EVANSTON, Ill. – For nearly 45 seconds, Ohio State senior running back Carlos Hyde couldn’t find the words to describe the suspension that cost him playing time in the first three games of the season. Addressing the media for the first time in 2013 following OSU’s 40-30 victory against Northwestern Saturday, tears welled up in Hyde’s eyes as he was asked to recall the punishment.
“That suspension, it really hurt, not being out there with my brothers, because I made a mistake,” Hyde said with emotion. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through.”
Hyde’s suspension was issued after he was involved in an altercation with a woman at a Columbus bar in July. The incident was reported as an assault, and Hyde was tagged as a “person of interest” in the case. Charges were not filed against him, however, at the alleged victim’s request, but he was still disciplined by OSU for his involvement.
The suspension gave Hyde, who said his Christian faith helped keep him focused during the suspension, what he called a “different hunger for the game.”
“I go out every game with a mindset that I have to make up for those three games,” Hyde said. “I’m running with a whole different demeanor than what I would have had in the beginning if I didn’t get suspended.”
Hyde showed that hunger Saturday, his third game back from suspension, with the biggest performance of his career. He gashed the Wildcats for a career-high 168 yards on 26 carries and scored three rushing touchdowns and also had 38 receiving yards on four receptions. With 206 yards from scrimmage, he accounted for more than 45 percent of OSU’s 451 yards of total offense.
“I wanted it bad,” Hyde said. “I caught a rhythm. My (offensive line) was doing a great job to convert on run blocking, and they made it easy for me.”
With just 126 rushing yards on 22 carries and five yards on two receptions in his first two games of the season, Hyde exceeded each of those totals Saturday.
In his junior season in 2012, the Naples, Fla., product was the Buckeyes’ starting tailback and ran for 970 yards and a team-leading 16 touchdowns on 185 carries.
That said, OSU coach Urban Meyer said Hyde’s career has been disappointing thus far.
“His whole career was just kind of a mush. He hasn’t done a whole lot for himself or the program,” Meyer said of Hyde. “We all make mistakes. I hope this is a game-changer for him.”
The Buckeyes needed Hyde to take on a greater role Saturday. OSU’s leading rusher this season, redshirt-senior running back Jordan Hall, did not play in Saturday’s game because of an injury.
“Jordan Hall’s got a little knee issue we’re dealing with right now,” Meyer said. “(Hyde)’s the horse right now. I think he’s a great player. That tells you how much I trust the kid to be able to do that.”
Trailing 23-13 following a 32-yard field goal by Northwestern senior kicker Jeff Budzien early in the third quarter, the OSU offense needed to find the end zone.
The Buckeyes turned to Hyde. He scored all three of his touchdowns — the only offensive touchdowns of the game for the Buckeyes — in the second half, in which he ran for a total of 112 yards on 16 carries.
In total, the Buckeyes ran the ball 48 times, and Hyde said he thought that quantity of rushing attempts was a contributing factor in his success.
“I’m made to carry the ball that many times,” Hyde said. “I definitely feel like me and the offensive line wore them down.”
Getting to 6-0 on the season and 2-0 in Big Ten play did not come easily for the Buckeyes, though the team held steady at No. 4 in the Associated Press poll after the victory. They trailed for at least part of each quarter in Saturday’s game, and never held a lead of more than four points until freshman defensive lineman Joey Bosa’s fumble recovery touchdown as time expired extended OSU’s margin of victory to 10 points.
OSU’s winning streak, which stands at 18 games dating back to the start of the 2012 season, might have ended at the hands of Northwestern if not for Hyde’s contributions.
“You always can lean on a great back like him, especially in the Big Ten season,” OSU junior quarterback Braxton Miller said of Hyde.
After playing its first six games of the season on consecutive Saturdays, OSU has a week off before it plays for its seventh win of the season against Iowa at Ohio Stadium Oct. 19.