Gameday+ | Spotlight player: Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins

Joey Kaufman
Ohio State Buckeyes running back J.K. Dobbins (2) breaks a tackle from Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Adisa Isaac (20) during the fourth quarter of a NCAA Division I college football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday, November 23, 2019 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

J.K. Dobbins smiled and nodded when asked if he liked his workload in Ohio State’s win over Penn State last Saturday.

He ran 36 times, one shy of equaling his career high, for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

It felt great, he replied.

The reporter asked if he’d like even more carries.

Dobbins shrugged.

“I’ll take more,” he said.

The effort from the junior tailback came as the Buckeyes are amid their most grueling stretch of the season, including a game Saturday at Michigan.

For most of this season, Dobbins’ workload had been limited. With the Buckeyes routing most teams, winning each of their first 10 games by 24 or more points, they put in their backups for much of the second halves. Before facing Penn State, he had appeared in the fourth quarter in three games and logged 14 carries. He rushed six times against the Nittany Lions over the final 15 minutes.

It was a rare four-quarter game for Dobbins. His previous season high for carries was 24. But to prevail against Penn State and clinch the Big Ten East, coach Ryan Day had to keep his starters playing, including Dobbins, a trend that could continue against the Wolverines.

Dobbins appreciated the blowouts since it meant the Buckeyes were playing well. But his playing time was reduced.

“I love playing the game,” Dobbins said. “Whenever he takes me out, it's not upsetting. I just want to play.”

As Dobbins evaluated his performance, he brought up a lost fumble in the third quarter, a blemish, his first since the season opener against Florida Atlantic.

It was among three by the Buckeyes, including two from quarterback Justin Fields.

“That happened,” Dobbins said. “We got to put it behind us.”

Dobbins’ performances against Michigan have varied. In last season’s win, he was limited to 46 rushing yards on 12 carries. But as a freshman in 2017, his previous trip to Ann Arbor, he ran for 101 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter as the Buckeyes went on to beat the Wolverines 31-20.