DALLAS — Dawn Elliott had a dream.
In it, she saw Ezekiel’s wheels from biblical lore. After that, there was no question what name she would choose for the son she was carrying.
Ezekiel Elliott has been the wheels that have driven the Ohio State Buckeyes here, to the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship game Monday night against Oregon.
In a season of greatness for the sophomore running back from St. Louis, he literally saved his best for last.
Or at least, his best for the Buckeyes’ two most important games to date.
- Dec. 6, Big Ten Championship Game, Indianapolis: Third-string quarterback turned starter Cardale Jones gets all the headlines in a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin, but it’s Elliott who gets the big yards. He rushes for 220 yards including an 81-yard touchdown run, both of them Big Ten title game records.
- Jan. 1, Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans: Elliott rumbles for a Sugar Bowl-record 230 yards, including an 85-yard TD run as the Buckeyes upset top-seeded Alabama, giving him 1,632 yards and 14 TDs for the season.
In the name of Archie Griffin, he’s the first Ohio State running back ever to rush for 200-plus yards in back-to-back games.
Not bad for a guy who broke his left hand in preseason practice, an injury that he said will require surgery after the championship game.
No problem for Elliott, who simply toted the ball in his right as he blew past Bama defenders, leaving the the myth of superior Southeastern Conference speed in his wake.
“He has one speed,” Dawn Elliott told her hometown paper in Iowa when Ezekiel was a freshman. “He’s always over the top, 110 percent.”
“The dude is really fast,” Oregon linebacker Tony Washington said Saturday. “He makes a lot of plays. He’s a tough guy to bring down and he’s going to compete and work hard every rep. He’s determined to make the big runs to get into the end zone.
“As a defense, we’ve got to wrap up and take him down. He’s not a guy that’s going to let an arm tackle take him down. He’s a very dynamic player so we’re going to do everything we can to stop the run game.”
Former LSU and current New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s mother ran track at LSU while his father played football for the Tigers. Elliott’s parents did the same at Missouri.
Their son gravitated toward sports quickly.
“Since he was a little guy, like maybe 2 … if he couldn’t find a ball, he’d get some socks balled up and throw them,” Dawn Elliott said.
Now her son is playing ball for real, and at the highest level.
If fame and success have impacted Elliott so far, it doesn’t show.
His Sugar Bowl MVP trophy, the Miller-Digby Award, by his recollection his first such prize in his football career, isn’t on his mantle back home in Columbus. It’s simply taking up counter space in his kitchen.
Like a toaster.
“I may have been underrated most of the year, but that’s not something I was really worried about,” Elliott said.
“I’m just worried about going out there ever week, getting better and getting that ‘W.’ ”
A nationally ranked recruit coming out of high school, Elliott made Ohio State coach Urban Meyer sweat out his signature on national signing day two years ago.
He was worth the wait.
“He’s the best,” Meyer said. “What adds to him is his selfless approach to the game. If you remember a year ago, he was one of my main guys on kickoff. He started his career on punts.
“That’s a credit to mom and dad, now. We like to take credit for that one. We got him like that. That’s a mom and a dad that taught their son the right stuff.”
Considering the prolific nature of Oregon’s offense — the Ducks have scored 42 or more points in all but two games and scored 51 or more five times — the best defense Ohio State can muster may be to put the ball in Elliott’s battered hands and run some clock.
“It’s a little bit of pressure,” Elliott said, “but I know the big guys in front of me — we call them ‘the slobs’ — are going to pave the way for me.”
Pave the road, then watch him roll.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.