No. 6 Ohio State (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) dominated its first Big Ten contest with a 51-10 road victory over the Indiana Hoosiers (2-1, 0-1). Outscoring opponents 138-31 to open the season, there are plenty of positive takeaways for the Buckeyes from this matchup. Here’s The Lantern’s five biggest:
Arnette’s redemptive return
With one play Saturday, Damon Arnette seemingly erased a season’s worth of criticism.
The redshirt senior cornerback picked off an Indiana redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Ramsey pass at the Ohio State 4-yard-line, and his 96-yard touchdown return was a microcosm of his journey to redemption.
“Really happy for him. He deserves that play –– he’s been through a lot and it’s great to get that play for him,” head coach Ryan Day said.
Arnette was flagged for five pass interference penalties in 2018, the most on the team. Three came in the final two games of the regular season against Maryland and Michigan.
For a defense prone to giving up chunk yardage plays all season, Arnette was viewed as a poster child for the unit’s shortcomings.
Originally thought to be leaving for the NFL after his fourth year, Arnette returned for a final season of eligibility. With two pass defenses and a pick-six Saturday, he showed just how high his ceiling can be.
Game-changing plays from Olave
In three games, Chris Olave has nearly as many receiving yards (189) as he did in all of 2018 (197).
The sophomore wide receiver has scored five touchdowns in his past six games and is quickly becoming a favorite target for sophomore quarterback Justin Fields, but his play on special teams is quickly making him one of the most valuable pieces on the team.
Olave broke the game open for Ohio State in just 1:11 of game time Saturday, as his 37-yard touchdown and blocked punt for a safety on consecutive possessions extended the Buckeye lead by nine in the blink of an eye.
The punt block was no fluke. Olave blocked his first in 2018’s Michigan game, which sparked a 17-0 Ohio State run.
Olave’s speed is translating into game-changing plays on both sides of the ball. His 70 receiving yards Saturday led the team, and his touchdown spurred 23 unanswered points for the Buckeyes.
The California native said he’d rather block punts than catch touchdowns, but he’s doing both with increasing frequency.
“What is there not to like about him? He’s fast, he has great ball skills, he runs great routes, he’s smart,” Fields said. “Not all receivers have that smart decision-making ability.”
Bliss in Bloomington for Dobbins
How does one follow up a 141-yard, two-touchdown first half?
If you’re J.K. Dobbins, you torch the next defense for 185 total yards in the opening two quarters the following week.
Dobbins finished with a career-high 207 yards in just over one half of a game against Indiana, with 193 and a touchdown on the ground and another score through the air.
His previous high mark of 205 was set in his only other trip to Bloomington, which was his first game as a Buckeye two seasons ago.
After what Day called a “funky” first game for Dobbins against Florida Atlantic, the junior running back has increased his output each week and is now No. 4 in the nation with 425 rushing yards.
“He’s proven it,” Day said. “He’s proven he can be the bell cow. Coming off of last year, kind of splitting carries with Mike [Weber] he wanted to prove he can be that bell cow.”
Dobbins’ performance garnered him Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors, as well as Ohio State’s Offensive Player of the Week.
For a player who talked all offseason about returning to freshman form, Dobbins has exactly as many yards through three games as he did in his first season.
Paving the way
There’s a reason Dobbins had the game he had and redshirt freshman running back Master Teague could piece together his own 106-yard effort.
The offensive line is coming together, blowing defenders off the ball and opening running lanes.
In addition, Fields came under pressure a total of four times Saturday — many of them due to situations where he held the ball too long.
“It’s amazing. They’re blocking great,” Dobbins said. “[If] those guys keep going, this offense is gonna keep going.”
One thing aiding the offensive line is health. After concerns with junior offensive tackle Thayer Munford prior to the season, there’s been no major injury issues so far for the offensive linemen. That allows chemistry to develop and for the talents of the former four- and five-star recruits in the starting five to go on full display.
Ohio State is averaging 271 rushing yards per game this season, 94 more than in 2018.
You can’t run or hide from the Silver Bullets
Indiana rushed for 42 yards as a team Saturday, one week after Cincinnati junior running back Michael Warren, who accumulated more than 1,300 rushing yards in 2018, finished with 15 yards on 10 carries.
Ohio State’s run defense is a strength for the team, allowing 57 yards per game on the ground so far — more than 100 less than in 2018.
Leading the charge are junior defensive end Chase Young and senior linebacker Malik Harrison, topping the defense in sacks and tackles for loss, respectively. Harrison has laid a couple of big hits that motivated his teammates, establishing himself as a physical presence.
Depth along the defensive line is another key factor for the Buckeyes, with seven players rotating at defensive tackle. When at full health, five to six defensive ends will rotate.
Senior defensive end Jonathon Cooper, Ohio State’s regular starter opposite Young, has yet to play a down this season. That hasn’t stopped Ohio State’s ends from piling up nine combined sacks in his absence, showcasing their ability to rotate throughout a game.