By Jim NAVEAU
Special to The Crescent-News
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- On the amp meter, Dan Herron was a 10. He was pretty good on the field too.
Ohio State's No. 1 running back returned from a six-week suspension, including a false start of sorts last week, to rush for 114 yards on 23 carries in OSU's 17-7 win over Illinois on Saturday.
Herron, who sat for five games for selling memorabilia and equipment, then had another game tacked on for being overpaid for an off-season job, looked like he'd never been away.
He carried for six yards on Ohio State's second play of the game, then gained eight on his next attempt and nine more yards the third time he touched the ball.
He expected this to come a week earlier, but then the second suspension hit him five days before the Nebraska game.
Patience was the word Herron kept coming back to when he talked about his return. And that second suspension required patience, too.
"The Sunday practice before Nebraska he was all amped up, we were talking about him finally getting to play behind me again. And he didn't get to play," fullback Zach Boren said. "But he was all amped up again today."
Whatever the opposite of amped is, that's what Herron was feeling as he watched Ohio State's first six games on television, usually with his good friend and fellow suspended Buckeye, DeVier Posey.
"It was definitely hard. It was hard staying home and just watching the games," Herron said. "I learned a lot, like thinking twice before making decisions. It really made me grow up and be a man," he said.
Herron was Ohio State's leading rusher last season with 1,155 yards. And his role as OSU's lead back began the same place as his return.
Because of the Big Ten's realignment into two divisions, Ohio State has played at Illinois two years in a row.
Last season, Herron rushed for 95 yards on 23 carries and scored the clinching touchdown in OSU's 24-13 win at Illinois. Before that game, he was averaging 10 carries a game. But from that point forward, he carried 19 times a game.
"We were talking a lot last night about how this is the game last year where he really went off," Boren said. "He said, 'It's kind of crazy I'm coming back this game.' He ran hard today , some of those moves he put on guys - he's just an unreal running back."
Ohio State coach Luke Fickell has consistently praised Herron for his hard work and leadership even though the senior running back knew he would lose the first half of his senior season. He hit the same notes after Saturday's game.
"This is what he's been working for. He has gone through a lot and sacrificed a lot and learned a lot," Fickell said.
"But the biggest thing is what Boom (Herron) means to this team and what he means in the locker room and what he means on the field. He's excited and the guys in the locker room are excited to have him."
Better things and better decisions could have been asked of Herron off the field in the past. But on Saturday on the field, you couldn't have asked for much more.