Ohio State still with ‘a lot to clean up’ entering Lincoln

COLUMBUS – Ohio State fans entered “The Shoe” on Saturday in a good mood. Soon, though, their patience was tested.

Most had already heard that Michigan was getting creamed in Madison by Wisconsin. That set the table, they hoped, for a resounding Ohio State victory against in-state foe Miami.

The RedHawks didn’t exactly oblige early, but after spotting the RedHawks a 5-0 lead, the then sixth-ranked Buckeyes reeled off 76 unanswered points and rolled to a 76-5 victory in their final non-conference test, calming the nerves of the crowd of more than 103,000.

“First 5 or 6 minutes, not great,” a damp Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day said afterwards, fresh off departing from the turf following a late-game thunderstorm that halted play with 2:40 remaining.

“So, a lot of things to clean up. (They) hit us on some things,and we also gave up a safety. But from then on, I thought it was pretty dominant overall, just in terms of defense. I think it was maybe 10 straight drives we stopped them, three and out or close to that.”

The Buckeyes, now ranked fifth, allowed 94 yards in the RedHawks’ first two drives, but just 36 after. Ohio State improved to second in the nation in total defense, behind the aforementioned Badgers.

Day pointed to three Miami miscues, which resulted in 21 Buckeye points.

“Anytime you can create turnovers like we did – we had two strip-sack fumbles by Chase (Young). We had the blocked punt and the interception by Jeff (Okudah), and you’re playing with a short field, makes all the difference in the world.”

Young missed what looked like a sure sack of Miami starting quarterback Brett Gabbert early in the game, but atoned for it later, this time jarring the ball loose from back-up Jackson Williamson. Ohio State recovered and scored just before halftime on Justin Fields’ 13-yard pass to Chris Olave that made the score 35-5.

Ohio State scored 42 points in the second quarter, the most since at least 1960. And, it happened quickly. Five of the six scoring drives took less than 1:13, with four taking place in 37, 29, 54 and 26 seconds.

“We were opportunistic in those situations,” Day said. “I thought going into the game we had opportunities to get turnovers – in other games that we weren’t quite there, we got them (Saturday), so that was good.”

Okudah’s pick led to the Buckeyes’ first full scoring drive of the second. For the junior, the theft was like lifting a monkey off his back. He’d done almost everything in his previous 27 games, so recording an interception was a welcome addition to his resume.

“Last night, I had a dream that I’d get my first interception,” he said. “So, I woke up (Saturday) like, maybe today is the day. It’s crazy to kind of bring it to fruition and get that first one.”

Saturday wasn’t a dream day for Fields, but the sophomore transfer from Georgia enjoyed another stellar afternoon, throwing four TDs and running for two more in just a half of action – both career highs.

“I think it was a pretty good stretch,” said Fields, whose 53-yard strike to K.J. Hill was theongest catch of Hill’s career. “I don’t know about the best stretch we’ve had. But it was a good stretch and, I think, we did a great job in the second quarter executing and doing our job.”

Day said his team will need to continue to build on that explosive second quarter as it heads to Lincoln on Saturday for a primetime showdown against Nebraska (3-1).

“I do think that we’re playing with a lot of passion and playing hard and tough; it’s clear to see,” he said. “But, again, we go on the road next week. That’s a big test. I think I’ll have a better idea next week.”