For three quarters Saturday night, Dontre Wilson was playing arguably his worst game as an Ohio State Buckeye.
The sophomore H-back accumulated two fumbles on kickoff returns and dropped two passes on offense, one of which was an almost sure touchdown.
Somewhere in between, he also broke his foot.
That did not stop Wilson however, as he hauled in a seven-yard touchdown pass from a fellow Texas native, redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, to give the Buckeyes an 18-point lead early in the fourth quarter, ultimately sealing an OSU upset win.
Despite his early game struggles, OSU coach Urban Meyer said he never gave up on Wilson.
“There’s never been a player that has gone through a game without making a bunch of mistakes,” Meyer said Tuesday during the Big Ten teleconference. “If it was lack of effort, he is out of the game in a second. The one thing Dontre Wilson never (has) is lack of effort. I grabbed him and we talked about it and everybody was upset, but there was no one more upset than him.”
Meyer acknowledged Monday that Wilson will miss “a few weeks” because of his injury, but added he was pleased with Wilson’s toughness.
“He actually caught a touchdown pass with a broken foot … Might have to put a pin in it,” Meyer said. “Tells you what a tough guy (he is), didn’t have a good game, couple balls on the ground.”
OSU has just three regular season games left — against Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan — with a possible berth in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game and a bowl game added on.
Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas said Monday that the Buckeyes have already had to reload at a key position earlier this season, and added he is confident the team and Wilson’s replacement will rise to the challenge.
“We just have to step up,” Thomas said. “Coach always says when one person goes down, for instance (senior quarterback) Braxton (Miller, who is out for the season with a torn labrum), someone has to pick up the rifle.”
With Wilson out for the foreseeable future, Meyer said there are a number of players besides the obvious replacement, redshirt-freshman Jalin Marshall, who he believes can step in admirably at the H-back position.
“(Freshman wide receiver) Noah Brown gets in the mix and (redshirt-junior wide receiver) Corey Smith gets in the mix. (Senior wide receiver) Evan Spencer is a multiple guy that can do a lot of things. (Redshirt-junior tight end) Nick Vannett is a guy,” Meyer said. “So the good thing there’s some personnel. It’s not exactly like Dontre, but our 240-pound H-back Noah Brown brings a little something to the table, too. He’s earned some right to play.”
Not including Spencer, who has started every game at wide receiver this season for the Buckeyes, the players mentioned by Meyer have combined for 21 receptions, the same amount as Wilson this season.
Redshirt-senior offensive lineman Darryl Baldwin said Monday that losing Wilson will hurt the offense, and the next man up will have to step up his game.
“We lose a fundamental part of our speed with (Wilson),” Baldwin said. “That’s going to be a big loss. Hopefully the next guy can step in, I think it’s Jalin, I’m not sure, but he is just going to have to step in and do his job.”
Marshall has caught 14 passes for 157 yards and two scores in his first season on the field for OSU, to go along with 107 rushing yards on 17 carries and one touchdown.
The Buckeyes will also have to replace Wilson on kick returns, as he has returned 22 of 28 kickoffs this season for OSU.
Whoever replaces Wilson, Meyer said he doesn’t want to put too much pressure on that person and wants to just let him make plays.
“I never want to have a place where people are scared to make a mistake,” he said.
The Buckeyes are set to return to action Saturday, when they are scheduled to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. Kickoff is set for noon.