It’s a testament to how well Justin Fields has played this year that he could smile when talking about being intercepted for the first time as Ohio State’s quarterback.
By the time the sophomore was picked off in the third quarter Saturday night, the Buckeyes already were in command of a game they would win 34-10 over Michigan State.
Fields overthrew K.J. Hill, who didn’t seem to realize the ball was headed his way, and Josiah Scott intercepted the pass for Michigan State at the Spartans’ 12-yard line. Fields had thrown 134 passes without an interception, a remarkable streak that had started to get attention.
“I have mixed feelings about it because it was my first pick, but it was also like, it’s football, so it happens,” he said after the game. “I wasn’t really frustrated by it.”
Then, with a big smile, he added, “I think you all jinxed me about it, talking about it so much last week, but it’s all good.”
Fields later fumbled for the first time as a Buckeye when he got sacked in the fourth quarter.
The most telling part of Fields’ day was the way he responded to a brutal first quarter. The Buckeyes went nowhere after consecutive Michigan State turnovers deep in Spartans territory and managed only one field goal.
Fields has impressed by the way he hasn’t seem flustered by anything during his short time as Ohio State’s quarterback. He said that he wasn’t frustrated by the slow start.
“When that stuff happens, you have to just really forget about it,” Fields said. “Coach (Ryan Day) says, ‘Move on to the next play, settle down, settle down.’ He reminds me to keep settling down and play like it’s practice, because when the game comes, you go back to your training.”
But the Buckeyes' offense came alive in the second quarter, with Fields leading the way with both his arm and legs. He completed 9 of 11 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns in that period and added 51 yards on three carries.
Fields made a nifty play fake on a 60-yard touchdown pass to Binjimen Victor. He fooled two Michigan State players when he tucked the ball on a rollout. They started to run at Fields. He threw to an open Victor, who did the rest.
“That was a great play (call) by coach,” Fields said. “Just the way we practiced it, going over it a lot of times, I think that helped execute it in the game.”
Fields had a 35-yard run on third-and-5 to start a 75-yard touchdown drive on Ohio State’s next possession, which ended with a 21-yard pass to tight end Luke Farrell.
Fields scored the Buckeyes’ final touchdown on a 1-yard keeper in the fourth quarter. According to ESPN, Fields is the first Big Ten player in 20 years to have both a rushing and passing touchdown in six straight games.
As for the interception, Day took the blame for that.
“I told him it was my fault,” he said. “The look was not the one we wanted. And then I told him, ‘I’m not always going to be right. You’ve got to make me right. And when the look isn’t right, you’ve got to throw the ball in the stands and live to see another down.’ ”
That blemish paled in comparison to Fields’ ability to respond after the ugly first quarter.
“That’s what I’ve been really looking forward to seeing, how he was going to respond,” Day said. “Because early on, there were some mistakes made. That was not a good quarter of football.
“But that was good. It was hard. Guys (were) digging at each other, kind of grinding, yelling at each other, and so we’ve got to figure this thing out. And we did. And that was one of those boxes you check off.”
Just like Fields having his first interception and fumble and being able to smile about it.