Ohio State football: Day not concerned about running game

Buckeyes were held to season-low 66 yards rushing in win over Iowa

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State football coach Ryan Day had mostly good health news when he met with reporters to start another Penn State week.

He also had one topic that took up much of the conversation as the second-ranked Buckeyes prepare for their second road trip of the season.

Here are five things to know from Day’s press conference on Tuesday:

1. He is not worried about the Ohio State running game.

Iowa held the Buckeyes to a season-low 66 yards on 30 carries last week, but the Hawkeyes’ extra attention to the ground game eventually opened up opportunities for Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and his receivers to attack through the air.

“I thought we did a really good job on one play and we had a slip that could have turned into an explosive,” Day said. “On one, the offensive line did a good job but we didn’t do a good enough job of cracking the safety. So it was a little bit of everything, but there was good and bad. The issues were there, but when you play against a better defense the issues come to the surface. So we’ll keep pushing and keep trying to address those issues that we try to get better every week.”

Reinvigorating the running game has been a season-long focus for the Buckeyes, who are second in the Big Ten and 15th nationally with a per-game average of 228 yards on the ground.

2. They are not looking to cut down on the rotation at the top of the depth chart.

TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams entered the season sharing carries, but each had his chance to carry the load for a game or so in the first half because of an injury to the other.

With both healthy again Saturday, neither seemed to find a rhythm as Henderson ran for 38 yards on 11 carries and Williams added 19 yards on 10.

“I think where we’re at is good,” he said. “We’ve got them both back healthy, so that’s good. We’re getting ourselves back into a rhythm of them both playing because it’s been a couple of week since we’ve had them both, but I think we’re good right now.”

3. The Buckeyes did add some depth to that position earlier this month.

Chip Trayanum, a transfer from Arizona State, appeared at running back late in the Iowa game and had one carry for nine yards.

After being a running back for the Sun Devils, the Akron native transferred to Ohio State last winter to play linebacker, but injuries have left the Buckeyes much thinner at his former position than the latter.

“It was good to get him out there and get him part of the unit because I think we’re gonna need him,” Day said. “He came to us a couple of weeks ago and said if you need me on offense, I’m here for you, which is really just the way he is. He’s an unbelievable person and has a great attitude so we just felt like the time was right.”

Ohio State’s base defense only calls for a pair of linebackers, and former starter Cody Simon has typically been the man on the rare occasions defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has gone to a 4-3 look. Day said Palaie Gaoteote has replaced Trayanum as the next linebacker after Simon.

4. Day expects to have Jaxon Smith-Njigba available again Saturday.

The star receiver returned last week after a three-game absence, but he only made one catch for seven yards before leaving the game.

Day explained that as Smith-Njigba being on a “pitch count” as he gets back to full-speed.

The coach expects him to be in the lineup this week, but it remains to be seen how many plays he can go.

“By the end of the week we’ll have a better idea,” Day said.

5. Cam Brown does not have a long-term injury.

Cornerback is another position where depth was already a concern entering the year, and Ohio State has had to deal with multiple injuries since the start of the season.

Brown has not played in three of the last four games, but Day said he should be back soon.

JK Johnson started in his place Saturday, and true freshman Jordan Hancock made his season debut after getting over a significant injury from the preseason.

A four-star recruit from Sewanee, Ga., Hancock flashed in the spring game and was considered a candidate for early playing time before his injury.

SATURDAY’S GAME

Ohio State at Penn State, Noon, Fox, 1410

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