Late in Ohio State’s 36-31 win over Nebraska on Saturday, some Huskers were having words with running back J.K. Dobbins. He talked back.
“I like to think we don’t have any pushovers on our team, so when 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. And there was no reason to talk. We were running the ball.”
And for the first time in four games, Dobbins, Mike Weber and the Ohio State offensive line walked the walk. They revived a running game that was ineffective two weeks ago in a 49-20 loss at Purdue, gaining 229 yards against Nebraska.
Dobbins had a season-high 163 yards on 23 carries, scoring three touchdowns as the Buckeyes shelved their run-pass option plays and got down to blasting holes straight ahead with the backs running hard.
“We put in a lot of work,” Dobbins said. “We knew what we have; I don’t know what was going on. But we’re back on track, I believe.”
During the break, coach Urban Meyer challenged coordinators Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson plus the offensive staff to come up with a better plan. They shifted to a full-house formation that the Buckeyes jumped into for two straight plays after reaching the Nebraska 7-yard line in the third quarter.
With tight ends Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert in the backfield two yards back of the corresponding slots between the tackles and the guards, Dobbins followed their lead. On the second carry, he pounded into the end zone from three yards behind right tackle Isaiah Prince to give the Buckeyes 23-21 lead.
“(Prince) was just saying follow him,” Dobbins said. “He’s a great blocker. He gets a lot of crap about just anything — (but he said) follow him, he’s a great blocker. And I believe him.”
On a 42-yard run for a touchdown with 4:52 remaining — by far his longest of the season — Dobbins ripped through a hole between center Michael Jordan and right guard Demetrius Knox, ran through a tackle attempt and broke into the clear.
That, and the way Dobbins made yardage after contact to give the Buckeyes two straight first downs on the last possession, showed he had been paying attention when Meyer urged him and Weber (91 yards) to make their own way when needed. They always try to, Dobbins said, but hearing the coach say it, there was no talk-back.
“We had to do better,” Dobbins said. “I feel like he was telling the truth. We have to do better.”