Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Ohio State has had one elite runner since the beginning of the season. Now, it looks like the Buckeyes might have two.
Braxton Miller carried the majority of the load for the Buckeye offense through OSU’s first five games, tallying 577 yards on the ground while adding 933 yards in the air. The sophomore quarterback was by far the biggest threat in OSU’s running game. Miller carried the ball 90 times through five games, with no other Buckeye totaling more than 40 carries in that same span.
The carries didn’t come easily for Miller, though, as the now-Heisman candidate took a number of hits, some of which caused him to miss action. The bumps and bruises Miller attained had many people – including players and coaches within the Buckeye program – calling for someone on the OSU offense, specifically a running back, to give Miller some relief.
Carlos Hyde answered that call over the last two games.
The OSU junior running back has run for 296 yards on 50 attempts in the Buckeyes’ most recent two games. Hyde followed up a 28 carry, 140-yard performance against Nebraska on Oct. 6 with a 22 carry, 156-yard outing at Indiana Saturday. He has six total touchdowns – five rushing and one receiving – over the past two games.
Hyde, who seemingly broke at least one tackle on every run he had Saturday, gave the credit for his burst onto the running game scene to the Buckeyes’ offensive line after OSU’s 52-49 victory against the Hoosiers.
“You’ve got to thank those guys up front. They did their job. When they go, we go. So it was going pretty good today,” Hyde said.
Hyde has taken some of the running-game load off Miller’s shoulders with his recent performances, but the Buckeyes’ quarterback is still running the ball. He’s running quite a bit, actually, and he should be, according to first-year coach Urban Meyer and Buckeye players.
Miller totaled 23 rushing attempts for 149 yards and a score Saturday after running for 186 yards on 16 carries against Nebraska. He remains OSU’s most talented runner, according to his teammates.
The difference between now and the first five games of the season, though, is that OSU’s rushing attack has gone from a single-handed, almost-heroic one-man effort to a two-headed monster.
And that’s a major positive for Meyer, who had little to take away from the Buckeyes’ narrow victory at Indiana Saturday.
“We are 7-0 and we ran the ball for 350 yards and had two guys really haul it running the ball (Saturday),” Meyer said.
OSU didn’t get off to a great start against Indiana, as the Buckeyes trailed, 14-10, midway through the second quarter. The Buckeyes took control of the game by halftime and brought a 24-14 lead into the break.
The OSU defense collapsed in the second half, allowing 35 points. It was runs from Miller and Hyde that allowed OSU to hang on to win.
Miller had a 67-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Hyde added two scores of his own – the first, a 14-yard shovel pass, pushed OSU’s lead to 14 points and the second stretched the lead to 18.
“They started off slow. But they came back, and came back in a flurry,” Meyer said. “The good thing is that I saw possession of time around 36 minutes. There are some real strong positives in (the running game) right now.”
There are not only positives, but also historic numbers. Saturday night marked just the fifth time in OSU history – and the first time in 37 years – in which two players had 100-plus yard performances in back-to-back games. The last Buckeye players to match Miller’s and Hyde’s totals over the past two games were former running backs Archie Griffin and Pete Johnson in 1975.
It’s probably safe to say that OSU has its running game rolling right now, and it is something that Buckeye players say will be very hard for opposing defenses to stop.
“It’s weird. With coach Meyer, everyone thought we’d be throwing the ball everywhere but I would say we probably have one of the best rushing attacks in the country,” said OSU senior wide receiver Jake Stoneburner. “With Carlos and (redshirt sophomore running back Rod Smith) coming along pretty well, and then with Braxton probably being the best runner in the country, I’d say people have a lot to worry about with our rushing attack.”
OSU is scheduled to return to action Saturday at noon against Purdue at Ohio Stadium.