As Ezekiel Elliott exited Ohio Stadium last season following his team’s 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech, Ohio State’s star running back — who wasn’t exactly a star at this point in time — had trouble processing exactly what happened in the game he and his teammates had just played.
The Buckeyes’ high-powered offense had been stifled by an aggressive Hokies’ defense, limited to just 21 points and 327 yards of total offense. Elliott — who ran for 696 yards and eight touchdowns over Ohio State’s final three games of the 2014 season — was limited to a season-low 32 yards rushing on just eight carries.
“I didn’t really know what happened,” Elliott recalled. “We were just so shellshocked by that game and we were not prepared. After the game I think everyone was in shock and that was just kind of a weird feeling.”
A feeling Elliott and his teammates don’t want to experience again when they take on the Hokies in a rematch Monday night.
Ohio State’s players and coaches stated multiple times they weren't prepared for the 46 Bear, Cover 0 defense Virginia Tech played that night. The Buckeyes claimed they had never seen that style of defense before and, because of that, they were forced to alter their game plan on the fly.
Elliott, who is a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy in 2015, said following Wednesday's practice he was a little surprised he only got eight carries against the Hokies, but with Ohio State's lack of preparation against the type of defense Virginia Tech played that night, abandoning the running game was pretty much the only solution.
“At that time last year, we didn’t have a starter so we were still rotating a lot,” he said. “The defense they played, we weren’t able to run the ball and we had to take shots down the field.”
The Buckeyes faced that same style of defense from other teams throughout the course of the 2014 season, but none had the personnel to execute it flawlessly like Virginia Tech did.
Ohio State is expecting the Hokies to show a similar defense Monday night, but head coach Urban Meyer says his team doesn’t expect to see it the entire game because it has improved greatly against it.
The Buckeyes made schematical changes to their running game and will continue to attempt to have success down the field against a very good Virginia Tech secondary.
“They’ll give us something new,” Meyer said. “They’re not just going to play Bear, Cover 0 like they did last year because we’ve worked too hard on that.”
Elliott wasn’t involved a ton in Ohio State’s game plan last year against the Hokies. He’s eager for the opportunity to make something happen Monday night.
“Coach Meyer and Coach Warinner have done a great job this offseason of just kind of setting up a game plan,” Elliott said. “Virginia Tech, even if they play that Bear no deep, will not be able to keep us from trying to run the ball.”