COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The normal, gaping holes were nowhere to be found.
Across the line of scrimmage, a group of guys who might never see the field had been replaced by a defensive unit that has proven to be one of the best at stuffing the rush in the nation.
And instead of executing out of the Ohio State playbook, the job during the week was instead to provide a look at what the opponents did on the ground instead of doing what had become so familiar for nearly two years.
But rather than drop his head or mail in the effort while serving his three-game suspension last month on the scout team, Carlos Hyde instead tried to turn that rare look at how the other half of the roster lives into a benefit for his own game. Based on the early returns since his punishment ended, the senior might have come out of it even more deadly on the ground than before.
“It was our scout-team offensive line going against the [starting] defensive line, and those guys aren’t easy to block,” Hyde said. “So you’ve got to make something happen. That kind of helped me out with getting in the open field, making moves on guys, because that’s the only thing you can do over there.
“I’m not trying to run my teammates over; I’m trying to make a move and make a guy miss and get up the field. That kind of helped me out, bringing that over to our offense.”
The Buckeyes obviously would have preferred to have Hyde in the offensive fold all along this season, though his role in an off-the-field incident in July kept him out of the picture for effectively all of the nonconference action.
Hyde was never charged with a crime, but coach Urban Meyer issued his own disciplinary sentence anyway and made it clear there would be standards the leading scorer from last season would have to meet before he could return to the team -- let alone the starting lineup.
Along the way, Hyde searched for ways to make both himself and his teammates better on the field even when he couldn’t play on the weekend. He was far away from the spotlight, forced to go back to doing the thankless work a first-teamer could conceivably take for granted.
“I wish I could raise every back that way,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “I wish I could send every back down to the scout team for a few weeks because the positives of it are, No. 1, you're going to play through contact, for sure. You're playing against a younger offensive line and you're not getting the movement that [a running back is used to].
“Things are not very clean, so now you're forced to really enhance the skill set of playing on contact, playing through contact, spinning off of things, staying true to your footwork and your landmark. ... Being a starting tailback a year ago and having to play a backup role and a service role to this football team made him extremely hungry.”
The Buckeyes are keeping him well fed now, and they aren’t likely to slow down as long as Hyde maintains an appetite.
In two critical Big Ten games since his season debut in a cameo against Florida A&M, Ohio State has handed Hyde the ball 43 times for 253 yards and he’s picked up right where he left off as a touchdown machine, banging in three of them in a tight win over Northwestern.
Figuring out exactly how many of the career-high 168 yards against the Wildcats to attribute to his work on the scout team is impossible to do, and that stint didn’t come without its share of negatives, either.
Hyde had to make a transition back to the standard playbook and get used to playing behind a veteran offensive line again. Judging by the tears he shed after the Northwestern victory while recounting how he let down the Buckeyes over the summer, there were some emotions to deal with on the road back to the lineup as well.
But particularly on the field in a different role thanks to the punishment, Hyde appears to have made the most of the lesson.
“I think, mentally, it was an unbelievable advantage for him,” Drayton said. “It made him not take for granted the opportunities that he has in front of him.”