COLUMBUS, OH — Hello from Columbus, where Indiana is yet again very much in the ballgame. The Hoosiers went down 14-3 but responded quite well to an early deficit. Here are a few of my takeaways from the first half, and where I think this game is headed:
A Whole New Offense
I’ve spent probably 70 percent of my coverage this season on Indiana’s offense, and for good reason. It was seen as the strength for the Hoosiers in the offseason, and has been fascinatingly inconsistent. That continued today, as Peyton Ramsey emerged in his best Richard Lagow impression — firing downfield and aside from a pair of overthrows, was generally effective. He found Peyton Hendershot for a 32-yard touchdown on a beautiful fake reverse play, and then Nick Westbrook via a 19-yard back shoulder score. J-Shun Harris also made one of the best catches you’ll see this season.
Indiana’s offense was innovative, creative, and explosive in the first half. It picked apart a spotty Ohio State secondary. There’s credit in a lot of places here, but most of it should go towards IU’s offensive line. The Buckeyes did not register a QB hurry once on Ramsey in the first half. There was enough time for Indiana’s receivers to get downfield, and enough time for Ramsey to find them. The Hoosiers threw the ball 29 times, to ten runs. That’s not usually a recipe for success, at least historically for Indiana, but it was effective early on today. Win or lose in Columbus, that’s a very good sign for the bigger picture. Because if Indiana can expand vertically against the likes of Iowa next week, it’s an entirely different team. There’s simply more dimensions.
Westbrook has emerged today, mostly due to IU’s strong offensive line play. At the end of the day, Westbrook’s role in this IU offense is being a vertical weapon. Well, he hasn’t had enough time to get vertical with spotty offensive line play against the likes of Michigan State and Rutgers last week. He has today, and that’s attributed to three receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown in that first half. He is Indiana’s most complete receiver, and producing flashbacks to his 2016 season.
The Dwayne Haskins Field Day
Hoo-boy, Dwayne Haskins is 19-of-22 for 243 yards and three touchdowns today. Indiana hasn’t generated any pressure on him besides Cam Jones‘ hit that forced the Devon Matthews interception. With endless time in the pocket, Haskins simply waits for his speedy receivers to become open. You saw that with Parris Campbell’s 18-yard touchdown reception. Indiana’s linebackers just don’t have any shot there. The Hoosiers will have to create pressure up front. Ohio State has not punted today, and it’s been takeaway-or-bust from Indiana. As good as IU’s offense has been today, I’m not sure if it can put up 45+ points. And that’s what it will take to win, at least.
Other than the Matthews’ interception, Brandon Wilson forced a very nice strip in the first half as well. We’ll see how both teams make their adjustments at halftime — because both teams are in need of them. It’s been a classic toe-to-toe matchup between Indiana and Ohio State. But historically, and at least recently, the Buckeyes have pulled away in the third quarter when the Hoosiers run out of gas. We’re going to find out just how deep this IU team is.
A reminder that Ohio State will get starting safety Isaiah Pryor back for the second half. He was suspended for the first half after a targeting call against Penn State. The Buckeyes’ secondary is this team’s weakness.
Logan Justus continues to be reliable for the Hoosiers, and I’d suspect Allen is feeling more confident in his kicking game by the week. IU’s kicker has not missed this year (one block), and was good from 37-yards twice in Columbus today.
Ohio State will receive the ball to begin the second half. Talk to you all via Twitter, @ByTeddyBailey.