Harrison on Saturday delivered his best and most significant performance of the season for a short-handed Buckeyes offense that needed its best to be at his best. The junior wide receiver recorded a career-high 11 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown to lift No. 3 Ohio State to a 20-12 win over No. 7 Penn State at Ohio Stadium. He accounted for 56.6% of Ohio State’s receiving yards, half of the team’s receptions, 16 of the 36 targets, 89 of the team’s 135 yards after catch and nine of Ohio State’s 22 first downs.
Harrison’s fourth game with at least 150 receiving yards and a touchdown since the start of the 2022 season mark the most in the FBS over that span. He also became the first Ohio State player to record five career games of 160 receiving yards or more.
“That’s my job,” Harrison said. “My teammates and coaches count on me to be the focal point of the offense. Each and every week, they’re going to lean on me, and sometimes the offense goes as I go.”
Ohio State’s defense didn’t need much from its offense, keeping Penn State out of the end zone until the game’s final minute and denying the Lions on their first 12 third-down attempts until two defensive penalties in the closing minutes. But the Buckeyes again played without top running back TreVeyon Henderson and No. 2 wide receiver Emeka Egbuka, who dressed and warmed up but never entered the game. They finished with only 79 rushing yards and averaged just 3.1 yards on plays other than Harrison’s receptions.
Harrison, projected by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 3 prospect for the 2024 draft, became an even bigger focus for PSU’s defense but still found room to roam. He was unguarded on a 35-yard pass late in the first half and, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, open on 75% of his targets.
“Most teams, the first thing they look at is: How do they take away Marvin Harrison?” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “He showed up in a big spot today again. I haven’t seen everybody play across the country, but it’s hard for me to find somebody who’s better in the country. I don’t know how he gets on these lists or doesn’t get on these lists, but to me, he’s one of the most special players in the country.”
Harrison’s season began quietly with only two receptions for 18 yards on six targets against Indiana. But he has soon become quarterback Kyle McCord‘s favorite target, eclipsing 100 receiving yards and catching at least one touchdown in five of the past six games.
McCord said Harrison should quickly gain more consideration for the Heisman Trophy.
“If it’s truly the award that goes to the best plyer in college football, I don’t see how he’s not in the mix,” said McCord, who completed 22 of 35 passes for 286 yards and the touchdown to Harrison. “What he’s done, especially these last few games, I don’t know if we’ve seen a stretch like that, how consistent he is, how reliable he is.
“He’s done a great job.”
Harrison said Penn State usually hedged a safety toward him to cover in a zone structure. He took advantage of man coverage on several occasions, including an 18-yard touchdown on third-and-11 in the fourth quarter that essentially put the game out of reach.
“I made a move on the corner and they passed me off,” he said. “[Tight end Cade Stover] was running the other drag concept with me, so we had a good mesh there. The linebackers collided and left me wide open.”
Added McCord: “I’ll say it again: There’s not a matchup in the country, if Marvin’s one-on-one, that I don’t like.”
Harrison’s torment of Penn State continued after he had 10 receptions — all for first downs — and 186 receiving yards in last year’s road win. He became the first player in Ohio State history to have multiple games with 10 or more receptions against the same opponent.
“It was frustrating,” Penn State cornerback Daequan Hardy said. “We tried to take him out of the game as much as we could, but great players are going to make great plays.”
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