Statistically, Justin Fields’ performance Saturday might have been his least impressive of the season.
Against Wisconsin, Ohio State’s sophomore quarterback had his fewest yards passing (167) and worst completion percentage (54.5 on 12-of-22 passing) in his young Buckeyes career.
The numbers weren’t spectacular, but Fields was still plenty effective in the Buckeyes’ 38-7 victory.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
“He played gritty and got knocked around in there,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. He "played really good.”
Because of the rain, Day didn’t even call for a pass play until the first quarter was almost over.
“It was raining sideways,” Day said. “It was hard early on. It was a mess out there. In a game like this, you can’t be foolish and take chances early in the game. The defense is playing good. You can’t let your ego get in the way.”
When Day did eventually call for passes, several were dropped by Buckeyes receivers. But Fields still made several huge plays with both his arm and his legs.
He threw touchdown passes to Chris Olave for the Buckeyes’ first and last scores. He also scored on a 10-yard keeper that gave Ohio State a 17-7 lead in the third quarter, absorbing a hit to his back that would send him to the medical tent.
That touchdown answered Wisconsin’s only score, and the Buckeyes pulled away from there.
“I feel like we react well to adversity,” Fields said. “Coach tells us all the time that we’re going to get punched in the face, but it’s how you react to getting punched in the face, what you do after, that determines the game.”
Despite the rain, Ohio State gained 431 yards against a defense that had given up the fewest in the country.
“I think in all honesty, we could have put up 50 (points),” Fields said. “I think if the weather was different, I think we could have thrown the ball more and put up way more points than we did. I’m just glad we got the win and we’re 8-0.”
Offensive line adjusts
It took awhile for the Buckeyes to figure out Wisconsin’s defense.
In Ohio State’s first 28 snaps, the Buckeyes gained only 101 yards, managing only a field goal in the game’s first 27 minutes.
Right guard Wyatt Davis said that the offensive line had trouble adjusting to Wisconsin’s stunts.
“Their (linebackers) were doing a really good job of scraping over the top of plays, and they were really blitzing a lot,” Davis said. “They'd run some of these twists where we'd miss a 'backer that we were tracking. They were just bringing so much stuff.”
He said that the Buckeyes made the necessary adjustments at halftime.
“Once we figured it out, we really started busting plays open,” he said.
Defensive end Jonathon Cooper did not play after he had been listed as a game-time decision on the team’s status report Friday.
The team did not provide a reason for his absence. He previously missed the first four games because of what he said was a high-ankle sprain. He was on the sideline in street clothes during the game after he briefly attempted to participate in pre-game warmups.
Sophomore Tyreke Smith started in place of Cooper at the defensive end spot opposite Chase Young. Smith made one tackle.
The Buckeyes’ defense started in a 4-4 alignment, featuring an additional linebacker. Senior Justin Hilliard lined up as the additional linebacker instead of a second safety beside Jordan Fuller. It gave Ohio State an extra player near the line of scrimmage to slow running back Jonathan Taylor, who was held to 52 yards on 20 carries. … Jack Miller, a quarterback commit for the 2020 recruiting class, visited. During warmups, he was standing on the field speaking with coaches and athletic director Gene Smith. Miller is a four-star recruit from Scottsdale, Arizona, and the lone quarterback committed in the class, although coach Ryan Day said the coaching staff is interested in adding another.