Day won’t soon forget his official debut at Ohio State
COLUMBUS — Ryan Day’s official debut as Ohio State Buckeyes head coach will be one he never forgets.
But, it also probably won’t be his most memorable game, either. At least he certainly hopes not.
And that has nothing to do with the end result because the Buckeyes achieved the ultimate goal and won the game with relative ease.
By virtue of the Buckeyes scoring four touchdowns in the first nine minutes of the game, the outcome, a 45-21 final, was decided fairly early.
After that opening barrage of fireworks, Ohio State — until a touchdown pass to Jeremy Ruckert in the latter stages of the third quarter — couldn’t get out of its own way, offensively.
There were times — like the first quarter — where debuting starting quarterback Justin Fields and the offense were spectacular. Other times? It was — quite frankly — tough on the eyes.
Unlike the professional ranks and even high school football, however, major college football teams get no preseason scrimmages against a different team. So, there are sure to be hiccups along the way.
When you take that and the fact Fields wasn’t just making his debut as a starting quarterback, but also in the Ohio State uniform after his transfer from Georgia, there were, and still could be, continued growing pains at times.
But, by no means, were the Buckeyes’ nearly two-quarter-long offensive struggles all Fields’ fault. The offensive line, which started strong by helping to spring Fields for a 51-yard touchown run just 1:53 into the season, struggled a times.
Again, a few new faces in there making their debuts.
The receivers and tight ends looked to be in mid-season form. K.J. Hill, Chris Olave, Bin Victor and Ruckert all had multiple catches in the first half.
The running game — because of the struggles at time by the line — struggled at times. J.K. Dobbins led the Buckeyes with 91 yards, but he was guilty of a fumble, which set up a field goal.
Obviously, there’s a long way to go and absolutely no panic buttons need to be pressed. Like the cliche says, ‘teams make their biggest improvements from week one to week two.’
While the offense was up and down at times, there was one constant, which was especially pleasing for all of Buckeye Nation.
The new-look defense was dialed in from the outset and gave the Owls very little breathing room in limiting them to 228 yards, but a bulk of that came when the game had long been decided. Actually, Florida Atlantic had negative total yardage into the third quarter, but it did score a fourth quarter touchdown after a 15-play, 75-yard drive.
Obviously, the Buckeyes’ defense is improved. Actually, there was probably no way it couldn’t have been after the 2018 debacle. But, just how much improved? It’s probably still hard to tell because Florida Atlantic was simply in over its head, especially in the trenches where the Buckeyes dominated.
They unleashed defensive end Chase Young early and often. The linebacker play — especially Baron Browning — was much improved from a year ago. The secondary, which could end up being one of the best in America, was steady.
Overall, a solid opening week performance, but there are clearly a lot of areas in which the Buckeyes can — and will — improve. The college football season is a marathon, so the most important parts of getting the first one under the belt is experience and seeing exactly what areas need the most work when they return to the practice field this evening.
A much bigger test awaits this coming Saturday when Cincinnati, coached by OSU grad and long-time assistant coach Luke Fickell, comes up Interstate 71.
* BOTH THE current and alumni Ohio State marching bands performed at halftime. They formed four ‘Script Ohio’ formations on the field at the same time.
* OFFICIAL ATTENDANCE was announced as 103,228, which was an increase from last season’s opener. Obviously, an impressive crowd, but there were numerous empty seats throughout the Horseshoe.