Olave emerges as deep threat for Buckeyes
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Chris Olave had a good feeling when he motioned along the line of scrimmage, setting up as a slot receiver.
He noticed some defenders inched forward as if they were preparing for a run. Their movement left him alone in man-to-man coverage.
When a play-action pass began, Olave burst into his route, outran cornerback Reese Taylor by a few strides and caught the football in the end zone from quarterback Justin Fields for a 37-yard touchdown play. The score put Ohio State ahead by double digits for the first time in a 51-10 rout of Indiana on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
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Olave had three receptions for 70 yards, including the touchdown catch early in the second quarter. In the first three weeks of the season, the sophomore has emerged as a capable downfield target.
His efforts drew praise from Fields.
“What is there not to like about him?” Fields said. “He's fast. He has great ball skills. He runs great routes. He's smart. Not all receivers have that smart, quick decision-making, so he finds the zone and he plays with the brain. And he also has that great athletic ability.”
In the season opener against Florida Atlantic, Olave caught another touchdown from Fields on a deep pass over the middle.
His string of strong performances began last season when he caught two touchdown passes in a win over Michigan, then another touchdown against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game.
Coach Ryan Day observed that his timing and depth perception had allowed Olave to become a deep threat.
“Chris is a really good receiver,” Day said.
When Olave was running his route on the touchdown play, he first moved toward the sideline, bringing Taylor with him, before cutting toward the middle of the field.
But Olave didn’t catch everything. One pass from Fields on third down in the first quarter was a little too far ahead. It hit his hands, but he couldn’t bring it in. Fields also lofted a pass in the third quarter in his direction as Olave was running along the sideline. The ball landed too far ahead.
“I was just trying to get my hands on it,” Olave said. “Because I knew when I got my hands on it, I could catch it. So I was just trying to pick up a little speed and get to it.”
Despite his emerging connection with Fields, it was a sequence from special teams that Olave held in higher regard. He blocked a punt that resulted in a safety, among the 23 points for the Buckeyes in the second quarter.
Olave said he preferred blocking a punt over catching a touchdown.
“It's a momentum changer,” Olave said. “It gets everybody hyped. It gives a little spark of energy to the team and gets us rolling.”
After Olave blocked the punt, the ball rolled toward the back of the end zone. Cornerback Amir Riep nearly recovered it before it went out of bounds.
Day applauded the effort.
“That takes complete buy-in,” Day said, “because you don't come to Ohio State to play special teams. That goes to show you how much he appreciates his brothers and teammates.”