Instant Reaction: Lost battle of trenches, mistakes plague IU in big loss
Indiana entered its matchup against No. 6 Ohio State with the smallest spread in recent history, but the game resulted in one of the least competitive contests between the two programs in the last decade.
The Trenches Favored Ohio State
Coming into the game, one of the points of emphasis was that Indiana needed to find ways to stop defensive end Chase Young, but the battle of the trenches ran deeper than just Chase Young.
While Young had plenty of influence on the game and outmatched Caleb Jones for much of the first half, Peyton Ramsey found himself escaping the pocket and hastening his reads. At one point, while escaping the pocket, Ramsey dropped the ball, though it was recovered by Indiana.
Where the battle of attrition was most obvious was in the production of each team's running attacks. Indiana couldn't get anything going on the ground. Stevie Scott carried the ball four times for three yards, and the only successful run play the Hoosiers had in the first half was a 20-yard scamper by Ramsey. At halftime, Ohio State outrushed IU 196-9.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields mostly had all the time he needed to find his receivers as well.
Peyton Ramsey Limitations
If there was any suspicions whether Mike Penix had a stronger arm or presented an ability to make a wider range of throws than Peyton Ramsey, Saturday's loss to Ohio State put those thoughts to bed.
The offense, while it was playing one of the best defenses in the nation, was restricted to just a fraction of the playbook Penix proved to be able to execute in the games previous. Ramsey was put at a disadvantage once it was obvious Indiana couldn't run the ball against the Buckeyes, but the offense looked largely parallel to the offenses of 2017 and 2018, when Ramsey was the most effective quarterback in the room.
There were several read options and short passes, as Ramsey took on the role of distributor and leading rusher. His most effective drive – a 9-play, 59-yard drive in the first quarter – featured passes to Whop Philyor, Peyton Hendershot and Donavan Hale, as well as his 20-yard run. But, as Hoosier fans have grown familiar, the drive stalled in the redzone for a field goal.
It didn't take long for the Hoosiers to miss Penix. Some throws he would have made competitive – a deep pass 45 yards downfield and a longer pass on the outside – were underthrown by Ramsey and increased the difficulty of the catches, including hitting the Ohio State defender in the back of the helmet.
The most successful passing play of the game for Indiana came out of the hands of Ramsey. Donavan Hale hit Peyton Hendershot on a trick-pay touchdown near the end fo the first half.
Ramsey finished his day 19-of-33 for 162 yards, no touchdowns and one interception before eventually being replaced by Jack Tuttle midway through the fourth quarter.
JK Dobbins, Master Teague Made No Mistakes
Taking a look back at the template previous Indiana teams set for paths toward beating Ohio State, Indiana needed to force turnovers on defense Saturday. Just last year, IU forced two interceptions and a fumble to remain competitive, but those takeaways didn't come for Indiana. And that was in large part because of JK Dobbins and Master Teague.
Ryan Day ran a balanced attack Saturday, handing it off to his running backs in nearly half of the team's plays in both the first and second halves, meaning turnovers would need to come via fumbles, and fumbles never came. It was tough enough to tackle them.
Dobbins broke one run for 56 yards, and Teague had his own breakaway run that went 40 yards and a score. But outside of those two carries, the two backs, specifically Dobbins, were workin gin space throughout much of the game.
Dobbins finished the day in the third quarter with 193 yards on 22 carries.
Failing to Capitalize on Early Ohio State Mistakes
Early in the game when the lead was still within reach, Ohio State left the door ajar for Indiana to capitalize on mistakes.
On its first drive, Ohio State kicker Blake Haubeil missed a 32-yard field goal, and IU responded with a three-and-out in a scoreless game. Then, Chris Olave dropped an open pass on third down and Indiana recorded a first down via defensive pass interference and then punted.
When Justin Fields missed Austin Mack in the endzone, the Buckeyes responded by running nearly the exact same play with KJ Hill, who was left open in the same spot of the endzone and converted.
Then, in addition to not capitalizing on Ohio State's mistakes, Indiana compounded the issue with mistakes of its own. A blocked punt rewarded Ohio State with a safety, and a 12-yard shanked punt by Haydon Whitehead led to a five-play, 58-yard touchdown drive for Ohio State in the second quarter.
Long after the nail had been hammered into the coffin, Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette intercepted Ramsey on 3rd-and-goal and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown to make the game 51-10.