Trey Sermon saves his best — the best day ever for a Buckeyes running back — for when Ohio State needed it most
Trey Sermon was angry.
On his last run, smelling the end zone and even more yardage, he was stopped initially by Northwestern’s defense. They pushed back the talented Ohio State running back, but he rode the wave, keeping his feet moving, never stopping, but eventually the referee blew the whistle — which ended the play.
Sermon still didn’t stop. He kept going, only realizing late that the play was over. It was also the play that ended the game.
Frustrated, convinced that he would’ve again beaten the Wildcats defense, he threw his hands up in exasperation.
Because Sermon just didn’t want this game to end. He wanted even more yards, more scores. He wanted his massive, athletic offensive line to open more holes for him. He wanted all of that, but he would have to settle for a career-best, record-setting victory over a tough-minded team.
When it was over, and he could finally take a breath, his numbers looked like this: 29 carries for 331 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Let that sink in for a moment.
“I just want to thank my teammates and my coaches for motivating me and welcoming me into the brotherhood,” Sermon said as he accepted the B1G championship game’s MVP trophy. “I’m just so appreciative man. Glory to God. Go Bucks!”
No running back in Ohio State history has ever had a better day. Not Archie. Not Eddie. Not Zeke.
Sermon’s performance actually eclipsed Eddie George’s previous school-record of 314 yards against Illinois in 1995. Fans like LeBron James took note on Twitter:
— Trey Sermon (@treyera) December 19, 2020
And make no mistake: Sermon did it on the biggest stage, when the Buckeyes needed it the most. If Sermon had 100 less yards, it’s possible Ohio State doesn’t win its fourth consecutive B1G title. It’s possible they are on the outside of the College Football Playoff, and looking in. It’s possible all of their goals disappear.
But instead, the senior transfer running back from Oklahoma found the burst that fans have been waiting for all season. While he seemed to have his coming out party against Michigan State, Sermon became a Buckeye legend against Northwestern — which has a defense, mind you, that made its reputation all year by stopping the run.
It became evident in the second half Saturday that the Wildcats could not stop Ohio State’s offensive line, and especially Sermon. As the half wore on, the offense just kept feeding him the ball. Sermon just kept running.
“Trey’s a hard worker,” quarterback Justin Fields said afterward. “He doesn’t talk much, but he puts his head down and works and that showed today. He had a hell of a performance and he just played great.”
No one thought it would take Sermon five games to get his first touchdown as a Buckeye. He rushed for over 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in three seasons with the Sooners. And no one thought he’d be fighting to see the field in some of Ohio State’s games. But then came the performance against Michigan State two weeks ago.
“I definitely felt like it was going to happen,” Sermon said after the win against the Spartans. “Each week I just felt like I was gradually getting better, getting more in sync with the offensive line and just getting used to playing with those guys. It was kind of slow the first few games. But I mean, it’s about just practicing hard, continuing to get reps and just getting a good feel for it. And I was able to make the most of my opportunities.”
In a COVID-shortened season, it seems like it’s taken longer for some players to achieve success. But everyone should remember: This is just Sermon’s 6th game as a Buckeye. Normally, he’d be in the middle of a season right now.
Still, few would admit to thinking he’d have a performance like this, where he would run for more than 300 yards in a game. But hey, it’s 2020, right? Crazy things have continued to happen. Few of us thought Northwestern would hang with Ohio State the way they did, but that happened, too.
In the end, though, Sermon’s amazing day was just too much.
“He ran hard,” coach Ryan Day said. “The offensive line played unbelievable. The tight ends played really hard.” And to see Sermon and the line do it all against a talented defense? “It was tremendous,” Day said.
In the biggest understatement of all-time department, Sermon was humble in the postgame press conference Saturday.
“My mindset is just to make the most of my opportunities,” he said afterward. “Making guys miss and winning at the second level.”
I’d bet most would agree that he definitely made the most of this opportunity. And when he seemed to be struggling in the beginning of the year?
His coaches told him to keep working. “They know I’m a great player and can make an impact,” he said.
They were right. And it all paid off in the biggest game of the year.