3 reasons IU football lost to Ohio State: QBs injured, defense crumbled, hope snuffed out

Zach Osterman
The Columbus Dispatch

BLOOMINGTON – In a game that was never competitive, IU fell, humbled, 54-7 to No. 5 Ohio State on Saturday night. Here are three reasons why:

IU football report card:This kind of dud — after this kind of season — is on everyone.

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

Defensive disaster for IU

The one way Indiana could not afford for Saturday’s game to unfold was exactly how it did.

Saddled with a struggling, undermanned offense, the Hoosiers needed their defense to hold the line early. Stop the run. Get C.J. Stroud out of rhythm. Force the kinds of mistakes that would keep Ohio State out of sync.

Ohio State Buckeyes running back TreVeyon Henderson (32) runs the ball 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.

None of that happened.

Instead, the Buckeyes bulldozed through that defense, to the tune of 334 first-half yards. Stroud threw for 201 of them, and three touchdowns. The Buckeyes went 5-of-5 on third down in the first and second quarters, and scored on every one of their drives. Their defense even added a safety for good measure, but the story of Saturday’s game was one of first-half dominance, by Ohio State, of a defense that had not looked anywhere near that feeble before kickoff.

It was 44-7 at the intermission, and the string of taillights pulling away from a wet, rainy Memorial Stadium was steady and long.

Hoosiers getting thin at QB

Jack Tuttle toughed his way through for as long as he could, after a trip to the locker room in the first half prompted by the leveling Tuttle took on IU’s lone touchdown of the first half.

In his stead, IU tried freshman Donaven McCulley to inconsistent effect. The Hoosiers even ran walk-on Grant Gremel out Saturday, a reminder that injuries have conspired to whittle Tom Allen’s options at quarterback down considerably.

Eventually, the Hoosiers went away from their starter for good. Tuttle did not take a second-half snap.

Dexter Williams tore his ACL in the spring. Michael Penix is currently out after separating the AC joint in his throwing shoulder, the most recent of the several injuries that have plagued him since arriving in Bloomington. Tuttle took an almighty pounding behind a hugely overmatched offensive line Saturday. While he was out, McCulley stood in as IU’s only available scholarship quarterback.

There’s not much to say about management of the position. Indiana’s dwindling depth is down at least in part to bad luck with injuries. But Saturday was a reminder of how thin the Hoosiers have gotten there.

Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen walks along the sideline 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.

A night to sum up IU's season

Even the most pragmatic of IU fans have a right to be disappointed by the way this season has unfolded.

Suggesting the Hoosiers should have been competing with Ohio State for the Big Ten East isn’t even unfair. It’s just unnecessary. Indiana didn’t need to stick its nose in the division-title race for this year to be a success and represent progress.

Instead, it has reverted to some of this program’s lowest lows. Iowa, Cincinnati, Penn State and now Ohio State have been varying degrees of calamitous. Saturday night felt particularly pointed, as Ohio State dismantled the one thing it seemed IU could rely upon this season.

The Hoosiers have gotten precious little good luck this season, with injuries or the difficulty of their schedule, and what luck has visited them has been wasted entirely. A third-straight bowl game would now require a 4-1 finish that seems unlikely. What’s more probable is the Hoosiers limp to the end of a season that was once enormously anticipated, and now appears destined to fizzle to a forgettable November conclusion.

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