Ohio State football safety Ronnie Hickman intercepts pass for second straight game

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Late in the second quarter of Ohio State’s 59-7 win over Akron on Saturday night, safety Ronnie Hickman sprang toward Tristian Brank, a tight end for the Zips, and prepared to make a tackle that would drop them a few yards short of a potential first down.

But Brank bobbled a pass, and Hickman found himself corralling the ball for an interception instead of leveling a hit.

Once it was in his grasp, he ran down the sideline to return it 46 yards for a touchdown, one of three scored by the Buckeyes during a second quarter in which they put the game out of reach.

It also continued a strong opening stretch of the season by Hickman, who also picked off a pass in last week’s win over Tulsa.

“He's starting to build a little bit of a reputation for being a guy who's playing really good football right now,” coach Ryan Day said. “Many people didn't really know who Ronnie was four weeks ago. Now he's really doing it.”

Ohio State Buckeyes safety Ronnie Hickman (14) returns the ball for an interception touchdown during the game against the Akron Zips at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio Sept. 25.

A redshirt sophomore who is starting for the first time at the Buckeyes’ so-called “bullet” position, a hybrid linebacker-safety role, he has also been the team’s leading tackler with 33 through four games.

Hickman finished with three tackles against Akron after sitting out most of the second half of the blowout with other starters.

Higher fan turnout at Ohio Stadium

The announced attendance for Saturday’s game was 95,178, an improved fan turnout from the previous week when Ohio State drew a crowd of 76,540 against Tulsa that was the lowest at Ohio Stadium since a season opener against Iowa in 1971.

But the attendance remained below recent averages. It was only the fourth time since the expansion of the Horseshoe in 2001 that the Buckeyes did not draw at least 100,000.

Through three games, Ohio State is averaging 90,733, on pace to be the lowest for a season since 1989 when it averaged 89,383.

The Buckeyes have four remaining home games against Maryland, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan State.

There are no capacity limits at the Horseshoe this fall after spectators were not prohibited last season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

OSU starting linebackers

Teradja Mitchell regained his starting linebacker spot after being sidelined for last week's win over Tulsa.

But it was Cody Simon who remained as the other starter instead of Tommy Eichenberg, who had started the first two games with Mitchell. 

Day's also identified Simon as one of the underclassmen who continues to make strides, noting the sophomore is "starting to show up." He also intercepted Akron quarterback DJ Irons in the second quarter.

J.T. Tuimoloau, new freshman starter

J.T. Tuimoloau made his first career start for the Buckeyes in place of Tyreke Smith, who was one of five defensive linemen unavailable against Akron.

Tuimoloau finished with a pair of tackles, while others in his freshman class had the bigger showings. Fellow defensive end Jack Sawyer saw his first career sack, and defensive tackle Tyleik Williams had two more.

First carries for Evan Pryor

Making his debut for the Buckeyes, freshman Evan Pryor ran for 35 yards and a touchdown on five carries, all coming on their final series late in the fourth quarter.

Pryor was the other blue-chip running back prospect in the 2021 recruiting class alongside TreVeyon Henderson. He was not as highly rated as Henderson, who was the top recruit at the position. But Pryor was ranked as the sixth-best running back.

Etc.

Senior cornerback Sevyn Banks started for the first time this season, filling in for Cameron Brown. ... Replacing Kyle McCord in the third quarter, Jack Miller went 5-of-8 passing for 66 yards. ... Freshmen wide receivers Jayden Ballard, Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. all caught their first career passes in the second half. ... Demario McCall, who switched from running back to cornerback this past offseason, broke up his first career pass in the second half. ... Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa was with the team after missing the game against Tulsa while recovering from back surgery. 

Get more Ohio State football news by listening to our podcasts