COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Ohio State needed something different on Saturday afternoon. The Buckeyes found themselves in a dogfight with Maryland on the road and struggled to find the team’s usual offensive performance.
Heading into the locker room at halftime, the Scarlet and Gray were 13-10 behind the Terrapins. quarterback CJ Stroud was not himself and completed only nine of 18 pass attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown. Back race TreVeyon Henderson caught Stroud’s touchdown pass on the game’s first possession but had just 19 rushing yards on 11 carries at the break.
Ohio State as a team only had 28 rushing yards.
Henderson, who missed the last two games with a foot injury, clearly wasn’t himself, limping off the field and wincing on the sideline after his touchdown. He struggled to find holes even as Buckeye’s offensive line made room and averaged just 1.7 yards per carry for the game.
“He’s had a great week of training,” said the head coach ryan day said von Henderson after the win. “We decided to shut him down last week to see how that would go and he’s had a really good week of training, really wasn’t in a lot of pain and so he’s trying to figure out what it’s going to be like playing in the game with that one Situation. So he’s still working through that and we’ll continue to evaluate it day by day.”
The newcomer runs back just under four minutes before the end of the second quarter Dallas Hayden came into play. With the third year Miyan Williams For the Maryland trip, Hayden again assumed the primary backup role.
His first carry went just three yards. But Hayden was ultimately the spark Scarlet and Gray needed to eventually march to a 43-30 win.
“We didn’t really get the running game going in the first half,” said Day. “And then made the switch to Dallan and he really got us into a rhythm. I thought he was going to hit the holes hard. There were two good hard runs right after the blocked punt and that was good. And he almost broke a few from there.”
While several Ohio State players made plays in the second half, Hayden ultimately made the difference. The freshman finished with a career-high 146 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
After the Buckeyes forced Maryland to stab on first possession of the second half, safety was up Lathan’s ransom recorded his second blocked punt in two weeks. A recovery by wide receiver Xavier Johnson Scarlet and Gray put up short field and Hayden quickly found the end zone for his first touchdown of the game.
Later in the third quarter, Hayden had seven straight carries and ran for 40 yards.
Day has been reluctant to give Hayden the ball often this season, despite both Henderson and Williams being injured. But without Williams on Saturday and Henderson, who was clearly injured and struggling, the head coach had little choice.
“For a young player with so much at stake today, the most important thing is to play like that – to take care of the football first. When you give someone this football, you put the entire team in their hands,” Day said. “And we talk about that a lot. And so we trusted Dallan to do that. He had a few spots this year, but that was big. And if he takes that game under his wing I think it will build some confidence for him.”
Despite only having 73 carries for 357 yards and two touchdowns before the game against Maryland, Hayden continued to prepare like he was the starter.
“I just knew that I had to be ready when my number was called,” said the newcomer after his first big appearance. “They wanted me to go in, so I felt ready. My teammates gave me a lot of encouragement, that always helps.”
What set Hayden apart from Henderson that night was his determination and his ability to cut inside and hit the holes quickly. While five of Henderson’s 11 carries went for three yards or fewer, Hayden had less than half of his carries for a minimal win, including a short touchdown run and several late-game runs into loaded boxes as Ohio State attempted the to milk clock.
“He sees it,” Day said. “And I think if you see him getting hit, he’s going through contact. I mean you can just feel it. He’s got really good feet, missed some guys. Even at the end, when it was the four-minute drill, they all had it, and if you throw and get an incompletion, they don’t use any of their time-outs. So we had to let it run to eat the clock. As frustrating as this is and as hard as this is, you have to do it. But other than that, there were a few guys in the hole that were extra guys that he missed. He kept those things moving, kept the chains moving and kept us on schedule, and I thought it was well done.
When he got his chance this year, Hayden took his chance. The running back has completed three 100-yard rushing games in his young career. In all but one contest he has received 10+ carries, he also has at least one touchdown.
Hayden isn’t progressing despite his recent success. He understands he still has a long way to go as a college running and admits that Saturday’s heavy workload was very different from when he was doing the same at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, Tennessee. He knows he can keep improving and thanked Buckeye’s running backs coach Tony Alford for making it better in just five and a half short months.
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Despite having the second-best performance by a Scarlet and Gray running back that year, Hayden was quiet and humble after the game despite being the deciding factor for Ohio State.
“I’m just a cool guy. I’m pretty hypothermic,” he said. “Sometimes I get nervous with the media. I’m trying to get better at that.”
The more he plays, the better Hayden gets, in every way. And based on Saturday, he should be playing more because he’s giving the Buckeyes something different.