Marvin Harrison Jr.'s three touchdowns in starting debut crucial to Ohio State's win

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

PASADENA, Calif. – Normally, a freshman wide receiver who catches three touchdowns in his starting debut would be the story of the game.

That's not the case with Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr. in the Rose Bowl, not that he's complaining.

Fellow receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba earned the headlines with his 347-yard, 15-catch, three-touchdown performance in Ohio State's 48-45 win over Utah on Saturday.

But Harrison was also integral to the victory with his clutch catches.

Harrison, the son of a Pro Football Hall of Famer, had only five catches this season entering the game.

That had far more to do with the limited action he saw behind Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson than any deficiencies in Harrison's game. Teammates and coaches have raved about Harrison's ability, maturity and work ethic since he arrived on campus in January.

“It wasn't really hard at all,” Harrison said of being patient. “Obviously, the guys ahead of me are great receivers and are going to do big things in the (NFL). I had to wait my turn and be ready.”

With Olave and Wilson deciding not to play in the Rose Bowl, Harrison seized his chance by catching six passes for 71 yards.

His first score came on a fourth-and-1 from the Utah 25. Instead of calling for a run or short pass, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day rolled the dice.

Harrison gained a little separation and used his 6-foot-3 frame to make a tough catch in the end zone from C.J. Stroud.

“I thank coach Day to have the confidence in me to make a play on fourth-and-1,” Harrison said.

His second catch came when he set up the Utah defender and broke inside for an 8-yard reception in the back of the end zone.

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) celebrates a touchdown pass with offensive lineman Luke Wypler (53) during the second quarter of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 2022.

“I call Marv 'Route Man Marv,' ” Stroud said. “His routes are amazing,”

Harrison's third touchdown capped Ohio State's comeback to tie the game at 38 early in the fourth quarter. He set up Utah's standout cornerback Clark Phillips with a precise route and caught the ball inside the end zone sideline.

“All my hard work in the offseason paid off,” Harrison said. “I can't even describe the feeling right now. It's a blessing.”

It looks like only the beginning for him.

“He showed you all a little glimpse,” Stroud said. “He has way more in his bag.”

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at brabinowitz@dispatch.com or on Twitter @brdispatch.

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