On Saturday, we learned that just because a college football team has a single-digit ranking next to its name even the so-called easy wins can be hard.
Urban Meyer after the win at Indiana
Playing with an injury-depleted defense, No. 8 Ohio State had to rally from a first-half deficit to turn back upset-minded Indiana 52-49 in one of the wackiest Big Ten games in recent memory Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Ohio State has long dominated its rivalry with its neighbor, Indiana. The Buckeyes have lost only twice all-time in Bloomington and only twice overall to the Hoosiers since 1951. OSU was a 17-point favorite to dispatch Indiana, but the Hoosiers gave the Buckeyes perhaps their toughest game in the series since the Buckeyes’ 27-17 Rose Bowl-clinching win in Bloomington in 1996. (OSU had won its last 11 games in the series since that 1996 win by an average of 26.1 points per win.)
The Buckeyes led comfortably at 52-34 after scoring with 6:47 left. But Indiana rallied with a pair of touchdowns, one after a recovered onside kick, to get within three. But OSU recovered a second onside kick try with 1:04 left to (mercifully) end it.
“I was just saying, ‘Please get this onside kick so we could kneel the ball,’ ” said OSU quarterback Braxton Miller, who accounted for 360 yards total offense and three touchdowns. “I was nervous.
“We learned we can’t let up like that. We have to keep grinding through the game and keep playing.”
The 49 points were the most given up by an Ohio State team in 18 years, dating to the 63-14 loss at Penn State in 1994.
An exasperated Urban Meyer could only shake his head in disbelief at the all-too-close win.
“Spread offenses, right now, are really exposing us,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to get something fixed. We are ripped to shreads (by injuries) right now in certain areas.”
Braxton Miller after the win at Indiana
Meyer vowed to take more responsibility with the defense going forward.
Miller shined again for the Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0). He completed 13 of 24 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. He also carried the ball 23 times for 149 yards and a touchdown.
“Whew, man,” a relieved Miller said after the game. “It was a good game. They came out ready. They were fighting and did what they had to do. We had to overcome our own mistakes.”
OSU running back Carlos Hyde added 156 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and also had a touchdown catch.
“We ran the ball for (353) yards,” Meyer said. “We had two guys really haul it.”
Wideout Devin Smith caught a pair of touchdown passes (60 and 46 yards), while Philly Brown had six catches for 51 yards.
The OSU defense was without a pair of starters in defensive end Nathan Williams (held out with a concussion) and linebacker Etienne Sabino (out at least three weeks with a broken leg). Other regulars were in and out of the lineup throughout the game, and the Hoosiers took advantage.
For Indiana (2-4, 0-3), Coffman was 22 of 44 passing for 275 yards and a touchdown. Running back Stephen Houston had 11 carries for 91 yards and his two touchdowns. He also caught a late touchdown pass from backup Nate Sudfeld.
Braxton Miller vs. Indiana
“It was a real exciting game,” said IU coach Kevin Wilson. “We just came up short there. They have a really good team. They made a bunch of plays on us. They had some points, but we battled. We kept fighting, but it is disappointing to be short again.”
A week after OSU outlasted Nebraska 63-38 in an offensive explosion, much the same was on tap for the Buckeyes in Bloomington. The teams combined for 1,059 yards, 102 points and 54 first downs with OSU outgaining IU 578-481. OSU reached the 50-point plateau in back-to-back games for the first time in 16 years.
Meyer was asked if he felt helpless when his defense was on the field.
“I just wanted to win that game,” he said. “I support our coaches and I support our players. We’ve got to find a way to make a stop and win the game. At the same time, the offense has been in reverse and the defense has bailed us out before.
“We’re a team and we win as a team.”
As It Happened
OSU led 10-0 early behind a 12-yard touchdown run by Philly Brown and a 35-yard Drew Basil field goal.
But Indiana rallied with Stephen Houston rumbling for a 59-yard touchdown run and scoring again on a 7-yard run after the Hoosiers blocked an OSU punt. That staked IU to a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter.
Corey Brown vs. Indiana
But later in the half, the Buckeyes blocked a punt of their own with Travis Howard doing the honors and Bradley Roby recovering it for the touchdown that gave the Buckeyes the lead for good at 17-14 with just over five minutes left in the first half.
Miller then hit Smith for his 60-yard bomb, putting OSU up 24-14 at the half.
“Big plays like that loosen things up,” Miller said. “When the opponent scores, you have to come right back and answer for the defense.”
Indiana kicked a field goal early in the third quarter, but Miller answered with a 67-yard TD scamper for a 31-17 lead with 12:18 left in the third.
After a Miller interception in the end zone, Indiana came right back with a 76-yard touchdown from Cameron Coffman to Shane Wynn to cut it to 31-24 with 8:40 left in the third quarter.
Ohio State answered with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring march. Indiana aided the cause with penalties for pass interference and a late hit on Miller, which knocked him out of the game temporarily. Backup Kenny Guiton came in and hit Hyde with a nifty shovel pass for a 14-yard touchdown to make it 38-24 with 4:34 left in the third.
“I got hit on the bone in my side,” Miller said. “I knew it would be all right with Kenny. That’s my big brother.”
IU’s Tevin Coleman returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards, but the Hoosiers could only get a 44-yard Ewald field goal out of it. That cut the OSU lead to 38-27 with 3:54 left in the third.
Devin Smith vs. Indiana
The Buckeyes came back with a 10-play, 78-yard scoring march. Hyde had a 20-yard run and also caught a 13-yard pass. He appeared to score on a rough 22-yard run up the gut, but replay overturned it and put the ball at the 1-yard line. That’s OK, because Hyde took it in over right tackle on the next play for a 45-27 lead with 14:40 left in the game.
Indiana roared back with a 12-play, 76-yard scoring march. This included a 19-yard run by Wynn on a reverse, helping set up D’Angelo Roberts’ 1-yard touchdown to cut the OSU lead to 45-34 with 10:30 left.
Ohio State answered with a six-play, 75-yard drive. Miller and Smith hooked up again for the touchdown. This time, it was third-and-4 at the IU 46. Miller stepped up and hit Smith on a square in over the middle. Smith eluded a tackle, then reversed field to the right sideline, highstepped out of another tackle and sprinted home with the 46-yard touchdown that made it 52-34 with 6:47 left.
Indiana wasn’t done. Aided by a pair of OSU personal fouls, the Hoosiers scored again with backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld hitting Duwyce Wilson for a 12-yard touchdown. That trimmed the OSU lead to 52-41 with 1:40 to play.
Indiana then recovered an onside kick and went at it again. Sudfeld completed a pair of passes for 12 and 6 yards, netting a first down at the OSU 25. On first down there, Sudfeld stepped up under pressure. He hit Houston with an impromptu shovel pass. Houston escaped OSU’s Zach Boren and got in for the 25-yard touchdown. Cody Latimer’s two-point conversion run cut the OSU lead to 52-49 with 1:05 left.
Sanity returned, though, as Ewald popped up the kickoff and OSU’s Corey Brown retreated to fall on it. The Buckeyes ran two plays and, finally, after a marathon that lasted four hours and two minutes it was over.
* OSU reached the 50-point plateau in back-to-back games for the first time since 1996, when they opened the year with wins over Rice (70-7) and Pittsburgh (72-0).
* Braxton Miller now has eight career 100-yard rushing games, including five in seven outings this year. Carlos Hyde has four in his career, including two this year.
* The Buckeyes played the game without DE Nathan Williams (concussion) and freshman DBs Armani Reeves (ankle) and Najee Murray. Murray underwent season-ending knee surgery earlier this week. Williams did not practice all week. This was also OSU’s first game without starting OLB Etienne Sabino.
During the game, the Buckeyes lost safety Christian Bryant (leg injury) and corner Travis Howard (stinger) to injuries but they each returned. Linebacker Storm Klein went down with a leg injury in the fourth quarter as well.
OSU was so depleted at linebacker that senior fullback Zach Boren – a defensive lineman in his high school days at Pickerington Central – subbed in at middle linebacker in some sets. Boren led the team with eight tackles for the Buckeyes.
Steve Miller started at end in place of Williams.
* OSU is now 36-18 all-time in night games, including 19-8 in away night games.
* Guiton’s touchdown pass was the first of his career. Miller’s two touchdown passes give him 11 this year and 23 for his career.
* The Buckeyes had five 70-yard drives in this game and have 20 this season – 11 more than the nine they had all last season.
* Ohio State’s string of 22 consecutive scores in the red zone was ended with Drew Basil’s missed 35-yard field goal in the first half. Miller also threw a red zone interception in the second half. In this game, OSU was 4 of 6 in the red zone. That makes the Buckeyes 26 of 30 in the red zone this season.
* Ohio State leads the all-time series 69-12-5, including 25-2-1 in Bloomington. Ohio State has won 18 games in a row in the series, dating to a 1990 tie (27-27) at Bloomington. OSU has also won nine in a row in Bloomington.
Since Woody Hayes arrived at OSU in 1951, OSU has posted a 49-3-2 mark against IU. OSU’s longest winning streak in the series was 23 games between 1960-86. OSU’s only two losses in Bloomington came in 1904 (8-0) and 1988 (41-7).
* The Buckeyes will reached 7-0 to start a season for the third time in seven years, dating to 2006. Over the last 20 years, OSU has reached at least 7-0 on at least eight occasions: 1993 (started 8-0), 1995 (started 11-0), 1996 (started 10-0), 1998 (started 8-0), 2002 (finished 14-0), 2006 (started 12-0), 2007 (started 10-0) and this year.
This is the fourth team Meyer has led to a 7-0 start in his 11th year as a head coach. Only two first-year OSU coaches have started 7-0. Carroll Widdoes was 9-0 in 1944 and eventually won his first 12 games before a loss. Earle Bruce posted an 11-0 record to open the 1979 before a Rose Bowl loss to USC.
* The Buckeyes are one of 13 unbeaten teams nationally. But they and Ohio University are the only two to successfully make it to 7-0.
* Urban Meyer’s teams are now 35-13 in his 11-year head coaching career in road games. Meyer’s teams are also 68-14 when ranked.
* Ohio State returns home to face Purdue next Saturday. That game has been set for a noon start with regional coverage on ABC and coverage outside the region on ESPN2. Purdue fell to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten with a 38-14 loss to Wisconsin.
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