“It starts up front and it ends up front.”
That was Tom Allen’s assessment of Indiana’s struggles in the running game, but it could have just as well been his entire description of Ohio State’s 51-10 win over Indiana on Saturday afternoon in Bloomington.
And it might be the story of the 2019 season if something doesn’t change.
Whether you want to point to the Buckeyes 314 rushing yards or Indiana’s 42, both highlight the same glaring issue coming out of Saturday’s blowout in Bloomington.
IU isn’t Big Ten ready in the trenches.
“The bottom line is you have to run the football on offense, and stop the run on defense, and we didn’t do either one of those today,” Allen continued.
While Saturday’s blowout loss magnified the issues with the running game, the indicators were there during the first two weeks of the season.
IU entered the weekend with the 94th rushing offense in the country, a standing that will surely fall after Saturday’s performance.
An inability to gain significant yards against Ball State and Eastern Illinois was concerning. After Ohio State, the IU run game is a giant red flag signaling a significant imbalance in the offense.
Allen recognizes the glaring problem.
“It’s (the run game) not good enough,” Allen said. “I know they (Ohio State) had a lot to do with that today, but at the same time three games in you’ve got a chance to get a pretty decent test case of where you’re at, and it’s got to be more effective, there’s no doubt about it.”
Redshirt junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey has seen the Hoosiers run the ball much better in recent years. He pointed to in-game adjustments as a possible solution.
“Obviously we gotta be better (running the ball),” Ramsey said. “It’s coming to the sideline, making adjustments, maybe getting different looks that we didn’t see.”
Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier
Against inferior competition IU was able to compensate for an ineffective rushing attack with an aerial assault.
Ohio State’s front presented something of a reality check with that aspect of the IU offense as well.
“He (Ramsey) didn’t get a lot of time to throw at times,” Allen said. “The bottom line is we have to protect him better.”
OSU had five sacks on the day and had Ramsey on the run seemingly the entire afternoon.
Ramsey, who was inserted this week for injured starter Michael Penix knew to be ready for the collapsing pocket against the Buckeyes.
“Any time you play Ohio State, your time is not going to be as long,” Ramsey said. “As a quarterback, you go into this game knowing that.”
Perhaps Indiana could have kept things closer on Saturday if their struggles in the trenches were confined to one side of the football.
The Buckeyes had not one but two 100 yard rushers on the day to go with a gaudy 7.7 yards per carry average as a team.
Perhaps it just felt that way, but IU linebacker Reakwon Jones attributed Ohio State’s success in part to good film study and preparation.
“They knew some of the things how we were going to attack them and they took advantage of it,” Jones said.
Both Jones and Allen pointed to tackling once again as a point of concern. Allen referred to missed tackles as maybe the biggest disappointment of the game — which is saying something.
“I want to really just go back and find out in this game exactly who and how and get some answers on that because to me that’s (tackling) just where it all starts,” Allen said.
But many of IU’s missed tackles seemed to be after Ohio State had created space to get its runners in the open field. That’s a place where the Buckeye athletes can make anyone look bad.
The genesis of Indiana’s struggles stopping the run seemed to be up front, as the Ohio State backs surged through gaping holes and got going downhill before they met their first resistance.
Indiana’s “Swarm D” looked more in retreat mode than attack, and much of that seemed to stem from a Buckeye push up front that had the Hoosiers on their heels.
“There’s about eight teams in the country that look like those guys do,” Allen said after the game referring to Ohio State’s size in the trenches.
While that may be true, most of the remaining schedule is going to approximate Ohio State’s size and strength up front much more so than Eastern Illinois and Ball State.
Indiana needs to find answers in the trenches here sooner than later.
If not, there’s going to be about eight teams on the 2019 schedule that hand the Hoosiers a loss.
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