Woof. An electric first five minutes gave way to the sloppiest half of football the Buckeyes have played since Virginia Tech. Ohio State coughed up three turnovers to the Hoosiers in the first 30 minutes, including a pair of J.T. Barrett interceptions. The running game went flat after a tremendous start, not getting much pop at all despite spreading carries around to Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel, and Barrett.
Speaking of Barrett, the young quarterback became Ohio State's single-season pass touchdown leader in this one despite a less-than-inspiring performance in the first half. With a little flip to Jalin Marshall from a few yards out, Barrett hit 31 for the season to move into first place on the leaderboard (still love you, Troy Smith). Barrett finished with 302 yards passing and four touchdowns, plus another 78 yards on the ground. That puts him at 33 passing touchdowns for the year.
As we expected they would, the Buckeyes eventually took care of business to the tune of 45-27. Let's take a look at who stands where, now that this one's in the books:
Blue Chip Stocks:
Jalin Marshall, H-Back: SO. MUCH. #NARRATIVE. Marshall seems to have redeemed himself after last week's horror show against Minnesota. The freshman took a punt home from 54 yards out to put the Buckeyes back in the lead late in the third quarter, and added another touchdown on his trademark sweep early in the fourth. He wasn't done there, only needing one hand to reel in a J.T. Barrett touchdown pass after burning his man badly in coverage. Welcome back to Buckeye fans' good graces, young man (though Philly Brown has something to say about that).
Fake fans don't jump on my little bro bandwagon now when u were just trashing him— corey brown (@phillybrown10) November 22, 2014
Marshall added a fourth touchdown after that tweet was sent, just in case you weren't paying attention. Holy crap. Guy can play. You can watch them all here.
Josh Perry, LB: Ohio State's leading tackler was everywhere on Saturday, making solid play after solid play to anchor the Buckeye defense. Making tackles in the backfield, chasing Indiana QB Zander Diamont out of the pocket, getting in on gang tackles -- we heard Perry's name an awful lot when the defense was on the field. Perry got banged up in the second quarter, but returned after just a few plays off to continue making a big impact. We haven't given Perry a lot of love in this column in 2014, but at times he's looked like the best player on the defensive side of the ball. Saturday was one of those times. He finished with three TFLs and two sacks.
Cameron Johnston, P: The Aussie punter had his best game of the season on Saturday. Of course, if your punter is having a career day, you're probably not doing so hot, and that was the case this week. Still, Johnston pinned Indiana deep a number of times, really changing the shape of the field for the Buckeye defense and making things difficult for the Hoosier offense. He even was semi-responsible for Marshall's punt return TD, since he buried the ball at the Hoosier half-yard line to make things really difficult for Zander Diamont and co. He doesn't punt often, but when he does, it's spectacular.
Jeff Heuerman, TE: Big day from the big man, who has been quiet all season. Heuerman finished with 74 yards and a touchdown on career-matching five grabs, and was a factor in the Buckeye attack all day. Heuerman was rewarded for his tremendous blocking on Elliott's touchdown by getting his number called a few times on the ensuing drive. He made the most of the opportunity, fighting for extra yards inside the 5-yard line and snagging a touchdown on the very next play. It's great to see Heuerman getting more involved in the passing attack.
Tyvis Powell, DB: Yikes. We've dinged Powell in this column before, and the same shortcomings that have made him stand out in a bad way were on display again in this one. Powell took a horrifically bad angle on Tevin Coleman's 90-yard touchdown run, a miscue that hurt the Buckeyes badly, as he was the last man in position to make a play. No one else even got close to Coleman. Powell was also responsible for blown coverage on a third-and-long converted by the Hoosiers early in the game. Not his best game, and unfortunately, not the first one he's had like this. Here's hoping he finds the magic that allowed him to make the most important play in the 2013 Michigan game against the Wolverines next week.
(N.B.: My frustration is not tempered in light of Powell's fourth quarter interception. That ball was forced by Diamont, right to Powell's waiting arms. Still need to see more from him.)
SELL: Ohio State's rush defense. We've talked about this ad nauseam, which is fitting, since our ability to stop opposing running backs makes me want to puke. Good thing we're not looking at facing Melvin Gordon in a few weeks, or anything like that.
SELL: The officiating. This one isn't on the refs, but boy, there were a few head-scratchers from the crew on Saturday. The first was an egregiously bad horse-collar tackle call against Adolphus Washington after no. 92 blew up the Indiana offensive line and took Tevin Coleman down for what looked like a huge loss. Noooooope. Despite the fact that the tackle was made by the arm/shoulder, the refs awarded Indiana 15 yards and a first down.
Cool horse collar: pic.twitter.com/55hZljDJ8l— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 22, 2014
The second came on a play that could easily have been called pass interference, as J.T. Barrett bombed a ball deep to Evan Spencer. The Hoosier defensive back was pretty clearly there before the ball, and the Buckeyes would gladly have taken 15 yards. Nooooope. Incomplete pass, no call, punt. Ohio State only had itself to blame for its woes on Saturday, don't get me wrong, but it's never a good sign when the officials stand out as much as Snodgrass and co. did in this one.
BUY: Ohio State's playoff chances' existence. This was an ugly one, to be sure. Know who else wins ugly? Florida State, against inferior opposition, week in and week out. Granted, the 'Noles have still yet to lose a game, but despite their unblemished record they've been far from impressive this season in games they were heavily favored to win. I'm not out on the Buckeyes just yet, though it's perhaps a longer shot today than it was 24 hours ago.
SELL: Abandoning Ezekiel Elliott. After Elliott's 65-yard TD scamper in the first quarter, he touched the ball just five more times in the first half. They didn't look his way much in the third quarter either, as Elliott headed into the fourth with just 10 carries under his belt. Most of his yardage came from that one run, so it's not as though he was lighting the world on fire when they gave him the rock. But he was running well enough to merit getting his number called a few more times in the huddle (especially given how anemic Barrett's running was throughout this one).
BUY: Second half J.T. Barrett. Barrett looked like a completely different player for most of the last 30 minutes. Barrett orchestrated a few key drives, shaking off a crap first half and helping the Buckeyes finally take control of the game. He's still got some learning and growing to do as a quarterback -- Indiana is really not a good defense, though they looked like one against Barrett for most of the day, and that has to change -- but he got the job done when it really mattered.
SELL: Ever kicking a field goal again. I am sure that Sean Nuernberger is a fine young man with a bright future. I am also sure that I have never been more nervous watching an Ohio State kicker take the field. The freshman kicker is just 10/16 on the year, and has seemingly missed kicks in big moments time after time. He missed a 46-yarder in this one. Ohio State saw a good return on their fourth down investment in the first quarter by going for it and scoring a touchdown, and I'd love to see that become the rule rather than the exception. Mike Nugent is not walking through that door.