LOS ANGELES — There was a lull this season for Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins, and most could see it.
The plant-the-foot pop wasn’t there, and neither was that jump cut he made famous a season earlier when he set the Buckeyes’ freshman rushing record with 1,403 yards.
“But he started to come out of it the last few games, I think you could see that,” OSU running backs coach Tony Alford said. “I think he’s in a pretty good place now.”
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Buoyed by his 37-carry, 203-yard performance in the overtime win over Maryland in November, Dobbins became the first Ohio State back to top 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first two seasons.
“It’s an honor to know I have that kind of record, but it’s all because of my offensive line and my teammates,” said Dobbins, who stands at 1,029 yards rushing this season, and his nine rushing touchdowns are two more than he had in 2017. "I can’t go anywhere without their help.”
But now he and running back partner Mike Weber will be in the Rose Bowl on Tuesday, going against a Washington defense that’s 15th in the nation in controlling the run, allowing 116.4 yards per game. Not only that, but as revealed by linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven — the team’s leading tackler by far with 165 participations — the Huskies have had a month to put the microscope on the Buckeyes, especially Dobbins.
“I think he is a really patient runner, a real dynamic guy,” Burr-Kirven said. “He’s about a 5-10 guy, but not really small, a lot like our running back Myles Gaskin. And he does a really good job within the offense in understanding the kind of plays they’re running, the inside zone, the stretch, things like that.”
When the Buckeyes rediscovered their running game late in the season, it was evident, Burr-Kirven said, that Dobbins had found his touch again.
“He plays off his blocks real well, and that’s what makes a good running back,” he said. “A lot of guys can run fast and all that kind of stuff, but when you can understand what the offense is trying to do in front of you, how it’s going to attack the front, that’s when you really start to see damage.”