Fresh off the bye week, No. 4 Ohio State is back on the practice field this week in preparation for the undefeated Maryland Terrapins (5-0). Saturday’s contest will represent the fifth consecutive week Ohio State will take on an opponent that has not lost a game, a streak that hasn’t happened since 1940.
During his weekly press conference on Tuesday, head coach Ryan Day reflected on his team’s performance through four weeks and previewed the challenges ahead for Ohio State this weekend.
“We’re 4-0, but there are all kinds of areas we want to improve on,” Day said when asked to evaluate his team to this point. “We have to get better, and that has to do with practice and getting on the field and doing it. We want to be more efficient and execute better in all three phases, and we gotta continue to upgrade. The goal is to be 4-0, and we’re 4-0, so that’s good. But there are still a lot of areas for improvement.”
Ohio State entered the bye week on an extremely high note following the emotional, perhaps even cathartic road win at Notre Dame. While Day said bye weeks are always welcomed for the mental and physical breaks they provide, part of him wishes his team could have continued to build momentum last week rather than sitting at home. “We’ll see after Saturday and get a feel for what that was and how we did,” he said of the timing of the bye week.
Day noted he altered the practice schedule this week to mirror how he approached the game-week preparations for the Peach Bowl last season, which he said gave his team “an edge” heading into the game after time off. For the most part, however, he said his team’s preparation will be business as usual this week, and he’s not concerned with his team coming out flat on Saturday.
“There’s certainly no complacency here. We know that we have to continue to get better,” Day said.
A significant factor in his team’s focus coming out of the bye week can be attributed to the opponent as Maryland comes to Columbus with an unblemished record and a dangerous offense. Just last season, Ohio State narrowly escaped an upset at Maryland in a game in which Maryland had possession with under seven minutes to play and trailing by just three points.
Asked if last year’s close call should help his team’s focus this week, Day said, “Guys better recognize it because that’s exactly what happened.”
He added, ”It went all the way down to the last play, and they know how good this (Maryland) team is and how many weapons they have. If we’re not executing very well, it’s going to go all the way down to the fourth quarter. This team definitely has our team’s attention.”
Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was fantastic in that game, completing 26 of his 36 passing attempts for 293 yards and two touchdowns while adding another touchdown on the ground. He is off to another great start this season, having already accounted for 16 touchdowns through five games. An Ohio State secondary that has shown vast improvements this season, particularly in limiting big plays, will face its stiffest test to date on Saturday. That fact was not lost on Day while assessing Tagovailoa’s play.
“Taulia has played a lot of football,” he said. “He makes a lot of plays, and they have weapons on offense. You saw that last year with what they did, so we have to do a good job of recognizing how they’re trying to attack us and have a great week of practice. Ultimately, it comes down to winning the game upfront. But our secondary is going to get challenged this week.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.