Ohio state’s score against Indiana, takeaway: No.3 Buckeyes overcome Justin Fields turnovers, beat No.9 Hoosiers

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Ohio State, No.3, beat No.9 Indiana 42-35 in a roller coaster game Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes were able to survive a few turnovers early in the game to take a 28-7 lead in the locker room at halftime, and it looked like they were on course for a comfortable win. Indiana had other ideas.While the Hoosiers weren’t able to capitalize on turnovers early on, they were able to exploit the Ohio State high school in the second half to make it a game. Time and time again, Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has found open receivers in the high school to cut off the Ohio State header. The Hoosiers came back to make it a 42-35 game in the fourth quarter, then forced an Ohio State renewal on lows inside the late Indiana 10-yard line. That’s when the Buckeyes defense saved the day, forcing a quick triple takedown. The Hoosiers had one more chance but had little time and no downtime.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields finished with 300 passing yards, 78 rushing yards and three total TDs; however, he also threw three interceptions after not throwing any all season. Fields was outnumbered by Penix of Indiana, who threw for 495 yards and five touchdowns. Ohio State improved to 4-0 this season, while Indiana fell to 4-1 but is expected to remain well ranked in the new Top 25 AP on Sunday.

Here are four takeaways from a fantastic Big Ten battle on Saturday afternoon.

1. Ohio State Should Use Its Strong Running Game

I understand Fields is amazing and a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, but sometimes it feels like the state of Ohio is asking him to do too much. His first assist of the day was a 65-yard connection with Garrett Wilson. His second was a 10-yard pass to Wilson for a touchdown to complete the Ohio State’s 75-yard touchdown to open the game. They were great shots, but it was also the last time Fields looked comfortable for the rest of the game.

Indiana pressured him with well-disguised blitzes, and that led to Fields throwing three interceptions, some on horrific decisions while he was under pressure. Meanwhile, on the court, Ohio State was running the ball well against the Hoosiers. Master Teague finished with 169 yards and two touchdowns, and it was his 41-yard second-quarter touchdown that established Ohio State’s control at the time. Or at least you thought so.

Whenever it felt like the Buckeyes were taking control of the game, Ohio state was happy again. The most significant example of this was the end of the game with the Buckeyes up one score. Coach Ryan Day drew QB on the third and fourth inside Indiana 10, with Ohio State needing a score to put the game aside for good. Fields missed a yard. Then, with Ohio state averaging over 6.5 yards per carry at the time, Day decided to go for fourth. Instead of switching to Teague or throwing another draw, Ohio State asked Fields to fake the transfer and move to his right. He had the option to keep it and run for the first or throw it. Fields threw a pitch after being squeezed by an Indiana linebacker, and it was a bad pitch that fell incomplete. Ohio State survived, but if he had just moved on to Teague, he probably picks up the first with ease, ending the game.

2. Penix and the Indiana offense are legitimate

It’s pretty amazing on its own that Penix threw for 491 yards and five touchdowns. It’s more incredible when you realize that receivers from Penix and Indiana – Ty Fryfogle caught seven passes for 218 yards and three scores – did it all despite the lack of any semblance of a rushed attack.

Indiana rushed for -1 yard on 16 carries. Even if you remove the yards lost to bags, the Hoosiers still only managed 10 yards on the ground. Yet even though Buckeyes’ defense didn’t have to worry about stopping the run, Indiana has torn up the Ohio State high school time and time again. It was a mix of scuff roads freeing up cruisers over the middle and Indiana receivers winning individual battles along the sidelines and in the seams.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen Ohio State’s secondary wrestling this year, but no one has exploited it like Indiana has. It’s something to watch out for on the road for the Buckeyes, and it’s one reason future defenses should continue to fear Indiana.

3. Force, capitalize on turnover decides the games

All week long I insisted that I was skeptical of Indiana’s chances of winning this game, as much of their offense depended on turnovers. Indiana arrived on Saturday after scoring 38.7% of their points on offensive turnover, an extremely high amount. Their average touchdown distance was just 53 yards thanks to those turnovers.

My theory was that the state of Ohio would not turn the ball enough for Indiana to take advantage. Boy, was I wrong! Ohio State returned the ball three times, but remarkably Indiana did nothing with those extra possessions. Every Ohio State turnover ended with Indiana returning the ball. On the other hand, Indiana returned the ball four times and Ohio State scored 14 points on those errors. These points are very important in a seven-point game.

4. The state of Ohio is still terrifying

Think about it. The Buckeyes haven’t played anything reminiscent of their best football on Saturday. They returned the ball three times. The offensive line has seen Fields sacked five times. They were only 6 for 14 in the third. And yet, the state of Ohio still finished the day with 607 yards on offense and 42 points. Even when he’s playing badly, OSU finds a way to remind you why they’re the best team in the Big Ten.

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