BLOOMINGTON, Ind — Ezekiel Elliott’s first half was pedestrian.
His second was historic.
The junior running back finished the day with 274 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns, which tied Keith Byars for second all-time in Ohio State single-game rushing.
OSU entered the locker room at the half trailing Indiana 10-6. Elliott had just 31 yards on 10 carries, and the underwhelming offensive output that has plagued the defending national champions through four games seemed to be in full swing.
It appeared as halftime did not change things, as the offense’s first possession ended like many in the first half did: with a punt.
But then then defense forced another Hoosier three-and-out to get the offense the ball back.
It was then that the junior running back began to rewrite the history books with his legs.
On 2nd-and-10, Elliott picked up eight yards to set up a third-and-short.
On the next play, the St. Louis native took the shotgun handoff from redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones and headed to the left before turning it up the field and outrunning every red jersey en route to a 55-yard touchdown.
The run, which gave OSU a 13-10 advantage, was Elliott’s longest since his 80-yarder in the season opener against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7.
“It’s a great feeling when he breaks those long runs,” redshirt junior right guard Pat Elflein said following OSU’s 34-27 victory. “It really means everyone else is doing their jobs when he does that.”
Initially, it looked like that play would be exactly what the doctor order to cure the offense’s slump.
But it wasn’t.
The next two drives were more of the old, stagnant Buckeye offense.
There was a three-and-out followed by a Jones interception, which resulted in the Hoosiers taking a four-point lead following a five-play, 55-yard touchdown drive.
OSU got the ball back, trailing 17-14, and ran three plays before being faced with a crucial 4th-and-1 at its own 35-yard line.
Then Elliott, who eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the 10th straight game on the possession prior, continued to steal the show.
This time, he took the handoff and slithered through an opening in the offensive line before accelerating past the Hoosier defense, leaving a trail of helpless Indiana players behind him as he crossed the goal line.
Elliott praised the offensive line for making the play happen.
““The O-line blocked it perfectly and I didn’t have to do much but outrun the (defensive backs) to score,” he said after the game.
The play stood as a huge momentum shift for the offense, as OSU coach Urban Meyer said it got the unit going.
“Zeke’s just such a good second level runner,” he said. “That jump started everything.”
The Buckeyes used the momentum to force another Hoosier punt before Jones found redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Thomas for a 23-yard touchdown just two plays later.
Two possessions later, after the Hoosiers trimmed the lead to just seven points, Elliott did it again, this time going even further than his previous two touchdown runs.
On first down, Elliott got the handoff and headed left. Just beyond the line of scrimmage he bounced off an Indiana defensive lineman before veering to his right, where he outran the entire defense for the third time in the half.
The run gave the Buckeyes a 34-20 lead, which they were able to hang onto for the remainder of the game, despite a late push from the Hoosiers.
Elliott’s huge second half, highlighted by his three long runs, was exactly what OSU needed in order to fend off the upset.
“Coach Meyer made an emphasis that in games like this on the road, big plays are what’s gonna spark the team. I knew we needed big plays,” Elliott said. “The O-line did a great job and they made it easy for me.”
Elliott said the game on Saturday was a season in the making.
“We were definitely overdue for a game like this,” Elliott said. “The O-line and I were feeling this way for the past couple games. We feel good that it finally happened.”