COLUMBUS - In his previous appearances, sophomore tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells had provided snapshots of his potential to become the next great running back for the Buckeyes. Yesterday, as his team faced its stiffest challenge of the season, Wells provided the full reel, a complete show.
Wells ran for a career-high 221 yards on 31 carries, with the ninth-best individual rushing performance in Ohio State history, as the Buckeyes beat Michigan State 24-17. His previous best of 143 yards came against Akron earlier this season.
"We knew for us to be a good team, we were going to need Beanie to be a warrior, a workhorse," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "That's what he wants to be. That's what we want him to be."
Wells broke off a 47-yard run on the second play of the game, and ended up with the first 200-yard rushing game by a Buckeye since Maurice Clarett carried the ball 31 times for 230 yards against Washington State in 2002. Wells had the 15th 200-plus yards rushing performance all-time for Ohio State.
Wells, who won the hearts of Buckeyes fans when he broke loose for a 52-yard touchdown run in Ohio State's 42-39 win over Michigan to clinch last season's Big Ten title, carried the ball seven straight times on Ohio State's game-clinching drive that ended yesterday's win.
"Of course I wanted the ball," Wells said. "The only thing on my mind was getting the ball and holding on. My line did a great job blocking up front, and I just tried to follow them. I think I did OK."
Ohio State offensive lineman Steve Rehring said it was nice to see Wells, who had been nursing a sore ankle, put on a show.
"Beanie was in a zone today," Rehring said. "I get to see him do that every day in practice. Finally, he was healthy enough to do it in a game on a national stage."
DEFENSE DOES IT: Michigan State had averaged 242.7 rushing yards per game, but Ohio State allowed the Spartans just 59.
"I was surprised we couldn't run better than we did against them, but then again that is a great defense," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "It's as good a team as we've played all season."
HONORING NO. 23: One number stood out yesterday - the "23" on the back of every Ohio State helmet. It was an effort to display support for former Buckeyes running back Ron Springs, No. 23 in his playing days here, who is near death in a Dallas hospital.
The 50-year-old Springs, who played three seasons at Ohio State under Woody Hayes (1976-78), lapsed into a coma recently and is on life support at Dallas Medical City Hospital, surrounded by his family. Springs has been suffering from Type 2 diabetes since 1990, and had his right foot and two toes on his left foot amputated as a result of the disease.
As his condition deteriorated, Springs was placed on the national transplant list in 2004, needing a kidney. His son, Shawn, also a former Buckeye (1994-96) and currently a member of the Washington Redskins, offered to end his NFL career and give his father a kidney, but the elder Springs refused. Last March, Springs' former teammate on the Dallas Cowboys, Everson Walls, donated one of his kidneys to Springs.
But after being hospitalized for a surgical procedure to remove a cyst from his arm, Springs went into a coma and his doctors have reportedly told the family there is no chance of his survival.
PASS RECORD: Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman completed his first 10 passes against Michigan State yesterday, and tied a school record with 12-consecutive completions. He completed his last two against Kent State last weekend. Boeckman finished the game 15-of-23 for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
DANE'S DAY: Feshman receiver Dane Sanzenbacher from Central Catholic High School had a pair of nine-yard receptions on consecutive plays in a critical fourth quarter drive as the Buckeyes were attempting to put Michigan State away.
CROWD CONTROL: An announced crowd of 105,287 saw the Buckeyes defend their No. 1 ranking. Ohio State has hosted 39 consecutive crowds of 100,000 or more at Ohio Stadium.