On a day that will be remembered for more than the score, the Ohio State Buckeyes took care of business against the Indiana Hoosiers in their 56-14 victory. The Buckeyes got their 28th straight win against Indiana, and the offense was in stride from start to finish. Outside a few coverage mishaps, the defense was dominant in another wire-to-wire performance
Being back home, the Buckeyes were looking for a complete performance. Ohio State had been challenged in back-to-back weeks, once by the most talented team they’ve played thus far in Penn State and the other by Mother Nature. On Saturday, this was a game to get right against an overmatched opponent, which they did emphatically. Offensively, Ohio State totaled 662 yards, with both their rushing and passing totals getting over the 300 yard mark.
This left a lot of ground to make up on the offensive end for the Hoosiers, and the Ohio State defense took care of business once again. Indiana had a rough day trying to find some consistency offensively with the Buckeyes’ success at all three levels. This has been the case all season long, regardless of what opponents have thrown at them.
With the high level performances on both sides of the ball, there were few negatives to look at, and plenty of positive the Buckeyes should look to build on further.
This was as balanced a performance as an offense could have, basically splitting the yardage totals on the air and ground right down the middle. With all the talent Ohio State’s offense has, a team like Indiana had little to no chance of deterring the Buckeyes for a sustained period of time. Led by Miyan Williams and the offensive line early, the Buckeyes lead running back on the day had 147 yards at the half before leaving the game with injury.
With that performance, that led me to questioning the look of a successful run game in 2022. Even with the struggles in the short yardage, the Buckeyes averaged 7.1 yards per carry on the day, with Williams averaging 9.1 yards per rush attempt. The short yardage run game is still a concern, but Ryan Day let us into his thought process postgame with why they continue to run the ball in those situations. In a moment of unrelenting honesty from the coach, he said he was, “probably being stubborn,” in short yardage situations.
The Buckeyes have so many weapons that 3rd-and-1 should not come down to a coach running his team into the ground. As a coach, you’d want to be able to pick up that one yard with your main run scheme, but it is now time to reevaluate the whole short yardage set up. Maybe it’s time to attack differently, and that is something to watch for moving forward, but Ohio State proved once again that they can run the football on Saturday.
Building on the run game conversation, Ohio State ran a diverse set of plays on Saturday, which is exciting to see. There’s been a lot of conversations about Ohio State’s zone running scheme, but at the end of the day the philosophy only matters as much as the execution. The Buckeyes stuck to what they know and were able to find chunk plays on the ground throughout the matchup.
Early in the game they set the tone for what was to come, running a Wide Zone with a toss action to get the ball started outside. The offensive line gets on their horses to get leverage on Indiana’s defense. The right side of the line with Matt Jones (No. 55) and Josh Fryar (No. 70) do a phenomenal job of getting up the field to create a wall for Miyan Williams to get outside. Fryar cuts off the linebacker, and the receivers do enough in blocking to spring Williams for a long run.
Getting to the second level has been a challenge for the Buckeyes, and this needs to be the expectation for this group on every single run play.
Again, Ohio State looks to get outside against Indiana using their standard Wide Zone concept. The offensive line does a solid job getting to the second level. Fryar gets the play-side backer and does enough to keep him out of the play. Donovan Jackson (No. 74) gets his hands on the backside backer, which had been a significant issue in recent weeks. When Ohio State is getting their linemen up field, the run game is that much better, and it allows the running backs to use their best skillsets out in space.
Short Yardage Run Game
The short yardage issues happened again, but there was also a significant success in the same scenario. Even with Ryan Day banging his head against the proverbial wall, the Buckeyes need to be able to run the ball in short yardage. Everyone has answers, and I’ve been adamant that they just need to be more physical in the plays that align philosophically — meaning their zone concepts.
Ohio State does not block this play perfectly, but the difference was in a small detail that was mentioned in the first two run plays. The backside of these runs in short yardage scenarios have been a key reason for the failures. In this play, starting from the outside Cade Stover (No. 8) buries the backside EDGE defender into the line. This allows Paris Johnson Jr. (No. 77) and Jackson (No. 74) to get on their double team. Having the clean double team allows Jackson to get to the linebacker and interrupt his fill. Luke Wypler (No. 53) maintains his block, and Jackson does enough to get Miyan at least the yard, which then turns into a long touchdown.
This play is not an indictment that the short yardage run game is fixed, but this does show that there is a reason Ryan Day is confident in his players in these scenarios. Situations like this have not gone the Buckeyes’ way the last few weeks, and a major reason is execution. In short yardage, my guys versus your guys scenarios, Day wants to believe in his guys.
Running his head into this wall over and over again is an ego issue, but the times it has worked this year, it has worked. Now the Buckeyes need to build on this, but moving forward we should expect Day to get a little more creative in this type of situation.
The run game had an explosive day, and the reason balance is important comes when Ohio State wants to run the play-action. Teams do not need to have success on the ground to have successful play-action passes, but when the run game is going the play-action passing game goes from great to dynamic for the Buckeyes.
In the next play, the danger of Ohio State’s play-action passing game came to fruition for Indiana. Ohio State runs a play-action off their pin-and-pull concept. This plays right into the tendencies of aggressive defenses in run fill. Indiana’s linebackers, like many, are keying on the direction certain linemen step to identify where the run is going. By faking the pin-and-pull, Indiana’s defenders immediately commit to stopping the run because of the pulling guard. This action even pulls up the safety, giving Marvin Harrison Jr. nothing but green grass in front of him.
Stroud just gets the ball out there and they score a touchdown. This is the level of creativity that Ryan Day has when the Buckeyes are balanced, and if the run game is going, the passing game is that much more dangerous.
In the next passing play, Ohio State finds another creative way to get Harrison Jr. a favorable matchup. The clip doesn’t show it, but Stover motions across the formation, splitting out to the numbers on the short side of the field. This leaves Harrison Jr. in the slot. Indiana doesn’t change anything about their coverage, leaving Harrison Jr. guarded by a linebacker.
Stroud throws the ball to the outside where only Harrison Jr. can catch it, and this throw also protects Harrison Jr. from a hard closing safety. The way this play was set up did not get enough credit from the broadcast, but once again the Buckeyes created a mismatch leading to a big play.
The Buckeyes had a strong showing defensively on Saturday. Outside of a big play after a quarterback change off of a busted coverage and a quick score off of a muffed punt, the Buckeyes played close to perfect at all three levels. Ohio State made plays at all three levels throughout the contest, limiting Indiana’s offense to 4.2 yards per play. The Buckeyes forced a quarterback change early and responded well to the changed skillset.
Pressure on quarterback
The way the Buckeyes came out of the gate pressure wise was a considerable reason for the quarterback change. Connor Bazelak has been consistent for the Hoosiers, but his lack of athleticism was an early detriment to Indiana’s offense. This first play shows why.
The Buckeyes bring four pass rushers. The defensive ends plays straight up, and the defensive tackles run an interior twist to cause confusion for the offensive line. Bazelak has nowhere to go with the football, which forces him to try to run. Ohio State’s defensive line collapses in on him and gets on the board with the first sack of the day.
The pressure continued for the Hoosiers, and on the day the Buckeyes had four official sacks. Ohio State did not need to bring pressure often, with their defensive line getting the job done on a few occasions. In the last clip here, the Buckeyes showed a five man pressure pre-snap. Both linebackers ended up dropping in underneath coverage. Jack Sawyer (No. 33) is one-on-one with the offensive tackle. When Indiana’s quarterback Dexter Williams steps up, Sawyer’s athleticism allows him to make the tackle over-pursue, opening up a lane to the quarterback for an authoritative sack to go into the half.
Ohio State’s corners have been inconsistent this season. The context around the position group can not be underrepresented, as they have battled a multitude of injuries this season. Against Indiana, the two main corners were players who have battled injuries all season in Cam Brown and Jordan Hancock. Indiana was not afraid to test them, and on Saturday Brown was up for the challenge, at least against players closer to his size.
Brown is in man-coverage on the outside with safety help due to their not being another receiving threat to that side of the field. Brown gets in phase and keeps his leverage, staying stride for stride with the receiver. Williams either under-threw the ball or threw the ball back shoulder, but either way that is incredibly hard to defend. Brown does a great job trusting his eyes, and when he sees the receiver put his hands up, he turns his head and gets his hand on the ball breaking up the pass.
Brown had two plays like this and Ronnie Hickman had one as well. The secondary has been trending in the right direction in making plays on the ball.
Unsung heroes have their day
Ohio State football is built on the backs of first round picks and highly touted recruits, but the roster is made up of 85-scholarship players coming from all backgrounds at the high school level. In many scenarios walk-ons make the team as well, but never have an impact. In other cases, injuries derail a promising top-100 recruit’s career. On Saturday, Ohio State saw two players have moments that made their journeys to Ohio State worth it.
Xavier Johnson dances his way to the end zone
The first play is Xavier Johnson’s long touchdown run. There is nothing to break down here, but this play is an incredible representation of the type of player Johnson is. Johnson had offers to play at smaller schools, but chose to chase his dream of playing for the Buckeyes. Johnson has played running back, corner back, slot receiver, wide receiver, kick returner, punt returner, and has participated in every special team. His touchdown against Notre Dame was huge for the Buckeyes, and he’s been doing dirty work ever since.
On Saturday, he made a play Ohio State fans will remember for a long time, and it really does deserve some special recognition. Does this mean Johnson will receiver more carries? That is not an answer we’ll know, but what we do know is wherever he is on the field, he is going to make something happen. Just like he did on Saturday.
Kam Babb finally gets his moment
Now the Kam Babb story is one everyone who follows Ohio State knows about. Four ACL surgeries and a broken leg, on top of other set backs. Every time it felt like there was a breakthrough coming, something else happened, and it was just incredibly hard to see a player have to go through what he went through just to play a game he loves. His determination to get back on the field was crazy. This determination and his ability to articulate what the work he was doing was for resonated with every single person in Ohio State’s program.
The love of this sport makes us crazy, and to some what Babb was doing was crazy. What makes a person want to keep going again, and again. The reason he didn’t give up was for a moment like Saturday. The Buckeyes drew it up and Babb scored a touchdown on his first career catch. Look at the response from his teammates. Look at the emotion of this moment, and in this moment it made me remember why college football is so special to so many of us.
Oho State played great against Indiana, and this was absolutely a game they needed to have with their rival approaching imminently. That being said, there aren’t any real takeaways here. The Buckeyes took the game away from the Hoosiers from the jump with an offensive onslaught. They played stout defense the rest of the way. Next week they have Maryland in College Park, which should be a great final test before the big one.
The Buckeyes will need to keep building momentum, but Saturday was sure one heck of a start for that. Ohio State was dominant in all three phases of the game, and left Indiana little room to do anything. Even with the sloppiness in a few plays in coverage and on special team, the Buckeyes played a really clean football game for the first time in a few weeks.
This game won’t be in many peoples’ memory for the final result. The game will be remembered for the moments of collective greatness from the unsung heroes. Ohio State’s Block O recipient and a former walk-on stole the show. That’s what college football is all about, so for now I’ll be rewatching Kam Babb scoring a touchdown until next Saturday.