Landon Collins leaves the game for Alabama after being run over by Cardale Jones on third-and-1. The clock ticks under 3:40 in the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State's suddenly sputtering offense clinging to a 34-28 lead. Cardale Jones lines up in the shotgun and takes the snap with Ezekiel Elliott to his right.
And then, perhaps the most famous 85 yards in Ohio State history. Elliott takes the hand off from Jones and moves to his left, left guard Billy Price pulling out to lead the way. From the left, wideout Evan Spencer cracks down to take out both linebackers, who never see it coming. The cornerback on that side puts himself on the wrong side of Taylor Decker's block, and Price rumbles through the hole to find the oncoming safety.
From there, it's simple to Ezekiel Elliott. Get through one arm tackle at the line of scrimmage, and then go. By the time he hits the 20, some 80 yards from paydirt, the play is essentially over. Elliott's glances at the scoreboard behind the end zone of the Superdome confirm it. He's going to go 85 yards through the heart of the South.
The run did more than ice the Sugar Bowl win for Ohio State. It was more than a perfectly executed power play. It did more than serve as the Buckeyes' first-ever bowl win vs. an SEC team (that counted, anyway). It did more than find its way onto a T-shirt. It was THE play that people will remember from a magical team, a nearly mythical run that validated Ohio State and tore the heart out of the big bad Crimson Tide.
"Oh man, I think that run against Alabama, 85 yards through the heart of the South, that's going to be an iconic run in Ohio State history," Elliott said Monday. "It's every day on Twitter, someone is tweeting it at me multiple times. You hear about it all the time. It's just a play that means a lot to Buckeye Nation, and I think it's just something important to them."
And how often has Elliott seen it in the past seven months?
"Well, I've seen it every day it gets tweeted at me, so I've seen it probably 1,000 times now," he said with a smile.
There are hopes Elliott's junior campaign will be better than his sophomore season, which included 1,878 yards, the second most in Ohio State history. A full 696 of them came in three postseason games, with Elliott topping 200 yards in each as he became the unstoppable motor of a championship offense.
His left wrist injury, which turned his hand into an essentially unusable club last year, is healthy. He can both bench press and fend off defenders with it again, which can only help his ability to turn nominal gains into game-changing plays. Four "slobs," the offensive line that helped pave the way for his historic ending, return.
But can everything go as smoothly as it did near the end of last season? Everything was in such a groove for Elliott and the Buckeyes, who fed off of each other to the point the team was unstoppable at the end of the campaign. Can that magic be bottled and taken into a new season?
Maybe the answer is to not worry about what happened a year ago. No one will ever forget the 85 yards, but they will never be run again. For now, it's all about looking forward, not thinking about a repeat.
"That's something I'm not really going to pay any attention to," Elliott said. "Our goal right now is just to get back to the Big Ten Championship Game. That's what we're thinking about right now."