The Ezekiel Elliott who ran wild in three postseason wins for the Buckeyes last season? He's back, and the Big Ten might want to look out.
The Ohio State running back ran all over Indiana on Saturday, and despite the Hoosiers giving the No. 1 team in the land everything it could handle, Elliott's second-half heroics allowed the Buckeyes to leave Bloomington with a 34-27 win.
Elliott turned in second-half touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards as a slumbering Ohio State offense — which had six points on two field goals in the first half — exploded for 28 points over the final 30 minutes. Elliott rushed for a career-high 274 yards on 23 carries, with a whopping 243 of those coming after halftime.
Indiana held a 10-6 advantage at the break, but Elliott's first long touchdown run gave Ohio State its first lead of the afternoon a little more than six minutes into the third quarter. With fewer than two and a half minutes left in that quarter, Hoosiers running back Devine Redding snatched the lead back with his second touchdown run of the game. But Elliott went 65 yards for another go-ahead score on the following drive.
Cardale Jones — who was 18-for-27 with 245 yards — boosted that lead seconds into the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. A Hoosiers field goal shaved the Buckeyes' lead to a touchdown, 27-20, not long after.
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Elliott's final touchdown run gave Ohio State some more breathing room at 34-20, but that breathing room didn't last long, as Indiana backup quarterback Zander Diamont reeled off a 79-yard touchdown run to again make it a one-score game. The Buckeyes and Hoosiers traded three-and-outs from there, and the Hoosiers had one last crack, getting all the way to the Buckeyes' five-yard line in the game's final minute. But Indiana turned over on downs on fourth and goal, ending an exhilarating threat to the defending national champs.
Indiana's efforts were even more impressive considering the Hoosiers did much of this without their two best players. Neither starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld nor starting running back Jordan Howard — who entered the game as the nation's leading rusher — finished the game, knocked out with injuries.
Despite the low-scoring first half, the game ended as the high-scoring shootout many expected. Ohio State gained 517 yards of offense, more than half of that total coming from Elliott, while Indiana posted 402 total yards against an Ohio State defense that ranked among the nation's best through its first four games.
The Buckeyes, still undefeated at 5-0, have sweated out more wins than many expected they would. And it's that "not making it easy" type of performance on a weekly basis that could cause them to fall from the top spot in the rankings Sunday.
The Hoosiers, meanwhile, are no longer undefeated. But still at 4-1, they're just two wins away from bowl eligibility. A postseason berth would be the program's first since 2007 and second since 1993. And the way Indiana played against the No. 1 team, two more wins suddenly don't seem too unrealistic.