After thumping the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday, the Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0) return home to Ohio Stadium this weekend to face the second in-state foe of the year in the Miami Redhawks (1-2).
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day held his weekly press conference Tuesday to review the Indiana performance and preview what’s to come for the Buckeyes this week.
“This is a team that has been to tough environments before, so they’re not going to be intimidated coming into the ‘Shoe … several Ohio guys on that team who will be highly motivated coming in here,” Day said in his opening statement.
Miami is coming off a 35-13 loss at Cincinnati last week, a game in which they held a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter before being outscored 35-3 the rest of the way.
Asked about how he keeps his team dialed in after three big wins over outgunned teams, Day said there is still plenty of work to do.
“We played well, but we didn’t play great,” Day said of his team’s 51-10 win last week. “We played hard, we played tough, but we have so many things to clean up. And when you watch the film, it’s actually really frustrating to watch because there are so many things we could be cleaning up.”
Day said the approach is the same now, after winning a few games, as it was before the season started when he said he wasn’t sure how much respect the Buckeyes were getting from a national perspective: ignore the noise and stay focused on the present tasks at hand.
However, Day said he has recognized for some time that this team could be something special if it continues to prepare the right way. And now the national opinions of Ohio State seem to have also started to take notice, although he said the national opinion is a non-factor in what the team can ultimately achieve.
“I’ve felt that for a little while now, and I’ve talked to the team about that,” Day said of when he began to realize the team is capable of being special. “I think we can be great. We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but we can be. We have the ability. We have the talent. We have the leadership. But if we want to get to where we want to go, we have to take it one week at a time.”
He later added, “If we stay focused, don’t get distracted, those type of things. But it’s the same thing, it’s the same people, I’m sure, who had those doubts early on, and now they’re excited about what they see. And that’s great, but that has nothing to do with us. This is about the way we go to work every day, and we have to just stay focused on our jobs.”
Day was asked what, specifically, he saw from his team that led him to believe it has the chance to be special. He said the type of people his players are and how they work in every phase of being a student-athlete, from the weight room to the classroom, was an early indication.
“They’re the kind of kids that you want your family to be around, you want your son to be around,” Day said of the team’s makeup. “They’re great role models, and my son goes into that locker room and they’re great kids to be around, and there’s a lot to be said for that.”
Following last Saturday’s win over Indiana, Day said there were some yards left on the field by his quarterback, Justin Fields. Having had the chance to review the film, Day was asked about those comments Tuesday.
Day said so much of playing quarterback is about experience, the one thing Fields doesn’t have in abundance. He pointed out two of Fields’ missed throws came with pressure right in his face, although he acknowledged Fields is going to have to be able to make throws when staring down pressure.
“We’ve got to clean up the protection. We’ve got to clean up the throws,” Day said. “(Fields is) going to have to make throws when he gets hurried, and he gets pressured, and he gets hit. But overall, he’s managing the game well, and just keep watching the film and learning from it. So much of it is experience at quarterback.”
He went on to say he felt where Fields’ development currently stands is “lightyears ahead of where I thought he would be,” adding, “The more he feels comfortable, the better he will be.”
Miami head coach Chuck Martin had interesting comments during his Monday press conference about the talent disparity between his team and the Buckeyes, saying, “It’s kind of like going to recess and (Ohio State) has the first 85 picks.” Given the difference in talent levels between the two teams, Day was asked how he guards against complacency throughout his locker room.
“Well, I think you just get on the film and you start it off with what corrections need to be made not only by your unit but also by just, personally, what you need to work on this week to get better,” he said. “And then nothing can change, whether it’s game three, game seven, game eight. Human nature tells you to cut corners, tells you to change things. It’s easy to get distracted, a lot of people are in your ear. None of that stuff can change. We have momentum right now; we have to keep that going, and we can’t get distracted. Once that happens, then you set yourself up for failure.
“That will be the focus this week. It’s not going to be manufactured. We’re not just going to make that up, but we’re just going to hold them accountable like we always have, and that doesn’t change from when we were in the spring to when we were doing preseason workouts. Every day has to be consistent. So far we’ve done that, but it’s something we have to stay on them definitely about.”
While Saturday figures to offer another lopsided affair, the game will be another opportunity for Day and his team to take a step in the maturation process and to also step toward their ultimate goal of being the best team in the country, week in and week out.
“We’ve talked about it before, that we want to be the best at what we do, and we’ve talked about what that means, whether it’s a sniper in the military or the best surgeon,” Day said. “There are no small surgeries if you’re a surgeon. There are no small games at Ohio State. If you’re the best in America, you need to show that every week. That’s our goal. And we’re not ashamed to say that. We want to be the best.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.