For a brief moment in Ohio State’s 51-10 win over Indiana, it appeared the Buckeyes might have a game on their hands.
Four straight completions by Indiana redshirt junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey, followed by a 20-yard rush, led to a field goal to make it a 7-3 game in the opening quarter at Memorial Stadium.
Then came Chris Olave.
The sophomore wide receiver cut the top off the Hoosier defense for a 37-yard touchdown just six plays before blocking a punt for a safety, resulting in a nine-point swing that began to break the game open for the Buckeyes.
“You definitely feel it on the field,” Olave said. “You feel like it’s a momentum changer. It sparks the whole team.”
Just 1:11 came off the clock between those two plays, but suddenly Ohio State seemed to find its stride. In a little over seven minutes of game time following Olave’s touchdown, the Buckeyes took a commanding 30-3 lead that all but closed the book on a potential upset.
It wasn’t the first time Olave’s made a big play on special teams against a Big Ten opponent, though.
Olave blocked a Michigan punt in the third quarter of 2018’s matchup as a true freshman. The block was recovered and returned for a touchdown that would extend the Buckeye lead from eight to 15, and sparked a 17-0 run.
“You see what he did last year in the rivalry game, he gets another one here –– changed the whole game,” head coach Ryan Day said. “That takes complete buy-in.”
The California native led Ohio State with five targets and 70 receiving yards Saturday, the second most of his career. Olave’s touchdown was his second score of 29-plus yards this year.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields said reading Olave’s speed and body language makes it easy to connect with him on deep balls.
On his touchdown, Olave had three yards of separation from his defender by the time he reached the goal line, and was so open that the crowd seemed to be waiting for Fields to let it fly. By the time it got there, Olave’s wheels had nearly carried him out of the back of the end zone.
“What is there not to like about him? He’s fast, he has great ball skills, he runs great routes, he’s smart,” Fields said. “Not all receivers have that smart decision-making ability.”
Fields and Olave almost connected again in the third quarter, as the 6-foot-1 receiver blazed past another defender but was overthrown by a yard on what would’ve been a 60-yard scoring strike.
Olave has now caught five touchdown passes in Ohio State’s past six games dating back to 2018, but he said he’d rather block punts than take trips to the end zone if it’s more beneficial for the team.
“You don’t come to Ohio State to play special teams. That goes to show how much he appreciates and loves his brothers and his teammates,” Day said.