Ohio State acting head coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day has said multiple times that redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell will play in some way, shape or form. Day never specified what kind of packages he would play in. Just that he would get his shot.
With a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, Martell’s time came.
Immediately, the run-pass option offense was seen, handing the ball off on the option to redshirt junior running back Mike Weber.
Then, Martell started to warm up his arm.
He attempted a post pass to redshirt junior tight end Rashod Berry, an incomplete pass that was moved back even farther due to a holding penalty. He then threw a short pass to redshirt junior K.J. Hill for two yards.
With a 3rd-and-16 ahead of him, Martell took a shot.
When hiked the ball, he stepped back, looking to throw, stepped up in the pocket, revved up his arm, crow-hopped like a centerfielder trying to throw a runner out at home plate, and fired. Redshirt senior Terry McLaurin was on the other side of the throw, bringing in the 51-yard pass for Martell’s first collegiate touchdown.
That throw, that opportunity, was what Martell had been wanting for a long time.
“I’ve been waiting for quite some time now ever since, I think, really the end of my senior year, after redshirting last year,” Martell said. “It was just fun getting out there.”
After completing 3-of-4 pass attempts for 33 yards in the season opener against Oregon State, Martell completed all 10 pass attempts against Rutgers, throwing for 121 yards with the McLaurin touchdown.
Martell said the Rutgers game was the first opportunity he had to show what he could do with his arm, saying there is a huge difference in his passing ability compared to last season.
“When I was going out, like in practice, I was kind of second-guessing myself, where this year I know exactly what I’m doing,” Martell said. “I know protection and stuff like that, and just a whole different ball game now.”
Along with the success of his arm, Martell beat the Scarlet Knights on the ground. He used his elusiveness in the open field to lead Ohio State in rushing, recording 95 yards and averaging 11.9 yards per carry. He also recorded his first collegiate rushing touchdown, scampering to the right side and down the sideline for a 47-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Day said Martell showed everyone what his capabilities are in the Ohio State offense.
“I thought you got a chance to see what Tate can do today, which is great,” Day said. “He can beat you with his feet and beat you with his arm. And that’s what makes him a special player.”
Day was not the only one to notice what Martell did in Saturday’s game. Redshirt senior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon said he was not surprised with what he saw from the redshirt freshman quarterback.
Dixon said Martell brings a level of excitement that is infectious to the entire offense.
“We all get excited when he goes out there and makes the move because he does it in practice,” Dixon said. “Some of the craziest things, like last week he was running and just threw the ball, like that gets all us pumped for him and I’m just happy to see him out there doing it.”
Martell said he knows that redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins is the starting quarterback. He knows there is no doubt about that. However, he is still confident that Day knows when to use him in the most effective way possible.
All Martell wants is a chance to play. It’s not to take a starting job. It’s not to outshine Haskins. It’s just because he wants to prove he can play at the collegiate level.
“I just want to go out there and just play,” Martell said. “That’s just how I go out there. I’ve improved a ton as a passer. And I want to be able to go out there and show that.”