“Next Man Up” is a central tenet within the Ohio State football program.
The idea is that injuries are going to happen occasionally during the course of the season. They’re not a reason to make excuses or play badly. If one player goes down, the next man in line steps forward and fills his shoes.
Saturday night in Lincoln, fifth-year senior Josh Alabi was the next man up for the Buckeyes.
With starting right tackle Branden Bowen listed as a game-time decision due to injury, Alabi warmed up with the first-team offensive line before the game.
Bowen was dressed, and also participated in warmups (see photo above). And with the stakes being what they were – a primetime, nationally-televised conference game in front of nearly 90,000 screaming fans – many coaching staffs might have been tempted to let the starter give it a try.
But Ohio State’s roster isn’t like most others. The vast majority of teams in the nation don’t have the luxury of a player like Alabi to call upon.
A fifth-year senior, he has played at both tackle spots in his career, stepping in to fill in for injured teammates all the way back to Jamarco Jones in 2017.
Last season, when starting LT Thayer Munford went down with an injury before the Rose Bowl, Alabi stepped up and played admirably in the Buckeyes’ 28-23 win over Washington.
Saturday night in Memorial Stadium he did the same thing, halfway across the country and on the other end of the line.
The Buckeyes didn’t just hide Alabi there, either. They pounded the ball behind the right side of the line throughout the evening en route to 368 yards rushing on a whopping 6.9 yards per carry.
Sunday, the Buckeyes named Alabi their offensive player of the game.
Players of the Game versus the Cornhuskers‼️
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) September 29, 2019
After the game, Ryan Day was clearly pleased with everything about Alabi’s night.
“You talk about having a great attitude, being a team player. He comes in and steps in at right tackle,” Day said.
“That line did a great job blocking. I noticed him on some plays and he did really well. So to have a guy like that step up and play the way he played, that’s a tribute to our depth and everybody up front. Hats off to Josh, he played really, really good today.”