Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott apologized on Monday for critical remarks he made after Saturday night’s loss to Michigan State. Elliott vented frustrations at his lack of involvement in the Buckeye offense, which resulted in just 12 carries, his fewest since the season opener. According to the L.A. Times, Elliott will not be disciplined for questioning the team’s play-calling.
Once a Heisman frontrunner, Ezekiel Elliott also made it clear that Saturday’s setback was his final home game. Ohio State had not lost a game since September 6, 2014, and Elliott rushed for under 100 yards for the first time in over a year, coming in a seven-point win over Minnesota. The loss will knock the Buckeyes from their No. 3 ranking as they get set to take on Michigan on Saturday. Elliott took to Twitter to apologize to OSU supporters after clearing the air with head coach Urban Meyer.
Despite the controversy surrounding Elliott’s comments, defensive captain Joey Bosa conveyed his support to Cleveland.com. “I think he said what a lot of people were scared to say,” said his teammate Bosa. “He said what was in his heart. It may have been wrong in that moment, but it was what he felt like he needed to say.” Meyer echoed the sentiment that although it wasn’t the proper forum, the message behind it was not entirely wrong.
“Zeke has always been a very emotional competitor,” Meyer said, adding that he has been a devoted teammate and solid student academically. “It’s sealed, as far as our team and the team room is concerned in the locker room,” Meyer said. “That kid you’re talking about, he’s one of my favorite of all times. He’s good to go. And we’re going to do our best to get ready to play this week.”
Elliott has rushed for 1,458 yards this season, good enough for tops in the Big Ten and 7th in the country. In his only meeting with Michigan, he amassed 121 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns in a 42-28 win in last year’s regular-season finale. But the projected first-round pick saved his best for the home stretch, piling up 696 yards and eight touchdowns in the team’s final three games en route to a National Championship.
There is plenty at stake this Saturday in Ann Arbor, aside from just bragging rights in a rivalry that began in 1897. Ezekiel Elliott and the Ohio State Buckeyes can still clinch the Big Ten East division with a win and a Michigan State loss. The same scenario applies for Michigan, who will enter the game winners of four straight. All Michigan State has to do is beat Penn State, and they’re in. Whoever survives will face Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game on December 5 in Indianapolis.
Elliott and company will try to bounce back from their first loss in 24 games and help the seniors complete a four-year sweep of Michigan. The maize and blue haven’t defeated the Buckeyes since 2011, which snapped a seven-game series slide at the time.
Ezekiel Elliott won’t be the only headline entering “The Game” Saturday. Natural rivals Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh will face off for the first time in their careers.
[Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]