COLUMBUS, Ohio — After climbing to its highest Associated Press top 25 poll ranking in more than a half century, No. 9 Indiana got a chance find out how it measured up with Big Ten behemoth Ohio State, a team the Hoosiers hadn’t beaten in 32 years.
They came up short but sure made it interesting — and a lot closer than the No. 3 Buckeyes would have liked
Behind quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (Tampa Bay Tech), Indiana (4-1) rallied from a four-touchdown deficit in the second half only to be outlasted by the Buckeyes 42-35 on a rainy Saturday in an all-but-empty Ohio Stadium.
“You know, people didn’t think we belonged on the field with Ohio State, but I think we showed that today,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “I think we’re a good football team, a really good football team.”
The Buckeyes (4-0) were happy to get out of there with a win after leading 35-7 early in the second half and allowing Indiana to climb back to within one score. Two weeks ago, Ohio State led 35-3 at halftime and were outscored 24-14 in the second half in a win over Rutgers.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to close out games,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “This is kind of the second week now we let a team hang around a little bit, and we’ve got to get that fixed. But (there were) so many great things in this game. Indiana is a good team, they’re a top-10 team so this was not easy.”
The Buckeyes defense in the second half struggled to slow down Penix, who had the best statistical day of his career — 27 for 51 for a career-high 491 yards and five touchdowns.
Penix passed for four touchdowns in the second half but also made a critical error, tossing an interception that Ohio State’s Shaun Wade returned for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter. The game might have been different if it wasn’t for that.
The running game helped Ohio State maintain control when things were getting dicey.
Master Teague ran for a career-high 169 yards and two touchdowns, and Justin Fields accounted for three scores as the Buckeyes amassed 607 yards of offense.
Fields was 18-for-30 for 300 yards and two touchdown passes, but he also threw his first three interceptions of the season and was sacked five times. He ran for 78 yards and a touchdown.
“Of course I made bad decisions,” Fields said. “I ended up with three picks but we got the W today. That’s all that matters. We got the W, and we’re 4-0.”
Garrett Wilson had seven catches for 169 yards — his fourth straight game of 100-plus yards — and two scores for the Buckeyes.
Penix had a great day but came up just short of being able to dig the Hoosiers out of the hole and Indiana has now lost 26 straight to the Buckeyes.
“I loved what I saw today, but obviously we didn’t get the result wanted, so it hurts,” Penix said.