Joe Goes Out With A Fine Performance

Branden Joe has seen his share of peaks and valleys while at Ohio State, and today, he cashed in on an opportunity to go out on top. Joe was the featured running back on offense and had one of his best games as a Buckeye. Dave Biddle has more on Joe's home game finale.

Much like he did in the Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State last season, Ohio State running back Branden Joe stepped up with a big game on the ground against Michigan.

Joe carried 14 times for 52 tough yards in the Buckeyes' 37-21 win over Michigan. He provided the smash-mouth back a team needs to win a physical game.

As a senior, Joe couldn't have written the script much better.

"You know, it's priceless," Joe said. "It's hard to put words on it. It's a special moment. We've always said that everything we do as underclassmen is for the seniors. And now that I'm a senior I just wanted to go out with my best game and my best year. Coach (Jim) Tressel has been preaching that since he's been here and we've all bought into it. Your seniors need to have their best seasons and we want to send them out in style and that's what we did today. As a senior, it just doesn't get any better than to go out with a win over Michigan."

Although the Buckeyes end the regular season at 7-4, Joe felt undefeated walking out of Ohio Stadium Saturday.

"It was comparable to 2002 when we went to the national championship with the amount of joy that I was feeling," he said. "But at the same time, it's kind of sad. Ohio State is a great place. I got an opportunity to talk at Skull Session for the first time today and that's when the emotions really started to kick in that these are the last steps that I'm going to be taking walking down to Skull Session."

Ohio State's offense engineered a 97 and a 99-yard touchdown drive. Joe was asked if he sensed that the Buckeyes were going to be able to move the ball on those drives.

"We have a sense every drive that we can start something," he said. "You've got to believe. You've got to have 11 guys believing that they are going to be the player on this play to make a difference and I think that's what we did on both of those 97 and 99-yard drives."

Joe's ankle still isn't 100 percent, but you would have never known by watching him against Michigan.

"It hasn't been as healthy as I would like it all year and I did tweak it there on one little run," he said. "But I'd have to lose a limb or something to come out of the Ohio State-Michigan game."

The Buckeyes racked up 446 yards of total offense - a number that would have obviously been larger if they weren't forced to go conservative in the final quarter.

"It feels good to kind of put it on them a little bit," Joe said. "To have almost 500 yards of offense… that was great. Now, we just want to keep this thing rolling. We're looking forward to the bowl game and keeping this thing rolling."

Joe gave a lot of credit to Ohio State's boisterous fans.

"It was an ambush last year (at Michigan)," Joe said. "We went up there and their crowd was in the game and it was tough to hear. I think that's exactly the pill that they swallowed today. The 12th man was definitely an edge for us."

Quarterback Troy Smith threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns, and added 145 rushing yards and one score. It's a performance that people will be talking about for a long time.

"Phenomenal," Joe said. "He's such a poised quarterback. He scans the field before he steps up and runs and he's so good with his feet. It starts from the huddle. He says, 'Let's dress this huddle up. Clean this huddle up right now.' And it just lets you know he's a born leader, he's a general out there and if he's playing like that, the sky's the limit for him."

What exactly does Smith mean when he says dress the huddle up?

"He means get this huddle in order and makes things look good," Joe said. "You know, you've got guys squeezing in here and squeezing in there, but we know how to line our huddle up. We learned that in camp and he tells us, 'Dress the huddle up.' He's big on the details, definitely."

Joe was able to somewhat drench Tressel with water when the game was no longer in doubt. Well, at least the OSU players thought the win was in the bag.

"He said, 'Hey, this thing isn't over yet.' It felt good. He's a great coach and he works hard," Joe said.

Joe's biggest runs of the day came up the middle, usually when the Buckeyes were operating deep in their own end of the field.

"I was determined to not be pushed back," Joe said. "I wanted to fall - every time I got the ball - fall in their direction and gain yards. That's the mindset I went into the game with. I knew I could handle the ball. I've been handling the ball all my life. It was just time and the moment met each other and I was ready."

Joe was asked what the offense is most proud about from the Michigan win. Was it the points, yards, or something else?

"We didn't have any turnovers, did we? That's the thing that we're going to be most proud of and that's definitely what's going to stand out on this storyline. No turnovers was huge," Joe said.

Joe thinks his understudy at fullback - freshman Dionte Johnson - is going to be a good player down the line.

"He has potential," Joe said." We joke around and tell him he's a natural born fullback. If it wasn't for that position, he wouldn't play football. His body style, he's built like a little Jamar Martin. He's a hardnosed guy, he's got good hands and good speed. His future is going to be up to him, I think. Dionte is a born football player. He eats, breathes and sleeps the game. The sky is going to be the limit for him."

Joe also wanted to give credit to OSU's offensive line. It more than held its own against a good Michigan defensive front.

"Tremendous man," Joe said. "They kept fighting. They would come back to the huddle and we'd tell them, 'Keep fighting them,' and that's what they did. They did a tremendous job today. If I had any money, I would take them out to dinner."

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