Rapid reaction: TreVeyon leads Buckeyes back to the future in win over Tulsa despite shaky pass D
History is cyclic, particularly in football. After spending much of the first 2 weeks of the season pursuing a wide-open, pass-heavy attack, Ohio State seemingly transitioned to some old-time Buckeyes football in Saturday’s 41-20 win over Tulsa, keyed mainly by true freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson. Henderson, who had entered the top 10 of OSU single game rushing performances by early in the fourth quarter, served notice of his dominance in his first career start.
He finished with 270 rushing yards, best ever by an OSU freshman and fourth best all time for the Buckeyes.
If this win over Tulsa indeed is a new beginning for OSU, it’ll be easy to mark the spot when the Buckeyes became TreVeyon’s team. After being outgained in the first half by Tulsa and holding a slim 13-6 lead, the Buckeyes forced a punt to open the second half, and then went for the kill. On 2nd-and-6 just across midfield, Henderson broke free for a 48 yard touchdown that extended OSU’s advantage to 20-6, and simultaneously marked his arrival as perhaps the featured standout on arguably the best offense in college football.
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It wasn’t always such a clarifying day for OSU.
OSU’s difficulty defending continued, although the usual issue, stopping the opponent’s ground game, was not to blame. It was passing this time — mirroring the 2020 season when Kerry Coombs’s defense allowed 400 passing yards on 3 different occasions. Tulsa eclipsed 200 yards passing in the first half, and 300 yards by the end of the third quarter. Tulsa QB Davis Brin looked like Trevor Lawrence or Mac Jones at times against a sluggish OSU secondary.
After punting on its opening possession, Ohio State watched Tulsa throw the ball down the field, amassing 75 of 81 yards on their first drive by air. The Golden Hurricane settled for a 22-yard field goal from Zack Long, giving them a 3-0 edge with 5:40 to go in the first quarter. OSU answered with its own lengthy drive, finishing in a 43-yard Noah Ruggles’ field goal with 0:57 left in the opening frame.
Another Tulsa drive then reached the OSU 13 yard line, before ending in a 31-yard field goal from Long, giving the Golden Hurricane a 6-3 edge with 10:47 left in the first half. It took OSU just 6 plays in slightly under 2 minutes to take a lead they would not relinquish, with Henderson reaching the end zone on a 5-yard dash for his second touchdown of the season. After an exchange of punts sandwiched around an interception thrown by CJ Stroud, State extended its lead on a 44-yard Ruggles’ kick 47 seconds before halftime. OSU led 13-6 at intermission, and after being gashed by the run over their first 2 games, held Tulsa to 13 rushing yards on 12 carries in the first half.
After Henderson’s 48-yard score opened up a 20-6 edge for the Buckeyes, Tulsa returned fire with a sack and forced fumble on Stroud and then a 21-yard scoring pass from Brin to Cannon Montgomery. The extra point narrowed OSU’s edge to 20-13 with 1:00 left to go in the third quarter.
Never to fear, Henderson answered with his second definitive run of the day three plays later, a 52-yard touchdown gallop on the final play of the third quarter that saw him eclipse the 200 yard rushing mark for the first time as a Buckeye. Given his eye-popping athleticism, it likely won’t be the last time. It is worth noting that Henderson’s first-half carries total eclipsed his mark from the first 2 games combined. And while Master Teague did see some time, the OSU starter from the first 2 games, Miyan Williams, did not.
Tulsa responded to Henderson’s third score of the day with another big-play pass, this time with Brin hitting Josh Johnson from 22 yards out to narrow the OSU lead to 27-20 with 12: 07 to play. OSU’s defense held a few minutes later, all but clinching victory.
The 2-1 Buckeyes will host 1-2 Akron next Saturday before returning to Big Ten play the following weekend at Rutgers. Tulsa fell to 0-3 and will host Arkansas State next, before opening its conference schedule the next week.