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The Offensive Line is Responsible for Turning Around the Struggles Against Hawaii
By Patrick Murphy
In the second half, the Ohio State OL got what they wanted against Hawaii
Photo by Jim Davidson

COLUMBUS – Sometimes teams are victims of getting too cute. They go away from what works, looking for something bigger and better when bigger a better isn’t necessary.

This was the case for Ohio State on Saturday afternoon against Hawaii.

Over the past two seasons, the Buckeyes have been at their best when they’ve ridden their workhorse running back to wins. Carlos Hyde did it in in 2013, becoming head coach Urban Meyer’s first 1,000-yard rushing running back and scoring 18 total touchdowns. After the loss of J.T. Barrett last year, OSU fed Ezekiel Elliott for 696 yards and eight touchdowns in three postseason games on the way to a national championship.

Both backs are big, physical, downhill runners who aren’t afraid to run between the tackles and that is where the Buckeyes found success. Yet early against the Rainbow Warriors, the Ohio State offensive coaches looked all over the field to find rushing success to no avail.

We came in with a game plan and it didn’t work necessarily as well as we wanted to so go to what works,” senior left tackle Taylor Decker said simply on Monday.

Elliott carried the ball seven times in each of the first two quarters of the game, but was often asked to run outside of the tackles. He picked up 48 yards in the first half going against an odd defensive front that was causing issues for the offensive line.

“I think it was just kind of difficult to identify where their blitzes were coming from and they threw all kinds of blitzes at us,” Decker explained of the line’s troubles.

“They just did some odd things. Sometimes they would slant their D-line into a blitz, which you don’t see. It’s kind of unorthodox.”

Ohio State tried to use H-backs Braxton Miller and Curtis Samuel early and even rushed quarterback Cardale Jones four times in the first half in an attempt to kick start the run game, yet it was altogether unsuccessful as OSU led by only two scores at halftime.

In the second half, the Buckeyes went back to the old reliable and began to pound Elliott up the middle.

“That’s kind of what we were asking for on the sideline, the offensive line,” Decker explained.

We like running tight zone right up the middle. Even though a weird defense that we don’t see, our tight zone works great against four down but we think it can work good against anything. We’ll run it against a bear, an odd team. So that is actually what we were kind of wanting as an offensive line on the sideline. Just run it right up the middle, run our base plays, and then it ended up working so that is kind of what we wanted.”

In the second half, Ohio State didn’t try to rush with their H-backs often or do anything fancy with the quarterbacks. The offense jumped on the back of Ezekiel Elliott and let him carry the team to victory.

In the third quarter, Elliott had six carries for 26 yards. After rushing for just 3.4 yards per carry, his 4.3 yards per rush in the third made all the difference.

By the fourth quarter, the Hawaii defensive line was beginning to wear down. Elliott had seven carries for 27 yards and scored his third touchdown of the day in the first seven minutes of the final quarter before coming out of the game.

Even once the starters were out, the Scarlet and Gray continued to rush up the middle. Backup running back Warren Ball carried three times for 10 yards and Bri’onte Dunn had one carry for five yards and the final touchdown of the day for his team.

The Buckeyes have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball and Meyer and his staff want to get the ball in the playmakers hands. Sometimes though, it’s easier to just give the ball to the guy who has proven he can get the job done for you and win by the surest method.

Player profiles relevant to story:
15 - Elliott, Ezekiel | 25 - Dunn, Bri'onte | 28 - Ball, Warren | 68 - Decker, Taylor
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