Five Things: Ohio State's Offensive Explosion Derails Boilers

By Chris Lauderback on November 14, 2021 at 10:30 am
Jaxon Smith-Njigba eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving barrier against Purdue.

After scoring touchdowns on just four of its previous 25 possessions entering the game, Ohio State's offense caught fire yesterday against Purdue, scoring touchdowns on seven of its first eight possessions in what became a 59-31 smack down of the Boilermakers in a chilly Ohio Stadium. 

The win improved Ryan Day's squad to 9-1 overall and 7-0 in league play. 

TreVeyon Henderson ran for 98 yards, pushing his season total over the 1,000 yard mark to 1,028, on a sturdy 7.3 yards per carry. He became just the fourth true freshman back in school history to go over 1,000 yards and he's a reachable 376 yards away from breaking J.K. Dobbins' record of 1,403. 

Ohio State's aerial attack again did most of the damage on the way to 624 total yards, good for the offense's top output so far this season, against a Purdue squad ranked No. 25 in total defense coming in (328 ypg). 

The Buckeye defense still won't be confused for the '85 Bears however as Purdue racked up 481 yards, good for the most against Ohio State since Tulsa in week three, behind 390 passing yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Aidan O'Connell. 

As Day would say however, it's about survive and advance at this point and a 28-point win against a team that beat Michigan State a week ago is a solid outcome. Speaking of the Spartans, they stand in Ohio State's path next Saturday at noon in the Shoe but before we turn focus to the green and white, here are Five Things from a 59-31 win over the Boilers. 


It's wild that quarterback C.J. Stroud is a such polarizing player and of course, criticisms reached a peak last week as he failed to take opportunities with his feet against Nebraska while throwing two picks and fumbling late in what was a 26-17 Ohio State victory. 

Stroud stayed firm in his desire not to run the ball against Purdue but even the staunchest Stroud critics had to be okay with that as he completed a season-high 82% of his throws (31-of-38) and tied his season-high with five touchdown passes. 

The Boilermakers came into the contest giving up just 185 passing yards per game, good for No. 14 nationally, but Stroud picked them apart with precision for 361 yards which was somehow only good for his fourth-most prolific passing yardage total so far this season.

Across his first nine games as Ohio State's starting quarterback, Stroud has 30 touchdown passes against five interceptions and he's taken just seven sacks. If you're curious, in the Buckeyes' pandemic-shortened eight game 2020 season, Justin Fields threw for 22 touchdowns (and ran for five more) against six picks and took 21 sacks. 


Entering the season, I'm guessing not many of us had Jaxon Smith-Njigba beating Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave to the 1,000-yard mark. Hell, I'd think most of us didn't project JSN would get to 1,000 yards at all simply because Wilson and Olave are so damn good. 

With nine catches for 139 yards yesterday against the Boilers, Smith-Njigba pushed his season receiving yardage to 1,027, becoming just the sixth Buckeye receiver to reach the 1,000-yard plateau and he's still got two regular season games plus any postseason contests to go. 

He was unstoppable in the decisive first half against Purdue, recording seven catches for 103 yards including a 20-yard touchdown giving Ohio State a 28-7 lead early in the second quarter. 

Against what I would consider to be Ohio State's four toughest opponents to date - Oregon, Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue - Smith-Njigba has been nothing short of spectacular averaging 9.3 catches for 155.3 yards and a touchdown.  

Versus the Ducks, he went off for 145 yards and two scores. He set the school-record for receptions (15) with 240 yards and a score against Nebraska and had a pedestrian, for him, six grabs for 97 yards versus the Nittany Lions. 

The four-game totals of 37 catches, 621 yards and four touchdowns read like All-American production while flanked by two sure-fire first round draft picks next April in Wilson and Olave. 

Speaking of Wilson, he looks to be next up to reach the 1,000-yard mark after a ridiculous 10-catch, 126-yard, three touchdown performance (plus a 51-yard touchdown run). Despite missing last week's matchup with Nebraska, Wilson has 813 receiving yards so far this season.

Olave isn't too far behind with 708 receiving yards leaving open the possibility of three 1,000-yard receivers in a single-season. Ohio State's never had even two guys break the 1,000-yard mark in the same season. Dee Miller and David Boston came the closest to doing so in both 1997 and 1998. 


After 10 games, even with some personnel shuffling and scheme diversification beginning in game three, it feels like this defense is what it is at this point, which is an opportunistic, good but not great, bend but don't break group focused on keeping better offenses from exploding, knowing Ohio State's offense should score 35+ points in nearly every outing. 

Stopping the run hasn't been a problem. Ohio State hovers around the top-10 in yards per carry allowed and the top-20 in rushing yards allowed per game. 

Limiting the pass continues to be a bit of an issue however. Boiler quarterback Aidan O'Connell became the latest to exploit holes in Ohio State's defense as he completed 77% of his throws for 390 yards and four touchdowns against zero interceptions. Purdue playing from behind all game was certainly a factor too as the Boilers exceeded their average passing yards per game total by about 60 yards. 

I will say O'Connell came into the game completing 72% so we know he's accurate and that's aided a bit by Purdue's quick-throw style but regardless of those variables, allowing those kind of stats is frustrating to watch. And again, I know we saw a lot of quick releases but I had to do a double-take to make sure it was correct Ohio State recorded not only zero sacks but zero hurries against a Purdue team coming in ranked No. 100 giving up 2.78 sacks per game. 

It was nice to see Steele Chambers finally move into a starting linebacker role but the Buckeyes remain susceptible to the pass especially down the middle of the field despite rotating safeties alongside Ronnie Hickman. 

On the (mostly) outside, Purdue's David Bell did have 11 grabs but those generated a modest 103 yards and it took 18 targets to get there for a guy that has a legit NFL future. True freshman Denzel Burke had a busy night as he was matched up with Bell or in that zone quite often and I continue to feel like he and Cam Brown give the Buckeyes solid coverage on the outer thirds. 

Bottom line, as Nick Saban lamented a few years ago, is good defenses don't beat good offenses anymore. For Ohio State, the hope remains the defense can keep really good offenses under 30 points or so and then bet on the Buckeye offense to score more than 30 which at this point, feels like a decent bet. 


TreVeyon Henderson continued his incredible true freshman season with the noted 98 rushing yards on 7.5 a pop with two touchdowns but to be a national title contender, Day knows he needs a capable backup. 

And he has exactly that as evidenced again last night as Miyan Williams led the Buckeyes in rushing with 117 yards on 8.4 per carry. 

Williams was awesome on Ohio State's last possession of the night as Day hoped to bleed the clock and keep his defense off the field after it had given up two touchdowns on the three previous Purdue possessions, allowing 213 yards on 7.1 per play. 

During the 11-play drive that included two kneel downs inside the Purdue 10 yard line, Williams carried it eight times for 66 yards (8.3 ypc), flashing that punishing, determined style we've seen all season. 

Williams' ability to run between the tackles is a strong compliment to Henderson's skill-set both as a runner and receiver and with Henderson getting nicked a few times this year, including missing some time last night, Williams' value should not be understated.  


After taking some flak the last few weeks as Ohio State's running game was at times ineffective and even straight up ignored, the Buckeye offensive line dominated a Purdue defensive line headlined by all-everything defensive end George Karlaftis. 

The Buckeyes averaged just 3.3 yards per carry against Nebraska last week, gaining a mere 90 yards with zero touchdowns. They blew up against the Boilermakers yesterday however, cranking out 263 rushing yards on a hefty 8.5 per try with three scores as left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and left guard Thayer Munford led the way. Coming in, Purdue ranked No. 59 in the country giving up 143 rushing yards per game. 

With the 8.5 yards per carry average against the Boilers, Ohio State is back up to averaging 6.0 yards per carry on the season. 

Greg Strudrawa's crew also displayed terrific pass protection, holding Purdue without a sack or a hurry as Stroud threw it 38 times. Last week, the Cornhuskers sacked Stroud twice on the heels of opponents registering just three sacks over the prior four games. 

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