COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State opened Big Ten play with a resounding 52-21 victory over Wisconsin, moving to 4-0 in the process. The Buckeyes got out of the gates quickly and dazzled the Badgers with a power run game, a helping of tight end Cade Stover and young cornerbacks who held up well given the circumstances.
Ground and Pound
The ground game took center stage against Wisconsin as Ohio State toted the pigskin a season-high 43 times. Both TreVeyon Henderson (121 yards) and Miyan Williams (101) went over the 100-yard plateau, but it was more about showing physical superiority and toughness, things the Buckeyes have done in spurts this season but not consistently. It was the first time since 2020 that OSU had two runners each break 100 rushing yards (Trey Sermon and Justin Fields). The Buckeyes tallied 258 ground yards, averaging six yards per carry.
“I think you can see what this team is made of,” Day said. I think we’ve shown in the first four games what we can do, what we’re capable of. The big challenge in college football, is you have to bring it every week and that’s the competitive standard we’ve been talking about.”
Henderson showed his elusiveness and wiggle on a number of inside runs, while Williams was more of the battering ram, running to and through contact on his way to a pair of touchdowns. It’s an excellent combination, and shows that receiver isn’t the only place where the Buckeyes have an embarrassment of riches.
“I think it’s just the mentality of we know how long the season’s going to be,” Day said. “When you have two guys that you can go back and forth, back and forth, who are unselfish, who understand what it means to be a team, that’s the key.
“If it starts to become ‘What are my carries? What are my touchdowns? What are my runs?’, then it doesn’t work. TreVeyon and Miyan both have been excellent. TreVeyon’s energy before the game was off the chart; you could just feel it. I felt it in warmups, I felt it in the locker room, I felt it coming out of the locker room, and then he ran that way. He just ran hard, he ran physical, he ran with energy, and so did Miyan. Miyan ran hard. Hats off to the offensive line and tight ends; I thought they really moved the line of scrimmage today against a good defense.”
It’s still early in the season, but it’s nice to know that the Buckeyes have a ground game it can lean on as that will be needed as the weather changes late in the season.
Another Weapon Emerges
While fans go giddy over the talents of receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, tight end Cade Stover has quietly emerged as a vital part of the offense.
In recent years, tight end at Ohio State has basically been an extra lineman, but Stover has changed that. He has caught at least two passes in every game this season, netting 12 for the year. His ability to run after the catch, with a combination of speed and power, is something the Buckeyes have learned to take full advantage of.
Stover caught his first career touchdown pass against Wisconsin midway through the first quarter, then added a second a bit later in the contest. Quarterback C.J. Stroud showed his confidence in the senior from Lexington, targeting him six times.
“Cade is definitely a Swiss army knife – he can run, he can block as well,” Stroud said. “He can really do anything. It’s amazing to see his work pay off. He’s one of the first people who took me under his wing when I first got to school and he’s an even better person than a football player.”
Stover has been all over the place in his time with the Buckeyes, playing linebacker and defensive end before settling in as a playmaking tight end. His 12 catches and 188 yards are both third-best on the team, no mean feat considering just how loaded Ohio State receiver room is.
Just as Stroud feels comfortable looking to Stover, the 6-4, 255-pounder is in sync with the signal-caller.
“To be able to play with that guy, that makes things a lot easier for everybody,” Stover said. “We come from different sides of the world, but we have the same mindset on everything. And that’s a tough kid. That’s a dude that 20 years from now, if he needs something, the phone is getting picked up and I’m going to get it done, whatever he needs. That’s just kind of the bond we’ve created here.”
Taking On The Challenge
Injuries have ravaged Ohio State’s secondary, leaving the Buckeyes with three scholarship cornerbacks entering the game against the Badgers. Starters Cameron Brown and Denzel Burke were unavailable, leaving true freshman Jyaire Brown and redshirt freshman JK Johnson to handle cornerback duties.
Maybe it helped that Wisconsin is more of a running team, but both players held up well and earned respect and praise after the game. Both players have size (six feet) and are lanky and long-armed, and each seemed receptive to playing in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ scheme. A lot is asked of corners, and for the pair to do as well as they did speaks to the talent the Buckeyes have in the secondary.
“Jyaire and JK have been practicing,” Day said. “We told them right before the game that everybody on the team believes in them and we do. They had no fear, and they went out there and played, and they did a really good job. I don’t know what the film’s going to show, but I know they competed. I thought (cornerbacks coach) Tim Walton did a really good job getting them ready. I’m proud of those guys to be able to win a conference game with them in there.”
Johnson made four tackles while Brown had one stop and a pass breakup. But beyond the numbers, neither gave up a backbreaking play. Wisconsin receivers averaged just 8.7 yards per catch, with only one grab over 20 yards.
For their part, Brown’s and Johnson’s teammates were not the least bit worried about the untested pair starting for the first time.
“We trust Jyaire Brown and JK Johnson,” said linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, who led the team with 14 stops. “They did a great job. Going forward, we need to do our jobs, no matter who’s back there. We are confident in those guys – we are confident in anyone we put out there.”
Knowing that they have quality depth behind Cam Brown and Burke will serve the Buckeyes well down the stretch.