BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana's defense has been susceptible to the big play, and Ezekiel Elliott was a big-play machine Saturday afternoon for Ohio State.
It was a bad combination for the upset-minded Hoosiers as the Buckeyes' junior tailback ran for 243 of his game-high 274 yards in the second half and three touchdowns of more than 55 yards as No. 1 Ohio State withstood a furious rally in the closing minutes and held on for a 34-27 win at Memorial Stadium.
On the game's final play, Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple knocked down a pass in the end zone as Indiana had a fourth-and-goal at the 9-yard line.
The offensive story in this Big Ten Conference opener for Ohio State (5-0) was Elliott. His second-half TD runs were for 55, 65 and 75 yards. The 65-yard scamper came on a critical fourth-and-1 call at the Buckeyes' 35 late in the third quarter. Ohio State trailed 17-13 at the time, and Elliott got past the first line of defense and was off to the races.
Elliott wasn't surprised that his coach called his number in that situation.
"Coach (Urban) Meyer is very aggressive on fourth down, and if he feels like we have a chance to get it, we're going to go for it," Elliott said. "It was a great call on a great scheme and the O-line blocked it perfectly. I didn't have to do much except outrun the DBs to score."
Meyer said that was the play that jump-started the Ohio State offense.
"Zeke's just such a good second level runner," Meyer said. "That jump-started everything. I think he ran for 240, someone just said, in the second half. Three big hits. It's great to see him get to the second level. We just have to complement that with the pass game a little bit."
Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones had decent numbers, completing 18-of-27 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. But Ohio State turned the ball over three times, all in the passing game. Two were on fumbles after the catch, and Meyer said the turnovers are troubling.
"We're turning the ball over at an alarming rate, and that's obviously a difference in the game," Meyer said. "At some point that's going to bite you."
In a battle of unbeaten teams, Ohio State has now won 25 Big Ten regular-season games in a row, a conference record. The Buckeyes have also won 15 consecutive road games and 18 games overall in a row.
Indiana (4-1, 0-1) hung around despite losing the nation's leading rusher, Jordan Howard, in the second quarter with an ankle injury, and later, starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld in the third quarter, also with an ankle injury.
IU, a 22-point underdog, led the Buckeyes 10-6 at halftime, and coach Kevin Wilson said he told his players what he believed the significance was of that feat.
"I told them at halftime, 'you thought you could play,' " Wilson said. "Now you know you can."
Sudfeld's injury meant the insertion of backup quarterback Zander Diamont into the game. Diamont, who started the final six games a year ago after Sudfeld suffered a shoulder injury against Iowa, used his legs to keep the Hoosiers in the game. Diamont ran for 98 yards on seven carries including a 79-yard scoring run that got IU back to within 34-27 with 10:03 to play.
On the game's final play, Diamont fumbled the shotgun snap, scrambled around, and then threw a ball into the left corner of the end zone that was intended for Ricky Jones. Apple batted the ball away as time expired.
"We had a bit of a rough snap," Diamont said. "I think there was a little bit of confusion. I tried to make a play, but it just wasn't enough."
Diamont completed 6-of-14 passes for 76 yards.
NOTES: Indiana RB Jordan Howard, who led the nation in rushing with 675 yards through the first four games, was limited to 34 yards on 14 carries and missed the majority of the final two and a half quarters of the game. ... Ohio State senior WR Corey Smith was carted off the field late in the third quarter with an apparent knee surgery suffered when an Indiana player fell on the back of his legs on a passing attempt. ... Indiana had outscored its first four opponents 51-0 in the third quarter before Saturday's game. Ohio State had 14 third-quarter points. ... Indiana K Griffin Oakes hit two more field goals Saturday and is now 9 for 10 on the season.