Dobbins on Cotton Bowl: ‘It’s a big-time game’

Dec 23, 2017
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford, right, hugs J.K. Dobbins after a victory against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship on Dec. 2, 2017, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. David Jablonski/Staff

J.K. Dobbins has seen the highlights of Ezekiel Elliott running wild at AT&T Stadium in the national championship game three years ago for Ohio State — or more recently at the same stadium as the star running back for the Dallas Cowboys.

Dobbins envisions something similar for himself Friday when the No. 5 Buckeyes (11-2) play No. 8 Southern California (11-2) in the Cotton Bowl. Ohio State’s freshman running back is one of seven Buckeyes from Texas. He has visited AT&T Stadium but has never played there.

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The Buckeyes, who flew to Dallas on Saturday, get a first glimpse of the the stadium Monday when they practice there for the first time.

“I look forward to it,” Dobbins said. “It’s a beautiful stadium.”

Dobbins has put himself on a track to rank with Ohio State’s great running backs, so it’s fitting he has already met Elliott, Archie Griffin and Eddie George. All told him to keep working hard.

None of those Ohio State legends ran for as many yards as a true freshman as Dobbins. He set a school freshman record with 1,364 yards. He averaged 7.5 yards per carry, which ranked fifth in the nation. He became the first freshman named MVP of the Big Ten Championship, rushing for 174 yards in the 27-21 victory against Wisconsin on Dec. 2.

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Now Dobbins gets one more chance to add to his record-breaking season. The Trojans ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, allowing 158.3 yards per game.

Ohio State and USC will meet for the first time since 2009.

“It’s a big-time bowl game,” Dobbins said. “It’s got very good tradition. It goes all the way back. It’s going to be a great bowl game for us. It’s going to be great to be a part of it. It’s great going back to Texas because I’m from Texas. It’s going to be a fun game.”

Dobbins hasn’t played in his home state since the first game of his senior season at La Grange High School. That also turned out to be his last high school game. Dobbins broke his leg on the first play of his first game in his last season.

Dobbins has reflected on that injury many times since arriving at Ohio State and did again earlier this month when Ohio State players met with the media one more time before leaving for Texas.

“It was tough because I had to stay in a cast for seven weeks,” Dobbins said. “That was tough. I had to miss my whole senior year. I always try to stay positive, but I was kind of negative at first.”

As time went on, Dobbins’ attitude improved. The Ohio State coaches recruiting Dobbins helped him.

“They had confidence in me,” he said. “They said they did. Especially Coach (Tony) Alford. That helped me a lot.”