Ezekiel Elliott unhappy with usage during Ohio State's first loss in 24 games

ByAustin Ward ESPN logo
Sunday, November 22, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Star running back Ezekiel Elliott has apparently played his final home game for No. 3 Ohio State, and he wasn't pleased with the way it went down.

After starting the week in the hospital with a previously undisclosed infection in his leg, the junior returned to the lineup Saturday, declared himself fully fit and then ripped the play calling in a 17-14 upset loss to No. 9 Michigan State at the Horseshoe.

"How we lost, I just feel like we weren't put in the right opportunity to win this game, we weren't put in the right situations to win this game," Elliott said. "I don't think Michigan State was better than us. They weren't. We didn't execute."

Elliott, a Heisman Trophy candidate, carried the ball just 12 times despite Ohio State struggling mightily to gain any traction with its passing attack in wet, cold and windy conditions. The Buckeyes lost their first regular-season Big Ten game under fourth-year coach Urban Meyer.

"Honestly, this is my last game in the Shoe," Elliott said. "I mean, there's no chance of me coming back next year.

"What happened today, it was kind of like a bad, bad dream. Offense had a rough day, and I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in the play calling, I'm disappointed in the situations we were put in, and I wish it all played out differently."

There was a chance Elliott might not have been able to play at all against the Spartans. He revealed after the game that he spent three days in the hospital dealing with a scratch on his leg that had become infected and left him in so much pain that he couldn't walk on Monday.

But he was in great spirits during warm-ups after donning a sleeve on the injured leg, sprinting around with a smile on his face, dancing to the music and jumping on the shoulders of teammates.

That was a far cry from his energy level after the deflating defeat that left Ohio State needing help to win the Big Ten East. Elliott didn't hide his frustration after his streak of 15 consecutive 100-yard games was snapped; he finished with just 33 to go with a touchdown.

"It's very disappointing," Elliott said. "The one drive that we had where we kind of had some momentum when we scored after the strip sack, the plays we ran, we ran a lot of gap schemes and we were gashing them. You guys saw that on that drive, and we had a lot of momentum. Honestly, we didn't see those plays at all for the rest of the game. Those plays weren't called anymore. I asked for those plays to be called, and they weren't. It just hurts. It hurts a lot."

No team coached by Meyer ever has executed worse offensively than Ohio State did Saturday, with the 132 total yards marking the lowest output of his decorated career.

Meyer pointed the finger at himself for the conservative, unbalanced play calling and vowed to "get some things fixed" before another huge matchup next weekend with rival Michigan.

"No, I was not content," Meyer said. "I call a lot of plays anyways. So finger will be pointed right here. And I have to do better. We didn't -- it was very conservative."

That has been the case in multiple games this season, with Ohio State falling short of the sky-high expectations for its talent-laden offense regardless of whether J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones was at quarterback.

Barrett reclaimed the job from Jones last month but was just 9-of-16 for 46 yards with a short touchdown pass Saturday.

Jones appeared to reiterate his intention to declare for the NFL draft in postgame tweets, giving the Buckeyes two players going public with their future plans Saturday night.

Elliott said the inconsistent play calling has been a problem all season.

"We'll have some momentum, we'll call some plays that work, and then we kind of try to get away from it, try to get cute and run some other stuff," he said. "I was lobbying to Coach Meyer all game. I think I do deserve more than [12] carries. I think I really do.

"Honestly, I can't speak for the play calling. I don't know what was going on. I don't know what they were seeing. But honestly, it didn't work out. It wasn't working. ... I've got to make the most of my time left, and I just want to thank Buckeye Nation for making this place so special, and I'm sorry about tonight."

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