Shaun Wade had huge pick-six, but Ohio State pass defense faltered in second half

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra

On Saturday, Shaun Wade had the shining moment he envisioned when he decided to return for his junior season at Ohio State instead of entering the 2020 NFL draft.

With Indiana in the midst of a second-half comeback, the cornerback diagnosed a Hoosiers pass and pounced. Wade jumped the sideline route, intercepted Michael Penix Jr.’s pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown to push the Buckeyes’ lead to 42-21 late in the third quarter.

“From watching film, I knew it was coming,” Wade said.

It seemed to have come at exactly the right moment.

Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade (24) celebrates a pass breakup against Indiana's Ty Fryfogle in the first quarter, but Fryfogle and the Hoosiers would make life very uncomfortable for Wade and the Buckeyes in the second half.

“Shaun Wade’s pick-six was huge,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “That was a big, big play.”

But what looked like the end of Indiana’s upset bid proved to be even bigger in hindsight because the Buckeyes’ defense was repeatedly victimized. Indiana closed to within a touchdown before Ohio State prevailed 42-35.

For the second straight game, the Buckeyes surrendered four second-half touchdowns. Two weeks ago against Rutgers, that could be largely chalked up as an aberration because Ohio State substituted liberally in that comfortable win.

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But the breakdowns against Indiana can’t be dismissed. Ty Fryfogle, the Big Ten’s current Big Ten offensive player of the week, beat Wade in one-on-one coverage for one of his three second-half touchdowns.

“On a couple, we had had blown coverages, and sometimes they just made a play,” Wade said. “That’s a part of playing football. Receivers are going to make plays, and DBs are going to make plays.”

Penix threw for 491 yards, including 294 in the second half.

“It’s not just the secondary,” Wade said. “It's the whole defense and the whole offense. In the second half. I don't know what it is. But we have to figure it out, especially in big games. We can't be giving up points like that in the second half and not scoring in the second half.”

Wade had tight coverage on the pass Fryfogle caught on him. Wade was even called for pass interference on the play, though it just looked like normal tussling.

But on Indiana’s other second-half scores, there were clear breakdowns. David Ellis caught a 16-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-10 play in which linebacker Baron Browning said he and an unspecified safety had a miscommunication.

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“If we don't give up those big plays, you probably run away with this game,” Day said. “But we did. You know, 491 yards passing, that’s way too much.

“We’ve got to get it fixed.”

Day said the Buckeyes will evaluate their personnel, scheme and coaching.

“That’s what Sundays are for,” he said. “If you look at the first half, it's not like we're not capable of doing it because we did it. There was some really good football being played for a good chunk of this game. So where are those gaps that we need to fill in?”