C.J. Stroud throws four touchdown passes as Ohio State breezes to 54-7 win over Indiana

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — By the start of the second half, what had been a nearly full Memorial Stadium crowd of 52,656 looked like the end of an Ohio State spring game.

No doubt that most of those remaining were Ohio State fans, savoring what is becoming routine — a Buckeye blowout.

After No. 5 Ohio State's 54-7 victory in the rain Saturday night over Indiana, the struggles of the first three games look like a fading memory. This Buckeye team (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) has become a juggernaut, though its biggest tests remain ahead.

"We figured this is the first game of the second half of the season," said Ohio State coach Ryan Day. "We wanted to play really well in the first game of the second half, and I think we did that."

The victory was Ohio State's 27th straight against Indiana, dating to 1988. Most of the recent ones have been close, including a 42-35 escape last year after quarterback Michael Penix Jr. nearly rallied the Hoosiers from a 35-7 halftime deficit.

But Penix is now injured, and the Hoosiers (2-5, 0-4) are in the midst of a disappointing season. They were no match for the Buckeyes, who outgained IU 539-128.

This game was close for only a quarter. Indiana matched Ohio State's opening touchdown drive with a 15-play one of its own. After that, it was a Buckeyes' onslaught. The Buckeyes scored 37 straight points to take a 44-7 halftime lead, prompting the stadium exodus.

Quarterback C.J. Stroud continued his superb play by completing 21 of 28 throws for 266 yards and four touchdowns.

Ohio State Buckeyes running back TreVeyon Henderson (32) celebrates a 21-yard touchdown during the first quarter of the NCAA football game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.

How dominant has OSU's offense been the past three games? A three-and-out on the Buckeyes' first third-quarter possession ended a streak of 19 straight touchdown drives with Stroud leading the offense (excluding a kneel-down before halftime against Maryland.)

Whatever nerves Stroud may have felt early are no longer evident. Perhaps the redshirt freshman's most impressive thrown came at the start of Ohio State's go-ahead drive late in the third quarter when he threw a dart to Jaxon Smith-Njigba between three defenders for a 32-yard completion. NFL quarterbacks don't throw prettier passes.

Of course, it helps to have the cast around him that he does. Ohio State receivers were consistently open, and the line's protection was air-tight.

Ohio State Buckeyes running back TreVeyon Henderson (32) celebrates a 21-yard touchdown with offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (78) during the first quarter of the NCAA football game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.

Then there's TreVeyon Henderson, the freshman running back, who again displayed his game-breaking ability. Henderson had his helmet taken away after his first carry. But once doctors deemed him healthy, he scored three touchdowns. He burst through a crack for a 21-yard score to make it 14-7 and turned a screen pass into a 14-yard score to make it 21-7.

A safety on a botched punt snap pushed the lead to 16. After a 42-yard return by freshman Emeka Egbuka, Stroud hit Chris Olave for a 16-yard touchdown to push the lead to 30-7 midway through the second quarter.

Henderson, who finished with 81 yards in only nine carries, scored on a 6-yard carry. Tight end Jeremy Ruckert then caught two touchdown passes to close out the scoring with Stroud in the game before Kyle McCord and Jack Miller took over in the fourth quarter.

Fans watch as rain drizzles down during the fourth quarter of a NCAA Division I football game between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind.

The defense was almost as dominant as the offense. Indiana converted all four of its third-down chances on its opening touchdown drive, which ended on a 7-yard pass from Jack Tuttle to tight end Peyton Hendershot. But Tuttle took a big hit on the play, and left temporarily. With freshman Donoven McCulley and sophomore walk-on Grant Gremel taking snaps, the Buckeyes' defense feasted. That continued even when Tuttle returned.

After its first drive, Ohio State held IU to minus-16 yards on the Hoosiers' next four possessions. Ohio State had 14 tackles for loss and five sacks. About the only thing it didn't do was extend its streak of interceptions returned for touchdowns to five games.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

Ohio State Buckeyes football schedule 2021

Sept. 2:Ohio State 45, Minnesota 31

Sept. 11: Oregon 35, Ohio State 28

Sept. 18: Ohio State 41, Tulsa 20

Sept. 25: Ohio State 59, Akron 7

Oct. 2: Ohio State 52, Rutgers 13

Oct. 9: Ohio State 66, Maryland 17

Oct. 23: at Indiana, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 30:Penn State, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 6: at Nebraska, TBA

Nov. 13: Purdue, TBA

Nov. 20: Michigan State, TBA

Nov. 27: at Michigan, 12 p.m., FOX

Up next: Ohio State football vs. Penn State

The Buckeyes return to primetime to face Penn State at 7:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. 

The Buckeyes will wear all-scarlet uniforms for the game.

The school is also encouraging fans to wear scarlet clothing to the game.

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