It’s been nearly 96 hours and much like WFNY’s own Andrew Schnitkey, I’m still not over The Game, specifically how the Ohio State Buckeyes dominated their biggest rival in a way that very few, if anyone, predicted. We can talk about how Dwayne Haskins somehow threw for 396 yards and six touchdowns against college football’s No. 1-ranked defense. We can talk about how Mike Weber ran for 96 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. We can talk about how Parris Campbell caught six passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, bringing him just 97 yards away from being just the fifth player in school history to reach the 1,000 receiving yards plateau. All of those performances are quite impressive, but I want to focus on wide receiver Chris Olave’s performance in The Game.
Prior to Saturday, there’s a good chance that the average Buckeye fan had never heard of Olave, or at least wasn’t familiar with him. A late addition to the 2018 class, the true freshman had an up-and-down first year at Ohio State. He didn’t really receive significant playing time until Austin Mack suffered a foot injury in the loss to Purdue a little over a month ago, an injury that might force him to miss the rest of the season. Olave was ready and prepared for the increased role. Even then, he had only caught three passes in three games following Mack’s injury.
“After that, the bye week came around and they kind of threw me in there, threw me in the rotation,” he said. “I just got to it and took the role, and that’s when it came around.”
Going into the regular-season finale against Michigan, he had totaled just five receptions for 70 yards in five (of a possible 11) games this season. Head coach Urban Meyer loved talking about the type of player Olave had already proven he was in his short time on campus during his weekly pressers, but Olave rarely ever got the chance to prove it during his first college season. Until this past Saturday.
He not only made a name for himself but was one of the main reasons the Buckeyes took care of business and dominated the Wolverines. He had just two receptions and touched the ball just three times, but he made sure to make sure all three times were meaningful and game-changing.
To start the scoring, Olave caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Haskins less than four minutes into the game to give Ohio State the lead, a lead that they would never give up. It was the true freshman’s first career touchdown as a Buckeye.
Then, nearly six minutes into the second quarter, the wideout caught yet another 24-yard touchdown pass from Haskins to give Ohio State its second touchdown of the day.
Although those were his only two catches in the game, Olave didn’t let that stop him from making plays. As Meyer has continuously alluded to, players must perform well on special teams before seeing the field on a regular basis, whether it be on offense or defense. The receiver did just that.
With a little less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Buckeyes holding a 34-19 lead, Olave blocked Michigan’s punt, which was returned by Sevyn Banks 33 yards for a touchdown. It not only gave Ohio State a 41-19 lead, basically putting the game away for good with over 19 minutes remaining, but it blew the roof off of The Shoe.1
Haskins and wide receiver Johnnie Dixon made sure to talk about the true freshman receiver following the game.
“You can see all the talent, all the skill in the world. Didn’t have an opportunity to play much this year,” Haskins said of Olave. “So when he got in there he made it matter. And he was really smooth, silky receiver. Makes a lot of plays, plays fast.”
“I told you all,” Dixon said of his comments that he made about Olave during the spring. “I don’t know y’all took me seriously or not, but the kid’s the truth. The kid’s the truth. He can play ball. I haven’t seen a freshman come in like that, like, ever. He was better than me, Parris (Campbell) and Terry (McLaurin), hands down.”
After Michigan had scored two touchdowns in the final 47 seconds of the first half to cut the lead to single digits, the Buckeyes knew that had to gain back the momentum in the third quarter. Olave’s punt block did just that.
“The end of the first half was kind of a mess,” he said. “We came out in the second half. We drove down and got a field goal, then the defense got a stop, got that punt block and it just shifted the whole game.”
Meyer knew that Greg Schiano’s play call and decision to go for the blocked punt was dangerous. A player would have to get to the punter within 2.1 seconds following the snap. With that said, the head coach believed that if anyone could, it was Olave.
“There’s very few that can get there, and he did it,” he said of the block.
“That’s the real deal. Comes from an incredible family. Came all the way across the country to be a Buckeye. And you could see right out of the jump when he started practicing, he’s got the ‘it.’”
A year ago, the true freshman had no idea how significant the rivalry truly was. One year later, he called it the “biggest game in sports history”, admitting that The Game is quite important.
“I didn’t know much, to be honest,” he said. “I got the Ohio State offer like midseason my senior year so I watched it last year and it was just like a regular game to me. But when I got here it all changed, my whole mindset, everything I thought about the game is all that. So I definitely know it’s the biggest rivalry now in sports history.”
Olave touched the ball just three times against Michigan. All three touches led to touchdowns. That’s not only perfect but very, very impressive. He made a mark on The Game, one that will be hard to forget. Even with so much impact in the game, it still hadn’t hit Olave immediately following the win.
“I don’t think so, to be honest,” the true freshman said. “I’m not really an ‘I’ guy, I’m kind of a team guy so I just wanted to do it for them.”
— Chris Olave (@chrisolave_) November 24, 2018
To make it even more special, it was the first game his entire family came to all season.
“For the first time (this season), my family came out from San Diego,” Olave said. “It’s been a blessing, and doing it for the seniors it’s been an honor.”
He’s thankful for his family, his teammates, his coaches, and for having the kind of special performance that will be remembered forever.
“I kind of dreamed for this my whole life and actually being put in the spotlight, it’s unreal,” Olave said. “So I thank my teammates and my coaches and everybody.
“Today is definitely unbelievable, it’s crazy to talk about,” he said after the game. “It’s definitely amazing. I’m just thankful for everything and I’m just thankful for all of the people around me. And I’m definitely thankful for my family.”
Legends are born in The Game. It seems as though Olave may be the next one in line to do just that. Ohio State’s wide receivers group will lose plenty of talent this offseason, whether it be due to graduation and/or the NFL, but if Olave’s performance is any reminder, there will still be plenty of talent and game-changers in Zone 6 next year (and beyond).