TreVeyon Henderson didn’t touch the ball in the second half against Indiana.
With three first-half touchdowns and 95 total yards on just 10 touches in the first 30 minutes of a 54-7 blowout, the freshman sensation had no reason to.
The five-star recruit already set the single-game rushing record for a first-year back when he torched Tulsa for 277 yards in his first-ever collegiate start back on Sept. 18, but it appears one freshman record was not enough for Henderson. The Virginia native now has a couple more on the horizon as the stats continue to accumulate during his 2021 campaign.
With 14 total touchdowns for the season, Henderson is just four shy of tying Maurice Clarett’s 18 scores during the Buckeyes’ national championship-winning 2002 season. Henderson’s 11 rushing touchdowns on the season are just five fewer than Clarett’s 16 in that same season, another freshman record, and there are still five games left on Ohio State’s regular season schedule.
“He practices hard, he works hard, he takes it serious in the weight room, the film room. I hear nothing but good things about him,” Ohio State safety Kourt Williams said after the game. “I think he’s gonna be great, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does.”
Henderson didn’t start in either of Ohio State’s first two games of the season, but he has now scored in all seven contests to start the year. He’s done it both as a score-from-anywhere rushing threat and an explosive pass-catching option, and it’s no measure of hyperbole to say the Buckeyes have a special talent on their hands.
However, Henderson’s big day against the Hoosiers appeared to be in jeopardy after his very first carry of the day at Memorial Stadium.
Henderson took a handoff up the middle on the very first play of the game for Ohio State, and absorbed a hard hit on a 2-yard gain. He remained in for a pass play on the following snap, but was subbed out for redshirt freshman Miyan Williams thereafter. Henderson had his helmet taken from him by the Buckeye training staff, and did not return for the duration of the drive.
The absence did not last long, though, as Henderson came back in on the very next drive for Ohio State. Just five plays into that series, the freshman was already flexing in the end zone.
On a handoff to the boundary side out of a pistol formation in the red zone, Henderson found a crease and maintained his balance despite getting tripped up by the outstretched hand of a defender. Two Indiana defensive backs couldn’t get an angle to force Henderson out of bounds down the left sideline, and the young Buckeye had his first score of the game on a 21-yard rush.
“You saw us run the ball some early on, and we’re always aggressive throwing the football, but we also ran the ball,” Ryan Day said after the game. “I thought the offensive line moved the line of scrimmage, and I thought the defensive line stopped the run, and any time you go play in these conference games, that’s the first thing you have to do.”
That touchdown was not an insignificant one, as it answered an Indiana touchdown that came right after the Buckeyes’ own opening drive score. Henderson’s first touchdown was the second of six straight touchdowns for Ohio State during a 44-point first half, and it would not be his last.
On the next Ohio State drive, the Buckeyes opened the second quarter with its second-straight sub-three-minute scoring drive, with Henderson punctuating it once again. This time the touchdown came on a 2nd-and-6 screen pass in the red zone, as Henderson twisted out of an arm tackle at the line of scrimmage before powering through contact from four different Hoosier defenders at the goal line to cross the plane with his feet still churning forward.
“I think he’s running hard, I think he’s playing on contact. For a freshman to do that, that’s good,” Day said. “The No. 1 thing is he’s taking care of the football, and that’s what has to continue. If we’re gonna make a run at this thing, we gotta take care of the football, and we cannot turn the ball over. That’s something we just cannot forget about. And he and Miyan – and even Evan (Pryor), I was impressed with the way Evan ran down the stretch. And that’s good, we’re gonna need some of the depth there.”
Henderson’s second score gave Ohio State a commanding 21-7 lead after the extra point, as any Hoosier hope for a tit-for-tat offensive back-and-forth fell by the wayside.
A chunk gain of 25 yards for Henderson on the ground helped set up the next Buckeye score, this time a 16-yard C.J. Stroud pass to Chris Olave, but it wasn’t long before Henderson scored himself again.
With Indiana backed up deep in its own territory late in the second quarter, a Hoosier punt sailed only to the 50-yard line before a 20-yard Garrett Wilson return gave the Buckeyes the ball at the 30.
It took just two plays for Henderson to return to the end zone, as he scampered for 17 yards to set up a 6-yard touchdown rush on the very next play, which followed a late hit penalty on Indiana.
“Tre did a great job,” Stroud said. “Miyan, when he came in, his number was called. When your number’s called, you’re expected to make the play at this place. That’s kind of our culture. I feel like Miyan did a great job when he was in, when Evan was in he did a great job, and of course Tre, he had a great game as well.”
For all intents and purposes, the game was over by that point, and it likely had been long before. Day said it wasn’t an easy decision to cut Henderson’s night short, but in order to avoid an unnecessary injury, it was the only choice to make.
“It is a great problem to have, but at the same time, these guys practice all week and they put a lot of work in, and so for he and Chris (Olave) and Garrett (Wilson), to take those guys out, to not play, that’s hard,” Day said. “Because these guys want to play. But at the same time, as the head coach, for me to put them in there and see something happen to them, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. So, have to make that tough decision, and they’re competitive, they want to get back in there.”
The Buckeyes have hardly been tested since their uneven performance against Tulsa on Sept. 18, and Henderson’s level of play has been vital to that success. Against a Penn State defense that may be the best Ohio State has seen so far, the importance of Henderson will only be underscored next week.