No. 3 Ohio State beats back comeback bid by No. 9 Indiana

Joshua A. Bickel via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — After climbing to its highest AP Top 25 poll ranking in more than a half century, No. 9 Indiana got a chance find out how it measured up with Big Ten behemoth Ohio State, a team the Hoosiers hadn’t beaten in 32 years.

They came up short but sure made it interesting — and a lot closer than the No. 3 Buckeyes would have liked

Behind quarterback Michael Penix Jr., Indiana (4-1) rallied from a four-touchdown deficit in the second half only to be outlasted by the Buckeyes 42-35 on a rainy Saturday in an all-but-empty Ohio Stadium.

“You know, people didn’t think we belonged on the field with Ohio State, but I think we showed that today,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “I think we’re a good football team, a really good football team.”

The Buckeyes (4-0) were happy to get out of there with a win after leading 35-7 early in the second half and allowing Indiana to climb back to within one score. Two weeks ago, Ohio State led 35-3 at halftime and were outscored 24-14 in the second half in a win over Rutgers.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to close out games,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “This is kind of the second week now we let a team hang around a little bit, and we’ve got to get that fixed. But (there were) so many great things in this game. Indiana is a good team, they’re a top-10 team so this was not easy.”

The Buckeyes defense in the second half struggled to slow down Penix, who had the best statistical day of his career — 27 for 51 for a career-high 491 yards and five touchdowns.

Penix passed for four touchdowns in the second half but also made a critical error, tossing an interception that Ohio State’s Shaun Wade returned for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter. The game might have been different if it wasn’t for that.

The running game helped Ohio State maintain control when things were getting dicey.

Master Teague ran for a career-high 169 yards and two touchdowns, and Justin Fields accounted for three scores as the Buckeyes amassed 607 yards of offense.

Fields was 18 for 30 for 300 yards and two touchdown passes, but he also threw his first three interceptions of the season and was sacked five times. He ran for 78 yards and a touchdown.

“Of course I made bad decisions,” Fields said. “I ended up with three picks but we got the W today. That’s all that matters. We got the W, and we’re 4-0.”

Garrett Wilson had seven catches for 169 yards — his fourth straight game of 100-plus yards — and two scores for the Buckeyes.

THE TAKEAWAY

Indiana: Penix had a great day but came up just short of being able to dig the Hoosiers out of the hole and Indiana has now lost 26 straight to the Buckeyes.

“I loved what I saw today, but obviously we didn’t get the result wanted, so it hurts,” Penix said.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes took awhile to get going, and Fields had a few rough patches. Getting outscored in the second half for the second straight game has be to concerning.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Indiana: After reaching its highest poll ranking in over a half century, the Hoosiers will tumble slightly.

Ohio State: Beating another Top 10 team should get the Buckeyes some attention and possibly some more votes.

FABULOUS FRYFOGLE

Indiana’s Ty Fryfogle became the first receiver in Big Ten history with back-to-back games with 200 receiving yards. He caught seven passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday after grabbing 11 for 200 yards last week in the win over Michigan State.

EMPTY SHOE

A football game at Ohio Stadium has never lacked atmosphere as much as this one. Because of runaway COVID cases in Columbus, public health officials decided to empty out the cavernous venue of everyone except players, staff and media. A few hundred family and friends at least generated some cheers and jeers at the first two home games at the 105,000-capacity Horseshoe. The thousands of cutouts posted around the lower bowl sat silent and soggy in the dreary afternoon. All told, there were just 635 souls in the place.

UP NEXT

Indiana is scheduled to go on the road against Maryland, which has had its last two games canceled because of positive COVID tests there.

Ohio State is at Illinois.

Lane Kiffin staying at Ole Miss with ‘a lot of work left to do’

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin says he has informed school officials he will be staying at Ole Miss, putting an end to speculation that he was the leading candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at Auburn.

“Same as I said last week: I’m staying here and we have a lot of work left to do,” Kiffin told The Associated Press in a voice message.

Kiffin added he has not signed a contract extension with the school.

The 47-year-old Kiffin is 23-12 in three seasons as Rebels coach. No. 20 Mississippi finished its regular season 8-4, losing four of its last five, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State.

Auburn was playing at No. 8 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and its coaching search figured to heat up soon after its season concluded.

Auburn fired coach Bryan Harsin earlier this month and has gone 2-1 since under interim coach Carnell Williams, the former star running back for the Tigers.

With Kiffin off the market, Auburn is eyeing a former Mississippi coach to be its next coach.

A person familiar with the search told the AP that Auburn is interested in Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Auburn was not making details of its search public.

Freeze coached at Ole Miss for five seasons before leaving in disgrace in 2017 after the school discovered he used a university cellphone to call an escort service.

He landed at Liberty and has gone 34-14 in four seasons with the Flames.

Nebraska signs Matt Rhule to 8-year deal

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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After six straight losing seasons and more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is turning to Matt Rhule to rebuild its program and make it competitive in the Big Ten Conference.

Rhule signed an eight-year contract to be the Cornhuskers’ next coach and will be introduced at a news conference, the school announced.

The 47-year-old Rhule quickly turned around downtrodden programs at Temple and Baylor before leaving for the NFL to coach the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired him in October after he started his third season with four losses in five games.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead the Nebraska football program,” Rhule said in a statement. “When you think of great, tradition-rich programs in college football, Nebraska is right at the top of the list. The fan base is second to none, and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to coach in Memorial Stadium on Tom Osborne Field. My family and I are so grateful to become a part of the Husker Family, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Rhule was 11-27 with Carolina and left with about $40 million remaining on the seven-year, guaranteed $62 million contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth-highest paid coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.

Nebraska said it would release details of Rhule’s contract.

“It is a privilege to welcome Coach Matt Rhule, his wife, Julie, and their family to Nebraska,” athletic director Trev Alberts said. “Coach Rhule has created a winning culture throughout his coaching career, and he will provide great leadership for the young men in our football program.

“Matt is detail-oriented, his teams are disciplined and play a physical brand of football. Matt also has the personality and relationship-building skills to build a great staff and excel in recruiting.”

About an hour after Rhule’s hiring was announced, wide receiver Trey Palmer announced on Instagram that he would declare for the NFL draft. Palmer, who transferred from LSU after last season, had three 150-yard games this year and set the Huskers’ single-season record with 1,043 yards.

The Huskers are among eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins, and they have won or shared five national championships. The last one came in 1997 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne.

Five coaches have come and gone since then, most recently the quarterback of that ’97 team, Scott Frost.

Alberts fired Frost on Sept. 11 after the Huskers opened 1-2, with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and to Georgia Southern at home. They were 3-6 under interim coach Mickey Joseph and finished the season 4-8 following a 24-17 win at Iowa.

Nebraska was 16-31 in four-plus seasons under Frost, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or going to a bowl.

In four seasons at Temple, Rhule coached the Owls to 28 wins. That included 26 from 2014-16. Temple was 10-4 in 2015 and reached the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship game. In 2016, Rhule led the Owls to a 10-3 record and an AAC championship. The conference title was the first in 49 seasons for the Temple program, and the Owls reached bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Rhule was named Baylor’s coach in December 2016 in the wake of an investigation that found the private Baptist university had not responded adequately to allegations of sexual assault by players, resulting in the firing of Art Briles.

Rhule’s trajectory was similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with a bowl game the next season. In his third and final season, Baylor was ranked in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.

Rhule’s collegiate success provided him the opportunity to take over as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach in 2020. He guided the Panthers to five wins in each of his first two seasons before this year’s 1-4 start got him fired.

Rhule has ties to the Big Ten. He moved from New York City to State College, Pennsylvania, as a teenager. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97 and began his coaching there as a volunteer assistant.