Ohio State football | Ezekiel Elliott in 'tip-top shape,' but gets light workload in win

Tim May, The Columbus Dispatch

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Ezekiel Elliott had to make do in an auxiliary role for the Ohio State offense on Monday night, but he still made one play to remember and one to forget in a 42-24 victory over Virginia Tech.

The memorable one was an 80-yard touchdown dash he cracked after breaking through a hole generated by Billy Price, Jacoby Boren and Pat Elflein that gave the Buckeyes a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. It was a run reminiscent of some of Elliott's breakaways in the three-game romp through the postseason that netted Ohio State the 2014 national championship.

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The forgettable one was a punt he muffed just before halftime that gave the Hokies favorable field position, leading to a TD that made their lead 17-14 at the break.

"This kind of is my first time going live since we played the national championship game in January, so I was rusty a little bit, impatient with my running, and had the muffed punt," Elliott said. "Just overall, I can get better."

Elliott, who played despite a broken bone in his left wrist all of 2014 and still rushed for 1,878 yards, had a second surgery on the wrist in the winter. That's why he was held out of major contact all spring and preseason camp.

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Yet in the final tally, while the Buckeyes rushed for 360 yards Monday night in their 572-yard total offensive effort, Elliott led the rushers with 122 on just 11 carries. One reason for the low number of totes, coach Urban Meyer said, were the games being played by the Virginia Tech defensive front.

"They were moving around, they were playing the Bear (three-man defensive front over the two guards and center like last year), but last year they were Bear straight up," Meyer said. Monday night they were moving all over the place.

"So (offensive coordinator) Ed Warinner and (quarterbacks coach) Tim Beck and our staff did a nice job of coming up with some things to hurt them a little bit."

One was letting starting quarterback Cardale Jones handle much of the rushing load. He had a team-high 13 carries for 99 yards. And Braxton Miller, in his debut at hybrid back, ran 53 yards for a TD and converted a 54-yard TD pass from Jones.

"It's great being on a team that's got all these guys around you," Elliott said.

He also is good friends with defensive end Joey Bosa, the All-American who was suspended from the opener. But Elliott said that Bosa had duties along with watching the game.

"He actually is watching my puppy," Elliott said. "I've got a little puppy, about 3 months (old). So he's taking care of him for me."

The puppy's name is Ace.

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports