EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — C.J. Stroud lofted a pass to his left, slightly short of Marvin Harrison Jr. and the son of a former NFL star did the rest.
Harrison made a twisting, leaping catch to snag a football that was near his right cleat for his third touchdown to help Stroud tie a school record with six touchdown passes as No. 3 Ohio State coasted to a 49-20 win over Michigan State on Saturday.
“If they saw my face on camera, I was like, `What was that?’” coach Ryan Day said. “That was a tremendous catch. We do see things in practice, but that was special.”
The Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) scored on their opening drive for the fifth straight game when Harrison caught his first of three touchdowns.
It was an impressive performance by an offense without injured receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running back Miyan Williams.
How good would Ohio State be at full strength?
“It’s scary to me so I can only imagine what it’s like for the rest of the country,” said Harrison, who had seven catches for 118 yards and three scores for the third time in seven games.
TreVeyon Henderson ran for 118 yards and a touchdown before limping off the field with an apparent right leg injury in the third quarter.
With an abundance of caution, Day kept him on the sideline.
“If it was a different game, he probably would’ve come back in,” Day said.
The Spartans (2-4, 0-3) have lost four straight after winning their first two games this season.
“I’m not really happy right now and I’m going to keep it short,” coach Mel Tucker told reporters.
Stroud was 21 of 26 for 361 yards. He became the first player in program history to throw six touchdowns in three games, a feat he pulled off in consecutive games against Michigan State.
“What can you say about somebody who throwing it like that in 20 mph wind?” Day asked.
Stroud threw an interception for the third straight game and the latest was returned 32 yards by Charles Brantley to pull the Spartans into a 7-all tie.
Emeka Egbuka had five receptions for 143 yards and a score, a 69-yard catch on Stroud’s first throw after his Pick-6 in the second quarter.
Payton Thorne was 11 of 18 for 113 yards with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Reed to pull the Spartans within eight points early in the second quarter before they gave up 28 straight points in the lopsided game.
Michigan State has already lost twice as many games as it did last season.
“It’s very tough,” Thorne said. “It’s not something you want to go through. It’s not easy.”
Thorne, who threw an interception, could not rely on a running game that gained just 7 yards against the Buckeyes.
SEA OF RED
Michigan State’s disappointing season and the proximity to Ohio led to a lot of Buckeyes fans watching the game at Spartan Stadium.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are the first Big Ten team to score 45-plus points in five straight games since Michigan did it, closing the 1946 season and picking it up again in 1947, and it will take quite a defense to slow them down.
“It all starts with the physicality up front and running the football effectively,” Day said. “That opens up everything else.”
Michigan State: A potentially promising season is crumbling for Tucker, who does not seem to have answers to fix his team’s many problems on both sides of the ball. The Spartans were No. 15 in the preseason AP Top 25 and were No. 11 before losing the first of four straight games at Washington.
“I’m not looking to make any changes from a coaching standpoint at all,” Tucker said.
Ohio State: Williams and Smith-Njigba did not make the trip to Michigan State due to undisclosed injuries.
Michigan State: Jaden Mangham was taken to a hospital for evaluation after being carted off the field with an injury. The freshman safety appeared to take the brunt of a collision when he tackled Henderson late in the first quarter. As the cart approached the tunnel, Mangham flashed a thumbs up for the cheering crowd.
“Jaden Mangham was in the locker room with us just now with his teammates,” Tucker said.
Ohio State: A bye week comes at a good time to rest a banged-up backfield before hosting Iowa on Oct. 22 and playing the next week at No. 10 Penn State.
Michigan State: Hosts Wisconsin, another struggling team that is is led by an interim coach, in what seems like an opportunity to earn a desperately needed win.