Some of y'all owe C.J. Stroud an apology.
As the Debriefing noted in the first three weeks of the season, the freshman quarterback was not what ailed a struggling Ohio State. Nonetheless more than a few readers and social commenters pleaded with the football gods that Ryan Day might consider trotting out Kyle McCord or Jack Miller or Quinn Ewers.
Not so fast, we said. There is a reason you don't manufacture quarterback controversy. There is a reason you don't bench a freshman starting quarterback capriciously.
Ryan Day, Ohio State fans can thank the aforementioned football gods, is not a capricious man.
After a week off to rest a dinged-up throwing shoulder, Stroud has thrown for 10 touchdowns in two games, tossing the ball for 330 yards against Rutgers last week and 406 against Maryland Saturday afternoon. He completed roughly 73% and 74% of his passes in those two games, respectively, and hasn't thrown a single pick or given up a single sack.
The Debriefing is not here to say, "I told you so." No, no. But the Debriefing is here to say, "Be thankful, Ohio State fans, that Ryan Day is a better judge of quarterback talent than you are."
TL;DR: Just the Facts, Ma'am
The Ohio State offense was darn-near perfect on Homecoming, racking up 598 yards of total offense in a 66-17 butt-whooping. In addition to Stroud looking like the new Heisman front-runner, the rightly-lauded Buckeye receivers continued to look like the best-coached, most-talented receiving corps in the country.
Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba again crossed the 100-yard mark, with Olave finding the endzone twice and Smith-Njigba averaging more than 20 yards a catch. Garrett Wilson wasn't far behind, with the term "three-headed monster" finding itself being used to the point of cliché by beat-writers and national pundits alike.
TreVeyon Henderson was electric once again, rushing for 102 on a more pedestrian (by his standards) 6.4 yards a carry, but hauling in another 4 catches (every ball thrown his way, actually) for 67 yards and a touchdown.
And for a third-consecutive game, the Buckeye defense looked like a unit that could get the job done. What Matt Barnes has done since taking the reins midseason has been nothing short of phenomenal, particularly given the lack of starpower he has to work with at the linebacker position (consider that Steele Chambers, the team's leading tackler Saturday, was a running back two months ago).
The maybe-could-become Silver Bullets held the Terrapins to just 335 yards of total offense, including a paltry 56 yards rushing. With 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss in the statbook, not to mention a pair of interceptions and the team's fourth-consecutive game with a pick six, it was a good outing for a unit that couldn't do anything right in the early weeks of the season.
How It Went Down
What can you say about this offense? Chris Olave nailed it when he said Ohio State was "damn near perfect" the past two weeks, scoring darnn-near a point per play (66 points on 71 total plays versus Maryland, and 52 points on 63 plays versus Rutgers, although in both cases credit goes to the defense for adding scores to the tally).
If defenses want to stack the box to stop Henderson from going hog wild on the ground, Stroud will find one of his multitude of future first-round receivers to burn you down field. Try to keep Olave, Wilson and Smith-Njigba from adding to their highlight reels? Good luck with that, and oh by the way, was that TreVeyon Henderson who just scored?
Pick your poison, and all that.
The Buckeyes already led the country in yards per game of total offense (555.6 yards per game) and added to their gaudy total by hanging just shy of 600 on the Terps. Stroud and Henderson have been every bit as good as first-year starters as their recruiting hype indicated.
What is perhaps most impressive about this offense is that it is almost never behind schedule. Ohio State converted 7 of its 11 third-down plays Saturday, and just one of those attempts was a 3rd and long situation.
The Buckeyes gained 263 yards on 1st down plays, averaging 7.7 yards per play. If you move the ball nearly 8 yards on every first down, you're going to have a good day. Additionally, four of the Buckeyes' eight offensive touchdowns came on first down.
If there was a knock on Ohio State's offense early, it was that they missed opportunities to score; the Oregon game was the perfect representation of that critique, as the home team scored just 28 points on 612 total yards of offense. That has not been the case for this offense in the weeks since, particularly since Stroud came back from his one-week break.
Ohio State's defense was bad in the first weeks of the season, there's no two ways to slice it. The scheme was so vanilla middle-school coaches could pick it apart, the players weren't executing at a high level, and it ultimately cost the Buckeyes a perfect season.
But from that disaster sprang the pressure to change, and Ryan Day heeded the call, relegating beloved recruiter Kerry Coombs to the press box and handing Matt Barnes the play-calling responsibilities.
And what a difference a few weeks has made.
For the first time in history, the Buckeyes scored a pick-six in four consecutive games. Craig Young intercepted Maryland Saturday, the team's second pick of the afternoon, taking the second snag 70 yards to the house to extend the Buckeyes' lead and the team's streak of defensive scores.
Ohio State's defensive lineman have been quiet by recent standards, but as Barnes and Al Washington have trimmed the linebacker rotation and Steele Chambers has shown that he was horribly miscast as a running back early in his career, the front has coalesced into a unit that can shut down a rushing attack.
Chambers recorded 6 solo tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss in his stat sheet Saturday, and his emergence has been fun to watch and a much-needed injection of talent in the thinnest unit on the team.
The strength of the defense continues to be its defensive backs, as four different players have now recorded a pick six in the record-setting streak, and the corners in particular continue to make big plays when it matters.
Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment of the Game
President Tressel knows his history, to whit that Maryland has posed a challenge to Ohio State precisely once in the recorded history of college football. Also, that Ryan Day was highly unlikely to trot out his sensational kickers for anything other than kickoff duty in a sure-to-be-lopsided contest.
After making Miss Ellen a goat cheese frittata with eggs from a local CSA using some techniques imparted by Chef Michael Symon earlier in the week, Tressel mowed the lawn, treated himself to a nice hot-lather shave and settled in for the fireworks.
The game went almost exactly as expected, and Tressel was fairly impressed with Maryland's pair of punters... although he was tempted to adapt the old adage of playing two quarterbacks to Maryland's situation.
With Ohio State leading 49-10 midway through the third quarter, the former coach picked up War and Peace, vowing to actually finish the monstrosity this time. Before he could find his bookmark, he heard the announcer mention a player down on the field, and was dismayed to see Haskell Garrett being helped to the sidelines with a leg injury.
"Dagnabbit, this is why you pull your starters after the half when you're up by 30," he groused. "These kids will never learn, you don't have to win by 50 to be a good coach."
First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do. - Epictetus#QuietTime— Jim Tressel (@JimTressel5) October 5, 2021
It Was Over When...
...Master Teague punched it in from 8 yards out with just 47 seconds left in the first half to put Ohio State up 35-10. An 8 play, 82-yard drive that took just 63 seconds, the touchdown put things well out of reach for an offense that was able to move the ball but never get enough momentum to seriously challenge the Buckeyes.
Up Next: Ohio State has a bye week to prepare for the meat of the Big Ten season.