“The offensive line was blocking well last week in the running game. I wouldn’t say we were re-born.”
-Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins, via Bill Landis, Cleveland.com
Despite two games this season where the Ohio State offense has been utterly inconsistent, the offensive line has remained a high-performing unit through 10 games. Saturday, that high level of performance was apparent against a Michigan State defensive line which, previously, had allowed just 87 yards rushing per game, and had not given up a single 100-yard rusher all season. The Buckeyes, led by Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins, dropped 335 yards rushing on the Spartans, scoring four touchdowns in the process, and much of the credit for that performance has to go to the offensive line opening up gaping holes for the running backs.
The line has also played a crucial role in protecting J.T. Barrett, allowing just 15 sacks this season. Last year, the Buckeyes gave up 28 sacks over 13 games. Saturday, the line didn’t give up a single sack, and allowed just two tackles for loss.
Michigan State entered the game as the nation’s third-best rushing defense, but was completely outwitted by the combination of Jamarco Jones, Michael Jordan, Billy Price, Demetrius Knox and Isaiah Prince. The unit paved the way for Dobbins, who went past the 1,000 yard mark Saturday, matching Weber’s status from last season as a 1,000-yard rusher as a freshman.
The offensive line returned four starters heading into the 2017 season, led by center Billy Price. Only Branden Bowen, who was injured against Maryland and who was replaced by Knox, came into the season without a start. Price set a program record with his 51st-straight start Saturday, having started every game since his first game at right guard as a redshirt freshman. Earning first team All-American honors last season, Price was named to the Rimington Award watch list this year as one of the nation’s top centers--an honor taken home by former Ohio State center Pat Elflein last season.
The idea of the Miami Hurricanes football team’s newly emblazoned turnover chain was born just weeks before this season began, when cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph reached out to a local jeweler to see if he could make a rope chain for when players on his defense forced a turnover. Vince Wilfork happened to intervene, and recommended a Cuban link with an enormous “U” pendant. The finished product weighs in at 2.5 kg and is emblazoned with no less than 900 sapphires which make up the pendant. And the chain seems to have worked. Through eight games, Miami has forced 23 turnovers, including four Saturday against Notre Dame.
As it turns out, the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s wrestling team, which kicked off its season last week, has some bling of its own which, in many ways, is akin to the Hurricanes’ turnover chain--at least according to senior wrestler Kyle Snyder. The “pin chain” was referenced by Snyder in a tweet Sunday following the Buckeyes’ home opener versus No. 11 Arizona State, and appears to be a thick chain with a large scarlet and grey “O” pendant at the end. Snyder had just pinned the Sun Devil’s Austyn Harris to win the heavyweight match and cap off Ohio State’s win when the chain was broken out. Like Miami’s chain, Ohio State’s pin chain was designed by an assistant coach as a motivational tool to encourage more pins in matches.
The Buckeyes, who entered the season ranked No. 2 nationally won the opener by a 31-12 overall mark, earning wins on seven of 10 matches. Snyder is widely considered the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the country, and is seeking a third-straight NCAA championship in his senior season in Columbus. The Maryland native made waves when he became the youngest World and Olympic champion in US wrestling history.
“This is one you want to burn, and you don’t want it to be indicative of how you play all the time.”
It seems that all the top teams in the Big Ten have had an inexplicable loss this season that they simply want to forget about: Iowa trampling Ohio State at Kinnick; Penn State collapsing against the Buckeyes; Michigan getting blown out by Penn State (okay, maybe not everyone wants to forget that one). Now, Michigan State can add their own blowout defeat to the list. After clawing their way back into relevancy after losses to Notre Dame and Northwestern, the Spartans found themselves in control of their own destiny in the Big Ten East. All they had to do was beat Ohio State in Columbus in November as heavy underdogs. As dire as the situation sounds, it was one Sparty had been in before, and, on several occasions, come out on top.
Saturday was a different story, though, and Michigan State wound up on the receiving end of a severe beat-down from Ohio State following the Buckeyes’ loss to Iowa the week prior. It was the worst loss of Dantonio’s career at Michigan State, as the Spartans gave up 524 yards of total offense while themselves not even hitting the 200 yard mark.
On offense, the Buckeyes did an outstanding job defensively of outmaneuvering the Michigan State offensive line, pressuring quarterback Brian Lewerke and forcing inaccurate passes while hindering the running game. On the other side of the ball, the Spartan defense couldn’t seem to get lined up against a fast-paced Buckeye offense.
The loss didn’t look any better on tape, according to Dantonio, acknowledging that it was “one you want to burn.” The coach said that “everything seems like a scramble” when things are going against you, but that the team has to be ready to move forward and control what they can control in order to get to eight wins.