BLOOMINGTON, IND. — Ohio State dispensed with the Hoosier hiccup this year.
For a generation, the question for the Buckeyes against Indiana hasn’t been whether they’d win, but how much they’d struggle before putting away the Hoosiers.
Often in recent years, it has taken longer than it should have. Not on Saturday.
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No. 6 Ohio State dominated its Big Ten opener from start to finish and in every phase of the game in a 51-10 victory at Memorial Stadium, which as usual was heavily populated with scarlet-clad fans making their biennial victory trip west.
The Buckeyes (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) won for the 25th straight time against the Hoosiers (2-1, 0-1). It was Ohio State's most lopsided victory ever in Bloomington and the biggest margin over the Hoosiers since a 44-3 rout in 2006 in Columbus.
Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins ran for 193 yards in 2½ quarters, surpassing the 181 yards he had in his college debut against the Hoosiers two years ago. Dobbins’ highlight was a 26-yard touchdown run in the second quarter on which he ran by or through six defenders.
“It's just a play that shows what I can really do,” Dobbins said. “I think a lot of people forgot what I could do, so I just want to keep showing out and keep getting better.”
But the game was really settled by the guys who start each play with their hand on the ground. Ohio State’s linemen dominated Indiana’s on both sides of the ball. Dobbins and backup Master Teague, who gained 106 yards, often were yards past the line of scrimmage before a Hoosier touched them.
“It's amazing,” Dobbins said of the offensive line. “They're blocking great. If those guys keep growing, this offense will keep growing.”
The Buckeyes defense also continues to grow. It set the tone early. Indiana didn’t have a play that gained yardage until its third possession.
The Hoosiers didn’t really even try to be two-dimensional. Their running backs had only 12 carries for 29 yards. Ohio State outgained Indiana 520-257.
Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said that dominating the line of scrimmage has been a priority since spring practice.
“We want to have two or three guys we can put at each position,” he said. “We think we should be able to win the line of scrimmage. That's where all the battles are won. I think today was an example of that.”
It helped that Indiana played without starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. because of an unspecified injury. Peyton Ramsey threw for three touchdowns and 322 yards a year ago against the Buckeyes, but he had no such success this time. It’s hard for a quarterback to pick apart a defense when he’s often picking himself off the turf, as Ramsey was.
“We definitely feel real dominant,” said Chase Young, who with two more sacks continues to be the most dominant of all. “That's just a confidence that Coach J (line coach Larry Johnson) gives us.”
The Hoosiers’ only touchdown came on a flea-flicker in the second quarter. Receiver Whop Philyor caught a backward pass and tossed to tight end Peyton Hendershot for a 40-yard touchdown.
But by then Ohio State had scored 30 points. After a missed 32-yard field goal attempt by Blake Haubeil on the Buckeyes’ first possession, quarterback Justin Fields capped a 68-yard drive with a 3-yard keeper to open the scoring.
Fields wasn’t as sharp passing as he had been in Ohio State’s first two games. He completed only 14 of 24 passes for 199 yards. But he threw three touchdown passes and still hasn’t thrown an interception.
The first scoring pass was a 37-yarder to Chris Olave, who then blocked a punt for a safety. When Fields threw to K.J. Hill for a 9-yard score and Dobbins ripped off his dazzling touchdown run, the outcome was assured.
The Buckeyes padded their lead in the second half. Teague scored on a 40-yard run and cornerback Damon Arnette capped it with a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown, the fourth-longest pick-six in school history.
Ohio State has one more nonconference game next week against Miami University before facing tougher Big Ten teams. As impressive as the Buckeyes’ dominance has been, especially at the line of scrimmage, Day cautioned against complacency.
“This is just one week,” Day said. “It has to continue to build as we go because we're going to start to see teams down the road that have really good offensive and defensive lines, and we'll have to keep building on it.”