Proclaiming pregame he wanted his team to go out and dominate, Ryan Day's Buckeyes did exactly that in a 77-21 thrashing of Toledo last night in Ohio Stadium.
The win improved No. 3 Ohio State to 3-0 on the young season with Big Ten play set to begin next Saturday as the Buckeyes welcome Wisconsin to the Shoe for a primetime affair.
Despite holding out defensive tackle Mike Hall Jr. and safeties Josh Proctor and Tanner McCalister due to injuries, the Buckeye defense was largely in control despite giving up a season-high 21 points, courtesy of a few big plays from Toledo's impressive dual-threat signal-caller, Dequan Finn. Jim Knowles' group recorded its first two turnovers of the season with both leading to touchdowns by the offense while holding the Rockets to 12 completed passes and 3.8 yards per rush.
On offense, Ohio State exploded for 763 total yards - the second-most in program history - behind three receivers (Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr, Jayden Ballard) and one running back (Dallan Hayden) eclipsing the 100-yard barrier. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on 11 of 12 possessions, discounting the final drive only focused on running out the clock.
Before we turn attention to the Badgers, here are Five Things from last night's offensive clinic versus the Rockets.
It feels like there aren't any superlatives left to describe C.J. Stroud. The OSU quarterback was sensational last night completing 22-of-27 throws for 367 yards and five touchdowns.
In the first half alone, he connected on 18-of-20 passes for 297 yards and four scores.
Seven of those 18 completions went for at least 15 yards but beyond the numbers, it was the sheer accuracy and ball placement that blew me away.
He's been incredible throwing on the run, outside the pocket so far this season and last night was more of the same. This one in particular to Julian Fleming for six is simply perfect.
He also featured a nifty tear drop over a defensive back into Marvin Harrison Jr.'s cradled arms for 42 yards among other highlight throws.
In addition to his precision passing, Stroud again flashed improved pocket presence and feel, deploying a his new favorite backward spin move to evade blindside pressure with the intent of buying time to throw and he even tucked and ran twice for a combined nine yards.
Toledo or not, it was an elite performance from Stroud all the way around. If you're wondering, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, against a worse-than-Toledo Louisiana-Monroe team, completed 13-of-18 for 236 yards with three touchdowns but two picks yesterday.
MIYAN STEPS UP ONCE MORE
It's expected at this point but on a night when starting tailback TreVeyon Henderson lasted just one series before landing in a walking boot, Miyan Williams stepped up to the tune of 10 carries for 77 yards and one catch for 10 yards through the remainder of the first half.
The No. 627 overall prospect and No. 45 running back in the 2020 class, Williams just keeps delivering whenever called upon. Five of his 11 touches last night moved the sticks and zero went for negative yardage.
With Henderson proving a little bit ouch-y through his first 16 collegiate games, and preseason No. 3 tailback Evan Pryor already lost for the season, Williams has been a rock. He's not the home run hitter Henderson is but his efficiency, dependability and durability have been huge for Ohio State.
Dating back to the start of last season, Williams averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry in 11 of 13 games and sits at 6.5 per try so far in 2022.
Ohio State's defensive ends were flying off the edge most of the night, headlined by Jack Sawyer, Javon Jean-Baptiste and J.T. Tuimoloau.
The trio combined for 10 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks, continuously harassing Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn and later, backup Tucker Gleason.
Sawyer was the headliner early on, going for five stops including two tackles for loss. He lived in the Rockets backfield with all five of his stops netting Toledo a combined -2 yards.
Tuimoloau wasn't quite as impactful on the stat sheet, tallying one tackle for loss (-2 yards) but like Sawyer, he came off the corner on rails, applying pressure to Finn on virtually every dropback.
Jean-Baptiste was the star late with three tackles, two tackles for loss and a strip-sack giving Ohio State it's second turnover of the night. His fourth quarter speed rush overwhelmed his man before he was able to jar the ball loose, enabling teammate Palaie Gaoteote to jump on the ball. Ohio State's offense scored three plays later to round out the night's scoring.
Yes, Ohio State's defensive ends got caught pass rushing too deep and losing sight of Finn a few times but this trio still had a solid night with 56% of the team's tackles for loss and all three of its sacks.
TIGHT, TIGHT, TIGHT
We all know Ohio State doesn't typically love to feature the tight end in the passing game especially when it is so loaded at wide receiver but last night Cade Stover was back at it making huge plays for Ohio State's offense.
After playing both defensive end and linebacker for the Buckeyes in previous years, the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder seems to have found a home at tight end. He's proven a solid blocker but it's his hands that have really jumped out through the first three games.
After recording a modest but effective five catches for 54 yards across OSU's first two contests, Stover kicked it up a notch last night with three catches for 83 yards. That may not sound like much but at cursory glance, I can't find a more prolific yardage game from an Ohio State tight end since Jeff Heuerman hauled in five passes for 116 yards against Purdue way back in 2013.
His 38-yard catch on Ohio State's opening drive was a perfect play all the way around. Ryan Day's slick play design saw Stroud fake a toss sweep to the right before Stroud's delayed drop back allowed Stover to fake pass pro before deploying a very deliberate, wheel route release toward the sideline, providing daylight for his quarterback to deliver a perfect toss. Flawless execution that really gives teams something to think about when cheating up to stop the run on Stover's side.
On Ohio State's next possession, Stover raced down the seam from the left side of the line on a 2nd-and-8 play resulting in a 34-yard pitch and catch. Two possessions later, Stover's 11-yard grab along the sideline showcased his tremendous hands.
All three possessions resulted in touchdowns with Stover playing a key role which is great to see considering how selfless he's been during his time in Columbus.
FIRST DOWN DOMINATION
When you light up an opponent for 77 points, it's likely you dominated first down and Ohio State did exactly that versus the Rockets, particularly in the opening half.
Focusing on just the first 30 minutes of the contest, C.J. Stroud was a beast on first down, completing 13-of-13 passes for 232 yards.
On the ground, the Buckeyes churned out 99 rushing yards on 14 first down runs (7.1 ypc).
Combined, OSU 12.3 yards per first down snap in the opening half with 331 of its 441 total yards of offense coming on first down as Day perfectly mixed his playcalling.
Overall, just a dominant performance from Ohio State's starting offense.