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Football: Five takeaways from No. 3 Ohio State’s 77-21 win over Toledo

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The Buckeyes prepare to take the field before the Ohio State-Toledo game Saturday. Ohio State won 77-21. Credit: Katie Good | Asst. Photo Editor

The offense of No. 3 Ohio State football is often held in high regard, but it’s safe to say not many predicted the explosion of scoring seen Saturday when Toledo visited Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes piled up 763 yards of total offense — the second-highest in school history — to complement a season-high of 77 points, both the most under head coach Ryan Day. The last time Ohio State hit that scoring mark came in 2018 against Oregon State.

Playing under the lights for the second time in three weeks, there was plenty of flashiness across the board. Here are five takeaways from the game.

Quiet night for the punting team

There wasn’t much as far as stats for second-year punter Jesse Mirco, only entering the game for one punt with 8:07 remaining in the third quarter. This was no fault of his own, however, as the only other Ohio State drive to not finish in the end zone came as the clock hit zeros for the final time.

The Buckeyes scored on 11 of their 13 drives, including a string of seven-consecutive touchdown drives to start the game. The Buckeye offense did not face a fourth down during the first half, taking a 42-14 lead into halftime.

Saturday served as the most complete offensive performance for Ohio State this season, as its depth allowed for eight different touchdown scorers on the day. The return of third-year wide receiver Julian Fleming along with the continued effectiveness of second-year wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka were among a deep receiver rotation that allowed the offense to spread.

The 482-yard passing attack wasn’t everything, as the Buckeyes added 281 rushing yards, capped off by a 49-yard touchdown by first-year running back TC Caffey in the fourth quarter. Five touchdowns also came on the ground, showing Ohio State could move the ball both ways.

Takeaways return to Columbus

In Weeks 1 and 2, the Ohio State defense failed to force a takeaway on its opponents, which could have been seen as a concern for some. Saturday, this was not the case.

On the second play of the second half, fourth-year safety Ronnie Hickman picked off Toledo sophomore quarterback Dequan Finn near midfield to set up the offense for a four-play touchdown drive.

A quarter later, graduate defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste forced a fumble, leading to another quick touchdown drive as the offense and defense continued to feed into each other.

Not only was the defense forcing turnovers, but their play was much cleaner than prior weeks, with the unit not committing a single penalty in the game. To cap off an impressive performance, Toledo was held scoreless in the fourth quarter, a standard Ohio State continues to set as it hasn’t allowed a final-frame point in 2022.

Increased depth in the running backs room

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Ohio State first-year running back TC Caffey (28) flies through the end zone after the 11th and final touchdown of No. 3 Ohio State’s 77-21 win over Toledo Saturday. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

It was a scary sight for Buckeye fans when second-year running back TreVeyon Henderson went down with a leg injury early in the matchup. While Henderson is expected to “be back soon,” first-year running back Dallan Hayden showed he could pick up some slack in the meantime.

Hayden had the best performance of his young Buckeye career, rushing for 108 yards and his first-career touchdown on a 1-yard punch in the fourth quarter. Going for 17 attempts, Hayden showed the ability to be a workhorse for Ohio State, adding another option alongside Henderson and third-year running back Miyan Williams, who added 77 yards of his own on just 10 attempts.

Hayden’s breakout performance along with the flashes shown by Caffey late in the game showed promise for the future of Ohio State’s rushing attack. Averaging 6.4 yards per carry without its starting running back, the unit is playing with a next-man-up mentality.

If Henderson misses time, it’s safe to say the run game will survive.

Receiving duo returns but not to full strength

The biggest storyline heading into Saturday was arguably the return of Fleming and third-year wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba to the Buckeye offense. While showing flashes of their capabilities as pass catchers, both would be limited in production as the passing game still primarily ran through Egbuka and Harrison.

Fleming made the most of his touches, finding the end zone twice in his three receptions. Serving more as a red zone option than deep threat, he played his role well, hauling in all three of his targets.

Smith-Njigba had a quieter outing, posting only two receptions for 33 yards on three targets alike. While his overall numbers were not much to look at, the third-year caught a 21-yard pass over the middle during the first quarter to give glimpses of what he can do moving forward.

Ohio State is seemingly being cautious with player health and easing the receivers back into the rotation as conference play approaches. That being said, expect both to be more involved in Week 4.

Another day at the office for Stroud

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Third-year quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) threw for 367 yards and five touchdowns during the Ohio State-Toledo game Saturday. Ohio State won 77-21. Credit: Katie Good | Asst. Photo Editor

Third-year quarterback C.J. Stroud entered Week 3 as the favorite for the Heisman Trophy according to DraftKings Sportsbook, and Saturday did nothing to discount that.

The signal-caller threw for 367 yards and five touchdowns, once again resting during the closing stretches. Completing a season-high 81 percent of his throws, Stroud worked efficiently during his time under center.

Stroud has not established a specific go-to connection in 2022, instead spreading the ball out to the multitude of weapons around him. Finding eight separate receivers, the gunslinger’s arguably biggest development in 2022 so far has been his scrambling ability, keeping his eyes downfield and finding a man deep while on the move.

Perhaps the most surprising of Stroud’s connections was with fourth-year tight end Cade Stover, transitioning to the position this season and making an instant impact, hauling in a couple of deep balls for 83 yards on the day.

Stroud’s ability to extend plays and make the right reads will be invaluable to the Buckeyes should they look to reclaim the Big Ten title, and so far, he has shown nothing but the ability to do so.

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