COLUMBUS – A lot of other people are talking about it so Ryan Day did too at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Ohio State’s running game, that is.
The questions start with what has happened to OSU’s once irrepressible running game the last two weeks. It might not have fallen off a cliff in close wins over Penn State and Nebraska, but it has at least dropped off a mound.
There have been questions about whether quarterback C.J. Stroud isn’t running often enough and also also if freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson is being asked to run the football too often.
Ohio State (8-1, 6-0 Big Ten) plays Purdue (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Ohio Stadium and will be trying to remain the only unbeaten team in conference games in the Big Ten East Division.
OSU averaged 3.0 yards per carry and gained 90 yards rushing in a 26-17 win over Nebraska last Saturday. If you subtract Henderson’s 68-yard run in the second half against Penn State, the Buckeyes averaged 2.9 yards a carry the rest of that game two weeks ago.
Stroud has run the ball three times or fewer in six games and did not have a rushing attempt against Penn State.
Henderson averaged 11.3 rushes in OSU’s first seven games and has had 28 carries for 152 yards and 21 carries for 92 yards the last two games.
“The run game is something we’re going to work on this week and try to figure out how to be more efficient in those areas,” Day said.
“We’re playing against some good defenses but we could do a better job of execution. I don’t think it is one thing across the board. What you see is one guy a little bit off here, a little bit off there. We watched the film (of the Nebraska game) as a group and it was like, ‘If this guy makes that block, look at what could happen here.’ But we didn’t,” he said.
Talking about Stroud, he said, “He’s very competitive and he can run. You’ve seen him do it before. In the game it’s finding the right time to do it, to duck your head in there and get four or five. That’s all part of playing the position. I played the position and know it’s not easy. I think the more he plays the better he’s going to feel in those spots and the more confident he’ll be.”
Running the quarterback is not a pillar of Day’s offense, though.
“Guys have run here before and when it’s appropriate we do. But also it’s clear we don’t run it as often as some other places. I tell people that when we’re recruiting. We’re not going to run you into the ground and get you hurt,” he said.
“It’s a long season and we have really good players on offense. When the time is right you’ve got to do it, but at the same time putting our guys at risk in a long season is not something we do here. I believe strongly in that and the quarterback position is a very important position.”
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who followed Day to the podium at the press conference, said Ohio State’s coaches have not told Stroud not to run. But he said the shoulder injury that Stroud had earlier in the season might have played a role in how often he has run the ball.
“With the shoulder we were trying to minimize some hits,” Wilson said.
Addressing Henderson’s workload, Day said, “I think he’s running hard and that’s good. There are times when you have to make a guy miss and times when you have to make a hard, ugly three or four and turn that into five or six. He’s learning, he’s getting stronger. I’ve been impressed with how he has been able to handle the number of carries. Whether we have that happen again this week, we’ll see.”
NOTES: – WILSON RETURNS: Wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who missed last week’s game because of an
injury, was scheduled to return to practice on Tuesday and is expected to play Saturday. – MILLER STILL SUSPENDED: Third-team quarterback Jack Miller will probably be suspended at least until the end of this week after being arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated last weekend.
“That’s just to get more information about how things are going to be handled and what the conclusions and findings of everything are, just making sure we have all the information about how we’ll move forward,” Day said. – FRONT FOUR PRAISE: “Our D-line is playing at a higher level,” Day said. – YOUNG RECEIVERS: With Wilson staying home last Saturday, young receivers like Julian Fleming and Marvin Harrison Jr. got more playing time than usual.
Both were targeted six times and had two catches.
“It was great to get Marvin and Julian out there. They both, I thought, played well for not having played a whole bunch. They both have really bright futures here. You’re seeing what the future is going to be like at receiver and it’s very bright,” Day said.
– DEFENSIVE INJURIES: Starting defensive tackle Haskell Garrett played only 12 snaps and starting linebacker Teradja Mitchell was on the field for only 11 snaps against Nebraska. Day said both were battling injuries.