Okudah interception is a dream come true

Bill Rabinowitz,Henry Palattella,Joey Kaufman
Cornerback Jeff Okudah, right, is congratulated by safety Jordan Fuller after Okudah's interception in the second quarter. [Eric Albrecht/Dispatch]

Jeff Okudah has developed into an elite cornerback and is expected to be a first-round draft pick next year if he chooses to enter the NFL draft.

But one item in his resume had been conspicuously absent until Saturday. The junior had not intercepted a pass in his college career.

That void was filled early in the second quarter Saturday during the span in which the Buckeyes turned a close game into the 76-5 rout it became against Miami University. With Ohio State leading 14-5 early in the second quarter, Okudah made a diving interception of an overthrown pass by Brett Gabbert.

“I definitely think it's a monumental moment, just kind of getting this monkey off my back,” Okudah said. “Crazy story — last night I had a dream that I got the first interception, so I woke up with a smile like maybe today's the day. It's kind of crazy to bring it to fruition and get that first one.”

Okudah dropped into zone coverage on that play after showing press man-to-man. Linebacker Teradja Mitchell did a good job of disrupting the receiver’s route, which probably contributed to the overthrow.

“I was talking to (defensive backs) coach (Jeff) Hafley and he was just like when it’s your time it's going to be your time, so you really can't force a moment,” Okudah said. “He kept me level-headed. He told me it'll come, the way you play defense it'll come. You can't try to force plays in this defense.”

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The Buckeyes have used more zone coverage this season, but they reverted to more man-to-man after Miami found some soft spots in it early, Okudah said.

“I think it's something that we will review and make sure teams won't be able to exploit,” he said.

Okudah’s teammates know how much the interception meant to him.

“Even though his confidence is sky high anyway, it's going to make him a more confident guy, a more swaggy guy on the field, like you want your cornerbacks,” defensive end Chase Young said.

Quite a catch

Freshman receiver Garrett Wilson continues to show a flair for spectacular catches. Wilson had a leaping touchdown grab against Cincinnati, but his catch of Chris Chugunov’s pass for a 38-yard score in the third quarter was even more impressive.

Wilson was matched up with Miami’s Ja’don Rucker-Furlow in the left side of the end zone. The ball bounced off Furlow and both players tumbled to the ground. The ball deflected to Wilson, who juggled it before maintaining control.

“That was a good catch,” quarterback Justin Fields said, “but he’s definitely had better catches in practice. That wasn’t surprising to see.”

Wilson also got a chance to try his hand as a punt returner, and he weaved his way for a 52-yard return.

Streak ends

Few teams had been more reliable converting extra-point attempts than Ohio State.

The Buckeyes had made 202 consecutive PATs, a streak that had been the third-longest in the nation behind Auburn and Georgia and continued late into the fourth quarter against Miami.

But the streak was snapped.

Walk-on kicker Dominic DiMaccio missed the extra point following the Buckeyes’ final touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The missed kick came during a downpour and before the final minutes of the game were canceled because of lightning.

Going with the tempo

Once things began to get out of hand for Miami, no one would have blamed coach Chuck Martin if he would have milked the clock to try to limit Ohio State’s scoring.

Instead, Martin and the RedHawks ran their same tempo. While that increased the Buckeyes’ scoring chances, it also let Miami see its offense against one of the best defenses in the country.

“My offense asked if I wanted them to go slow and I said, ‘Hey, we’re not getting anything out of this if we go slow,' " Martin said. “The first half we called every play to get a first down or touchdown. For our kids, we came in trying to play our game and get better.”

Freshmen firsts

Several Ohio State freshmen scored their first touchdowns late in the second half.

Running backs Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers ran for scores of 7 yards and 2 yards, respectively.

The flashiest play came from Jameson Williams, who caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gunnar Hoak. Williams caught the ball around midfield before outrunning defenders the rest of the way toward the end zone.

Williams had caught his first career reception earlier in the third quarter from Chris Chugunov.


Ohio State recognized the late Howard “Hopalong” Cassady with a video montage after the first quarter. Cassady, the Buckeyes’ third Heisman Trophy winner, died Friday in Tampa, Florida, at 85. Players wore black decals on their helmets with the No. 40, the number Cassady wore at Ohio State and is retired by the school. … Backup safety Josh Proctor was a late addition to the Buckeyes’ list of inactive players. He had not been on the team’s status report Friday but did not participate late in warmups before kickoff.

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