Chris Olave discovered the secret to Ohio State football immortality on Saturday.
The freshman caught the first two touchdowns from quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., then he made the play of The Game, blocking a punt in the third quarter that stunned Michigan. He did it, he said, in front of his best rooting section of the year.
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“It’s unreal, to be honest,” Olave said. ”For the first time (this season), my family came out from San Diego. It’s been a blessing, and doing it for the seniors it’s been an honor.”
The punt block came on a move schemed by defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. Olave swooped from the outside back in through the center of the formation and straight into the face of punter Will Hart, hitting the ball with his left hand. The deflection was plucked by freshman Sevyn Banks, who returned it 33 yards for a touchdown, giving OSU a 15-point lead in its 62-39 knockout of the Wolverines.
“All week we practiced it, it was a scheme coach Schiano came up with, he thought it would work, and it did work,” Olave said. “But all week, we barely got to it.”
Coach Urban Meyer was close to vetoing it. He said he even told kicking game quality control coach Parker Fleming, “ ‘You only have 2.1 seconds to get there, and he’s not that fast.’ ”
Meyer smiled and added, “Not the first time I’ve been wrong.”
Olave caught two touchdown passes of 24 yards, bookending two field goals by Michigan, which never led. Haskins had no reservations about throwing it to the last commitment to the 2018 recruiting class.
“You can see all the talent, all the skill in the world,” Haskins said. “He didn’t have opportunity to play much this year, so when he got in there he made it matter.”
Johnnie Dixon was hurt early in the game, giving Olave the chance to see more action, though Dixon returned to catch Haskins’ third TD pass, a 31-yarder. Dixon, like fellow seniors Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin, had been singing Olave’s praises for a while.
“You can ask anybody whoever guarded him at this school that they knew from day one he was going to be special,” Dixon said. “He was running around in camp and, ‘Who is 19? This kid is special.’ … You never see a freshman come in so talented.”
He was wearing No. 17 on Saturday, but he was No. 1 as far as Campbell was concerned.
“He’s going to add so much value to this program, and he’s going to continue to get better,” Campbell said. “He has the world in front of him.”