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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Michael Chen

The day after: Thoughts following Ohio State’s road victory over Rutgers

It was another four quarter battle for Ohio State Football, but like every other contest this season, the Buckeyes managed to come out on top, defeating host Rutgers, 35-16.

Running back TreVeyon Henderson was the hero, for the second week in-a-row he accounted for over 200 yards from scrimmage — finding the end zone once. More on him in a bit.

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Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. caught only four passes, but two of them went for scores. More on him in a bit also. The Buckeye defense gave up its second-highest point total of the season, but as you will find out, it wasn’t as bad as you’d think.

As I do every Sunday following an Ohio State game, there are still plenty of Buckeye thoughts running through my mind. Here they are.

Henderson is a beast


The junior running back has been absolutely awesome this season, it was clear that he’s the engine that gets this run game going. The offensive line still doesn’t get a consistent push, but Henderson’s elite vision and cutback ability make it seem like that unit isn’t an issue.

Over the last two games, 28 touches against Wisconsin and then 27 yesterday, my only concern with him at the moment is usage and the potential of injury, which seemingly haunts Henderson every season.

Kyle McCord is what he is


At this point of the season, either a player has made marked improvements, or he has peaked and are what they are, which is where the Ohio State signal caller lands. McCord is solid, but not spectacular, we have been spoiled by his predecessors.

At this moment, he’s not a game changer, more of a game manager. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that McCord isn’t having those wow moments that we’ve been accustomed to seeing from Buckeye quarterbacks. All he does is win, and we all will take that every time.

Can’t afford a change at quarterback


Like always, internet coaches want the backup, especially at quarterback, to play. We don’t see practice every day, so we have no idea how the coaches go about picking their guy. What we do know is that Devin Brown is hobbled by an ankle injury, and Lincoln Kienholz is a true freshman.

Maybe the chatter of seeing someone else during the early parts of the year make sense, but with game No. 10 on the horizon, it just doesn’t make sense to try and change up the position. Could a change happen in the offseason? Sure, but at this point, it makes the most sense to ride or die with McCord.

What happened to the rest of the receivers?


This has some to do with McCord and some to do with the play calling, but the “deepest room in college football” hasn’t produced like it. This group caught 11 passes for just 85 yards, its long reception being 22 yards.

Yes, this Rutgers secondary was very good, but the Buckeye receivers just couldn’t get anything going. True freshman Carnell Tate led the team in yardage, and if Harrison Jr.’s Superman impersonation doesn’t happen, the line looks even worse. This group has to play better.

The reluctance to play young players


Aside from the secondary, Ohio State seems very hesitant to play its younger players. Tate got some run, but has earned much more, especially over Julian Fleming, who once again, underperformed. There was chatter all summer about offensive lineman Luke Montgomery pushing for first team reps, but he has yet to see the field. Running back Dallan Hayden has earned more time, but he also didn’t see any on Saturday.

Walk-on tight end Patrick Gurd got into the game, but not freshman Jelani Thurman who also showed well during the spring. I understand not playing younger players if the Buckeyes recruiting was average, but that’s not the case. Day has to do a better job of getting freshman prepared to contribute right away.

Defense continues to impress


Rutgers ran on the Buckeyes, more than I thought they would, but 45 yards of the 232 yards gained were on a trick play. Take that play away, and the Buckeyes gave up just 187 yards on 42 carries, an average of 4.45 per attempt. You can live with that, especially when the secondary allows just 129 yards.

Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg had a big game with 12 tackles, as did Cody Simon, Steele Chambers and Sonny Styles. Edge J.T. Tuimoloau also had an impressive performance, regardless of points allowed, this unit played very well.



Injuries are a huge part of football, but it seems like Ohio State gets bitten more often than other teams. Henderson missed time earlier this year, as has receiver Emeka Egbuka. Harrison Jr., tweaked his ankle while the top two quarterbacks have also been hobbled by an ankle injuries. Cornerback Denzel Burke has been in and out of the lineup the last few weeks.

Tight end Cade Stover didn’t play against Rutgers, wearing a noticeable brace on his right knee. Tuimoloau and Eichenberg got banged up this week, with Lathan Ransom getting held out again. The depth of this team is getting tested and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why the Buckeyes have suffered so many injuries.

They say football is a violent game.

Here comes the Son


It looks like Ohio State has officially kicked off it’s Harrison Jr. for Heisman campaign, but it might have been a week late. The star only caught 4 passes for 25 yards, but two of them did go for scores. The yardage total won’t help, but the points do. In my eyes, he’s the most talented player in the country, so Ohio State pushing this narrative makes plenty of sense.

Parker Fleming needs to go


It’s about time for Day to move on from Fleming, something he’s shown he’s not afraid to do when a coordinator is not getting the job done. Fleming isn’t, even if some of the mistakes aren’t necessarily his doing. The Jesse Mirco fake punt is a great example, the decision to do that deep in Rutgers territory should never be an option.

That’s on Fleming for teaching when to do it, and when not to. Yes, it wasn’t called, but we have seen massive misses by this group, especially last year against Georgia, which dearly cost the Buckeyes. The return game is non-existent, and with the kind of athletes on this team, that should not be the case. It’s time to move on from Fleming.

All goals are still there


All major goals are still there; conference championship, College Football Playoff berth, and a potential title shot. If the Buckeyes take care of business every week, it doesn’t matter how everyone else perceives this team. As I have continued to say almost every week, this looks very much like a classic Jim Tressel team. During his tenure it seemed like the Buckeyes would be on the verge of losing, but they’d pull it out. This team gives me 2002 vibes, and we all know how that ended up for Ohio State.

Contact/Follow @BuckeyesWire on X (formerly Twitter), and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Ohio State news, notes, and opinion. Follow Michael Chen on X.

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