Patchwork Buckeyes still perfect

Despite injuries, breakdowns and occasional lulls, Ohio State won again Saturday

Updated: October 14, 2012, 2:09 AM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The roster is thin enough that the starting fullback was forced to switch to linebacker and wound up leading the team in tackles.

The defense continues to give up huge chunks of yardage at a time, though it typically doesn't break as often as it bends.

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
AP Photo/Sam RicheWhile Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is concerned with Braxton Miller taking heavy hits, he said he won't change the QB's aggressive running style.
Even a high-powered offense that can move the ball at will on the ground is occasionally prone to periods of inactivity, even against opponents with no physical answer for the singular skills of Braxton Miller or the dual threat he poses with Carlos Hyde.

Ohio State might be covered in patches, but even on a night when it didn't feel particularly attractive in a 52-49 shootout with Indiana at Memorial Stadium, the outfit it cobbled together still looked perfect in the standings.

"I just want to win that game," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "There have been times when the offense has been in reverse and the defense wins, so we're a team. That's the cool thing about this, it's a team, and there were some nice things said in [the locker room] from the heart, and we win as a team.

"We win as a team, and at the end of the day, we're going to find a way to win No. 8 as a team."

Despite all the injury issues, a costly turnover in the red zone when there was a chance to blow out the Hoosiers and breakdowns on both defense and special teams that tightened a few collars on the sideline, Ohio State still found a way to come up with No. 7 -- and still hasn't had to deal with its first loss under Meyer.

But while the Buckeyes had some close calls during the first half of the season and they celebrated an ability to make the critical plays needed to put a game away, the mood was markedly different after they built a seemingly insurmountable fourth-quarter lead and then watched it slip away down the stretch.

Zach Boren capped a wild 72-hour crash course in the Ohio State defense with a team-leading eight tackles after moving over from fullback. The Buckeyes made five tackles for a loss and racked up an eye-catching 15 pass breakups. And while the rushing attack seemed unstoppable at times with 353 yards, the Hoosiers also had periods where they frustrated the Buckeyes and forced Miller into a handful of negative plays early as they surprisingly took a lead in the second quarter -- then charged back to within a field goal down the stretch.

"At one point in that game we had them down, and we could have finished it," Boren said. "That's kind of been the theme all year, the thing that we haven't done. Once we get a team on the ropes, we haven't really finished yet. We finished last week [against Nebraska], and we thought we'd really build on that, but this week it just didn't happen.

"We got a little complacent there at the end, then finally turned it up when it really mattered to recover the onside kick. We'll get better."

That was the message coming down from the very top, and Meyer indicated he would be taking a more active approach with the defense as the Buckeyes turn the page to Purdue and get back on the practice field.

But even with another Victory Meal on tap for Sunday night, Meyer hardly seemed in a mood to wait to start digging into some corrections.

"I'm not sure what my feeling is right now other than anxious to get back home and get to work," Meyer said. "I wish we were in the office right now, because we've got to get some things right."

No matter how many things might be on that list, changing the outcome still isn't an issue for the Buckeyes.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter