Ohio State 45, Florida Atlantic 21 | A win in Ryan Day and Justin Fields' debuts, but with much room to improve

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) runs for a 51-yard touchdown during the first quarter of the NCAA football game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. [Adam Cairns]

Ohio State endured the expected opening-game hiccups Saturday afternoon against Florida Atlantic.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they didn’t kick in until Ohio State scored four touchdowns in just over eight minutes in a 45-21 victory over the Owls.

Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter

An announced crowd of 103,228 at Ohio Stadium watched the debuts of Ryan Day as full-fledged head coach and Justin Fields as the Buckeyes’ quarterback. Day took over for Urban Meyer after serving as acting coach during Meyer’s three-game suspension last year. Fields, the transfer from Georgia, threw for four touchdowns.

The start of the game couldn’t have gone any better for the Buckeyes.

Fields ran for a 51-yard touchdown to open the scoring and threw for three more scores to stake Ohio State to a quick 28-0 lead. Sophomore tight end Jeremy Ruckert started it by getting wide open for a 25-yard touchdown catch, as did senior wide receiver Binjimen Victor for a 32-yard score.

When Chris Olave caught a 29-yard touchdown with 6:50 left in the first quarter, it looked like the Buckeyes could name the score.

But the Ohio State offense then went into an extended funk. The Buckeyes didn’t score again until late in the third quarter as running lanes dried up and pass protection faltered.

Ohio State’s defense, though, was suffocating for most of the game.

The Buckeyes had their worst season ever statistically on defense last year. Day revamped the defensive coaching staff, which tweaked the scheme. Players raved about the change and vowed that they would be much better this year.

Against Florida Atlantic, they were for most of the game. The Owls had minus-14 yards at halftime. The Buckeyes stuffed FAU for negative yardage on 11 of its 32 first-half snaps.

The Owls didn’t have the ball in Ohio State territory until they recovered a J.K. Dobbins fumble at the 25 and kicked a field goal just before halftime.

FAU had its first sustained scoring drive after taking the second-half kickoff, but the Buckeyes’ defense stiffened in the red zone and forced another field goal.

Ohio State finally got its offense untracked late in the third quarter. Ruckert caught another touchdown pass, a 3-yarder, from Fields.

Fields finished 18 of 25 for 234 yards.

Florida Atlantic scored its first touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run by Larry McCammon to cap a 75-yard drive and added another against Buckeye backups midway through the quarter.

J.K. Dobbins ran 21 times for 91 yards and scored the Buckeyes’ final touchdown. Blake Haubeil added a 46-yard field goal with 3:01 to go.


Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Football podcast: