National title is goal for 2019, Dobbins says

Bill Rabinowitz,Tim May

PASADENA, Calif. — Mike Weber was intent on leaving Ohio State on a high note, and his fellow running back J.K. Dobbins is intent on the Buckeyes doing in 2019 what they didn’t get done in 2018.

“National championship, that’s all I got to say,” Dobbins said moments after the Buckeyes held off Washington 28-23 on Tuesday night in the Rose Bowl.

And he didn’t back off when asked to clarify. 

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“’Guaranteed,” Dobbins said.

The Buckeyes (13-1) didn’t get a chance this past time around. Despite winning a second straight Big Ten title, they were left out of the College Football Playoff final four, primarily because of a 49-20 loss to Purdue.

What was missing that night in West Lafayette, Indiana, though, showed against Washington — the running game. With the offense needing inspiration early on, Weber and the offensive line provided it.

The fourth-year junior running back, who already announced he will apply for the 2019 NFL draft, had six carries for 56 yards in the first quarter. That jump-started an offense that Dwayne Haskins Jr. then steered to a 21-3 halftime lead and to a 28-3 lead early in the third quarter before Washington started fighting back.

Weber went into the game with 858 yards rushing, and added 96 by game’s end, on a 15 carries. He had rushed for 1,096 yards as a redshirt freshman. A hamstring strain stunted the start of his 2017 season, in which he ran for 626 yards, and this season he shared time with Dobbins, whose 24 yards (including a touchdown) in the Rose Bowl gave him 1,053 for the season.

But the Rose Bowl belonged to Weber.

“I wanted to come out and make a statement, and I think I did,” Weber said.

Harrison will stay

Linebacker Malik Harrison said after the Rose Bowl he would return for his senior season.

He said he was “100 percent” committed to his decision, saying he believed that if he builds on the improvement he showed late this season that he could be the best linebacker in the country.

The Walnut Ridge graduate was inconsistent early this season but showed signs of becoming a dominant player toward the end of the year. Against Washington, he had seven solo tackles and tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage.

His 80 tackles tied safety Jordan Fuller for the team high.

Cornerback Damon Arnette said after the game that he was leaning toward entering the NFL draft, though he hadn’t made a final decision.

First start for Alabi

Fourth-year junior Josh Alabi made his first start for the Buckeyes, in place of the injured Thayer Munford at left tackle.

Coach Urban Meyer had left Munford's status for the game up in the air on Monday, but insiders had insisted throughout the previous week that the sophomore would not play.

The offensive line had a second new starter compared with the unit that started the Michigan game. Sophomore Wyatt Davis replaced right guard Demetrius Knox, who suffered a foot sprain late in the 62-39 win over the Wolverines. Davis started for the first time in the Big Ten championship game, a win over Northwestern.

In the midst of it all

Dre’Mont Jones was recruited four years ago as a defensive end, but partly out of necessity, partly because he kept growing, he shifted to defensive tackle, where he became a stalwart the past two seasons.

Jones had announced that he plans to apply for the 2019 NFL draft, so the Rose Bowl was not only his final game with the Buckeyes but also a showcase for how well he has adjusted to playing in the midst of it all.

“I just enjoy football, so I just attack things with a whole different purpose,” Jones said. “I realize that for things to get out of whack, it starts with the D-line first. And I know with being a defensive lineman first, I’ve got to stay stout and stay aggressive so that our defense can have a chance to be successful.”

He had to do more than that this season after defensive end Nick Bosa was injured in September against TCU and was unable to return the rest of the season. Soon after, Bosa dropped out of school and moved to the Los Angeles area to rehab his injury and live with his older brother, Joey, a former OSU All-American now with the NFL’s Chargers.

Jones, already considered one of the leaders of the defense, had to step up even more.

“We all had to step up, because football isn’t about just one player,” Jones said.

As for words to live by, words that inspire him, they come from Harvey Dent in the 2008 Batman movie "The Dark Knight."

“I don’t know why I live by this, but the quote says, ‘You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself a villain,’” Jones said.


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