With big games, come big opportunities...that is if you make it on the field.
For the second successive game, Ohio State jumped out to an early lead. Like the Rutgers contest it did not translate to a lot of playing time for the freshmen. Tom Allen and his Hoosiers refused to give up, and it kept many of the talented freshmen on the sideline in the Buckeyes' 42-35 victory.
Three of the eight youngsters that saw the field had their names inked in the stat book. On paper, it wasn't incredibly impressive. Jaxon Smith-Njigba played 24 offensive snaps and had a catch, Julian Fleming saw six snaps, made a tackle and forced a fumble and Jake Siebert made some kicks. However, if we dig a little deeper the three youngsters influenced the final outcome.
With 6:04 left in the second quarter, Justin Fields and the offense faced a critical 3rd and 5. Smith-Njigba ran a crossing route from the visitor's sideline toward the home bench and snagged the ball tossed by Fields. After the catch JSN made a juke and gave up a couple of yards before turning up the field for a seven-yard gain.
Smith-Njigba's first down catch and run kept Ohio State's drive alive. Three plays later, Fields scrambled for 31 yards to set up a Master Teague III one-yard touchdown.
Fleming's impactful play also occurred on third down. At the 9:21 mark of the third quarter, Fields was scrambling for his life. The Georgia transfer found Fleming late in the play and threw a floater toward the middle of the field. Indiana's Jamar Johnson came down with the interception (his second of the day) and raced toward the end zone. Fleming channeled his inner Maurice Clarett and punched the ball out of Johnson's grasp.
1. The worst throw of Justin Fields career.— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 21, 2020
2. Heck of a play by Julian Fleming. pic.twitter.com/3tT3KJtNnb
The hustle play by Fleming gave possession back to the Buckeyes, but more importantly took away an apparent scoring drive for the Hoosiers.
For the second consecutive game, Seibert was responsible for point after and field goal attempts. He remains perfect on extra points as he calmly split the uprights six times against Indiana. The La Salle graduate had one shot at a field goal, but he barely missed it to the left. Did that miscue influence Ryan Day to go for it on 4th and 1 with under five minutes remaining?
In the end, the play of Smith-Njigba, Fleming and Seibert helped the Buckeyes earn their 20th straight regular season win and their 25th consecutive over Indiana.
Cornerback Lathan Ransom, receiver Gee Scott Jr., cornerback Ryan Watts and Cameron Martinez saw time on special teams. Ransom and Scott Jr. have played in every game this year. Day and company have called on Watts in consecutive games.
Martinez made his Buckeye debut on Indiana's first punt of the game. The Michigan native was assigned the duty of blocking the Hoosiers' gunner on the home sideline. Martinez held his own and might see more action in the coming weeks.
We might see more freshmen make their debuts with Illinois and Michigan State on tap for the next two games. Then again, Lovie Smith and the Illini shocked Nebraska and this Ohio State team has a tendency of not finishing games.
The NCAA gave all players a free year of eligibility this season, so Ohio State does not have to worry about preserving redshirts for its freshmen this year. It will be interesting to see if Ryan Day plays more of the youngsters as the season winds down.
|NAME||POS||DEBUT||INDIANA STATS||GP||SEASON STATS|
|JULIAN FLEMING||WR||NEB||1 tackle, 1 FF||4||
2 catches, 40 yards
1 tackle, 1 FF
|PARIS JOHNSON JR.||OT||NEB||special teams only||4|
|LATHAN RANSOM||SAF||NEB||special teams only||4||2 tackles|
|JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA||WR||NEB||1 catch, 7 yards||4||6 catches, 17 yards, TD|
|JAKE SEIBERT||PK||RU||6/6 PAT, 0/1 FG||2||13/13 PAT, 0/1 FG|
|RYAN WATTS||CB||RU||special teams only||2||3 tackles|
|CAMERON MARTINEZ||CB||IND||special teams only||1|
|GEE SCOTT JR.||WR||NEB||3|
|CODY SIMON||LB||NEB||3||1 tackle|
|TY HAMILTON||DL||NEB||2||1 tackle, 1 sack|
|MIYAN WILLIAMS||RB||RU||1||1 rush, 5 yards|
|JACK MILLER III||QB||NEB||1||2 rushes, 23 yards, TD|