After failing vs. Michigan State, Hoosiers can make a statement at Ohio State

Hoosiers running back Stevie Scott celebrates his touchdown against Rutgers on Saturday.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Allen expected the Indiana Hoosiers to take advantage of a prime opportunity two weeks ago against Michigan State. They’ll get a second chance at No. 3 Ohio State this weekend.

And, as usual, the second-year coach expects his Hoosiers to be prepared and competitive.

“They’ve got to be more consistent. To me, they did some good things in the first half, but it’s got to continue,” Allen said Monday when asked about Indiana’s offensive line. “We play for 60 minutes.”

It’s a lesson the Hoosiers (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) should have learned last season when their inability to close out games cost them a bowl bid.

This year, they’ve been better — but far from perfect.

They hung on for wins at Florida International and against Virginia before pulling away from Ball State. Then, against the Spartans, they fell behind early, charged back late and the defense couldn’t get one last stop to give the ball back to the offense with a chance to force overtime or win the game.

On Saturday at Rutgers, it nearly happened again. Indiana pulled away early and finally put the game away when quarterback Peyton Ramsey took advantage of a free play to throw for the game-sealing first down.

The Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0) lead the East Division after last weekend’s comeback at Penn State. With the win, and coach Urban Meyer back on the sideline, Ohio State appears to have one of the inside tracks to a playoff spot.

The Hoosiers hope to end a 25-game winless streak in the series, including a tie in 1990. Indiana won back-to-back games in 1987 and 1988 — their only victories over the Buckeyes since 1951, when the late Woody Hayes was in his first season at Ohio State.

“It’s the most talented Ohio State team I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Allen, who spent his first season in Bloomington as the Hoosiers’ defensive coordinator. “A very, very good football team on both sides and special teams, just a lot of playmakers and speed and athleticism and size and very accurate quarterback. And a very, very athletic defensive unit.”

The Hoosiers haven’t been 5-1 since 2007, something that has occurred only three times in the past quarter-century.

Ramsey returns to his home state and is expected to be flanked in the backfield by true freshmen Stevie Scott and Ronnie Walker Jr. The question is who will be catching Ramsey’s passes. Receivers Luke Timian and Whop Philyor, two of Ramsey’s top targets, missed last week’s game because of undisclosed injuries and it remains uncertain if they’ll play this week.

“Hopefully, we will be able to get a couple guys back that didn’t play Saturday. I really don’t know any of those yet,” Allen said.

The biggest strides this season have come on defense.

After losing seven of last season’s starters, Indiana ranks in the top half of the Big Ten in five categories — pass defense, third-down percentage defense, fourth-down percentage defense, turnover margin and pass efficiency defense.

But will it be enough to slow down the speedy and dangerous Buckeyes as they begin a four-game stretch against unranked opponents?

“The run is where it stops and starts offensively and defensively, so it’s a group that we have a lot of confidence in and they need to progress together and play better and better each and every week,” Allen said. “Going against one of the best front lines in the country in Ohio State, and we need to create creases and allow them to play the football.”