The pass, arching in the afternoon sky like a rainbow, landed in the hands of Chris Olave.
It was late in the first quarter of Michigan State’s 56-7 clubbing against Michigan State on Saturday when Olave passed Marqui Lowery, a transfer cornerback for the Spartans, and headed for the Ohio Stadium’s southern end area.
Stretching his arms out slightly, he returned the ball thrown by quarterback CJ Stroud in a striking display of the Buckeyes’ passing prowess.
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But it was also a record for Olave, a 43-yard touchdown that marked the 35th of his career and put him past David Boston as the school’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions.
Olave had been on the cusp of the record for weeks, set by Boston in 1998 when he completed his three seasons with the Buckeyes.
Since being held without a catch in a victory over Tulsa in September, Olave had caught at least one touchdown in every game, including multi-touchdown efforts in wins over Maryland and Rutgers.
His record push started early against Michigan State. To cap off the Buckeyes’ first shot, Stroud passed between two defenders to find Olave as he crossed the goal line for a 23-yard touchdown that pulled him tied with Boston.
Finishing with seven receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns, it was a Senior Day performance worthy of a decorated career. Olave was among 24 fourth-year players who were featured ahead of kick-off as part of the festivities.
In addition to his pair of touchdowns, Olave also established a touchdown early in the second quarter when he landed a difficult over-the-shoulder catch to position the Buckeyes on the Spartans’ 1-yard line.
In the next game, Stroud passed the baton to running back Miyan Williams, who ran into the end zone, giving Ohio State a comfortable 35-0 lead.
Olave missed the second half with several other starters in attack.
Noah Ruggles is no longer perfect
It took 11 games before kicker Noah Ruggles missed a field goal for Ohio State.
After the Buckeyes’ opener second-half practice stalled at the edge of the red zone, Ruggles came out for a 38-yard field goal try and pushed him wide to the right.
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Ruggles had made his previous 16 attempts this season and was named one of 20 semi-finalists for the Lou Groza Award as the country’s top kicker.
He gave the Buckeyes big wins in wins over Nebraska and Penn State over the past month, scoring four field goals in the two wins. He hit a 46-yard season against the Cornhuskers.
A transfer from North Carolina, his latest misfire came in North Carolina state in late 2019 when a 55-yard attempt was called off.
Seasonal decline in attendance
Ohio State finished with an average home attendance of 96,756 this season after drawing an advertised crowd of 101,858 against Michigan State.
With the exception of last season, when tickets were not sold to the general public due to the coronavirus pandemic, this was the Buckeyes’ lowest level since an average of 93,456 in 1999, before the expansion of the Ohio stadium.
The Buckeyes drew at least 100,000 in four of their seven home games in 2021, but were down just 76,540 in their non-conference game against Tulsa, their smallest crowd since 1971. They average 100,125 in the six more games.
Sevyn Banks absent
The Buckeyes were without cornerback Sevyn Banks, who was sidelined from the Spartans with an undisclosed injury.
Banks was on the list of decisions made during the game in the pre-match situation report, but did not warm up and appeared to be ruled out long before kick-off. It was presented on Seniors’ Day and stood on the sidelines in formal attire.
At the start of the season, Banks was limited due to a knee injury, but had started since late September.
Cameron Brown took his starting spot against rookie Denzel Burke.
Moment for Master Teague
As the crowd chanted his last name ahead of the snap at the end of the fourth quarter, running back Master Teague rushed for a three-yard touchdown.
Teague was back on the field for the Buckeyes after missing three of the last four games with an undisclosed injury, including last week’s win over Purdue.
On his return, he ran a season-high 21 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. It was perhaps Teague’s last home game as the fourth-year junior was featured as part of the senior day.
Second-year wide receiver Julian Fleming returned the kickoffs for the Buckeyes in place of Emeka Egbuka.
Fleming’s inexperience manifested itself when he was slow to pick up the ball on the opening kick and only returned it to the 14-yard line.
He seemed more at ease on offense early in the second quarter when he caught a 4-yard touchdown, his first career goal.
First-year quarterback Quinn Ewers made his season debut with 1:20 to play. He passed Robert Cope twice for gains of 2 yards.
The college football playoff schedule
Here are the dates you need to know for the College Football Playoff:
- Featured Show: Noon December 5 on ESPN
- Cotton Bowl: 3:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. December 31 on ESPN
- Orange Bowl: 3:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., December 31 on ESPN
- College Football Playoff National Championship Game: 8:00 p.m. Monday, January 10, 2022 on ESPN
The college football qualifying ranking
- Georgia 10-0
- Alabama 9-1
- Oregon 9-1
- Ohio State 9-1
- Cincinnati 10-0
- Michigan 9-1
- Michigan State 9-1
- Notre-Dame 9-1
- Oklahoma State 9-1
- Wake Forest 9-1
- Baylor 8-2
- Olé Miss 8-2
- Oklahoma 9-1
- BYU 8-2
- Wisconsin 7-3
- Texas A&M 7-3
- Iowa 8-2
- Pittsburgh 8-2
- San Diego State 9-1
- NC State 7-3
- Arkansas 7-3
- UTSA 10-0
- Utah 7-3
- Houston 9-1
- Mississippi State
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Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @brdispatch.