It’s a facetious premise, granted, that the Ohio State receivers might prefer the running game to struggle so that the focus turns to them and quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr.
Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin nor Johnnie Dixon admitted to that Saturday after the No. 3 Buckeyes passed away from Indiana 49-26. But clearly they were the prime beneficiaries when Haskins threw for 455 yards — 3 yards short of the Ohio State record set by Art Schlichter against Florida State in 1981 — and a record-tying six touchdowns.
But it was OSU’s determination to run the ball, despite Indiana’s intensity in stuffing it, that caused the passing game to soar, Campbell said, as the Indiana defensive backs reacted.
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“As we continued to run the ball, obviously the DBs continued to step forward, and it opened up our shots for us,” Campbell said. “When one thing isn’t working, you have to go to another. You have to problem solve at all times. We did that.”
Campbell and McLaurin each caught two TDs, Dixon one and Binjimen Victor hauled in the sixth in what turned out to be a wild passing game, with Indiana throwing the ball 49 times. Campbell led all with nine catches for 142 yards.
Half of that yardage came on Ohio State’s third play of the second half when, after going in motion from left to right, he darted into the right flat with no Indiana defender going with him. Haskins flipped it to him about 5 yards downfield and Campbell, one of the faster players on the team, did the rest to complete the 71-yard TD play.
Coach Urban Meyer saw what everyone else saw when it came to Haskins and the receivers.
“When the passing game is cooking, there's guys making phenomenal catches and runs, and the offensive line is doing well for the most part,” Meyer said. “I believe we gave up one sack tonight.”
The two interceptions bothered him, but Haskins and the receivers rebounded.
“He's an accurate passer now,” Meyer said of Haskins, who was 33 of 44. “You give him time and you give him a good group of receivers, he's a dangerous guy.”
McLaurin, an Indiana native, was one of those receivers Saturday, a week after gaining more plaudits for his blocking on several key plays in the come-from-behind win at Penn State.
He had four catches for 59 yards and the two TDs, and Dixon and Austin Mack each had five catches. But McLaurin was still talking about a couple of blocks he made.
“I didn't have any of those (multiple block plays), but coach (Kevin) Wilson had a couple of plays where we're blocking D-end,” McLaurin said. “And it may not show up on the TV … but two knockdowns on D-ends … I'm willing to do whatever it takes for the team.”