After six straight weeks of college football Saturdays, Ohio State has next weekend off.
One Buckeye confirmed the break is perfectly timed.
“At least for me it is because this is definitely the most banged up I've been after a game, so I'm definitely glad we have a bye week next week,” quarterback Justin Fields said Saturday night after the Buckeyes beat Michigan State 34-10. “I think we're all just going to get in the training room, just get our bodies back right, just get ready for the (next) game.”
Fields completed 17 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 61 yards on 11 attempts, though three of those were sacks.
The sophomore has had gaudier numbers in his first six starts, but this appeared to be his most satisfying outing yet as he showed a little bit of everything he can do – not the least of which was take a hit.
“When he needed to, he did a good job with his feet,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “He had 84 yards rushing (not counting sack yardage). Those were big yards. The impact he can have is huge, as you can see. That kept us going when it was tough sledding in there. He's a competitive guy. He made a lot of plays. And hats off to him and his toughness.”
While Ohio State has limited the number of designed runs called for Fields this season, Day dialed up a couple at important times against the Spartans – including on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. With the Buckeyes looking for a put-away touchdown, Fields delivered.
“He lowered his shoulder in there on the goal-line run,” Day said. “That was a hard run. There wasn't much there and give him a lot of credit.”
The offense as a whole had a hard time getting out of the blocks, which did not come as a major surprise since Michigan State presented by far the best defense the fourth-ranked Buckeyes have seen so far in 2019.
Fields was pressured on his first three dropbacks, including a third-down sack that resulted in an 18-yard loss when he was unable to get away and exacerbated the problem by retreating multiple times.
On Ohio State’s second third down of the night, he was sacked again after finding out his habit of taking extra time in the pocket might not be as applicable against the Spartans as it was earlier in the season.
The Buckeyes sputtered throughout the first quarter before Fields found Binjimen Victor alone on the sideline and let the senior receiver do the rest on a 60-yard touchdown catch.
From there, they started to look like the dominant unit they had been in the first five weeks against lesser competition, ultimately finding the end zone four times and piling up 529 total yards, more than double the average the Spartans allowed in their first five games.
The Ohio State defense gave up a handful of big plays but only 285 yards and 10 points, adding up to another comfortable victory when all was said and done.
It sends the coaching staff and team leaders into a week off with plenty to feel good about – and plenty to work on.
“All I know is we’ve got to stay focused,” captain Chase Young said. “It’s just half a season. We’re 6-0 but we’ve got some big tests in front of us. That’s the only thing I’m gonna be preaching for the next week is to stay focused. We gotta keep working.”
With many new faces on the field for the offense and the sideline for the defense, Ohio State entered the season with great potential but also many questions.
Day warned there would be growing pains and intimated he hoped everyone would stay together if everything did not go according to plan.
The latter wasn’t much of a concern in the first five weeks, but the Spartans provided the adversity Day almost seemed to crave for his team until finally getting it Saturday night.
“I think that this is a perfect opportunity to sit back and look at these six games, evaluate where we've gone, where we are and where we're headed, but this was the perfect game to kind of do that,” Day said.
“You're going against a really good defense with really good players and a really good quarterback. They exposed some things that maybe we got away with in the last couple of games. The best thing now is to get on the film and work on it to get better.”
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