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Herron could be major key down the stretch to Ohio State’s Big Ten hopes

The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — They call Dan Herron “Boom” for a reason.

Ohio State’s gritty running back makes his living between the tackles and is starting to emerge as the Buckeyes’ go-to guy in the backfield.

Herron rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries — all in the first half — in Ohio State’s 52-10 victory over Minnesota on Saturday night. It was the first career 100-yard game for the junior who struggled with injury problems last season.

The Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten), who moved up two spots to No. 8 in The Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday, started the season with a backfield-by-committee approach. Herron and Brandon Saine were dubbed “co-starters,” with Jordan Hall and a few others also in the mix in a group that uncharacteristically lacked the star power Ohio State is used to having.

As November approaches and the Buckeyes gear up for a run at another Big Ten title, Herron is starting to make a name for himself.

“Jordan and B. Saine and those other guys are good backs, too,” coach Jim Tressel said. “But there’s no doubt Boom is special.”

The Golden Gophers won’t argue with that.

Playing for an interim coach and having lost the previous seven games, Minnesota hung in there early against the mighty Buckeyes. But Herron, a 202-pounder who runs much bigger than that, wiped away all doubt in a methodical drive toward the end of the first half.

He carried five times on the six play drive, starting it with a 25-yard run and finishing it with a 10-yard burst around the corner for a touchdown that gave Ohio State a 24-7 lead less than two minutes before halftime.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor said the key for Herron has been patience.

“He’s slowing down a little bit,” Pryor said. “He’s actually waiting for the blocks to occur. He’s slowing his body down in a way and he’s not cutting right away or anything. He’s being very patient when he gets the ball and I think that’s helping him on some of those runs.”

Herron rushed for 95 yards in win over Illinois on Oct. 2 and 91 yards in the loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 16, then finally cracked that 100-yard barrier in the last game of the month.

“It was very meaningful for me,” Herron said. “It was great for me to get that first 100-yard game. The offensive line did a great job and I’m thankful coach Tressel gave me a chance to run the ball.”

The fact that he watched the entire second half from the sidelines may indicate how important he is to the Buckeyes as the big numbers he piled up in the first.

With the game in hand, Tressel didn’t want to take any chances of losing Herron to another injury. After the bye this week, Ohio State finishes the season with games against Penn State, Iowa and Michigan in November and still hasn’t given up hope on getting back into the national title hunt.

“We’ve been fortunate that Boom has stayed healthy,” Tressel said. “We missed him for four or five games last season. I think anytime going into a season we try not to overburden anyone because it’s a long season. Fifteen to 17 carries … I’d like to think he can stay healthy with those kinds of numbers.”

Herron was really getting into a rhythm as the first half came to a close and could have been poised for a monster statistical game had Tressel kept giving him the ball. But he understands that there are more important things on the horizon for Ohio State.

“Of course I want back in but at the same time we had a pretty good lead,” he said. “We have a lot of great talent on the offensive side of the ball. So we have a lot of guys that need time and they also did a great job.”