BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — J.K. Dobbins wanted to give his fans back in Texas something to cheer about.
His Ohio State teammates and Buckeyes fans jumped right on board.
The freshman broke a 15-year-old school record by rushing for 181 yards in his college debut, J.T. Barrett threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Ohio State managed to pull away in the second half for a 49-21 victory over Indiana on Thursday night.
“I’m probably the only good thing going on in my town right now, so I just thought of it as bringing my city up,” Dobbins said after spending the past week watching the flooding in the Houston area. “That’s why I came out and played hard like that.”
This was more than just a coming-out party.
Dobbins carried 29 times and broke Maurice Clarett’s previous debut mark of 175 yards set in 2002. Afterward, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer even compared Dobbins to former Ohio State star Ezekiel Elliott.
That’s a pretty good start for the guy who missed all but one play last season at LaGrange High school and started in place of Mike Weber, the Buckeyes’ top runner in 2016, who sat out with a hamstring injury.
“Not surprised at all,” Meyer said. “I had kind of tempered my emotions with you guys early on, but we’ve seen that since spring practice.”
Dobbins didn’t just put up numbers.
His long runs in the second quarter finally got the slow-starting Buckeyes moving and his ability to sustain those runs in the second half helped Ohio State score the last 28 points to put away their 23rd consecutive win in the series.
He also ruined Indiana’s big plans for what had been billed as the biggest opener in school history — a nationally televised game with ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew in town.
The Hoosiers controlled most of the first half and led 21-20 late in the third quarter. But they couldn’t finish the upset in Tom Allen’s first home game as the Hoosiers head coach.
“The bottom line is that for 2 1/2 quarters, we went toe-to-toe with them,” Allen said. “We were leading and weren’t able to finish, so that’s on me. We can talk about breaking through and I’m not going to quit talking about it because breaking through is not one game.'”
Barrett overcame a slow start to finish 20 of 35 for 304 yards. He added 61 yards rushing and another score to move within two touchdowns of matching Drew Brees’ Big Ten career record for total touchdowns (106).
But Ohio State didn’t reach the end zone until Antonio Williams’ 1-yard plunge with 5:17 left in the first half and couldn’t retake the lead until Barrett’s 2-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter. Parris Campbell’s 74-yard TD reception form Barrett made it 27-21 and, thanks to Dobbins, the Buckeyes never trailed again.
“I kind of knew I was going to do what I did,” Dobbins said.
Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow was 40 of 65 with 410 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also broke Ben Chappell’s school record for pass attempts of 64 set in 2010 against Michigan, and finished with the school’s second-highest completions total in one game.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes avoided a double dose of danger — winning a rare conference opener in Week 1 and getting a road win, too.
Indiana: No, the Hoosiers didn’t end the losing streak. But it wasn’t a total loss. They sold out Memorial Stadium and were competitive on an entertaining night.
Ohio State: Meyer is 16-0 all-time in season openers. The Buckeyes finished with 596 total yards, 292 on the ground, and forced three turnovers. Campbell had six catches for 136 yards.
Indiana: The biggest problem was rushing, where the Hoosiers had 27 carries for 17 yards. Receiver Simmi Cobbs Jr. had a career-high 11 catches for 149 yards and one TD. Luke Timian had 10 receptions for 72 yards.
ESPN broadcaster Lee Corso got a lift, literally, from his former players after receiving Indiana’s Bill Orwig Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the university by a non-alum.
After a video played and he was presented with a plaque, the players gathered round and hoisted him on their shoulders. Corso coached the Hoosiers from 1973-82 and led the Hoosiers to their first bowl win — 38-37 over No. 9 Brigham Young in the 1979 Holiday Bowl. He was inducted into school’s Hall of Fame in 2010.
Ohio State: Heads home Sept. 9 for an even tougher matchup against No. 7 Oklahoma.
Indiana: Travels to Virginia on Sept. 9.