Ohio State Buckeyes: Indiana game could be decided by familiar themes

Coaches emphasize quarterbacks, trenches in Big Ten battle

Football coaches always say playing four quarters is an important part of winning games.

That might ring more true this year for Ohio State.

While the third-ranked Buckeyes have outscored their opponents 80-23 in the first half of their three games the margin is just 59-36 in the second.

Although No. 9 Indiana has also been better in the first half than the second, Ohio State coach Ryan Day and his players emphasized the need to be ready for a four-quarter fight Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

“It’s a challenge every time we play a game, but the way that they’re playing and the way that they’ve won games, our margin of error gets smaller and smaller,” Day said. “So they played last week again and they played really, really well. They shut out Michigan State, created some turnovers and played well. They’ve been playing really really well, so we’ve got to be ready to go right from the get go, and then we’ve got to build on it and play four quarters. The whole idea is to get the game into the fourth quarter win it in the fourth quarter.”

Here are four more things to know about the game:

1. Playing in front of no fans adds a different dynamic.

Ohio State’s level of play seemed to drop off in the second half of their last two games — wins at Penn State and at home against Rutgers — and some of that could have been attributable to the challenge of getting fired back up after halftime when there were few fans in the stands providing energy.

This week Ohio Stadium figures to be even quieter as even family and close friends are barred from attending as an added measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I think having an empty stadium is going to be just one more thing we’ll have to deal with, but when you’re on the field and you’re rolling you’ve really got to just focus on the game, bring your own energy,” Day said. “And we knew that there was going to be different obstacles along the way. There was going to be more adversity that comes up. And here’s another one, we talked about seems like we have another one each week. And, and this is just another one that we have to handle better than our opponents, so the stadium will be the same for both teams.”

Brad Myers, whose son Josh is Ohio State’s starting center, said he was not surprised this eventually happened given the recent rise in positive cases of coronavirus.

“To be honest with you, initially I felt like we were lucky to get to go to any of them,” Brad Myers said. “It just sort of is what it is. I mean, it stinks, but I get it, too. I think we’ve just tried to keep it in perspective. There are folks losing businesses and family members and loved ones and friends and your heart goes out to them.”

2. The noon start is preferable to playing at night.

Some of the “energy issues” could have been exacerbated by the last two games starting in prime time. If so, that won’t be a problem this week with the Buckeyes and Hoosiers expected to kick off just after noon.

“I think so, especially this time of year,” Day said. “The sun’s on you a little bit more, and just waiting around all day is something that none of us really love. If it’s going to be a packed house and an electric environment that’s one thing, but it’s all the same. I think some of us would prefer playing earlier.”

3. Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has Day’s respect.

“Well, I think he’s really playing mistake-free,” Day said of the quarterback who has completed 91 of 150 passes for 1,070 yards and nine touchdowns.

He has thrown three interceptions and run for two touchdowns.

“He’s making a lot of plays,” Day said. “He keeps them on schedule. He’s made some really big-time throws in tight spots, and he’s fearless.

“You’ve gotta give him a lot of credit right now. He’s playing almost perfectly, and so that’s a big challenge for us. I think he’s a very competitive player, you can tell, and he’s got some really good weapons around him.”

4. Indiana coach Tom Allen looks for the game to be decided at the line of scrimmage.

Although Allen called Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields “arguably the best quarterback in the country,” he looked at an area that often determines who wins Big Ten games: The trenches.

“I do not think you can overstate the value of that because it all starts and stops there,” Allen said. “If you cannot establish physicality at the line of scrimmage, that makes running the football very difficult and then throwing the football very difficult as well. There is a reason why we emphasize that area and everybody else does too. You have to be able to control the line of scrimmage, have a little physicality there, and it has to continue. We have to continue to elevate, build off of what we have done in the past and rise to the challenge.”


Indiana at Ohio State, Noon, Fox, 1410

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