COLUMBUS, Ohio — For reasons that remain unknown, Ohio State has mostly failed to blast overmatched Indiana teams during Urban Meyer’s five-year tenure.
Saturday’s 38-17 win for OSU was the latest case of the Hoosiers, who were four-touchdown underdogs, making the Buckeyes’ life more difficult than it needed to be, just as they did in three of the Buckeyes’ four previous wins (34-27 in 2015, 42-27 in 2014 and 52-49 in 2012).
As was the case in those outings, Ohio State managed to get the job done despite the frustration Indiana was able to generate.
There have been a couple of games this season where the Buckeyes were performing at the highest level on both sides of the ball and in all aspects of the game, but that wasn’t the case against Indiana. What follows is a look at how Ohio State fared in a number of categories, with its report card grades ranging from one star to five stars:
Offense (3 stars)
The Buckeyes still managed to put up 38 points, but it often wasn’t pretty. The biggest culprit was quarterback J.T. Barrett, who completed just 9 of 21 passes for 93 yards and hasn’t shown the ability this season to connect on the deep ball with any sort of consistency. His inaccuracy seemed to have an effect on the rest of the offense, which never got into a rhythm and only experienced success in fits and starts.
Junior H-back Curtis Samuel should have been utilized more heavily after carrying the ball for more than 9 yards per attempt. There were also multiple turnovers, including Barrett’s botched pitch to running back Mike Weber and an interception that bounced off the hands of tight end Marcus Baugh and into the arms of a defender. None of those were backbreakers, but they might be against stronger foes.
Defense (4 stars)
Let’s start by acknowledging that the defense was robbed of a score when Malik Hooker’s interception returned for a touchdown was called back because of a block below the waist that never occurred. The defense was good as a whole but also had its share of lapses. Hooker, for example, bit on a screen and left tight end Danny Friend wide open for a touchdown. The defensive line continues to look good, but once again couldn’t quite generate the sacks.
Credit to the defensive line, though, for its goal-line stand after a fumble that appeared to be recovered by Ohio State deep in Buckeyes territory was instead given back to Indiana.
Special teams (4 stars)
After no punts against Rutgers, Cameron Johnston got a workout against Indiana. The Aussie punted six times for 295 yards, a 49.2-yard average, with three of those attempts landing inside the 20-yard line. Kicker Tyler Durbin took advantage of the one time he was called upon by drilling a 37-yard field goal. The star of the afternoon, though, was Parris Campbell, whose 91-yard kickoff return to the Indiana 5-yard line set up Ohio State’s last-minute score in the first half.
Coaching (4 stars)
There were no indefensible decisions or crippling strategy errors, but Samuel should have been given the ball more often. It also would have been prudent to be more tempo-oriented, but Meyer alluded to the fact that the passing game struggles and lack of deep threat disrupted the offense as a whole, and the players bear most of the responsibility for that problem.
Overall (4 stars)
I’m sure there are Ohio State fans who’d give a lower rating, but the Buckeyes beat a decent team by 21 points and if that merits a 2-star rating I’d hate to see what grade a loss would get. The final outcome was rarely if ever in doubt, and Ohio State had plenty of strong performances that it should be encouraged about. If this is the result when Barrett only passes for 93 yards, that’s a pretty terrifying prospect for opposing teams.