COLUMBUS — Ohio State’s offensive line did not perform well against Northern Illinois and coach Urban Meyer made sure the unit got the message during practice.
Its performance against Western Michigan was a step in the right direction. Ezekiel Elliott had another 100-yard game, but this time had more explosive plays with six rushes of 10 yards or more with a long of 26 in the Buckeyes’ 38-12 win over the Broncos.
“We definitely had a chip on our shoulder this week,” said fifth-year senior Chase Farris, an Elyria High graduate who started for the fourth time at right tackle for the Buckeyes. “Performance-wise we felt that we weren’t living up to our expectations. Overall we just wanted to go out there and get after it this week. We’re definitely taking steps forward, but we’re not a finished project yet.”
Elliott averaged 7.8 yards per carry against the Broncos after averaging 4.7 against Northern Illinois. His longest run against the Huskies was for 13 yards.
“It was a great game plan by the coaches and the line definitely stepped up and played great today,” the junior running back said.
Farris has had to make a transition to everyday starter, replacing Darryl Baldwin from last year’s national championship unit. The other four linemen — Taylor Decker, Billy Price, Jacoby Boren and Pat Elflein — all returned.
Ohio State still needs to work on its pass protection. Quarterback Cardale Jones was only sacked once, but he had to scramble on a number of plays, including one that resulted in an intentional grounding penalty with eight seconds left in the first half.
The Buckeyes drove all the way to the Western Michigan 15-yard line, but the infraction caused a 10-second runoff and Ohio State came away with nothing going into halftime.
“Pass blocking is probably one of the most difficult things with the transition,” Farris said. “You have someone running full speed at you and you’re running full speed backward trying to stop the charge.”
But the rest of the numbers show improvement for the unit. Jones had a career-high passing day at 288 yards. He completed 58 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns. Michael Thomas caught six passes for 80 yards, leading all receivers, and the Buckeyes totaled 223 yards on the ground with Curtis Samuel adding 55.
Samuel had a strong game with 104 total yards and a rushing touchdown from 40 yards out.
Against Northern Illinois, the Buckeyes rushed for 162 yards while Jones and J.T. Barrett combined to throw for 133 yards and three interceptions.
“I felt like we were on the up and up this week,” Farris said. “This is probably one of the first weeks that we’ve seen something similar to what’s been on film. When you practice and see what you practice the proof is in the pudding. They did what we expected them to do and we just went out there and executed as a unit.”