Saturday was supposed to be a golden opportunity for the Hoosiers.
A chance to upset the Buckeyes for the first time since 1988, a chance to cement themselves as a program on the rise, a chance to set the tone for the rest of the year.
In reality, it proved to be a rude awakening for a young Indiana team on the reality of the Big Ten. Ohio State looked like the class of the conference and the college football playoff contender they were expected to be, while the Hoosiers looked like a team that wasn’t ready for the big stage.
Granted, this was a shorthanded Hoosiers squad with Michael Penix Jr., the young freshmen quarterback who had earned the hearts of Hoosier fans due to his big arm and knack for big plays, missing the game with an undisclosed injury. In his place, Indiana turned to the veteran Peyton Ramsey, the all-time leader in completion percentage at Indiana.
The improved depth was supposed to be one of the main hopes for an improved Indiana football team this season, yet that depth was found lacking against the Buckeyes. Without the big arm of Penix, Ohio State crowded the line of scrimmage and dared Ramsey to beat them over the top, and the Indiana offense didn’t prove up to the challenge.
In all fairness to Ramsey, his troubles were just one of many for the Hoosiers today. Stevie Scott and the Indiana running offense never got going, racking up just 42 yards on 31 carries. The defensive struggles were just as pronounced throughout the afternoon, surrendering 520 yards of total offense, including 193 yards on the ground to Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins on just 22 carries.
There’s no way around it, the Buckeyes dominated this game from start to finish, and the Hoosiers found themselves outmatched in nearly every facet of the game. If the Buckeyes were meant to be a measuring stick to see where the Hoosiers stand in the Big Ten, then Indiana will have their work cut out for them moving forward.
Now the Hoosiers will have to turn their sights to the Connecticut Huskies, who will visit Bloomington for a September 21st showdown. As disappointing of a performance as it was against the Buckeyes, it should provide Indiana with plenty of learning material to improve as a team moving forward, and if the Hoosiers want to fulfill their potential, that improvement will be crucial.
“We learn what we learn from this, and flush it,” IU coach Tom Allen said.
After such a disappointing performance, flushing it may be easier said than done.