Fullback Joe Finally In The Flow

OSU's Branden Joe says he is finally back to full-go after a largely lost junior year following an injury suffered lifting weights in late July. Joe believes the OSU offense is coming together at the right time -- just in time for Saturday's showdown at No. 5 Michigan.

To say this has been a rough year for OSU fullback Branden Joe would be an understatement.

Joe, a 6-0, 245-pound junior, was all set to be OSU's starting fullback this season after splitting time with sophomore Brandon Schnittker a year ago.

But in late July, Joe's career took a wrong turn as he tore a pectoral muscle while lifting weights at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The injury kept Joe out of action for the first month of the season and he hasn't truly been full-go until just the past several weeks.

"I remember the day it happened, July 26," Joe said. "I was trying to do five reps of the bench press at 475 pounds. But on the fourth rep, my left pec blew."

The setback was devastating for Joe, who figured to be a vital cog as a blocker and occasional runner in the OSU running game.

"I was in the best shape of my life and then I had a major setback," Joe said. "But once the shock factor wore off, I knew I had to get back to work.

"I was fortunate to still be invited to camp. That's where you build your camaraderie for the season. I was just happy to be there and try and support them any way I could."

Joe watched the first four games before playing in the last seven.

"It's been a roller coaster ride, but fortunately things are starting to even out," he said. "Hopefully, it will only go up from here. I'm healthy and able to compete. I want to be productive and help the team get this win."

Of course, Joe was speaking of Saturday's critical showdown at Michigan, where a win would give OSU an outright Big Ten championship and perhaps a shot at defending its national championship at the Sugar Bowl.

"We expect to play better than we've played all year," Joe said. "It's the 100th anniversary of this game. We expect a physical game. We need to play mistake free. We have studied more film than we've studied all year."

OSU missed Joe's presence as a blocker earlier in the season, going with extra tight ends in an effort to assist the running game. But his return to action has been one reason why tailback Lydell Ross has been able to reach the 100-yard mark in three of OSU's last four games.

Joe only has 41 yards on 12 carries, himself, and has also caught three passes for 30 yards. Two weeks ago, he had 28 yards on six carries against Michigan State.

Then, against Purdue, Joe got the call on the first play from scrimmage. The quick give only netted 2 yards, but Joe was just happy to be involved.

"That was neat to have the first play, even if it was just a 2-yard gain," Joe said. "I would have liked for it to be a 20-yard gain. I'm kind of getting my feet well handling the ball. I think the more I handle it, the more confident I will be. Last week was just a stepping stone.

"When I'm fortunate to get my name called, I want to do it 100 percent."

Joe and the rest of the offense are hopeful they can continue the momentum they've built the last four weeks.

"We are getting better at the right time," he said. "Each individual is peaking and that's what needs to happen at this point in the year.

"We want to be undefeated in November and we know we have to more on offense to make that happen. Guys have been hitting their blocks and things are clicking right now."

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