COLUMBUS — No. 3 Ohio State overcame a sloppy, mistake-filled first-half performance to cruise to a 45-12 win over Arkansas State on Saturday afternoon in Ohio Stadium.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud completed 16 of his 24 attempts for 351 yards and four touchdowns, three of which were hauled in by sophomore receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., in just three quarters of action.
With Jaxon Smith-Njigba sidelined due to a hamstring injury, Harrison led Ohio State with seven catches for 184 yards, and Emeka Egbuka added four catches for 118 yards and his second touchdown of the season.
Running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams combined for 18 carries and 144 yards rushing to lead Ohio State on the ground, and Henderson added two touchdowns in a balanced offensive effort.
Arkansas State was limited to just 276 yards of total offense, including just 53 yards rushing, as the Ohio State defensive front again made life miserable for an opposing offense. Fresh off his breakout performance a week ago against Notre Dame, Mike Hall Jr. led the Buckeyes with a sack and three of the team’s 12 tackles for loss on the day.
Ohio State got the scoring started early when Stroud and Harrison connected for their first of three scoring strikes on the afternoon. The 42-yard touchdown capped off a seven-play, 96-yard drive and gave Ohio State a 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game.
Arkansas State (1-1) responded with a scoring drive of its own on the ensuing possession when Dominic Zvada’s 29-yard field goal attempt sailed through the uprights to cut the Ohio State lead to 7-3. The drive was aided by three penalties on Ohio State, including Teradja Mitchell’s leaping infraction on a fourth-down punt that gave Arkansas State a new set of downs.
The quick-strike Ohio State offense was again on the move for their second possession of the game. A 45-yard completion from Stroud to Harrison moved the ball to the Arkansas State 23, and two plays later, Henderson busted into the end zone from eight yards out for his first score of the season and a 14-3 lead for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State added to its lead on the first play of the second quarter with a 24-yard field goal from Noah Ruggles to go ahead 17-3, and it appeared the Buckeyes were set to cruise to a blowout win.
Arkansas State continued to battle, however, and the Ohio State defense proved to be vulnerable at times. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Arkansas State receiver Champ Flemings burned cornerback Denzel Burke for 58 yards before Cameron Martinez finally ran him down at the Ohio State 12.
The Ohio State defense continued its trend of bending but not breaking, though, forcing Arkansas State to settle for another Zvada field goal to cut the lead to 17-6.
Zvada added his third field goal of the first half with 5:22 remaining in the second quarter, bringing Arkansas State within one score at 17-9 as the uneasiness inside Ohio Stadium began to grow amongst the Buckeye faithful in attendance.
Stroud and Harrison wasted no time quieting down the restless fans on the next possession as the Ohio State offense needed just three plays to increase its lead. Williams got the drive started with a 25-yard run, and two plays later, Harrison was celebrating in the end zone after Stroud found him for a 42-yard touchdown and a 24-9 lead heading to halftime.
Out of the break, Ohio State continued to build on its lead on the opening possession of the second half when Henderson scampered 23 yards to the end zone for his second score of the afternoon.
The lead continued to balloon over the remainder of the third quarter as Stroud added his third and fourth touchdown passes of the game to increase the Buckeye lead to 45-12 before Ohio State head coach Ryan Day pulled his starters for the entirety of the fourth quarter.
Following the game, Day said of his team’s performance, “There were certainly things in this game I would have liked to have seen done better, but there were also good things. What you don’t want to do is take winning for granted and take a lot of hard work and some good performances for granted either, but I know there are going to be a lot of things we need to look at tomorrow that we have to keep building and growing on and make improvements.”
Day said of his team’s lack of discipline throughout the game, “When you look at the stat sheet today, it’s pretty clear that we gave them two possessions on penalties. We have to clean those things up. (Arkansas State) had 76 plays and we had 54 plays. We had 538 yards on 54 plays and they had 276 yards. When you look at that stat sheet, you say, ‘Wow.’ But we had nine penalties. That’s unacceptable, and we have to get that fixed.”
Ohio State (2-0) returns to action next Saturday when they host Toledo for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.