TreVeyon Henderson

Ohio State freshman TreVeyon Henderson takes a swing pass 70 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter at Minnesota on Thursday night.

Ohio State played with the elements in Thursday night's season opener at Minnesota, and we're not talking about the light rain that had no impact on a wild night.

The fourth-ranked Buckeyes flirted with fire for three full quarters before using some lightning of their own to thunder past the Golden Gophers 45-31 in a nationally-televised Big Ten opener.

For a full half coach Ryan Day's squad looked like a group breaking in a quarterback who hasn't completed a pass in two years, and even then redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud was in high school.

Stroud played a miserable first two quarters. The Twitter angst it created was accentuated by a spoiled fanbase who has seen nothing but elite QB play since Urban Meyer arrived in 2012. From that point forward, the position included:

Braxton Miller winning two Big Ten MVP awards.

J.T. Barrett earning three first-team all-Big Ten QB honors as well as a conference MVP trophy.

First-round NFL Draft pick Dwayne Haskins authoring one spectacular year.

Justin Fields pocketing a Big Ten MVP Award and becoming a Heisman finalist in his two seasons.

Even Cardale Jones won a national title in a memorable three-game run replacing an injured Barrett in 2014.

But Stroud looked nothing like those guys during a disturbing first two quarters in which he threw for just 58 yards, tossed an interception, and struggled to complete anything beyond a short pass. The Buckeyes' only TD in the first half came on Miyan Williams' 71-yard romp, and he swiftly went to the bench for an hour before getting another touch.

Minnesota took advantage of all of that to play ball control and grab a 14-10 halftime advantage that stirred a sellout crowd in Minneapolis to a fever pitch.

Larry Phillips mug shot

Richland Source managing editor Larry Phillips. He's led the Source newsrooms since 2016. 

But Stroud settled down in the second half and Ohio State's big-play offense exploded repeatedly thanks to their talented receivers, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, who should both be first-round NFL draft picks next spring barring injury. Stroud's task this season is to find them. After two shaky quarters, he eventually did.

"I have great teammates, but I feel like I'm a great player, too," Stroud said. "Maybe the first half didn't show that, but I did my best in the second."

Ohio State big-played the Gophers to pieces in a 35-point second half eruption. Stroud hit a lonely Olave for a 38-yard score to take a 17-14 edge. The youngster then found an even more wide-open Wilson for a 56-yard strike to grab the lead for good with 2:18 showing in the third period.

To that point, Minnesota's Mohamed Ibrahim was rolling. The Gophers' second-team All-American tailback racked up 163 yards on 30 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. But after he absorbed a nasty-looking leg injury near the end of the third quarter, Minnesota really had no chance -- especially when Ohio State kept scoring.

Senior defensive tackle Haskell Garrett picked up a fumble, caused by junior Zach Harrison's strip-sack, and rumbled 32 yards to make it 31-21. Talented true freshman tailback TreVeyon Henderson took a simple swing pass and streaked 70 yards for a score, and Olave finished it with a nifty 61-yard catch and dance along the sideline.

In total, Ohio State scored six touchdowns from more than 30 yards. Williams ran for 125 yards on just nine carries, while Stroud threw for four scores, and averaged an incredible 47.2 yards per completion, all in the second half.

"He and I had a conversation early on that we're going to keep swinging, no matter what happens, and we're not going to play close to the vest," Day said. "That's not the way we do it here.

"And he responded, but I really think it was the guys around him."

Amen.

The Buckeyes are a loaded team on offense, and as Thursday night proved, they will have to score a ton of points to compensate for a defense that showed precious few signs it's much better than last year's much-maligned outfit.

But if shootouts are on the menu, Ohio State has a lot of bullets in its offensive cartridge belt. Stroud's job is to find them and keep firing them.

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I've lived in Richland Co. since 1990, married here, our children were born here. This is home. I have two books published on a passion topic, Ohio high school football. Others: Buckeyes, Cavs, Bengals, Reds, History, Disney.

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