The running back position for Ohio State at the start of the season was a huge question mark after JK Dobbins left for the NFL. Master Teague returned, and the Buckeyes got Trey Sermon, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma.
All season long, Teague and Sermon have been overshadowed by Justin Fields and the Buckeye passing attack, until today in the Big 10 Championship game.
In the game, Fields struggled and sprained his right throwing hand. He threw for a season-low 114 yards and 2 interceptions. Teague only got 2 touches all game.
Today, It was all Sermon. He and the bigs up front led the Buckeyes to their 4th straight Big 10 Championship. Sermon had a career day, rushing for 331 yards on 29 carries and scored 2 touchdowns.
He broke the Ohio State single-game rushing record previously held by Heisman Trophy-winner Eddie George. His 331 yards is also a Big 10 Championship single-game record.
Postgame Press Conference
“They brought me here for a reason. They know I am a great player and that I can make an impact. I just really needed to believe in myself and trust my coaches and the teammates around me,” said Sermon.
“Trey ran hard. He ran with a different look in his eye. Sometimes when you come off an injury, it takes a little bit to get into a rhythm. Master went down, and he stepped up in a big big way. I am happy for him. He is another guy that has overcome adversity. We weren’t sure after the first few games what we had there and to see him persevere in this game was great,” said Ryan Day, Ohio State’s head coach.
2nd Half Surge
The Buckeyes were down 10-6 and struggled on offense the majority of the game. Ryan Day finally decided to give Sermon the ball more, and he took over from there. Sermon scored his first touchdown with 2:41 in the 3rd quarter to give Ohio State a 13-10 lead. He scored again with 4:03 left in the game on a 3-yard run. Sermon rushed for 271 yards in the 2nd half, and Northwestern didn’t have an answer to stop him.
The offensive line and tight ends controlled the line of scrimmage, created holes for Sermon, and deserve a lot of credit. All 5 offensive linemen made All-Big 10. “The offensive line and tight ends played unbelievably well. They are the guys that get lost in the mix,” said Day.
In the press conference, Day answered some questions on why he waited so long to commit to the run game after having success in the first half. “The run game started to go. We wanted to throw early on them and wear them down and run in the second half. This is how it played out. It wasn’t clean and certainly didn’t execute the way we wanted,” said Day.
In the first quarter, Sermon and Teague carried the ball 7 times for 56 yards and averaged 8 yards per carry. In the second quarter, Sermon had 2 carries for 27 yards and averaged 13.5 yards per carry. In the 3rd quarter, Sermon had 9 carries for 144 yards and averaged 16 yards per carry. In the 4th quarter, Sermon got 13 touches for 127 yards and averaged 9.8 yards per carry.
Once Day committed to the run, Ohio State regained the lead, momentum, and everyone got to see Trey Sermon at his best. Some media and even Day have said they are just getting to know what Sermon can do, and it has just taken a while because this is his first season at Ohio State.
Sermon has produced all season long but hasn’t had enough touches to have a breakout game like this. He has taken advantage of every carry, and every time his number has been called. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry entering today’s game. After today’s game, his average went up to 8.19 yards per carry.
One of Sermon’s biggest strengths is his ability to break off long runs. He did this in the 3rd quarter with Ohio State backed up into their own territory. They started a possession off at their own 3-yard line and had a 65-yard run. He did it again in the 4th quarter with a 28-yard run to seal the deal. He did it in their last game on a 64-yard touchdown run against Michigan State.
During his time at Oklahoma, Sermon racked up 2,076 rushing yards on 339 carries, averaged 6.1 yards per carry, and scored 22 touchdowns. He was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year back in 2017. He has a track record of producing and today he made a huge statement on a big stage.
To go the distance and have success in the Final 4, the Buckeyes need a balanced attack. Sermon’s performance today should give Day more confidence calling his number and also remind him that he has 5 All-Big 10 linemen that are more than capable of paving the way and controlling the line of scrimmage in the run game.
This performance by Sermon should eliminate any question marks about Ohio State having a back that can produce in big games. Sermon left his own mark that will likely stay at the top of the record books for a long time.