Ohio State football: Running backs impress despite limited touches

Ohio State running back Miyan Williams (28) rushes for a touchdown against Minnesota in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Caption
Ohio State running back Miyan Williams (28) rushes for a touchdown against Minnesota in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn

Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn

COLUMBUS -- One of the biggest questions of the offseason was answered early in Ohio State’s win over Minnesota.

Redshirt freshman Miyan Williams drew the start at running back over fourth-year junior Master Teague III, and the youngster wasted little time showing what he brings to the table.

Williams picked up eight yards on his first carry then went 71 for a touchdown on his second.

The Cincinnati native showed vision, wiggle and the ability to break tackles throughout the game, though he only had nine carries.

As a team, the Buckeyes only ran 26 times, the fewest since a trip to Purdue in 2018 (their last regular-season loss) when they had 25, but that was not because head coach Ryan Day is no longer committed to the running game.

Against the Golden Gophers, Ohio State was just too efficient to pile up plays.

The Buckeyes had 10 possessions and scored six times while running out the clock on another.

They totaled only 21 minutes of possession time and had scoring drives of five, 14, seven, one, three and two plays.

“It was a very unique game,” Day said. “We had 48 gradeable snaps. Going into the last drive, it was 42.”

With Ohio State up 45-31, fourth-string running back Marcus Crowley got the final series of the game.

He finished with 19 yards on six carries, the same number of totes Teague needed to pile up 29 yards.

Before Crowley, freshman TreVeyon Henderson was the third back into the game and ran for 15 yards on two carries. He left his mark on the passing game, though, taking a short pass and sprinting 70 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to show why he was the No. 1 running back recruit in the country.

Meanwhile, Williams ran for 125 yards on just nine carries. The 71-yarder accounted for a big chunk of his production, but Day made it sound like he did enough to lock up the No. 1 running back role for more than just one week.

The head coach said he leaves the rotation at that position — and every other spot aside from quarterback — to the position coach, but he indicated Tony Alford is likely to tighten things up this week against Oregon.

“It was a unique game and a very strange game to have 45 points on 48 plays,” Day said. “I don’t remember being in a game with that few plays. I wish we had more plays to evaluate, but I think moving into this game, that is probably the goal.

“We felt like we only played half a game. Maybe the numbers would have been different if it was a longer game and we got 70 plays like we typically do.”

Since Day took over as head coach full time at the start of the 2019 season, Ohio State has averaged almost 45 rushes per game and eclipsed the 200-yard mark in 20 of 23 games (including 201 against the Gophers).

With C.J. Stroud starting his first game at quarterback in place of Justin Fields, the Buckeyes actually threw the ball a higher percentage (46) than they have the past two seasons (42 percent), but a handful of bubble screens were among the 22 passes Stroud threw.

“In that game plan, that fit what they were doing,” Day said. “We utilized that. Some of that was based on what the defense was giving us.

“I mean, we want to want to run the ball. We want to stretch them horizontally and then stretch them vertically. That’s the idea of the offense.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Oregon at Ohio State, Noon, Fox, 1410