Master Teague gives a needed burst to Ohio State's ground game
Master Teague III was a few yards past the line of scrimmage Saturday when he drew even with a linebacker.
But rather than brace for a possible hit, Teague ran past the defender, finding a second wind and racing into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown.
While it helped Ohio State regain a lead in the second quarter of its 42-35 win over Indiana, the dash also inspired optimism about its running game.
Through the first three games, the Buckeyes were productive on the ground. In each contest, they amassed more than 200 yards. But none of their running backs showed the explosiveness seen in their predecessor, J.K. Dobbins, who became the program’s first 2,000-yard rusher last fall before turning pro.
The burst from Teague put some of those questions to rest, revealing a glimpse of his speed.
“That’s one part of my game that I do have,” Teague said. “I have that capability of a home-run hitter. I just hadn't been able to do that yet, so I was able to do that, and I’ll continue to do it even more.”
The touchdown run was Teague’s longest this season. Entering Saturday’s game, he had only two runs longer than 20 yards.
It was fair to expect some period of adjustment for Teague at the start of this season. He injured his Achilles tendon in March, prompting him to spend several months of the offseason going through rehabilitation rather than standard strength and conditioning.
The performance against the Hoosiers was a sign he had reached full health. He finished with a career-high 169 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, blending his bruising running style with bursts of speed.
Teague has often been a tough runner, pairing well last season with Dobbins’ agility.
But starting this fall for the Buckeyes, his speed gives them a more dangerous threat out of the backfield. He also had a 32-yard run in the second half against the Hoosiers.
He felt he found his stride while gaining a consistent workload. His 26 carries were also a career high, an uptick from the first three games, in which he had averaged 16 carries.
“I feel like I got into a good groove,” Teague said, “and I was able to make plays and help the team win, come to a victory.”
Along with Teague, running back Trey Sermon also put together his most efficient rushing performance this season with 60 yards on nine carries.
The effort was much-needed for the Buckeyes as their passing game was uneven against Indiana. Quarterback Justin Fields threw for two touchdowns but was also intercepted three times, turnovers that at times stagnated the offense.
Fields was appreciative of the support from the runners.
“When I'm not picking up the offense, other players have to pick me up,” Fields said. “So I think Master, Trey and those other running backs did a great job out there. They were just running north and south and being physical with the other team. They helped me out a lot, and they helped the team out a lot. I'm proud of those guys.”
Another noon kickoff
Ohio State’s game at Michigan State on Dec. 5 will kick off at noon and air on ABC, an OSU spokesman said Monday.
It means the Buckeyes will end the regular season with four consecutive noon starts.
They were previously assigned noon kickoffs for last Saturday’s game against Indiana and for a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Illinois.
The regular-season finale at home against Michigan on Dec. 12 will also be at noon.