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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - It was far from its best effort of the season and a game that was closer than anybody could have expected, but despite a slow start and a pesky opponent that wouldn't go away, the Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) football team managed to escape Bloomington with its undefeated record intact, thanks to a 52-49 win over Indiana. Following the game, Buckeyes players and coaches provided insight into their win over the Hoosiers, and what it means moving forward for Urban Meyer's first OSU squad.
After a sluggish first start, the Buckeyes found themselves trailing the Hoosiers by four points with less than six minutes remaining in the first half. That was before OSU cornerback Travis Howard broke free to block an Indiana punt, which was recovered in the end zone by fellow corner Bradley Roby to give the Buckeyes a 17-14 advantage.
"It was a great play," Howard said. "Our coaches always told us that they don't always block guys rushing, so I schemed 'em up, and got outside the guard, and I had a free rush and an easy punt block."
After recovering a botched snap in the end zone in OSU's opener against Miami (OH) and then returning an interception for a touchdown against Nebraska a week ago, Roby's touchdown on Saturday was his third in a season that has helped establish the third-year corner as one of the Buckeyes' top playmakers. Yet despite his efforts, Roby gave all of the credit to Howard for Saturday's big play.
"I kept telling (Howard), 'You changed the game, you changed the game.' Because after he got that punt block, we scored," Roby said. "That's what happens on punt blocks, it shifts the whole momentum of the game."
Numbers don't lie
After giving up 38 points to Nebraska a week ago, the Buckeyes again allowed more points than they would have liked to against Indiana, surrendering a season-high 49 points to the Hoosiers. Despite its victorious effort, Saturday's final score made for a somber atmosphere in the OSU locker room following the game.
"That's horrible," Roby said of the Buckeyes giving up 49 points to the Hoosiers. "We know the game wasn't like that, the final score shows that. We just got to work on some things."
Despite the OSU offense being his primary focus, Meyer said after the game that he will begin to play a more prominent role the Buckeyes' defensive game planning moving forward.
"I have to get more involved and find out what the issues are," Meyer said. "I don't think you can pinpoint one thing right now. I have got to find out. I am going to increase my involvement with the defense."
With the Heisman Trophy race wide open following West Virginia and Geno Smith's loss to Texas Tech, OSU quarterback Braxton Miller had himself a game, throwing for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and adding 149 more yards and another score on the ground. Miller's lone rushing touchdown came in the third quarter, on a 67-yard scamper, that will add to an already impressive highlight reel resume through the first seven games of the 2012 season.
"You couldn't have drawn it up better than that play," OSU right tackle Reid Fragel said. "Braxton said before, he said you guys better block this right now, and I'm going to take it to the house. He called it out and he did."
In what was one of this week's worst kept secrets, OSU fullback Zach Boren spent some of his time on Saturday playing middle linebacker for the Buckeyes, a move that Meyer said was necessitated by the broken fibula that Etienne Sabino suffered a week ago. In his defensive debut for the Buckeyes, Boren recorded a team-high eight tackles, in what was his first time lining up on that side of the ball since his high school days.
"He jumped right at it and really kind of changed practice," Meyer said of Boren. "He's an all for one, one for all type of guy. A very unselfish type of move by him."
Cause for concern
Big plays have plagued the Buckeyes' defense all season, and Saturday was no exception. In the first quarter, IU running back Stephen Houston ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run to give the Hoosiers their first score of the game.
"I wish I had the answer," Meyer said when asked of OSU's defensive woes. "That's not very good."
In the third quarter, the OSU defense gave up an even bigger play, allowing Cleveland native and Indiana receiver Shane Wynn to score on a 76-yard touchdown pass, to bring the Hoosiers within one score of the Buckeyes.
"It's all just based on us doing our job," Howard said. "We just have to make adjustments and work on the little things that we have to do to make our defense execute."
After the game, Meyer was clearly disappointed by his team's effort, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. That, however, didn't let the first-year OSU coach lose sight of the fact that he still remains unbeaten at his new job.
"Spread offenses are really exposing us right now. We have got to get something fixed," Meyer said. "We have got to get back to work. We got back 7-0 and we have got to find a way to get better as Purdue rolls into Ohio State next week."
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