Football The Rivalry

Run The Ball, Win The Game

The week before the Michigan game is full of traditions. Senior Tackle, the Mirror Lake jump, crossing out the Ms on every sign on campus, and players and coaches from both sides of the rivalry talking about how physical the upcoming Saturday will be.

They talk about winning the battle in the trenches. They talk about the importance of being able to run the ball, and also to stop their opponent’s running game.

Old coaches come back and reminisce about how running the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage was the most important thing back when they coached in The Game, too.

It happens every year, to an almost eye-rolling degree. It happened this week as well.

It’s physical as can be, going against a team like The Team Up North and having those big guys up front,” said Ohio State C Billy Price.

They try and out-tough you – that’s what they do. That’s their M.O.,” said OSU DE Sam Hubbard. “They’re not going to change anything.”

It is definitely a physical game and there is a lot of emotion behind it,” said Buckeye QB J.T. Barrett. “I think getting (RBs Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins) going early is going to be critical for us.”

If you look very closely, you may detect what scientists call “something of a trend.”

But this cliche is an annual tradition for a reason. For the past 15 years, when a team averaged more yards per rush in The Game, it won The Game. Every time. No exceptions.

Ohio State’s recent dominance in the series has come on the backs of the offensive linemen who have controlled the line of scrimmage. They know that will be the case again this weekend.

“I think the running game period is primary right now. Whoever wins the line of scrimmage and wins the trenches tends to win the game itself,” said Price. “If we get the run game going and eliminate penalties and eliminate turnovers we’re going to put ourselves in good position to win.”

Michigan’s defensive front will almost certainly be the best that the Buckeyes have faced all season, thanks to standouts like Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary. But Price said that doesn’t change what the Buckeyes have to do.

“They’re known for disruption and attacking the ball and being very aggressive up front. Put a man on a man on the front seven, and whoever wins the line of scrimmage is usually the people who win the game,” he said.

Barrett runs away from Jabrill Peppers (Jim Davidson/TheOzone)

Barrett’s legs have been a key piece of the Buckeye attack against Michigan in his three previous starts. He ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with a broken leg in 2014, then 139 yards and three scores in 2015, and a team-high 125 yards and a touchdown in 2016.

He expects that to be a part of the game plan on Saturday as well.

“When it comes to games, not just this game but games before this, that’s just a part of our game plan and that’s something that they have to defend,” said Barrett. “I think it just makes it difficult on their part as far as the quarterback run.

On the other side of the ball, the key is the same.

“It’s the number one priority,” said Hubbard. “When you go into someone’s house, you gotta run the ball and stop the run, especially in this game. Historically, it’s been run the ball downhill, whoever’s tougher, and who can stop the opponent from running the ball is going to have the upper hand.”

Michigan’s offense comes in with several key players injured.  Any of three quarterbacks – John O’Korn, Wilton Speight, or Brandon Peters – could play on Saturday, and the running game is up in the air because of injuries to Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac. Speedy Chris Evans and former OSU commit Kareem Walker will also get carries.

Jalyn Holmes and Nick Bosa sack Wilton Speight. (Dan Harker/TheOzone)

They’ve got two really good running backs,” said OSU DL Jalyn Holmes. “I feel like they read their holes pretty well and they run pretty hard, and they’re running behind a good, physical O-line. We’ve got to play physical and we’ve got to match that intensity every play and try to dominate the run.”

Lewis said it doesn’t really matter which quarterback or running back is in on any given play.

“Playing football, playing defensive line, your job is to dominate the offensive lineman and then make the tackle. There are some good running backs out there but at the end of the day you have to hold your gap, defend your gap and destroy a blocker and then make the tackle.”

13 Responses

  1. I get a kick out of people complaining about the uniforms and tradition. Like OSU has worn the same uniform since 1890? Let’s get rid of buckeye leaves on helmets. It’s not traditional (sarcasm). I don’t particularly care for some of the alternate uniforms especially the latest ones, but it’s not the end of the world. I’d prefer to see throw backs, but as long as they are winning and representing the university with class I don’t care too much what they wear.

    1. Haven’t seen anyone comment that the new uniforms are the “end of the world”. They lack class or connection to the team’s colors, and reek of sell out to Nike. If you can’t understand that, its a “you” problem.

      1. Re-read my comment. Never said anyone commented “end of the world”. They act like it tho when OSU wears alternate uniforms.

        1. No need to re-read. its an absurd comment like all the other clueless folks defending these horrid Nike pieces of crap. The pick who you “get a kick out of” have a sense of history and appreciation for the REAL team colors, and like seeing them on the field. I don’t expect you to understand it.

          1. Whoops- I meant “people you get a kick out of…” The alt uniform defenders bring out the poor typing in me. Short version is the alt uniforms are gross, there’s no defending them.

  2. I hate these ridiculous uniforms we will be wearing. I’m a life long OSU fan and if they keep playing dress up with the uniforms I will quit watching and boycott them just like I quit watching the NFL.

    1. Guess they should keep wearing ugly uniforms then to weed out the fake fans. If ugly uniforms makes you stop cheering for them then you never were a true fan to begin with

    2. Way to make a stand. If I were you I wouldn’t even watch this game!

  3. Super excited about this game!! Bucks win if they do in fact run the ball, and play great defense and special teams. Must stop them on first down, and force Michigan in 2nd and 3rd in long. Only thing disappointing are the Ohio State uniforms. If you are a true Buckeye fan, these don’t even look like Ohio State! You don’t see Alabama, Penn State, USC, or Michigan deviate much from their normal uniform. Why does Ohio State? The tradition at Ohio State has been compromised. If you think it helps recruiting, I have some more lies for you.

  4. Some things are just intrinsic to the game as well as The Game. This is one. I’m really hoping that Mike Weber takes it to the next level here because he’s from Detroit and this is his time to shine.

  5. Yep yep yep, there is NO doubt about it. 25 yard parallel to line of scrimmage passes for no gain, or 40 yard passes when its 3rd and 7, should have ZERO place in the Buckeye offensive game plan this weekend. Cross your fingers folks…Can’t wait to watch it!

    1. You people do understand that Michigan blows…don’t you?

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