COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State was held to under 100 yards rushing in its 26-17 road win against Nebraska. The last time the Buckeyes failed to eclipse 100 yards was October 20, 2018, when the Buckeyes lost to Purdue, 49-20.
Ohio State has not lost a Big Ten game since then and a big part of that has to do with the team’s consistent ability to wear defenses out with a bruising rushing attack.
“We did meet as a group this week, the coaches, the players; we all took accountability that we’ve got to get it better. We’ve got to be cleaner,” OSU head coach Ryan Day said.
Ohio State averages 5.7 yards per carry, the sixth-best in the country. But the Buckeyes were below that average in their last two games against Nebraska (3.0 per carry) and Penn State (4.7 per carry).
“We’re playing against some good defenses but we can do a better job of execution, we can do a better job of communication,” Day said. “I don’t think it’s one thing across the board. I think what you see is one guy was a little bit off here, a little bit off there . . . and if this guy makes that block, look at what could happen here. But we didn’t.”
One aspect of Ohio State’s rushing attack, or lack thereof, is runs from quarterback C.J. Stroud. So far this season, Stroud has 21 rushes for five yards, including sacks and broken plays such as bad snaps or a handoff miscommunication.
“He can run. You’ve seen him do it before and he’ll continue to do it. It’s just finding the right time to duck your head in there for four or five yards. He did a nice job in the red zone, he pulled one on 3rd and 4 and made six, really well done,” Day said. “I think the more he plays, the better he’s going to feel in those spots and the more confident he’ll be.”
Day said this season is comparable to 2018 when the Buckeyes had Dwayne Haskins who, like Stroud, was more comfortable in the pocket and more inclined to keep his eyes downfield while extending a play rather than take off with his feet. In 2018, Haskins finished with 79 rushes for 108 yards, well above what Stroud is on pace to do this season even if OSU plays 15 games.
The Buckeyes continue to rely on true freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson, who had back-to-back weeks of more than 20 carries, something he’d only done once previously this season. Henderson ranks 13th in the country in rushing yards (930) and fourth in yards per carry (7.32).
“I think he’s running hard and that’s good. He needs to continue to run hard . . . He’s an excellent running back,” Day said. “I’ve been impressed with how he’s been able to handle the amount of carries, whether we have that happen again or not we’ll see.”
The Buckeyes have played seven games without at least one running back available due to injury, requiring Henderson to take on a heavier workload. But the issue isn’t how many times he’s running. It’s a lack of push from the offensive line, especially in the red zone where the Buckeyes are 2-for-9 in their last two games and went 1-for-5 inside the 30-yard line last week.
“I think it needs to be better,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “The last two weeks, with the defenses we’ve played, we’ve not done as good as we need to. It’ll be a challenge this week cause Purdue’s strength is their front, their d-line . . . so we’ve got to do a better job.”