Purdue Notebook: Steele Chambers and Mitch Rossi Make First Starts, Chris Booker Shines in Kickoff Coverage and Chris Olave, TreVeyon Henderson Near Ohio State Records

By Dan Hope on November 14, 2021 at 6:00 am
Steele Chambers vs. Purdue

Even though all of the players who have typically started games this season were available for Saturday’s game against Purdue, two Ohio State players made their first career starts versus the Boilermakers.

One of those had already been foreshadowed last week when Steele Chambers played every defensive snap but one in the second half against Nebraska. Ryan Day said Thursday that Chambers had been “playing at a starter level, for sure,” and the Buckeyes actually made him a starter for the first time on Saturday, when he replaced Teradja Mitchell in the starting lineup alongside Cody Simon.

Chambers, who just moved to linebacker this summer after playing running back for his first two years as a Buckeye, recorded four total tackles with a team-high 1.5 tackles for loss against Purdue.

Per Pro Football Focus, Chambers played 52 snaps against Purdue, the most among all linebackers. Teradja Mitchell, who started eight of Ohio State’s first nine games at Will linebacker, played only 11 snaps against the Boilermakers; Day said Tuesday that Mitchell has been dealing with a minor injury.

In addition to Chambers, a former walk-on also made the first start of his Ohio State career on Saturday as Mitch Rossi played the first snaps of the game at tight end.

Jeremy Ruckert, who had started all of Ohio State’s first nine games this season, still ended up playing the most snaps among tight ends with 50. But Rossi also played a season-high 26 snaps on offense while Cade Stover tied his season-high with 25 snaps played, making good on Ohio State offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson telling media on Tuesday that he wanted to reduce Ruckert’s volume of snaps and mix Stover and Rossi in more.

No Ohio State tight end caught a pass against Purdue.

Booker makes his mark on special teams

While Rossi made his first career start against Purdue, an Ohio State player who still is a walk-on made an even bigger mark against the Boilermakers.

Chris Booker, who previously played on Ohio State’s club football team before joining the varsity Buckeyes in 2019, announced his presence right away on the game’s opening kickoff when he tackled Purdue’s TJ Sheffield at the 19-yard line after a return of just seven yards. Ohio State was able to take advantage of that field position after the defense forced a 3-and-out and Jack Ansell shanked a punt for just 16 yards, giving the Buckeyes the ball at Purdue’s 39-yard line for their opening drive of the game, on which Garrett Wilson scored his first of four touchdowns.

Booker made an even bigger play in kickoff coverage in the second quarter when Anthrop hesitated to pick up a pooch kick that bounced at the 14-yard line. As Anthrop reached down to grab the live ball, Booker drilled him to knock the ball out of Anthrop’s grasp and Palaie Gaoteote was in the right place at the right time to dive on the loose ball for an Ohio State fumble recovery.

Chris Booker vs. Purdue
Chris Booker made one of the plays of the game against Purdue when he forced a Jackson Anthrop fumble in kickoff coverage.

Two plays later, C.J. Stroud connected with Wilson from 12 yards out for Wilson’s second touchdown catch of the day.

The two tackles were the third and fourth of Booker’s Ohio State career, while the forced fumble was his first as a varsity Buckeye. He also has two catches for 27 yards this season, though he played only on special teams against Purdue.

Olave, Henderson close in on records

Chris Olave and TreVeyon Henderson are both now just one touchdown away from tying Ohio State records.

Olave caught his 11th touchdown of the season against Purdue and is now up to 33 touchdowns for his Ohio State career, just one shy of David Boston’s school record total of 34 touchdowns. With as many as five games left on the schedule for the Buckeyes, Olave has put himself in position to match and ultimately break Boston’s record by catching at least one touchdown in eight of Ohio State’s 10 games this season, in which he’s had three two-touchdown games.

While Olave scored his lone touchdown of Saturday’s game from five yards out in the fourth quarter, he could have had his fourth two-touchdown game of the season and tied Boston on Saturday night if a holding penalty against Ruckert hadn’t brought back what otherwise would have been a 49-yard touchdown pass from Stroud to Olave in the third quarter.

“I wish they didn’t take that post back,” Stroud said after the game.

Olave is also now fifth in Ohio State history in career receptions with 162.

Henderson, meanwhile, is now just one more trip to the end zone away from tying Maurice Clarett’s freshman record of 18 touchdowns scored. He scored his 16th and 17th touchdowns of the season in a span of under two minutes in the second quarter against Purdue. After running for a 3-yard touchdown to finish Ohio State’s second drive of the game, Henderson exploded for a 57-yard touchdown when the Buckeyes got the ball back on a Jerron Cage fumble recovery.

Henderson has now scored at least one touchdown in nine of his first 10 games as a Buckeye and at least two touchdowns in five games, so it wouldn’t be any surprise to see Henderson tie and/or break Clarett’s record next week against Michigan State.

The first-year running back already reached one milestone on Saturday when he became just the fourth true freshman in Ohio State history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, joining Robert Smith and J.K. Dobbins as well as Clarett in that club. With 1,028 rushing yards this year, Henderson is 375 yards away from Dobbins’ freshman rushing record of 1,403 yards.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, meanwhile, became just the sixth player in Ohio State history to gain 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, joining Boston, Terry Glenn, Cris Carter, Michael Jenkins and Parris Campbell in that category. With 1,027 receiving yards this season, Smith-Njigba is 408 yards away from Boston’s single-season receiving yards record of 1,435.

In other milestones achieved by Ohio State offensive skill-position players against Purdue, Wilson became the first Buckeye player to ever score three receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in the same game.

Stroud surpassed the 3,000-yard mark for the season on Saturday, becoming the sixth Ohio State quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season along with Dwayne Haskins, Joe Germaine, Justin Fields, Bobby Hoying and J.T. Barrett. He has also now thrown 30 touchdown passes this year, becoming the fifth Ohio State quarterback to throw that many touchdown passes in a season along with Haskins, Fields, Barrett (who did it twice) and Troy Smith.

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