Ezekiel Elliott sat in a hospital bed, crying his eyes out because his right leg hurt so bad. As emotional player as you'll find in college football, Ohio State's running back didn't think he'd be healthy enough to take the field with his teammates in their biggest game of the season.
"Early this week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I didn't think I was going to play, honestly," Ohio State's star running back said Saturday after his team's stunning 17-14 loss to Michigan State at Ohio Stadium. "I was depressed in the hospital, crying like a baby. I didn't think I was going to play."
Elliott finished the night with just 12 carries and 33 yards — his lowest output of the season, save for the opener when he toted the ball 11 times against Virginia Tech — but claimed he was 100 percent. Ohio State's offense was horrid against the Spartans, managing 132 total yards and scoring its two touchdowns off turnovers that came on short fields.
Elliott said he was ready to go despite only practicing Thursday, but was emotional because he didn't feel like he was given the opportunity to help his team remain undefeated and atop the Big Ten East.
But when Michigan State's Michael Geiger booted a 41-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired, Elliott wasn't ready to hold anything back.
"I think I do deserve more than 11 carries. I think I really do," Elliott said. "I mean, honestly, I can't speak for the play calling. I don't know what was going on. I don't know what they were seeing."
After netting just two touches in the second half of the loss, Elliott had strong words about the scheme, but his biggest bomb was his declaration for the NFL draft.
“Honestly, this is my last game here this year. There's no chance of me coming back next year," Elliott said. "I just want to thank Buckeye Nation for making this place so special. I'm sorry about tonight."
Urban Meyer struggled to find the words to describe his team's woeful performance on Senior Day, but mentioned he was "not content" with the way the way the game was called offensively.
Meyer, however, took the sole blame for his offense's flat performance.
"I call a lot of plays anyways. So the finger will be pointed right here," Meyer said, before gesturing to his chest. "And I have to do better."
“Honestly, I go into every game planning to dominate. It hurts so bad. I honestly don't know how to react right now. I just wish I was given the opportunity to do more.”– Ezekiel Elliott
The Spartans loaded the box Saturday, making the Buckeyes beat them by throwing the ball down the field. Michigan State entered the game allowing 243 passing yards per game. J.T. Barrett netted just 46, with six coming on a jump pass to Jalin Marshall after the Spartans muffed a punt and put the Buckeyes in tailor made field position to score.
Beyond that, the lone pulse the offense showed was on a 32-yard scoring drive to put Ohio State ahead 7-0 early in the second quarter, when Elliott carried the ball eight times and scored the touchdown.
"We weren't put in the right situations to win this game. I don't think Michigan State was better than us," Elliott said. "They weren't. But we didn't execute."
Elliott said he was angry because his grandfather was in town from Finland to watch him play, and he didn't feel he had the opportunity to keep the nation's longest winning streak going.
"It's kind of something we've seen all season, honestly," Elliott said. "We'll have some momentum, we'll call plays that work and then we'll try to get away from it and try to get cute and run some other stuff."
Barrett ran the ball 15 times for 44 yards, but the playbook was hardly explored early in the game as a driving, whipping rain fell and temperatures dropped. Once it stopped coming down, however, not much changed.
And Elliott didn't know why, even though he asked why he wasn't getting the ball more.
"I'm talking about the play calling. So whoever calls the plays," Elliott said. "I was lobbying to Coach Meyer all game. I heard no explanation."
Meyer didn't offer much of an explanation, either, outside of good punting by Michigan State aided by high winds putting Ohio State in bad situations to drive the ball.
"It was a kind of that game I can't stand. Those are tough to watch now and be a part of," Meyer said. "When you start playing field position like that — been in a couple of situations in my career where you're in a blizzard. It wasn't a blizzard, but it was a tough situation."
It was a tough situation for his best player as well, because even though he had to lie in bed the bulk of the week because of a golf ball-sized cyst on his lower leg, he felt healthy enough to help keep No. 3 Ohio State's name in the College Football Playoff picture.
"Honestly, I go into every game planning to dominate. It hurts so bad. I honestly don't know how to react right now," Elliott said. "I just wish I was given the opportunity to do more."