12:10 PM ET, September 28, 2002
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The only people who can stop Maurice Clarett seem to be the Ohio State team doctors, and even they can't keep the star freshman off the field for long.
After missing a week to have a knee operation, Clarett ran for 104 yards and scored three times on short first-half runs as the sixth-ranked Buckeyes beat Indiana 45-17 Saturday.
Ohio State freshman RB Maurice Clarett ran for 1,190 yards and 14 TDs this year.
Clarett had arthroscopic surgery Sept. 17 to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. There was some bleeding around the incision at halftime, but doctors stitched him back up before he went back onto the field.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he had two questions for the doctors: " 'If he gets stitches can he go back in? Will it be a problem?' They said no.''
Obviously it wasn't much of a problem. After gaining 51 yards on 14 carries in the first half, the tailback ran 7 times for 53 yards, and he had a 28-yard gain brought back by a penalty.
"He's a special back,'' Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo said. "How could you come to Ohio State and start as a freshman and not be a special back?''
The three touchdowns gave Clarett nine in four games -- the most by an Ohio State freshman during one season in more than half a century. Cris Carter had eight in 1984, and Robert Smith matched the total in 1990.
The 6-foot, 230-pound Clarett missed last week's narrow victory at Cincinnati. He watched as the Buckeyes held off the Bearcats 23-19, withstanding two dropped touchdown passes by Cincinnati receivers in the final minute.
"All of us in the stadium were excited to have Maurice back in uniform and playing,'' Tressel said. "We're better when he's playing.''
Clarett scored on runs of 2, 1 and 4 yards as Ohio State (5-0) built a 21-10 lead on the Hoosiers (2-3) in the Big Ten opener for both teams. He didn't carry the ball after his 28-yard run was called back by a holding penalty with 5 minutes left in the third period.
"You really don't know how it will feel until you play. I felt pretty good out there,'' Clarett said of his knee. "I'm just trying to prove things one game at a time.''
Indiana stayed in the game until midway through the third quarter, thanks to quarterback Gibran Hamdan, who stood in the pocket against a furious Ohio State pass rush.
The Hoosiers dropped numerous passes, including two costly drops after Chris Gamble scored on a 43-yard reverse to put the Buckeyes ahead 28-10. Glenn Johnson was wide open on long pass near the Ohio State 40, but the ball slipped from his grasp. Moments later, on third-and-13 at the Indiana 28, Tyke Spencer dropped a pass for what would have been a first down.
"You can always look back at the plays that didn't work,'' said Hamdan, who was 16-of-26 for 210 yards and a touchdown.
On the next play, Dustin Fox got a hand on Ryan Hamre's punt, and Ohio State had the ball at the Indiana 18. Four plays later, Craig Krenzel threw a 4-yard TD pass to Jenkins.
"Mistakes killed us. The blocked punt killed us,'' said Indiana defensive tackle Kris Dielman.
Spencer caught a pass from Hamdan over the middle for a 17-yard score to cut Ohio State's lead to 14-10 with just over 2 minutes left in the first half. But Gamble returned the kickoff 28 yards, with 15 more yards tacked on for a late hit.
With the ball at the Indiana 45, Ohio State needed just six plays and 80 seconds to push the lead to 21-10. After a holding penalty, Krenzel hit Gamble for 21 yards, Chris Vance for 15 and Mike Jenkins for 15.
Clarett took it the last 4 yards, nosing the ball across the goal line as he was pulled down by Indiana free safety A.C. Carter.
"You give the ball to him down close and he'll score,'' Krenzel said. "The thing that separates him from other backs is that he'll put his shoulder down, and defensive backs don't want to take him on.''
Krenzel completed 11 of 16 passes for 152 yards. He was replaced by Scott McMullen, who completed all seven of his passes for 65 yards -- including one pass batted back to him for a reception.
Mike Nugent made a 51-yard field goal in the third quarter, his 10th in a row and the longest for Ohio State since Dan Stultz kicked a 55-yarder against Indiana five years ago.
A brief fight broke out on the field after Nugent's extra-point kick, which followed McMullen's 15-yard touchdown pass to Jenkins with 5:43 remaining that put Ohio State ahead 45-10.
Ohio State has won its last 10 meetings against the Hoosiers, who had as many freshman starters (8) as they did juniors and seniors combined.
Ohio State has won its last 10 meetings against the Hoosiers.