Stanley Yelnats IV found himself the beneficiary of a familial curse of bad luck when he was wrongfully convicted for stealing some sneakers. It is this wrongful conviction that leads him to Camp Green Lake, where he is forced to dig holes in the desert day after day.
For Ohio State, the need to dig holes looked a little different — their need for holes wasn’t dictated by the sinister Warden of a juvenile detention center. Instead, it was dictated by next week’s opponent. If they couldn’t figure out how to dig some holes this week against Western Kentucky, how would they manage against a top-10 Notre Dame next week?
Both Stanley Yelnats IV and the Buckeyes did a lot of digging on Saturday.
Until the Western Kentucky game, the Buckeyes’ run game had been lacking a certain punch. They’ve managed to fly a bit under the radar while we were all watching the quarterbacks duke it out for the starting job, but a Notre Dame team that looks more legitimate than it has in a long time (under the watchful eye of head coach and former Buckeye Marcus Freeman) will be likely to force them to the forefront next Saturday.
So this week, while Kyle McCord secured the starting quarterback job and continued his Elle Woods-esque rise to the top, the rest of the offense grabbed their shovels.
It came on the heels of head coach Ryan Day calling for “violence” from the offensive line, a unit that struggled in the first two weeks against Indiana and Youngstown State.
This week, in their 63-10 routing of the Hilltoppers, the offensive line looked less like football players and more like Zero, Zig-Zag, Armpit, Squid, X-Ray, and Magnet. They were digging holes.
To be clear, Western Kentucky’s defensive front isn’t a good indication of what the Buckeyes will face at Notre Dame next week. But for an offensive line that struggled mightily the last two weeks (especially on third down—we’ll get to that in a minute), opening up holes for the run game was absolutely critical.
They had no choice if they want to win next week. Though they were playing Western Kentucky, their Warden is the Fighting Irish.
Driven by the fear of the warden, much like Stanley Yelnats IV, the Buckeyes offensive line put in the work. It was hard, sweaty, physical labor.
The backfield capitalized.
Junior running back TreVeyon Henderson looked more confident than he has the last two weeks, running for 88 yards on 13 carries and 2 touchdowns. Senior Chip Trayanum contributed 56 yards on 5 carries, with a 40-yard touchdown run of his own.
This run game is even more crucial on third down, where the Buckeyes have been abysmal. In fact, coming into Saturday’s matchup with the Hilltoppers, they were one of the worst third-down offenses in the country.
But they looked better Saturday, digging holes where it counted and going 4-for-4 on third-and-short scenarios.
The win against Western Kentucky was a primer for next week, where we’ll finally get a chance to see what both this Buckeye team and Notre Dame can really do.
But much like Stanley Yelnats IV, the hope is that now that the Buckeyes have started digging holes, they’ll uncover a buried treasure that will set them up for success in the future.