Cincinnati Week Mic Check: Challenging J.K. Dobbins and the Run Game

By Chris Lauderback on September 4, 2019 at 3:05 pm
J.K. Dobbins averaged 4.3 yards per carry against Florida Atlantic.
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Day was back at the podium on Tuesday afternoon, conducting his weekly presser ahead of Saturday's in-state showdown with Luke Fickell's Cincinnati Bearcats. 

Following a 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic in the season-opener last Saturday, reporters finally had some actual game action to digest and pick Day's brain about. 

A handful of questions centered on Ohio State's rushing attack ranging from how Day thought the offensive line performed, the need for rushers to secure the football and how well Tony Alford's running back stable – particularly J.K. Dobbins – fared against the Owls. 

Q. Spent a couple press conferences during training camp talking about the turnovers, and you seemed to want to really clean that up and then you go and have two of them in the opener. Does that keep you up now at night? How do you evaluate that moving forward?
HEAD COACH RYAN DAY: Overall, I thought we handled it pretty good. I know two turnovers — we want zero. The bubble one is a funky one and we’ll clean that up. The other one is inexcusable, the one that J.K. spins on, the ball pops out. That cannot happen. We have to get that fixed.


Q. J.K. has been doing this a long time and he knows that’s important. Do you have to have a conversation? Do you do different drills with them? How do you proceed with a guy like that?
HEAD COACH RYAN DAY: I think you just learn right there. When he spun out of that, he’s high exposure, and any time you spin you’re putting yourself in exposed — I think more we just teach him on that end. It’s pretty good, but for the most part when he was running, the ball was locked away. I think he was crushed when it happened. You could see it in his body language. I know J.K., he’s going to bounce back and make sure it doesn’t happen between.


Q. It didn’t seem like Florida started bringing on you after you got up big, 28-0, whatever it was, how do you think the offensive line handled that, throwing different looks?
HEAD COACH RYAN DAY: After watching the film I was more pleased with the way the offensive line blocked than I thought coming off the field there. There was some funky looks. I thought there was some more yard to be had in the run game than was actually there.

Some of that goes back to you see the same defense over and over again; the runs kind of hitting the game gaps over and over again. You get into a rhythm that way. Although it wasn’t clean, and they did try to bring a bunch of stuff at us, I thought for the most part we moved them.

Jonah Jackson had nine knockdowns in the game and Josh Myers had six knockdowns. Those guys played with effort, and we have to do a better job of finding the hole and making yards after contact. That’s the bottom line. I know Coach Alford and the running backs will be working on that this week.

Day obviously wasn't happy with the fumble from Dobbins which I mean, no coach is cool with fumbles but the reality is the junior tailback has never had an issue hanging on to the football. 

In fact, over his 425 collegiate carries, Dobbins has lost three fumbles with one in 181 carries as a freshman, one in 223 carries last year and now one in 21 carries through one game this season. 

To Day's point however, the fumble versus Florida Atlantic was indeed inexcusable considering Dobbins was well aware of the tackler in pursuit. 

The far more interesting portion of Day's commentary on the running game was his assertion that the offensive line did a better job creating running lanes than the running backs did of locating and taking advantage of those holes versus the Owls. 

I defer to the head coach but while I did catch a few instances of Justin Fields maybe making a wrong read when he could've kept the ball and gashed the defense instead of handing off to Dobbins, or Dobbins taking a straight handoff and missing a hole, I admittedly still left Saturday's game feeling like the offensive line was the most concerning position group on the team. 

One example where the line failed to deliver actually came on Dobbins' fumble. Before the play even had a chance to develop, an interior defensive lineman was two-yards deep in the OSU backfield

Now, this is not at all to say that I think the offensive line is solely to blame for what ended up being another game in which Ohio State's rushing attack failed to generate at least five yards per carry, technically posting a 4.94 average with 237 yards on 48 tries. 

2019* 4.94 50
2018 4.21 76
2017 5.78 8
2016 5.47 17
2015 5.62 9
2014 5.75 11
2013 6.80 1
2012 5.20 20

Dobbins in particular carried it 21 times for 91 yards, or 4.33 yards per carry which has been pretty close to the norm for him over the last year. 

Since the start of the 2018 season, Dobbins has 264 carries for 1,183 yards, equating to an extremely pedestrian, at least by Ohio State standards, 4.48 yards per attempt. 

Over that 15-game stretch, Dobbins has averaged 4.0 or less yards per carry in eight contests. By comparison, as a freshman in 2017, he averaged 4.0 or more yards per carry in 13 of 14 games. 

If the belief is that the offensive line did indeed do what it needed to do Saturday, then it will need to be that good if not better against what will be an extremely motivated Cincinnati defense. 

From there, Alford, Dobbins and the rest of the running back stable need to step up if Ohio State is going to truly get its rushing attack back on track. 

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