COLUMBUS – In his post-game comments following Ohio State’s (2-1) 41-20 win over Tulsa (0-3) Ryan Day called the game “a step in the right direction,” but then quickly added the question “How Far…?” The clever answer to that question might be 277 yards, because that’s how many yards true freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson rushed for in breaking Archie Griffin’s single game rushing record for a freshman. He also scored three touchdowns and was clearly the outstanding offensive player of the day.
As for everybody else, that’s a bit murkier.
The Buckeyes struggled early on offense. The passing game was not as consistent as it needed to be and mistakes helped to keep Ohio State out of the endzone several times in the first half. The defense that has been so porous this season was having a bit more success and gave the offense time to find their legs. Tulsa opened the scoring with a field goal which the Buckeyes answered with a 44-yard field goal of their own by Noah Ruggles to make it 3-3. Tulsa added another field goal to make it 6-3 when the Buckeye offense finally found some consistency in the passing game and that led to a touchdown. After struggling early, quarterback C.J. Stroud completed passes of 16 yards to tight end Jeremy Ruckert, 13 yards to Garrett Wilson and 18 yards to Jaxon Smith-Njigba. The success in the passing game loosened up the Tulsa defense and allowed Henderson to find a hole to go the last 12 yards on the ground for the touchdown to put Ohio State up 10-6.
Both offenses sputtered through the second quarter. Ohio State finally got on the scoreboard again with 47 seconds remaining in the half and settled for a 44-yard field goal by Ruggles to make the half time score an unimpressive 13-6.
As dull as the first half was, the opening of he second half was something to see. On the Buckeyes’ first possession, Henderson bolted 48 yards for his second touchdown of the day to put Ohio State up 20-6.
Then things got bogged down again. Tulsa’s next two possesions resulted in punts. Ohio State did worse. Their next possession was a punt and their second possession produced a fumble by Stroud when he was sacked. Tulsa recovered near mid-field and drove to a touchdown in just five plays, the scoring play coming on a 21-yard touchdown pass to make the score 20-13.
It looked like Tulsa was seizing the momentum, but Henderson made that a short-lived notion. On the third play from scrimmage after the Tulsa touchdown, Henderson went 48 yards to put the Buckeyes on top 27-13.
It now looked like Ohio State had the momentum, but Tulsa answered the Ohio State touchdown with one of its own, this time on a 22-yard touchdown pass.
The Buckeye defense needed a statement play to slow down Tulsa. They got just what they needed from an unlikely source. True freshman defensive lineman Tyleik Williams made a rare appearance in the game and made the most of his opportunity by producing a sack for a 17-yard loss to end a Tulsa drive. Following the punt, Ohio State took over in good field position at the 36 yard line. Eight plays later Stroud tossed a touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson to make the score 34-20 with 3:07 left to play in the game.
The scoring was completed on the next Tulsa possession when Ohio State redshirt freshman defensive back Cameron Martinez intercepted a pass and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown to make the final score 41-20, Buckeyes.