| USA TODAY
Indiana intercepted Justin Fields twice, sacked Fields twice and struck on a 68-yard completion.
With the score tied 7-7 in the second quarter, the Hoosiers looked capable of pulling off a mammoth upset in the Big Ten, one that would’ve stood as perhaps the best victory in program history — easily the program’s most important victory in decades — and rewritten the College Football Playoff debate just days before the selection committee meets to unveil the first rankings of the regular season.
Ohio State’s next three drives: 24 plays, 244 yards and three scores. The Buckeyes’ opening drive of the second half traveled 75 yards on six plays to make it 35-7.
Left in the dust, IU climbed back behind quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who threw for 495 yards and five touchdowns to bolster a growing case for the Heisman Trophy, before losing 42-35. The Hoosiers are the first Big Ten opponent to play OSU within 10 points since Maryland on Nov. 17, 2018.
There may be several teams in the Big Ten and elsewhere capable of trading blows with Ohio State for a quarter or so — heck, even Nebraska drew even at 14-14 about midway through the second quarter last month. An opponent who is capable of hanging around for 60 minutes is harder to find.
The Hoosiers played well. The running game sputtered, as it has all season, but the offense took advantage of an Ohio State secondary that has failed to meet expectations through four games. Fields ended up tossing three interceptions, tying his career total heading across 476 attempts heading into the weekend.
Most of all, IU was not intimidated by an opponent that has lapped the field in the Big Ten and owned the series for more than a half-century.
In the end, Indiana had the ball with a chance to tie on the game’s final full possession. That’s less a remark on OSU, which is still the team to beat in the conference and a favorite for the playoff, than a statement to Indiana’s development under coach Tom Allen and the program’s chances of making a major bowl for the first time since the 1967 season.
Here are the rest of Saturday’s winners and losers:
The Chanticleers scored the game’s final 12 points and beat Appalachian State 34-23 to remain unbeaten and in the mix for the New Year’s Six bowl bid given to the best team from the Group of Five. The victory also signals a shift in the Sun Belt, which has been owned by Appalachian State. If not the prettiest performance of his terrific freshman season, Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall threw for 200 yards, ran for 69 yards and accounted for three touchdowns.
Down 21-7 at halftime to Georgia Southern and trailing 27-21 after three quarters, Army scored the go-ahead touchdown with eight minutes left in the fourth and held on for a 28-27 victory. This is by far the Black Knights’ best win of the season, which before Saturday consisted of victories against Middle Tennessee State, winless Louisiana-Monroe, Texas-San Antonio and three opponents from the Championship Subdivision. Army won despite making just pass attempt,
The Cornhuskers have hit a series of new lows in the nearly 20 years since the program was last nationally relevant. Saturday’s 41-23 loss to Illinois is the latest rock-bottom moment for Nebraska and the clear low point of coach Scott Frost’s tenure, which four games into his third season is completely devoid of the hype and optimism that greeted his arrival. With no identity, a sputtering offense and a consistently underachieving defense, Nebraska’s immediate future looks dim.
The Buckeyes’ march to a Big Ten championship and spot in the national semifinals continues. What about Fields’ odds at the Heisman? They shouldn’t take a huge hit after Saturday, but he didn’t help his case by throwing those three interceptions. Not that he played poorly: Fields still had 378 yards of offense and three touchdowns. That’s a poor game only when compared to how the junior had looked in wins against Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers.