The Hoosiers in Memorial Stadium were chanting “over-rated, over-rated” as Ohio State’s Parris Campbell caught a pass on a drag route. Up 21-20 with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter, they wanted to believe a little longer that their hometown side could spring the impossible upset. They’d been believing in the most optimistic regions of their souls all offseason. What was twenty minutes of timed play more?
They stopped chanting by the time Campbell reach the end zone 74 yards later. Indiana’s lead was gone. It would not return. Ohio State would add three more touchdowns and finish with a lopsided 49-21 edge. The history books will not accurately convey the snugness.
Urban Meyer and the second-ranked Buckeyes won’t care. It took longer to close than some expected, but his team conducted business on this precarious season-opening business trip. They live to fight another day. They’ll go into their next practice with national title hopes burning just as bright.
There will be serious questions to address. Senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, though piloting an offense to 49 points, was underwhelming. He struggled with accuracy and his stats were buoyed by long runs after the catch from Campbell and Johnnie Dixon. Of course, lamenting over a 20-for-35, 305-yard, 3 touchdown night free of turnovers is a first-world exercise. Ohio State, once again, is a first-world program.
The Buckeyes were buoyed by true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins, who rushed 29 times for 181 yards while filling in for Mike Weber, who was nursing a sore hamstring out of precaution. It’s nice to have options. They were lifted by a defense that bowed its neck in the second half and turned Indiana’s Richard Legow from a world-beater to an overmatched and overworked piñata while holding the Hoosiers to 17 total rushing yards on 27 attempts.
It took 40 minutes for the Buckeyes to work the kinks out yet looked like a well-oiled machine by the final whistle. A date with Oklahoma in Columbus looms. The mistakes they overcame against a plucky Indiana team could prove fatal against the Baker Mayfield-led Sooners.
If the Ohio State of the late-third and fourth quarter shows up, they’ll be just fine. And really, for all Barrett’s shakiness, his results speak for themselves. So too does the final scoreline.
Overrated? Maybe slightly. The victorious O-H-I-O chant should help take some of the sting out of those words. Ohio State’s first step on this journey may have been awkward, but they got up to speed when it mattered.