Hall applied for and was granted a medical redshirt and a fifth year of eligibility.
During Ohio State’s 40-20 victory over Buffalo on Saturday, Hall took full advantage.
“It just felt good to be back out there with my team … it’s been a long time,” he said.
Hall broke loose for a 49-yard touchdown late in the first quarter that gave the Buckeyes a 23-0 lead, then scored on a 37-yard run in the second to make it 30-13. He finished with a career-high 159 yards and his first multiple-touchdown game.
“I just wanted to be out there,” Hall said. “I knew that coach was going to pull me at some point, so I was just trying to get everything I could while I was in.”
Hall, who starred with former Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor at Jeannette High in Jeannette, Pa., was penciled in as the starting running back last season, but lost his spot when Carlos Hyde had a breakout season and Hall was derailed by the injuries.
Hyde is suspended for the first three games this season due to an off-field incident, and backup Rod Smith was suspended for one game for a separate incident, giving Hall the opening-day start.
“I couldn’t even sleep last night. I was up at 5 (a.m.) and woke up every hour of the night,” Hall said. “I had to try and keep myself calm. I kind of forgot the feeling until the walk started — the walk from (the skull session at) St. John’s (Arena) … it was just fun to be back out there.”
Hall was handed the ball on Ohio State’s first three offensive plays, and he responded with gains of 5, 9 and 2 yards before Braxton Miller threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith. Miller hit Chris Fields on a touchdown pass on the Buckeyes’ second drive and Ohio State was rolling.
“The way we came out, I thought we were going to score 100,” Hall said. “Coach (Tom) Herman challenged us to come out fast and try to get things going, and I think we did that.”
Finally Hall found the end zone, breaking off left tackle and sprinting 49 yards — a career-long run — to the end zone.
“I was just like, ‘Wow,’” he said. “I didn’t know if (Buffalo) messed up or it was just the O-line doing what they do. I just seen it and I took it.”
Even when Hall wasn’t churning out the yards he was still helping the team.
Freshman running back Dontre Wilson received a couple of handoffs in the second quarter, but coughed up the fumble that led to Buffalo’s first touchdown.
“I just told him to keep his head up,” Hall said. “It was his first time being out there and he was just trying to make something happen. I know how that is. So I just told him to keep his head in the game and he did, he got a big return.”
Later in the second quarter, Wilson returned a kickoff 51 yards to the Buffalo 37-yard line, and Hall took it the rest of the way on the drive’s first play.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a day like this,” Hall said. “I just saw the end zone and I was trying to get there. I knew we needed a spark on offense.”
With Smith returning next week and Hyde joining the ranks two weeks later, Hall knows that he might see his role reduced.
“We’re all brothers on the team — whatever we’ve got to do to get a win,” Hall said. “I’m just going to go wherever they tell me and try to make things happen.”
It should be easy since Herman had Hall learn the H-back role, where he might be used, and because Hall knows how disappointing it was to sit out last season.
“It was tough, but it wasn’t as tough because we won every game,” he said. “If we would have lost a couple games it would have been even tougher because I would have felt like I could have done something to help my team.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @ShaunBennettct on Twitter.