COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State had 538 yards of total offense on 54 plays against Arkansas State. Even without starting wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and veterans Julian Fleming, and Kam Babb, Ohio State’s pass game showed out.
Ohio State’s pass game got back on track on Saturday in its win against Arkansas State, after a somewhat uncharacteristic performance against Notre Dame last weekend. While the quality of opponent was higher last week and it was a different style defensively, there’s no doubt that the pass game performance and high powered offense shown on Saturday is a confidence booster for the Buckeyes moving forward, erasing any concerns raised by its slow start.
Although head coach Ryan Day said the Buckeyes needed to learn to win a game with their run game and defense, he was happy with what he saw from C.J. Stroud and his offense in being able to light up the pass game. But most importantly, he was happy his team could once again find the balance they needed.
“They [Arkansas State] were aggressive and they were going to stop our run and that’s the balance that we’re looking for,” Day said. “If you’re going to try to stop the run then we have to be able to throw the ball and vise versa. I think with two games you’ve seen that.”
“There were some good things there in the pass game today,” Day added.
Stroud completed 16 of his 24 passes for 351 yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers, returning to his Heisman Trophy finals ways. All four of his touchdown passes went for over 30 yards. Against Notre Dame, his longest pass went for 31 yards.
Marvin Harrison Jr. caught two 42-yard touchdowns and another 30-yard touchdown. He led the receiving corp with seven receptions for 184 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 23.6 yards per catch.
As an offense, Ohio State averaged 10 yards per attempt, just behind the record of 10.3 yards set in 2021 against Minnesota.
Even in a game where the Buckeyes were only up 15 at halftime, its explosive offense on the first drive of the third quarter made the statement that the Ohio State offense has founds its groove.
Stroud came out of halftime and threw a 44-yard pass to Emeka Egbuka and ended the three-play drive with a 23-yard TreVeyon Henderson rushing touchdown. He went 75 yards in just over a minute.
While Ohio State was a bit inconsistent offensively, flowing between four three-and-out possessions and then possessions that resulted in touchdowns, often in less than a minute, it showed its quick strike ability and it was big play after big play for Stroud.
“A defense like this, it’s maybe not as high of a completion percentage, but then all of the sudden one goes for 60 or 40 and you have these big plays — and that was kind of the theme today,” Day said.
Stroud completed passes for 51 yards, 45 yards, 42 yards, another 42-yarder, 35 yards, and 30 yards. Most of his scoring drives were around three plays, just over a minute long.
The Buckeyes started the game by picking up where they left off — with the run game. Day and his staff called three straight runs before going into the air. Henderson rushed for 41 yards, Xaiver Johnson recorded two receptions, and the 96-yard drive was capped with 42-yard touchdown thrown by Stroud over the middle to Harrison Jr. on a crossing pattern. He took it away to the end zone with his speed.
That drive featuring four pass attempts for 50 yards and four rushes for 46 yards gave Ohio State the balanced offense it was looking for.
“I think that’s important is that when we’re starting drives, we get a couple of easy completions, we get those first downs, then we start to roll,” Day said.
It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it showed the Ohio State pass game is powerful as ever. After being able to win with the run last week, and with a more balanced approach this week, Ohio State certainly erased any concerns about its ability to produce.
Photo via Ohio State Buckeyes.