Football: ‘Near perfect’: Buckeyes explain how offense rolls at unstoppable pace

The Lantern
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Ohio State senior wide receiver Chris Olave (2) celebrates with redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) after a touchdown during the Ohio State-Maryland game Oct. 9. Ohio State won 66-17. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor

Over the last two conference games, No. 6 Ohio State has outscored its opponents by a staggering 118-30.

Against Maryland alone last Saturday, the Buckeyes scored on every drive they held possession aside from their final drives of each half. They were 9-for-9 on cashing in for points on full-length drives, which seems impeccable — and senior wide receiver Chris Olave thinks so too.

“We started fast. We just keep building. Last week and this week, we’re damn near perfect,” Olave said. “We just got to keep building and having fun with it.”

Ohio State’s total offense ranks first among Power Five programs and second in all of the NCAA with an average of over 563 yards per game. The wheels on the train of the Buckeyes’ offense has largely been turned by the ascension of redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Stroud said he’s past much of his worries regarding his throwing shoulder, which nagged him for the first month of the season. The California native earned Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors for his 406-yard performance against the Terrapins, featuring his second-straight week of five passing touchdowns.

“I’m just feeling more comfortable,” Stroud said. “On top of that, God has blessed me with a supernatural healing of my shoulder. My shoulder has been feeling a whole lot better.”

Stroud said he can sense that he and the offense are finally gelling together, and after three-straight games of scoring more than 52 points, the gunslinger feels it’s only going to continue.

“It’s just all about balance,” Stroud said. “I think the better that we can just keep rolling, keep this momentum going, the better balance that we’ll have.”

The Buckeyes struck a steadiness on the ground and through the air in recent weeks, notably producing more than 208 yards from each facet against Akron and at Rutgers, despite falling under the 200-yard threshold in the running game against Maryland. Ohio State still scored three touchdowns, though.

Freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson continued his streak of scoring in every game of his Buckeyes career, crossing 100 rushing yards for the second time this season with two more scores against the Terrapins. He showed an increased presence in the passing game, too, as he caught a 26-yard score among his four catches, having not had more than one in any game prior.

Ohio State’s receiving corps ranks highly among the Big Ten as well, with Olave and junior wide receiver Garrett Wilson both nestled in the top four among the conference. Sophomore wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba has proven to be a hidden threat in the slot, posting his second 100-yard game of the season last week.

“It’s fun. All three guys, we all compete throughout the week to try to get better every day,” Olave said. “We all want each other to get the ball and have fun, make some plays. We’re all happy for each other. We got to keep going.”

Head coach Ryan Day has his hand in much of the offensive game planning each week, spiraling from his two previous seasons as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018.

There are many others involved, though, according to Day. The third-year skipper said the rest of his staff, including offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, running backs coach Tony Alford and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, all come together to lay out play calling and execution.

“All the guys in that entire room help put that plan together on a weekly basis,” Day said. “The most important thing is certainly a clean plan, but practicing well and executing at a high level during the week so that when you get to the game, you put it back on the field. You can’t just show up on Saturday and expect that to happen.”

Challenges lie ahead, though, and may pose difficulties to Ohio State’s bulldozing offense. While they’re on a bye this week, the Buckeyes travel to Indiana Oct. 23 to battle a Hoosiers team that gave them a scare in a 42-35 contest in 2020.

Beyond the Hoosiers, Ohio State still has three games on the docket against Big Ten teams ranked inside the AP Top 10 alone.

“We still got a lot of football left. We haven’t done anything yet,” Day said. “The competition is going to increase. The games are going to just get bigger and bigger. I do think we’re in a better place than we were six games ago.”

Ohio State’s scoring offense has ranked tops in the Big Ten for the last four seasons and is on pace to continue that streak by sitting in first by over 10 points, as it stands.

Day said practice is where keeping that mark all starts, and Stroud said the Buckeyes practice “harder than anybody.” As good as the offense has played, Ohio State still believes the best is yet to come.

“We have a lot more work to do,” Stroud said. “I definitely think that we’re putting up the numbers and we’re doing the right things. I think that’s definitely something that we can reach. If we just keep on our same momentum and keep practicing well, then I think we’ll achieve that.”

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