BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Justin Fields exited the first two games of the 2019 season feeling satisfied with his performance.
After Saturday's game, despite the result being a 51-10 victory against Indiana, he didn't have similarly positive thoughts about his performance.
Fields completed 14-of-24 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns, adding four carries for 11 yards and a rushing touchdown. He missed a couple targets, though, and didn't seem quite as sharp delivering passes on target – even though his arm strength and evasiveness in the pocket were readily on display.
“I definitely didn't play up to my potential,” Fields said. “I know I missed way too many throws out there. So I've just got to work on that and just keep getting better, and the team has to keep getting better. I think there's a lot of room to go, but we'll just continue to keep working and just continue to work.”
Given what he saw as a notable drop in his play on Saturday, Fields didn't quite know how to answer a question after the game asking him to grade his play through three games this season.
“I don't know. There's a lot of things I can work on,” Fields said. “This game, this game was definitely not a good grade for that. I think overall, as a team, we've been playing well. But we have a lot of room to improve, and I think our ceiling's very high. Just trying to reach the max potential on that.”
One of the issues, Fields diagnosed after the game, centered on his inability to get his feet set before delivering passes down the field.
He said he hadn't had too many issues with that aspect of his game in the first two wins of the season, though, taking it in stride.
“I just have to get my feet set, just moving around,” Fields said. “I think I moved around the pocket well. Just trying to get my feet set before I throw the ball, that'll make me more accurate.”
“I think it was just today I was kind of off. I'm not sure why, but I felt in the first two games I was setting my feet well, and I was throwing the ball pretty accurately,” Fields said. “But today I struggled a little bit with that. So I'm actually glad that happened. It's just a learning opportunity, so I'm actually glad that happened just for me to get better, just focus on it more in practice.”
In the opening two games of the season, the Buckeyes didn't take quite as many downfield shots as they did last year with Dwayne Haskins.
Against Indiana, Ohio State decided to challenge the defensive backs by throwing some deep balls. The 37-yard touchdown to Chris Olave represented that type of play working. However, immediately after the game, Day mentioned he didn't think the Buckeyes had enough success going down the field.
“I thought we missed some deep balls,” Ryan Day said. “I thought we had guys open and Justin missed. He knows. He left some yards on the field. But, again, I think the maturity of a coaching staff, the maturity of a team is to go find the issues on film and get them fixed because as time goes on and we start to play other teams and we get into the thick of the Big Ten, those issues are going to come up. And so it's our job to find them and get them addressed and to really be critical of the players without creating resentment. That's the key. I thought we did that last week, and the kids took to coaching. And we've got to keep building from here and find those issues because they're there.”
Despite Fields admittedly not playing his most impressive game, Olave still left the game impressed, saying his quarterback has turned out better than he thought he'd be when he arrived at Ohio State in January.
“He's great,” Chris Olave said. “I'm not sure better words to compare him to. He's just an elite quarterback. He doesn't want to use his feet, but he can. He loves throwing the ball, so we just try to get open for him and take it off for him.”
“He's a game-time player,” Olave said. “When we need something, go to him. He can get out the pocket. He can scramble. He can throw it on the run. He's much better than I thought.”
Though Fields didn't feel particularly satisfied with how he played, J.K. Dobbins had no reason to feel anything but content with how he played.
Though he subbed out early in the second half, preventing him from breaking his personal record of 203 yards in a game, Dobbins had 22 rushes for 193 yards and a touchdown. He has appeared rejuvenated after toting the ball 21 times for 91 yards against Florida Atlantic in the season opener.
“I let Tony (Alford) and J.K. have those conversations,” Dobbins said. “And again, I don't think it was anything bad. I just think there was some funky runs in there. It was a strange game. We got out so early. I didn't put too much into it, but I knew he was having an unbelievable preseason. He was running so hard in the preseason. We talked about that in our press conferences. I was expecting these last two games. And we didn't get it the first game, and it was just one of those games. The good news is hard work is paying off for him. Now, again, it's only three games into the season, so we've got to keep building on this because teams are going to adjust, and now we have to make the adjustments as well.”
“The veteran guys have to play veteran, and he's a veteran guy. He's proven it,” Day said. “He's proven that he can be the bellcow coming off of last year kind of splitting carries with Mike. He wanted to be that bellcow. He's the guy that gets up in front of the team and speaks before the game on offense. He's shown good leadership. This is a great start for him.”
Chase Young, too, impressed on Saturday.
He has yet to play a game in 2019 without sacking the quarterback. Though Indiana knew it had to watch out for him, Young had three tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks against the Hoosiers.
So, how will anybody stop Young?
“That's not for me to say,” Young said. “I'm just going to keep doing my job. Keep going super hard in all games and the outcome be the outcome.”
If Young maintains his pace of more than one sack per game, he'll break Vernon Gholston's Ohio State record of 14 sacks in a single season.
Will Young keep this up throughout the season?
“We're going to see,” Young said. “I'm going to try to do my best.”
On both sides of the ball, the Buckeyes won the battle at the line of scrimmage, opening lanes for running backs on offense and allowing the linebackers and defensive backs to make plays on defense.
“I guess we don't really realize it during the game because we're just so focused on the game, so focused on doing our job and not making mistakes and things like that,” Young said. “Now, we're just going to go and watch film on Miami and try to see what we can do against them.”
“We definitely feel real dominant,” Young said. “That's just a confidence that coach (Larry Johnson) gives us. Things we study in film that we look at on the field, it just puts us in the best position to make plays. As a unit, I think we're very confident. We're going to go in Miami Ohio and try to be confident again and dominate again.”
Given his team's 41-point loss, Indiana coach Tom Allen left Saturday's game with even more respect for Ohio State.
“Nothing but respect for the Buckeyes and their staff and their team,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “They're an excellent football team, and they played at a high level today, and we didn't match it. Therefore you get the result that you got. We've got to evaluate the film and learn what we can learn from this, flush it, press on.”
Though Ryan Day had gone on the road as a head coach to beat TCU last year, that game took place at a neutral site. Prior to Saturday, he hadn't coached a game in a road stadium, and he hadn't been the head coach of a team against a Big Ten opponent.
The 51-10 victory against Indiana gave both Day and the Buckeyes their first road Big Ten win.
“It was good to get a win on the road here. A Big Ten win,” Day said. “It was one of those things we talked about all week. It was the next challenge for sure. It was our third noon game in a row. We had to come off to a quick start. It was a very, very hot week in Columbus, and I thought the guys practiced hard. And we did a great job with recovery I thought in the last 48 hours, and then we came out to a quick start again. I thought we ran the ball well, controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Huge punt block by Chris Olave. And then I thought we sustained in the second half, crated some turnovers on defense and then finished it the right way. I think that's the next step, and now we've got to keep building on it.”
“The first week was kind of up and down, and then the last two weeks, we got it together,” Olave said. “We got together as a team. It was a great team win.”