COLUMBUS, Ohio – Michael Penix Jr. threw for 491 yards and five touchdowns and Indiana fought back from a 28-point second-half deficit, but the No. 9 Hoosiers fell short against No. 3 Ohio State, losing 42-35 at Ohio Stadium this afternoon. Indiana falls to 4-1, while Ohio State improves to 4-0.
- Indiana belonged here: On paper, this was a talent mismatch. Ohio State has third-string players that would be the best recruit Indiana has landed in decades. That matters and it was enough to take the Buckeyes over the top today. But Indiana belonged on this field. It has a lot of athletes, especially on offense, and those players made plays when the Hoosiers needed them to step up. Penix and wide receiver Ty Fryfogle played like superstars, cornerback Jamar Johnson was a headache all afternoon for OSU quarterback Justin Fields and the Hoosiers refused to get run off the field, even though there were more than a few times it looked like the Buckeyes would overwhelm the visitors with speed and talent. Coach Tom Allen has this team believing in itself and Indiana didn't get down, even when the situation looked bleak. Kudos to Allen and his staff, as well, for designing a gameplan that attacked Ohio State's weaknesses. Fields was often uncomfortable because of Indiana's blitzes from the secondary and Nick Sheridan's offensive recognized that it had to let Penix loose in the second half. Against a team with the amount of raw talent Ohio State has, scheme can only take you so far, but the IU coaching staff took IU as far as it could today.
- Indiana didn't execute as well as it needed to: With all the above said, you could call this a missed opportunity for Indiana. The Hoosiers had chances to win this game – or at least make it closer – and let plenty of them get away. I'm not talking about mistakes forced by the Buckeyes' physicality, I'm talking about unforced errors, of which the Hoosiers made plenty, including some in key moments. One of the biggest was David Ellis's fumble in the red zone near the end of the first half. After Ohio State had given Indiana a gift with a blown coverage, Ellis let the ball slip out of his hands before he was even hit by a Buckeye defender. Later, Fields gave the Hoosiers an interception wrapped in a bow with a terrible decision, but Jamar Johnson fumbled on the return and the Buckeyes got the ball back. Beyond that, there were multiple times where the Hoosiers had Fields dead to rights for a sack and couldn't bring him down, including once directly before a 41-yard OSU touchdown run. In addition, Penix missed a half-dozen open throws from clean pockets, including a few that could have extended drives on third down, and the IU receivers dropped some catchable passes, including a particularly egregious bobble from Ty Fryfogle on fourth down in OSU territory with no defender within eight yards of him and a big drop by Ellis on a perfect throw from Penix after the speedy receiver had gotten behind the Buckeye defense in the third quarter. Indiana had to play nearly perfect to win this game and it wasn't able to do that.
- Indiana still can't run the ball: Indiana's run game has been a problem all season – the Hoosiers came into the game averaging 2.7 yards per carry, 121st out of 126 teams playing right now – and it really shone through against Ohio State. The Buckeyes' game plan was clearly to drop extra defenders in coverage and dare Indiana's run game to make plays. The Hoosiers couldn't. The receivers/Penix could, but not enough of them and often against tight coverage. The result was that Indiana was outrushed 307 to negative-1. Teams have clearly figured out that the way to stop this offense is to ignore the run game and force Penix to throw into tight windows. That could come back to bite Indiana against a lesser opponent (say, Maryland next week) and either Stevie Scott or Sampson James need to grab hold of the running back job. Heck, throw Indiana Mr. Football Charlie Spegal out there for a few carries.
Player of the Game: Ty Fryfogle
Indiana's star wide receiver showed that last week's 200-yard performance against Michigan State was no fluke. He got behind the Ohio State secondary three times for second-half scores, including a 33-yard TD reception on which he made a terrific catch in traffic after Penix threw late. Fryfogle finished with seven catches for 223 yards, his third straight 100-yard performance. He's got 565 receiving yards and six touchdowns in that 3-game stretch.
Facts and Figures
This was the second top 10 matchup in the history of Indiana football and the first in the regular season. The only other time IU played in a top 10 matchup was the 1968 Rose Bowl, when No. 4 Indiana fell to No. 1 USC, 14-3. ... The Hoosiers are winless in their last 27 games against Ohio State (26 losses and a tie), a streak that stretches back to 1988. ... Indiana has not started 5-0 since 1967, when it was 8-0. This is the second time in six seasons the Hoosiers have started 4-0, only to lose to a top 5 Ohio State team in the fifth game. IU lost to No. 1 Ohio State 34-27 in 2015, starting a six-game losing streak after a 4-0 start. ... Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was Indiana's head coach from 2011 until 2016. He went 26-47 in six seasons and led IU to two bowl games. ... Indiana came into the game leading the Big Ten in interceptions with 10. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields had thrown only three interceptions in 476 career passes entering today and had completed 86.7% of his passes this season. He went 18 for 30 for 300 yards and two scores, but threw three interceptions. ... Penix missed matchups against Ohio State in 2018 and 2019 because of injuries. He threw 50 times in this game. ... Garrett Wilson had seven receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns for Ohio State. ... Penix is the first opposing quarterback to throw for 400 yards at Ohio Stadium since Purdue's Jim Everett in 1985.
Indiana is back in action next Saturday with a home game against Maryland (2-1). Kick time and broadcast information will be announced this week. The Terrapins haven't played in two weeks because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the program. Head coach Mike Locksley is among those that have tested positive and it's unclear whether the game against Indiana will happen. The Terrapins' most recent game was a 35-19 win over Penn State in Happy Valley, one of the most surprising results of the year in the Big Ten.