TreVeyon Henderson. Holy smokes, what a day.
Archie Griffin is the greatest running back in college football history, and if you can't agree with that, the door is right over there. He is the nation's only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, and one of the nicest human beings you'll ever meet.
And TreVeyon Henderson needed just three quarters in his first start to surpass Griffin's single-game freshman rushing record – a record that stood for 17,885 days.
On a day when Ohio State's defense once again coughed up 500 yards (most of them passing this time) and quarterback C.J. Stroud had a rather pedestrian day slinging the rock, it was Henderson's heroics that sealed the deal for the Buckeyes.
It was tough sledding for much of the day, watching a winless AAC squad standing more or less toe-to-toe for a team that was expected to beat them by nearly four touchdown (-26.5). Tulsa ranked No. 80 in SP+ after week two, a solid 75 spots behind the Buckeyes... in other words, the game was projected to be a blowout.
And it was, at least if all you looked at was the final score...! Let's peel this onion, shall we?
TL;DR: Just The Facts, Ma'am
Tulsa came to Columbus looking like a team that had no fear of the No. 9 ranked team in the country. They held Ohio State to just a one-score lead at the half, as once again Ohio State's defense looked as though it couldn't stop a Pop Warner offense, and the vaunted Buckeye offense settled for two field goals in three scoring drives (along with a punt and Stroud's third pick of the season).
With Miyan Williams notably absent from the lineup, freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson made his debut as the starter in the most impressive fashion possible, rushing for 277 yards on 24 attempts... a nifty 11.5 yards a carry... punching the ball into the endzone three times. It was a performance Ohio State badly needed, particularly as Stroud handed in his worst game of the season, statistically speaking, throwing for just 185 yards on 15 completions.
Defensively, the cornerbacks looked as great as the linebackers did terrible, and although the Golden Hurricanes weren't able to run the ball against the Buckeyes, they were able to pass for 428 yards and a pair of scores. Kerry Coombs moved up to the press box, Matt Barnes is apparently the new defensive playcaller, and who can say if the experiment worked or not?
How It Went Down
Ohio State sputtered on its first drive of the game and settled for a field goal on its second, setting the tone for a sluggish first half. But it was clear the Buckeyes would establish the run or die trying, with four of the team's first six plays being handoffs to Henderson, as were six of 10 plays on the team's second drive.
After trading field goals with Tulsa for 20 minutes, the Buckeyes finally found some success through the air, with Stroud finding Jeremy Ruckert, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith Njigba in quick succession with completions of 16, 13 and 18 yards, respectively, before a pair of red-zone runs from Henderson punched the ball into the endzone.
Midway through the second quarter, Stroud made his biggest mistake of the game, tossing a dart right to Tulsa's Travon Fuller; fortunately the Buckeye defense stood up on the ensuing drive, forcing a three-and-out and setting Ohio State up for Noah Ruggles' second field goal of the day.
Things heated up in the second half, with Henderson finding paydirt again on runs of 48 and 52 yards, showcasing that big-play ability fans had been eagerly awaiting since his signing. Stroud would find Wilson late in the fourth for his only touchdown of the day, effectively putting the game out of reach for the Golden Hurricanes.
Stroud didn't play his best game, and naturally the nattering nabobs and negative nellies were out in force calling for Day to play one of the 47 other 4- and 5-star recruits in his quarterback room. But until Stroud actually costs his team a game, that isn't going to happen because Day isn't going to force fans to relive the QBgeddon drama of 2015; he's a quarterback whisperer, and understands that making a redshirt freshman feel like he's one busted play away from riding the pine is a recipe for poor quarterback play.
And here's the big picture: as long as Ohio State continues to struggle defensively, worrying about the quarterback is like complaining about an ingrown toenail on a broken leg. One is annoying, the other is a big problem. The way Ohio State's defense has played at times, it doesn't matter if they line up Joe Montana and Jerry Rice on offense.
- TreVeyon Henderson: Ohio State's player of the game, without question, and your probable Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Friends, the kid might be good. He looks like the spark Ohio State's offense needs to avoid being totally reliant on the passing game.
- Noah Ruggles: Early in the game when the offense seemed stuck in low gear, Ruggles was money, splitting the uprights for field goals of 43 and 44 yards.
You knew a shakeup was coming after last week's putrid output, and while a USC-style "fire him in the parking lot" changing of the guard was never in the cards, defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs was banished to the press box and Matt Barnes assumed playcalling duties on the sideline.
Did it work? Ohio State certainly showed a bit more pressure than they have in the season's first two outings, throwing some blitzes into the mix after seemingly forgetting that was an option to this point in the season.
Denzel Burke has been a revelation, looking like a true lockdown corner and giving Ohio State some swagger that its defensive unit has been sorely lacking. He had an exquisite interception in the second quarter erased by some extremely questionable replay officiating, but the play highlighted the excitement the young man brings to the defensive backfield.
A series later, Ronnie "the Rocket" Hickman picked off his first pass of the season, showing excellent awareness and hands by capitalizing when Cameron Martinez' tipped Davis Brin's pass.
Martinez, after getting steamrolled early in the game, stepped up by breaking up a trio of passes and then not only picking Brin off late in the game, but running it back 61 yards for the touchdown that set the final score.
Martinez showed great awareness and field vision on the return, avoiding an early would-be tackler and finding his blockers to make the touchdown look positively effortless.
It was an odd day for the defense, as the unit still gave up a little more than 500 yards on the day, 85% of it to Tulsa's prolific passing game, despite the number of passes broken up, the two picks and a half-dozen tackles for loss. Missing Zach Harrison and Josh Proctor - one for the game, and one for the season - meant the defensive brain trust continued to rotate heavily.
One of the more surprising storylines of the young season is the seeming invisibility of Ohio State's defensive line. They did manage two sacks Saturday, and Harrison was on the sidelines, so it's not quite time to hit the panic button, but it bears watching given the stellar play that unit has turned out pretty consistently since Larry Johnson's arrival in Columbus.
- Denzel Burke: This cat is the real deal. Five tackles and two passes broken up doesn't tell the full story of how well he played, coming up clutch in key moments and never making you take his name in vain.
- Cameron Martinez: Three passes broken up and a pick six? Yeah, that'll do.
- Ronnie Hickman: With a suspect linebacking corps, the Buckeyes need their defensive backs to play up to that "Best In America" heritage. Being a ballhawk certainly helps.
- Tyleik Williams: The defensive line has been quiet, but Williams had himself a game with three tackles, including 1.5 for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry.
Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment of the Game
President Tressel loves mid-afternoon kickoffs because they give him a chance to get a solid day's work in before settling in for the game, without keeping him up past his bedtime ("Why do they insist on jamming commercials in before and after the kickoff? It shouldn't take four hours to play a 60-minute game, Ellen.")
After spending the morning teaching his grandchildren the value of hard work by partaking in several campus-area beautification projects, the former coach nestled in for what promised to be a a great rebound game for his beloved Buckeyes. He loved what he saw early, as placekicker Noah Ruggles was brilliant and punter Jesse Mirco continued to uphold the proud tradition of Australian punters pinning opposing teams deep.
"They've even remembered to establish the run, Ellen!" Tressel said to his bride over a soothing cup of Earl Grey. "I think they're finally understanding the importance of managing the clock and field position."
As he watched TreVeyon Henderson rack up the yards in the second half, he couldn't help remembering another true freshman quarterback who regularly turned in eye-popping performances. The trip down Memory Lane prompted Tressel to pick up his iPhone 8 ("It still works fine, there's no reason to keep spending $1,000 every time they tweak the camera a little," he once told a staff member), to DM his favorite Youngstown Boy.
He was not pleased with what he saw.
Its 10-6. Man this is a SS— Maurice Clarett (@ReeseClarett13) September 18, 2021
Ohio State is trending to their outback bowl days.— Maurice Clarett (@ReeseClarett13) September 18, 2021
"He knows better than to air family business on social media like that!" Coach said to himself, feeling a trifle irked. Just as he was about to compose a sternly-worded text, however, Mirco boomed a 49 yarder, pinning Tulsa inside the 20. He was so happy, he deleted the text and decided to just enjoy the game.
Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth you get neither. - C.S. Lewis#QuietTime— Jim Tressel (@JimTressel5) September 19, 2021
It Was Over When
...Stroud connected with Wilson on a 12-yard strike to put Ohio State up by two scores late in the game. Martinez' pick six came on the ensuing drive, making the final score look positively gaudy compared to how the game felt for most of the day.
It was probably over after Henderson's second rushing touchdown of the day put the Buckeyes up 20-6, but given the Buckeyes' defensive struggles, you never can tell.
It was harder than it should have been, but coming off a loss and with several key players out of commission, a win's a win.
Next Up: Ohio Stadium welcomes the Zips of Akron...for a night game? That's right sports fans, the Big Ten Network will feature the game at 7:30 p.m.
- #9 Ohio State 41, tulsa 20
- • Ohio State survives a scare against Tulsa
- • treveyon Henderson bailed out the buckeye offense.
- • matt barnes will likely continue to call defensive plays
- • C.j. stroud is confident despite criticism and his injury
- • OHIO STATE POSTGAME • notebook • quotebook
- • PHOTOS • Five things • debriefing • social reax • three key stats