Ryan Day had done it before.
A year ago, he led Ohio State onto the field for the first three games of the 2018 season as the interim head coach during Urban Meyer's suspension, coaching two games at Ohio Stadium.
On Saturday, he did it again. This time, though, he won't have to return to his offensive coordinator duties for the fourth week of the season. This is entirely Day's team, which he led it to a 45-21 victory against Florida Atlantic in the season opener at Ohio Stadium.
Day began his post-game press conference by thanking the Ohio State fans in a similar manner to how Meyer used to open his interviews after games.
"First off, I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who showed up to the game today," Day said. "I think it was over 103,000 people showing up, awesome for a noon kick. Unbelievable, the skull session today. They were rocking. We felt it early on. And everybody stayed late. So it was really humbling to just go out of that tunnel with our guys with a packed house. That means so much to our players with an early kickoff, having a packed house, coming out and feeling them early on. And I think that helped to our great start."
"In the tunnel. I gave a little dap to Quinn on the way out and looked up at the stands and looked up at the full house running out of the tunnel and the smoke comes out and that's my time to enjoy it," Day said. "And it's unbelievable, the hair stands up on your arms and the back of your neck. And you feel fortunate to be in that situation. That's my time. I'll try to make sure we do that every game."
With a coaching staff that included five new assistants, Day had quite a few others experiencing their first regular season game on the home sideline at Ohio Stadium. Everybody had a taste in April with the spring game, but the atmosphere clearly changes when the season kicks off.
Jeff Hafley, the first-year co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach, spent the past seven years coaching in the NFL, making Saturday's game his first at the college level since 2011 when he was Rutgers' secondary coach.
"A little emotional," Hafley said. "Such a special place. It's been a while since I stepped on a college field. Just a lot of thoughts going through my head. Very anxious. Very excited to see with these guys who I've really grown to care about. It was a special moment. All morning was kind of special, just to go through the whole pre-game, took the Skull Session. I haven't done anything like that in my whole life. The fans here are unbelievable. And then to walk through the walk and have all the fans there and walk on the field, that was special. It was pretty cool."
Josh Myers, a redshirt sophomore, made his debut as Ohio State's starting center on Saturday. As somebody who grew up a Buckeyes fan in Miamisburg, it was a special moment for Myers.
"I prided myself when I was second-string last year behind Mike (Jordan) on preparing. But when you know you're going to start the game, it's just different. You just have a different feel for it. I definitely prepared harder for my first game than I did any last season, and I prepared hard last season too. So I think I just knew I was going to be in there and wanted to be able to have a perfect game called from an Xs and Os standpoint."
"Super emotional. Super emotional," Myers said. "Just so happy to finally be in the starting lineup, so I was super emotional all day."
On the visiting sideline, Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin knew the game was out of hand early.
The Buckeyes jumped on the Owls for a quick 28-0 lead in the first quarter. Though Florida Atlantic never gave Ohio State any sort of an upset scare the remainder of the game, it outscored the Buckeyes, 21-17, throughout the final 50 minutes of the game.
"Obviously we started off really poor," Kiffin said. "To start 28-0 like that in half of a quarter, that was as bad as you can in all phases of the game. And then played a lot better after that. It was 21-17 or something like that, we out-scored them. Obviously that's not a moral victory, but that does show our players, 'Hey, we do things right.' Especially defensively because their starters were still in. Our defense did a really good job after that. Credit to Ohio State. Obviously they're playing really well. We did a great job on defense."
"It's unfortunate because as the game was going, I was saying, 'Man, if we would have done A, B and C early, we'd be sitting there in the fourth quarter having a very nice little game with the pressure back on them.' Obviously we didn't do that with the 28-0 start," Kiffin said.
Chase Young accounted for 1.5 sacks, and he caused even more disruption not shown in the official stats.
"Guy's a great player and will change your whole game plan like a Myles Garrett does," Kiffin said. "We saw it happen."
"I can see why they talk about him being the first pick in the draft," Kiffin said. "The guy's a special player, and he really changed the first half by himself. We had some plays that were going to be there and he makes plays. They're a very talented team. We just played a top-five team."
Ohio State didn't play any complicated defenses, Kiffin said. But based on the pure talent on the field, consider him a believer in the Buckeyes' new-look defense.
"They didn't do a whole lot of different things," Kiffin said. "They basically played Cover 3 and some Cover 1. Rarely did they pressure. I'm sure they look at it and said they didn't need to, and they give you problems. That's a great front, especially at defensive end. They were really fast. Perimeter plays. Then when you play guys like this, you're going to struggle inside and you're going to get the ball outside. We were having negative play after negative play in the first half."
"They looked fresh. They looked fast," Kiffin said. "To me, they look a lot better than they did a year ago on defense."
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State tossed out an intriguing wrinkle, going under center with multiple tight ends on the field.
With Meyer as the head coach, the Buckeyes rarely went under center, almost never doing so last year. In the 2019 season opener, Day had no reservations about going under center, especially closer to the red zone.
"I think when you look at college football today, I think it's important to have a balance," Ryan Day said. "I think it's important to be able to line up under center, run the football, play-action pass and do some things, and also run the spread and run with tempo. And I think when you can mix those two things and you're good at both those things it's not easy to do. But I think our quarterbacks can do that and Justin can do that. We're lucky enough to have some tight ends with some experience. And we can put those guys in there and do some things with them as well. I think it brings a different level of preparation for the defense and it's something we really haven't done a bunch of here. So I think it's an edge for us."
Going under center requires a center capable of consistently getting the ball to his quarterback with ease. Myer said he had never snapped from under center until the spring, but now he feels confident doing so.
"Extremely comfortable. I don't know (why)," Myers said. "To be honest with you, it's really not that different. When I was learning to do it, I thought it would be more different than it was, but really it's the same thing."