The Ohio State Buckeyes coaching staff assigns champion grades to standout performers every week and announces players of the game for the offense, defense and special teams.
It’s hard for an offensive lineman to stand out. They may earn champion grades — in fact, the whole group was honored for its play Saturday in a 48-7 victory at Nebraska — but the top honor is usually reserved for the skill players.
Quarterback Justin Fields was named the offensive player of the game in Week 1. J.K. Dobbins won the award in the second and third games. Wide receiver Chris Olave was honored after the 76-5 rout of the Miami RedHawks.
That’s what makes Joshua Alabi’s achievement such a big deal. After not starting the first four games, he took the place of the injured Brandon Bowen at right tackle in Lincoln, Neb. Ohio State announced Tuesday he was named offensive player of the game.
“Josh Alabi played well,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said, “and it was a tribute to his attitude and what he’s done up to this point. In the world of people just wanting to go to another school or transfer and go into the portal and try to run to someplace else, this is a guy who stuck with it, kept a great attitude, and when the team called on him he stepped up and played really well. I thought we all felt he deserved to be player of the game.”
Alabi, a fifth-year senior from Cass Tech High School in Detroit, has appeared in 29 games in his career, but this was only his second start. He also started the Rose Bowl in January in the place of injured left tackle Thayer Munford.
Against Nebraska, Alabi played a key role for an offense that continues to dominate its opponents. Ohio State ranks third in the nation in points per game (52.4) and eighth in total offense (535.6). It has won four straight games by at least 40 points, which ties it for the longest such streak by a Big Ten team in the last 100 years.
Alabi doesn’t know what his role will be in the weeks ahead, but he’ll stick to his plan of keeping ready.
“I just thank God and give all the glory to him,” Alabi said. “I wouldn’t be in this position without him. It’s just preparation. It feels good to have the opportunity be out there, and I’m thankful.”
Waiting for his chance wasn’t easy. Alabi again thanked God, who guides his footsteps and said he didn’t considering leaving Ohio State in the offseason or in previous years, even though he knew he might not start because it wasn’t his decision. It was God’s.
“I have a really deep faith,” Alabi said. “I come from a Christian family. I just tell myself, ‘Stay the course. Things are going to work out.’ I’m going to continue to do that.”
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Alabi not only thrived in a rare start, he did so at a different position. He worked most of the season at left tackle as a backup to Munford. He said it was awkward making the switch at first. Everything was backward for him. He had to flip all the play calls in his mind.
“It doesn’t feel the same at all,” Alabi said, “but it’s football at the end of the day. Get down. Get set. Do your job. I didn’t really try to focus on, ‘How am I going to look on him?’ Just block for J.K., block for Justin and do my job as best as I could.”
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