Receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba sidelined for Ohio State football win over Arkansas State
As Ohio State’s offense began its opening drive against Arkansas State on Saturday afternoon, it was missing Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
He stood on the sideline wearing a gray sweatsuit with a scarlet ballcap.
A week after suffering an apparent hamstring injury in the season opener, Smith-Njigba, the Buckeyes’ star receiver, did not suit up for their 45-12 win over the Red Wolves.
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Though listed as a game-time decision on the team’s pregame availability report, Smith-Njigba never seemed as if he was on track to make a return for the non-conference game.
He was held out of most of warmups and was never dressed in uniform or wearing a helmet.
About three hours ahead of kickoff, he was out on the field at Ohio Stadium, lightly jogging and stretching as he continued his recovery.
Earlier in the week, coach Ryan Day had expressed hope Smith-Njigba might be available, and he was at practice.
Smith-Njigba was seen leaving Wednesday’s practice in his helmet and pads and caught passes on a JUGS machine in front of reporters.
The Buckeyes’ receiving corps has been banged up to the start the season.
Both Julian Fleming and Kamryn Babb remained sidelined. Babb, a team captain, reaggrevated a left knee injury in preseason training camp, while Fleming “tweaked something” ahead of the opener, Day said.
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Fleming joined Smith-Njigba as one of the players who first arrived at the Horseshoe for stretching and testing.
"We’d like to get them in the game next week if possible," Day said, "but we won’t do that unless they’re 100%. We want to make sure we’re keeping them safe. It’s a long season. But they’re getting closer."
The Buckeyes passing game did not suffer with them out.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud threw for 351 yards and four touchdowns, relying heavily on Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.
Harrison and Egbuka were on the other for 302 receiving yards, and Harrison also had three touchdowns.
Following the Rose Bowl, he became only the second Buckeyes receiver to have multiple games with three receiving touchdowns.
Brian Snead absent
Ohio State did not face former running back Brian Snead.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that Snead, a freshman with the Buckeyes in 2018 who since transferred to Arkansas State, was unavailable for the game.
Snead was dismissed by Ohio State in 2018 after a university investigation found him in violation of two student code of conduct charges of sexual misconduct.
The university’s policy prohibits students who are dismissed from returning to campus and other facilities without approval from the senior vice president from student life or a designee. Citing the the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, a school spokesman declined to comment on whether Snead petitioned for approval.
Snead spent the past two seasons at Austin Peay, a Football Championship Subdivision program, and 2019 at Iowa Western Community College before enrolling at Arkansas State this summer.
He had rushed for 57 and a touchdown on 12 carries in the Red Wolves’ season-opening win over Grambling.
Josh Proctor started as the “Bandit” safety over Lathan Ransom, who had replaced him following the first series last week against Notre Dame.
It was a departure from plans on Thursday for Ransom to remain ahead of Proctor in the rotation.
Day said then that the staff was planning on start Ransom, who was the second-leading tackler in the opener.
But Proctor was a fixture in the secondary against Arkansas State and finished with three tackles.
Steele Chambers sacked quarterback James Blackman to end Arkansas State’s opening drive of the second half.
It was the second straight week that one of the Buckeyes’ linebackers brought down the passer.
Tommy Eichenberg had two sacks against Notre Dame.
Kicking back on track
Noah Ruggles made his first goal of the season.
Early in the second quarter, he pushed a 24-yard attempt through the uprights, giving the Buckeyes a 17-3 lead.
Ruggles, who was nearly perfect last fall in his debut season after transferring from North Carolina, missed a 39-yard field goal attempt against Notre Dame after it went wide left.
He has not been handling kickoffs, though, as walk-on Jayden Fielding kicked off for the second straight week.
Ohio State freshman appearances
Cade Curry was the first of Ohio State’s true freshmen to see snaps on defense when he rotated in during the fourth quarter.
Curry, a defensive end from suburban Indianapolis, made a quick impression, finishing with four tackles, including one for a loss. Fellow defensive end Kenyatta Jackson and cornerback Jyaire Brown also had a tackle apiece.
Others in the class who appeared late in the blowout included running back Dallan Hayden, who ran for 13 yards on four carries and caught two passes for another 13 yards.
Ohio State cornerback mix
Redshirt freshman JK Johnson rotated in for Denzel Burke at cornerback during the second quarter.
Johnson came in after Burke had been twice flagged for pass interference and given up a 58-yard completion to Champ Fleming on the previous series.
Defensive tackle Mike Hall received medical attention in the third quarter when trainers examined his left shoulder on the sideline. He had lingered on the field following a play. "It's not something that we expect him to miss any time for," Day said, "but we'll see once we get an evaluation." … Ohio State’s defense did not force a turnover for the second consecutive game. … Tight end Cade Stover’s 35-yard reception was a career long.