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Henderson, Elite Defense Helps Ohio State Dominate Minnesota

A near-perfect defensive effort and a massive game from TreVeyon Henderson help Ohio State over Minnesota get to 11-0 for a second consecutive year.
Ohio State Minnesota

For the first time since 2019, Ohio State finished a full, non-COVID season perfect at home. From the get-go, Ohio State was in control but a near-perfect start to the second half gave the boost they needed to coast to a 37-3 win. For the 12th straight time, Ohio State dispatched Minnesota.

The game started off a tad slow. The Buckeye offense only managed 13 points in the first half as a whole and squandered several opportunities in the red zone. But an elite defensive performance, yet again, guided the Buckeyes to their 11th win of the year.

In a game of few actual mistakes (Ohio State only punted twice and once was when the game was in hand), the red zone offense continues to be concerning. While they walked away with points on all five red zone trips, two were field goals where the offense stalled. This may be good enough for Minnesota, but the next two, three, or four opponents the Buckeyes may face will be too good to beat without touchdowns.

Massive Day From Buckeye Stars Lead Ohio State Past Minnesota

A Burst of Speed

The most impressive thing about this game from the offense was the fact that TreVeyon Henderson is beginning to look like TreVeyon Henderson again. His performance was reminiscent of his first-career game where he took his first-ever touch as a college player 70 yards for a score.

In this game, Henderson ran the ball 15 times for a whopping 146 yards and two touchdowns. Half of that yardage came on the first play in the second half as he scampered 75 yards for an easy score. That carry was his last in the game.

In the world of advanced analytics, there is a stat called Run Success Rate. In essence, it’s a way to see if a runner is getting a good amount of yards to stay ahead of the chains. For a run to be “successful”, the runner needs to gain 40% of the yards to gain on first down, 60% on second, and 100% on third and fourth down.

Henderson was successful on 10 of his 15 rushes (66.6%). On first down, he was successful on 62.5%. On second down, 60%. Finally, he was a perfect two-for-two on third down.

He also added a pair of catches out of the backfield for 26 yards.

Since returning from injury against Wisconsin, Henderson has run for 517 yards and five touchdowns in four games. His current run of dominant football looks like he’s hitting his stride ala Ezekiel Elliott‘s run in 2014. Needless to say, Henderson is going to be crucial the rest of the way for Ohio State.

Full Arsenal of Weapons

Kyle McCord was not his best self as he was last week against Michigan State. He missed several throws and overthrew his receivers a few times in the red zone, contributing to those aforementioned issues. Despite that, he has his full wealth of toys to play with and finished with 212 yards and two scores off of 20/30 passing.

Possibly taking a hit to his Heisman campaign, Marvin Harrison, Jr. managed just 30 yards and a touchdown off of three receptions. He did not get many targets on the day and it stifled the ceiling of the offense. That number could have been better if not for a toe-drag on the sideline that was called incomplete.

The leading receiver as Ohio State beat Minnesota was actually the fully-healthy, Emeka Egbuka. It was obvious when Egbuka was not 100% the past few weeks. In this one, Egbuka was his normal explosive self and hauled in five passes for 83 yards. His catch-and-run ability was on full display yet again and will be a massive part of the game plan moving forward.

As McCord goes through his progressions, there have been moments where he does not feel confident enough to uncork it for Harrison, so he dumps it off to Egbuka or tight end, Cade Stover. With this added wrinkle, it’s going to make Michigan et al a bit more apprehensive to send the house.

Stover was his “Farmer Gronk” self, commanding the seams and muscling his way for extra yards. On the day, the captain finished with 26 yards and a score off of four receptions.

If Ohio State can remedy its red zone issues, this offense will be as good as it’s been in recent memory.

Silver Bullets Keep Reloading

In a game with just three points conceded due to a 54-yard field goal, the defense was the star yet again.

It was a Jack Sawyer legacy game. The talented junior edge rusher notched six tackles on the day..3.5 of which were for loss. He also added a massive strip-sack in the third quarter which was nearly taken for a score by Jaylahn Tuimoloau. The Ohio State faithful (and NFL Draft scouts) were waiting on a game like this from Sawyer and he ended up a big reason this defense played as lights out as it did.

On the day, Minnesota managed a grand total of 159 yards (89 passing, 70 rushing). It was the third time Ohio State held an opponent under 100 yards passing and the seventh time on the ground. The defense didn’t allow a touchdown for the third time this year. All three of those examples also happened last week, so this Ohio State defense is playing its best ball at the right time.

To turn the rush success stat on its head, this defense forced a 40% rush success rate. On first down, 50% of runs were successful. On second down, only 37.5% were successful, whereas 20% (ie, one run) were on third down.

B.I.A is B.A.C.K

Not to be outdone by the front seven, the Ohio State secondary played one of its best games of the year. Jordan Hancock added yet another interception to his breakout performance and was very nearly able to score a second touchdown. Davison Igbinosun was lock-down in coverage and Denzel Burke made a handful of great open-field tackles.

The secondary was able to hold Athan Kaliakmanis to just 89 yards on 4.9 yards per attempt. Heading into this game, Minnesota was not one of the elite passing attacks in the Big Ten. Even then, they were passing 158 yards per game and they couldn’t even get close to that in this one. To compare it to another elite Big Ten East defense, he managed just 52 yards but scored against Michigan.

The defense was able to take advantage of the Minnesota mistakes and made sure this game was never in doubt. All year, they’ve been elite and it looks like they’re peaking at the right time.

Nearly Flawless Victory

There will always be something to complain or nit-pick about when it comes to Ohio State’s Minnesota victory. With The Game looming next week against an undefeated, top-three rival, the stress level in Columbus is approaching nuclear levels.

Regardless, almost every phase of Ohio State’s game is looking good and ready to compete for a title. If the weakest link of a team is a quarterback who has thrown for 2,900 yards and 22 touchdowns while completing 66.3% of his passes and only four interceptions, you’re doing okay.

Ohio State completes the home slate unblemished. They sent off their seniors (and NFL Draft-bound juniors) in style. 11 games, 11 wins.

Ohio State Minnesota
Photo courtesy: Clare Grant/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK


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