J.K. Dobbins carries undefeated Buckeyes to Big Ten East title

Spencer Holbrookalmost 2 years

Win or lose, every week there are a handful of Ohio State players who stood out above the rest.

Following the tradition of the helmet stickers that dates back to the days of Woody Hayes, Lettermen Row shares out our version of the award every Sunday morning for the best performers on offense, defense and special teams for the Buckeyes.

COLUMBUS — J.K. Dobbins finally got the workload he wanted.

Just one week after he was disappointed with his lack of second-half carries, even in a blowout, Dobbins received more carries than he has in any game this season for Ohio State. The junior tailback finished the 28-17 win over No. 8 Penn State on Saturday with a workman’s stat line: 36 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

When asked if this was what he was waiting for, Dobbins had a huge grin and an easy answer.

“Yeah, it felt great,” Dobbins said. “I’ll take more.”

It would be tough to find more than 36 carries for him. If Dobbins effort against a top-10 run defense didn’t prove he is the best back in the country, the game certainly earned him a piece of the conversation. Dobbins has 80 carries, 492 yards and five touchdowns on the ground when playing a top-10 run defense in the country this season — against Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State. Those are three tough defenses that don’t allow much to opposing running backs.

Dobbins made it look easy against all of them.

Although he had a fumble in the third quarter, which set up a dangerous Penn State run that nearly wiped Ohio State’s lead out, Dobbins played one of his best games when the lights were the brightest. A top-10 showdown in Ohio Stadium for a division title? That’s a huge spot, and Dobbins delivered.

Following the fumble, Dobbins realized the Buckeyes were facing real adversity for the first time all season. He liked how Ohio State responded.

“We just rallied around each other and told each other we were going to fix it,” he said.

And he went right back into the game after the fumble and continued to receive carries. For that, he earned one of the Lettermen Row Buckeye Leaves. But he isn’t alone, and that’s why we passed out other awards, too. Here’s who earned them.

J.K. Dobbins-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

J.K. Dobbins carried the load for the Ohio State offense against Penn State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)


RB J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins carried the load for the Buckeyes — and with good reason. He totaled a season-high 36 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns. On Ohio State’s opening drive of the game, Dobbins paced the Buckeyes; they had 91 yards rushing on that opening drive. Penn State’s top-five run defense had no answer for Dobbins and the Buckeyes running attack. Had he not fumbled in the third quarter, which led to a Penn State touchdown, Dobbins would have nearly had a perfect game — and Ohio State would have probably blown Penn State out. But 36 carries and 157 yards is quite the game for one of college football’s best backs.

Chase Young-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Chase Young was a wrecking ball for the Ohio State defense against Penn State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)


DE Chase Young

There aren’t many words to describe Chase Young at this point. The best defensive player in the country proved why he carries that title in his return from suspension, and his performance against Penn State might rival his masterful outing against Wisconsin in late October. Young finished the game with nine total tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks, including a sack on Penn State’s final possession, ending the last bit of hope the Nittany Lions had at shocking the Buckeyes. Oh, and he broke the single-season sack record at Ohio State. Young should get an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony after his latest performance — and he still has two games to add to his stats before that award is handed out.

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Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson has emerged as the primary punt returner. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Special teams

WR Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson didn’t do anything spectacular returning punts, but he gained his confidence back after a muffed kick last week led to a Rutgers touchdown. This week, he fielded punts cleanly despite the wet and slippery conditions. He even picked one up off a good Penn State bounce, helping the Buckeyes secure better field position. If Wilson is going to be the punt returner on Ohio State’s national-title run, he has to be smart when fielding the kicks. He was against Penn State.