He ran straight to them and began to slap their outstretched palms. As he worked his way along the entire end of the stadium, he got so caught up in the celebration that he stopped and pulled himself over the six-foot wall into the stands on three different occasions, only to be hugged and pounded on the back and told in so many different ways “all is forgiven.”
The most touching moment came when he spotted his parents and crawled up to embrace and kiss them.
“The best thing was to go up there and hug my mom and dad, just knowing how proud I make them of me,” he said quietly. “I sent them a text before the game and told them:
“’Today is gonna be a special day.’”
He was right.
With their offensive line turning in its most dominant performance and quarterback J.T. Barrett supplementing Elliott with 139 rushing yards and three touchdowns of his own, the Buckeyes pulverized one of the best defenses in college football.
The 12th-ranked Wolverines (9-3) featured a defense ranked second in the country in points allowed per game (14.9) and total yards allowed (263.1)
Along with 41 points, the No. 8 Buckeyes amassed 482 yards.
Elliott was especially impressive, averaging 7.1 yards for his 30 carries.
Although he’s been a starter just two seasons, his performance moved him past Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George as the No. 2 career rusher in Ohio State history. With 3,812 yards, he’s 44 ahead of Eddie George and only trails two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin.
Meyer said Elliott deserves Heisman Trophy consideration:
“He should be in New York (for the presentation). He’s one of the best players in America. He should be a Heisman guy.
“I don’t know if he should win or not — I don’t know the other players — but he’s as good of a player as I’ve ever been around. He’s on a team, what are we now, 11-1? And he’s the best player, one of the best I’ve ever been around.”
Later, in more private moment in a hallway outside the Buckeyes dressing room, Elliott was especially moved by his coach’s endorsement.
“It meant the world to hear him come out and say that. He’s worked with Heisman winners before, he knows what it takes. And the Heisman would mean a lot to me and my family, but honestly, I don’t think any accolade, any award can rival holding up the golden college football playoff trophy at the end of the year. I just pray to God we get the opportunity to play for it all again.”
That likely won’t happen now.
After falling to Michigan State last week, OSU needed the Spartans to lose to Penn State later Saturday afternoon. MSU won, 55-16.
So while Michigan State meets Iowa in the Big Ten championship game next weekend, the Bucks probably will be relegated to some Jan. 1 game that isn’t part of the four-team College Football Playoff.
The way OSU played Saturday makes the MSU loss all the more confounding.
It’s what prompted Elliott’s outburst after he rushed 12 times for 33 yards. In the final 42 minutes of that game he touched the ball three times, He questioned the play-calling and then said he wasn’t coming back for his senior season, meaning he would opt for the NFL after this year.
Although the play-calling was atrocious against MSU and changes were made Saturday, Elliott soon after realized his timing had been wrong.
The backlash in some corners of the media and from many fans on social media was quick and, at times, venomous.
It was a rough week for all involved, Meyer said: “It was awful.”
Elliott apologized to the team and coaches and then went to Twitter to offer his mea culpas to the fans. Although he said he had been disappointed, Meyer said he was not reprimanding him.
“They’re all good kids,” the coach said Saturday. “It’s the emotion — you go on a whatever-game (15) winning streak and then see everything snap.
“I think he apologized 37 or 38 times, I lost track. I told him you don’t need to apologize.”
As for his relationship with Elliott, he said: “It’s been nothing but perfect. I told him you’ve got a bank investment with the Meyer family.”
He said Elliott joined his family for Thanksgiving dinner this year, just as he had the past two years.
Although his coach pronounced the issue over, Elliott showed up at the postgame press conference in a sleeveless t-shirt — it showed the big block O tattooed on his left shoulder — and promptly issued another heartfelt apology.
He talked about always wanting to be the ultimate team player and admitted he was truly shaken last week:
“People questioned my love for the university. People questioned my love for my brothers on this team. People questioned if I’d even come out here today and play hard.
“That’s not the person I am.
“And the media tried to make it be a feud between me and Coach Meyer, (us) against each other. It never was. Me and Coach Meyer will always love each other. No one will ever be able to tear that apart. I’ve got his back and he’ll always have my back.”
And sure enough at game’s end, if you stood in the right spot, that’s exactly what you saw.
As the pair stood next to each other on the big, golden block M at midfield, a bank of TV cameras in front of them, Meyer reached over and put an arm around Elliott’s lower back.
And unseen to the cameras in front of them, Elliott did the same to his coach.
And both men’s faces lit up in smiles.