Ezekiel Elliott is in the Heisman race after Ohio State’s win over Indiana
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. Ezekiel Elliott was so put off by the questions last week that he walked away from the interview after a few minutes.
He hasn’t watched LSU running back Leonard Fournette, or Georgia’s Nick Chubb. Why would he know anything about Indiana running back Jordan Howard?
Yes, those guys all are all good running backs, among the best in the nation at running the football. So is Elliott, but that doesn’t mean he sits at home watching them. So he left his interview session last Wednesday after three successive questions about running backs he doesn’t care about.
He was asked about those guys because they’re Heisman Trophy candidates. After what Elliott did on Saturday against Indiana, he should get used to the Heisman questions. Because now he’s officially a part of the conversation.
OK, maybe he was always part of it. His campaign started last year when he carried Ohio State to a national championship. But the argument could be made that through four weeks, Elliott was simply hanging around while guys like Fournette and Chubb went crazy and pulled ahead.
Wait around any longer, and the gap Elliott would have to make up to get invited to New York in December might have been too wide. Consider it closed.
Elliott ran for 274 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries in the Buckeyes’ 34 27 win. He got 243 of those yards in the second half. It wasn’t just the big totals, it was the big hits: Touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards.
"I think we were definitely overdue for a game like this," Elliott said. "The offensive line and I have been feeling that way for the past couple games. It finally happened at a good time."
That last one was actually huge.
Elliott broke through the hole, looked like he might have been stopped, then bounced off a tackle and raced 75 yards for a touchdown that put Ohio State up by 14. That difference loomed large after Indiana scored to cut it to seven, then missed a potential game tying throw to the end zone in the final seconds.
"Zeke is just such a good second level runner," Urban Meyer said. "He had three big hits, and it’s great to see him get to the second level."
It was vintage Elliott, the guy that ran himself in to the Heisman conversation in the first place last December and January.
That’s not to say he’s been bad this season, and he’ll tell you he doesn’t care about winning the Heisman Trophy, but the big hits were eluding Elliott a combination of play calling, poor blocking and his own hesitation.
He was trying to get back to the guy who was a 60 yard touchdown waiting to happen by the end of last season. Those were the kind of plays that vaulted him into the top part of the hierarchy of Ohio State running backs, and he knows his standing now. He knew that he tied Keith Byars for second place on the single game rushing list with his 274 yards.
Elliott is now tied for the second and third best games for a Buckeye running back ever. He’s 12th on Ohio State’s career rushing list with 2,869 yards. Antonio Pittman (2,945) is the next one in his sights.
"It’s just an honor to be mentioned with those guys, with the great running back pedigree at Ohio State, it’s a honor to go and continue that legacy," Elliott said.
But while Elliott was on a plane back to Columbus, Fournette was in the middle of putting up 200 rushing yards for the third straight game.
So Elliott will still be behind in yards and touchdowns when the picture becomes more clear on Sunday morning. The important thing is that that gap no longer exists, and Elliott’s going to be a workhorse, just like Fournette.
Meyer has said that Elliott is a guy who needs to get 20 25 touches per game. He got exactly 25 (including two catches for 12 yards) and you saw what he did with it. Maybe he’ll get more as Ohio State’s offense continue to work through turnover issues a new playcalling system that seems to be slowing things down.