Buckeyes ride rushing game — and some words of motivation — to eighth win

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s running game blossomed like a buckeye tree in the fall thanks in part to some verbal fertilizer from Nebraska’s defense.

“I’d like to think that we don’t have any pushovers on our team, so whenever the defense starts talking to us first, we’re not going to take it very nicely,” Dobbins said. “We were running the ball on them, (and) they were talking.

“There was no reason to talk. We were running the ball.”

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When asked for specifics on what the Huskers might have been saying, the sophomore smiled and dodged the question.

“Just a lot of things,” Dobbins said.

Whatever was said, it was enough to inspire the Buckeyes to get back to their running roots in what turned out to be a historic day for Dobbins and Mike Weber.

With 163 yards on 23 carries, Dobbins surpassed the 2,000-yard career mark. Weber already was a member of that club, making them the first running backs on the same team to do so in school history.

Dobbins also scored three touchdowns and leads the 8-1 Buckeyes with seven. It was the second multi-touchdown game of his career; he scored twice in Ohio State’s 2017 victory over Army.

Buckeye coach Urban Meyer said after the game that there was extra work put into the running game during the Buckeyes’ bye week following a 49-20 loss Oct. 20 at Purdue. Meyer was challenging the backs to make their own holes if an offensive lineman or tight end didn’t.

“I thought they both did (that),” Meyer said. “When you sit and watch games last Saturday, there’s a guy there, go do something with it. I thought the emphasis was there all week.”

Ohio State left tackle Thayer Munford said the line also embraced that challenge.

“Personally, we take pride in it very deeply because I know a couple of weeks, we didn’t run the ball as often,” Munford said. “We said this week, ‘Forget it, we’re going to pound this ball and score touchdowns.’ For us, it’s just who wants it more.”

That bye week also allowed the Buckeyes to install some new wrinkles for the running game. The most intriguing was the formation Ohio State used on Dobbins’ second TD, a 3-yard run that gave the Buckeyes the lead for good midway through the third quarter.

Defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones and tight end Jeremy Ruckert were lined up in front of quarterback Dwayne Haskins with Dobbins positioned behind Haskins. Jones and Ruckert moved to the right side. Haskins followed that duo and guards Malcolm Pridgeon and Demetrius Knox. Pridgeon was pulling from the left side, and his block of inside linebacker Dedrick Young at the goal line ensured passage for Dobbins into the end zone.

“We got back to old Buckeye football,” Dobbins said. “Just run at them and show them that we’re strong. Coming off the bye week we felt fresh. It was there today.”

Ohio State finished with 229 rushing yards. Weber had nine carries for 91 yards, and there were eight rushing plays that netted minus-25 yards, including 12 lost by Haskins courtesy of a sack by outside linebacker JoJo Domann and two tackles for loss by senior safety Aaron Williams.

Weber said he and Dobbins would get down on themselves last month if things weren’t going as well as expected. Taking it to the Nebraska defense was the tonic Weber said both needed.

“It was huge because he was getting down on himself also,” Weber said. “Even if there weren’t holes or he had a bad play, he would get down on himself. I was happy to see him break a couple of runs to get his confidence back.”

The Buckeyes rushed for 58 yards more than their season average, which ranked 68th nationally and seventh in the Big Ten. Ohio State still entered the game third nationally in total offense thanks to a passing game that was averaging 383.8 yards.

“It was great to get back to our old ways,” Dobbins said. “We knew what we could do. I don’t know what was happening, but today showed we’ve still got it.”

With the Buckeyes facing two road games — at Michigan State and Maryland — before their Nov. 24 showdown against Michigan, Dobbins thinks the running game is back on the right path.

“We have momentum right now,” Dobbins said. “We’re going to take it into next week because it’s a big game next week. We’re back on track, I believe.”