With the score tied 7-7 early in the second quarter and Justin Fields struggling more than he ever had before in his Ohio State career, the Buckeyes needed their running backs to step up on Saturday against Indiana.
That’s exactly what they did, especially Master Teague.
On the Buckeyes’ subsequent possession after the Hoosiers tied the game, Teague broke through the Indiana defense for a 41-yard touchdown run, his longest – and the longest by any Ohio State running back – of the season to date.
He powered into the end zone for a 2-yard score on Ohio State’s next possession, and by the end of the game, Teague had rushed for a career-high 169 yards on 26 attempts, also a career-high, while averaging a season-high 6.5 yards per carry.
Teague was in the crosshairs of some criticism from Ohio State fans early in the season after he rushed for just 41 yards on 12 carries in the Buckeyes’ season opener against Nebraska. But he’s gotten better as the season has progressed to establish himself as Ohio State’s top tailback this season, and he felt like he had his best performance yet on Saturday.
“I feel like I got in a good groove, and was able to make plays and help the team win, come to a victory, so I feel good about that,” Teague said.
As Teague’s workload increased, No. 2 tailback Trey Sermon’s workload decreased, as he got a season-low nine carries on Saturday. Yet even in a smaller role, the graduate transfer running back from Oklahoma had his best game so far as a Buckeye, too.
Sermon gained 60 yards on those nine carries for an average of 6.7 yards per attempt, his best average through four games in scarlet and gray, and added a 13-yard catch. Most significantly, Sermon came through with a crucial third-down conversion on Ohio State’s final possession of the game when he ran for a 6-yard gain on 3rd-and-4, which allowed the Buckeyes – leading by only seven points – to run the clock down to less than a minute and force Indiana to use all of its timeouts before getting the ball back, ultimately helping Ohio State seal a 42-35 victory.
With Justin Fields also rushing for a season-high 78 yards, Ohio State had 307 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on 6.1 yards per carry, all season-highs, against an Indiana defense that had ranked among the top three in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed per game and per carry and rushing touchdowns allowed going into Saturday’s game.
Seibert misses first career field goal
With Blake Haubeil out with a groin injury for a second consecutive game, Ohio State turned to true freshman Jake Seibert to handle its placekicking duties once again. And while Seibert didn’t actually attempt any field goals in his debut game against Rutgers, the Buckeyes did turn to him to attempt a 44-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter against Indiana.
That first career field goal attempt didn’t go particularly well, as he hooked it wide left.
Wide left! pic.twitter.com/JhOU37JBcu— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 21, 2020
Ohio State could have given Seibert a chance to kick a shorter field goal from just 24 yards out with just under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, when the Buckeyes faced 4th-and-1 at the 7-yard line. But even though a successful field goal would have been enough to give Ohio State a two-score lead at that point, Ryan Day decided to go for it instead.
That decision didn’t pay off, as Fields got pressured while rolling right to throw the ball to Luke Farrell and ended up sailing the ball past his tight end.
Had he thrown a more accurate pass, though, it probably would have been a touchdown – and at a minimum, it would have gotten the Buckeyes a first down and allowed them to bleed more time off the clock – so Day stood by the call he made after the game.
“I felt like at that point, they were moving the ball pretty good, and I was worried that a field goal may not do it, and wanted to be aggressive, wanted to go up two touchdowns,” Day said. “Actually liked the call. We gotta execute it better. But either way, we’re going to be aggressive in those situations. Looking back, when you don’t get it, sure, you go kick the field goal. But there’s been times we’ve gone for it in those situations and got it and then pulled away from teams. So always going to be aggressive and then not second-guess ourselves if it doesn’t work.”
Wilson closing in on Ohio State record
Garrett Wilson’s spectacular sophomore season continued against the Hoosiers as he caught seven passes for a career-high 169 yards and two touchdowns, marking the first time he has scored twice in an Ohio State game.
Wilson has now topped 100 receiving yards in all four of Ohio State’s games this season, breaking a tie for the second-longest streak of consecutive games with 100 or more receiving yards by an Ohio State receiver. If he can top 100 yards again at Illinois next week, he’d tie the school record for consecutive 100-yard games set by Cris Carter in 1986, when he hit triple digits in five straight games against Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin.
In just four games, Wilson is now more than halfway to a 1,000-yard receiving season, having caught 31 passes for 513 yards and four touchdowns this year.
In conjunction with Fields and Teague, Wilson also helped Ohio State achieve another milestone on Saturday, as the Buckeyes had a 300-yard passer (Fields had exactly 300), a 150-yard rusher and a 150-yard receiver in the same game for the first time in school history.
Justin Fields: 300 pass Yds— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 21, 2020
Master Teague III: 169 rush Yds
Garrett Wilson: 169 rec Yds
It's the first time in @OhioStateFB history where they had a 300-yard passer, 150-yard rusher and 150-yard WR in a game pic.twitter.com/hZDwThSZeK
Ohio State’s other star receiver, Chris Olave, also topped the 100-yard mark on Saturday, marking the third time in four games this season that he has hit triple digits. With eight catches for 101 yards against the Hoosiers, Olave has now caught 26 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns in 2020.