After nearly two full seasons always knowing exactly who was on his right, the familiarity was suddenly gone for Corey Linsley.
With almost no warning and without an injury to perhaps brace for what was coming, the chemistry between the Ohio State center and right guard Marcus Hall was gone thanks to an ejection for fighting, a senior replaced with a redshirt freshman who certainly, and perhaps justifiably, looked a bit overwhelmed with the situation.
But any nerves in Pat Elflein seemingly disappeared quickly at Michigan. And any concern Linsley might have had about a new partnership in the trenches vanished with it. The No. 2 Buckeyes will need Linsley and Elflein to team up again with Hall sidelined for an indefinite period of time by the coaching staff for Saturday's Big Ten championship game against No. 10 Michigan State.
"It was kind of fun," Linsley said. "Marcus and I have a really good relationship, but I have a really good relationship with Pat, too. When Pat came in, he was a little wide-eyed there at first, but I kept looking over to my right just on pass [protection] to make sure that was OK, and he was fine.
"That was pretty fun, and, after a couple series in the game, I didn’t have to think about him anymore. He did a heck of a job, and he’s going to be one heck of a player."
Elflein might already be one for the Buckeyes, although the sample size is obviously still small.
Given the stakes in a rivalry game, the stout defense Ohio State was facing, the bizarre circumstances that put him on the field in a hostile environment and, of course, the national implications for a team in the thick of the national championship race, it would have been understandable for there to be some drop-off between Hall and his replacement.
But the Buckeyes didn't miss a beat in the final three quarters, and the rushing game was every bit as dominant with Elflein on the field as it had been with Hall and the normal collection of starters. In fact, after rushing for 125 yards on 15 carries in the first quarter with Hall in the lineup, Ohio State's production actually slightly improved -- 8.6 yards per rush -- for the rest of the afternoon as Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller kept taking advantage of huge holes up front to gain 268 more yards on 31 attempts.
That doesn't mean the Buckeyes won't welcome Hall back when his punishment from coach Urban Meyer for a pair of obscene gestures and a bench-kicking, helmet-throwing incident expires at some point Saturday. But the coaching staff knows it has some depth and a more-than-serviceable option to fill the void.
"Pat played really well against a very good defensive line, and I’m excited about his future at Ohio State," Meyer said. "For a redshirt freshman coming into that situation, he actually played, like, really good at times.
"I'm very impressed with him and very comfortable with him."
After maybe a few uncertain moments, Linsley didn't need much time to get comfortable working with Elflein, either.