COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — With two Ohio State starting receivers sidelined with injuries, Marvin Harrison Jr. got another prime chance to shine on a team loaded with great wideouts.
Harrison, the son of a former NFL star, caught three touchdown passes from C.J. Stroud as the No. 3 Buckeyes beat Arkansas State 45-12 on Saturday.
With Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming unavailable, Harrison became Stroud’s go-to guy, grabbing a career-high seven passes for 184 yards, including a pair of in-stride 42-yard touchdowns in the first half, and a leaping, 30-yard scoring grab with two defenders draped on him in the third quarter.
“He can put it wherever he wants to,” Harrison said of Stroud. “He’s a great player – it’s like he handed me the ball.”
Coupled with his three-touchdown performance as a first-year player in the Rose Bowl last season, Harrison became only the second Ohio State player to have a pair of three-touchdown receiving games in his career. Joey Galloway had multiple touchdown games in 1993 and ‘94.
“Marvin’s route running is very mature for his age,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “When you see somebody who has played as much as he had with the high level of route running, it’s pretty remarkable.”
TreVeyon Henderson ran for another two scores and Emeka Egbuka had a 51-yard TD reception for the Buckeyes (2-0)
Stroud, a Heisman Trophy favorite, finished 16 for 24 for 351 yards and four touchdowns as Ohio State gained 538 yards.
Henderson busted through for an 8-yard scoring run in the first quarter and a 23-yard romp to open the second half. He finished with 10 carries for 87 yards.
Ohio State had a large margin of error with the Sunbelt Conference team, and it was necessary in the first half.
Kicker Dominic Zvada was responsible for all of Arkansas State’s scoring, but Ohio State miscues set up the first two field goals.
Penalties helped put the Red Wolves in range for a 30-yard Zvada boot in the first quarter. Blown coverage and a missed tackle on a long James Blackman pass to Champ Flemings got them in range for another.
“We got in the red zone a couple of times, but we’ve got to find ways to finish,” said Blackman, who threw for 188 yards. Flemings had 10 catches for 105 yards.
Arkansas State: The Red Wolves looked for a short time like they might keep up, but once Ohio State cleaned up its mistakes the rout was on. The Arkansas State offense couldn’t get any traction against unpredictable Ohio State defensive looks.
“When you play a team like Ohio State, every mistake is magnified,” Arkansas State coach Butch Jones said.
Ohio State: Stroud, who was still trying to shake off the preseason rust in last week’s 21-10 win over Notre Dame, showed that he’s regained his touch. It will be interesting to see if Stroud and Harrison can keep up their chemistry as the quality of opponents improves.
“We’re playing with toughness, we’re playing with an edge, we’re taking care of the football and all those are positive things,” Day said. “But the negative things get us off schedule, and we don’t quite execute at a high level, and then it throws you off.”
YOU CAN’T DO THAT
The Buckeyes were penalized nine times for 85 yards, after drawing seven flags costing 75 yards last week against Notre Dame.
Cornerback Denzel Ward drew two pass-interference flags in the same series in the first half. Defensive tackle Taron Vincent was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for something he did as the first half ended and was benched in the second half.
“That’s unacceptable,” Day said. “We’ve got to get that cleaned up.”
A flashy offensive showing in the rout of a heavy underdog should keep the Buckeyes where they are.
Arkansas State: At Memphis next Saturday night.
Ohio State: Hosts Toledo next Saturday.