Indiana football: Grade card after Hoosiers get thumped by Ohio State
Saturday night turned into a nightmare for the Hoosiers.
Preseason, Indiana had marked this game on the calendar, thinking it’d be able to show Ohio State and everyone else that it was a contender in the Big Ten East. But the season hasn’t played out the way the Hoosiers thought, culminating in the blowout loss to the 5th-ranked Buckeyes in Memorial Stadium.
Let’s grade out the Hoosiers’ 54-7 loss:
When Jack Tuttle hit Peyton Hendershot for a 7-yard touchdown strike midway through the first quarter, the Hoosiers tied the Buckeyes at 7.
It also marked the end of the game for IU, which saw the play end with Tuttle laying on the turf injured after a massive hit from an Ohio State defender. After a lengthy stay inside the injury tent, Tuttle briefly returned to the field, but wasn’t the same, didn’t attempt a pass and went back to the sideline to stay. Although the Hoosiers likely wouldn’t have won if Tuttle could continue, perhaps they play closer longer, but it wasn’t to be. Tuttle finished 4-of-7 for 41 yards, directing IU’s only scoring drive. His QB teammates — Donaven McCulley and Grant Gremel — didn’t play well, combining for 4-of-10 passing for 39 yards.
Add it up and IU passed for only 80 yards on 17 attempts. The 3 Hoosiers quarterbacks were sacked 5 times, including on their first offensive snap. It overcame that one, but not the others.
Life without Michael Penix Jr., sidelined by a shoulder injury, is proving difficult.
With Ohio State stacking up against the run because of the Hoosiers’ lack of threat in the passing game, the running game failed to get untracked.
Stephen Carr had only 13 yards on 10 carries; Trent Howland had 17 on 5; McCulley had a team-high 15-yard scamper, but his net yardage was undone by being sacked twice. IU finished with only 48 yards on 37 carries. The Buckeyes finished with an astounding 14 tackles for loss, which resulted in 56 lost yards for the Hoosiers in the running game. And that wasn’t all on sacks; Carr also lost 13 rushing yards by being dragged down behind the line of scrimmage.
IU’s offensive line was overwhelmed by the physical defensive front of the Buckeyes.
In a word: Ugly.
After IU’s opening drive that covered 75 yards on 15 plays and ended in Hendershot’s touchdown reception, the Hoosiers’ offense did virtually nothing.
It gained only 53 more yards on the next 9 drives, with 6 ending via punt, one on downs, one by the half and one via safety (after the long snap sailed through the punter’s hands). But here’s the truly insane statistic: 5 of the drives ended with the Hoosiers “gaining” negative yardage.
The Hoosiers had only 128 yards of offense, converted only 5 of 14 third downs and were 0-2 on fourth downs. They didn’t turn the ball over, so there’s that, but not much else positive to take away.
The Buckeyes had 11 players catch a pass on an evening in which the Hoosiers showed little resistance.
OSU QB CJ Stroud was excellent, connecting on 21 of 28 passes for 266 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was sacked once, but otherwise IU didn’t do much to jostle the opposing quarterback. And then Ohio State’s two backups passed for an addition 86 yards, missing on only 2 of their 9 attempts.
IU did hold Chris Olave largely in check, with only 2 receptions for 24 yards (one being a touchdown), which is good, but the Hoosiers were toasted by others. Jaxon Smith-Njigba had team-highs of 99 receiving yards and 6 receptions.
Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden had a sack on OSU’s first snap of the second half, forcing a three-and-out, the only such Buckeyes drive of the evening and the first of the visitor’s 2 punts.
The Hoosiers had only 4 tackles for loss, with McFadden’s sack of 11 yards being one.
The others didn’t amount to much. The Buckeyes rushed for 187 yards on 32 carries, an impressive 5.8 yards per attempt. The only positive, perhaps, is that the Hoosiers’ defense wasn’t gashed for a gigantic gainer, with the long being only 25. But TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams, OSU’s lead backs, averaged 9 and 7.5 yards per attempt, respectively, infrequently being touched near the line of scrimmage.
Ohio State scored a touchdown on each of its 6 drives in the first half, as the Hoosiers fell behind 44-7 at the break.
It was maddening.
Had the Buckeyes wanted to, they very easily could have dropped 80 on IU, maybe more.
IU’s defense gave up 539 yards on 7.8 per snap. The Buckeyes only faced 9 third downs all game, a ridiculously low number considering they had 69 snaps, and OSU converted 6.
Well, punter James Evans was solid when he got the punt away, with 6 attempts averaging 42 yards, including a long of 62. But on a rain-soaked evening in Bloomington, one snap went through his hands into the end zone for a safety.
IU also gave up a long kick return of 42 yards.
Tom Allen isn’t finding any answers, at all, to what ails the Hoosiers.
Maybe the list is too long, but one would hope that by Game 7, IU would have solved, or made progress, in an area. Or perhaps found an identity for the offense, which has been searching for something — anything — that it does consistently well since Week 1.
Ohio State could have named its score, because IU didn’t have any responses, especially after Tuttle was injured on the last play of the opening drive.
Would he have made a difference in final score? Yes. Would it have changed the winner? No.
Ohio State was far superior.