COLUMBUS, Ohio — Despite a thin roster at running back with starter TreVeyon Henderson still unavailable and being down a starting offensive lineman, the Ohio State run game re-established its presence in the Buckeye offense on Saturday with a season high 340 rush yards in its 56-14 win against Indiana.
A team that has had issues in the run game the past three weeks sure didn’t show many signs of that against Indiana. Ohio State played like it was out to make a statement on offense, especially on the ground.
Last week when wind significantly limited quarterback C.J. Stroud’s ability to throw and the offense needed to rely on the run game, it was unable to find success until late in the game and a major contributor was Stroud’s ability to run and use his legs when needed.
On Saturday, it wasn’t about the opponent. It was about Ohio State’s ability to overcome and get it done on the ground. Ohio State finished with 662 total yards on offense with almost an even split of 322 yards in the air and a season high 340 yards on the ground on 43 carries. The Buckeyes averaged a 7.9 yards per rush on Saturday.
There were some explosive plays coming from backup Miyan Williams on a 48-yard run and 71 yards from former walk on wide receiver Xaiver Johnson on his touchdown run, but there were also quick yards, hard runs, and tough yards gained that helped Ohio State keep its rhythm offensively.
Ohio State established the run early on in the game. Three runs in the second drive went for over 10 yards and even without starting tackle Dawand Jones, backup Josh Fryar was effective in creating holes for Williams who started in place of the injured TreVeyon Henderson.
Through its first three drives, Ohio State was averaging 9.5 yards per carry. The Buckeyes even surpassed last weeks’ yardage against Northwestern as early as the first quarter.
Ohio State also showed versatility within the run game. When it looked like Ohio State’s running back depth was going to be seriously tested after Williams went to the locker room on the cart with an injury, and Henderson out, Ohio State utilized its true freshman Dallan Hayden, former walk-on wide receiver Xaiver Johnson, and also utilized fullback zone runs in the run game.
Other players came in to tote the rock and Ohio State still was able to not miss a beat, achieve balance offensively, and stay schedule.
Williams finished the game with 15 carries, 147 yards and a touchdown, averaging 9.8 yards per rush all of which were in the first half. True freshman back Dallan Hayden came in for Williams and had 102 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown, good for 5.4 yards per carry. Johnson had a 71 yard run for a touchdown. These numbers, are much higher than the average of 2.9 yards per carry two weeks ago.
Third string running back Evan Pryor, who flashed in the spring game, was declared out for the season with an injury in fall camp. Star walk on T.C. Caffey who scored a touchdown for the Buckeyes earlier on was also recently put on the injury list, and is out for the remainder of the season. Chip Trayanum played running back at Arizona State but transferred to the Buckeyes to play linebacker has spent some time at running back due to the injuries, but he was also unavailable on Saturday.
The Scarlet and Gray have had to rely on Henderson or Williams along with Hayden and now Johnson. But Ohio State has yet to play with a fully healthy running back room.
“It’s pretty remarkable that we have that many guys who are capable,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “But whether its Tre [Henderson] or Miyan [Williams] or Chip [Trayanum], we’re hoping to get all of these guys back here as soon as we can. It’s been frustrating not having a full strength room there, but I guess the positive spin on that is that depth has been shown and we’ve been able to keep that going.”
Short yardage situations prove to still be a problem for Day and his offense. But while the run game isn’t perfect, Ohio State has shown that its minimal depth at running back can still show up big and get the job done on the ground.