Ohio State ground game keeping Buckeyes in Big Ten race

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Ohio State has won three straight games in the Big Ten – and completed just 13 total passes while doing so. The Bucks are last in the Big Ten and 118th in the nation with just 115 passing yards per game. Yet OSU sits at 6-3 with a legitimate shot at the inaugural Big Ten title game. How is this possible? With a stellar running attack.

Against Indiana, quarterback Braxton Miller and running backs Daniel ‘Boom’ Herron and Carlos Hyde each went for over 100 yards. Center Mike Brewster said OSU is just fine with a run-heavy offense.

“People know we can run and that’s what we did today,” Brewster said after the Indiana game. “If we have to put the game on our shoulders we can do that. When we get down to the red zone we have to score a touchdown.”

It wasn’t just in the red zone, however. Braxton Miller led off the running attack with an 81-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The run was the longest touchdown run ever by an Ohio State quarterback, but the freshman remained humble about making history.

“It was a QB draw. I took advantage of the offensive line’s blocking. It was real good,” Miller said. “It’s great to be in the Ohio State record book, but I keep striving toward the next game.”

Though Miller takes a lot of credit for the run game – multiple pickups on third down and two touchdowns on the day – a large portion of the credit goes to Dan Herron.

Against Michigan State, the second to last game Herron sat out because of suspension, the Bucks had just 35 yards rushing. Though Hyde and Miller performed well against Nebraska, the offense came alive when Herron returned. The senior is averaging 138 yards in his three games, with two touchdowns and a 5.9-yard per carry average.

More important than those stats are the team’s stats when Herron is on the field. OSU is 21-1 when Boom rushes for more than 55 yards, and 22-3 when he scores a rushing touchdown. His senior leadership since his return has sparked the Buckeyes.

“We’ve got confidence putting the ball in his hands,” Fickell said last week of Herron. “Obviously he’s a secure runner. He goes north and south… You know that you put the ball in somebody’s hands and they’ve got a chance to make some plays. And that’s what it comes down to.”

Perhaps forgotten in the hype of Braxton Miller and Dan Herron is sophomore Carlos Hyde, who has had a very up and down season. Hyde had a breakout performance against Nebraska, rushing for 104 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries.

After the Illinois game, however, Hyde wrote on his twitter: “Guess I’m not good enough. Take myself elsewhere.” This ill-timed tweet kept Hyde off the playing field, giving a majority of his carries to Jordan Hall. With Hall injured against Indiana, however, Hyde got his time, and made the most of it.

“He’s a great guy who’s working hard and getting better every week,” Boom Herron said of Hyde. “He’s got a great future ahead of him.  It was really nice to see him do a great job. I told him to be patient and it would all come. It was great to see him take advantage of the opportunities given to him today.”

With Miller, Herron and Hyde in the backfield – possibly joined by a healthy Jordan Hall – the Bucks identity as a running team is solid. The passing game needs work, however, and despite gaining over 300 yards on the ground, Fickell said he thinks the team needs to get better before heading on the road to Purdue.

“There’s always going to be room for improvement. We’re going to be hardest on ourselves,” Fickell said. “There’s ways we can get better in everything, to how we start, to how we finish, to how we come out of the locker room. We look at every possible little thing…Not that we’re not grateful for the win, but we’re not going to be satisfied.”

 

-Jamie Arkin

twitter.com/jamie_arkin

 

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