Stunned early, Ohio State's improving defense put clamps on Indiana

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — On Indiana's first possession Saturday night, the Hoosiers drove 75 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown, converting on all four of their third downs.

In the rest of Ohio State's 54-7 win, the Buckeyes allowed only 53 yards in 39 offensive snaps for a total of 128 yards allowed.

Indiana's offense doesn't resemble the one the Hoosiers had last year when Michael Penix Jr. was running a dynamic attack. The injured Penix didn't play Saturday, and his backup, Jack Tuttle, was knocked out for part of the game on his touchdown pass. Replacing him were freshman Donaven McCulley and walk-on Grant Gremel.

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman J.T. Tuimoloau (44) and Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Taron Vincent (6) bring down Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Donaven McCulley (0) during the second 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.

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It got ugly, especially because the Buckeyes stuffed Indiana's run game. The Hoosiers averaged only 2.1 yards per carry, and that doesn't include sack yardage.

"We talk about stopping the run," safety Kourt Williams said. "That's the main job, and everything else will take care of itself."

Ohio State had 14 tackles for loss, including five sacks. Ohio State's defense has allowed only 44 points in its past four games.

Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) celebrates after a tackle during the third 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.

"It was great to see those guys running around," coach Ryan Day said. "It looked like they were having fun out there, and that's good. That's part of the energy and the confidence that we want."

Day credited the defensive staff — Matt Barnes, Kerry Coombs, Al Washington and Larry Johnson — for making adjustments after the opening drive.

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman J.T. Tuimoloau (44) celebrates a sack with defensive end Zach Harrison (9) during the second quarter of the NCAA football game at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.

"That's a tribute to the guys on defense, trying to identify how they're being attacked and then coming up with the answers," Day said. "That's what it comes down to as a coach. You want to have answers when your guys come off the field — what happened and then here's how we're going to get it fixed."

Williams said it was simply a matter of correcting "sloppy" mistakes.

"We've just got to be disciplined and play (by) our rules, and that's what we did," he said.

McCulley had one completion for 30 yards and one run for 15. Those were Indiana's longest plays from scrimmage. Ty Fryfogle, who burned Ohio State repeatedly last year when Indiana rallied from a 28-point halftime deficit to lose only 42-35, had only one catch, that 30-yarder when the game was long out of reach.

"When they get it done in the trenches, it just makes our job that much easier," Williams said. "It felt like every play they were back there, and that just makes our job easier. If we keep improving, watch out."

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

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