Hitting The Ground Running

It's no secret that Ohio State had struggles moving the ball on the ground against Youngstown State. As time winds down to this weekend's contest with Akron, the Buckeyes appear to be confident that their rushing attack is taking steps to get back to where it needs to be.

Woody Hayes liked to describe his team's running attack as "three yards and a cloud of dust," but that phrase hardly seemed to sum up Ohio State's ground game against Youngstown State.

"Three inches and a cloud of dust," might have been a little more accurate.

Thought to be the most reliable part of an offense trying to replace four key cogs at the skill positions, the Buckeyes instead frequently found frustration while trying to move the ball on the ground against the Penguins. While OSU did rush the ball 41 times for 147 yards – an average of 3.6 yards per carry – an inability to punch the ball across the line in short-yardage situations left a sour taste in the mouths of the Buckeyes.

After the game, senior offensive lineman Kirk Barton said he was disappointed in the performance put forth by the line. Seeming to agree with that sentiment, the coaches did not select a Jim Parker Offensive Lineman of the Week upon consulting the film.

Sophomore tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells, OSU's leading rusher with 16 carries for 48 yards, admitted to not being focused during the game.

Head coach Jim Tressel frequently says that the biggest growth in a team comes between weeks one and two of each season, so perhaps it is no surprise that running backs coach Dick Tressel said he has been pleased with how the Buckeyes have improved this week in practice.

"I think everybody really has been pleased about this week's practice," he said Wednesday evening. "The adjustments were everybody has to get a little bit better and I think every one of our players on the offense has taken that upon himself and really tried to focus on becoming a better football player.

"Certainly the running backs are a big key to that. I think they really made up their mind that, ‘You know what? Let's do all we can to make this football team as good as it can be.' "

That all begins with Wells. On OSU's first drive of the game, Wells was unable to convert on short-yardage (less than three yards needed) situations four times. Two attempts came after OSU had the ball first-and-goal at the YSU two-yard line on the Buckeyes' first offensive drive of the season. The drive ended with a three-yard touchdown pass to Dane Sanzenbacher.

Overall, Wells had nine carries for nine yards when faced with needing three yards or less to pick up either a first down or a touchdown.

Both Tressels have expressed their confidence in Beanie since the game, however, despite his admission following the game.

"He's his best critic, and I don't think he played his best game because I think his future is going to be extraordinary," Jim Tressel said. "He's passionate about being good. If he says to you he wasn't focused, then he knows that better than I do."

According to Beanie's position coach, the sophomore has shown up dedicated and focused this week. His teammates have noticed, too.

"I think Beanie definitely is a perfectionist," wide receiver Brian Robiskie said. "I think he was so excited last year with (Antonio Pittman) leaving he was coming back and he wanted to do everything he could as far as working on everything. I think he really wanted to come out and have a huge game. It's going to happen for him because of the guy he is."

In his place, true freshman Brandon Saine looked to make a smooth transition to the college game. Saine tallied 42 yards on 10 carries, scoring his first career touchdown on a plunge from the one-yard line in the final minute of the first half.

However, Dick Tressel said that does not necessarily mean his role will continue to increase as the season progresses – but that is not Saine's fault.

"There's a lot of guys that are really talented," he said. "To say one guy's going to expand out of context is hard. One game it might expand, another game those great young wide receivers who are going to get better and better roles might expand or whatever."

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