Bloomington – Indiana’s inflatable mascot was just about the only thing in an IU uniform that didn’t get run over by the Buckeyes Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
With the halftime clock winding down, “Hoosier Man” hastily waddled his way off the field and narrowly avoided being overrun by Coach Jim Tressel’s team as they re-took the field. Bill Lynch’s team, though, wasn’t so lucky.
OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Buckeyes to a 33-14 win over Indiana in front of fairly evenly split crowd 51,500 at Memorial Stadium. Ohio State won its 16th consecutive Big Ten road game and improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten. Indiana, meanwhile, dropped to 3-2 and 0-2.
After out-rushing and out-gaining Michigan in a 36-33 loss last weekend, Indiana didn’t have similar success in a second consecutive match-up with a perennial Big Ten power. Instead, Ohio State’s dominated on both sides of the ball. Defensively, OSU limited IU to just 18 yards rushing and forced Ben Chappell into a pair of interceptions. Offensively, Buckeye tailback Brandon Saine rushed for 113 yards on 17 carries and Pryor totaled 222 yards of total offense and the four scores.
“They are a great football team and we knew that,” Lynch said. “We didn't play well enough, and they certainly did what they had to do to win.”
More often than not, when the Buckeyes needed a play they got one from Pryor. The 6’6”, 235-pound sophomore was particularly sharp in the first half and finished 16-of-27 for 159 yards passing. On the ground, Pryor added another 63 yards on 16 carries while shedding his share of blocks and converting several key third downs early on.
“He's a difference maker - I think that's the best way to put it,” Lynch said. “I don't know how many times he got them out of situations with his legs to get first downs. It was much the way we thought, he's a very difficult guy to tackle, because he can straight arm, he's allusive, and he never rushes himself either.”
Pryor and the Buckeyes dominated early, controlling the ball for nearly 12 minutes in the first quarter while opening a 10-0 lead. But Indiana responded with a Tandon Doss-led eight play, 80-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead to 10-7 early in the second quarter. Doss ran two times for 16 yards and caught three passes for 46 yards on the drive, capped by a seven-yard pass from Ben Chappell that ended a nine-quarter shutout streak for the Ohio State defense.
Indiana’s good fortune was short-lived. After a big kick-off return, Pryor ran for 14 yards for a first down, connected on an 18-yard pass for another new set of downs, and then hooked up with Devier Posey on a 23-yard touchdown pass to put Ohio State up 10, 17-7.
Indiana’s fortunes went from bad to worse at the end of the quarter. The Hoosiers were near midfield with a little more than two minutes before when Chappell zipped an ill-advised throw into the lap of Buckeye defensive lineman Todd Denlinger. Denlinger returned the first of Chappell’s two interceptions 14 yards to the IU 38, and four plays later Pryor threw his third touchdown of the half, this time from eight yards out to Zach Boren.
That left Indiana in the position of trying to play catch-up the entire second half, and nothing materialized offensively.
“They are a great defense and we knew that going in,” Lynch said. “That's as good a defense as there is in America. When you get behind and then you have to do some things that you don't really want to do.”
The Hoosiers only deep penetration into OSU territory came on the game’s final drive following a fumble by back-up OSU quarterback Joe Bauserman. Chappell eventually connected with Matt Ernest on a five-yard touchdown pass as the game clock expired.
While the late inconsequential touchdown might have made things look a little better on the scoreboard, it didn’t erase the fact that Indiana was able to do very little offensively against the Buckeyes. After running for 152 yards against Michigan a week ago, Darius Willis was held to 23 yards on 11 carries before departing early in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a right ankle injury. Chappell, meanwhile, was 20-of-34 for 210 yards and the two scores, but he was sacked three times, was pressured plenty of others, and threw the two interceptions that proved costly.
“They are a solid defense, no question. We moved the ball on them that one drive and we had some other opportunities and I missed some throws,” Chappell said.