He made an issue the Ohio State offense faced a week earlier — cashing in scoring opportunities — moot by scoring from 52 and 48 yards, and showed why he was the top-rated running back recruit in the country.
“He’s worked really hard,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “He’s been very mature, does not act like a freshman and takes his job very, very seriously.
“I thought he ran hard today. I thought our offensive line really established the line of scrimmage, and we were able to control the game at times. I thought the tight ends played hard, blocked well, but when he gets to the second level he gives us that opportunity to come out the back end and hit home runs, which you saw in the first game and he’s oftentimes today.”
Henderson said he has not met Archie Griffin yet, but topping the two-time Heisman winner’s record 239 yards in a game against North Carolina in 1971 was one of the goals he set in the preseason.
“I had a lot of big goals for myself, and I reached one of my goals today, but I’ve got plenty more so I’ve got to keep working,” Henderson said.
2. Other freshmen also had big impacts.
Emeka Ogbuka returned a kickoff 36 yards to set up one of Ohio State’s scoring drives.
Fellow true freshman Tyleik Williams logged a sack to force a Tulsa punt in the fourth quarter and helped plug the middle at nose tackle while classmate Denzel Burke continued the excellent start to his career five tackles and two pass breakups. Burke also appeared to have an interception in the second quarter, but it was wiped away by replay.
Redshirt freshman Cam Martinez got the most extensive playing time of his career as the Buckeyes’ fifth defensive back. He had two tackles, broke up three passes then put a cherry on top with a 61-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“You’re starting to see guys challenge the ball, which is exciting when they can get their hands on passes,” Day said.
“We are getting better, and you’re seeing some young guys make some plays.”
3. The defense made some changes.
With captains Zach Harrison and Teradja Mitchell nursing injuries, the starting lineup included Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Cody Simon at end and linebacker, respectively.
Bryson Shaw got the start at deep safety in place of Josh Proctor, who is out for the year, and others got opportunities at other positions as the game wore on.
Sevyn Banks, a starter last season at cornerback, made his season debut in rotation with Burke and senior Cam Brown while Williams and fellow freshmen J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer saw action before the first drive of the game was over.
The Buckeyes used the nickel defense more and showed some two-high-safety looks after playing mostly with one deep safety in the first two weeks.
Secondary coach Matt Barnes called the defensive signals while defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs moved to the press box to serve as another eye in the sky and help with adjustments to what Tulsa was doing offensively to hurt the Buckeyes.
“I thought we stopped the run better, and I thought that we did mix up some of the looks,” Day said. “We had a lot of conversations this week and was involved with some different things, but I thought we changed some things up just how we did things structurally on game day.”
4. Those changes did not exactly yield immediate results.
At least not good ones.
The Buckeyes held in check what had been a good Tulsa running game most of the day, holding the Golden Hurricane to 73 yards on 28 carries (including two sacks that subtracted 27 yards), but the pass defense seemed to suffer as a result of some of the change-ups Ohio State threw at Tulsa.
Davis excelled taking short throws that were available to him, and he found receivers running free in zones thanks to miscommunication at times.
The Tulsa quarterback finished with 428 yards passing, more than he had in the first two games of the season combined.
“I’d like to see a little bit more of a pass rush,” Day said. “It was good to see Tyleik get that one, but we’ve got to do a better job of making the quarterback uncomfortable. I felt the coverage overall, there were times where it was solid, still too many things — in some zone a couple of guys running free, but we are challenging.”
5. C.J. Stroud had an up-and-down day.
Ohio State’s redshirt freshman was 15-for-25 passing for 185 yards. He threw a touchdown pass and an interception, the latter an ill-advised throw into coverage in the first half.
One of his best throws of the day, a deep ball to Chris Olave, was wiped out by a penalty away from the play or his numbers would have looked better at the end of the day, but he also lost a fumble that led to a Tulsa score in the second half.
The youngster, who threw for 484 yards a week earlier against Oregon, continues to learn on the job and play through a sore shoulder he has admitted bothers him at times.
“They run that 3-3-5 defense so I mean anybody who knows football knows that is very tough to play against,” Stroud said. “We already knew coming in there’s not those easy completions on field, so I mean it was a it was hard trying to get a rhythm going. And then with their defense they want you to just snap the ball every play and just get five yards every time and then you get greedy and that’s how you turn the ball, and that’s kind of what happened.
“They were a great team, a great defense, but I mean we definitely should have been better.”