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Ground game hurts IU on both sides of the ball



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Running back Devonte Williams, a sophomore, receives a kick and fights to get through the Buckeye defense. IU lost to No. 2 Ohio State 49-21, while rushing for just 17 yards during the game. Katie Franke Buy Photos

At Memorial Stadium on Thursday night, it would have been easy to confuse some Ohio State players for FedEx delivery men.

Just as the delivery service sends mail via ground shipments, the Ohio State ground game punished IU in every way possible, and on both sides of the ball.

No. 2 Ohio State's 49-21 victory saw the Buckeyes record 292 team rushing yards. Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins was particularly troublesome, rushing for 181 yards by himself.

It was a jolting experience for an IU rush defense that made great strides in 2016 under Coach Tom Allen.

"I thought the effort was there," senior linebacker Tegray Scales said. "It was just miscommunication. They made great adjustments, and we didn't."

Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer said the performance from Dobbins wasn't even the best possible showing from his running back.

"J.K. has even more in the tank," Meyer said. "I don't think he had a big hit today. His long was only 35 yards."

Senior Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett also gashed the Hoosier defense on multiple occasions, posting 61 rushing yards and scoring one rushing touchdown. 

Barrett kept the IU defense honest with a solid passing performance as well, throwing for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns.

Scales, who posted a game-high 12 tackles, said after the game that Barrett was one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Barrett had success on quarterback draws and read-option plays throughout the night.

"He was up for the task, and he did what he did," Scales said. "He is who he is, and he has great coaches up top – that was helping him."

Recent meetings between Ohio State and IU indicated the Buckeyes would have success running the ball. The last four times IU has played Ohio State, the Buckeyes have recorded at least 225 rushing yards.

In those last four meetings, IU never recorded fewer than 99 rushing yards itself, until Thursday night.

The Hoosier offense struggled mightily in the run game, posting only 17 rushing yards.

Lagow was forced to carry the bulk of the IU offensive workload as a result. He attempted an IU-record 65 passes during the game.

"We have to run the football, and that's going to be a huge priority for us," Allen said. "But it was – there wasn't the same matchups up front that you like to have each week."

IU entered the game without a clear feature back and tried a running back by committee system during the game.

Junior Mike Majette started the game and received seven carries, but averaged less than one yard per rush.

Freshman Cole Gets and sophomore Devonte Williams also saw limited time at running back, while IU's leading rusher, freshman Morgan Ellison, recorded his 24 yards while the game was out of reach in the fourth quarter. 

Allen attributed some of IU's struggles on the ground to the talent possessed by the Ohio State defensive line.

"Talking to their guys, they think they got five first-round draft picks over there," Allen said. "That's not normal."

IU will look to see if it can improve its run-game woes, on both sides of the ball.

"I don't know exactly what happened," Scales said. "They made plays when we didn't."

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