Football: How can the Buckeyes’ No. 1 offense improve?

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Ohio State freshman running back Treveyon Henderson (32) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Ohio State-Indiana game on Saturday. Ohio State won 54-7. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor

For a stretch of 19 consecutive drives, the Buckeyes’ offense punched its way into the end zone with redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud in the backfield.

Most may find themselves rereading that statistic. In the final five drives at Rutgers, eight against Maryland and six at Indiana, Stroud led No. 5 Ohio State to touchdowns.

No field goals, no punts — touchdowns on 19-straight offensive series, which didn’t count two non-drives at the end of the half.

“It’s something, I guess,” head coach Ryan Day said. “Really, it’s just a matter of going out there every single day in practice and trying to execute at a high level and being really hard on ourselves.”

Since 2017, Ohio State’s offenses have averaged over 41 points per game alongside an average of 506 yards.

This season, the Buckeyes currently own both the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense and total offense, with averages of 49.3 points per game and 559.7 yards, both on pace to break program records set in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Day said he believes each week is “like a whole season,” and so many things come into play when preparing for the next opponent. He said it takes a lot more work — physically and mentally — that helps the Buckeyes stay confident.

“Try not to go into each game with any expectations other than just execute at a high level and take it one play at a time, prepare the best we can during the week and go into the game and try to go from there,” Day said. “But there’s going to be roadblocks along the way. We just got to stay humble on this thing, but also continue to build confidence.”

Stroud ranks at or near the top in major passing categories, including the most passing yards per game in the Big Ten Conference with over 327 yards, and his passing efficiency is second in the country.

His right-hand man is fellow first-year starter and freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson. Henderson said he’s always finding little aspects of his repertoire to improve, whether it’s staying balanced or in pass protection.

The Virginia native leads the conference with 14 touchdowns, 11 of which came on the ground. Henderson is four scores away from Ohio State’s freshman touchdown record, held by Maurice Clarett’s total of 18.

One area fans may call to see more of is Henderson’s carries, and he’s surpassed 12 in a game just twice. But Henderson said those cries can calm; he’s happy with what he’s getting now.

“I’m happy with the amount of carries I’m getting right now. When we’re up 50-something against a team, there’s no reason to get 20 carries and put myself at risk of getting an injury,” Henderson said. “I think they’re being smart with the amount of carries I’m getting now.”

Ohio State’s receiving room ranks first in receiving yards and fifth among Power 5 programs. Senior wide receiver Chris Olave is four touchdowns from tying the Buckeyes’ career-receiving touchdowns of 34, which has been held by David Boston for 23 years.

While Buckeye receivers are dangerous, their tight ends proved not to be overlooked against Indiana. Senior tight end Jeremy Ruckert caught five passes for 47 yards and two touchdowns, bringing him just one from tying Jake Stoneburner for Ohio State’s career-receiving scores for a tight end with 13.

Ruckert said the Buckeyes “have a big target on our back,” but Ohio State has done a good job of keeping a steady mind and respecting the opponent, no matter who they play.

“We’re not thinking about much, we’re just going out there and playing and trusting our training, trusting what we do during the week,” Ruckert said. “I think it’s really just showing up now on these Saturdays. We’re on this roll of just being ourselves and getting this train rolling.”

The train stays on the tracks with the blocking up front by the offensive line. The Buckeyes were added as one of 19 programs to the Joe Moore Award midseason honor roll for most outstanding offensive line.

Ohio State’s offensive line has shown improvement since rotating regular starters from a year ago, including bumping junior Nicholas Petit-Frere from right to left tackle. He said offensive line performance is a “give and take,” and silence is a good thing.

“If no one’s talking about you, that means you’re doing something right,” Petit-Frere said. “The way I look at it is as long as I hear the team’s doing well and I hear other guys around me are doing well and a lot of skill guys are doing well and my offensive line teammates are doing well, that means we’re doing well.”

While Ohio State’s offense has steamrolled to the top spot in the country, it will be put to the test against No. 20 Penn State, which boasts the sixth-best scoring defense in the country, allowing just 14.7 points per game.

Sophomore wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba said he looks forward to the challenge of playing a top 10 defense. While it’s still October, this Buckeyes offense may just be getting started.

“We know the statistics show that we’re No. 1. But, we don’t pay too much attention to it,” Smith-Njigba said. “It’s good to hear. We just try to go out there and do our thing. That stuff will come.”

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