Dwayne Haskins’ first season as Ohio State’s starting quarterback has been loaded with highlights.
He has lit up opposing defenses through the air in a way that no Buckeye passer ever has before. But on the ground… well… that’s another story.
Haskins’ rushes haven’t shown up on any highlight reels this fall, unless you count the Not Top 10.
Saturday in the third quarter against Nebraska, Haskins stepped up in the pocket and appeared to have an open field in front of him. But he slid after just a one-yard gain, still far out of the reach of any Nebraska defenders.
“I know the one you’re talking about. It wasn’t the most graceful,” said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on Monday.
There was a smattering of boos from the Ohio Stadium crowd after that play. Haskins certainly appeared to pass up the chance for a more significant gain in the name of personal safety.
When asked about it Monday, Meyer didn’t seem too upset. He wants his quarterbacks to pick up yards on the ground, but he also wants to keep them healthy.
“You like to see him get all he can and then get down,” Meyer said.
Having a quarterback who views running like a cat thinks about baths is unusual for the Buckeyes’ head coach.
“I knew he’s not obviously not a J.T. (Barrett),” Meyer said. But he also acknowledged that Haskins doesn’t look like another OSU quarterback who made a big play on the ground in 2017: Dwayne Haskins.
After coming in to replace Barrett in Ann Arbor, Haskins picked up a crucial first down with his legs. He saw an opening and scrambled down to the Michigan 1 to set up the Buckeyes’ go-ahead touchdown.
This year’s Haskins hasn’t looked anything like that guy from The Game. Meyer seemed a little flustered when asked whether he expected more from Haskins on the ground this year.
“I’d have to go back. You’re catching me off guard a little bit,” Meyer said. “Those are always, those yards that you see, you have to get them somewhere else if we’re not getting them from the quarterback.”
Saturday, the Buckeyes finally did get those rushing yards from somewhere else. Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins combined for 254 yards on just 32 carries – an impressive 7.9 yards per rush.
That’s great against Nebraska, but OSU is about to face two of the toughest run defenses in the nation.
This weekend, it’s Michigan State and its No. 2 run defense. In a little less than three weeks, it’s Michigan, which is 4th in the country against the run. And just like every year, Ohio State will have to run the ball to win The Game.
If Haskins can’t do it, then it’s on Dobbins, Weber, and the offensive line to keep the chains moving. Otherwise, the Buckeyes will slide right out of championship contention.