In 2017, following a thrilling come-from-behind, one-point victory over Penn State, the Ohio State football team got blown out on the road by Iowa, 55-24. In 2018, following a thrilling come-from-behind, one-point victory over Penn State, the Ohio State football (6-0, 3-0) team struggled against the Indiana Hoosiers (4-2, 1-2), before eventually pulling out the victory, 49-26.
Despite the lofty ranking, the Buckeye defense was porous at best; the offense felt frustratingly like the worst of the middling, zone-read era; and both sides of the ball continued their season-long struggles with penalties.
However, OSU found enough plays to win, but it was never as comfortable as most would have assumed it would be coming into the game. Despite rocky performances at times on both sides of the ball, quarterback Dwayne Haskins turned in yet another monster game.
The QB threw six touchdown passes, which tied the school single-game record, and finished with 455 yards passing, the second most in a game in Ohio State history, eclipsed only by Art Schlichter’s 458 against Florida State in 1981.
The opening offensive series for Indiana continued to highlight the defensive inadequacies that have plagued Ohio State throughout the year. True freshman running back Stevie Scott broke a 45-yard run, on which safety Jahsen Wint— starting in place of Isaiah Pryor who had to miss the first half following a third-quarter targeting call against Penn State— took a terrible angle, and had to drag down the runner from behind preventing the touchdown.
Aided by a handful of IU penalties, the Buckeyes eventually forced a field goal attempt by Indiana kicker Logan Justus. The three points marked the first time that the Buckeyes allowed a score of any kind on the opening drive of a game this season.
With the ball for the first time on the day, the OSU offense went with quick tempo, alternating between rushes and quick passes to pick up 41 yards to get inside the IU 40.
However, after J.K. Dobbins exited the game a little winded, Mike Weber was dropped for a loss on a stretch play, and then on third-and-9, Brandon Wilson stripped the ball from the back’s arms, resulting in the first turnover of the game.
On two of the first three plays after the change of possession, Buckeye defenders missed tackles that would have resulted in either a loss or minimal gain. Linebacker Pete Werner missed the first one resulting in an Austin Dorris eight-yard pickup. Two plays later, defensive end Jonathon Cooper wiffed on Scott, who gained seven of his first half 64 yards. Following that play, the Buckeyes used their second defensive timeout of the half with 7:34 remaining in the first quarter.
There was a palpable feeling of sleep walking from both the OSU players and coaches in the early going of the contest. Almost to prove my point, with 6:08 remaining in the first quarter, OSU’s coaches called timeout as the Hoosiers were lining up to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Buckeyes’ 29.
On the play, quarterback Peyton Ramsey found running back Mike Majette over the middle, but the ball was slightly behind him, resulting in a merciful incompletion for Ohio State.
With the ball back on offense, the Buckeyes turned to Dobbins to right the ship. On the first four plays, the RB got the ball on three handoffs and one flare pass, which he corralled with one hand, before turning it into a 23-yard pickup.
Later in the drive, following a Terry McLaurin catch down to the 1, Dobbins finished off the drive with a TD run, putting the home team up 7-3, where— after an IU punt— the quarter would end.
On an OSU offensive drive that featured play-calling that looked uncomfortably reminiscent of the J.T. Barrett era, OSU went for it on 4th-and-1 from their own 42. Weber picked up the yardage needed, extending the drive. Two plays later, a bit of fun was brought back to the offense, as quarterback Dwayne Haskins found a streaking Johnnie Dixon for a 39-yard touchdown catch, to put the Buckeyes up 14-3.
After the perfectly placed ball fell into the waiting arms of the senior wide receiver, it reemphasized that fact that the first quarter-plus of offensive play-calling felt like trying to fit a vanilla peg into a rainbow sherbet with sprinkles hole.
However, the Buckeye defense continued to give up big play after big play. In the ensuing five-play drive, Ramsey had one incompletion (on what likely would have been a touchdown had the pass had a bit more air under it) and four completions of more than 10 yards (15, 11, 17, and 32). The final one was a well-executed throw back across the field to a virtually uncovered tight end Peyton Hendershot who cruised into the end zone; closing the gap on the scoreboard to 14-10.
Following the touchdown, the first play was the second designed-QB run of the game. Unsurprisingly, it went for no gain. Four plays later, Haskins again inexplicably kept the ball to run right into the backs of the offensive line. On the next play, he was hit while throwing, resulting in his third interception of the season. Freshman DB Devon Matthews recorded the pick for IU. The pick was the second takeaway of the game for an IU defense that leads the Big Ten in forced turnovers this season.
After a Kendall Sheffield defensive holding call on the subsequent drive, Jordan Fuller got burnt coming off of the line, and Ramsey found J-Shun Harris for a 30-yard pickup. Then, two plays later, the ball went to Westbrook who caught it over the top of a falling Jeffrey Okudah for a touchdown. The Hoosiers took the lead 17-14.
Back on offense, the zone-read play-calling seemed to at least be temporarily put in the back pocket, as Haskins led the Buckeyes 75 yards in 2:29, finding Parris Campbell on a crossing route and run resulting in an 18-yard TD; putting OSU back up 21-17.
Campbell would end up having an incredible game for the Buckeyes. On 11 targets, he had 9 catches, 142 yards, and a pair of TD.
On the drive, Haskins threw for 54 yards, and Weber ran for 36, including a 21-yard chunk that got the ball down to the eight-yard line.
On first down for the Hoosiers following the Campbell TD, Ramsey completed a pass to Reese Taylor, but OSU linebacker Tuf Borland knocked the ball loose in the process of tackling the receiver. Originally ruled down by contact, the ball was awarded to the Buckeyes upon review.
Thanks in part to a fourth-and-1 red zone conversion by Dobbins, Haskins found McLaurin on a crossing route in the end zone for the touchdown that put the Buckeyes up 28-17. To that point, Haskins was 19-for-22 through the air with three passing touchdowns.
243 passing yards & 3 touchdowns... in the first half!— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 6, 2018
Not too shabby Dwayne Haskins. pic.twitter.com/YqLYMBjsol
Despite the OSU touchdown coming with just over two minutes remaining before halftime, that was more than enough time for the Buckeye defense to give up massive chunks of yards. Following a touchback, Ramsey connected with Westbrook on a 30-yard completion that got the Hoosiers into OSU territory.
After Ramsey found Harris for another first down, the Ohio State defense finally bowed up and forced three consecutive incompletions. IU settled for Justus’ second 37-yard field goal of the game, bringing the deficit to a single score, 28-20.
With 40 seconds and zero timeouts remaining, the Buckeyes stayed conservative, giving the ball to Dobbins once for nine yards, before allowing the first half clock to expire.
Following the interception, Haskins went 7-for-7 for 70 yards and two touchdowns. On those seven completions, seven different receivers caught the ball, emphasizing the depth of the Buckeyes’ WR room. In the backfield, Dobbins (52) and Weber (53) were well balanced in terms of rushing yards— though Weber did it on six fewer carries— but Dobbins had two impressive circus catches for 25 more yards through the air.
The offense wasn’t the problem for OSU in the first half though. The defense gave up 317 yards on an 8.1 yards per play average. The Hoosier offense had 13 plays of more than 10 yards, including three of 30 or more. Even though he was without WRs Whop Philyor and Luke Timian, Ramsey was 17-for-29 for 239 yards and two TDs passing. Harris led all receivers with 90 yards through the air.
On the third play of the second half, needing to gain six yards to extend the drive, Campbell came in motion and the Hoosier defense decided to leave him completely unguarded as a simple pitch-and-catch resulted in a 71-yard touchdown as no one wearing white was going to be able to catch the speedy H-back from behind.
Just 51 seconds into the third quarter, the Buckeyes retook a two TD lead, 35-20.
You might want to cover Parris Campbell! pic.twitter.com/yhWvUHCRG2— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 6, 2018
After the Campbell score, the OSU defense forced the first three-and-out of the game. The Buckeyes returned the favor and punted for the first time of the game after three offensive plays of their own.
It looked thereafter like the Buckeyes were going to force another punt, but on a third down, OSU was flagged for both a defensive holding (which was declined) and a roughing the passer personal foul against Chase Young. On the first play after marking off the 15 yard penalty, Jordan Fuller was flagged for pass interference.
However, following a Borland sack, Tyreke Smith stripped the ball on third down, and Dre’Mont Jones recovered the fumble, IU’s second turnover of the day. On the subsequent possession, the Buckeyes failed to convert on either 3rd-and-1 or 4th-and-1 turning the ball back over to the Hoosiers on downs.
On the first play following the turnover on downs, Ramsey completed a 38-yarder to Westbook down the sideline. Originally ruled out of bounds, review showed that his elbow, and a single buttock landed in bounds a split second before the rest of his leg hit out of bounds. On third down from the 19, Ramsey scrambled to the 11 to set up a 4th-and-1. He came up looking slightly hobbled, and IU coach Tom Allen called timeout to dial up the fourth-down play call.
The inside handoff to Scott got just enough to convert— despite the fact that the replay made it appear that actually, the spot was not good. However, given the opportunity, Indiana made the most of it as three plays later, Ramsey found a completely unguarded Donavan Hale for the touchdown.
Hoosiers will not go quietly into the night. pic.twitter.com/HubzwcqrTQ— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 6, 2018
The Hoosiers went for the two-point conversion, but the pass was deflected and Malik Harrison picked it off. He ran the ball out past midfield, but was not able to convert the try into a safety. The score was then 35-26, in favor of the Buckeyes.
After holding penalties erased two big gains, the Buckeyes found themselves in 2nd-and-30. After a 10-yard pickup, Haskins was hit while throwing, and his ball floated in the air and came down into the hands of IU DB Bryant Fitzgerald. After their second interception of the day, the Hoosiers took over just inside of midfield.
After a three-and-out, Ohio State took over on their own four. An offensive pass interference call then wiped out a first down catch by Binjimen Victor, and Drue Chrisman got off a shaky punt, setting up the Hoosiers on the Buckeyes’ 33. The defense held tough, forcing a 50-yard Justus attempt that hooked way to the right.
With that, the score remained 35-26 heading into the final frame of regulation. Following an 11-yard run from Weber to end the third quarter, Ohio State had a total of 12 yards rushing on eight attempts in the period, compared to five penalties that cost the Buckeyes 52 yards.
Dobbins would end the game with 82 yards and a TD on 26 carries, while Weber had 70 yards on 13.
The drive eventually resulted in a 17-yard touchdown pass to McLaurin, his second of the game. On the drive, the Buckeyes converted a fourth down, but Haskins was only 2-for-5 as the IU defense began to get more and more pressure on the OSU QB.
More brilliance from Dwayne Haskins (and Terry McLaurin) pic.twitter.com/W6AbAV37mf— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 6, 2018
On the touchdown play, head coach Urban Meyer collided with another member of the Ohio State staff on the sideline, and collapsed to the ground. However, after a tense commercial break, Meyer was back up and looked none the worse for ware.
The Silver Bullets showed up on the ensuing series, with Davon Hamilton stopping Majette for a short gain, Okudah made a fantastic diving pass breakup— despite being interfered with, and Pryor made a great open-field tackle on a third-down screen.
The subsequent possession for the Buckeyes resulted in what might have been the most impressive pass of the season. On a first down from the IU 30, Haskins found Victor with an over-the-shoulder ball perfectly placed in the back of the end zone. Victor hold on and got a knee down to extend the OSU lead to 49-26.
The throw!— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 6, 2018
The forward roll! pic.twitter.com/hukGwLnw0S
Including the running backs, Haskins found nine different receivers on the game. In addition to Campbell’s day, Dixon (5 for 73 and a TD), Mack (5 for 49), McLaurin (4 for 59 and 2 TDs), Hill (4 for 46), Victor (2 for 43), and Dobbins all had multiple receptions on the game. Tight end Luke Farrell had one catch for 13 yards.