BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - One of the brightest spots in Ohio State's 33-14 win Saturday night over Indiana was the performance of running back Brandon Saine in his first career start.
Saine, Ohio's Mr. Football as a senior at Piqua in 2006, started in place of Dan Herron, who was still nursing a sore ankle he had injured in the previous week against Illinois. Saine stepped in and carried the ball 17 times, gaining 113 yards.
A junior who has returned kicks, caught passes, and played tailback for the Buckeyes, Saine had gains of 30, 22, 13 and 11 yards against the Hoosiers while showing both the explosion necessary to hit holes quickly and the might to shed tacklers and make defenders miss.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said the 6-1 and 220-pound Saine, who was Ohio's 100 and 400 meter champion in track in high school, offers a good mix of size and speed.
"Brandon Saine is 220 pounds now, and he's moving those pounds fast, so he's got good power," Tressel said.
Saine's work on first down against Indiana allowed the Buckeyes (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) to get in favorable situations on second and third down, and put together 15 rushing first downs. The Buckeyes held almost a 10 minute advantage on the Hoosiers in time of possession.
"If you can run the ball and be second down and six or five, that's the place you want to be," Tressel said. "We have to win the battle of the trenches."
After carrying the ball 60 times as a freshman in 2007, Saine had his input with the Buckeyes extremely limited in 2008, first by a hamstring injury suffered in preseason camp and then a sprained ankle later in the season. Saine said he is just pleased to be healthy now and able to make a contribution with the offense for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes won their third straight game in dominating fashion.
"I'm just out there having fun," Saine said.
"We're on a little bit of a roll right now and it feels really good."
Tressel said the speed in the backfield when Saine is lined up with sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor gives the Buckeyes the opportunity to strike in a variety of ways.
"We always would like to believe that the faster you can be across the board, the better you can be," Tressel said.
"If you have quickness along the line, and you have speed - flat-out speed - everywhere else, you can become a good offense. I think we have speed at quarterback, speed at running back, and I think we have speed out at wide receiver. We want to do a lot, and that speed sure gives you a chance."
Pryor, who is likely the fastest Buckeye, said Saine's speed and strength make him a threat to break off a long run every time he touches the football.
"Brandon can turn it on. Once he gets going, he can really fly," Pryor said. "He's like a bullet out there."
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