The full expectation of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is that former Buckeyes star running back Ezekiel Elliott - also known as the current Dallas Cowboys star running back - won’t be hard to find Friday at the 82nd annual Goodyear Cotton Bowl.
“I texted him and I anticipate he will be with us for the game,” Meyer said Thursday during the coaches news conference at the Omni Dallas Hotel.
Elliott, who told reporters Wednesday he was planning to go, helped lead the Buckeyes to the national title the last time they played at AT&T Stadium, scoring four touchdowns and racing for 246 yards in 2015. He returned Sunday to the Cowboys’ backfield from the NFL suspended list in a loss to Seattle that eliminated Dallas from the postseason.
He was a sophomore when he stunned Oregon in the first College Football Playoff championship game. Elliott then returned to Ohio State and raced for 1,821 yards as a junior, 57 fewer than the previous season, but scored 23 TDs.
That season, Ohio State went 12-1, but missed the playoff after being upset in late November by Michigan State.
Elliott rushed for only 33 yards on 12 carries in the Buckeyes’ loss to the Spartans — his lone game below 100 yards that season — and afterward criticized the Ohio State coaching staff for its play-calling. Meyer, for his part, moved on quickly from the incident, even saying he “couldn’t disagree” with Elliott’s assessment.
Earlier this year, as Elliott was fighting the NFL’s decision to suspend him for alleged domestic violence, Meyer said he was concerned about Elliott, who left Ohio State after his junior season and was the Cowboys’ first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft.
“We all want what’s best for him,” Meyer told ESPN. “He’ll be remembered as one of the best players to ever put on a scarlet and gray uniform. I worry about him. I worry about the fact that, I don’t know all the stories about the accusations, but I’m almost warning my team about that. When you become that kind of person, you have to really be cautious of who you’re around and who you’re with. I don’t know the ins and outs of it. Obviously, I’ve heard his side of the story, so I worry about him.”
The fifth-ranked Buckeyes play the eighth-ranked USC Trojans at 7:30 p.m. Friday.