A second-quarter fracas during the 110th meeting between Ohio State and Michigan led the ejection of starting right guard Marcus Hall. To that point in the game, Michigan had already mounted an unexpected amount of quarterback pressure on junior signal caller Braxton Miller. Therefore, Hall's ejection figured to complicate matters for a Buckeyes team that was being drawn into a classic slugfest between the two teams.
It also took aback members of an Ohio State offensive line that had become the team's identity during its program-record winning streak.
"When Marcus got thrown out, I can't tell you — I've never felt that way in my life," Ohio State senior center Corey Linsley explained after the game. "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."
Enter Elflein, who put in a memorable albeit impromptu shift for the Buckeyes and alleviated the stress on Ohio State's O-line after Hall's ejection.
The Pickerington (Ohio) North product coalesced so well with his offensive line mates, in fact, that the unit was still able to help bulldoze a path through which running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 226 yards, the most ever by a Buckeyes back against Michigan. For the day, Ohio State collected 393 yards on the ground, and after the game, Elflein was modest about the contribution he had made to the Buckeyes' 24th consecutive victory.
"I played all right, I think," Elflein said. "Our O-line, we played really well. The older guys really set the tempo. We have a good culture in that room, and I think we performed well today."
His linemates had stronger words of praise than that.
"I think Pat did an awesome job. I'm very proud of him," left tackle Jack Mewhort said. "He went in there under a lot of pressure in one of the tougher environments we play in and thrived. He played next to Corey Linsley, who knows everything that's going on out there and did a great job of communicating calls. Taylor Decker has grown into his own and was out there helping him too. Pat is the kind of guy, if those guys weren't out there, he would have been fine anyway. I think it speaks a lot about the way he prepares during the week. I'm just so proud of him."
The likely highlight of Elflein's day came late in regulation when, with the score tied at 35, he blasted through the trenches as a pulling guard and cleared a path for Hyde's touchdown run with 2:20 to play. Elflein's lead block was so punishing, in fact, that Hyde still had time to hit the hole after running into Braxton Miller in the backfield during the exchange.
"It was awesome," Elflein said of his role in the scoring play that eventually led to the game-winning extra point. "I knew my number was calling during the play. The defense was loaded up, and I just wanted to find the first soul that I could, like I'm taught to do, and take the color out of the hole. That's what I did. The rest of the guys did their job, too, so the O-line took care of business."
Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said during a Sunday teleconference that he would not be suspending Hall or freshman running back Dontre Wilson for the Big Ten Championship Game, but the league has not made a final ruling on the incident.
Should Elflein's number be called again with a trip to the Bowl Championship Series title game on the line against Michigan State, he'll be ready to play his part again.
"He's the next man up," senior left guard Andrew Norwell said. "Everybody has confidence in him that he would do a great job."