Now 3-0 on the season, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and the third-ranked Buckeyes enter what now appears to be the toughest stretch this season with games at Maryland (2-1) and home to undefeated and 10th-ranked Indiana next on the schedule.
On Tuesday, Day met with the media to discuss his team’s uneven performance against Rutgers, and to look ahead to a Maryland team that has won back-to-back games, including a beat down at Penn State last week.
Saturday night’s 49-27 win was far from a perfect effort, and Day called the game “a tale of two halves” in his postgame press conference. The uninspired second-half performance from Ohio State marked the second consecutive week where the Buckeyes failed to finish off their opponent after taking a sizable lead into halftime.
Asked if he is content with where his team currently stands heading into week four of the season, Day said he is in terms of being undefeated. However, he said there is much work to be done for the team to get to the place it wants to be.
“To say we’re where we need to be as a team in terms of playing at a high level, no, we’re not where we need to be,” Day said. “And I don’t know if it’s going to happen this week, I don’t know if it’s going to happen in two weeks. I don’t know, but we’re going to have to continue to work at that. It’s only going to happen if we practice better.”
Day said he isn’t “disappointed” with where his team currently stands. Rather, he said it’s a work in progress this season and his team simply isn’t at the high standard at which the program strives.
“We want perfection here,” he said. “We want to be the best in the country at what we do, and we’re just not there yet.”
While there is plenty of room still left to improve for Ohio State, one area that is firing on all cylinders is the Buckeyes’ passing attack. Quarterback Justin Fields is dazzling with his accuracy, appearing to be on the fast track to a spot at the Heisman Trophy ceremony once again. But for as good as Fields has been, his job has been made considerably easier with the emergence of Garrett Wilson as one of the nation’s elite playmakers alongside fellow receiver Chris Olave.
Day said Wilson’s performance this season — he’s recorded 100 receiving yards in all three games — isn’t much of a surprise to him. In fact, it’s about what he expected since recruiting Wilson and seeing the special potential the sophomore possessed coming out of high school.
“He’s tremendously skilled,” Day said of Wilson. “His ball skills are excellent, and his change of direction and ability to accelerate in a short area is just tremendous. The other part is his timing downfield, going to get balls. His ceiling is as high as he wants it to be. He’s improved, and I think the better he practices, the harder he plays, the better he’s going to be … he can be as good as he wants to be.”
Wilson could be in line to make a bid at a fourth consecutive 100-yard performance on Saturday against a Maryland pass defense that has already allowed a receiver to eclipse the mark once this season. In general, the high-flying Buckeye offense could be asked to hit the next gear on Saturday if Maryland is able to build on a resounding performance last week against Penn State.
“A lot of confidence, playing really well,” Day said of the Terrapins. “They did a great job on the perimeter, they have some really good, young defensive backs. They got (Penn State) off schedule, they got them kind of out of rhythm … they competed, they played well. (Maryland head coach Mike Locksley) has some different guys in there, some transfers. He’s upgraded the talent there.”
Day said Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa, who transferred from Alabama, is playing with a lot of confidence alongside some talented receivers.
“Coach Locksley is doing a good job of putting him in the right positions,” he said of Tagovailoa.
He later added of Tagovailoa, “I think he does a good job of getting the ball out of his hands. I think he has the ‘it’ factor that his brother (Tua) had. He’s playing at a high level, so we’ll see as we get into the game how he’s playing. But he’s done some really good things, and he has a bright future ahead of him.
“They’re dangerous right now,” Day said of Maryland. “They just really played well against Penn State, so we’re going to have to do a great job of coming in there with confidence, playing well early, and taking care of the football. The recipe (to win) hasn’t changed, but these guys are definitely better than they have been.”
Asked if Maryland could be the best team Ohio State will have played up to this point, Day responded, “I know if Maryland plays against us the way they played last week against Penn State, then they quite possibly could be.”
Kickoff between Ohio State and Maryland is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.