With no game on the schedule this Saturday, Ohio State coach Ryan Day had a little more time to reflect on a big win over Wisconsin during his weekly press conference.
He also weighed in on how much the school should — or should not — try to bolster the chances of one of its players winning a Heisman Trophy.
Here are five takeaways from Day’s Tuesday meeting with the media:
1. The way Ohio State won Saturday impressed him.
Day has been stressing the importance of toughness to his team all year, and he felt the way the Buckeyes dispatched the Badgers qualified.
“I thought that the rain and the whole situation was kind of lining up a little bit to play towards Wisconsin’s strengths, and so we just had to say, ‘That doesn’t matter to us. How tough can we possibly play? Can we handle the elements?’ Both teams have to play with it. We’ve got to win the line of scrimmage, got to do a great job on third down, and we’ve got to go score touchdowns in the red zone, and that was our focus.”
2. He also liked seeing them handle some adversity in the third quarter.
Given the final score it is not hard to forget the Badgers were within a field goal with 12 minutes left in the third quarter.
After trailing 10-0 at halftime, Wisconsin stopped the Buckeyes on the first possession of the second half then scored a touchdown off a short field after partially blocking a punt.
Ohio State responded by driving 75 yards in eight plays to go up 17-7 on Justin Fields’ 10-yard run.
“That’s kind of the first time where I really felt like our team was backs up against the wall, and we go right down the field and score, and then from then on I kind of thought we dominated the game,” Day said. “It was good to get that feeling of, ‘OK, here we go, boys. Now where is this team really at?’ And the response was solid.”
3. He told Fields to be prepared to run the ball more against the Badgers.
Ohio State’s sophomore quarterback netted only 28 yards, but that was largely a result of absorbing five sacks that cost them more than 30.
Eight other times he carried the ball, including multiple designed runs, and had a gross of 64 yards before accounting for the losses.
“With the rain and everything going on with this defense, you’re going to have to run a little bit in this game, and he was all for it,” Day said. “He was awesome, and he was ready to go. His attitude was excellent going into it, and he ran tough early in the game. He took some shots, but he got us going, and I was really proud of him.
“The one time he got banged up a little bit. I asked him, I said, what do you think. He said, I’ll be fine. I’m hurting but I’ll be all right. It wasn’t anything long-term, it was just one of those things he took a shot there and landed on it funny, but he’s going to be fine.”
4. Don’t expect Ohio State to run an active Heisman Trophy campaign.
Fields, running back J.K. Dobbins and Chase Young all have been garnering talk about being candidates for the most famous trophy in sports.
Aside from pancake magnets for former offensive lineman Orlando Pace, Ohio State has not typically done a lot to push its players for national awards.
Day indicated that will not change this year.
“No, I think when you’re at Ohio State, this is what the norm should be, and it always has been,” Day said. “Hopefully it always will be. You come to Ohio State and you’re a tailback, you’re a quarterback, you should be in the Heisman Trophy conversation. Now for Chase, that’s a different deal, and he’s obviously a special player, and hats off to him to even be brought up in something like this.
“I think if you ask those guys, they’ll tell you that they’re not worried about individual accolades at all, it’s all about a singular goal and that’s winning championships, and if we do, then I think there’s going to be a lot of those things to go around because that wasn’t one of our goals.”
5. That also means not to expect Chase Young to get an expanded role.
Charles Woodson is the only player who primarily played defense to win the Heisman. His case was buoyed significantly returning punts and some time at receiver.
Would Ohio State consider giving Young, who is closing in on the school record for sacks in a season, some time on offense to try to get the eye of Heisman voters?
“It sounds fun, but we’re not going to take any risks with Chase, no,” Day said. “Not going to do that.”
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