Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Ohio State football players want to believe their defense is better than the 22 fourth-quarter points (and 49 total) they allowed against Indiana.
“With the type of players we’ve got and the type of capabilities we’re supposed to do, that was a terrible job by us not closing the game,” redshirt senior cornerback Travis Howard said after the game.
OSU junior running back Carlos Hyde agreed.
“That ain’t us, how we finished like that,” Hyde said. “That ain’t us.”
The simple truth might be that OSU’s defense isn’t better than it’s near late-game collapse against the Hoosiers. The Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) prevailed, 52-49, against the Hoosiers (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) Saturday at Memorial Stadium. For now, that’s OSU football – a team that has scored 132 points in three Big Ten Conference games but has allowed 103.
That level of inconsistency carried into Saturday’s game, and the search for answers, and healthy players, will continue into this coming week.
The Buckeyes held an 18-point lead with 3:58 to play in regulation against the Hoosiers, but couldn’t finish strong.
IU redshirt junior receiver Duwyce Wilson grabbed a 12-yard touchdown pass to cut OSU’s lead to 52-41 with 1:40 to play. Then the Hoosiers successfully converted an onside kick and drove back down the field. Hoosiers redshirt junior running back Stephen Houston collected a 25-yard touchdown pass, which IU followed up with a two-point conversation to pull within three points.
The Hoosiers’ second onside kick was recovered by OSU junior receiver Corey Brown in front of the Buckeyes’ bench with 1:05 to play in regulation. The Buckeyes ran out the clock, narrowly escaping Bloomington with its undefeated record still intact.
First-year OSU coach Urban Meyer said he didn’t know what the exact problem was. Injuries is one possibility, Meyer said.
Prior to the kickoff of the Buckeyes’ Saturday game at Indiana, OSU athletics spokesman Jerry Emig announced that freshman defensive back Najee Murray had season-ending knee surgery after tearing his ACL during practice last week. Fellow OSU freshman defensive back Armani Reeves, along with redshirt senior defensive lineman Nathan Williams, also weren’t available against the Hoosiers.
Reeves sustained a sprained ankle during practice and will continue to be evaluated on a week-to-week basis, Emig said.
Emig said that Williams missed the Indiana game due to a concussion.
By Monday, redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino already had surgery on a broken right fibula, an injury he sustained during the 63-38 win against Nebraska. First-year OSU coach Urban Meyer said during his Monday press conference that Sabino will miss at least three weeks.
During Saturday’s game against the Hoosiers, sophomore defensive end Steve Miller started in place for Williams. Senior fullback Zach Boren also filled in at linebacker and finished with a team-high eight tackles.
Meyer acknowledged the team’s injury problem but said he isn’t lowering his expectations for the defensive unit.
“I don’t know. I have to get more involved and find out what the issues are,” Meyer said. “I know injuries are an issue. When you take your starting fullback and start him at inside linebacker, you have a little problem. I don’t think you can pinpoint one thing right now. I have got to find out. I am going to increase my involvement with the defense.”
The players themselves are well aware of their shortcomings.
Howard called Saturday’s game embarrassing.
“I felt like guys got too comfortable and (Indiana) made a run,” Howard said. “I think it’s all just based on us doing our job. We can’t try to play at other team’s schemes. We just have to know our position and do what we’re capable of doing.”
Buckeyes sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby agreed with Meyer and his teammates – the defensive unit is playing horribly.
The problems, Roby said, are correctable, though.
“We know the game wasn’t really like that, the final score just shows that. We just got to really just work on finishing,” he said. “They’re going to get some plays and some points, but we’ve really got to eliminate the big plays. It was simple stuff that we should have just played our job, did our job and we have to handle it.”
OSU continues Big Ten Conference play Saturday with a scheduled noon kickoff against Purdue at Ohio Stadium.