Ohio State Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer was in a joking mood after a 49-21 victory over Indiana on Thursday.
Asked who his start running back would be next week against Oklahoma — the freshman J.K. Dobbins, who starred in the season opener, or the incumbent starter Mike Weber, who missed the game with an injury — Meyer said, “J.K. Weber.”
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Meyer’s mood changed quickly in the second half as the Buckeyes erased Indiana’s upset hopes with a flurry of big plays. No one will remember years from now how poorly the Buckeyes played in the first half or how great Indiana’s upset hopes looked midway through the third quarter. They will remember only a 28-point victory, Ohio State’s 22nd victory in a row over the Hoosiers.
“We’ll take 1-0 on the road,” Meyer said. “A Big Ten victory. Much compliments and respect to our opponent like we always have against Indiana. The third quarter was the change in the game. I thought J.T. (Barrett) still misfired on some deep balls, but the crossing routes were working big for us.”
Here are five takeaways from the first game of Ohio State’s 128th season:
1. Dobbins’ debut: Dobbins rushed for 181 yards on 29 carries, breaking the Ohio State freshman record of 175 yards set by Maurice Clarett against Texas Tech in 2002.
Dobbins became the sixth true freshman to start the first game of the season, joining quarterback Art Schlichter (1978), left tackle Orlando Pace (1995), linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer (1996), Clarett and right guard Michael Jordan (2016).
“I’m not surprised at all,” Meyer said of Dobbins. “I kind of tempered my emotions with (the media) early on. We’ve seen that since spring practice. He’s had a hell of a camp. Mike Weber could have went tonight. He’s about 80 percent. He’s on call. We get Mike back next week, and that’s going to be a nice one-two punch.”
2. Barrett’s comeback: Barrett completed 10 of 21 passes for 95 yards in the first half and 10 of 14 for 209 yards in the second half. He threw three touchdown passes and also rushed for a score.
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Ohio State trailed 21-20 at the 4:56 mark in the third quarter. Then Barrett threw three touchdowns in the next eight minutes: 74 yards to Parris Campbell; 59 yards to Johnnie Dixon; and 11 yards to Binjimen Victor.
Barrett became Ohio State’s all-time record for total offense, passing Art Schlichter. Barrett has 8,851 yards.
“I thought we operated in the second half faster,” Barrett said. “You could see the defensive guys not being able to get set. With older experienced guys, whether it’s receivers, O-line and tight ends, the conversation is better on the sideline with adjustments.
3. Almost a hero: Wayne grad Robert Landers, a redshirt sophomore defensive tackle, made one of the plays of the night, picking up a fumble and returning it 35 yards for a touchdown.
The score would have given Ohio State a 26-14 lead, but on review, the play was overturned because Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow’s hand was moving forward when he lost the ball.
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Even though it didn’t count, the sight of the 6-foot-1, 283-pound Landers rumbling down the field and shedding tacklers at the goal line will be long remembered.
“That was a touchdown,” defensive end Tyquan Lewis said. “I’m jogging. I’m laughing the whole way there. I don’t think nobody thought anything like that would happen. We were all laughing on the field. I was even looking at the Indiana players, and they were laughing. It was probably the funniest thing I’ve seen on the football field.”
4. Defensive problems: Lagow threw for 410 yards, completing 40 of 65 passes. He threw three touchdown passes and was intercepted twice.
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Lagow did most of his damage in the first half as the Hoosiers built a 14-13 halftime lead, but he showed Ohio State how much work it has to do before it plays No. 7 Oklahoma in its second game at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at Ohio Stadium.
“Our defense was exposed big time in the first half,” Meyer said. “Pass defense was awful. It wasn’t complicated. They were just picking on corners, so the corners have got to step up. We see what’s coming in eight days, nine days, whatever that is: Oklahoma. If we don’t get that right, it’s a problem.”
5. Missed chance: The Hoosiers had the Buckeyes on their heels in the third quarter and then went 3-and-out, lost a fumble and threw an interception on next four drives.
Although Lagow had success passing the ball, Indiana couldn’t get anything going on the ground. The Hoosiers gained 17 yards on 27 carries, an average of 0.6 yards per rush. Ohio State rushed for 292 yards, averaging 5.7 yards.
“We just played a great football team,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “There's no other way to put it. I coached in the SEC, and that's the kind of team we wanted to play about every week, especially the elite ones. The speed that they have and the size that they have is pretty special. So hats off to them. I’m disappointed in the finish. Very proud of our start to the game and most of the third quarter. But there's no consolation in that.”