Chris Olave Emerged As Ohio State's Most Important Receiver in 2019, Setting the Stage for a Monster 2020

By Chris Lauderback on January 16, 2020 at 11:05 am
Chris Olave burned Michigan for a 57-yard touchdown catch in the latest edition of The Game.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With Ohio State's season on the line in the closing seconds against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, Chris Olave broke his route left when his quarterback believed the receiver would continue to the predetermined destination. 

Instead of a game-winning touchdown reception for Olave, his misread of Justin Fields' pocket-maneuvering led to an interception in the end zone, crushing Ohio State's chances at playing for a national title. 

Ryan Day had exactly what he wanted from a play versus defensive scheme and matchup perspective but it just wasn't meant to be on that night. Olave owned the mistaken read of Fields' movement post game. 

“It was a one-on-one with me on the safety, and I was supposed to run the post but when I looked back, I thought he scrambled, so I tried to work the second part of my route. He ended up throwing it, and that's how the game ended.

It's terrible. Worst feeling in the world. We definitely had a lot of opportunities, but I put that game on me to make that play at the end."

Though it turned out Olave wouldn't make the winning grab on that final possession, if not for Ohio State's defense giving up a 4-play, 94-yard touchdown drive with less than three minutes left in regulation, he would've still had the game-winning catch.

Olave broke open to snare a 23-yard touchdown throw on a 4th-and-1 play giving the Buckeyes a 23-21 lead with 11:46 left in the fourth quarter. It turned out to be the final catch of a stellar sophomore season. 

The San Marcos, California product led Ohio State with 849 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches in his second year in the program. Many don't realize it but Terry Glenn (17) and David Boston (14, 13) are the only two Buckeyes to record more touchdown grabs in a single-season than Olave's dozen. 

He also finished second on the team with 49 receptions and his 17.3 yards per catch served as the best mark among the rotational receivers. 

It was simply an amazing season for a kid who exploded onto to the scene late in the 2018 slate, lighting up No. 4 Michigan with a pair of 24-yard touchdown grabs and blocking a punt for another score as Ohio State blitzed the Wolverines, 62-39, in the Shoe. 

A week later in the Big Ten championship game against No. 21 Northwestern, Olave recorded five grabs for 79 yards and another score to help the Buckeyes win the conference title. 

Showing up in big games as a true freshman became a calling card as a sophomore as Olave played big in all five of Ohio State's contests against ranked teams. 

In Ohio State's first matchup with then-No. 13 Wisconsin, Olave posted a career-high seven catches for 93 yards and a pair of scores. His 27-yard connection with Fields on a post route gave the Buckeyes a 10-0 lead just before the half. He also tallied a 4-yarder late giving Ohio State a 38-7 lead. 

A month later against No. 8 Penn State, Olave provided the dagger in a 28-17 win as he high-pointed a 28-yard throw from Fields in the front right corner of the end zone while blanketed in coverage. He was simply better than his defender as his elite body control and ball-tracking ensured Ohio State would remain unbeaten. 

The following Saturday against No. 13 Michigan in the Big House, Olave beat Josh Metellus like a drum for a 57-yard scoring strike putting Ohio State in front 14-6. 

In the rematch against No. 8 Wisconsin the Big Ten title game, Olave posted five catches for 94 yards including a huge 50-yard gain on 3rd-and-7 with Ohio State trailing 21-7 early in the third quarter. The Buckeyes would score a touchdown two plays later triggering a 27-point onslaught in what became a 34-21 victory. 

The third down play was a prime example of Olave's value to Fields and Day as Ohio State's go-to receiver for big plays in big moments. The first matchup against Wisconsin also showcased his clutch as he caught four passes for 49 yards including both of his touchdowns on third down plays. 

Dating back to the 2018 Michigan game, Olave has 14 touchdown catches over his last 17 games including two-touchdown outings against Michigan, Miami, Northwestern and Wisconsin. 

In those five games this season against ranked opponents, Olave racked up 349 receiving yards and five touchdowns on a sturdy 18.4 yards per catch. 

A complete player, Olave also blocked a punt versus Indiana this season after blocking one against Michigan the year prior and he caught a perfectly placed kickoff when Day decided to clown on Mike Locksley and Maryland during a 73-14 shellacking. 

With Fields, most of the offensive line, and Garrett Wilson, among others, returning to the receivers room for the 2020 season, Olave should enjoy wild success this fall. His willingness to own what happened at the end of the Clemson game combined with tremendous work ethic and humble character could vault Olave into rarefied air.

In fact, he should make a legit run at becoming just the sixth Ohio State receiver to post at least 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. 

Note: Colton Denning's YouTube video above is a must-watch to truly appreciate Olave's 2019 season. Thanks to Colton (@Dubsco) for allowing me to share his work in this article. You can find his YouTube channel here which is loaded with excellent highlight reels.

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