Stroud throws 5 TD passes, No. 6 Ohio State routs Purdue

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — After two weeks of some uneven offensive play, the No. 6 Buckeyes were understandably anxious this week with giant-killer Purdue coming to town.

Ohio State had reason to be wary of the Boilermakers, who had already upset two top-five teams this season. The last time the two teams met, Purdue halted the Buckeyes’ 2018 march to the playoffs with a stunning upset in West Lafayette.

No worries this time.

Freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud was dialed in, throwing for 361 yards and five touchdowns as the Buckeyes struck early and rolled over Purdue 59-31 on Saturday.

“It’s going to build a lot of confidence,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I don’t think our guys were lacking confidence, I just think after the last two weeks – we were on edge a little bit this week, to be honest with you. We just wanted to get back in this game, score in the red zone and get our nose dirty a little bit, and I think we did that.”

The Buckeyes (9-1, 7-0 Big Ten, CFP No. 4) scored on all seven of their first-half possessions, piling up 45 points against a Purdue team that hadn’t allowed more than 30 in any game this year.

TreVeyon Henderson added to his impressive freshman resume with 98 yards and a pair of first-half TDs. Garrett Wilson caught three touchdown passes and ran for another.

“We were lucky to hold them to 59,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said.

The Buckeyes romped early, capitalizing on two Boilermakers turnovers, the second of which was a fumbled kickoff recovered on the Purdue 14. The 12-yard catch by Wilson two plays later gave the Buckeyes two touchdowns in 14 seconds.

Wilson had 10 catches for 126 yards. Jaxson Smith-Njigba followed up a 15-catch, 240-yard effort last week with nine catches for 139 yards a a TD.

Chris Olave had nine receptions for 85 yards a touchdown, the 33rd of his career and one away from the school record.

“It’s just real scary,” Smith-Njigba said. “I think its hard for defenses to cover all of us.”

HELPING OUT

The Ohio State defense wasn’t outstanding, but Stroud and Co. painted over it. Purdue quarterback Aiden O’Connell was 40 for 52 and threw four touchdown passes. He wasn’t sacked. David Bell had 11 catches for 103 yards as the Boilermakers (6-4, 4-3) piled up a respectable 481 yards.

“Certainly we don’t like to give up 31 points in a game,” Day said. “I think when you look at the last couple of week, when the offense has been exactly stellar, the defense played really, really well. This game, we score 59 points on offense and the defense gave up 31. The good news is we’re kind of helping each other out, but we’re still looking for that complete game. That’s part of winning football in November.”

TERRIFIC RUN

A 57-yard touchdown run by Henderson was his fourth rush of at least 50 yards this season, which ties him for the national lead. His 17th TD put him within one of the single-season school record by a freshman. Maurice Clarett had 18 in 2002.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The defense just couldn’t slow down Ohio State’s array of offensive stars. Purdue had won three of its last four, including a 40-29 upset of then-No. 5 Michigan State last week, before running into a Buckeyes offense that just wasn’t missing on much.

“They are a playoff-caliber team,” Brohm said. “They out-played us and out-manned us and really beat us in every category.”

Ohio State: The Buckeyes shook off all the talk about this being a possible trap game and treated Purdue like an early season cupcake.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The rout over a dangerous conference foe should impress voters. With No. 4 Oklahoma’s loss to No. 18 Baylor, the Buckeyes could make a move up.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Plays Northwestern on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

Ohio State: Hosts No. 8 Michigan State on Saturday.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.