Ohio State chugged toward the goal line on its opening possession as if Indiana had put cardboard cutouts on the field, scoring easily on a Carlos Hyde run.
But the Buckeyes plowing over the hapless Hoosiers on offense isn’t noteworthy. What everyone wanted to see was whether the nation’s third-ranked team had the makings of a championship-caliber defense after taking a step backward against Illinois last week.
Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier and the rest of the unit haven’t erased all doubts about them yet, but they certainly played with fury against one of the Big Ten’s better offenses, holding IU scoreless until the final six minutes in a 42-14 senior-day win before 104,990 frigid fans Saturday.
Shazier looked as if he was strapped to a rocket while recording 20 tackles — the most for an OSU player since A.J. Hawk also had 20 in 2004 — and the Buckeyes constantly infiltrated the Hoosiers’ backfield on their way to 12 tackles for loss. Shazier had five, tying the school record.
“He’s playing at a very high level,” coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s a very emotional guy, and his heart is everything. He wears his feelings on his sleeve, and the players love him for it. And so do I.”
Shazier pushed his tackle-for-loss total to a Big Ten-best 19.5.
“Lately, I’ve just been playing for Christian,” said Shazier, who has been wearing the No. 2 of Christian Bryant since the senior safety suffered a season-ending fractured ankle in late September. “I feel like me and him are out there together. Today, I was playing for Christian and the seniors, to make sure they went out with a bang.”
The Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) set the school record with their 23rd consecutive victory. They also clinched their second straight Leaders Division crown and will play in the conference title game Dec. 7 against No. 13 Michigan State, which routed Northwestern, 30-6.
The Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5) amassed 442 total yards, but a large chunk came when the game was out of reach. They were ranked 14th nationally in scoring (39.1 points per game) and 16th in total yards (496.8).
“Indiana is a great offense. Anybody who says something different doesn’t know Indiana,” said OSU defensive tackle Michael Bennett, who had two sacks. “But we wanted to show Ohio State has a great defense, and I feel we did that.”
Shazier also thought the defense held up well against the Hoosiers’ up-tempo attack (92 offensive plays).
“In the second half, they got most of their yards. They were getting us on their quarterback runs,” he said. “We’ve just got to fix that. But I felt like the defense played a really good game.”
The Buckeyes broke the OSU single-season school record for points by hiking their total to 536, and quarterback Braxton Miller topped 300 yards in total offense for a program-best 10th time.
He rushed for 144 yards on 13 attempts and scored on runs of 37 and five yards. He was 11-of-17 passing for 160 yards and two TDs. He lost a fumble and threw an interception on a deflected pass.
The Buckeyes also had a productive day from Hyde, who became the first running back in Meyer’s 12 years as a head coach to reach 1,000 yards. He had 117 yards and two TDs on 18 carries and has 1,064 this season.
“I know one thing: This team is playing at a very, very high level,” Meyer said. “They’re focused every week, and it’s our job to maintain that focus.”