Chilly Wells Heats Up Stat Sheet

Tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells always seems to respond well to challenges, and he had one delivered by his head coach before the Northwestern game: to not only figure out the meaning of the number 467 but to live up to what it represented. Wells did just that while leading the Buckeyes to a tough road win on a brisk, windy day in Evanston on Saturday.

As Chris Wells walked out onto the spotty Ryan Field surface Saturday with winds swirling and the temperature around 40 degrees, he knew what had to be done.

Head coach Jim Tressel had told him in his own way.

Heading into the Buckeyes' game against Northwestern, Tressel tasked the junior tailback to figure out the meaning of the word 467. The answer? The number of yards Beanie compiled last year – 169 vs. Wisconsin, 76 against Illinois and 222 while facing Michigan – during three November games last year for an average of 155.7.

So as Wells prepared to face the Wildcats, it was clear that the Buckeyes were planning to ride their tailback as far as he would take them against a Northwestern front that entered fourth in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed per game at 109.3.

Stepping onto the field to see the adverse conditions just drove home the message a little bit more.

"It was cold out there today," Wells said. "It was a cold day. We knew we were going to have to run the football well because it was cold. That's what we did today."

Wells finished with 140 yards and two touchdowns – one a game-changer – on 28 carries by the time it was over as the Buckeyes finished off the Wildcats by a 45-10 score. The Buckeyes totaled 244 yards on the ground.

Afterward, Wells was happy about his November outing.

"That's something I hope to accomplish again this November," he said about the 467 yards. "November's a tough time of year. It's going to be cold and it's going to be rough. You have to play hard."

Wells, who first showed his November worth with a spectacular touchdown run against Michigan as a freshman, also exhibited perseverance in multiple ways on the blustery, chilly day. He carried the ball six times on the Buckeyes' opening drive, once for a touchdown, but he netted a grand total of minus-2 yards as Northwestern sold out to stop the Buckeye back.

But his never-say-attitude was evident on the play that seemed to break open the game. On the second play of the second quarter, Wells took a handoff and was hit in the backfield by Northwestern defensive tackle John Gill, a potential All-Big Ten candidate. But Wells absorbed the hit from the 6-3, 300-pounder, started forward and found nothing but daylight ahead.

After tackle Alex Boone helped right Wells, he took off down the right sideline. After shoving cornerback Jordan Mabin to the ground inside the 10, Wells hopped into the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown that gave the Buckeyes a 14-7 lead they would not give up.

"I ran to the line and a guy was there and tried to hit me and I bounced back," Wells said of the play. "I just kept my feet moving. I kept the effort and had a great outcome."

For Ohio State, that play kicked the running game into gear. For Northwestern, a quarter's worth of outstanding effort all of a sudden seemed down the drain.

"You know, it goes from being a tackle for no gain to a long touchdown," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "I thought that was a really big play in the game. Especially when we had, I thought, a good call. I thought we had a good attack we just didn't finish the play. Credit goes to him."

Wells' ailing foot didn't seem to be a distraction for once, and Tressel said repeatedly during the team's off week that Wells seemed fully healthy and practicing full-time for the first time in a while.

The one thing he did have to shake off was a slight shoulder stinger late in the second quarter that forced him to the sideline for the remainder of the half.

"It was just like my shoulder hit the ground kind of hard," said Wells, who finished the day with 2,999 career yards. "It hurt a little bit. There was no question at all (I would come back)."

His 140 yards tied for the second-most he'd compiled this year behind the 168 he had at Wisconsin and the 140 at Michigan State, all three of which not-so-coincidentally ended as Buckeye wins. While those numbers are excellent, none have topped 200 like he did twice last year, and the 140 still left him behind his average from the previous November.

"He's a little behind the pace," Tressel said after doing the math at the lectern, "but he got a good start."

Next up is a chance to make amends against Illinois, the team against which he had his worst November performance in 2007 in a game the Buckeyes lost at home on Senior Day.

Wells wouldn't mind responding to that performance just as he did against Northwestern for the showing two weeks prior during a loss to Penn State. The then-No. 3 Nittany Lions kept Wells to just 55 yards and OSU to 61 on the ground overall.

"We didn't run the ball well two weeks ago, so we definitely had to come out and establish the run," Wells said after beating the Wildcats.

After all, it is November.

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