Dwayne Haskins was a legend before he started a football game for Ohio State.
That’s the power of the Buckeyes’ rivalry with Michigan, set to be renewed for the 115th time this Saturday.
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While those who are glued to recruiting updates knew all about Haskins long before, he was introduced to the rest of the nation Nov. 25, 2017.
That’s when a knee injury forced three-year team captain J.T. Barrett out of the game at Michigan in the third quarter, leaving control of the Ohio State offense and a 20-14 deficit to the redshirt freshman from Maryland.
His “Welcome to the Rivalry” moment came soon as Haskins threaded a near-impossible pass between two Michigan defenders to Austin Mack to convert a third-and-13.
Two plays after that 27-yard gain, Haskins scrambled 22 yards to the Michigan 1-yard line, setting up J.K. Dobbins’ 1-yard touchdown run.
Sean Nuernberger’s conversation kick gave Ohio State the lead for good, and another unforgettable chapter of the rivalry had been written.
Looking back almost a year later, Haskins recalled being “pretty calm in that situation.”
“I didn’t have too many racing thoughts or concern or self doubt,” Haskins said last week. “I don’t really recall everything that happened in that game, but being able to go into that atmosphere and that environment and succeed meant the world to me this season.”
Senior receiver Parris Campbell remembered things a little differently.
“I can tell you for one thing he wasn’t cool when he first came in the game,” Campbell recalled,” like anyone would be going into the biggest game of their lives not having that much experience.”
The throw to Mack changed things.
“After that it was just like clockwork,” Campbell said. “Coming back to the huddle juiced up, energized ready to get the next play and get back on the field.”
His contributions to Ohio State would have been remembered forever even if he never took another snap for the Buckeyes, but Haskins is in a whole new spot this year.
Taking over for the graduated Barrett, Haskins has already put together a historic season from a passing perspective.
There’s more to playing quarterback than throwing the ball all over the field, though, and replacing Barrett’s leadership is not as easy as replacing his production.
That process has been more methodical, ramping up in recent weeks according to teammates and Meyer.
“The quarterback position is the most unique position, in my opinion, in really all of sport, where everybody’s relying on you,” Meyer said this week. “Everybody’s looking at you. You have a responsibility (to know) what the other 10 guys are doing. You have to make all kinds of decisions within 1.8 to 2.5 seconds. And you have to be a tough guy. You have to lead.”
While breaking Joe Germaine’s single-season passing yards record and Barrett’s single-season touchdowns record garnered headlines, Haskins’ 5-yard touchdown run in overtime was perhaps the most important play of the season so far.
Not only did it set up Blake Haubeil’s extra-point kick that would ultimately be the difference in the game, it also displayed the leadership Meyer wants to see from his quarterback.
“Dwayne really took a step, really took a step,” Meyer said. “No more important than the last play of the game when he dropped his pads and had to get in there and he got in there.”
Next up all Haskins has to do is take on the No. 1 defense in the country.
Overcoming Michigan’s ferocious front and talented defensive backfield will not be easy, but it’s not like he hasn’t done it before.
“Just being able to go play in that game and go win gave me a lot of confidence, stepping in when J.T. got hurt and my teammates trusting me in that situation gave me a lot of confidence going into this year,” Haskins said.