COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 5: Stephen Houston #12 of the Indiana Hoosiers celebrates his five-yard touchdown run in the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 5, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The Hoosiers played what may have been their most competitive game against Ohio State since the mid-1990s, and had the ball with a chance to tie with under five minutes, but in the end, a Tre Roberson interception followed by a decisive Ohio State drive made it a 34-20 loss and dropped IU to 0-6 in the Big Ten. I'm not one for moral victories. IU hasn't defeated Ohio State since 1988, and having the opportunity but not finishing them off is a bit disappointing. On the other hand, it is becoming a bit easier to picture the future, at least of the offense, and it looks pretty good.
Here are the final stats. At halftime, the game was fairly even statistically, and that remained somewhat the case, with OSU enjoying a 401-333 total yardage advantage. As has been the case this year, the Buckeyes leaned heavily on their running game, gaining 346 yards on the ground and only 55 through the air. Braxton Miller, the freshman quarterback, torched the IU defense for several long runs, including an 81-yard TD run that happened when IU had jumped out to a 10-0 lead. After the Buckeyes ran off 13 points in a row to take a 13-10 lead, I think we all rolled our eyes and expected the game to get out of hand from there, but on two occasions, IU answered when the Buckeyes took the lead, with a Mitch Ewald field goal to tie the game 13-13 at halftime, and a 34-yard TD pass to Kofi Hughes late in the third quarter to tie the score at 20. After that, the OSU running game continued to wear down the defense, particularly the recently returned Dan Herron, who ran for 141 yards and averaged over 10 yards per carry. It's hard to say that a game in which the opponent averaged 7 yards per snap that the defense looked decent, but compared to recent performances, it was better. The defense did a good job of getting pressure on Miller, sacking him six times. I still am not on board with this staff's blitzing philosophy, bringing the house on third and long against a QB who doesn't throw much, but there are some glimmers, at least. The presence of LB Jeff Thomas, back in the lineup after an injury, helps as well.
Individual performances of note:
- Roberson was okay as a passer against the toughest defense he has faced: 11-21, 174 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. He also ran the ball 20 times for 70 yards.
- Stephen Houston struggled a bit, gaining only 56 yards on 20 attempts, but he did score a TD.
- Kofi Hughes quickly has emerged as Roberson's favorite. He caught 8 of IU's 11 completed passes and gained 147 yards and scored a TD.
- Mitch Ewald was 2/3, but missed a key 40 yarder in the fourth quarter and hasn't hit one from 40 or longer this season.
- Safety Alexander Webb, making his first start, led the team with 11 tackles and had one interception.
- Linebacker Chase Hoobler, a redshirt freshman LB from Orrville, Ohio (Bob Knight's hometown) had 9 tackles, including 3 for losses, including 2 sacks.
- Leon Beckum had two sacks as well.
Again, I don't want to sell this as a moral victory. We were in this game, and had the opportunity to win, and didn't, and that's always disappointing, especially in a year that has seen only one win. On the other hand, there have been some very discouraging days this season, but yesterday wasn't one of them. We are getting some quality play out of some of the young guys who have been thrown into the mix, and we are starting to develop some positives on offense, and even the pass rush on defense. The Hoosiers now enter a much-needed bye week before traveling to Michigan State on November 19 for the Old Brass Spittoon game. For those who aren't aware, the MSU is game is IU-s "protected" inter-division game, meaning that we will play the Spartans every year until the Big Ten expands or alters the schedule again. Why couldn't this have happened in the Bobby Williams or John L. Smith eras? After that, of course, it's the Bucket game, in Bloomington, on Thanksgiving weekend. Both schools are looking at the Bucket game as their best chance for a win, and I certainly feel a bit better about IU's prospects than I did 24 hours ago. Let's hope the guys can get rested and healthy next week, show progress against MSU, and pull out all the stops against Purdue.