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Ohio State football Bottom Line: Buckeyes survive mistakes, secondary follies

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra

Hey, we’ve seen this movie before: Guys get big lead, guys lose big lead, guys slip off cliff but grab a branch and hold on for dear life. Ohio reviewers are giving this well below a “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Said one: “Who makes a fun-filled comedy for the whole family that becomes a gory slasher flick?” Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. -- Ray Stein 

Ohio State vs. Indiana:Ohio State barely holds on to beat Indiana, 42-35

Offense (3 leaves) 

Well, sure, there’s plenty to appreciate about a 600-plus yard output that includes 300 yards or more from both the running and passing games. But Justin Fields, dare we say it, had his worst game as a Buckeye, his three picks the result of one terrible throw, two worse decisions. Game ball to Master Teague, who delivered his first home run of the season among other shots.

Were the Buckeyes signing "Carmen Ohio" after the game or breathing big-time sighs of relief?

Defense (2 leaves) 

Speaking of mixed nuts, the Buckeyes offered some tasty morsels – Shaun Wade’s pick six, Pete Werner’s late sack. But the batch was spoiled by the most shoddy, porous secondary work since Earle Bruce’s leaky ships of the early 1980s; hence Michael Penix Jr.’s 491-yard total. Wade’s TD notwithstanding, this unit is looking like a full-blown dumpster fire. DBU or DB-PU? 

Special teams (2 leaves) 

Extra-point attempts from directly in front of the goalposts? Automatic, baby. Every other kick? Um, can we change the subject? Ohio State is now 2 for 5 on field-goal tries this year after freshman Jake Seibert missed a 44-yarder in the third quarter that would have pushed OSU’s lead to 38-21. Outside of that, a holding penalty negated a strong kickoff return by Demario McCall. 

Ohio State kicker:Ohio State kicker Blake Haubeil to miss second straight game

Coaching (2 leaves) 

This is a painful grade, because it suggests that Ohio State should have blown out an unbeaten, top-10 team. But the Buckeyes kind of did – until they didn’t. Plus, the secondary stench can’t all fall on the players. Who dealt it? And to cap it, Ryan Day didn’t help himself by getting too cute on fourth down inside the Indiana 10 with 4½ minutes left. Hindsight, yeah, but that’s how hindsight works.  

Fun quotient (4 leaves) 

Forgetting for a moment that there were only a couple of hundred witnesses on hand, and that pumped-in crowd noise is about as effective as a Rudy Giuliani dye job, the Buckeyes and Hoosiers delivered a robust show for the viewing audience. OSU supporters prone to palpitations probably didn’t enjoy themselves, but the game was proof that a crowd isn’t a requirement for energy. 

Opponent (4 leaves) 

On one hand, it’s easy to say that if not for things like a couple of really poor dropped passes by Indiana receivers, a toothless running game and a moon-shot center snap, the Hoosiers might never have fallen behind 35-7 early in the second half. Then again, maybe they needed to get to the basement before starting to climb the stairs. Either way, Tom Allen’s bunch is all nails.

Officiating (2 leaves) 

Penalty flags were rare – OSU was called for three, Indiana two – but Jerry McGinn’s crew still made an impact, and not necessarily for the good. The Buckeyes missed out on two recovered fumbles, one that wasn’t even reviewed, and later could have benefited from what looked to be targeting against Fields. Truth serum: OSU linemen grabbed some major jersey on Teague’s first TD run. 

rstein@dispatch.com