Ryan Day had never been a head coach until Saturday, and he knew he had big shoes to fill.
The easiest way to handle that is to act like that isn’t the task. So in his mind, he wasn’t replacing Urban Meyer while the Ohio State coach served the first of his three-game suspension in a 77-31 victory over Oregon State.
“I don’t think I proved anything to myself,” Day said. “It was just one of those things where you’ve got to jump in the pool with two feet. Just do it.”
>> Read more: Ohio State defeats Oregon State, 77-31 in season opener
It was a day of many firsts for Day, who normally serves as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He enjoyed the skull session, the walk to the stadium, even Friday night’s bed check.
As he stood in the tunnel before entering the field, he turned to assistant strength coach Quinn Barham.
“I’m like, ‘We really doing this?’” Day said. “He said, 'Yeah,' and I had a smile on my face and ran out.”
>>Watch: Ohio State Marching Band halftime show
Day will coach the next two games, although Meyer will return Monday and will coach the team through Friday the next two weeks.
“I’ve said this before: My job is not to replace coach Meyer,” Day said. “I never wanted to replace him. I just want to keep this thing going in the right direction.”
McLaurin’s big game
Terry McLaurin said that the Buckeyes’ wide receivers had debated the past few days who would be the first of them to score.
“To be honest, I didn’t think it would be me,” McLaurin said. “I don’t go in thinking I’m going to score every game. I just wanted to make a play when it presented itself.”
McLaurin caught a 27-yard dart down the middle on Dwayne Haskins Jr.’s first pass and then scored on a 2-yard catch. McLaurin later weaved for a 75-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the third quarter.
The senior finished with four catches for a career-high 121 yards.
“When I put stress on trying to get yards and stats, the games don’t really go well for me,” McLaurin said. “When I come in relaxed and play my game and enjoy the game I love, things really happen for me. It’s great to get off to a great start as a team and then individually to make some plays for Dwayne and our offense.”
No Fuller for starters
Safety Jordan Fuller, a returning starter who was elected one of Ohio State’s captains a few days earlier, was held out of the game after suffering a hamstring pull earlier in the week, a team spokesman said.
That meant Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint, who had battled throughout preseason camp for the other starting safety spot, both gained their first career starts.
It appeared the two also had a mixup on Oregon State’s first touchdown. Receiver Trevon Bradford put a move on a rolled-up Pryor and broke wide open on a midlevel slant, hauling in a pass from Conor Blount and outrunning Wint and the rest of the Buckeyes on the 49-yard play.
All in all, though, it was a day to gain experience.
“We were just making sure we had a responsibility to this team to do our job to the best of our ability,” Pryor said of his pregame talk with Wint.
Fuller’s status is unclear, especially considering that hamstring injuries can be touchy for a while.
But defensive co-coordinator Alex Grinch said Fuller wasn’t ruled out Saturday until just before the team took the field for warmups. Fuller had put in a light workout in the stadium earlier in the day to see how the hamstring reacted.
A new NCAA rule allows any player, but especially freshmen, to participate in up to four games and still claim a redshirt season.
The OSU coaches appeared to take advantage of that Saturday, with 16 members of the 2018 recruiting class seeing action. In fact, the two running backs, Brian Snead and Master Teague III, scored touchdowns.
They were joined on the play list by tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere; receivers Chris Olave and Cameron Brown; tight end Jeremy Ruckert; defensive tackles Taron Vincent and Tommy Togiai; defensive ends Tyreke Smith, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, Tyler Friday and Alex Williams; linebackers Teradja Mitchell, K’Vaughan Pope and Dallas Gant; and safety Josh Proctor.
Borland gets in
Earlier in the week, Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland said, “I’m ready to go,” and he wasn’t kidding. The middle linebacker entered the game in the first quarter in place of Baron Browning.
That was remarkable, considering that Borland suffered an Achilles tendon injury in the spring that required surgery to repair. His return came about five months after the injury.
“I’m fine,” Borland said after the game. He was not credited with a tackle against Oregon State.