on the throat of an Indiana team that was missing it’s two best offensive players by game’s end, and that should be concerning. The finishing struggles were further highlighted by the Buckeyes three turnovers and the fact that Ohio State got just two field goals out of three red-zone trips. This team is clearly still developing a finishing move.

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