Even though fall has just begin, the Tuesday ritual of Ryan Day at the podium inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center has now completed its fifth instance. Answering questions ahead the Ohio State Buckeyes clash with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Day gave breakdowns on how his team is preparing for their first night game of the season.
With ESPN’s College Gameday headed to Lincoln, Neb., this Saturday, the eyes of the college football world will be focused on the primetime clash. Ohio State has cruised in all four games this season, and comes off a video game-esque 76-5 win over in-state foe Miami (Ohio). Day reviewed that game as well, giving insights into how Justin Fields, the offense and defense have improved.
It was a lengthy press conference from the OSU football coach, but let’s take a look at the five biggest answers he gave, and figure out how they’ll play a role in the Buckeyes’ performance come Saturday.
1. “It’s something that we’re going to talk to the guys about is that we have to be able to play 60 minutes and prove that we can play 60 minutes... The good news is we’ve been picking up some depth and we’ve been building depth in these four games.”
This season, the Bucks haven’t had to go the distance with their starters. After a 28-0 sprint out over Florida Atlantic, both sides of the ball took the foot off the gas for the remainder of the game. Against Cincinnati, things got out of hand around halftime. In the first road game of the season at Indiana, the game was all but sealed away at the end of the third quarter when an Damon Arnette housed an interception for a 96-yard touchdown. Then last week against Miami, a 42-point second quarter put the kibosh on any sort of RedHawks upset.
While Nebraska has lived through a loss (and a near loss to Illinois), having home field advantage in a primetime atmosphere could be a difference maker. While there are starters on the team that have gone a full 60 minutes in games, this team—as a whole—has yet to do that. At the same time, they haven’t been in situations where the game is on the line.
The counterbalance is the amount of the depth the team has. Underclassmen and second-stringers have had live tackles, and that’ll come in handy sometime down the road.
2. “Great competitor, great leader, got a great way about him. On the field, first off, he’s big and strong and powerful. He’s very athletic, so in terms of the run game, his ability to extend plays with his feet, you’ve got to get him on the ground, which is not easy. He’s explosive, he’s fast, he’s strong and has good running skills, makes good decisions, and then throwing the ball, he’s really accurate. I think when you combine that together of the ability to run and throw along with his intelligence and game management, he is by far the best quarterback we’ve seen.”
Adrian Martinez is one of the quarterbacks to watch. Now in his second game against the Buckeyes, he’s going to be out for some revenge. He nearly lead the Cornhuskers to an upset last season, but a Buckeye rally in the second half in addition to Nebraska be stifled in the final 30 minutes prevented the upset inside Ohio Stadium.
Martinez is a dual-threat QB. Is he as dual-threat as Justin Fields? Not so. But he does have skills that the OSU defense hasn’t seen from a QB this season. Evading pressure, finding a wide receiver with sure hands (JD Spielman), and getting first downs on the ground are things Martinez has the ability to do.
However, he is sack prone. That’s bad news for Martinez, and great news for the Buckeye defense, notably Chase Young. You’re only as a good as the offensive line, and Young has been able to shred through O-lines all season long. He’s well on his way to eclipsing his sack totals from last season, and has a not too long shot of a chance of hitting 10 sacks in the first five weeks of the season. Two straight weeks of two sack games makes Young a real threat to the Nebraska offense. If they can’t protect their QB, then it doesn’t matter have elusive Martinez is because Young will have him on the ground.
3. “We knew his length, we knew his speed, but what we didn’t know was how tough he was. This is a guy who’s practiced really, really hard. He goes in there and just tries to – there’s a couple clips of film where he’s just throwing his body around. That was really impressive to all of us.”
Garrett Wilson has been one of the new names on the wide receiver front to make plays this season. His first career grab, against Cincinnati, was a spectacular touchdown with a defender draped over him. He followed that catch with a circus-like juggle against Miami (OH), which was also a TD.
But Wilson isn’t the only member in Zone 6 earning six. Jameson Williams broke off a huge touchdown on Saturday, sprinting past the RedHawks defense 50 yards for a score. In total, that TD went 61 yards, and for the day, he had two catches and 74 yards.
Williams has proven to be another WR threat for the OSU offense. That’s great news for Ryan Day and offensive coordinator Mike Yurich, and bad news for everyone else. If there’s only a couple wide receivers that need to be checked, pass defense has a chance to not be torn to shreds. Ohio State has capable upperclassmen in K.J. Hill and Benjamin Victor, and now have in-game reps this season from Wilson and Williams. Throw in Chris Olave, who’s an all-around game changer, and you have a receiving corp that’ll pull down (and run for) receiving yards like there’s no tomorrow.
4. “Some of the reasons that the games have been won around here is because of special teams, and we want to keep that going.”
Speaking of Olave, the special teams unit got a nice shout out during the press conference. Whether it be blocked field goals, or blocked punts, Day has kept up the performance of the special teams unit. Urban Meyer focused on special teams a lot, and put players there to prove themselves worthy of being a member of the offense or defense.
Olave has blocked kicks, Chase Young has swatted the ball down to the air, and Sevyn Banks has gotten his hands on a would-be punt. All three have happened in consecutive weeks.
Again, if you’re Nebraska, this is not good for a teams’ psyche as they begin to prepare for OSU. Knowing that Olave, Banks or a member of the block unit is coming at you full steam, a lineman/blocker could allow someone else to slip through. For a kicker, you’ll rush the follow through and may botch the attempt entirely.
Having a great special teams unit can make all the difference.