After hearing for an entire week about how their 60-35 victory over Illinois was insufficient, it took Ohio State exactly five plays to set the standard for their final game in Ohio Stadium this season.
Well, three, if you want to be picky. Braxton Miller exploded for a 41-yard gain on a 3rd and 3, and Carlos Hyde punched it in for Ohio State's first score from 16 yards out two plays later, as the Buckeyes rode an overpowering rushing game and a bend-but-don't-break defense into a dominating performance in the snowy weather, sending this year's senior class out with a victory, and a Big Ten Leaders Division title.
The total yardage didn't indicate the level of blowout (a 471-442 Buckeye advantage) as Indiana was able to find some success throwing the football, and the Buckeyes were uncharacteristically sloppy with the football, turning it over three times. The Buckeyes held the Hoosiers on downs three times, and held Indiana scoreless in their first six trips into Buckeye territory, aided by two missed Indiana field goals. By the time Indiana finally hit paydirt, on a Nate Sudfeld 4-yard toss to Shane Wynn on 4th and goal, the Buckeyes had already built a 42-0 lead, and the clock didn't leave enough time for a repeat of last year's closer-than-expected matchup, despite their best efforts.
The Buckeyes built that commanding lead on the strength of an explosive run game early in the game. It only took Miller six carries to get to 100 yards, and had 90 yards on only his first three carries. Miller would finish 144 yards on 13 carries, along with two scores. Carlos Hyde finally shed the "Urban Meyer can't produce a 1,000-yard running back" label by becoming the first player to do so early in the contest. Hyde added 117 yards on 18 carries, along with two scores of his own.
The weather alternated between simply cold, or snow globe-esque, with winds occasionally so stiff the view from the press box was occasionally obscured by snow. The elements might have forced the Buckeyes into a more run-heavy scheme early, but with the success they were having on the ground, throwing deep seemed superfluous, if not downright risky. Those concerns could have been confirmed as a promising Buckeye drive was extinguished in the first quarter after a Miller sack and fumble, although Indiana missed a field goal and could not convert.
After failing to score for two drives in a row, the Buckeyes seized any wayward momentum when Bradley Roby blocked a punt, setting up Ohio State at the Hoosier 8-yard line. On the second play from scrimmage, Miller went airborne for an electric 5-yard running score to push the margin to 21-0, and quell any concerns of a letdown.
The Hoosiers didn't seriously threaten again in the first half, as their 4th down attempt at OSU's 26 ended with a Nate Sudfeld sack. Ohio State held a 218-23 rushing yard advantage, collecting 8.7 yards per carry. Indiana only averaged 1.4. Braxton Miller's passing statline was hardly eye-popping, with 47 yards on 5-9 passing, most of which came on conservative shorter throws, but with a 28-0 lead at the break, and with the snow falling, hardly anybody would have complained.
Indiana was able to drive down the field after halftime, only to see their momentum slow near the end zone, as the Buckeyes forced another missed field goal. Miller was then quickly intercepted off a tipped screen pass, but again the Hoosiers were unable to take advantage of any Buckeye mistakes. Dontre Wilson finally stepped on the Hoosier neck, taking a swing pass 24 yards to the house, after impressive runs by Miller and Hyde, to push the margin to 35-0, and finally put the game out of reach.
Ohio State capped their scoring thanks to an impressive 39-yard bomb to Devin Smith, the only positive yardage of the day by an Ohio State wide receiver, perhaps because he was tired of commentators continuously mentioning how conservative the passing game had been.
Both of Indiana's scores came in the final six minutes, with the final 23-yard pass to D'Angelo Roberts set up thanks to a rare Kenny Guiton fumble, well after the game was out of reach. Sudfeld didn't play a bad game, going 25/41 for 224 and two scores, but the Hoosier offense got bogged down at more inopportune times, and was completely unable to take advantage of any Buckeye mistakes.
This might not have been Ohio State's most clean, dominating performance of the year, perhaps because of the weather, or not wanting to show everything before the Michigan game and Big Ten title showdown with Michigan State. The Buckeyes did hold a potentially explosive offense in check for almost the entire game, and found ways to punish the Hoosiers on the ground repeatedly.
Others may debate the stylistic implications of the game throughout the week. For now, the only statistic the Buckeyes are concerned about is the number in the wins column. 11-0 today, and a school-record 23 in a row spanning from last season. For now, that's all Ohio State can do.