Tom Allen stared at the ground and paced away from the south end zone, holding his hands on his hips. J.K. Dobbins had just scored a 26-yard touchdown, breaking five tackles on his way to the end zone.
It was the same pose he maintained throughout the game, pacing back and forth between the 35 yard lines.
Allen put it quite simply in his first words in the post game press conference.
“Rough day for the Hoosiers.”
Everything that could go wrong had. Haydon Whitehead had a 12-yard punt. The running game totaled just 42 yards and the defense being carved up by an Ohio State defense led by a Heisman contending quarterback and a bulldozer of a running back.
“We got off to a bad start and people starting hanging their heads,” tight end Peyton Hendershot said.
IU fell behind by 27 late in the second quarter on the Dobbins touchdown run, gray bleachers emerging from rows of red as fans returned to their tailgates.
Allen continued to pace in the second half as the Buckeyes cruised past the Hoosiers each trip up and down the field. IU was out-gained 528-257, never leading and only competing for a short burst in the first quarter, as Indiana fell at home 51-10.
“They played at a high level today and we didn’t match it,” Allen said.
During Monday’s press conference, Allen said that facing Ohio State would show how far IU had closed the gap against the top of the Big Ten. After Saturday’s result, it’s rather clear that the gap is still open wide.
Allen has brought in the top two recruiting classes in school history in consecutive years. But he didn’t have the quarterback that had given the offense a spark a year ago against Penn State in Bloomington — and during the first two weeks of the 2019 season. Michael Penix missed the game with what is believed to be an injury to his left shoulder.
His absence was obvious every time backup quarterback Peyton Ramsey threw the ball. The velocity and strength of Penix simply wasn’t reciprocated, as Ramsey ran the same plays of a Kalen DeBoer offense better fit to the skillset of his younger counterpart.
Instead, it was under thrown passes alongside a rushing game that had just nine total yards in the first half, Ramsey being the leading rusher.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 14, 2019
The difference was at no point more evident than a 96-yard Damon Arnette pick-six in the third quarter, a pass intended for Hendershot lacking the zip of a Penix throw.
IU’s only touchdown came on a 49-yard Hendershot reception, on a ball not even thrown by Ramsey. Instead it came on a tick play — a backwards throw to Donavan Hale before Hale found a wide open Hendershot in front of the IU sideline.
Without a healthy Penix, it wasn’t the test case Allen said it would be Monday. Without the quarterback Allen recruited, one of the highest rated in school history, there’s only so much to take away. A game without a healthy roster and the quarterback which IU will rely on for years to come didn’t show much ground IU has made up, if any at all. Instead it was the most lopsided home loss in IU history against Ohio State.
For Allen, the loss showed the opposite — how far his team still needs to go.
“I said today was going to show us a lot, well you know what it wasn’t in a way that I wanted,” Allen said. “But we’re still going to find out some things about the Hoosiers.”
The Indiana running game struggled yet again in the loss, totaling 42 yards. Sampson James and Ramsey tied for the team lead with 14 rushing yards. Stevie Scott had nine yards on six carries.
The struggles on offense go alongside a defense that reverted to the same poor tackling seen against Ball State, unable to bring down Dobbins as he rushed for 193 yards. Justin Fields only completed 14 passes for 199 yards, but still had four total touchdowns, three passing and one rushing.
It was a performance emphasizing the type of jump IU had to make between Eastern Illinois and Ohio State, and how Tom Allen’s group fell short of doing so. Well short.
“With the effort we expect to play with, people should be getting put on the ground as soon as first contact is made because we have 11 bodies swarming to the ball,” linebacker Reakown Jones said.
Indiana came in with momentum; Hendershot said the team felt confident after the blowout win over Eastern Illinois. But the team didn’t make the jump, and after a slow start, it couldn’t recover.
“I understand the team we just played, there’s about eight teams in the country that look like those guys,” Allen said. “I coached in two of the conferences that have most of those teams in it. I can say with eye witness eyes that that’s one of the teams.”
There was no word on when Penix will be back. Allen said it won’t be long, but still, no further details were given. Over and over, Allen said it just wasn’t good enough.
For him, it wasn’t about winning right now, despite that still being his desire. It was about seeing how his team compared. It didn’t compare the way he wanted or expected. Lacking his starting quarterback certainly factored in.
“I feel like I have a pretty good perspective on this program, where this program has been and where we’re trying to get this program,” Allen said. “To me, losses like this obviously are very disappointing, but I have a big picture. We’re trying to build a long term program.”
The long-term program relies on the youth of the record recruiting classes. That wasn’t what was displayed Saturday. It might not be this year.
Allen was frustrated on the sidelines. He saw what he needed to see.
IU knows how far it still has to go.