Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
PISCATAWAY, New Jersey - Ohio State's defense allowed no points to reeling Rutgers offense, but Mike Weber stole the show with a three-touchdown night. The Buckeyes' defensive line remains the deepest unit in terms of depth, but running back is not far behind after Saturday nights' showing.
In his first full game of the year, Weber converted three carries close to the goal line into a trio of touchdowns. Although his 10 carries for 44 yards might not seem like an incredible night, Weber's ability to drive the ball in from close range showed why his coaches and team had been missing his bruising style.
During his other seven carries, Weber showed an ability to shrug off ankle tackles, as well as flash some of the speed Urban Meyer had been talking about during the offseason. For the second-year back, this has been a long time coming.
“That felt good,” Weber said. “It was like a relief that I’ve been wanting to get for a long time. It’s been a long process, waiting, setbacks and going through a lot of things."
Some felt as though Weber would lose his starting job to freshman and breakout star J.K. Dobbins, but it was Weber who came through with the biggest impact on the ground. Dobbins and Demario McCall enjoyed bigger nights in terms of yards and average, but Weber's impact was a game-changer.
The first score from Weber came on just his second carry, plunging the ball through the Rutgers defensive line. On all three scores, the Detroit-native displayed a mixture of finesse and muscle, ripping through the Scarlet Knights' defensive line with just a little crease.
His longest carry of the night was only 10 yards, but his impact was undeniable.
"(Weber) ran hard, and we’ve got to knock the rust off him a little bit, but there’s no doubt we want to get both of those cats involved,” Meyer said. “Now, we know he’s cleared, and he’s finally cleared, pain-free. For a while there, he had to fight through the scar tissue, because it was a significant tear right before training camp."
Meyer could have stuck with Dobbins, who had been doing more than enough to secure a starting role. Instead, trusting the player he relied on heavily last season, the Buckeyes have opened up yet another wrinkle in an offense that had already been humming.
Even McCall, who seemed hesitant in his limited playing time last week, broke out against Rutgers, flashing speed and a wriggle that would make any running backs coach proud.
Even with a lack of Antonio Williams, who did not make the trip with the team due to an undisclosed medical issue, Ohio State's rushing attack was more than adequate. Adding Williams when he's healthy only adds to the already frightening committee of ball carriers.
Ohio State will likely not be able to get the ball in all running backs hands as the season progresses, since Rutgers was outgunned in every category well before the first kickoff was sent sailing. But, there should be little doubt in the amount of playmaking ability in the Buckeye backfield as the season continues.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett liked what he saw after he handed the ball off to whomever was behind or beside him before the play.
"(Dobbins and Weber are) both top backs in the country," Barrett said. "So, I think this will just enhance what we do already.”
All told, the Ohio State running backs accounted for 200 yards rushing at a staggering 7.4 yards per carry and four touchdowns.
Tony Alford is probably going to sleep tonight with a big grin on his face.