BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — J.K. Dobbins, just the second freshman to start an opener for Ohio State at running back, kept his team in it early, on the way to setting an OSU record Thursday night. Then J.T. Barrett and the often-misfiring offense started clicking in the second half in a 49-21 victory over Indiana.
The Buckeyes defense endured an incessant passing game from quarterback Richard Lagow and ramped up pressure late in the third quarter to take control.
It wasn’t the beatdown many had forecast, but a double-digit road win in not only the opener, but against a Big Ten opponent for the first time in 41 years, put the Buckeyes in first place in the Big Ten East just one game into the season.
Stars of the game
Dobbins, who ran for 181 yards, did so by early in the fourth quarter and topped the previous freshman record in an opener of 175 yards that freshman Maurice Clarett gained in a win over Texas Tech in 2002. Dobbins started in place of Mike Weber, a 1,000-yard rusher last season who missed most of preseason camp because of a strained hamstring. Barrett started out hot, dealt with some strange routes by receivers at times, then both got on the same page. First was a 74-yard touchdown reception by hybrid back Parris Campbell, then came a 59-yard TD pass to Johnnie Dixon — who was open in the middle of the field and outran the Hoosiers to the end zone — and an 11-yard TD pass to Binjimen Victor.
Branden Bowen made his first start at right guard and helped open room for Dobbins. Defensive tackle Robert “B.B.” Landers had what he thought was a D-lineman’s dream, a fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter, but it was wiped out by the officials’ replay review that indicated Lagow had his arm moving forward on a pass when hit by Chris Worley. Landers was part of rolodex of linemen who kept up the heat on Lagow, which started paying dividends as the game progressed. Jordan Fuller made his first start at safety and intercepted a pass tipped by Kendall Sheffield and returned it 40 yards to stop a first-half Indiana scoring threat.
The Buckeyes seemed intent on passing more than running early, but when the passing game wasn’t clicking, they went to the Dobbins. It was obvious Campbell was getting some separation on shallow crossing routes, and he and Barrett finally clicked on the 74-yard completion, which gave Ohio State a 27-21 lead.
Repeatedly in the first half, Lagow targeted receivers covered by Ohio State veteran cornerback Denzel Ward. It paid off with a touchdown when Lagow threw a high fade pass to Simmie Cobbs in the second quarter that put the Hoosiers ahead 14-13. Ward got even in the fourth quarter, though, with an interception. Meanwhile, through the first half, the supposedly revitalized receiving corps didn’t look like it, and Campbell dropped what should have been a 41-yard touchdown pass early in second half. But he made up for it with his TD play later.
Stat that matters
Three: Number of Indiana turnovers forced by Ohio State, which had none
Indiana’s talented defensive back Rashard Fant had to leave the game at 9:55 of the third quarter after going down hard on Ohio State’s go-ahead scoring drive. He was helped up but walked off on his own and returned later. Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette was bothered by leg cramps in the second half but stepped out just briefly.
By the numbers
74: Ohio State’s unofficial win total over Indiana, vs. 12 losses and five ties. That’s counting a win in 2010 that was vacated.
23: Current streak of wins over Indiana.
The Buckeyes were slow starting but wound up with an impressive win on the road, and did so with big plays offensively that were missing against credible opponents last season. Now it goes in the box as a warm-up for the main course of the early season, the rematch with Oklahoma at Ohio Stadium on Sept. 9.
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