Ohio State watched an 18-point deficit nearly evaporate in the final 6½ minutes Saturday night at Indiana, but the eighth-ranked Buckeyes managed to hold on for a 52-49 victory over the upstart Hoosiers in front of 48,880 fans at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.
Sophomore receiver Devin Smith gathered in a 46-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Braxton Miller to give the Buckeyes a seemingly safe 52-34 lead with 6:47 remaining in the game. But Hoosiers backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld, a true freshman, rallied his team for a pair of touchdowns and a two-point conversion inside the final two minutes to make things almost too close for comfort for OSU.
The Buckeyes wound up with a season-high 578 total yards in the contest, their highest total since piling up 645 during a 73-20 victory over Eastern Michigan in 2010. It was the highest total yardage figure against a Big Ten opponent since OSU gained 603 yards on Indiana during a 35-6 win in Bloomington in 2003.
Coupled with last week’s 63-38 win over Nebraska, it marked the first time since 1984 that the Buckeyes had topped the 50-point mark against back-to-back Big Ten opponents. That season, Ohio State took a 50-7 win over Indiana in Columbus one week before rolling to a 52-3 victory at Northwestern.
Miller was once again at the forefront of the Ohio State offense, accounting for 360 yards of total offense. He completed 13 of 24 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and added 23 carries for 149 yards and another score.
Junior running back Carlos Hyde followed up his career performance against Nebraska with another one, carrying 22 times for a personal-best 156 yards and one touchdown vs. the Hoosiers.
Wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown led the Buckeyes with six receptions for 51 yards while receiver/tight end Jake Stoneburner – who had been shut out the past three games – had a season-high four catches for 41 yards. Smith added two catches for 106 yards with both of his receptions going for touchdowns.
Indiana finished with 481 total yards against the Buckeyes, 352 of it coming through the air. Starting QB Cameron Coffman went most of the way for the Hoosiers and wound up completing 22 of 44 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown. Sudfeld came on at the end and connected on 6 of 10 throws for 77 yards and a pair of scores.
Running back Stephen Houston was a workhorse for the Hoosiers, rushing 11 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns while catching two balls for 37 yards and another score. IU’s leading receivers were wideout Cody Latimer, who had a game-high seven receptions for 68 yards, and tight end Ted Bolser, who added six catches for 42 yards.
The Buckeyes drew first blood by taking the opening kickoff and marching 75 yards in nine plays, a drive capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by Brown to make it 7-0 with 10:52 remaining in the first quarter.
OSU made it 10-0 at the 3:06 mark thanks to a 35-yard field goal from kicker Drew Basil, but it could have been more. Smith dropped a sure touchdown early in the possession and Miller overthrew Stoneburner in the deep right flat on a play that could have put the Buckeyes inside the Indiana 10.
Still, Ohio State seemed in firm control with a 10-point lead and a 105-6 advantage in total yardage.
It didn’t take the Hoosiers long to recover, though, when Houston broke free up the middle and sprinted for a 59-yard touchdown run to make it 10-7 with 2:00 remaining in the first quarter.
Then IU really returned the tide on Ohio State’s next possession, forcing a three-and-out before sophomore Isaiah Roundtree smothered a Ben Buchanan punt to give the Hoosiers the ball at the Ohio State 16. Three plays later, Houston blew up the middle again and raced virtually untouched into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown run.
That gave the home team a 14-10 lead just 14 seconds into the second quarter.
Things appeared to get worse for the Buckeyes when their next drive stalled and Basil’s 35-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left. And the next time Ohio State got the ball, Brown seemingly made a diving catch for a first down, but replay showed the ball hit the ground before the catch and the Buckeyes were forced to punt again.
But after holding the Indiana offense to a three-and-out, OSU got a punt block of its own. Senior Travis Howard got to IU punter Erich Toth, and sophomore Bradley Roby recovered the loose ball in the end zone. That put the Buckeyes back into the lead at 17-14 with 5:19 remaining until the break.
Following another Indiana three-and-out series – its fourth of eight first-half possessions – OSU tacked on another score when Smith beat IU cornerback Antonio Marshall on a sideline fly pattern, gathering in a 60-yard bomb from Miller to make it 24-14 at the 2:31 mark of the second quarter.
Indiana’s punt block helped keep close what could have been a burgeoning blowout. Ohio State held healthy first-half advantages in first downs (14-7), total yards (260-150) and time of possession (20:22 to 9:38).
The Hoosiers managed to inch closer early in the third quarter thanks to a 22-yard field goal from kicker Mitch Ewald, making it 24-17 with 12:36 remaining. But the Buckeyes got a nice return from Rod Smith on the ensuing kickoff, and Miller took a read-option keeper 67 yards for a touchdown on the next play to make it 31-17 at the 12:18 mark of the third period.
Following yet another three-and-out series by the IU offense, Ohio State tried to take advantage of a short punt and a short field. But on second-and-goal at the Indiana 3, Miller made an ill-advised pass that was picked off by Indiana cornerback Greg Heban in the end zone.
Things quickly went the other way when on the third play of the ensuing drive, Coffman connected with wideout Shane Wynn over the middle and the Cleveland Glenville product turned the short pitch into a 76-yard touchdown sprint that drew the Hoosiers back within seven at 31-24 with 8:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Ohio State answered with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was aided by a pair of major penalties by Indiana. First, the Hoosiers committed a pass interference penalty on a third-and-6 incompletion, and then they were hit with a personal foul penalty for hitting Miller out of bounds following a 5-yard gain. That gave the Buckeyes a first down at the IU 15, and two plays later, backup quarterback Kenny Guiton flipped a shovel pass to Hyde that the junior tailback took 14 yards for a touchdown.
That gave the Buckeyes a 14-point cushion again at 38-24 with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter.
Indiana responded with a 44-yard field goal from Ewald to make it 38-27 at the 3:54 mark of the third quarter, but Ohio State answered with a 10-play, 78-yard drive that Hyde capped with a 1-yard touchdown run that pushed the Buckeyes into a 45-27 lead with 14:40 left to play.
But the Hoosiers refused to go away. They came back with a 76-yard drive that covered 12 plays and culminated in a 1-yard touchdown dive by backup tailback D’Angelo Roberts. That pulled IU back within 11 points at 45-34 with 10:30 to go in the game.
The Buckeyes delivered what they thought was the dagger when Devin Smith took an over-the-middle flip from Miller and broke three tackles on his way to a 46-yard touchdown that made it 52-34 with 6:47 to play.
But the Hoosiers made things interesting in the final minutes when they tacked on a pair of final touchdowns. The first came on a 12-yard pass from Sudfeld to senior wide receiver Duwyce Wilson at the 1:40 mark, and then after Indiana recovered the ensuing onside kick, the true freshman QB completed a 25-yard TD pass to Houston.
Latimer took a reverse to the right pylon on the two-point conversion to make it 52-49 with 1:05 remaining, but Brown recovered the ensuing onside kick try to preserve the Buckeyes’ victory.
The 49 points surrendered by the Ohio State was the most since a 63-14 loss at top-ranked Penn State in 1994.