J.K. Dobbins hit the hole opened by left tackle Jamarco Jones and tight end Marcus Baugh, planted his left foot and turned up the field. Army cornerback Mike Reynolds lost his footing when Dobbins made his move and made a desperate tackle attempt.
Dobbins did his best Ezekiel Elliott impression in the last 40 yards of his 52-yard touchdown run Saturday at Ohio Stadium. He showed Elliott’s breakaway speed and even the crop top Elliott made famous three years ago during Ohio State’s run to the national championship.
“I saw that my teammates were blocking very well for me,” Dobbins said. “I just had to beat one person. I kind of pride myself on beating the first person that gets there. It was off to the races after that.”
In a 38-7 victory, that score proved to be the dagger. Trailing 17-7, the Black Knights had a chance until Dobbins broke free in the third quarter.
“I felt we got a lot of energy from that, the whole team,” Dobbins said. “We just started clicking.”
Dobbins has brought that energy all season. The true freshman ranks second in the Big Ten with 141.7 rushing yards per game. He ranks 11th in the country and second among freshmen, trailing only Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (146.0).
Dobbins carried the ball 13 times for 172 yards against Army and scored two touchdowns. He joined Archie Griffin and Maurice Clarett on the short list of freshmen who have gained 170 yards twice in one season, and three quarters of the regular season remain.
“Last year, I remember on the field people would point out where Curtis Samuel is,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “The defense would say, ‘You have to keep that guy in front of you.’ J.K. is not there yet, but everybody is starting to see what he can do.”
Dobbins was the 43rd-ranked player in the class of 2017, according to 247Sports.com, despite breaking his right fibula and spraining his ankle on the first play of his senior season. He didn’t play again for La Grange, a high school with an enrollment of 632 and located 65 miles southeast of Austin, Texas.
Dobbins enrolled at Ohio State in January and showed his skills in the spring. Mike Weber’s hamstring injury in preseason practice opened a door for Dobbins, though Weber continues to work his way back into the rotation.
“It’s not that Mike is a lost soul around here,” Meyer said. “He’s one of the few freshmen to ever rush for a thousand yards (at Ohio State). He’s very critical for us as we continue to move forward in conference play coming up in a few weeks. So we’re going to need him at full strength. He’s still not at full strength. We have to make sure we get him full strength.”
UNLV at Ohio State, noon, Big Ten Network, 1410