Against the No. 2 team in the nation, IU decided on a conservative game plan.
It was flawed from the start.
At times it felt as if IU was ramming its head up against a wall. Again and again, IU ran the ball on first and second down for little yardage.
The second, third and fourth drives of the second quarter exemplified this. IU tried using three different running backs on first down runs, but no one could find any openings.
Instead of going away from what was clearly not working, IU insisted on playing conservatively and attempted to get into a close fourth quarter game against Ohio State.
“They are really good, and they are going to out-number you and play man coverage on the outside,” Wilson said. “So it’s one-on-one plays and its hard running. We just felt that if we got one dimensional, it would be easier for them to get after the quarterback and harass us. With the way the crowd can go here, you see a lot of games than get away.”
Ohio State has one of the best pass defenses in the country, but that doesn’t mean opponents don’t try to attack it, especially on first down when they don’t think Ohio State is going to pass.
Too many times, junior quarterback Richard Lagow was forced to throw against the Buckeye secondary on long third downs because of the conservative play calling on early downs. Lagow is a good quarterback, and not letting him air it out on early downs was a questionable decision.
It’s understandable IU wanted to get the game into the fourth quarter like it did last week against Michigan State, but Ohio State was a different animal. It was going to take aggression to beat the Buckeyes.
And the running plays were not inventive.
Too many times the Hoosiers tried to run inside against the stout running defense — there weren’t many misdirections or jet sweeps, which could have been more effective.
Even with IU playing conservatively, it remained in the game until the fourth quarter and had a chance to cut the lead to seven with just over ten minutes left in the game.
On the biggest play of the game, on fourth and goal from the one, IU decided to run directly into the teeth of the Buckeye defense with junior Devine Redding. OSU stuffed him. There was nowhere to go.
“We had been spreading them, and we needed a yard,” Wilson said. “We went to a bigger set, and we thought we could hit a crease on a big boy diagonal.”
They talked about going play-action, but they decided to go with a traditional, smash-mouth approach that hadn’t worked all day.
The running game wasn’t going to win the Hoosiers the game — IU rushed for less than 2.5 yards-per-carry on 40 rushes. Nothing the Hoosiers did on the ground worked, and it didn’t work when the game was on the line.
Why go back to a well if the well never had water to begin with?
It was going to take some explosive plays to beat this Ohio State team. Those were coming in the passing game and not the running game. The Hoosiers played the Buckeyes tight, but their lack of aggression was never going to allow them to get over the hump.
Urban Meyer hasn’t lost a game at Ohio State in October — conservative play calling wasn’t going to beat that streak.
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