Ross, Running Game Arrive At Right Time

Junior tailback Lydell Ross beaming after his third straight 100-yard game. He shrugged off a shoulder injury Saturday to help the Buckeyes polish off Michigan State. But the challenges get tougher with Purdue and Michigan left on the OSU schedule.

It ain't easy being Lydell Ross.

The list of his ailments would stretch a while. He's had a muscle pull, a toe problem, an ankle problem and, most recently, shoulder problems -- and those are just the injuries we know about.

In the first half of Saturday's game against Michigan State, Ross was having a hard time. He only carried the ball six times -- four fewer than quarterback Craig Krenzel's 10 carries -- and netted just 11 yards. Clearly, he was hurting.

Ross was still dealing with the effects of a shoulder "stinger" suffered late in the Penn State game and aggravated in practice earlier in the week.

"I was a little dinged up from this past week and, really, last Saturday," Ross said. "I just had to get into a rhythm where I could play hurt. It seemed like it opened up in the second half."

So Ross sucked it up, went out in the second half and had one of his best games -- in the second half alone. Ross had 114 of his 125 yards after the intermission to help lead the Buckeyes take a 33-23 win over the Spartans.

"We changed it up a little bit," said Ross, who ended up with 24 carries. "We ran some different plays that worked. We got together at the half and got the plan."

It was Ross' fifth career 100-yard game and third in a row. He had 23 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago at Indiana and finished with 110 yards and a touchdown on 24 attempts last week at PSU.

This three-game swing has been remarkable on many levels. Consider that in OSU's first seven games, Ross had 241 yards on 70 carries -- a 3.4 average per carry. But in these last three games, he has put up 402 yards on 71 attempts -- a 5.7 average per carry.

Some will note that Ross' great success has come at the hands of some bad run defenses. True enough, Indiana is ranked 98th and Penn State is 107th against the run. But Michigan State is a respectable 20th in rushing defense.

After the MSU game, Ross was keeping his newfound success in perspective.

"I've got to keep on doing it," Ross said. "It means I ran hard and the offensive line helped me out a lot, too. I'm trying to keep it going for these last two games. I think games like this give the offense more confidence."

Ross said he enjoyed watching Krenzel have a big day and also liked seeing fullback Branden Joe get into the act with six carries for 28 yards.

"I think it was good for Craig to have a game like this," Ross said. "I think that helped a lot. I think they thought we were going to run the ball. They were focused on stopping the running game. That opened up a lot of things in the passing game.

"That was really important for Branden Joe to be out there because he's a hard runner. He change up the mix a little bit. He's there to block and run as well."

Ross, now with 643 yards on the season, is ready for the next challenge. He should gear up because Purdue boasts the nation's seventh-best run defense (82.6 yards per game). If he gets 100 yards next Saturday, he will certainly earn it.

"Now that I'm healthier and, with the offensive line being more confident in everything they're doing together, I feel like I can run better," he said.

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