For all the memories Ohio State fans could have banked of Chris Olave — his key two touchdowns and blocked punt against Michigan in 2018 or any of his team-leading nine receiving touchdowns in 2019 — one accomplishment common among top receivers has eluded him.
Entering Saturday, the sophomore wide receiver had yet to gather 100 receiving yards in a game.
Olave broke that trend Saturday night, riding past the Scarlet Knights’ secondary with four receptions for 139 yards — a blazing 34.8 yards per reception.
“He’s got good speed, and he can really track a ball well,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “Great depth perception and timing.”
Each of Olave’s four catches Saturday gained at least 18 yards.
The Buckeyes isolated Olave on their first drive and nailed him for their first completion, gaining 23 yards to set up their first score.
Two possessions later, Olave slipped behind the Rutgers secondary and hauled in a 58-yard strike.
The connection between the two is a matter of mutual trust. Olave said he asks Fields to count on him downfield.
“I always tell him to just throw the ball. I’ll make the play,” Olave said. “Early in the season, it wasn’t working out for us, but we kept working on it, and today, it showed.”
If the Iowa native’s first three receiving tricks established him as a downfield weapon, his finale established him as a catch magician.
Olave gained a half-step up the right sideline behind Rutgers senior defensive back Damon Hayes, but Fields delivered an underthrown pass.
Olave turned back against Hayes, brushed past the defender’s chest and pinned the ball against his left thigh with one hand through a defensive pass interference. The play gained 42 yards.
“I thought I had it, but when I came to the sideline, Justin told me it was underthrown,” Olave said. “I believe I had him beat deep, but I had to come back and make the play.”
What the wideout accomplished Saturday is a far cry from his zero-catch performance against Michigan State Week 6. Olave said he re-focused during the following bye week, and since then, he’s caught 21 passes for 335 yards and five touchdowns in four games.
Assistant wide receivers coach Brian Hartline worked with Olave to re-establish himself in Ohio State’s game plan and avoid frustration.
“We had a long talk about it, and ever since then, I’ve taken that step forward,” Olave said. “That’s all receivers. We try to get open. We can’t control where the ball goes. Luckily, the ball was coming to me today, and we all made plays.”
Each of the games remaining on Ohio State’s schedule will likely be top-15 matchups. As the Buckeyes hit their home stretch, providing a vertical stretch to the defense could be key.
Olave and the Ohio State receivers are continuing to refine their downfield technique, as Day said, a practice Olave is well versed in.
“Once we feel like we beat the DB, we look up, and we don’t turn our shoulder because that slows us down,” Olave said. “We look up and try to track the ball. Once we get under it, we see when the ball is coming down, and we know where the ball is going to land.”