C.J. Saunders, a walk-on receiver from Dublin Coffman, caught his first touchdown pass for Ohio State on Saturday in the blowout over Nevada-Las Vegas, and that was big for two reasons.
One, his snag late in the second quarter on a throw from backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins made it a school-record six different receivers to catch a TD pass in the same game. It was a mark pushed to seven by defensive end-turned-tight end Rashod Berry’s brutish 36-yard catch-and-run in the third.
And two, well, at 5-foot-10 and a wispy 176 pounds, Saunders isn’t quite stout enough to be doing what he’s doing, OSU coach Urban Meyer said.
“His body, wish we could do something to get him a little stronger … because he's a really good player, just not very big,” Meyer said. “Coach Mick (Marotti, director of football performance) is working hard at that.”
Saunders, a junior, agreed that he is a weight-challenged receiver playing a bigger man’s game. But because of his determination and talent, he now has a TD catch on his resume in Ohio Stadium. He broke a skinny-post route over the middle and snagged the 28-yard high-velocity pass from Haskins.
“Unreal feeling,” Saunders said. “The best fans easily in the land today. When I got in the end zone, I wanted to make sure I was in that red. I just heard the screams from my teammates and the fans; I knew it was a touchdown.
“That was unreal, the roar that I heard.”
To make it a habit on days other than when the Buckeyes are running reserves in the game early, Saunders agreed with Meyer’s assertion.
“He’s definitely right. I’ve got to get a little bit stronger just so I can continue to help the run game” with blocking, said Saunders, son of Coffman baseball coach Tim Saunders. “The receivers at Ohio State are the best-blocking receivers in the nation, so I’ve got to be like that. The standard can’t lower just because I’m in there.”
Berry made his mark blocking, switching to tight end when last year’s No. 2, A.J. Alexander, was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in a pick-up basketball game this spring. Berry now has seen substantial action in several games behind Marcus Baugh, and Saturday got the big payoff with his TD.
“I’m playing my role, doing my 1/11th,” said Berry, a third-year sophomore from Lorain.
He had one play he also wanted back, when the ball was knocked from him near the goal line in the fourth quarter when it looked like he was about to get TD No. 2. The lesson was immediately known.
“I’ve got to hang on to the ball,” Berry said.