The Buckeyes tangled with the Indiana Hoosiers on a sunny day in the Horseshoe in a game that was much closer than many thought.
Big runs from Boom Herron, Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde helped lift the Buckeyes to the 34-20 win at home. All three runners gained more than 100 yards on the ground, the first time that has happened since the 1989 game against Northwestern, and 4 total touchdowns – two from Miller. Braxton Miller also added 5 completions on 11 attempts for 55 yards through the air.
Indiana started the game with the ball and came out on the attack. Showing they weren’t afraid of the Buckeye front four, the Hoosiers ran it straight down OSU’s throat repeatedly. The strategy gained them good yardage on the ground, most likely due to the fact that the OSU defense looked a little flat on defense. That’s not usually a surprise as they usually look that way for the first couple series of a game, Indiana was simply doing a good job of taking advantage of it.
John Simon eventually caught an Indiana ball carrier in the backfield on third down. The Hoosiers were forced to kick a field goal, but were clearly happy to be on the scoreboard first. On that drive Tre Roberson looked confident and well in command of the Indiana offense. The future definitely looks bright for the Hoosiers with him in the backfield.
With Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry sitting out of the game this week the Buckeyes called on Devin Smith for kick return duty. The Buckeyes were focused on running the ball with Boom Herron and succeeded in gaining some yardage despite Indiana stuffing the box. On his first throw for the game, Braxton Miller got caught from behind by a blitzing defender and fumbled the ball just inside OSU territory; a fumble that Indiana recovered.
Roberson continued to move the Hoosiers in a big way. He found a crossing receiver for a huge first down to get the Hoosiers into field goal range, and then ran the draw up the middle down to the five yard line. On the very next play sophomore runningback Stephen Houston powered up the middle for six and put the Buckeyes behind by two scores early in the game.
The Buckeye offense looked completely stymied by the Indiana defense. A run around the right tackle with Boom Herron went for only three, and the Buckeyes followed that up with an illegal formation penalty. On third and long, the Miller dropped back in what looked like a pass. The coaches had called a couple of long routes for the receivers which successfully spread the defense out for what was soon revealed to be a QB Draw. Miller blew through the line and went nearly untouched for 81 yards and a huge touchdown – the longest QB run in Ohio State history.
The Hoosiers began to struggle moving the ball for the first time as the OSU defense began to wake up after the big offensive play. Things were made worse for Indiana when they were called for holding and forced into a first and 20 from their own ten yard line. The offense simply wasn’t able to make up the yardage on their next three plays and had to punt the ball back to OSU, giving the Buckeyes excellent field position.
Carlos Hyde started things off on the subsequent drive but struggled to run the ball against a surprisingly stiff Indiana defense. With the Buckeyes in a huge 3rd and long, Miller found Chris Fields with a great pass over the middle for 26 yards and a first down. The most impressive part of that play was that Fields had a defender on his back hip, and the ball was placed perfectly where Fields could get it in stride.
Miller again demonstrated his vision by finding Zach Boren wide open for 25 yards and putting the Buckeyes in perfect scoring position. On third and long, Miller tried to hit Philly Brown in one-on-one coverage, but tight coverage – perhaps interference, though it wasn’t called – prevented Philly from securing the catch in the endzone. Basil put a field goal through the uprights and reset the game with the tie.
Indiana’s offensive strategy changed somewhat on the following possession. Realizing that the Buckeyes were stuffing the middle runs, Indiana began to use the speed option around the edge to try to force the Bucks to spread the defense out a bit. Ohio State countered by catching Roberson in the backfield with an excellent rush and forcing a passing situation on third down which Roberson was forced to throw away.
With the offense pinned on the 15, Boom Herron blew through the line for a 48 yard gain. The run put OSU in excellent position to score, but they were unable to punch it into the endzone as Carlos Hyde struggled to move the football after subbing in for Herron. Drew Basil gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game with another field goal, which kept OSU from wasting Herron’s great run.
Tre Roberson gave OSU’s defense yet another strategy to think about. The Hoosiers began operating the zone read, and Roberson demonstrated that he has a knack for reading the defensive ends. As the Buckeyes settled in to stop the run, Indiana took advantage and began tossing it long. Great catches by McCants and Hughes – including a 43 yarder in which Christian Bryant got there before the ball, but the receiver still made the play – put Indiana in scoring position. OSU’s defense stiffened again, and Indiana was only able to net the tie with a nice kick from Mitch Ewald.
At the start of the second half, Boom Herron made a huge play again. With some great blocking around the right side, Herron found all sorts of running room down the sideline to the Indiana 30, a 40 yard gain. Unfortunately, the OSU offense proceeded to shoot itself in the foot, culminating in an ill-advised throw on 3rd down that was picked off giving Indiana the ball at its own one yard line. The Hoosiers weren’t able to do anything with the ball so deep in their own end and had to punt the ball back to the Bucks.
Ohio State made the most of the great field position. Starting from the 50, the Buckeyes gained all of their yards on the drive on the ground, following Boom Herron the whole way. From 15 yards out Herron drove up the left side untouched for the go-ahead touchdown. The crowd seemed excited to see the running game finally getting unbuttoned and the offense working again against the Indiana defense.
The Hoosiers weren’t going to let it stand at that. Tre Roberson methodically led the Hoosier’s down the field into Ohio State territory by running a series of zone reads. On 3rd and 7 from around the OSU 40, Roberson found Kofi Hughes over the middle splitting the safeties and hit him for a strike to again knot the game up.
Jim Bollman turned to Carlos Hyde to take over the subsequent drive for Boom Herron. Hyde is a tough runner and proved it on this drive. Despite the fact that it seemed like he couldn’t catch a break, specifically when Chris Fields got called for a ticky-tack hold, he still ran hard and moved the ball for the Buckeyes up the middle. It’s clear that he is learning from Boom Herron and improving his vision and tenacity as the season progresses.
Eventually Herron came into the game and showed what 5 years of experience in a program can do for a running back by immediately driving for a first down. Ultimately, though, it was Braxton Miller on yet another draw punching the ball in from 23 yards out after the offense set itself back with a sack on second down. The touchdown again gave the Buckeyes the lead with only a quarter left to play.
As had been the tradition for the majority of the game, Indiana immediately began to roll again on offense after the Buckeye score. Indiana continued to run the zone read which was gaining plenty of yards for the Hoosiers on the ground and allowing them to keep the defense off balance. That made it difficult for the Bucks to properly defend the passes and other more traditional methods of attack. The Hoosiers eventually worked their way into the redzone when OSU’s defense finally stiffened enough to stop them on third down. Ewald surprisingly missed the field goal as the ball drifted wide left on him giving the OSU defense the victory on that drive.
The Buckeyes weren’t able to do much with the ball on offense and eventually had to punt the ball away with about 6 minutes left. Indiana looked like they were going to struggle to move the ball at first, but found a receiver open the middle in triple coverage for a huge first down. It seemed like the Hoosiers were going to move the ball with no problem on the OSU defense again, but Travis Howard had other plans. Howard managed to cut Roberson’s intended receiver off and picked off the pass.
The Buckeyes immediately went back to the running game to work time off the clock. On second down, Carlos Hyde found a huge hole up the middle and very nearly took it to the house, getting knocked out at the 7 yard line. After Herron worked the ball down to around the two, Hyde got his chance to score for the Buckeyes and all but put the game away. The Buckeye defense finally got their revenge in ending any hope for the Hoosiers to come back and win.
The Buckeyes will next face the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette on Saturday, November 12 at 3:30 pm Eastern Time. You’ll be able to see that game on the Big Ten Network.