Ezekiel Elliott is one Ohio State’s greatest all-time running backs. Before making the jump to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, “Zeke” rushed for more than 3,600 yards in a two-year span from 2014-15 and scored 41 touchdowns over that time. Not even OSU legends Archie Griffin, Eddie George or J.K. Dobbins are close to those numbers over a two-year span.
When Elliott took over the starting job in 2014, he ran like a man on a mission. That mission was to win a College Football Playoff National Championship under head coach Urban Meyer.
That’s exactly what Zeke and the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes accomplished. But it likely never happens without their All-American running back, who went on a freakish tear of three-straight 200-yard games.
He also produced one of the greatest plays in Ohio State history against Alabama in the 2015 Sugar Bowl.
The 2015 Sugar Bowl
The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide entered the CFP Semifinal 12-1, suffering its only loss of the season on the road to Ole Miss. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes entered 12-1 as well following a win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Of course, any college football game between Meyer and Nick Saban figures to be a classic. What took place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans felt more like the season’s national title game, because, well Ohio State went on to blow out the Oregon Ducks.
Alabama led Ohio State 21-20 by halftime.
The Buckeyes took a six-point lead on a Cardale Jones 47-yard touchdown to Devin Smith to start the third quarter. They padded to their lead when Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims threw a pick-six, something no ‘Bama quarterback had done since 2007.
Alabama didn’t wave the white flag, though. They scored a touchdown late in third quarter, pulling them within one touchdown. The score remained 34-28 in favor of Ohio State until Ezekiel Elliott decided he’d seen enough of Saban hoisting up the national championship trophy.
He’d already felt disrespected leading up to the game. Emmitt Smith took a shot at him before play began. That was all the motivation he needed.
“(He) said before the game there were two great running backs that were going to play tonight,” Elliott said of Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon.
“And they both were for Bama.”
With under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, he etched his name in Ohio State history by carrying the ball 85 yards “through the heart of the South.”
Ezekiel Elliott’s “85 Yards Through the Heart of the South”
Elliott received some terrific blocks from his offensive line and he was off for the races.
“Can they catch him? No they can’t! Touchdown!”
— ESPN play-by-play broadcaster Brad Nessler.
Elliott’s 85-yard run was the longest play from scrimmage Alabama’s usually-stout defense allowed all year. The touchdown run also happened to be the dagger in the Crimson Tide’s season. It also put some very unhappy faces on Alabama fans who made the trip from Tuscaloosa to New Orleans.
Zeke finished with 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. Ohio State won the game, 42-35, and handily defeated Oregon for their first national title since 2002.
This play is no doubt a favorite of Ohio State fans in Columbus. Eleven Warriors created this awesome t-shirt to pay homage to the iconic run. When he signed on with Nike, they released this sweet video of his 85-yard run.
Now, Zeke gashes defenses at the NFL level. But never forget when he helped upset Alabama in a classic NCAA matchup.