I am old enough to remember the John Cooper days when putting up 70 points was a semi-regular occurrence for the Ohio State offense, but I don’t believe that, in all of my decades as a Buckeye fan, I can remember ever witnessing an offense work that close to flawlessly for an entire game.
Heck, the biggest “mistake” of the game might have been TC Caffey’s touchdown when head coach Ryan Day was clearly just trying to run the ball up the middle, run the clock, and not rub it in too much against the Rockets.
C.J. Stroud is every bit the quarterback that we thought he was at the beginning of the season, and my god, that collection of wide receivers has historically been illegal in most parts of Big Ten country. But also, with TreVeyon Henderson apparently suffering an injury following his touchdown run in the first half, we got to see a lot from Miyan Williams (who we already knew was great), Dallan Hadden, and even Caffey.
I realize that they were playing Toledo, but the Buckeye offense was practically perfect in every way, and they put up some pretty impressive numbers on the night.
So, to celebrate, I am going to rank all 11 — yes, 11 — of OSU’s touchdowns from Saturday night. And since this is my column, I reserve the right to change my judging criteria week to week, heck, even touchdown to touchdown. In some cases, I will judge a play by its importance in the grand scheme of the game, others will be by the degree of difficulty, backstory, and sheer entertainment value.
If you disagree with my ranking (which my six+ years here at LGHL tells me you absolutely will), feel free to share your list in the comments below.
Ok, now, without further ado, drumroll, please.........
11th Place: Touchdown No. 9
Dallan Hayden 1-Yard Run
True freshman Dallan Hayden was slated to be the fourth-string running back this season, but thanks to a fall camp injury to Evan Pryor and a first-half injury to TreVeyon Henderson, he saw his first extended collegiate action against Toledo.
While Miyan Williams picked up the immediate slack in Henderson’s stead, with the Big Ten season starting next weekend, it was probably better to get Chop out of the game before he suffered an injury as well. Enter Hayden who not only collected his first college touchdown, but also the first 100-yard game of his collegiate career.
There’s not a whole lot to get excited about from the touchdown run itself, but the story and his performance throughout the game certainly warrant celebration.
High Marks: Dallan Hayden deserved his first TD after being the workhorse most of the game
Deductions: Short run, little resistance
10th Place: Touchdown No. 6
C.J. Stroud 11-Yard Pass to Julian Fleming
Man, did it do my heart good to see Julian Fleming back on the field, and even more to see him catch two touchdowns. He has had such a tough time with injuries during his career in Columbus and to have such a great reintroduction to the lineup is great for him, but also a big addition to the wide receiver room moving forward.
This score was not as impressive as his other TD, but Fleming did show good instincts to sit down in a hole in the middle of the zone defense and then work his way into the end zone.
High Marks: Sat down in a hole in the zone
Deductions: Just too easy
Ninth Place: Touchdown No. 7
Mitch Rossi 1-Yard Run
During his postgame press conference, Day said that since it was the 100th anniversary of Ohio Stadium, they wanted to line up in I-formation and get a fullback touchdown. While it seemed like he was joking, clearly, they had the play in the cards, and seeing a go like Mitch Rossi get into the end zone is always cool, but it’s a one-yard dive for the fullback, that coolness can only carry the play so far.
High Marks: Fullback touchdown, Ryan Day’s postgame comment
Deductions: It’s a one-yard fullback touchdown
Eighth Place: Touchdown No. 8
C.J. Stroud 7-Yard Pass to Emeka Egbuka
Look, we know that the Ohio State receiver room is a cornucopia of talent, but it really is a bit ridiculous to see so many talented guys making plays. Like Fleming, Emeka Egbuka had a pair of TD grabs on Saturday. This one is the less impressive of the two.
However, the two strongest elements of this play are the design and Egbuka’s toughness. Because OSU tight end Cade Stover has proven that he is a threat in the passing game — especially in the compacted red zone. So, when Stover and Egbuka cross paths in their respective routes, it forces the Toldeo linebacker Dyontae Johnson to pick one to cover. Likely assuming that he had help from the secondary, he picked Stover, giving Egbuka a free release into the end zone; well-designed and executed pay.
Then, once he hauls in the ball, Egbuka is popped by the safety but holds on for the score.
High Marks: Play design confused secondary, held on after hit
Deductions: Basic pitch-and-catch, no coverage
Seventh Place: Touchdown No. 3
Emeka Egbuka 3-Yard Run
In the back-to-back Egbuka portion of today’s column, we get to what I think is the more impressive score for the wide receiver on the day, and — perhaps surprisingly — it is not a reception. Instead, No. 2 gets the rushing touchdown on a jet sweep.
It was not exceptionally well-blocked, so Emeka had to break multiple tackles on the short run before finishing it off by intelligently diving for the pilon, knowing that all he needed to do was get the ball to contact the orange, foam marker.
High Marks: Broke multiple tackles, dove for pilon
Deductions: Short-yardage, no flair
Sixth Place: Touchdown No. 5
C.J. Stroud 7-Yard Pass to Marvin Harrison Jr.
The third and final receiver with two TDs is Marvin Harrison Jr. This is a really nice route and Marv proves his NFL pedigree by getting both feet down, but otherwise, this looked like he and Stroud were playing against air.
Harrison could end up being the best wide receiver of Hartline’s recent, historic recruiting haul. His next catch is better, but this one is still pretty strong.
High Marks: Got both feet down
Deductions: Not much coverage to speak of
Fifth Place: Touchdown No. 1
TreVeyon Henderson 7-yard run
This is a really impressive run, or at least as impressive as a mostly north-and-south seven-yard un can be. Henderson takes his time and follows his blocks, runs through a few arm tackles and gets into the end zone.
However, this was the last play that we saw from Henderson on the night. The broadcast showed him heading back to the locker room presumably injured. Now, because the Buckeyes under Day share next to nothing in terms of injury updates, we don’t really know what happened or how severe his injury might be.
Of course against Toledo, his absence didn’t really matter, but if this proves to be a long-term issue, that could be a problem. That being said, Henderson looks good on the run and even does a little bit of celebrating after the score.
Did he hurt himself after the play was over? Not exactly a Ted Ginn Jr. BCS National Championship game situation, but certainly having some uncomfortable flashbacks.
High Marks: Toughness, patience, vision
Deductions: Did he get injured on the celebration? If so, I might retroactively move it way down the list.
Fourth Place: Touchdown No. 10
Kyle McCord 72-Yard Pass to Jayden Ballard
Jayden Ballard was a top-100 recruit coming out of high school, but has been overlooked in his two years in Columbus because of the higher-ranked guys in the WR room. But this guy is super fast.
He had to wait for the ball to get to him on the bootleg, and there’s really no reason that he shouldn’t have been taken down right after catching the pass. But, thanks to his blazing speed, a semi-stiff arm, and a pretty weak effort from the Toledo defender, he was off the the races for his first career touchdown and first career 100-yard game.
High Marks: Jayden can fly, first career touchdown
Deductions: Garbage time, lackadaisical effort from defender
Third Place: Touchdown No. 2
C.J. Stroud 7-Yard Pass to Marvin Harrison Jr.
Is there a point that when you are watching an epically talented player, they make it look so easy that you stop appreciating how insane their physical achievements are? I might be getting there with Marvin Harrison Jr. Dude is so big and so talented, and he runs routes so well, that when he makes an insane catch like this one, it’s almost a ho-hum occurrence, because of course he was able to make that catch.
Obviously catching passes is in his DNA and he’s been trained by an all-time great since the moment he could walk, but on this catch, he fully extends his body, uses his hand-strength to make the catch, and then get two feet down, proving that he will be ready for the 2024 NFL Draft.
High Marks: Body control, both feet in
Deductions: Does he make this look too easy?
Second Place: Touchdown No. 4
C.J. Stroud 5-Yard Pass to Julian Fleming
In most weeks, this would be a hands-down top touchdown of the game, but this week’s No. 1 is special. However, Julian getting back on the field and having such a big impact on the game — even in a blowout against a MAC team — is really inspiring to see.
But this play is incredible; Stroud is on the run buying himself time and Fleming rolls with him and Stroud delivers an absolutely perfect throw where only his receiver can catch it, and does he ever.
Fleming hauls the ball in with a defender draped all over him and is still able to get a foot down. And keep in mind, at this point in the game, it was still relatively competitive. The only downside on this one was having to listen to the most clueless announcer in sports media, Tim Brando, be wrong for the eleventieth billion time in the game.
High Marks: Incredible hands and toe-tap, so good to see Julian making plays
Deductions: Having to listen to Tim Brando be wrong AGAIN!
First Place: Touchdown No. 11
TC Caffey 49-Yard Run
This is the type of play that they make movies about. Granted, in the movie, it would be a game-winner in a rivalry or championship game, but the IRL version is still pretty incredible. TC Caffey’s run is also a beautiful metaphor for the journey of a true-freshman walk-on at a blue-blood power like Ohio State.
It starts with very few people paying attention, even the announcers are discussing things other than the play — much like recruiting analysts didn’t discuss him coming out of high school. Most onlookers assumed his career/run was over when it hit some initial resistance, but Caffey didn’t give up and kept working.
That doesn’t mean that it was smooth sailing from there on out; Caffey had to keep fighting and grinding and out-working his competition but in the end, he was able to reap the rewards.