The Indiana Hoosiers feel like they are watching movie sequels each time they see tape of their most recent games against Ohio State: Competitive for three quarters before wearing down in the fourth.
On Saturday, they will try to rewrite the script with a surprise twist when the No. 6 Buckeyes come to town.
"The bottom line is that we have to finish," coach Tom Allen said. "It's not about just competing with them and feeling good about that. Certain stages of your program you feel that's what you want to do and to me, we've been there and we've done that. Now we've got to finish."
Of course, it won't be easy. Indiana (2-0) has lost 23 consecutive games in this series dating to a tie in 1990.
Two years ago in Allen's head coaching debut, the Hoosiers were trailing 20-17 late in the third quarter before losing 49-21. Last year in Columbus, they were down 35-26 after three before falling 49-26.
What will it take for the Indiana to finish strong?
"It's obviously executing on the field in those situation, which they have done that and we have not," Allen said. "Also, it's that the depth you have in your program to be able to keep playing guys and keep them fresh and being able to play at that high of a level in the fourth quarter."
Indiana believes it finally has the depth to stay with Ohio State (2-0), which is as strong as ever.
New starting quarterback Justin Fields has been putting together a Heisman Trophy-worthy highlight reel and running back J.K. Dobbins ran for 181 yards in his college debut the last time he visited Bloomington. The offense averages 43.5 points and the defense has yielded only three points in the first half of its first two games.
And if the Buckeyes learned anything from their last regular-season trip to the state of Indiana — a blowout loss at Purdue last season — it's that they can't take anything for granted even in this series.
"The mentality we have is if you're the champ, you're the boxer, they're going to try to knock you out every time," Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. "We have to bring it every single week."
Fields has thrown for six touchdowns and run for three more in his first two games with the Buckeyes. He's second in Ohio State history to Dwayne Haskins Jr. for most touchdown passes in his first two starts. Haskins threw nine TD passes in the first two games last year. And the three TD runs are a school record for a quarterback in his first two starts. But the Georgia transfer doesn't care about the numbers.
"I'm just really focused on wins, so as long as we win," Fields said.
Indiana's Michael Penix Jr. has shown what he's capable of in his first two career starts. After throwing for 326 yards, one TD and two interceptions and running for 67 yards in the season opener, Penix cleaned things up last week and was an efficient 14 of 20 with 197 yards and two TDs before taking a seat late in the first half. The redshirt freshman knows he will have to be every bit as good Saturday.
YOUNG & THE LINE
Indiana is one of six teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision that has not yet allowed a sack. Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young could change things in a hurry. The junior already has three sacks this season, 17 in his career and is trying to join Mike Vrabel as the second player in school history to record multiple seasons with 10 or more sacks.
Both teams are coming off lopsided shutouts. Indiana routed Eastern Illinois 52-0 last week while Ohio State ran away from Cincinnati 42-0. Both coaches also believe they'll need to play even better this week.
"The immature player, the immature coach looks at it and says everything is good, we won. We won pretty handily," Day said. "The fact of the matter is that the issues are on film. As the level of play increases through conference play, as the season goes on, those issues aren't going to go away."