With all eyes on an Ohio State defense after the Oregon loss led to the promise of significant changes with staff responsibilities, play-calling and personnel, it was Buckeye freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson who stole the show in a 41-20 OSU win over Tulsa yesterday afternoon in the Shoe.
Henderson, in just his third collegiate game, broke Archie Griffin's freshman rushing record with 277 yards, and his three touchdowns were critical for an offense still struggling to click on all cylinders.
The freshman's big day ensured another dud from the defense - Tulsa racked up 501 total yards including 428 through the air - wasn't fatal like last week.
This team is still very much a work in progress on both sides of the ball but at least Ryan Day and company can work to improve following a much-needed win.
With a night game versus Akron up next, Ohio State has another couple week to try and find its identity before Big Ten play. For now however, here are Five Things from a long, winding and often entirely unenjoyable win over Tulsa.
PLAYING DEPTH STILL EQUALS NO REAL STARTERS
It looked like your new de facto defensive coordinator, Matt Barnes, and your defensive coordinator in title, Kerry Coombs, played every player on the roster throughout the course of an afternoon that saw the defense try new things but with the same mixed reviews.
The Buckeyes stopped the run, limiting Tulsa to 73 yards on 2.6 per carry but were shredded through the air for 428 yards and two scores. That said, the group did come up with two key interceptions which were certainly a welcome sight.
Cameron Martinez's pick six provided the game's final margin with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter and Ronnie Hickman recorded the other, following Martinez's tip of the throw. Seems safe to say we'll be seeing more of Martinez over the next few weeks at minimum.
It did feel like Barnes deployed multiple, less-predictable coverage looks although I'm curious to see Kyle's film study this week because a lot of the blitzes looked similar and often didn't get home in time.
One of my biggest knocks on Coombs has been the lack of adjustments at halftime. I'm not exactly sure what wrinkles Barnes may have decided on at the half but I know Tulsa scored more points, ran for more yards per carry and had more passing yards in the second half compared to the first.
And they did all this as Ohio State emptied the bench which still suggests that more than half the starters haven't really separated from reserves and that's concerning after week three of the season even when you consider Ohio State only had a five game regular season in 2020.
I like the change to Barnes because at least they aren't doing the same thing over and over expecting different results but it still feels like this group has a long way to go to even possibly reach a ceiling of slightly better than average.
MARK ME DOWN AS TEAM TYLEIK
True freshman Tyleik Williams was one of those reserves who made the most of increased opportunity yesterday.
The 6-foot-3, 315 pound defensive tackle out of Manassas, Virginia came up with three tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and a sack for a team desperately seeking results from the pass rush.
Williams had one of the game's biggest plays when he sacked Tulsa's Davis Brin on a 3rd-and-6 for a 17-yard loss. The Buckeyes were nursing a 27-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter at the time and the ensuing punt gave Ohio State's offense a chance to put the game away.
That's exactly what happened next as C.J. Stroud found Garrett Wilson for a 12-yard score giving Ohio State a 34-20 lead with 3:07 left in regulation.
Hat tip to Williams for exerting his will on the game and coming up big in a huge spot.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
Speaking of true freshmen, it wasn't just Henderson and Williams making key contributions for Ohio State yesterday.
A host of true freshmen continue to play major roles, showing that even if things haven't turned out as planned through three games, the future remains bright in Columbus.
Wide receiver Emeka Egbuka's had a hard time getting snaps in the slot thanks to Jaxon Smith-Njigba's success but he's proving a solid kickoff returner. Yesterday he added a 36-yarder with OSU down 6-3 and the offense used the good field position to score minutes later, taking its first lead at 10-6. Egbuka's showing some moves that we'll eventually see manifest as yards after the catch when he can get some slot snaps.
J.T. Tuimoloau logged two tackles and a hurry, taking advantage of increased snaps with Zach Harrison unable to play. He's just scratching the surface and those increased reps will obviously only help the learning curve.
Denzel Burke, a surprise starter in the season opener at cornerback, looks like the best player on the entire defense through three games. He added another two pass break-ups yesterday and continues to lead the team in that category. His emergence is wild when you think back to some of the mock drafts that had Sevyn Banks as a first-rounder when it sure seems like Burke flat out took his job as CB1.
And hey let's not forget about Jesse Mirco. I know he's like 37 years old but this is his first collegiate season and he's coming along. He dropped all three punts inside the 20 yesterday via an average of 44.3 yards. Obviously, the longer the field the better for this defense.
I've defended C.J. Stroud pretty hard over the first couple weeks, while agreeing on the criticisms of not seeing open targets at times and certainly the high and hard fastballs when he's got the jitters but after yesterday, something has to give.
Stroud was just 15-for-25 for 185 yards with a touchdown and a pick. At times, he looked really sharp, particularly on rollouts. After starting 2-for-6, he took the field on Ohio State's third series and marched the Buckeyes 64 yards in six plays for a go-ahead touchdown to make it 10-6 OSU.
He rolled out and hit Jeremy Ruckert for 16 yards on the first play, found Wilson for 13 yards on a 2nd-and-10 throw, and followed that up with a strike to Smith-Njigba for 18 yards on another rollout to the right.
Henderson took it from there, rushing for 17 yards over the next two plays to cap the drive but Stroud looked really fluid, in control and healthy.
He also had a perfect strike to Chris Olave for about 50 yards called back at one point but man, he was also erratic and looked confused for stretches.
You have to hope these are growing pains from a guy possibly nicked up and only three starts in that Day can fix because if Kyle McCord was the answer this year, Day would pull the trigger. I know it's a player and not a coach but Day knows his job is to give his team the best chance to win and it seems like he'd have no qualms with making a move based on his handling of the Coombs situation.
Stroud needs to pick the consistency in short order.
GET OFF MY LAWN
I had a few other gripes I wanted to get off my chest and they don't stand alone as Things so I'll group them real quick and get out of here.
First, what the hell was up with Fox's production yesterday? It goes without saying Tim Brando is bad, even for a third-tier play-by-play guy, but what was up with the picture? Johnny framed it perfectly, saying it looked like Fox brought SD cameras and tried to play with all the buttons to try and fancy up the look. Ohio State's uniforms appeared to have a blue hue on the jersey numbers and well it was just overall, a shitty production of a shitty game. The morale of the story here? Don't lose in week two.
My second gripe is with the Ohio Stadium turf. I stopped counting after the seventh slip occurring somewhere in the second quarter, a week after we saw players falling down left and right for both Oregon and Ohio State.
We've all seen the tweets showing the fading color of the field over the years and I'm assuming it's probably not real easy to rip up and replace field turf in a week or two but these players deserve better.
- #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