Three Key Stats: Justin Fields Makes His Debut, Baron Browning Outplays Tuf Borland and Ohio State Lost the Final Three Quarters in Ryan Day's Opener

By Jake Anderson on August 31, 2019 at 8:15 pm
Fields throws a pass against FAU.
Ohio State Athletics

The first ten minutes were a blur. After that, it was a little hard to watch. 

Everyone knew it was over with five minutes left in the first quarter, but Ohio State still had to finish the job. Florida Atlantic finally woke up just as the Bucks started to fall asleep to keep the game a little closer than it should have been, with the home team prevailing 45-21

In today's Three Key Stats, we'll look at Justin Fields' first game as a Buckeye, how the competition between Tuf Borland and Baron Browning is ongoing and if we should be concerned with Ohio State's performance after the opening quarter. 

Justin Fields totaled 295 yards and five touchdowns in his Buckeye debut

It is safe to say that Fields looks the part of the next great Buckeye quarterback. According to ESPN, his performance against Florida Atlantic was one of the best debuts in Ohio State history. 

The offensive play-calling certainly helped Fields throughout the game, gifting Fields two wide-open touchdowns for Jeremy Ruckert and Binjimen Victor in the opening quarter. Ruckert, Victor, and Chris Olave were direct beneficiaries of his performance, each adding a touchdown to their résumé. Ruckert, a true sophomore, now has two touchdowns and five receptions in his Ohio State career. 

Fields' big 51-yard run masked the rest of his struggles on the ground. Over his next 11 rushing attempts, he totaled just 10 yards. His willingness to tuck-it-and-run is a net positive, but at times he was too willing to settle for a couple of yards on the ground while a receiver was open downfield. 

Baron Browning had four tackles and one tackle for loss, Tuf Borland had three tackles with none for loss

A constant storyline of last year and this past offseason was the middle linebacker position. Borland and Browning, both of whom are juniors, have been competing for playing time, with Borland edging his fellow third-year backer out earlier this month. 

While it may not mean much, Browning outperformed Borland against the Owls, gaining one more tackle and another tackle for loss in the victory. Of the four "main" linebackers (Harrison, Werner, Borland, and Browning), Borland had the fewest tackles of them all. 

Do I expect a change in the depth chart this week? No. Just because Borland is the starter now, however, does not necessarily mean it will stay that way all year.

Florida Atlantic outscored the Bucks 21-17 over the final 50 minutes of the game

Let's face it: after the first quarter, this game started to get ugly. 

I am not one to expect a touchdown on every drive of a football game (even against an opponent as bad as FAU), but the Bucks did not play well after going up 28 in the first 10 minutes. Ohio State gained 220 yards in the first quarter and just 249 in the rest of the game. 

When up by 28 so early, it is, understandably, easy to lose some motivation. Point totals are expected to drop off as the game goes on, but the efficiency and execution should still be there. Against the Owls, both sputtered as the game continued. 

In the first quarter, Ohio State was 2-of-3 of third downs and averaged 10.5 yards per rush. For the final three quarters, the Buckeyes were 5-of-11 on third down, averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had two turnovers. 

Is this anything to be concerned about? Probably not. In Day and Fields' debut, the Bucks simply got a little sloppy after a big opening quarter. When facing a better defense, however, this sloppiness may not be so easily forgiven.

View 53 Comments