Hall, Martin Carry The Load For Buckeyes

An already dicey situation for Ohio State at running back became even rougher when Brandon Saine left the game during the second quarter. In his place, freshman Jordan Hall and redshirt freshman Jermil Martin took the opportunity to show what they could do and made a good impression on their teammates in the process.

What comes after a pair and a spare?

That is the question the Ohio State coaches found themselves wondering as their game against Minnesota unfolded on a chilly afternoon in Columbus. With sophomore running back Dan Herron already on the shelf with an ankle injury, junior Brandon Saine had been sidelined with an apparent head injury and was unavailable for action.

That left the Buckeyes with less than the ideal "pair and a spare" they hope for in the offensive backfield. On this particular afternoon, however, it mattered little.

With Saine in street clothes for more than half of the game, freshman Jordan Hall and redshirt freshman Jermil Martin combined for 17 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown apiece.

"You never have enough tailbacks because tailbacks take a pounding unlike any other position," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "There's multiple people hitting them, running full speed, they've got to protect the ball while they're getting splattered."

Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman expressed it in a different manner. Asked if the team's depth at tailback was being tested, he replied, "I think that puts it mildly."

Of the two backups, Hall had the most extensive playing history. After sitting out the first two games of the season, he carried the ball 25 times for 103 yards in the next three games before not recording a carry in the subsequent two games.

Martin, on the other hand, had been moved during the offseason from fullback to running back and had toted the ball once for a loss of two yards on the year.

After the Minnesota game, however, the redshirt freshman had people comparing him to another famous Buckeye to don No. 41: Keith Byars. On his third carry of the game, Martin found a hole through the left side of the line and burst into the open field, stiff-arming one would-be defender to the ground and dragging another into the end zone with him for a 39-yard touchdown run.

Senior left tackle Jim Cordle remembered it as not having been the speediest run of the season.

"I thought I could beat him to the end zone," Cordle said.

Regardless, it was the longest touchdown rush of the season for the Buckeyes.

"He wore my jersey number so I have to know who that is," Martin said after the game when asked if he knew who Byars was. "That felt real good. It was real exciting to get into that end zone and celebrate with my teammates."

For the game, Martin finished with seven carries for 75 yards – an average of 10.7 yards per rush.

Hall scored his first career touchdown exactly nine minutes into the third quarter when he took the handoff from Terrelle Pryor – his high school teammate – and found a hole over right guard and darted into the end zone from 11 yards out. Until Martin's touchdown, it stood as the longest touchdown rush of the season.

He finished the day with 10 carries for 38 yards. Hall did not carry the ball until Saine went out of the game with 7:38 remaining in the first half. He was not made available for interviews after the game.

Sophomore center Michael Brewster said he grabbed the freshman in the huddle as soon as Saine exited the game and offered him a few words.

"I told Jordan, ‘All right Jordan, you're the man. You're a freshman but it's time to go. Protect the ball and be patient,' " Brewster said. "He's a patient runner. I think that's one of his best assets. He's patient and he waits for stuff to develop. He's finding the holes."

Saine was able to carry the ball 11 times for 45 yards, while Pryor led all rushers with 15 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Buckeyes finished with 281 rushing yards and 239 yards on the ground.

Junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said the offense has faith in both Hall and Martin despite their lack of game experience to this point.

"They've been doing that since camp and it's no surprise to us," he said. "We've got capable backs. We're very deep at running back and I think the young guys are able to perform."

Freshman running back Jaamal Berry was in uniform but did not play as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury that has him looking more and more like a redshirt candidate this season. Brewster speculated that if Herron and Saine are both unavailable against New Mexico State, sophomore wide receiver Lamaar Thomas could be the third-string tailback in a reprisal of his high school role. Tressel said the job would likely go to walk-ons Joe Gantz or K.C. Christian, the latter of whom got a carry in the fourth quarter.

For one day, at least, the Buckeyes weathered the storm without their top two tailbacks.

"It has hurt us not having (Herron)," Tressel said. "We obviously weren't excited about the prospects of playing the second half without Brandon. Jordan stepped up, which we think Jordan has done well since he's been here, and Jermil did a heck of a job.

"You never have enough guys who can tote the ball."

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