O-Line Regrouped, Dominated After Ejection

The key to Ohio State's win vs. Michigan on Saturday was a dominating performance up front, one that came without a key senior in right guard Marcus Hall. Hall was ejected early in the game, and OSU's most important unit rallied to grind out the rivalry win.

Corey Linsley played injured for the majority of Ohio State's game at Michigan, though his ailment was far from the physical variety.

He was hurt, as were many of his teammates and coaches, by a first-quarter brawl between the two teams. Several key Ohio State players were involved in the row, which resulted in three ejections. Michigan linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone was forced to leave the game after ripping Dontre Wilson's helmet off, and Wilson was then ejected for his violent response.

The third player to go was Linsley's offensive line-mate and friend Marcus Hall, who gestured to the Michigan Stadium crowd with both middle fingers raised as he exited the field. Hall's ejection, which head coach Urban Meyer later called "disappointing," was a major obstacle for the offensive line, but one that Linsley managed to put behind him. The Buckeyes overcame Hall's absence and secured a classic 42-41 win in the 110th installment of The Game in the process.

Linsley was acutely aware that the offensive line would face serious consequences as a result of Hall's ejection, but the fifth-year senior center said it took time to grasp the severity of the incident.

"Honest to God, it took me a quarter and a half to get back (mentally)," Linsley said. "When Marcus got thrown out, I can't tell you — I've never felt that way in my life. I felt like I got suspended again. My heart just dropped. I can't explain it in words. Not disappointed. I couldn't believe it. I was in total and utter shock."

Down a starter, redshirt freshman Pat Elflein was called into action for the Buckeyes. Fortunately for Buckeyes supporters, Elflein was equal to the seemingly difficult task.

"It's pretty overwhelming," Elflein said, "but we prepare so well during practice, and I wasn't even really that nervous going out there because we work so hard and prepare so well that I was ready for the moment. We have to keep out unit strong. We have good depth, so I'm always ready. Every game we have, I'm always on the sideline, helmet strapped up, mouthpiece in, because you never know when your number is going to be called. Today was my day, so I was ready."

Despite having a backup in the fold, the offensive line coalesced well enough to allow Hyde to run for a game-high 226 yards (OSU's most ever for one player in The Game) and score a touchdown with 2:20 to play in regulation.

The extra point after Hyde's score proved to be the game-winning margin.

Linsley described the circumstances in which Elflein was called into service as stunning but was quick to add that the Pickerington North product gave a performance worthy of being named one of head coach Urban Meyer's weekly champions.

"Un-freaking-believable. Unbelievable," Linsley said of Elflein's play. "Let me tell you something. Pat Elflein, that's a guy right there, man. … Pat came in and did great. I can't wait for him to come in, grade (out a) champion, go up there, we'll all clap him up and see the smile on his face. It's going to be just amazing."

Hyde, who last week against Indiana became the first Urban Meyer coached 1,000-yard running back, had high praise for the Elflein and the offensive line, too.

"I want to give credit to my offensive line," Hyde said. "They did a great job today — a great job — that helped me make history, so those guys are going into history with me."

Hyde's yardage total against the Wolverines proved to be one of his best single-game outings, second only to his 246-yard performance against Illinois Nov. 17.

Hall was waiting for his teammates in the locker room after the game, and there he sobbed. Linsley said he was hurt to have to put the ejection behind him, so he hugged Hall and reassured him.

"I told (Hall), ‘We did it for you, man,'" Linsley said. Ohio State's only choice was to move on and redouble its offensive line efforts with the players it had, and the strategy worked as the Buckeyes didn't appear to miss a beat in its running attack, which netted 393 yards.

After the game, Meyer immediately declared the game an "instant classic," and many will likely agree with that sentiment. As Linsley rattled off his knowledge and appreciation for the rivalry, now 110 chapters long after Ohio State's win, he remained adamant that the legendary coaches of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry would have approved of the Buckeyes ground and pound game plan.

"I think Bo and Woody would have both told us before the game that it's going to end on who can run the ball and the more physical team," Linsley said. "I thought we were the more physical team up front and it showed in their rushing stats and our rushing stats. We played a heck of a ballgame up front."

Meyer, whose 2-0 record against the Buckeyes' archrival might have him on track to join Hayes and Schembechler as legendary participants in the rivalry, lauded the offensive line, too.

"It starts with the offensive line," Meyer said. "That's where it starts. It starts with the offensive line and it finishes (there)."

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