If there were any doubts Ohio State has the goods to have an elite offense once again in 2022, the Buckeyes answered those questions emphatically with their performance on Saturday night against Toledo.
Against a Toledo defense that had allowed only 10 total points in its first two games of the season, Ohio State scored 11 touchdowns in a 77-21 rout of the Rockets. The Buckeyes more than doubled the number of yards Toledo had allowed in its first two games, going for a whopping 763 yards – the second-highest total in school history – against a defense that had allowed only 367 yards coming in.
It wasn’t unexpected that the Buckeyes would have far more success moving the ball against the Rockets than LIU and UMass did. But it certainly made a statement that Ohio State’s offense was as utterly dominant as it was.
“I think we showcased tonight what this offense is capable of,” Emeka Egbuka said. “And the special thing about us is that we're never satisfied. So we definitely feel like we left some stuff out on the field, even though we put up 760 yards.”
Not including the final drive of the game on which the Buckeyes kneeled out the clock, Ohio State was stopped just once on Saturday night. The Buckeyes were effective by air and ground against the Rockets, passing the ball for 482 yards on 14.2 yards per attempt while running the ball for 281 yards on 6.4 yards per attempt.
After a lackluster offensive performance in the season opener against Notre Dame in which Ohio State scored only 21 points, Ryan Day and the Buckeyes still found themselves wanting more from their offense after scoring 45 points against Arkansas State. On Saturday, the Buckeyes showed why, as their onslaught against their in-state foes showed just how dynamic their offense can be when firing on all cylinders.
“We’re part of the best offensive group in the nation, part of the best team in the nation,” Egbuka said. “And when you can rely on everybody to do their job, no questions asked, it's something that's really special. And we were able to showcase that tonight.”
“I think we showcased tonight what this offense is capable of.”– Emeka Egbuka on Ohio State’s 77-point performance against Toledo
One big reason the Buckeyes’ offense was better against Toledo than it was in their first two games was that it was back to full strength – except for Kamryn Babb – at wide receiver. Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming were both back in the rotation against the Rockets after Smith-Njigba was injured in the Notre Dame game and Fleming missed the first two games of the season.
Fleming made an immediate impact in his return to the field, catching two touchdown passes against Toledo. Smith-Njigba had a quiet night by his standards, catching only two passes for 33 yards, but his presence on the field helped open up opportunities for other receivers to make plays. Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. both topped 100 receiving yards for the second game in a row. They joined Fleming in scoring two touchdowns apiece (with one of Egbuka’s coming on a running play), while tight end Cade Stover also had a career night in the passing game with three catches for 83 yards.
“Jaxon is a huge threat to any opponent,” Egbuka said. “It doesn't matter if we were playing Alabama or if we were playing (Toledo) tonight, and attention’s gonna be drawn to Jaxon. You can count on him to win his one-on-one battles 24/7. So just having that on the field, you know, sometimes teams are gonna double, triple him, it doesn't really matter. But that just opens up the pass game and the run game.”
|C.J. STROUD||22-27, 367 passing yards, 5 TD|
|DALLAN HAYDEN||17 carries, 108 yards, 1 TD|
|MIYAN WILLIAMS||10 carries, 77 yards|
|TC CAFFEY||6 carries, 57 yards, 1 TD|
|EMEKA EGBUKA||7 catches, 116 yards, 1 TD|
|MARVIN HARRISON JR.||6 catches, 102 yards, 2 TD|
|JAYDEN BALLARD||4 catches, 113 yards, 1 TD|
|CADE STOVER||3 catches, 83 yards|
|JULIAN FLEMING||3 catches, 23 yards, 2 TD|
The Buckeyes had a big night running the ball even though starting running back TreVeyon Henderson left the game after the opening drive with a leg injury. Day felt like that started with a physical, intense week of practice – one that Fleming said was the best Ohio State had all year – that carried over to game action on Saturday.
“We had a tough week of practice,” Day said. “We were physical on Tuesday, physical on Wednesday, we had a ton of reps. We just felt like we needed to do that.
“Fed off having Jaxon and Julian back in the lineup too, which was great. But I thought overall, the combination of the run game and the pass game early on allowed us to get some momentum.”
Ohio State’s offensive game plan was also its most creative of the season to date, as the Buckeyes put a wide variety of new concepts into action on Saturday night, including handoffs to both a wide receiver (Egbuka) and a fullback (Mitch Rossi) in the end zone that led to touchdown runs. Stover had a pair of long catches off of play action, which was made possible by the Buckeyes’ effectiveness in running the ball.
Fleming described the offensive game plan as “perfect,” and Day gave his assistant coaches credit for their work in developing a well-rounded game plan.
“That's a good job by the offensive staff, coming in today with different ideas on how to attack defenses,” Day said. “And anytime you can be multiple like that with groupings or formations, then you put the defense in stress.
“We can run the football, we've shown that we can do that … We've shown that we can throw the football, and I think today you saw some of the play actions where you put guys in run conflicts, open up conflict and open up some tight end throws down the field. … So any time you can run, play action pass, drop back pass, that's the sign of a good offense. And we need to keep building on that.”
Ohio State’s offense will likely face more resistance next week when the Buckeyes open conference play against Wisconsin, who led the entire nation in yards allowed per game in 2021 and has started the 2022 season by holding each of its first three opponents to 253 yards or less and only 24 combined points. Given that, the Buckeyes know they must continue to work toward getting even better on offense in the week ahead.
“Usually, we wait till Sunday to move on to Wisconsin. We'll do that as we leave the stadium tonight,” Day said. “We need to regroup and go have another great week of practice this week.”
Ohio State’s offense certainly has momentum now, though, which the Buckeyes believe will be a stepping stone toward continued excellence as they begin the Big Ten portion of the regular season.
“It's just about execution and taking pride in that, and I definitely think that we did that, and we'll continue to build, but it's gonna take more because now we go on to Big Ten play, and we just gotta be more and more focused and stick together and just keep rolling with this good momentum,” Stroud said.