COLUMBUS — Any thought that Ohio State would slowly ease injured running back Jordan Hall back into action was quickly erased when he trotted onto the field as a starter in the Buckeyes’ 35-28 win over California on Saturday.
Hall rushed for 87 yards on 17 carries in his first appearance since having surgery to repair a torn tendon in his foot in late June. He suffered that injury when he stepped on broken glass in his yard.
He said the foot felt fine, though he admitted he still has some rust to scrape off his game after several weeks of inactivity.
“Coach (Urban) Meyer asked me how I felt and I said I felt good,” Hall said. “I was a little rusty. There were some runs where if I had a little better footing and a little more confidence I could have come out on the other side (of the defense).
“It took a little while adjusting to the speed of the game. But next week I think I’ll be all right.”
The amount of work Hall got in his first game back was more than might have been expected because Ohio State played without Carlos Hyde, who had started the first two games of the season.
Hyde was sidelined with a sprained ligament in his knee and is questionable for this Saturday’s game against Alabama-Birmingham.
Freshman Bri’onte Dunn and junior Rod Smith, who had backed up Hyde the first two games, did not get a carry against California. Hall (17 carries), quarterback Braxton Miller (12) and wide receiver Corey Brown (one) were the only Buckeyes to run the ball.
Meyer said he was surprised by how many times Hall was able to carry the ball.
“I did not think that was going to happen,” Meyer said. “He just kept going. He had a good day. That was the first time he went hard since he got hurt.”
Meyer included Dunn and Smith in a group of players he said are “young and still learning the game” when asked about their inactivity.
“When the game gets tight, you want your dudes in there, your guys,” he said. “Obviously, they (Dunn and Smith) were not in there. So we have more confidence in the other guys.”
Next up for OSU (3-0), which fell from 12th to 16th in the latest Associated Press poll despite another win, will be winless Alabama-Birmingham at noon Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
The Blazers are coming off a 49-6 loss to South Carolina in which they rushed for only 27 yards on 42 carries and allowed six sacks.
UAB, which lost its opener 39-29 to Troy, has struggled to run the ball in both of its games, averaging only 80 yards on the ground. Quarterback Jonathan Perry has thrown for 536 yards and two touchdowns but has completed only 52 percent of his passes.