Ohio State Buckeyes: Trey Sermon smashes OSU rushing record in Big Ten Championship game win

Northwestern held Trey Sermon to one yard on his final carry in the closing minute of the Big Ten Championship game.

That win for the defense came far too late.

The senior running back from Marietta, Ga., had already surpassed Eddie George’s 25-year-old school record for rushing yards in a game and carried Ohio State to the championship and the brink of a berth in the College Football Playoff.

He finished with 331 yards on 29 carries, an average of 11.4 yards.

A transfer from Oklahoma brought in during the spring to give Ohio State another option when Master Teague III was injured, Sermon had a hard time finding his niche early in the season.

“Early in the season, we weren’t sure about him,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said, “but he persevered through it.”

Sermon ran for 334 yards in the first five games while regularly spelling Teague, who recovered from an Achilles injury to claim the starting job and ran for 426 yards.

Sermon, whose 2019 season was cut short by a knee injury, said early in the season the coaches told him to keep fighting and reminded him they wanted him to join the team because they believed in his talent.

“I just really had to believe that in myself as well, trust my coaching and trust my teammates around me,” Sermon said.

When Teague was injured early Saturday, Sermon was ready to take the full rushing load.

“He ran hard,” Day said. “The offensive line played unbelievable. The tight ends played really hard. They get lost in the mix but they block their tails off. He ran with a different look in his eye. Sometimes coming off an injury it takes a little while to get a rhythm.”

The Buckeyes gashed the Wildcats occasionally in the first half and repeatedly in the second, rallying from a 10-6 deficit.

“It was amazing, man,” Sermon said. “(The offensive line) played their tails off. They fought hard from start to finish. They made my job easy just moving the line of scrimmage and dominating up front.”

The Buckeyes ran the ball a variety of ways, but Sermon did much of his damage with cutbacks through the heart of a Northwestern defense that often did not load the box but chose instead to keep defenders back to try to keep a lid on Ohio State’s high-powered passing game.

He broke the record on a simple zone run to the right but fittingly broke multiple tackles along the way, cutting back off a block by fellow Georgia native Harry Miller then running through a shoe-string tackle attempt and weaving his way inside the 10 yard line with 1:30 left on the clock.

“The game really just slowed down and I’m able to see everything develop, be decisive and make the right cuts,” he said.

Fields, another Georgia native who knew Sermon in high school, was happy to see him break through.

“Trey is a hard worker,” Fields said. “He doesn’t talk much, but he puts his head down and goes to work and that showed on the field today. He had a hell of a performance out there.”

Sermon became the fifth Ohio State player to be named the Grange-Griffin Award as the most valuable player of the Big Ten Championship game.

He joined Fields, who won the award last year, along with Dwayne Haskins, J.K. Dobbins and Cardale Jones.

“I just want to think my teammates and my coaches for motivating me and for just welcoming me into the brotherhood,” Sermon said.

Sermon broke Ezekiel Elliott’s championship game record of 220 yards set in 2014 against Wisconsin, and his 331 yards of total offense are second only to Haskins’ 494 for the Buckeyes against Northwestern two years ago.

Sermon finished with the sixth-most yards in any game by a Big Ten player, trailing Ron Dayne of Wisconsin’s 339 rushing yards against Hawaii in 1996 and one more than Mikel Leshoure gained for Illinois against Northwestern in 2010.

Melvin Gordon set the Big Ten single-game rushing record with 408 yards against Nebraska in 2014.

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