Tommy Eichenberg wasn’t happy when Ryan Day told him he wouldn’t get to play in his final home game as a Buckeye on Saturday.
Day said Eichenberg could have played against Minnesota, but the Ohio State head coach ultimately made the call to hold Eichenberg out as he recovers from the arm injury he suffered against Rutgers. Although Day knew Eichenberg desperately wanted to play on Ohio State’s Senior Day, Day felt it was more important to ensure the Buckeyes’ starting middle linebacker is healthy next week when Ohio State heads up north to play Michigan.
“We'll get Tommy back for next week. Tommy was ready to play in this one, and I had to pull him back. And it was almost a fist fight. But I won,” Day said. “I'll be honest, it took some late-night texts last night. I mean, he wanted to play. And this is a guy who has put so much into this program. Coming back for Senior Day, for him not to be out there, was really hard for Tommy. Really hard. But I just explained to him, there's just too much on the line moving forward to risk any kind of setback, that we need him at his best. And he was, after some calming down, he was okay. But it was not easy for him to not play in this game. And that was my decision. He was ready to go. He pushed himself to get to a point. But he’ll have another great week of practice and be at 100% going into next week.”
Ohio State accomplished its most important goals against Minnesota by winning comfortably, 38-3, and coming out of the game with no major injuries. With the biggest game of the season looming next week, Day said he expects the Buckeyes to be at “full capacity.”
“Tommy was ready to play in this one, and I had to pull him back. And it was almost a fist fight. But I won.”– Ryan Day on Tommy Eichenberg not playing
Full capacity won’t include Lathan Ransom, who was already ruled out for the rest of the regular season. But Day expressed optimism that it will include defensive tackle Mike Hall, who was unavailable against Minnesota after playing only two series against Michigan State.
“I’ll try to give you guys somewhat of an update next week,” Day said when asked specifically about Hall. “But yeah, we're expecting to get everybody back.”
With Eichenberg sidelined for a second straight game, Cody Simon made his second consecutive start at Mike linebacker in Eichenberg’s place and proved up to the task once again, recording two tackles with a combined tackle for loss and leading the way for Ohio State’s run defense to hold Minnesota to just 70 rushing yards on 29 carries.
“We're expecting to get everybody back.”– Ryan Day on Ohio State’s Health for The Game
Ty Hamilton started in place of Mike Hall at nose tackle and was also stout against the run, recording two tackles on the stat sheet. Sonny Styles made his third consecutive start at strong safety in place of Ransom with Ja’Had Carter also getting some playing time at strong safety when Styles lined up at nickel against bigger offensive personnel packages.
Another huge game for Henderson
TreVeyon Henderson has surpassed 120 rushing yards in three of his four games since returning from injury against Wisconsin. He did so in spectacular fashion against Minnesota.
A career-long 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter ate up a bit more than half of his 146 rushing yards on 15 carries against the Golden Gophers, an average of 9.7 yards per tote.
Henderson made one of the better jump-cuts imaginable from a ball carrier to free himself on the run, then burst through an inches-wide crease in Minnesota’s defense to soar to the end zone.
“He's a home run hitter, and the more opportunities he gets, he gets to the second level, he’s dangerous,” Day said. “It’s everybody’s job to get him there. I thought on that play in particular, I have to watch the film, but I think Emeka (Egbuka) and Julian (Fleming) sprung him on the perimeter. But I think the guys up front did a nice job moving them on the line.”
That was one of two touchdown runs Henderson posted on the evening, joining a 9-yard scoring jaunt in the first quarter. He did a solid job picking up chunk yardage to keep Ohio State on schedule offensively as well, with 10 of his 15 runs picking up at least 4 yards or a first down.
“He's a home run hitter, and the more opportunities he gets, he gets to the second level, he’s dangerous.”– Ryan Day on TreVeyon Henderson
Henderson has now racked up 794 yards in just eight games this season, averaging 6.7 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns. He’s added another 14 receptions for 184 yards.
“Another big game for him, and we needed it,” Kyle McCord said. “I think there were times today when they sat in a two-high shell and tried to take away the pass. Especially with Marvin (Harrison Jr.), that’s the case. There were favorable run boxes and Tre did his thing again today, which was huge.”
Egbuka returns to form
After catching only five combined passes for 41 yards against Rutgers and Michigan State in his first two games back from an ankle sprain, one of the biggest questions entering the Minnesota game was whether Emeka Egbuka would return to his usual form ahead of The Game. He answered that question by gaining 83 yards on five catches against the Gophers, leading Ohio State in receiving for the day.
While Egbuka looked to remain hampered by the injury in his first two games back, he showed his usual explosiveness and ability to create yardage after the catch against Minnesota, with multiple big gains coming off of pop passes from McCord. He finished the game with three of Ohio State’s five receptions of over 20 yards.
Asked about Egbuka, McCord said he thought the Minnesota game “was the best he's looked since coming back from his injury.”
“I thought he looked explosive tonight. Looked confident too with the way he was moving. And that was good to see,” McCord said. “I know he's been working his tail off to get back to this point. So to get him back to I think almost 100% at this time is huge.”
“I thought he looked explosive tonight. Looked confident too with the way he was moving.”– Kyle McCord on Emeka Egbuka
Hayden returns to action
After using Dallan Hayden in just two of the season’s first 10 games, Ohio State got its sophomore running back on the field for one drive in the third quarter on which he ran the ball eight times for 34 yards.
With the biggest games of the season coming up, Ohio State had reason to get Hayden involved in the offense again. He hadn’t played since running for 76 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries against Purdue, and with Miyan Williams done for the season, Hayden is third in line on Ohio State’s running back depth chart behind only TreVeyon Henderson and Chip Trayanum.
“We felt like we wanted to get him in the game a little bit, because he hasn't played a whole ton this this year. And I thought, like you said, going into next week or moving forward, it would be good to get him some carries,” Day said. “I thought he ran good when he was in there.”
Ohio State chose to play Hayden in only two of the first 10 games of the year because it wants to preserve his redshirt, which only allows him to play in up to four games during the regular season. Hayden would hit the four-game mark if he plays next week against Michigan, but both Day and an Ohio State spokesperson said after the game it was their understanding that bowl games will not count against the four-game limit, allowing Hayden – and other players looking to preserve redshirts this season, such as cornerback Lorenzo Styles Jr. – to continue playing in the postseason without burning their redshirts.
“The way that it's been done in the past is that you get four games and then you have postseason,” Day said.
“We felt like we wanted to get him in the game a little bit, because he hasn't played a whole ton this this year.”– Ryan Day on playing Dallan Hayden against Minnesota
Stover surpasses 1,000, scores in final home game
Cade Stover had four catches for 26 yards in what’s expected to be his final home game as a Buckeye against Minnesota. The first and last of those catches were both memorable for different reasons.
His first catch of the game, which was also his longest catch of the game as it went for 16 yards, put Stover over 1,000 receiving yards for his Ohio State career. He became just the third Buckeye tight end to ever reach that milestone, joining John Frank (1,481 career receiving yards) and Billy Anders (1,218 receiving yards).
His fourth catch of the game came on his final play in Ohio Stadium. While Stover had been out for most of the third quarter, the Buckeyes put him back in the game for a goal-to-go series early in the fourth quarter. The payoff: Stover catching a 1-yard touchdown pass, the 10th of his career, giving the senior captain a special moment to celebrate in front of his home-state crowd.
All smiles from the Farmer pic.twitter.com/zPWmJ0TlzC— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) November 18, 2023
With his 10th touchdown catch, Stover became just the fourth tight end in Ohio State history to reach double-digit touchdowns as a Buckeye, joining Jake Stoneburner (13), Jeremy Ruckert (12) and John Lumpkin (10).
“I don't know if there's a guy that is a tougher dude, who works as hard as he does. He does the dirty work. And so to get him that touchdown, I think that might have been his last play in the Shoe, is pretty special.”– Kyle McCord on Cade Stover