Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with the media for his weekly press conference Tuesday to discuss his team’s performance last week and to preview its upcoming game against Nebraska (3-1).
“Got a real big challenge ahead of us this week,” Day said. “By far the best team that we’ve played, not only in talent and coaching, but the environment we’re going to be walking into it. Scott (Frost) has done a great job of building this team up, he’s increased the talent, picked up some really good players on both sides of the ball.
“They do a really good job of stretching you horizontally and get you with tempo on offense, and then on defense, a lot of different looks and very well-coached. So, this is going to be, by far, the biggest challenge of the year for us, going on the road, a night game at one of the toughest places to play in the conference.”
Nebraska will be led by its sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez, a player Ohio State was once firmly in on during his recruitment.
“Great kid,” Day said when asked about Martinez. “We recruited him and spent a bunch of time with him … great competitor, a great leader, has a great way about him. On the field, first off, he’s big and strong and powerful. He’s very athletic.”
Day said getting Martinez on the ground is critical because of his ability to extend plays, although it isn’t easy to do given Martinez’s size.
“When you combine that together — the ability to run and throw, along with his intelligence and game management — he is, by far, the best quarterback we’ve seen,” Day said.
Given the nature of Ohio State’s first four contests, all of which were lopsided affairs early, Day was asked about having not seen his team’s ability — or inability — to play and finish strong in a game that is decided in the fourth quarter.
“I think its a good point to bring up, that we have not played a full game in four games,” Day said. “That’s unique. So, it’s something that we’re going to talk to the guys about, that we have to be able to play 60 minutes and prove that we can play 60 minutes.”
Day said despite not needing to play a full four quarters so far, the four blowouts have allowed the team to build more depth, which will help rotations in games that are more contested.
Asked about the team’s routine for a night game, Day said night games require a build up to game time, certainly different than noon games where everything happens fast from the time the players wake up.
“But we have our routine, we’re still going to have our pregame meal four hours before (kickoff). We’ll do our walk-throughs and meetings in the morning to try and keep those guys moving,” Day said. “We don’t want them in their rooms sleeping all day and getting lethargic … But it’s certainly a gradual momentum builder towards kickoff. You can’t go win the game at 10:30 a.m. and get them all jacked up.”
Day said there is an “art” to getting his team ready for a night game, but given most of the players have played in their fair share of night games already, there is experience to draw from this week.
Ohio State is yet to face any adversity this year, although it will show at some point. While he can’t truly know how his team will respond when adversity does hit for the first time, Day said he continues to talk to his team about it to keep them prepared.
“Keep talking to them about what it’s going to take,” Day said of adversity. “We did going into the Indiana game, (the game) didn’t come out that way. So, we’ll just keep talking to the guys about that and making sure they realize that. I think the older guys who have been through it before do respect that and understand that, and I think the younger guys have to learn a little bit how that’s going to be. All you can do is coach them as hard as you can, inform them of what it’s going to be, and give them the tools to be ready for when it hits.”
With Ohio State having stumbled in road conference games each of the last two years, both in which they were significant favorites, Day was asked if that recent history is discussed.
“Yeah, for sure,” Day said. “We talk about in the offseason, we talk about it in the preseason, we talk about it now. I think one of the things we have to continue to do, which has been our mantra all along, is, when you’re a prizefighter, no matter what match or fight you’re going into, someone’s going to try to take you out. And you have to be ready for that. If you ever let your guard down, you’re going to get knocked out.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.