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Indiana Hangs Tough, but Ohio State proves too strong in Season Opener

BLOOMINGTON, IN – The Indiana Hoosiers played host to the unofficial kickoff of the 2017 college football season on Thursday evening, hosting Ohio State in a game that contained a College GameDay studio set, a military flyover, and a sold-out crowd at Memorial Stadium. Indiana (0-1) stayed in the fight with Ohio State (1-0) until the Buckeyes pulled away with a formidable rushing attack, handing the Hoosiers a 49-21 defeat.

“I’m disappointed in the finish,” said head coach Tom Allen after his first game in charge on the home sideline. “But I’m really proud and excited for our program; the way they responded. The fans, the way they came out today, was special for us. I really feel like there’s something to build off for sure, and I’m disappointed that we didn’t finish better to give them something to go home with.”

Fifth-year senior quarterback Richard Lagow took command of Indiana’s attack with 410 yards, three touchdowns, and a school-record 65 passing attempts. Lagow’s 40 completions ranks second on Indiana’s single-game leaderboard, and he becomes the only quarterback in IU history to surpass 400 yards in two games.

Receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. made an electric return after missing the majority of the 2016 season to injury, hauling in a career-high 11 receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown. Combined with Luke Timaian‘s 10 catches and 72 yards, it’s the first time two Indiana receivers posted double-digit catch figures in four years.

Tegray Scales led Indiana’s defense with 12 tackles and nine solo stops, while Marcelino Ball made 11 tackles with an assist on a tackle for loss. Robert McCray III dropped quarterback J.T. Barrett for a sack and forced a hurry amongst his trio of solo tackles.

Indiana’s defense absorbed the early shots on Ohio State’s opening drive, forcing last year’s College Football Playoff qualifiers to settle for a field goal after Greg Gooch‘s third down stop. The Hoosiers took their first possession down the field in a flurry, ending with an 18-yard toe drag in the end zone by Ian Thomas. On that drive, Lagow tossed five passes for 10-plus yards including two connections to both Cobbs and Timian.

The synergy between Lagow and Cobbs reached its peak on Indiana’s last scoring drive of the first half, after a Buckeye field goal shaved IU’s lead to one point. Lagow found his No. 1 target down the sideline for a 19-yard gain on short yardage. Two plays later, Lagow called Cobbs number again for 18 yards to set up first-and-goal. The next three pass attempts all went Cobbs way, the last finding his hands for the score.

“It was good to connect with him a couple times,” Lagow said. “The connection between Simmie and I last year wasn’t what it is now. Him getting hurt last year was terrible, but it gave us a lot of time after his recovery to get our timing down and a relationship built.”

The Buckeyes bounced back in the second half with a run-heavy attack that doomed the Hoosiers. Barrett and Ohio State’s skill group ended the game with four unanswered touchdowns, two from breakaway plays beyond the 50-yard marker. On defense, Ohio State forced two takeaways in the second half at opportune junctures, keeping Indiana from scoring when they needed it most.

“Basically, you address one thing and it exposes another,” Allen said about the late game slip. “We had a couple busts in assignments, and when you make one mistake and it’s a big play, they are so fast and it’s hard to catch them. We couldn’t afford to do that.”

Indiana did find another touchdown in the third quarter, regaining the 21-20 lead with an 85-yard aerial barrage from Lagow & Co. The drive included seven completions, three to Cobbs, and one to secure a shining performance in the first game of Thomas’ senior season. The scoring play opened nicely for Thomas, who cut against the secondary for an open snag and his second touchdown of the game.

The Hoosiers will play their first away game of the season next weekend against the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday, Sept. 9. Kickoff at Scott Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET, and the game will air on ACC Network Extra.

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