If you were tuning into the Ohio State spring game — or were in the crowd at Ohio Stadium — and were hoping to see some fireworks from the newly constituted Ohio State Buckeyes, the first quarter was considerably underwhelming. But, as the Buckeyes came back out for the second period, the offenses found their flow, and the points started piling up, even if it wasn’t always in the prettiest of ways.
When all was said and done the Gray squad took home the spring game victory, beating the Scarlet 35-17. Much of the attention coming into the game was focused on new transfer quarterback Justin Fields who was donning a Buckeye jersey for the first time. His performance had its highs and lows, and while he wasn’t always allowed to show his full complement of skills, he did show signs of the electric talent that he brings to Columbus.
In his first “game” as the head coach of OSU, Ryan Day put some rules in place to keep his players safe, but that also limited what could be done on both sides of the ball. As usual, the quarterbacks were wearing the black no-contact jerseys, and there was no live tackling allowed, which meant that while the first defender can play the ball-carrier like normal, no secondary hits are allowed. Also, all punts were automatically fair-caught.
It took a while for all of the Buckeyes to get on the same page, but as the players settled into the flow of the game, things started to look promising for both the Buckeye offense and defense.
Fields got the start on the Gray squad, but was handcuffed by the no-contact rules for the spring game, as it looked like he was about to bust a big gain before Javon Hamilton got the “touch sack.” Fields’ first pass for OSU was deflected, and resulted in a three-and-out.
After a mandatory fair-catch on the punt, Chris Chugunov led the second-team offense on the Scarlet side and actually earned the first completion with a 19-yard gain to Jaelen Gill. However, the side’s first drive also resulted in a punt.
Matthew Baldwin came out to lead the Gray side for the second series, and on his first pass was aided by K.J. Hill fighting through a pass interference on Shaun Wade to come back and get an under-thrown ball to pick up 33 yards. On a fourth-and-five, Malik Harrison nearly picked off a Baldwin pass over the middle to result in a turnover on downs.
The offense struggled for both squads in the early going of the game, as they attempted get comfortable with the rotating personnel. Baldwin led the Scarlet offense for the second drive, looking to connect with Gill on multiple passes (including a 10-yard completion).
After two straight gains by running back Xavier Johnson, the walk-on had the ball striped by Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Sevyn Banks recovered. Fields hit his hand on a defender’s helmet on the next drive, but stayed in the game. However, he continued to struggle to get in sync with the Buckeye offense.
One of the things that many were hoping to see from the spring game is what the OSU offensive line would look like. In the first quarter, the first-team Gray squad saw Joshua Alabi, Branden Bowen, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis, and Nicholas Petit-Frere from left to right along the line.
Baldwin continued to struggle connecting with receivers, as Amir Riep picked off a pass and turned in a 25-yard return before the no-live-tackling rule ended the return.
On the first play after the turnover, Fields — apparently feeling no ill-effects from hitting his hand — threw a bullet to Binjimen Victor. The WR spun his way into the endzone, but was marked down via a glancing blow by Jeffrey Okudah.
On the next play, Master Teague got into the endzone on a one-yard touchdown plunge.
With Baldwin back leading the Scarlet offense, the redshirt-freshman continued to struggle, but hit two consecutive impressive throws. First, on the run he threw across his body to find Gill for a 19-yard gain. Then, Baldwin perfectly placed a high-arching fade into the corner of the endzone where true-freshman Garrett Wilson climbed the ladder over Banks to tie the game at 7-7.
On the next offensive drive for the Gray squad, Fields began to settle in a bit. In addition to two completions for a combined 24 yards to Austin Mack, the new OSU QB took off to the outside and beat everyone to the pylon for a five-yard touchdown.
Jahsen Wint came across the field to pick off a Baldwin pass at the two-yard line. The Scarlet QB lofted the ball towards Gill, but it stayed in the air for a bit too long, allowing Wint to come and get it.
The turnover set up the Gray offense deep in its own territory, and on third down, Fields lofted the ball towards the right sideline. Defensive back Lloyd McFarquhar slipped in coverage as Victor came back for a slightly under-thrown ball and was off to the races completing a 98-yard touchdown pass.
With Chugunov back running the Scarlet squad on the very next play, the same fate befell him as did Baldwin, as Wint came across the field to intercept a ball, giving it back to the Gray side.
This time, Baldwin led the offense back onto the field for a six-play, 52-yard drive that was capped by an eight-yard touchdown completion to C.J. Saunders. Following a Blake Haubeil last-second field goal for the Scarlet squad, halftime came with a 28-10 score in favor of the Gray side.
However, the excitement was not limited for game time, as during halftime, junior punter Drue Chrisman was setting up to hold the ball for the student-kicking competition, when, he stopped the kicker, took away the ball, and instead took out a ring and proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes.
As the teams returned for the second half, it was mostly a running-clock, but the offenses continued to turn out yards and points. On the first drive back from the break, Marcus Crowley picked up 20 yards for Scarlet, and got into the end-zone for the first time on the day, to cut the Gray advantage to 28-17.
Fields and Teague put up back-to-back big runs (30 and 17 yards, respectively), before Tyreke Smith exploded into the backfield to get the two-hand touch sack. On the next play, it was back to Teague, who took the counter to the outside for a 22-yard touchdown scamper, and a 35-17 Gray lead.
The fourth quarter — aided by the running clock — was fairly uneventful, as the first team players mostly were on the sidelines with Day and the coaches looking to end the spring with everybody healthy.