Football: Five takeaways from then-No. 3 Ohio State’s 49-20 win over Michigan State

Ohio State fourth-year linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) high fives a young Michigan State fan following No. 3 Ohio State’s (6-0) 49-20 win over Michigan State (2-4) in East Lansing. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

The Ohio State football team marched into East Lansing, Michigan, and came away with a 49-20 win Saturday, continuing its nine-game win streak at Spartan Stadium. Ohio State handed Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker his third consecutive loss to the Buckeyes by 28 points or more. 

Third-year quarterback C.J. Stroud threw for six touchdowns, tying his personal best following a career-low game against Rutgers Oct. 1, effectively cementing himself as a viable candidate for a trip to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December. 

Second-year receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.’s three touchdowns now mark him as the only wideout in Ohio State history to catch three touchdowns in three different games. 

Here are five takeaways from the Buckeyes’ sixth win of the season.

Secondary is still figuring it out

Despite occasionally being on the wrong end of ESPN’s weekly “Monday Night Countdown” “You got Mossed” segment, Ohio State fans have seen a spoil of riches in its secondary over the years. 

In recent memory, the 2016 trio of former defensive backs Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Malik Hooker serves as a reminder of how crucial causing turnovers through the air is, as they tallied 21 interceptions on the year — the most Ohio State’s had in a single season since 2014.

The tandem of Ohio State’s outside cornerbacks saw highs and lows yesterday, as Michigan State redshirt senior wideout Jayden Reed beat second-year cornerback JK Johnson on a backside shoulder fade in the second quarter, narrowing the deficit to one score. 

But where the corners are still improving, the safety trio of fifth-year Josh Proctor, fourth-year Ronnie Hickman and third-year Lathan Ransom has consistently proved to be a security blanket for the defense.

That was on display Saturday, as Ransom tallied the first interception of his career on Spartans redshirt senior quarterback Payton Thorne’s second throw of the day, holding Thorne to just 113 yards on 11 completions. 

Henderson runs well in his return but exits for precautionary reasons 

Ohio State second-year running back TreVeyon Henderson (32) prepares to enter Spartan Stadium during No. 3 Ohio State’s (6-0) 49-20 win over Michigan State (2-4) Saturday. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

Second-year running back TreVeyon Henderson got back on the football field Saturday after missing the matchup against Rutgers Week 5, rushing for 118 yards and his first touchdown since Week 3.

Henderson received 18 carries in the first half, welcoming himself back on his first attempt that went for 26 yards on Ohio State’s first offensive drive of the game. He punched in a 1-yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter, and recorded four runs of at least 10 yards.

After his first carry of the second half, Henderson exited the field after being tackled, and the Spartans defender hit his helmet on the Buckeye running back’s right knee. First-year running back Dallan Hayden entered the game and ran for 70 yards on 14 carries, and head coach Ryan Day said Ohio State held Henderson out the remainder of the game as a precaution.

Third-year running back Miyan Williams — who tied the program record with five rushing touchdowns against Rutgers — didn’t make the trip to East Lansing and was unavailable due to an injury.

Ohio State’s running back room, and team overall, has seen knicks and bruises force a number of players to spend time on the sidelines. The Buckeyes are making do, however, as they ran for over 237 yards for the fourth-straight game.

Front seven finding its rhythm

Ohio State second-year defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. (51) celebrates a sack with Ohio State fourth-year linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) during No. 3 Ohio State’s (6-0) win over Michigan State (2-4). Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

The touted edge rushmen at Ohio State is a staple of the Silver Bullets defense under defensive line coach Larry Johnson, but the interior group has found itself much improved in the 2022 campaign. 

Defensive tackle second-year Mike Hall Jr.’s 2.5 sacks and fifth-year Taron Vincent’s 5-yard tackle for loss against the Spartans proved Michigan State’s struggle against the line. 

Fourth-year defensive end Zach Harrison’s move to the interior is not going unnoticed either, as his impact has been felt up front. The emergence of defensive tackles graduate Jerron Cage and second-year Tyleik Williams has been a pleasant surprise for the line as well, as Cage tallied a sack versus the Spartans, and Williams was eating up space. 

The linebackers have undoubtedly been Ohio State’s most notable improvement this season, with fourth-years Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers plugging gaps left and right.

Eichenberg tallied eight tackles — now at 50 through six games compared to 64 last year — and half a sack in Saturday’s game.

With linebacker play having hindered the defense in recent years, fans can rejoice knowing the 2022 linebacker group has improved from where it was a season ago.

Bye week will serve Ohio State well

After six straight weeks of football, featuring five home games and three primetime slots, the Buckeyes will be happy to be undefeated heading into their first bye week.

It’s no secret that Ohio State has been without key players in some of its recent matchups, and the lack of depth in certain areas has shown. There are indications players like Williams, third-year wide receiver Jaxon-Smith Njigba and second-year cornerback Jordan Hancock could possibly return for the Buckeyes Oct. 22 game against Iowa — the first time the teams have played since the Hawkeyes upset the then-No. 3 Buckeyes 55-24 in 2017 —  and the bye week will likely resolve some depth chart and injury speculation.

The bye week doesn’t just provide an opportunity for players to rest, but it allows the coaching staff some time to game plan for the latter half of the season, rather than who they’ll face in the coming week. 

Stroud, wideouts thriving despite Smith-Njigba’s injury

When Smith-Njigba took a hit from Notre Dame senior safety Brandon Joseph less than 10 minutes into Ohio State’s season, most wouldn’t have guessed it would be the beginning of a nagging hamstring injury that has effectively sidelined Smith-Njigba for the majority of his junior campaign. 

Despite the discourse and concerns, the wide receiver group and passing offense has been everything one could expect and more. By the end of the first quarter, Stroud was responsible for every touchdown scored, including a pick-six by Spartans sophomore cornerback Charles Brantley following a miscommunication between Stroud and second-year wide receiver Emeka Egbuka. The duo made up for it on the ensuing drive, as Stroud hit a wide open Egbuka for a 69-yard touchdown.

Day and the Buckeyes may not know what the return of Smith-Njigba will mean for the passing game or receiver room, but Ohio State’s offense has had little trouble scoring in his absence, leading the country with 48.8 points per game.

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