Buckeye fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
No. 2 Ohio State opened the regular season on the road Thursday night against conference rival Indiana. With a raucous crowd in Bloomington and an improved Hoosier roster, this turned out to be a tougher assignment than expected.
This was the Buckeyes’ first game since their College Football Playoff semifinal shutout by eventual National Champion, Clemson. Ohio State’s offense struggled again in the first half Thursday, but the Buckeyes managed one touchdown and two field goals as the Hoosiers took a 14-13 edge into the break.
After falling behind again 21-20 in the third quarter, however, Ohio State rolled off four unanswered touchdowns to pull away.
The Buckeyes’ Game Grades
Touted rookie running back J.K. Dobbins lived up to the hype by rushing for a freshman record 181 yards in the victory. This included a nifty 35-yard run to set up a field goal in the first half.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett struggled mightily in the first half. He had difficulty with decision-making and threw on several occasions to check-down receivers. However, Barrett overcame his first-half struggles to connect on three touchdown passes. He also had a 2-yard touchdown run to start off the scoring in the third quarter.
The concern for the Buckeyes is that slow start. The offense had trouble at times, and even when they were able to move the ball, they struggled in the red zone.
The Buckeyes’ defensive line held the Indiana rushing attack to a measly 17 yards on 27 carries. However, the Hoosiers used quick passes to their experienced wideouts to take advantage of the Buckeyes’ ametuer secondary.
The best player on the field in the first half was receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. The star receiver had 11 receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown for the game. This included a stellar one-handed grab on the sideline.
The defense righted the ship after the Hoosiers’ touchdown early in the third. Indiana was held to two 3-and-outs on their next drives, before they had a fumble and an interception on their next two drives.
Special teams: A
This unit provided a solid performance all-around.
Kicker Sean Nuernberger made both of his short field goal attempts and all five extra points. Punter Drue Chrisman averaged 45.3 yards on six punts.
The team did not seem ready to play in the first half. Whether it was nerves or an amped-up Hoosier squad, firing on all cylinders from the start is a must.
Head coach Urban Meyer must demand more consistency out of Barrett and the offense. The offense hasn’t been quite the same since Ohio State won the championship two years ago. The coaching staff needs to figure it out fast.