Ohio State’s first Big Ten test turned out to be an easy A on Saturday night.
Wisconsin put up little in the way of resistance to a scarlet and gray slaughter that saw the Buckeyes score more points on the Badgers than any team in eight years, when Ohio State put a 59-0 beating on them in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game.
Considering the 52-21 final score, caliber of competition and complete performance on both sides of the ball, it would be hard to argue that the Buckeyes didn’t have their finest effort of the season in Week 4. Ryan Day seemed to think the same after the game, although he said the Buckeyes can’t afford to spend much time celebrating their conference-opening victory.
“I think you can see what this team is made of. I think we’ve shown in the first four games what we can do, what we’re capable of. The big challenge in college football, is you have to bring it every week and that’s the competitive standard we’ve been talking about. Every single week you have to bring it. As good as this feels and as much as we want to celebrate this, we can’t spend too much time patting ourselves on the back after this thing, which is hard because it’s one heck of a win for us. To play like we did tonight, it was a lot of work, I’m very proud of our team; I’m proud of our players, proud of the way the defense came in and some of the guys stepped up.
“We saw a lot of good to go around in this game, but the tough thing is you don’t have too much time to talk about that; you have to be on to the next team. We’ll try to enjoy this the best we can tonight and a little bit tomorrow.”
C.J. Stroud put up 281 yards and five touchdowns on the night, giving the Buckeye quarterback 14 passing scores in the last three games alone. However, Stroud’s 63% completion rate was his lowest in 13 games dating back to last season, and he threw his first interception of the year in the second quarter.
Day took accountability for Stroud’s interception, saying he should’ve run the ball late in the first half rather than try to throw it, but Stroud pushed back on that notion after the game.
“I'm never going to play perfect. So try to get that out your head right now. I'm never gonna play perfect. So that interception, obviously I heard Coach Day, it was my fault. I gotta make the throw. In our cloud coverage, I just I treid to anticipate it early on, tried to throw it before he broke, but I probably shoudl have waited until he broke a little bit. I thought he was gonna go at a higher angle, but Marvin did a great job with that route. I think I can make the throw better.”
Two of Stroud’s touchdown passes went to Buckeye captain Cade Stover, who found the end zone twice in the opening quarter for the first and second scores of his college career. Stroud described the fourth-year tight end as a “Swiss army knife” after another big performance, and Stover was thrilled about the outcome.
“I’m super excited to be part of something special like this, and those balls haven’t gone my way so I was happy. There are a lot of things that went into that – a lot of long nights going into something so small, so special for me. I’m just really happy to help the team.”
In the run game, TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams each crossed the 100-yard mark for the first time this season as Ohio State rushed for 258 yards and two touchdowns in total. The Buckeyes have now racked up at least 250 rushing yards in both of the past two games, something it never did in back-to-back contests in 2021.
“TreVeyon and Miyan both have been excellent. TreVeyon’s energy before the game was off the chart. You could just feel it,” Day said. “I mean, I felt it. In warmups, I felt in the locker room. I felt it coming out of the locker room. And then he ran that way. He just ran hard. He ran physical. He ran with energy. And so did Miyan. Miyan ran hard. So I think we had something good going in that room.”
The Ohio State secondary was shorthanded on the night as starting corners Denzel Burke and Cameron Brown were both unavailable, but JK Johnson and Jyaire Brown stepped up to make the first starts of their career and held their own against the Wisconsin passing threat. Oklahoma State transfer safety Tanner McCalister said preparing for the Big Ten opener with two first-time starters at cornerback was a bit daunting, but that he was impressed by the efforts of Johnson and Jyaire Brown.
“They stepped up big time. I mean, obviously with Cam Brown and Denzel down, going into preparation is kind of scary a little bit. Just because those guys haven't played much. But they came in comfortable, willing to listen. I'm talking to them on the field and they're trying to get checks, they're listening. They stepped up big time and handled their business.”
Day said both players received a full vote of confidence from their Buckeye coaches and teammates ahead of the contest. Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz finished with just 94 yards on 11 completions through the air by the end of the game.
“Jyaire and JK have been practicing. We told them right before the game that everybody on the team believes in them and we do. They had no fear, and they went out there and played, and they did a really good job. I don’t know what the film’s going to show, but I know they competed. I thought Tim Walton did a really good job getting them ready. I’m proud of those guys to be able to win a conference game with them in there.”
McCalister made several standout plays in what was his best performance as a Buckeye, recording an interception in the first half and finishing with four tackles and a PBU. McCalister’s 30-yard return after the pick set up the Buckeye offense for a touchdown, but the former Cowboy said he thought he was going to take it all the way himself during the big play.
“Yeah I did, I ain't gonna lie. I mean I was running, I saw a lot of green grass, cut back on people a couple times. I looked back, saw the guy behind me, I was like, 'Ah.' I seen the end zone in my eyes and I was like, Oh my God, I might score.' But nah, he got me down. But I knew our offense was gonna get in.”