Ohio State is No. 9 in the country in passing efficiency through two weeks.
Justin Fields is eighth individually and second in the Big Ten, trailing Penn State’s Sean Clifford.
Fields, a sophomore and first-year starter, has spread the ball around to a variety of receivers so far. Senior K.J. Hill leads the way with 11 receptions while Binjimen Victory and Chris Olave have seven apiece.
Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Demario McCall have been involved, too, and tight end Jeremy Ruckert caught two touchdown passes in the opener against Florida Atlantic.
Freshman Garrett Wilson, a five-star recruit from Texas, got into the act Saturday, outleaping a defender in the end zone to snag a 9-yard touchdown pass in Ohio State’s 42-0 drubbing of Cincinnati.
But are the Buckeyes just scratching the surface when it comes to rebuilding an aerial attack that lost record-setting quarterback Dwayne Haskins and three receivers who are with NFL teams to start the league’s 100th season?
“We’re building and learning,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “You will probably see some different pass combinations than we’ve had in the past — last year you saw a lot more crossers than it is now — and we’ll keep building that package as we go. But I think the receivers are doing a good job. The older guys are stepping up and the young guys, we’ve got to keep bringing them along.”
He used Wilson’s catch and a 20-yard pass from Fields to Victor as examples of the passing game’s potential.
“Garrett had a mistake early in the game,” Day said. “He could have gone in the tank, but he didn’t, and came back and made a catch for us. That’s what we need, guys to make plays in the red zone. Receivers and quarterbacks make their money on third down, in the red zone, and they did.”
Next up is Ohio State’s first road game and first Big Ten game of the season, another noon Saturday affair, this time in Bloomington, Ind.
The Buckeyes will take on an Indiana team that improved to 2-0 with a 52-0 victory over Eastern Illinois on Saturday.
Coach Tom Allen was much happier with his team after that one than he was following a 34-24 win over Ball State to start the season.
“We cleaned up some things from last week,” Allen told reporters in Bloomington. “We ran better, tackled better. The execution was solid on both sides of the ball. We addressed the things that needed to be addressed.”
“We all know what’s coming,” he added.
Day was similarly satisfied to see his team look much more efficient in shutting out the Bearcats than it did in a 45-21 season-opening victory against the overmatched Owls.
“I think today was another step in the journey,” Day said. “It was the right step. Where we want to be. We talked about coming into the game, we wanted to be the best in the country with what we do. It’s not easy to do.
“A lot of people can say that, but we take a lot of pride in that. Drue Chrisman has to be the best punter in the country. I thought today he was awesome. Liam McCullough has to be the best long snapper in the country, and with that comes seriousness. And we want to have the best defense and offense and special teams. With that comes a lot of work, a lot of dedication, a lot of sacrifice and I think we’re on the right journey that way.”
He described the beginning of Big Ten play as a new beginning.
“We have to start over again because when you come into the game, so much comes into it preparation-wise — physically, emotionally, mentally — to make sure you execute what you need to execute on Saturday. And so we have to start that journey again,” he said.
“Every game in college football, every week is a whole new season. And so we have to keep building on this, but I thought it was good to get some depth in the game again in the second half and see those guys play and fight all the way to the end.”
Multiple local prospects visit Horseshoe
Recruiting visits are also a big part of Ohio State home football games, and the Miami Valley was well-represented on that front Saturday.
Wayne guard/forward Bree Hall and Centerville guard/forward Cotie McMahon were among unofficial visitors for women’s basketball while Alter running back Branden McDonald and defensive back C.J. Hicks joined the group of football recruits on hand from around the country.
Hall and McMahon are both among the top prospects in the country from the class of 2021 and have numerous major offers.
McDonald, a junior with scholarship offers from Toledo, Akron and Kent State, told Rivals.com, “It was a spine-chilling environment to be part of.”
Hicks, who is in the running for top prospect in the state in the class of 2022, told Rivals, “I had an amazing time” and that he would be visiting the Horseshoe again this season.