A grade card on Ohio State’s 49-21 win over Indiana in its opener, a game that got better for the Buckeyes the later it got.
Ohio State’s offense took a big turn for the better in the second half. In the first two quarters, its attempts to move the football looked uncomfortably like its offense at the end of last season. OSU was behind at halftime and in one stretch punted on four consecutive possessions from the middle of the first quarter through the early second quarter.
The passing game recovered from a slow start to get three touchdowns in the second half and Ohio State scored 29 unanswered points in the game’s final 20 minutes. J.T. Barrett finished 20 of 35 for 304 yards and three touchdowns, including a 74-yard touchdown connection with Parris Campbell and a 59-yard catch and run by Johnnie Dixon.
That’s the good news in the passing game. But the not-so-good news is that none of Barrett’s completions came on deep throws, his accuracy was questionable at times and there were a couple of bad drops by the receivers.
The unquestioned offensive star of the night was freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (29 carries, 181 yards). He looks like he will give Ohio State a big-play threat that has been missing in its running game since Ezekiel Elliott went to the NFL.
When people talk about Ohio State’s highly regarded defensive line, the conversation usually stops at the ends. That is a mistake, as the interior defensive linemen showed Thursday night. Admittedly, Indiana’s running game is questionable, but the Hoosiers netted only 17 yards rushing.
Defensive tackle Jashon Cornell had a sack and a forced fumble and Tracy Sprinkle, Dre’Mont Jones and Robert Landers also contributed. OSU sacked IU quarterback Richard Lagow five times.
Denzel Ward and Jordan Fuller had interceptions but there were times the defensive backs didn’t make plays they will have to make if this is going to be a championship season. Indiana had 12 completions of 10 yards or more in the first half and that came with its top receiver from last year, Nick Westbrook, leaving the game after being injured on the opening kickoff.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Punter Drue Chrisman and kicker Sean Nuernberger went mostly unnoticed, which is usually a good thing if you play their positions. Nuernberger hit two short field goals and Chrisman averaged 45.3 yards per punt, with a long of 62 yards, and put three of his kicks inside the 20-yard line.
At first glance, Ohio State looked like a team with a few more questions than might be expected from a team ranked No. 2. But openers are an incomplete picture and far from the final word on how a team will perform at the end of the season, next month or next week.
Remember how people were talking about Ohio State’s great offense after the Buckeyes scored 77 points in their opener against Bowling Green last season? By the end of the year, the opinion had shifted 180 degrees and OSU was regarded as a team that was struggling on offense.