Day talks IU, season’s 2nd half

By Dillon Davis - [email protected]

COLUMBUS — Fresh off the bye week, No. 5 Ohio State returns to action on Saturday when it heads to Indiana for its third road game of the season.

After falling to Oregon in week two, the Buckeyes have reeled off four consecutive wins, including blowout performances against conference foes in each of their last two games.

On Tuesday, head coach Ryan Day met with the media to preview the upcoming matchup with Indiana, which is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. primetime kickoff in Bloomington.

Indiana’s season has failed to get off the ground after entering 2021 with considerable momentum following a 6-2 campaign last season. The Hoosiers enter Saturday’s game at just 2-4, with their only wins coming against Idaho and Western Kentucky. An injury to quarterback Michael Penix has further complicated the road ahead for the Hoosiers, who will ride with backup Jack Tuttle when Ohio State comes to town.

Despite the disappointing start to Indiana’s season, Day will not let the Buckeyes look past a team that took them to the wire a season ago in Ohio Stadium.

“They always play us tough. They always have really good schemes and play us hard. And it comes in different ways,” Day said. “You think about the game a few years ago, they played us close early on and we were able to pull away. Last year, we were up early and they came back. You have to play four quarters against Indiana, so we’re going to have to plan on doing that.”

Along with the injuries Indiana has suffered this season, Day pointed to the difficult schedule the Hoosiers have already faced, which includes losses to four top-20 teams in Cincinnati, Penn State, Michigan State, and Iowa.

“When you combine all of those things, and you’re off by a little bit here or there, a team that maybe doesn’t have a great record is a lot better than you think. I think this team is much better than their record indicates,” Day said.

Perhaps the safest assumption for Day and his staff on Saturday is that Indiana head coach Tom Allen and the Hoosiers defense will dial up constant pressure on freshman Buckeye quarterback C.J. Stroud, much like it did to Justin Fields a season ago. Fields was sacked five times by Indiana, and his three second-half interceptions nearly sparked the season-derailing upset in 2020.

Against the bevy of playmakers Ohio State possess at wide receiver, such an approach figures to once again be a sink-or-swim play for an Indiana team that will need big plays on both sides of the ball to compete with the Buckeyes.

“I think it was high risk, high reward,” Day said of Indiana’s defensive approach last year. “We had a bunch of big plays early on, and then toward the end of the game, we were kind of just hanging on. And so we have to continue to be aggressive. Some of the decision-making in that game wasn’t very good. But they’re a good defense. They have good schemes and good players, so we’re going to have to be on our game in terms of execution.”

Despite losing defensive coordinator Kane Wommack in the offseason, Day said Allen has run the defense for years, and much of it remains similar to what the Buckeyes saw a season ago.

Of course, potentially working to Ohio State’s advantage this week will be the bye week, which allowed Day and his staff to both evaluate the roster and rest the team for the looming stretch run. Day said he feels comfortable with what his team was able to accomplish during the week off from game action, which he treated much like a regular week in order to maintain the team’s newfound rhythm.

That rhythm, along with game experience for many of the younger Buckeyes has sparked a confidence throughout the team that could make the Buckeyes dangerous as November approaches.

“I think they start to see themselves playing better. They’re starting to believe in the guy next to them. They’re starting to believe in themselves,” Day said. “Any time you can do that, that’s exciting and it brings energy. So we have to pick up from where we left off a couple of weeks ago, and it starts with a great week of practice.”

Day went on to say, “I think we’re in a lot better place than we were at the beginning of the season. We got some rest, and now it’s going to be a big run. But all we can do — you’ve heard the cliche a million times — is take it one game at a time, one day at a time. That’s what we’re going to do.

“We have to go on the road, it’s a night game there. They’ll have a good atmosphere, kind of like the last time we played on the road in a conference game. We’re going to get their best shot, and they have some good players and good schemes. That’s all we can do is take it one day at a time and keep building, which is what we’ve done to this point.”

By Dillon Davis

[email protected]

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.