Can the Buckeyes Run Their Way to Indianapolis?
By Tony Gerdeman
They say that football is a game of inches, and in some circumstances that's accurate. But on a more applicable scale, football has always been a game of yards. If you can get a smidge over three yards per play, your offense is going to be successful more often than not.
With Ohio State's current offensive situation—young quarterback, young receivers and talented running backs and offensive line—winning the surest way also means winning the shortest way right now.
The closer the ball stays to those running backs and that offensive line, the less unseen danger can arise to derail the Buckeyes' season.
However, when you travel the road more traveled, opponents know that you're coming and they prepare for you. They devise the best way to defend the situation, and also the best way to attack it.
This is road that the Buckeyes face right now, and they seem confident in their ability to make it to the Big Ten Championship Game as long as they continue to do what they're doing.
“I think we can, as long as we execute," said Buckeye left tackle Mike Adams, despite the team's lack of passing.
"And it's not like we can't pass. It's just that if we can run the ball, why stop? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. When you've got guys breaking big runs, you've got Boom averaging ten yards per carry, why stop?"
Since freshman quarterback Braxton Miller was inserted into the starting lineup, the Buckeyes haven't stopped pounding defenses on the ground, save for the loss to Michigan State.
Ohio State, without much aid of a passing game, is averaging 197 yards rushing per game since Miller became a starter against Colorado, and that includes the disheartening 35 yards they rushed for against the Spartans.
Prior to the Colorado game, the Buckeyes were averaging 170 yards on the ground per game, and that was against the likes of Akron, Toledo and Miami. Now Ohio State has rededicated themselves to running the ball, and they don't really care who knows it.
"The offensive line knows that as long as we keep grinding and we take care of the ball, good things will happen,” center Mike Brewster said after the win over Indiana.
Mike Brewster paves the way for Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
“When you're rushing for 350 yards, we're gonna keep pounding it, and that's what we did today. There will come a point when we're probably going to have to throw, and when it comes we'll get it done.”
And what if that point never comes?
“Then we'll just keep rushing it," Brewster said.
"I've got a lot of confidence in our guys up front and I think we've got the best fullback in the country. There's no doubt in my mind about that. When you've got guys blocking, and the running backs we've got, it's a good combination.”
There's nothing fancy about the Ohio State offense right now, but fancy doesn't move the ball - execution does - and right now the Buckeyes are executing in the running game as well as they have in a couple of years.
Ohio State has rushed for over 200 yards in four consecutive games, which is something they haven't done since they did it five times in a row in 2009.
Balance has always been talked about at Ohio State, but not as readily achieved. It will continue to be talked about around Columbus, but not by the Buckeyes.
“I really don't think any of us think about it," Adams said.
"We go out and execute the plays. We're going out there for 'W's, we're not going out there for passing stats or rushing stats. We're going out there to win games, and that's what is important to us, and that's what we're going to do.”
The Buckeyes have three conference games remaining. Purdue is this Saturday. They have the 92nd-ranked rush defense in the nation. Penn State follows them. They have the nation's 24th-ranked rush defense. Then the Buckeyes wrap up with the Michigan Wolverines, who are boasting the 54th-ranked rush defense in the country.
All three defenses are susceptible to the run, but all three will be better prepared to stop it because there isn't a real threat of a passing game from the Buckeyes.
The Ohio State players know nothing will come easy this month, but they've known it for years. Passing through the fire of November is the ultimate test for Big Ten teams, and counting the vacated 2010 season, the Buckeyes are 17-1 in November since 2005.
In other words, they know what is coming.
“If Tress taught us anything that really stuck in my mind, it's that September is for pretenders and November is for contenders," said Brewster.
"That's something that we take to heart, and Coach Fickell has made it very clear that champions are made in November. We've got three games left and we need to get the job done.
"This is it for us, it's do or die. We're not trying to impress anybody, we're just trying to play the best ball we can and get the win.”
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