Ohio State’s receiving corps got a boost against Toledo on Saturday night with the return of Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming.
As the Buckeyes routed the Rockets in a 77-21 win, both made an impact, especially Fleming.
In his season debut, Fleming caught three passes for 23 yards and two touchdowns after appearing in the second series for Ohio State.
It was a breakout for Fleming, who had just one career touchdown early in his junior season.
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An injury setback suffered days before the opener against Notre Dame delayed his start to the season.
“The easiest thing to do is get really frustrated,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. “He didn’t do that. He stayed positive. He minded his business. He did a great job in rehabilitation.
“To see him play and be rewarded was great.”
Fleming’s first touchdown came late in the first quarter when quarterback CJ Stroud rolled outside the pocket and found him toward the back corner of the end zone. To complete the difficult grip, Fleming kept his left foot in bounds.
He followed that up with his second score in the second quarter.
Smith-Njigba, who started as the Buckeyes’ slot receiver, finished with two catches for 33 yards, returning to the lineup after being injured on opening weekend against the Irish. It looked like he had hurt his hamstrings.
Both receivers had been considered playing time decisions.
TreVeyon Henderson dismissed
Running back TreVeyon Henderson did not return after capping Ohio State’s first drive with a 7-yard touchdown run.
Henderson rushed for 19 yards on four carries in the first series before heading to the locker room with a coach. He then returned to the sidelines, but without a helmet.
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“We haven’t seen anything that we think is long term,” Day said. “But we will sort of regroup and see where everything is. It was a situation with a lot of these guys, where we wanted to be on the safe side to make sure they were 100% before we put them in the game.
With Henderson sidelined, the Buckeyes’ depth at running back remained thin with Miyan Williams and Dallan Hayden left as the only two running backs available.
Hayden rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries to lead Ohio State, while Williams
Starting safeties Josh Proctor and Tanner McCalister were retained against Toledo.
Both underwent a first series of warm-ups, going through stretching, before being excluded.
“We just thought it was the right thing to do coming out of warm-ups to hold them for the whole game,” Day said. “But we expect them to be available next week.”
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Cameron Martinez replaced McCalister as the nickel safety, while Lathan Ransom replaced Proctor as the strong safety.
Ransom’s six tackles led the Buckeyes.
Mike Hall held on
The inside of Ohio State’s starting defensive line looked different.
Jerron Cage replaced Mike Hall at one of the tackle points.
Hall was one of the Buckeyes’ most disruptive defensemen in the first two weeks, tallying five tackles for loss, but he was also held against Toledo.
He appeared injured in the second half of last week’s win over Arkansas State. Hall was in uniform Saturday night and appeared to be available after going through warm-ups.
Linebacker Chip Trayanum had the chance to return his first kickoff against Toledo.
He came on the opening kick as he lined it up over the goal line and brought it to the Buckeyes 18-yard line.
Trayanum replaced Emeka Egbuka as Ohio State’s kickoff returner a week earlier, but didn’t get one out of the end zone against Arkansas State.
Turnover is coming
The Buckeyes forced their first turnovers of the season in the second half.
Safety Ronnie Hickman intercepted Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn during the opening halftime drive.
Midway through the fourth quarter, defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste’s backpack from quarterback Tucker Gleason was picked up by Palaie Gaoteote.
Cornerback Cameron Brown came out with a coach in the second quarter. … Freshman quarterback Devin Brown made his debut for the Buckeyes late in the fourth quarter, handing over to running backs TC Caffey and Cayden Saunders. He did not attempt a pass. … Jayden Ballard’s 72-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter was the first of his career.