The lore of Ohio State’s 2014 title run will without end be centered round Cardale Jones, the unintended third-string quarterback who was a folks hero over a three-game stretch.
Jones’ halogen smile, gutty runs and skill to hit Devin Smith on vertical routes stay the acquainted snapshots from Ohio State’s final nationwide championship run.
However the actuality of that three-game stretch is that it doubled as a profession breakout for Ohio State operating again Ezekiel Elliott, then a sophomore tailback with modest manufacturing. Whereas he’s greatest remembered for his 85-yard landing run that slayed Alabama within the Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinal, Elliott flashed his NFL potential with three consecutive performances that formed the course of his profession.
As Ohio State enters a showdown with Alabama within the title recreation on Monday as a landing underdog, Buckeye followers are hoping that historical past is repeating itself. Tailback Trey Sermon has put forth back-to-back video games that few might have seen coming. Can he full the postseason hat trick?
Any path for Ohio State to win the nationwide title consists of one other monstrous recreation from Sermon, who ran for 331 yards in opposition to Northwestern within the Massive Ten title recreation and mixed for 254 all-purpose yards (193 dashing and 61 receiving) in Ohio State’s upset of Clemson within the CFP semifinal.
“Nah,” stated Ohio State coach Ryan Day, when requested if he’d even seen a sudden breakout like Sermon’s the previous two video games. “Fairly distinctive.”
Day was the offensive coordinator at Boston Faculty in 2014 when OSU gained its final title. Then-Ohio State coach City Meyer drew a right away parallel when requested if he’d ever seen a flourish like Sermon.
“Yeah, Zeke Elliott,” Meyer stated in a cellphone interview this week. “He’d had a few good video games earlier than that, however nothing just like the final three of his sophomore 12 months.”
Meyer confused that it’s “not honest” to place them in the identical class as tailbacks, as Elliott is without doubt one of the NFL’s prime backs. However the sudden burst to stardom is strikingly related, even when their backstories are completely different.
Getting into the postseason in 2014, Elliott had a season excessive of 182 dashing yards in opposition to an overmatched Cincinnati workforce. In half of the common season video games he’d gone over 100 yards, and in half he’d been below. He wasn’t among the many 4 tailbacks on the primary or second All-Massive Ten groups, beat out by the likes of Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Minnesota’s David Cobb and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah.
With its prime two quarterbacks, Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, out of the postseason with accidents, Elliott rushed for 220 yards within the Massive Ten title recreation in opposition to Wisconsin, 230 yards within the CFP semifinal in opposition to Alabama after which accomplished one of many best stretches in program historical past by mowing over Oregon for 246 yards and 4 touchdowns within the Faculty Soccer Playoff title recreation.
Former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones stated he sees “parallels” between that breakout stretch by Elliott and Sermon’s march by means of the postseason.
“For this reason they introduced him right here and have been so excited to get him,” stated Jones, who’s the co-owner of a exercise facility in Columbus known as Plus 2 College. “He’s in that candy spot the place he can play with out considering.”
Sermon appreciates the comparability, as he recalled watching Elliott’s iconic run in opposition to Alabama again in highschool. He deflected any reward for his current manufacturing outburst to his offensive line, which dominated the Clemson defensive entrance within the first CFP recreation.
“Quite a lot of nice operating backs … have come by means of right here, and Zeke is without doubt one of the greatest operating backs, and simply to be in that dialog, it is an honor,” he stated. “These guys are nice, and I simply really feel fairly good about what I have been capable of accomplish to date with the assistance of my offensive line.”
The clunky a part of the analogy for Elliott and Sermon is what preceded their breakouts. Elliott was a four-star operating again with a proposal sheet that included Alabama, Notre Dame and Georgia. He’d been so desirous to play as a real freshman that he ran down on particular groups.
Sermon got here to Ohio State as a graduate switch from Oklahoma, the place he starred as a sophomore in 2018, dashing for 13 touchdowns and 947 yards. An LCL harm his junior 12 months and depth-chart competitors led to him exploring a switch, and he ended up becoming a member of his previous buddy Justin Fields in Columbus.
Sermon had been serviceable for the Buckeyes within the common season, however didn’t really flash till Dec. 5 when he rushed for 112 yards on 10 carries in opposition to Michigan State. Sermon had cut up carries with OSU tailback Grasp Teague till the Massive Ten title recreation, when Teague left the primary half with an harm.
The remaining is present occasions, as Sermon’s carries leapt to 29 in opposition to Northwestern, when he broke Eddie George’s single-game college dashing file of 314 in 1995. Sermon entered the Northwestern recreation with 344 complete dashing yards on the season and got here 13 yards from matching that in a single recreation.
With alternative has come a swagger, as Sermon is operating with confidence, breaking tackles and searching each bit like one of many school soccer’s elite tailbacks.
“After I got here right here, my purpose was to do no matter I can to assist this workforce out and play for a nationwide championship,” Sermon stated. “It is all occurred, and it does form of look like a dream.”
If he places on one other present Monday and the Buckeyes pull off an upset, the dream sequence will likely be recalled as an identical one.
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