Ohio State football: Day hopes ‘ugly’ win propels Buckeyes into big November

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State football coach Ryan Day hopes his team sees all the right things on film this week.

That goes for the Buckeyes watching themselves in a win over Penn State last week and for what they see while scouting Nebraska this Saturday.

Here are five takeaways from Day’s weekly press conference:

1. He still hopes having a close call against Penn State after four consecutive blowouts will have a positive long-term impact on his team.

Ohio State came out on top 33-24 against the Nittany Lions despite struggling to run the ball efficiently and having 10 penalties walked off against it. “We’ll see how this practice week goes, if we can get guys to really dig in and understand that we have a chance to be really good,” Day said. “We beat a really good Penn State team and didn’t play our best football, and I hope that catapults us into this week and this game and we take off into the month of November.”

2. The lack of offensive players on the list of “champions” from the Penn State game was not a motivational tactic.

Receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba was the only player from the offensive side of the ball to get a passing grade Saturday night, and head coach said there was no changing grades (which are determined by the position coaches) to make a point.

“We have a standard here: If you want to be a champion, you have to play over 15 plays and grade over 80 percent,” Day said. “That was it. We can try to make people feel better, but that’s not the way it works. So guys have to be held accountable. Position coaches have to be held accountable for their units. Each guy has to be held accountable for his job, and that 80 percent execution didn’t happen. But I think the message is also that to win ugly like that says a lot about our character and who were are as a team.”

On defense, linemen Jerron Cage, Taron Vincent, Tyreke Smith, Zach Harrison and Haskell Garrett, linebackers Cody Simon and Steele Chambers, nickel back Marcus Williamson, cornerback Cam Brown and safety Ronnie Hickman earned champion grades with Cage being named the defensive player of the game.

3. He sees Nebraska as a team that is better than its 3-6 record.

“I watched the film and this is a very good team,” Day said, noting the Cornhuskers are 27th in the country in scoring defense at 20.3 points per game and played competitive games against top 10 teams Michigan, Michigan State and Oklahoma this season.

“I’ve been very impressed with them, and just like any other game in the Big Ten when you go on the road it’s going to be a battle. It is truly like March Madness right now: We’ve got to look at it that way.”

4. Day suggested a change to the punishment for targeting.

The Buckeyes lost Chambers for all but one play of the second half last week after he was called for targeting.

The hit came when he was trying to tackle Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, who made a last-second decision to slide in front of Chambers. The Ohio State linebacker did not have time to hold up and hit Clifford with his head down, leading to a flag and ejection that will carry over to the first half this week.

“I feel like in real time it’s a very difficult call,” Day said. “I think if you’re Steele in that spot and he is running full speed at you in real time it’s just that’s very, very difficult. I understand the rule is in place for the right reasons to protect our players, and for that I absolutely support it, but I also think there’s a difference between what is going on in real time and what’s showing on the replay. That’s the challenge our referees are faced with, and it’s not easy. Don’t get me wrong, but certainly we are always going to advocate for our guys.”

The fact a player’s total punishment (disqualified for the rest of the current half and all of the next one) could vary widely based on when a foul occurs also seems like a problem to Day.

“If it’s the first play of the second half or the last play of the second half, that’s significantly different, so in my mind it should be changed to a 30-minute penalty as opposed to the number of halves,” Day said. “When you do it shouldn’t be the determining factor on how the penalty is assessed.”

5. Ohio State did send some plays of note to the Big Ten office to be reviewed.

The coach had to choose his words wisely when asked if he thought a lack of holding calls against the Penn State offense was unusual, but he acknowledged the staff made the league aware of some things it took issue with in regards to how the game was officiated.

“We always look at the film afterward, and if there are things that are a concern we send them to the office for review, and we did that,” he said. “Listen, the refs have a tough job. They hear it from all angles, and I get it, but certainly we have to advocate for our guys, and if we see something that doesn’t quite look right, we have to make sure we recognize that and we do that in certain ways but also be professional..

“Certainly there were some things we did turn in, yes,” he said before taking a drink of water and smiling. “I think I answered that in the best way possible.”


Ohio State at Nebraska, Noon, Fox, 1410

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