BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana's defense has been the saving grace for the Hoosiers over the past few weeks, but Ohio State's top-ranked offense caused them all sorts of problems on Saturday night. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on their first six possessions and had the usually stout Indiana defense on their heels in the 54-7 loss.
"I don't know if we've seen that combination of speed and the ability up front to block and protect that those guys have had so far this year," Indiana defensive coordinator Charlton Warren said Monday in his weekly news conference. "They're No. 1 in the country in almost every offensive category for a reason, and that was probably an animal we had not seen."
It didn't help that the Hoosiers uncharacteristically missed several tackles and took a while to settle down and get in position, Warren said. He blamed his game plan, too, but the bottom line was that the Hoosiers simply didn't play well enough.
The Buckeyes were faster than any practice simulation the scout team could show them, and keeping up in real time was tough. It led to far too many errors, Warren said.
"Execution is critical," Warren said. "You don't have a margin to bust. You don't have a margin to have mental lapses and do things that are self-inflicted wounds. So for us, the attention to detail to execution is critical down the stretch because the margin of error is small."
Between the lopsided score and the rain, several Indiana fans left early on Saturday night. They ranted and raved on social media afterward too, ripping into the 2-5 Hoosiers for the performance. The blowout loss was hard for them to swallow, but Warren said that one they got wrong was that Indiana's defense didn't give max effort for 60 minutes. He said he didn't see anyone quit.
"There wasn't a kid that checked out," Warren said. "I don't think those kids on the field at one moment quit."
Indiana coach Tom Allen said the loss wasn't due to a lack of effort, but he did get a sense the defense was holding back, playing conservatively to protect the secondary that was missing cornerbacks Tiawan Mullen and Reese Taylor.
"There was a little hesitancy at some times in our guys that I hadn't seen out of them before in this season," Allen said. "We did not play at our standard, without question."
The Hoosiers have lost their last four Big Ten conference games, the last two of which were at home. They face Maryland on Saturday in College Park, and will have to deal with talented dual threat quarterback Taulia Tagovialia, who's a second-year starter for the Terrapins. He's the younger brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
"They make you plan for everything," Warren said about Maryland's offense. "They make you defend a lot of grass."
The junior quarterback was the main factor in Maryland's four-game winning streak to start the season, their best since 2016, but like the Hoosiers, the Terrapin's offense suddenly fell apart when it counted the most.
Maryland has since lost their last three Big Ten conference games as well as two of their starting receivers, Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones.
Demus leads the Big Ten and ranks No. 11 in the country in receiving yards. He's a much needed weapon out too soon with a season-ending knee injury he suffered in Maryland's loss to Iowa three weeks ago.
Jones also had to tap out of the season with a lower-leg injury that required surgery. Without the presence of these two receivers, Maryland's offense struggled in its 34-16 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
Tagavailoa went 17-for-27 passing for only 189 yards. It won't be a break in the schedule for Indiana by any means, but Maryland's offense can surely relate to the Hoosiers. The Terrapins aren't ranked, which is a rarity for the Hoosiers this year. Five of their opponents have been ranked No. 8 or higher this year, and they haven't play an unranked opponent since Western Kentucky on Sept. 25.
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