Chris Olave can’t seem to catch more than five balls in a game.
He can’t seem to break out for more than 70 yards.
But he also can’t seem to stay out of the end zone.
Olave caught two more touchdowns Friday, giving him nine in the past nine games and continued to lend credence to the argument that he may be sophomore quarterback Justin Fields’ favorite target.
The sophomore wide receiver entered Friday on the heels of his two worst performances of the year, a three-catch, 30-yard game against Nebraska before being held without a reception against Michigan State.
“Last game I didn’t have a catch, but I wasn’t really frustrated with that,” Olave said. “I tried to do whatever helps the team and do my job for that game and play my role.”
Early on in Evanston, Illinois, Olave made sure that his role as a premier pass catcher in the fast-moving Fields-led offense would not be forgotten.
Fields missed his first two targets with incomplete passes, and didn’t see another open receiver on a play where he’d scamper for a minimal gain. The first few plays foretold another shaky first quarter for the Buckeye offense, as displayed with a 3-point first quarter against Michigan State.
Olave would change all that though, getting so open down the middle of the field that his quarterback would have no choice but to see him.
The 6-foot-1 wideout got Fields going with his first completion of the game, a 16-yard sideline grab, but it was his 20-yard touchdown score on the same drive that would hand the Buckeyes a lead that they wouldn’t let slip during their 52-3 rout of Northwestern.
It looked all too easy, a familiar feeling for the Buckeyes this season. However, Ohio State faltered with a quick three-and-out on its next possession behind a rushing attack that sputtered with an uncharacteristically low 40 yards in the first quarter.
An ensuing Northwestern scoring drive cut the Buckeye lead to four, but once again, Olave answered the bell.
The California native caught two balls in three plays on the Buckeyes’ third drive, including a 14-yarder, and the pass that set up junior running back J.K. Dobbins for a 19-yard slant to the end zone.
“My role last game was to be a threat on special teams and be a punt guy, and this game I happened to be a receiving guy,” Olave said.
He nearly became both, as Olave came close to his fourth career punt block after a bad Northwestern snap caused a fumble that led to the Buckeyes gaining possession at the Wildcat 15-yard-line.
It was only fitting that Fields found Olave just two plays later for his second score of the day on an 8-yard pass.
Olave finished with a game-high five catches for 60 yards, and his two receiving touchdowns total a team-high six for the season.
Fields said Olave’s impressive rebound performance wasn’t due to an extra effort on his part to get him going after being shutout in the previous game.
“Nah, not really. Of course we have great receivers all around. Some receivers might get the ball in the game a lot, and some receivers might not. It’s really just based on the play and who’s in at the time.”
Coming off your worst game of the season may be a motivating factor for some, but Olave takes his low-target nights in stride.
“People get frustrated in the locker room, but we kinda get more unselfish in the receiver room,” Olave said. “Without any catches, we just move onto the next one. That’s how we work.”