Indiana Notebook: Lathan Ransom Comes Up Big, Short-Yardage Running Struggles Frustrate Ryan Day and Several Injured Buckeyes Expected Back for Maryland

By Dan Hope on November 13, 2022 at 6:00 am
Lathan Ransom vs. Indiana

Lathan Ransom had his best game of what had already been an excellent junior season in Ohio State’s win over Indiana on Saturday.

The Ohio State safety had nine total tackles for the second week in a row, tying his career-high. Entering Saturday’s game with only one career sack, Ransom recorded 1.5 sacks against the Hoosiers. Ransom recorded his second pass breakup of the season.

Ransom’s biggest play of the day, however, came on special teams. Just three plays after his solo sack, Ransom came unblocked off the edge and knocked down a punt by Indiana’s James Evans for Ohio State’s first punt block since 2019. That blocked punt led to a quick seven points for the Buckeyes as Xavier Johnson recovered the ball at the 2-yard line and C.J. Stroud threw a touchdown pass to Cade Stover two plays later that extended Ohio State’s lead to 35-7 in a game the Buckeyes would ultimately win 56-14.

“To see him make a play like that, that kind of flipped the game for us,” Ryan Day said after the game.

Ransom said he was motivated to have a big game against Indiana because he was not happy with how he played against Northwestern, even though he also had nine tackles in last week’s 21-7 win over the Wildcats.

“I didn't like how I played personally last week, so I think this week I came with a different approach to the game,” Ransom said. “I was more focused and I just appreciate my coaches for putting me in situations to make plays.”

As for the punt block, Ransom gave credit to Ohio State special teams coordinator Parker Fleming for identifying a flaw in Indiana’s punt protection scheme and making an adjustment that enabled him to go unblocked and make that play. Day said Ransom deserves credit, though, for being able to execute that adjustment in the middle of the game.

“I think that's a sign of a mature player that you can talk about it on the sideline and make an adjustment and then go put it on the field in a game like that,” Day said. “We've worked hard on the tracks of blocking punts. And there's an art to that. You can be out of control and run into the punter, which will be a 15-yard penalty, which certainly keeps coaches up at night. But he did it really well. Got his hands right to the ball.”

Ransom, who was named last month as a semifinalist for this year’s Jim Thorpe Award, said he thought he played better against Indiana than he had all season. But he isn’t going to spend too much time celebrating as he looks to have another strong performance next week.

“The game's over now, so now we’re on to Maryland,” Ransom said.

Day frustrated with short-yardage run game

Statistically, Ohio State had its best game of the season running the ball against Indiana, gaining 340 yards – the most the Buckeyes have had in any game since they ran for 399 yards in the 2020 Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern – on a season-high 7.9 yards per carry. Miyan Williams had 147 yards and a touchdown before he left game with an injury, Dallan Hayden had his second 100-yard game and second touchdown of the year and Xavier Johnson had Ohio State’s longest run of the season to date on a 71-yard touchdown scamper.

That said, the Buckeyes continued to have issues with running the ball in short-yardage situations. Ohio State went just 2-for-7 on third- and fourth-down conversion attempts of two yards or less against Indiana, running the ball on all but one of those plays. Williams turned one 3rd-and-1 into a 48-yard touchdown, but otherwise, the only successful short-yardage third-down conversion attempt came on a Hayden run on the final drive of the game.

Considering that running the ball in short-yardage situations has been a recurring problem for Ohio State, especially in the second half of the season, Day was frustrated by the Buckeyes’ continued inefficiency in that area against the Hoosiers. He said he was “probably being stubborn” by repeatedly calling running plays in those situations – including a 4th-and-1 conversion attempt where Mitch Rossi was stopped for no gain – but he knows that’s an area in which the Buckeyes must improve as they approach the most important games of their season.

“I was ready to bang my head against the wall,” Day said. “We need to get better movement, we need to run harder, we need to get the first down.”

Henderson, Jones, Burke, Trayanum could return next week

Ohio State was without a multitude of notable players against Indiana due to injuries, including four starters.

Running back TreVeyon Henderson, who was wearing a walking boot at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, was unavailable for the second game in a row due to a foot injury. Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba missed his seventh game of the year with the hamstring injury he’s battled all year long. Right tackle Dawand Jones was held out of action after being listed as a game-time decision, and cornerback Denzel Burke was also held out even though he was not listed on the initial status report for Saturday’s game.

The good news for the Buckeyes: All of those players except Smith-Njigba, whose father told the Columbus Dispatch that Smith-Njigba will not return before the Michigan game, could be back for next week’s game against Maryland.

Day said during Saturday’s postgame press conference that Ohio State is “hoping to get Trey back for next week.” As for Jones, Burke and backup running back Chip Trayanum – who was also listed as a game-time decision before being held out – Day said all of them were close to being able to play against Indiana but ultimately did not feel healthy enough to take the field.

“It's this time of year, so guys are gonna be banged-up, that's just the way it goes. There were a lot of guys who played banged up today. A lot,” Day said. “These guys just didn't feel like they were ready to go play, and certainly we're not going to put them in the game if they don't feel like they can play, but we're looking hopefully to get a full week of work out of them and see them play against Maryland.”

Having Henderson and Trayanum available – or at a minimum one of them – will be especially important after Williams left the game with an injury that left him in a walking boot and on crutches on Saturday. Day expressed optimism after the game, though, that Williams will be able to return this season.

“It didn't look like, based on what we saw here in the locker room, it was going to be something that was going to be really long-term,” Day said of Williams.

Cameron Brown returned to the lineup against Indiana after missing Ohio State’s previous three games with injuries and started at cornerback along with Jordan Hancock, who made his first start of the season with Burke out. Brown recorded two pass breakups in his return to action, and Day was pleased with the way both of them competed.

Josh Fryar made his first career start in place of Jones at right tackle, and Day was happy with how Fryar performed as well.

“Had a good week of practice, so we had confidence in Josh to put him in the game,” Day said. “We’ll have to see the film. I don't think it was perfect. But I feel like he played well. When you don't notice a tackle, that’s usually pretty good. Have to watch the film and see, but a couple of times, he looked like he was doing a pretty good job in protection.”

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