Ohio State ran for more yards Saturday than Michigan State’s first five opponents combined.
More impressive is that the Buckeyes gained all 323 in the final three quarters against the nation’s No. 4 rush defense, after being stymied for zero yards in the first. Junior running back J.K. Dobbins finished with 172 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
“You have to wear them down, and you’ve got to cover them up,” head coach Ryan Day said. “The running backs have to turn 4-yard runs into six. Then eventually over time, if you can start to run on them, you can maybe crack some.”
The offensive line started hammering a few cracks into the Spartans’ defensive wall when Dobbins took a rush over the left side for 13 yards during Ohio State’s first touchdown drive.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields connected with senior wide receiver Binjimen Victor for a 60-yard score the next play, several defenders distracted by his running abilities as he rolled out.
Two drives later, it carpet-bombed the same wall when Dobbins cut once and bolted 67 yards for a touchdown.
“It’s one thing to go [for] a 20-yard gain, but to come off the back-end, and that was 67 yards,” Day said. “That’s a game changer.”
Ohio State took a 3-0 end-of-first quarter lead to a 27-10 halftime supremacy, gaining 163 yards rushing in 15 minutes.
Redshirt senior offensive tackle Branden Bowen said once the Ohio State offensive line figured out how to block Michigan State’s defensive linemen one-on-one, the offense started to open up.
“[They] came in and played a little bit different than what we thought, took us off double teams,” Bowen said. “We excel in double teams, that’s why we struggled a little bit, trying to figure all that out.”
Bowen added that the offensive line is motivated to block for a back of Dobbins’ caliber.
“[He’s] coming back into doing his best thing,” Bowen said. “Running through people, running around people, running past people — it’s impossible not to love blocking for a guy like that.”
Dobbins said that he’s running angry right now, finishing runs stronger and carrying defenders along for extra yardage.
“I still think people are doubting me, so you guys will see me get better,” Dobbins said.
Dobbins wasn’t alone in his rushing efforts. Fields picked up 61 yards rushing — 84 on eight carries if you remove his three sacks — and helped keep defenders at bay who had to respect his ability to gain more.
Redshirt freshman running back Master Teague is now over 400 yards rushing on the season, despite being Dobbins’ backup, and added another 90 on 14 carries against Michigan State. Nearly half came on a 41-yard run that helped ice the game in the fourth quarter.
After dismantling the Spartans’ vaunted rush defense Saturday, the Buckeyes get a bye week before taking on the nation’s No. 60 rush defense in Northwestern Oct. 18.