Good teams sometimes make mistakes. Great teams pick each other up and routinely find ways to overcome adversity.
When they Buckeyes led 35-7 after scoring on the opening drive of the second half, nobody expected Indiana to have a chance to tie the game on the very last play.
Perhaps it's still too early to know just how good this team can be. Ohio State played a far-from-perfect game against No. 9 Indiana, but every time one of the Buckeyes stumbled, someone else picked them up. The Hoosiers proved a worthy opponent after trailing by 28 points two minutes into the third quarter, but Ohio State persevered and won their fourth straight game, 42-35.
It’s not far-fetched to say this was the worst game of Justin Fields career as a Buckeye (which is impressive considering he finished with 300 yards passing on 18-of-30 passes, including two touchdowns).
Fields said earlier this week that most of the interceptions thrown to Indiana defenders this year were the result of a quarterback panicking and making a poor decision.
I’m fairly certain he wasn’t trying to predict his own future, but it sure turned out that way.
Despite the fact that the Buckeyes had a comfortable lead over Indiana most of the afternoon, Fields rarely looked at ease. He was under constant pressure and threw three interceptions, two of which were wildly uncharacteristic decisions.
By contrast, he had thrown three interceptions in his first 476 career passing attempts.
So who picked up Fields? Master Teague and Trey Sermon ran the ball extremely well. Teague finished the game with a career-high 26 carries and 169 yards, finding the end zone twice. Sermon added nine carries for 60 yards.
Garrett Wilson turned in his fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving performance. Chris Olave also had his third such game in four tries to start the season. They combined for 15 catches for 270 yards and two scores.
For as chaotic as Indiana’s defense made things for Justin Fields, Ohio State still accumulated 518 yards of offense through three quarters. I don’t think the Buckeyes looked disjointed on offense as much as I was impressed by Indiana’s physicality and fearlessness on defense. It’s hard to complain too loudly (and unfair) about an offensive day that included five touchdowns and 607 total yards.
It was a similar story on the other side of the ball.
There’s really no covering up how poorly Ohio State’s secondary played, particularly at safety. Indiana ripped off four plays of at least 50 yards, including 51, 56, 63 and 68-yard passes. Two of those went for touchdowns.
Michael Penix Jr. had the best game of his career, throwing for 495 yards and five touchdowns. Ty Fryfogle had his second straight 200-yard receiving game and scored three times.
Without question, the secondary has to play better and Ryan Day acknowledged as much with reporters afterwards. But notice he doesn't look or sound panicked at all.
Ohio State remarkably held Indiana to -1 rushing yards for the entire game. Considering how successful they were through the air, there was virtually no reason for Indiana to even attempt to run the ball. But give credit where it's due. The Buckeyes rush defense was terrific.
They also came up with plays when they absolutely needed it most. Shaun Wade's first career pick-6 was instrumental in keeping the Buckeyes out front. It came late in the third quarter when the defense was reeling.
Perhaps even more consequential than the interception return for touchdown was the third down sack by Pete Werner and Tommy Togiai to force a Hoosier punt late in the fourth quarter. Ohio State gambled on 4th and 1 from the Indiana 7 yard line and threw an incomplete pass, turning the ball over on downs instead of attempting a chip-shot field goal that could've given them a 2-possession lead. The defense made a huge stop and prevented Indiana from driving to try and tie the game.
Indiana had one last chance at the end of the game to push the Buckeyes over the edge, but the Hoosiers ran out of magic and couldn't pull off a lateral-induced comeback effort.
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