This might be just the beginning of what the Buckeyes have planned for freshman tailback Brandon Saine.
With starting tailback Chris Wells resting a gimpy ankle, Saine got a significant number of the carries responded by turning in several plays worthy of the highlight reels. He finished with nine carries for 69 yards – an average of 7.7 yards per carry – and five receptions for 76 yards.
In doing so, he led the Buckeyes in carries, rushing yards, receptions and receiving yards.
When asked if the team has a separate package of plays waiting for Saine to grow into a bigger role, OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman responded with a knowing smile.
Apparently, the coaches have been impressed with what they have seen out of the true freshman from Piqua, Ohio, who at times has looked to be the most dangerous tailback on the roster.
“I think that we all kind of had some ideas that that might happen coming in but you never know,” Bollman said of Saine’s continued evolution in the offense. “Sometimes you have to let those things express themselves and evolve on their own. It’s kind of in the process. It’s just like, this week he was kind of pretty much back in the flow of things but as we go you can do more and more. You don’t want to overdo it though.”
Beanie Still Banged
Speaking of Wells, he finished Saturday’s game with just four carries for 17 yards as he continues to try and play through an injured left ankle that has plagued him since fall camp began in August.
He had just as many carries as walk-on K.C. Christian and fewer yards rushing than Christian and Marcus Williams, also a walk-on. Wells – or “Beanie” as he prefers to be called – did plow into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown with 9:49 remaining in the second quarter that made it a 21-0 OSU lead.
Following the game, senior captain Kirk Barton expressed his support for Beanie.
“He’ll be fine,” he said. “He’s a tough kid. We’re all playing with pain at this point of the season. Everybody’s got some sort of nick, bruise or sprain. You’ve just got to deal with it and Beanie’s dealing with it. We didn’t really need him that much today, but down the stretch we’re going to need him and he’ll be there for us.”
Barton, who suffered a knee injury against Penn State in 2005 and missed three games, said that was the most difficult part of his career.
“We all play through pain,” he said. “A lot of guys have taken cortisone shots to play for Ohio State, myself included. You can’t let chances pass you by. I’d rather play in a lot of pain than miss a game. In ’05 when I missed some games, that was the hardest time of my career easily because you don’t travel, you’re stuck behind and it’s frustrating.”
In addition, junior defensive end Vernon Gholston said he should be fully recovered from the ankle injury he has been rehabbing by the time the Buckeyes kick off against Michigan State this weekend.
“The ankle is a little sore, but by next week I should be 100 percent,” he said. “That’s my mindset all the time, being out there with those guys. Any time we go into a game, I plan on never missing anything if I’ve got to crawl out there or whatever. For the most part, I’m going to be out there.”
Gholston said he and sophomore defensive back Anderson Russell had been rehabbing their injured ankles together. Russell then apparently re-aggravated his injury against the Golden Flashes as a KSU player tried to block him and was relegated to the sidelines in a walking cast with crutches.
The junior lineman said he thinks Russell will be fine.
“Me and him, we joke around a little bit because we were both in the training room rehabbing our ankles last week and the week before, so we kind of joke around about each other and who’s going to be out there on the field and who’s not,” he said. “It’s tough seeing him go down. I’m pretty sure he’s going to rehab and get back as soon as he can.”
Sophomore wide receiver Brian Hartline broke a school record when he returned a second-quarter KSU punt 90 yards for a touchdown. After the game, OSU head coach Jim Tressel said having Hartline and sophomore Ray Small back to return punts reminds him of a fearsome duo he used to employ in the same fashion: Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes, both first-round NFL draft picks.
“I think Small is similar speed to Teddy and Hartline, I think he’s similar to Santonio,” Tressel said.
Hartline said the punt return came out of the team’s “punt safe” formation, which means there are no designed fakes called. On the punt return, the returner is responsible simply for making the first guy miss. From there, he has to trust that his teammates have blocked their assigned defenders.
The punt safe formation has proven strangely effective, he said.
“We’ve been talking so much in the punt return that we needed a return,” Hartline said. “We’d had so many close ones. We needed that threat back into it.”
No Anderson Here
Speaking of Russell, the safety much-maligned for his inability to hang onto potential interceptions has given junior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins something to yell when someone drops a pass.
He calls it an “Anderson.”
Thankfully for sophomore cornerback Donald Washington, he did not pull an “Anderson” as he was returning an errant KSU pass 70 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw blockers in front of me and I knew we had a guy on the guys, so there was nobody running free to chase me down,” he said. “That’s how I knew I was going to score.”
He did not think of his teammate Russell has he sprinted down the sideline, though.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Anderson, he’ll make those plays. Anderson’s a great player. Yes, he’s dropped a couple of interceptions but that doesn’t take away anything from what else he’s done for this defense. Anderson’s a major contributor to this defense.”