COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The arsenal once again included a battering ram and that was the tool needed for the job.
Rather than wondering how else it might attack Wisconsin’s castle, Ohio State just kept hammering away with what was working instead of making sure every weapon got a little use.
That doesn’t mean the Buckeyes won’t need a few different approaches to breach the various defenses it faces for the rest of the season, but at least against the Badgers in a physical win on Saturday night, the situation called for some heavy lumber. And for all the positive work Jordan Hall has done early in the season, Carlos Hyde was clearly the guy No. 4 Ohio State favored to handle the job.
“Jordan Hall has got to be involved, but that was a decision we kind of made,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “We thought and we knew it was going to be very hard to run in there the way they play their defensive line. They packed it in and they are very good against the rush.
“But those are our top two backs, and we are working on that now. I want to make sure we get Jordan Hall involved.”
Based on the depth chart entering the game, Hall seemed to still be in line for plenty of involvement as the designated starter coming off a productive stretch outside of conference play.
But when the Big Ten slate opened, it was almost exactly like last year all over again as Hyde dominated the carries among the tailbacks. Rather than Hall being forced to the sideline with an injury like last season, though, he was instead limited to just one rush by coach’s choice as Hyde pounded his way to 85 yards on 17 attempts in his second game back from suspension.
Quarterback Braxton Miller still wound up shouldering more of the load than both of them. The junior carried 22 times through a combination of calling his own number on the option, designed draws and a few scrambles on passing plays that certainly had an effect on the number of touches available to the rest of the Buckeyes. And while one game is a small sample size and the plan is always subject to change on a weekly basis, giving Hyde the start against a stout Wisconsin defense and continuing to feed him the football consistently sent a strong message that he’s quickly regained his leading role in a crowded backfield.
“It wasn’t planned,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. “I think the plan was to increase the role for Carlos, there was no doubt about that. We hadn’t gone into the game and said, ‘Jordan Hall is only going to get one carry.’ That’s not what we intended. “You kind of fall back into some habits, at least as a playcaller or as a position coach, and at the end of the day you look up and [Hall] has got one carry.”
Hall also isn’t the only other option who is pushing for touches as the Buckeyes start preparing for a visit to No. 16 Northwestern. Dontre Wilson was impacted by Hyde’s return as an every-down rusher as well, with the talented freshman only getting two rushes and catching just one pass.
The way the Buckeyes distributed the football still worked, since Hyde averaged 5 yards per carry, the offense put up 31 points and the program came away with yet another victory in the process. But potentially tweaking the formula after a win surely beats the alternative.
“Is it difficult? No, it's actually awesome,” Meyer said. “It's great. It's not as difficult as the other one where you don't have the puzzle pieces of the checkerboard that you like, and we have several.”
But if it only takes one running back to bust open the gates, the Buckeyes won’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.