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Ohio State takes over ‘Thursday Night Football’, Ezekiel Elliott keeps breaking NFL records

The NFL is far more enjoyable with so many Buckeyes making big plays.

With just a few weeks left in the 2016 NFL regular season, former Ohio State players are still in the spotlight. Week 11’s Thursday matchup included six Buckeyes and several big plays, followed by another incredible game for Ezekiel Elliott. The rookie class out of Ohio State continues to prove their draft value was not oversold.

Thursday Night Football

Color rush games have typically been overlooked this season due to uniforms that burn your retina or matchups that make sleep a better option. Week 10’s TNF game however, saw the Carolina Panthers (Corey “Philly” Brown, Kurt Coleman, Ted Ginn Jr., Andrew Norwell) host the New Orleans Saints (Vonn Bell, Michael Thomas).

The first Buckeye to come up big on Thursday was Panthers’ safety Kurt Coleman who snagged his first interception since Week 4, and only his second of the season. Teammate Corey “Philly” Brown had his first game of the year without a single reception, but fellow Buckeye Ted Ginn Jr. had a hell of a night with 46 yards on three receptions and a touchdown — almost two.

Heading into the matchup, Saints’ wideout Michael Thomas led all rookies in receptions (51), receiving yards (613) & touchdown catches (five), and he only expanded that lead in Week 11. The receiver added five receptions for 68 yards on Thursday, including an incredible diving catch for the first down late in the game. Teammate Vonn Bell recorded seven combined tackles against the Panthers, totaling 51 so far his rookie season.

It was a good game for Buckeyes on both sides of the ball. And although they might faceoff as opponents for 60 minutes, they still root for the same team on Saturdays.

Ezekiel. Elliott.

The former Ohio State running back wasted no time in making a name for himself in the NFL. Not only was he the highest drafted running back in several years, but he also proved that taking a rusher in the first round can be fruitful. Hall-of-fame inductee Tony Dorsett was on hand Sunday as Elliott surpassed his formerly held rookie rushing record for the Dallas Cowboys set in 1977.

It would be 39 years before anyone would touch that record, and Elliott is about to scorch it. In just 11 weeks, the Buckeye has surpassed Dorsett’s rookie season record of 1,007 rushing yards, with five weeks left and a really good chance at the postseason -- with the Cowboys leading the NFL 9-1.

This wasn’t the first week Elliott revised the record books. Ahead of Week 11, Elliott had already matched or surpassed multiple NFL records.

In Week 10 against the Steelers, Elliott scored two touchdowns in the final minutes of the game — totaling three on the day — making him the first player to score two go-ahead touchdowns in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter of the same game since Ahmad Rashad in 1974.

His non-fourth quarter score against the Steelers was an 83-yard touchdown reception, marking the longest touchdown pass from a rookie passer to a rookie teammate since 1986 — Colts quarterback Jack Trudeau to Bill Brooks for an 84-yard touchdown.

Elliott along with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott are friends on and off the field, even living together since the draft to establish a rapport. This may have been one of the best decisions they could’ve made, with Prescott to Elliott becoming the second pair with at least 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season — and becoming the first pair in NFL history to do so in the team’s first nine games.

The Buckeye is also the third player in NFL history with 1,000 rushing yards in his first nine games.

Heading across the border

This week’s “Monday Night Football” matchup is between the Houston Texans (Braxton Miller, John Simon) and Oakland Raiders down in Mexico — the first NFL game to be played south of the border since 2005. The teams will faceoff at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, marking the final international game of the 2016 season.

Miller has made an appearance in seven of the Texans’ games this season, but has yet to have a breakout performance. His rookie year so far consists of nine receptions for 62 total yards and no scores. Simon, on the other hand, is having a career season and could have a big game against Derek Carr and the Raiders.

Veterans take a seat

Some of the most formidable Buckeyes in the NFL over the past five-plus seasons are seeing their 2016 season end early. Cam Heyward (Steelers) announced this week that he will be sidelined the remainder of the year with a torn pectoral. As a leader of the Pittsburgh defense, Heyward’s absence will be noticeable, but he vowed to be even more involved on the sideline.

Weeks after being benched for the first time in his career, James Laurinaitis (Saints) missed several games with an injury before being designated to IR. After spending seven seasons with the Rams in St. Louis -- and never once missing a game — the linebacker has only seen action in five games with his new team. A report earlier this week said Laurinaitis, if healthy, would be released to sign elsewhere before the end of the year; if he’s not medically cleared, he’ll finish the season on IR.

Plays of the week

Ted Ginn Jr.

The receiver had to wait an extra quarter before claiming his first touchdown of the 2016 season -- as an early game score was called out of bounds. Just before half, thanks to a penalty, the Panthers were just out of field goal range and decided to go for the endzone. The Buckeye was able to drag both feet inbounds in a play so close the field judge called him out.

Terrelle Pryor

Another week, another loss for the Cleveland Browns, but one thing that doesn’t suck is the Buckeye’s ability at wideout. Pryor has slowly accumulated 627 receiving yards so far this season and is one of the only offensive weapons the team seems to have. At least fans get to watch an exciting, big-play receiver as their team inches toward 0-16.

He may have finished the day with only 97 yards, but considering those were on just five receptions, he averaged 19.4 yards per reception on the day -- and is now averaging 12.3 yards per reception on the season.

Other notes

  • Lots of Buckeyes on bye this week, including those on San Diego Chargers (Joey Bosa, Joshua Perry), New York Jets (Darron Lee, Nick Mangold, Devin Smith), Atlanta Falcons (A.J. Hawk) and Denver Broncos (Jeff Heuerman, Bradley Roby). Bosa and Perry were amongst those that swung by OSU practice this past week.
  • After spending most of his rookie season sidelined, Devin Smith (Jets) was finally activated to the active roster in Week 10, and could see playing time following the bye.
  • Cardale Jones was inactive Sunday for the Bills after missing practice earlier in the week due to illness. Former and current teammates Tyvis Powell and Nick Vannett (Seahawks) were also listed as inactive in Week 11.
  • Mike Adams (Bears) had a tough day Sunday, despite getting the start at right tackle against the Giants, he was lined up against Jason Pierre-Paul and was lit up all day.
  • Never one to mince words, former Ohio State player Alex Boone (Vikings) had a short explanation for his new haircut.