Ohio State football officially is into game week No. 2.
With Cincinnati coming to town for another high noon showdown, here are five takeaways from coach Ryan Day’s weekly press conference.
1. Day expects a big challenge from the Bearcats, who are coached by former Ohio State player and coach Luke Fickell.
“We’ve got our hands full,” Day said of a team that opened the season with a 24-14 win over visiting UCLA last week.
“Got a lot of respect for Coach Fickell and what he's built down there. I think it's a very strong program, in great shape. So we know they are going to come in here hungry. Being in the same state we know that means a lot. We are up for the challenge but getting ready for it as we get ready for Saturday.”
2. The film confirmed what he thought about watching his quarterback live.
Justin Fields completed 18 of 25 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns as the Buckeyes beat Florida Atlantic 45-21 on Saturday. He also ran for a touchdown, tying Dwayne Haskins’ record for most touchdowns responsible for in an OSU starting debut.
“He played well in terms of game management,” Day said. "Didn't try to do stuff that wasn't there.”
That included avoiding forcing the ball into coverage when the Owls were only rushing three and navigating through a lull in the second quarter after the Buckeyes jumped out to a 28-0 lead.
“He kind of kept us on the schedule and didn't try to force the ball in there. I thought did he a good job there.”
3. The offensive line looked better than he expected.
“After watching the film I was more pleased with the way the offensive line blocked than I thought coming off the field there,” Day said of a unit that had four new starters, including center Josh Myers, guards Wyatt Davis and Jonah Jackson and right tackle Branden Bowen.
The group had to adjust to FAU stunting more after getting blown off the ball early, and Day implied the running backs might not have exploited some holes to their full potential.
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“Although it wasn't clean, and they did try to bring a bunch of stuff at us, I thought for the most part we moved them,” Day said. “Jonah Jackson had nine knockdowns in the game and Josh Myers had six knockdowns. Those guys played with effort, and we have to do a better job of finding the hole and making yards after contact. That's the bottom line.”
4. So far, so good for the revamped defense.
The Owls scored 21 points, but 15 came in the fourth quarter, including a 76-yard drive after the full second unit entered the game for Ohio State.
Not only did the Buckeyes look better overall than a season ago when they allowed more than 25 points per game, they easily outdid the 2018 opener when Oregon State exploited the starters and reserves for 31 points.
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“I think the first quarter it was exactly the way I envisioned, just both sides of ball and then it was just okay,” Day said. "I thought the second quarter, the defense still played good. Offense was just okay.”
Of course, 45 minutes of solid defense won’t be enough when the schedule gets tougher, "But do I think that we saw some guys flying around,” Day said. “I thought you saw some hard tackling early on. I think you saw guys running to the ball with great effort and that's what we want.”
5. The defensive line rotation is still to be determined.
The Buckeyes held the Owls to 228 total yards, including 22 on the ground, despite playing short-handed at defensive end.
Senior captain Jonathon Cooper is expected to remain out with an unidentified injury, but Larry Johnson said sophomores Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday could be ready to go.
With that trio out, senior Jashon Cornell moved from three-technique tackle to end (his original position) and had his best day as a Buckeye with four tackles, including a pair of tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
Johnson intends to move Cornell back inside to increase the pass-rush presence there, something that could happen as soon as this week if the youngsters prove ready to return in practice.
“We have a plan there,” Johnson said. "We’ll practice both ways and see what happens then make a decision Friday.”