BLOOMINGTON – The game was over, but the fans weren’t leaving.
As Indiana walked off the field with a 34-27 loss to No. 1 Ohio State, the Hoosier fans who stuck around rose to their feet and applauded. A frenzied ending hadn’t allowed the sellout crowd an opportunity to show their appreciation for what had just happened quite yet.
A bad snap on the final play had sophomore quarterback Zander Diamont scrambling on fourth-and-goal from the 9-yard line. He eluded would-be tacklers and found enough space to wind up and throw a pass to the back of the end zone from 25 yards away.
Redshirt junior receiver Rickey Jones nearly hauled in the pass before it fell incomplete. Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple knocked the ball from his hands.
Indiana’s effort to upset the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes fell seven points—and nine yards—short. The ball hit the turf as time expired.
“I don’t know if there’s another team in the country that has the heart that we have,” senior tight end Anthony Corsaro said. “We might have lost the game, but I’ve never been more proud to be part of an organization.”
Proud, but with a bitter taste.
The Hoosiers didn’t keep up with the Buckeyes. The defending national champions kept up with them.
Indiana (4-1, 0-1) opened the game with 10 unanswered points and took a 10-6 lead into halftime. But in the second half, Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) made its charge.
Senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld exited the game in the third quarter with an injury head coach Kevin Wilson said wasn’t serious. Junior running back Jordan Howard, like Sudfeld, also suffered a minor injury and was mostly held out in the second half.
In Howard’s place, sophomore Devine Redding shouldered most of the load, running the ball 30 times for 45 yards and two touchdowns. But in replacing Sudfeld, Diamont had to take the field for the first time since IU’s season-ending win against Purdue in the final game of 2014.
Diamont responded with 76 passing yards, 98 rushing yards and even a 16-yard reception. His 79-yard rushing score with 10:03 left in the fourth quarter pulled Indiana within seven points.
Ultimately, that was as close as the Hoosiers would get.
“We didn’t come out here to have a close game,” Diamont said. “We came out here to win. We thought we were going to win.”
Ohio State’s come-from-behind win came behind running back Ezekiel Elliott’s three-touchdown day. Elliott, who ran 23 times for 274 yards, had second-half touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards. Quarterback Cardale Jones finished 18-of-27 passing for 245 yards and a touchdown.
Wilson said Ohio State got IU off balance and started taking advantage of its lack of communication. He said other than Elliott’s long runs, the Hoosier defense played well enough to win.
“They weren’t really driving on us,” senior defensive end Nick Mangieri said. “They just had those big plays. That’s what really hurts.”
One of Wilson’s common lines to his players and the media is “there are no moral victories.” Saturday’s loss was nothing for Wilson to get excited over. He was already talking about moving on to Penn State less than a minute into his press conference.
But as the players walked off the field, the sellout crowd made its last stand. Their appreciation went noticed, the players said postgame. Their energy was infectious.
But the result still stung.
On to the next one.
“Close,” Diamont said. “Frustrating, but close. This team is going to do big things.”