COLUMBUS — Saturday afternoon in Ohio Stadium with the division and, more importantly, bragging rights on the line, a big-time player stepped up in a big-time game. But this was unlike any other performance he has had this season.
In a game where Ohio State was saying goodbye to three senior captain receivers, it was true freshman wideout Chris Olave who shined on Saturday against Michigan.
Olave entered the game with five catches for 70 yards this season, and he left the game as a hero.
The first two touchdowns of his Ohio State career came in the biggest game of his life.
“I just do it for my teammates and the love for my brothers beside me,” Olave said after the game. “Just everything we’ve been through this season has been crazy. To come out here and play like I did and contribute to the team is just a blessing.”
Olave finished his first rivalry game with two receptions for 48 yards, with both catches going 24 yards for touchdowns. Olave also added a blocked punt that led to a touchdown for good measure as well.
Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer has said that legends are born in this game, and Olave’s feature performance is now etched in Ohio State (and Michigan) football history.
Coming from California, Olave didn’t quite understand the magnitude of the Ohio State and Michigan rivalry until he got to Columbus.
Now, however, he has played a major role in a game where dreams become part of history.
“Chris came in as a freshman, you can see all the talent, all the skill in the world,” quarterback Dwayne Haskins said. “Didn’t have opportunity to play much this year. So when he got in there he made it matter. And he was really smooth, a silky receiver, makes a lot of plays, plays fast. Johnnie [Dixon] got hurt a little bit, so he came in there and made some big plays as a true freshman. So I’m proud of the way he played.”
Olave gave the credit for his performance to Haskins, who he said just made him look good on Saturday. Influence and inspiration also came from the three senior receivers — Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon, and Parris Campbell — who have kept him on the right path since he arrived.
“All three of them are completely role models in my life,” Olave said after the game. “When they ran out before the game, it kind of made me tear up. I wanted to do something to contribute in this game for them and for the seniors and all of my teammates. They mean a lot to me, not just outside of football, they’re role models.”
After his performance against Michigan, there is no question that Olave is one of Haskins’ favorite targets. And this may have never come about without an injury to junior receiver Austin Mack.
It was after Mack’s injury, that Olave realized that he could, and would, have to contribute to this team.
“When Austin Mack went down in the Purdue game, it was heartbreaking for our team because all the things he did for us and continues to do for us,” Olave said. “After that, the bye week came around and they kind of threw me in there and threw me in the rotation. I kind of just got into it and took the role and that’s when I came around.”
Perhaps the best side story from Saturday’s blowout victory is that Olave’s family was here from California for the first time this season, and this was the game that they were treated to.
Saturday was something that Chris Olave has been dreaming about his whole life, and it was just the beginning of what he is going to do at Ohio State.
“Monster,” Meyer said of his impressions of Olave’s performance on Saturday
“Buckeye Nation, get used to that one now. That’s the real deal. Comes from an incredible family. Came all the way across the country to be a Buckeye. And you could see right out of the jump when he started practicing, he’s got the ‘it.'”