Behind TreVeyon Henderson's record day, Ohio State Buckeyes top Tulsa 41-20
Ohio State remains very much a team with question marks, but one of them was answered definitely in the Buckeyes' 41-20 victory Saturday over stubborn Tulsa.
The identity of the team's top running back is not in doubt.
In his first start, TreVeyon Henderson ran for 277 yards in 24 carries, breaking Archie Griffin's school record for freshmen of 239 yards set in 1972.
A crowd of 76,540, the smallest Ohio Stadium attendance in 50 years – excluding last year – watched Henderson rip off touchdown runs of 5, 48 and 52 yards.
"He's someone who can hit home runs, and that's special," said Ohio State coach Ryan Day. "That's a whole different dynamic."
The No. 9 Buckeyes (2-1) needed that kind of performance against Tulsa (0-3), a 26-point underdog.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud struggled a week after throwing for 484 yards in a loss to Oregon. He completed only 15 of 25 passes for 185 with an interception. Stroud didn't throw a touchdown pass until Garrett Wilson caught a 12-yarder with just over 3 minutes left to put the game out of reach.
Redshirt freshman Cam Martinez then returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown a minute later to make the final margin deceptive.
"Still a lot of things to work on on both sides of the ball," Day said. "But some steps in the right direction on a long journey."
Ohio State's defense, under the microscope all week, was a mixed bag. With defensive backs coach Matt Barnes making the defensive calls and coordinator Kerry Coombs working from the booth instead of the field, the Buckeyes held Tulsa without a touchdown in the first half and was mostly stout against the run. OSU allowed only 2.6 yards per carry for the game.
But the Golden Hurricane was able to keep Ohio State's offense off the field for long chunks with its passing game. Davis Brin threw for 428 yards on 31-of-54 passing.
That allowed Tulsa to stay in the game when it appeared several times that the Buckeyes were on the verge of landing a knockout punch. The first came after Henderson's first second-half touchdown run.
But after the Buckeyes' defense made a stop, Tulsa stripped Stroud of the ball on a sack at midfield, and the Hurricane scored six plays later on a 21-yard catch by Cannon Montgomery, Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery's son.
Henderson answered that with his 52-yard score, but the Golden Hurricane responded with another touchdown drive to make it 27-20 with 12 minutes left.
Ohio State then had to punt after what would have been Chris Olave's first catch of the day – a 47-yarder – was nullified by a face-mask penalty on right guard Paris Johnson Jr.
Tulsa drove to the Ohio State 46 before freshman Tyleik Williams sacked Brin for a 17-yard loss on third-and-7. That really proved to be Tulsa's last gasp.
Tulsa exploited the Buckeyes' young secondary and lack of pass rush for scoring drives of 81 and 62 yards, totaling 30 plays, but settled for field goals each time. Montgomery elected to kick on fourth-and-1 from the Ohio State 3 on Tulsa's first possession. He also kicked on fourth-and-4 from the Buckeyes' 13.
The Buckeyes' offense was out of sync for most of the first 30 minutes. Stroud was off-target on some early throws. Olave dropped a pass on which Stroud nicely escaped the pocket.
Ohio State's first score came in the final minute of the first quarter on a 43-yard field goal by Noah Ruggles. The Buckeyes finally took the lead midway through the second quarter on a quick-tempo six-play, 64-yard drive. Stroud completed three passes for 47 yards, and Henderson carried twice for the final 17 yards.
That gave the Buckeyes a 10-6 lead and it looked as if they had asserted control. Instead, Stroud threw an interception into triple coverage at the Tulsa 25.
The Buckeyes appeared to have gotten another prime scoring chance when Denzel Burke wrested the ball from receiver Sam Crawford on the Golden Hurricane's ensuing possession, but the interception was ruled a catch on replay review.
Tulsa then punted, but the reversal cost the Buckeyes 47 yards of field position. Ohio State's drive ended with Olave's drop, and Ruggles kicked a 44-yard field goal to give the Buckeyes a 13-6 halftime lead.