Garrett Wilson’s value to Ohio State’s offense has never been more apparent than it’s been in the Buckeyes’ last two games.
With Wilson out of the lineup last week against Nebraska, Ohio State’s offense had its worst game of the season, scoring a season-low 26 points on a season-low 5.9 yards per play. The absence of one of the Buckeyes’ most explosive offensive playmakers was evident as C.J. Stroud was without one of his go-to targets and Nebraska was able to put more emphasis on stopping the run than it would have been able to if Wilson were on the field.
Ohio State’s offense had one of its best games of the season in Wilson’s return to the lineup against Purdue, as the Buckeyes scored 59 points and tied their season-high with 624 yards of offense. Wilson scored exactly half of the Buckeyes’ eight touchdowns, catching a team-high 10 passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns while also turning his only rushing attempt of the day into a 51-yard touchdown, becoming the first Ohio State player to ever have three receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in the same game.
Wilson set the tone for the Buckeyes’ offensive explosion just three minutes and 15 seconds into the game, when he scored the first touchdown of the day as he got open on a quick out and took a short pass to the end zone for a 21-yard score.
Wilson’s second touchdown of the game came in the form of a spectacular catch as he made a leaping grab over Purdue cornerback Dedrick Mackey on the right side of the end zone and got both feet down in bounds for a 12-yard score.
Wilson’s third touchdown of the day came via the ground, as Wilson took a jet sweep handoff to the left side of the field and exploded through perimeter blocks by Cade Stover, Jeremy Ruckert and Chris Olave to race to the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown, the first rushing score of his career.
Wilson’s fourth touchdown of the game was as impressive as any of them, as he caught a slant over the middle, juked away from one defender and then stiff-armed highly touted Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis on his way to the end zone for a 24-yard score.
In a game that featured plenty of star power including four of the Big Ten’s best wide receivers – Wilson, his Ohio State teammates Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Chris Olave and Purdue’s David Bell – it was Wilson’s star who shined the brightest in Ohio State’s 28-point win. Having such a big game meant even more to him after he had to watch from home one week earlier – which he said was so hard that he actually had to stop watching the game for a while.
“Honestly, I just came out here and did what I love doing,” Wilson said of his performance against Purdue. “Missed it last week being able to be out there with my brothers, so to come back and be able to play like we did on offense and have the game I did feels good for sure.”
Each of Wilson’s four touchdowns demonstrated different aspects of his skill set that make him such a difference-maker for the Buckeyes, and it's that versatility that makes him such a valuable piece of Ohio State’s offense. And while Wilson has been making big plays for the Buckeyes since he was a freshman in 2019, Ryan Day believes Wilson is a better and more complete player now than he’s ever been before.
“He can do a lot of different things. He’s very powerful and strong, he’s got tremendous ball skills and he played really well tonight,” Day said after the game. “His God-given ability is obviously off the charts, but it’s the football IQ, it’s the techniques, the fundamentals, the route running, that’s really improved.”
Not including Stroud, there are at least four Ohio State players who could make a legitimate claim for being the Buckeyes’ best and most important offensive playmaker this season. TreVeyon Henderson crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the season as a runner in Saturday’s game, while Smith-Njigba crossed the 1,000-yard mark as a receiver. Both of them bring special skill sets that are unique even within Ohio State’s loaded offense, as does Olave, who now has 11 touchdown catches in just 10 games this season. Not having any one of them available for a game against a good defense would likely be noticeable.
What has become clearer than ever over the last two weeks, though, is Ohio State’s offense is certainly better with Wilson on the field than it is without him.
“Of course you want to have a guy like Garrett out there, he’s a great player,” Stroud said Saturday. “Last week I feel like the young guys stepped up and did a good job too, but of course you want G5 out there.”
- #4 Ohio State 59, #19 Purdue 31
- • Ohio State Rolls Over Purdue
- • The Buckeye Offense Has Roared Back to Form
- • Garrett Wilson Proves His Value to This Team
- • Jeff Brohm Says Purdue WAs "Lucky to Hold Them to 59"
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