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Ohio State avenged its only Big Ten Universities loss of the season, a 39-30 loss to Indiana back in September, Saturday in Bloomington, Ind., beating the Hoosiers 27-10 to claim the BTU East title.
The Buckeyes started the game hot, jumping out to a 10-0 lead. They and the Hoosiers then swapped penalty kicks, and Indiana used its size to threaten leveling the table late in the opening half, but saw a couple of chances to get a try go unconverted.
“Our defense, the second time around, actually played a lot better. Unfortunately for Indiana, they imploded a bit when they had scoring opportunities,” said Ohio State coach Ron Bowers.
“To me that was the turning point of the game, because they had the wind in the first half.”
The Buckeyes scored two converted tries in the second half, compared to just one from Indiana, to secure the win. Making every kick he attempted on the day for Ohio State was Taylor Hurff, hitting three conversions and two penalties.
Ohio State has a much smaller pack than Indiana and most of its BTU East competition, but Saturday the Buckeye forwards, led by lock David Stauder, were efficient in the set pieces and at maintaining ball.
“Coach (Tom) Rooney did a phenomenal job on coaching the forwards up on how to at least stay even in the pack during the scrums,” said Bowers.
“In our lineouts, we’ve got tall, rangy guys, but we’re just not big in the scrum. We’re getting better on keeping the continuity of play going and not getting into those big battles in the middle of the field when it’s weight against weight. We want to keep the ball alive and keep the play going.”
Ohio State’s competitive 15s season was on the verge of not keeping alive and going on the weekend. Had the Buckeyes lost to Indiana, they would have missed out on the BTU playoffs. That early loss to the Hoosiers threatened to hold them out of the postseason. Bowers said his coaching staff has learned a valuable lesson on how to balance the schedule going forward.
“Take nothing away from the teams we played against. They’re all quality teams…I think we made a mistake as a staff to start focusing on 7s at the beginning of the season. We were playing 7s with most of our starting 15s players up through Sept. 15,” he said.
“In looking back and watching film, we were having 7s tendencies in that first game against Indiana defensively. I think it was a mistake on our part to concentrate on 7s earlier. We might not have been tooth and nail at the end of the season trying to qualify for the playoffs otherwise.”
As the East champ, Ohio State draws Illinois in one of the spring BTU semifinals. Indiana will take on Wisconsin in the other.