Ohio State survives colossal scare from Indiana
Final: No. 1 Ohio State 34, Indiana 27
Telling stat: Ezekiel Elliott’s 274 yards and three touchdowns
My goodness, Zeke is special. Touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards gave the Buckeyes the big-play element they’ve lacked in recent weeks. Nearly all of his yards came in the second-half, too. Credit Elliott for stepping up and ripping off a career day. Quietly, that was Elliott’s 10th straight 100-yard game. Not so quietly, it was a banner day for Elliott when the Buckeyes needed him to avoid a disaster.
Key play: Ezekiel Elliott’s 65-yard touchdown run to take lead
When the Buckeyes trailed 17-13 and went for it on a fourth-and-one at the end of the third quarter, it could’ve been the stop of the game. Instead, Elliott busted through the Hoosier defense for a 65-yard touchdown. Pat Elfein made the key block to free up Zeke to reach pay dirt for his second long touchdown run of the day. A completely deflating play it was for an IU defense that actually bottled up Elliott pretty well with the exception of his three touchdown runs. That sounds odd, but it’s true. While everyone was talking about the struggles of Cardale Jones, Zeke reminded the nation why he’s a Heisman candidate. Two of his go-ahead touchdown scores came on third and fourth down. That’s just the best player on the field delivering in the clutch.
-IU’s one-two punch knocked out
It’s a shame for Indiana. Jordan Howard AND Nate Sudfeld were knocked out of this one. Howard suffered a leg injury and left the game two different times but was ineffective. Credit Devine Redding for stepping up and actually delivering a key third-quarter touchdown to take the lead. Still, the nation’s leading rusher had to be on the field for the Hoosiers to keep the Buckeyes on their heels. And to make matters worse, Sudfeld re-tweaked an ankle injury he suffered late in last week’s game against Wake Forest. What we didn’t know was that Sudfeld actually missed a couple days of practice with the injury. With all due respect, Zander Diamont is not a guy that’s going to mount a comeback victory against the nation’s No. 1 team. He did bust a 79-yard score to get the Hoosiers within a touchdown, but the Hoosiers became a run-only team without Sudfeld. That can’t happen against a defense like Ohio State’s.
-Cardale Jones is still not in playoff form
Point blank, Jones was not good. Again. He still doesn’t look like the guy who led the Buckeyes last postseason. He doesn’t have confidence running the ball. It’s almost like he’s too cautious when he gets into space. Throwing the ball, he still doesn’t have the same snap on his throws we all are used to. He hit a wide-opened Michael Thomas in the end zone for his only touchdown pass of the game. Still, after Urban Meyer called out Jones for his accuracy issues on deep throws, he didn’t respond in convincing fashion. Meyer stuck with him the whole game, though. For what it’s worth, Meyer did not want the ball in Jones’ hands down the stretch. Feeding Zeke was the only option in the final minutes.
What it means: Ohio State is still just getting by, Indiana is getting better
Let’s just accept it. The Buckeye offense isn’t what we thought it was. We thought we were going to see the group that rolled past the nation’s best. Clearly, that’s not the case. Jones hasn’t been good, his receivers haven’t played up to par, and an offensive line that some believed would be the nation’s best, is not. So let’s just take the Buckeyes for what they are — a defense-first team with an incredible tailback. For Indiana, however, this was a major boost. The Hoosiers led the nation’s No. 1 team in the second half and had a chance to win it in the final seconds. That’s major not only for the guys on the field, but for the recruits that saw IU do something it hasn’t done in a very long time. It’s not the improbable upset that would’ve been monumental for the program, but the Hoosiers will reap the rewards of an effort like that. Ohio State, on the other hand, will hear about it from SEC pundits.