BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott did everything he could to keep Ohio State’s winning streak going. It still took a final goal-line stand for the top-ranked Buckeyes to hold off Indiana.
And now, Ohio State’s grip on the No. 1 ranking could be slipping after Saturday’s 34-27 win over the Hoosiers.
Elliott had an electrifying second half with touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards and finished with a career-best 274 yards as the Buckeyes narrowly won their 18th in a row — the longest current streak in the FBS.
Nothing came easy for Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten). Especially at the end, when Buckeyes cornerback Eli Apple batted away a desperation pass in the back of the end zone as time expired.
“I quit trying to draw up how to win games a long time ago, it doesn’t always work as you plan,” coach Urban Meyer said.
From the start, the game was full of surprises. Indiana (4-1, 0-1) gambled twice on fourth down in the first half — including a fake punt from its 16-yard line that failed. Ohio State fumbled four times and wound up with three turnovers and eight major penalties.
The teams combined for four scoring runs — three from Elliott — that went for more than 50 yards during a 13-minute stretch in the second half.
The Buckeyes also extended their Big Ten regular-season record streak to 25 in a row — and could tie Oklahoma for the most weeks ranked No. 1 (101), if they can hold onto it.
Cardale Jones finished 18 of 27 with 245 yard with one TD and one interception.
“We’re turning the ball over at an alarming rate, and that’s obviously the difference in the game and sometime that’s going to come back and at some point that’s going to bite you,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to fix that.”
Meyer paced the sideline, waved his arms and stared in disgust as Ohio State struggled to take the lead and then struggled to put it away when finally going up by 14 points in the fourth quarter.
The Hoosiers, who have not beaten the Buckeyes since 1988, made life miserable despite losing the nation’s top rusher, Jordan Howard, in the first half, and starting quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, in the third quarter.
Elliott wiped out a 10-6 deficit with the 55-yard run, a 17-13 deficit with the 65-yard run and appeared to have sealed it when his 75-yarder made it 34-20.
But after Griffin Oakes kicked a 34-yard field goal and Elliot scored on the 75-yard run, Indiana’s backup quarterback Zander Diamont beat the Buckeyes on a 79-yard run to make it 34-27 with 10:03 left in the game and marched them to the Ohio State 6 on the final series.
Diamont scrambled on third-and-goal from the 10 and his final throw in the back of end zone was batted away. He led the Hoosiers with 98 yards on seven carries and Howard finished with 34 yards on 14 carries.
Ohio State also lost receiver Corey Smith, who was carted off the field with what appeared to be a lower right leg injury.