Ryan Day, Brian Hartline and C.J. Stroud were all thinking the same thing.
After Marvin Harrison Jr. made his seventh and final catch of the day and the coaches decided it was time to take him out of the game, Hartline walked over to Day and said, “I think it's Kam Babb’s time.”
During an injury timeout three plays later, after Ohio State had advanced to the 8-yard line, Stroud walked up to Day and said, “What do you think about trying to get Kam the touchdown right here?”
“And I said, ‘I think it's right,’” Day said.
In the 10th game of his fifth year at Ohio State, it finally was the right moment for Kamryn Babb. The moment for Babb to catch the first pass of his Ohio State career, score the first touchdown of his Ohio State career and be swarmed by his teammates in a celebration that will undoubtedly stand as one of the most memorable moments of the Buckeyes’ 2022 season.
“What happened today in the stadium was magical,” Day said. “And that's what college football means to a lot of people. Not to everybody, but to a lot of people. That's one of the reasons why college football is special. That’s one of the reasons why you coach is to see something like that happen. And hopefully, there's somebody out there that's going through tough times that can see that as a motivation to overcome.”
The play on which Babb caught the touchdown could be described as routine. The fifth-year wide receiver ran a clean but simple out route into the right side of the end zone, and Stroud delivered an accurate pass to the right front corner of the scoring area for an 8-yard completion.
When asked to describe the catch after the game, Babb said he could barely even remember the play itself.
“It kind of just was all kind of a blur in a sense,” Babb said. “A good blur.”
Until that play, though, nothing about Babb’s Ohio State career had been routine. That’s what made his touchdown catch so special.
Dating back to his senior year of high school, Babb has torn both of his ACLs two times each, causing him to miss the entirety of the 2018, 2019 and 2021 seasons. Going into Saturday’s game against Indiana, Babb had only played in Ohio State’s eight games during the 2020 season, and he didn’t catch a pass in any of those. While expectations were high for Babb throughout this past offseason, he suffered another knee injury in preseason camp, causing him to miss Ohio State’s first nine games of the year before he was finally cleared to play this week.
Despite those many setbacks, Babb never stopped working to get back on the field for the Buckeyes. And that’s why everyone inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center wanted to see him have the moment he finally had on Saturday.
“There'll be great wins, and there'll be great accomplishments here at Ohio State, but what he's overcome is one of the great accomplishments, and it's not something that people will see,” Day said. “But at least they were able to be a part of that right there. And those who were in the stadium were able to be a part of it because that's as special as I’ve been around.”
Stroud said he was as nervous throwing that pass as he’s ever been on any pass because of how badly he wanted Babb to have that moment.
“I seen the coverage that we got, I seen the leverage that we had on the corner and I was like, ‘Oh man, I better not mess this up for my guy,’” Stroud said. “So I'm happy I just made the throw.”
After Babb caught the pass, he got down on both knees in the back of the end zone. He took a moment of self-reflection in which he looked down at the ground before looking up and blowing a kiss to the sky – a symbol of his Christian faith, which he says is what has enabled him to persevere through all the setbacks.
“The past five years, that's kind of been a dream of mine is whenever I catch a touchdown, whenever that moment is, to get on my knees and give praise to him, to Jesus Christ, because that's the only hope that I truly have,” Babb said. “I love football. I love what it can do for so many people. But I just know there's a world with a whole bunch of stuff going on. And so many people need hope. And so if I could give and shine the light that Jesus has given me and give that to others, I think that's my responsibility as a son of God, son of Jesus. So that moment has kind of been on my mind for the past five years.”
Babb was mobbed by his teammates once he stood up. All of the other 10 Buckeyes who were on the field came over to embrace him. Then every Ohio State player on the sideline did the same, spilling onto the playing surface and drawing a delay of game penalty that no one cared about. Even after the game resumed, the celebration went on for minutes on the sideline, as seemingly every member of the team wanted to congratulate him personally.
Many current and former Buckeyes also took to social media after the catch to congratulate Babb. Stroud says that’s a reflection of how much of an impact Babb – a two-time captain and this year’s recipient of the team’s Block 0 jersey – has made on the program even when he hasn’t been able to play.
“His phone’s probably going crazy with Chris (Olave), J.K. (Dobbins), all types of people, man, just probably tapping into him,” Stroud said. “Because everybody has really been felt by Babb. From Chase Young to Justin Fields to Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, I bet you all of them are really happy for my guy. So that’ll just tell you, every year, he's left a legacy.”
“That's one of the reasons why college football is special. That’s one of the reasons why you coach is to see something like that happen. And hopefully, there's somebody out there that's going through tough times that can see that as a motivation to overcome.”– Ryan Day on Kamryn Babb’s touchdown
Ohio State defensive end Jack Sawyer said Babb’s touchdown “almost brought tears to my eyes.”
“Seeing the stuff he’s been through and how hard he's worked and how humble he is and how big of a man of faith he is inspires me, and getting to see him out there catch a touchdown, his first touchdown at Ohio State, it means the world for all of us,” Sawyer said. “He inspires all of us to be better people.”
Babb is grateful for all the support he received from his Ohio State teammates, coaches and staff not only on Saturday but throughout the past five years leading up to that moment.
“In a moment like that, just the love when you feel that, you see so many people around you and just wanting to hug you; again, it just kind of leans back on the brotherhood and what we really have,” Babb said. “It's not just a word to us, and it's the guys in the locker room that make that possible. And then just the coaches that we have as well. So, man, I'm just thankful for each guy that we have … I'm grateful to be at this university, on this team, and I tell people all the time I wouldn't have changed a thing. Just because the people make Ohio State what it is. So I'm just thankful to be a part of it.”
Babb’s touchdown may have never happened if the start of Saturday’s fourth quarter hadn’t unfolded the way it did. After Xavier Johnson ran for a 71-yard touchdown on the Buckeyes’ previous possession to extend the Buckeyes’ lead to 49-7, Ohio State had planned to take Stroud and the rest of its offensive starters out of the game. But after a muffed punt by Reis Stocksdale led to an Indiana touchdown, Ohio State decided to keep Stroud and the first-team offense in the game for one more series, leading to Babb’s touchdown on Stroud’s final pass of the day.
If Babb’s touchdown hadn’t happened Saturday, there’s no certainty it would have happened at all. With only two games left to go in the regular season, and one of those being the Michigan game, there won’t be many more opportunities for Ohio State to script a feel-good moment. But Babb always had faith his moment would come – and now that it has, he hopes it’s just the beginning of the impact he can make for the Buckeyes this season as they chase their goals of beating the team up north, winning the Big Ten championship and winning the national title.
“If it's meant to happen, then Jesus, he'll make it happen,” Babb said. “I guess you can say time was running out, but in my head, I kind of think in big terms like, you know, even if it's in the team up north game or whatever game we're playing in and I get a shot … the national championship game, whatever game it may be, he can make anything happen.”
- #2 Ohio State 56, Indiana 14
- • Buckeyes Handle Hoosiers, 56-14
- • Running on Empty: More Injuries at RB
- • Babb Finally Gets His Moment
- • Williams "Good" After Injury vs. IU
- • Ohio State Postgame • Photos • Notebook • Quotebook • Debriefing
- • IU Postgame • TBDBITL • 3 Key Stats • Five Things • Social Reax