Man, that was fun — more fun than we honestly expected.
No, Indiana didn’t end its skid against Ohio State — that streak extended to 25 consecutive losses with a 42-35 defeat on Saturday at Ohio Stadium — but the Hoosiers did show that the gap is narrowing.
They also demonstrated that they are, in fact, a good football team. Not Fake Good, as the haters and cops want you to believe, but Actually Good. Yeah, we’re trending toward moral victory territory here, but there’s a lot to be encouraged by — even on a day when several agonizing errors ultimately doomed IU to defeat. You shouldn’t be satisfied, but you ought to feel excited about what’s still to come.
(You better believe we’re staring straight at that Wisconsin game on Dec. 5.)
Proud of our fight!! I love this team. pic.twitter.com/K4PHDkPnmv— Coach Tom Allen (@CoachAllenIU) November 21, 2020
So, with that, let’s get to it:
Little things become big things
Indiana trailed by 28 points early in the third quarter, a maddening margin that didn’t seem indicative of what felt like a fairly close first half. Or, at least, what could’ve been a closer half. Instead of making this one interesting from the jump, the Hoosiers made a mess of the first two-plus quarters. More specifically, the Hoosiers’ offense stumbled, bumbled and fumbled its way through the early goings. And the problems didn’t end after halftime. There was:
- Harry Crider’s high snap deep in IU territory
- Ty Fryfogle’s fourth-down drop that erased an opportunity for Indiana to move toward the red zone
- David Ellis’s fumble on the doorstep of the goal line
- David Ellis’s dropped deep ball seconds before Ohio State’s third-quarter pick-six. Yeah. It was a tough day for David Ellis.
It wasn’t just the offense that was prone to miscues. Moments after intercepting Justin Fields for the second time Saturday, Jamar Johnson had the ball punched from his grasp by a trailing Buckeye. That can’t happen, either. And man, oh man, we lost track of all the times Indiana defenders bounced off of Ohio State ball carriers. To be fair, sure, a lot of guys bounce off of Fields and Master Teague. But still. When you get a body on a body, you gotta get ‘em down.
So while we generally feel encouraged by the fight we saw across the second half, man, there were a ton of could-have/should-have moments that might have tipped this game the other way. Game-changing — program-changing — plays were there to be made. Too often, they were not. You don’t quite have to be perfect to beat Ohio State, but you damn sure better strive for something close to it.
And yet, there was a whole lot of good to take away
Let’s start with the defense. Because, hooo buddy, it’s good. Real good.
There were takeaways, sacks and crucial stops on third (and fourth!) down. Kane Wommack’s group yielded only seven second-half points — the deciding touchdown was the pick-six by Shaun Wade — and, for the most part, played winning football.
Coming into this one, we said they’d probably need two takeaways in order to make this interesting against a normally crisp Ohio State offense. Well, these guys went out and picked off Fields — a quarterback who hadn’t thrown a single interception all season, and had only two across his previous 11 games — three times on Saturday, rattling him during the second half.
Also, let’s shout out the Johnsons — Jerome and Jamar — who combined for all three of those picks. It feels like both are showing up in big moments every week. On Saturday, Jerome, a defensive tackle, captured his first career interception and added a sack. Jamar, a safety, also had a sack. That’s great synergy.
On the other side of the ball, Michael Penix is making big league throws. And Ty Fryfogle is (mostly) making some big league catches. Start with Penix, who set career highs in yardage (491) and touchdowns (five). And he did it in the Shoe. Speaking of which, his passing output was the highest against the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium since
Chris Jim Everett put up 497 on them in 1985. That’s good stuff. And don’t take our word for it.
IU got a great team, QB got amazing touch, playmakers on the outside, defensive 4 is tough! They’re going to be scary good very soon! Look out! Salute. Nevertheless #GoBucks— LeBron James (@KingJames) November 21, 2020
Penix isn’t going to be a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy this season, but he certainly could be by this time next year. The pick-six was a killer on Saturday, but Penix’s arm made a lot of other things possible on a day when Indiana knew it wouldn’t have a running presence. Penix had to be good. And he was. (So was his protection. The running game hasn’t really been A Thing for IU this season, but the fellas up front are, generally speaking, giving him a pocket.)
It’s really fun to watch.
Fryfogle, meanwhile, became the first player in Big Ten history to post 200 receiving yards in consecutive games. That’s really good stuff. Ohio State will always have the overall talent advantage in this matchup, but Indiana illustrated Saturday that it has some pretty talented players, too. The Hoosiers need to be more clean, but there’s a lot to like, otherwise.
Hey, AP voters: Don’t you dare touch the Hoosiers
Seriously. Don’t touch ‘em. Keep Indiana in the top 10.
Ok, ok, ok. We know. That’s not quite how polls work. This ol’ blog only has so much influence. But consider it? At the time of publication, there are a still a couple games that could decide placement, so who knows. We’ll find out the potential damage early Sunday afternoon.
Either way, the Hoosiers can expect to make a little program history in the rankings this week. They’ll be slotted in the College Football Playoff Top 25 for the first time when those rankings are revealed on Tuesday evening.
Up Next: Maryland
Maybe! Maybe not! The turtles have been on pause for two weeks due to COVID-19 cases sweeping through their program. I don’t think anyone has a good feel for whether this game will actually happen or not. Hopefully, it does. A quarterback matchup between Penix and Taulia Tagovailoa sounds awfully appetizing. If not, an extra week of rest leading into the Wisconsin trip wouldn’t be the worst thing.