Ohio State preparing for first road trip while adjusting to style of play

COLUMBUS -- The story of Ohio State’s fifth game of the season sounded a lot like the story of the first. And the fourth. And not much different from the other two.

After his Buckeyes stomped Rutgers 49-10, coach Ryan Day spoke glowingly about winning a game via ball control.

“You can see they had a really good game plan coming in,” Day said. “They were gonna huddle, snap it with under 10 seconds on the play clock and try to eat as much off the game clock as possible and try to win the game with possession.”

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Day, a disciple of hurry-up spread offense pioneer Chip Kelly, has acknowledged that is not his favorite way to play, but it seems to be growing on the fourth-year Ohio State coach.

“On defense, you could see they were playing a lot of two high safeties really deep and forcing us to run the ball, which we ultimately had to do,” Day said. “And we came out with a shot on the first play of the second half and we missed it, but there was a lot of really good throwaways that weren’t there today by (quarterback C.J. Stroud), and he made some really good throws as well. So that’s part of competing. That’s part of it. Those are the types of games that sometimes we’re going to have to play, and overall I thought it was a job well done.”

Day, who also has gained a reputation as an ace developer of quarterbacks, has spoken before about the value of a good throwaway when no one is open, so that part was not too jarring to hear.

His latest protege talking about the fast-paced spread offenses that dominated the first part of this century in the past tense was notable, though, especially considering the third-year sophomore has himself already been part of a handful of shootouts and left his mark on the Ohio State record book.

After throwing for “only” 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns Saturday, Stroud took notice of multiple questions that seemed to come from the perspective of there being something wrong with the Ohio State passing game.

“I mean sometimes we’re throwing the ball so efficiently, then it’s just a big surprise when you’re not perfect every Saturday,” he said with a grin. “So I get it. I get why maybe the question was asked, but I felt like our rhythm was fine. It’s just we didn’t get a lot of plays on offense totally.”

Ohio State ran 59 plays against Rutgers a week after getting off 60 against Wisconsin.

On the season, the Buckeyes are averaging 66 plays per game, down from 70.5 last year and 71.3 the year before.

Just four years ago when Day was still the offensive coordinator for head coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes ran 80.8 plays per game, and they still ran 76.4 in 2019 when Day replaced Meyer in the big chair.

“So just in college football there’s not a lot of plays getting run like back in the day when it was just spread offense (and) tempo, so now we’ve just got to be smart with our drives,” Stroud said.

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He also suggested the offense still has plenty of room to grow.

“I definitely think that we’ll continue to get better,” Stroud said. “I mean, at the end of the day when you look at games like this, what can you learn from it? You can always learn from something in a game, so we’ll continue to have great rhythm and I think both run and pass have been great so we’ll continue to build.”

The Buckeyes’ next opponent is a Michigan State team on a major slide.

The Spartans started the season ranked 15th in the Associated Press poll, but after winning beating a pair of MAC teams to start the season, they have lost three in a row to power conference opponents.

MSU’s numbers are ugly on both sides of the ball, ranking 92nd in total offense and tied for 100th in total defense, but historically the program has had a knack for upsets — especially of Ohio State.

The Buckeyes’ biggest challenge might simply be going on the road for the first time after a record-tying five straight home games to start the season.

“It’s been a good five-week run here, and now we go on the road next week,” Day said. “But I really want to say thank you to everybody involved (in putting on home games).”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Ohio State at Michigan State, 4 p.m., ABC, 1410

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