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 program 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.
More Big Ten
(At) Minnesota 17, Buffalo 7: P.J. Fleck led his players in a pregame sprint out of the tunnel , with a vintage late-summer evening sky framing his first game as Minnesota's coach.
The Gophers started fast, too, with Tyler Johnson's 61-yard reception from Conor Rhoda — one of two first-quarter touchdowns.
The rest of the game was a slow drag to the finish, which was just fine with Fleck.
Johnson had 141 yards on six catches, all in the first half to match his 2016 season total, and the Gophers grinded out a 17-7 victory over Buffalo in the season opener and Fleck's debut on Thursday night.
"You better always appreciate a win," said Fleck, the former Western Michigan coach, "no matter how you get it."
Rhoda started the game and went 12 for 21 for 176 yards, but he threw an interception in the end zone in the second quarter. Croft rushed six times for 32 yards and completed 7 of 11 passes for 63 yards. Neither quarterback stood out from the other in spring or fall practice. The tandem will remain in place for now.
(At) No. 10 Oklahoma State 59, Tulsa, 24: Mason Rudolph threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead Oklahoma State.
Rudolph completed 20 of 24 passes with no interceptions. The senior joined Brandon Weeden as the only Cowboys quarterbacks to surpass 9,000 yards in career passing.
Preseason AP All-American James Washington caught six passes for 145 yards, including touchdown receptions of 77 and 40 yards.
Justice Hill ran for 132 yards and a touchdown, J.D. King had 95 and LD Brown 92 for the Cowboys, who are in the preseason Top 10 for the third time in school history. Oklahoma State gained 640 total yards.
Tulsa quarterback Chad President, who got the start over Luke Skipper, passed for 178 yards and ran for 69. Corey Taylor II ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns. D’Angelo Brewer finished with 33 yards on 22 carries.
(At) Central Michigan 30, Rhode Island 27 (3 OT): Devon Spalding scored on a 4-yard in triple overtime to lift the Chippewas to a wild win in their season opener. Shane Morris threw for 226 yards and a touchdown in his Central Michigan debut and Jonathan Ward rushed for 147 yards and a score.
Central Michigan tallied 499 yards of total offense and tied a program record with six interceptions, with Josh Cox and Amari Coleman each recording two picks apiece.
The two teams traded field goals in the first overtime and neither scored in the second overtime before Spalding put an end to the marathon match.
(At) Indianapolis 24, Grand Valley 20: Bart Williams completed 22 of 27 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns but it wasn't enough as No. 2 Grand Valley was upset in its Division II season opener.
Nick Keizer hauled in six receptions for 118 yards and two scores and Brandon Bean added seven catches for 84 yards and a touchdown for Grand Valley, which jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.
After Indianapolis scored 17 unanswered points to take a four-point lead, Grand Valley went back on top, 20-17, on Keizer's 10-yard touchdown catch with 7:11 remaining. But Indianapolis responded with a 7-play, 89-yard drive that was capped by a 51-yard rushing touchdown by Al McKeller with 3:43 to go.
Grand Valley's final drive ended in the red zone after Williams' intended pass for Keizer on fourth down was knocked down.