Ohio State-Michigan | Ryan Day rises to the challenge in first game against Wolverines

Joey Kaufman
Ohio State coach Ryan Day shakes hands with Michigan coach John Harbaugh after the Buckeyes’ win Saturday. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The start of Ryan Day’s coaching tenure at Ohio State has commenced with quite the honeymoon.

He hasn’t lost a game, and to further goodwill among the fan base, the Buckeyes have routed nearly every opponent and taken the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.

The juncture that threatened the stature came Saturday at Michigan, where the Wolverines entered on a four-game winning streak.

Ohio State had dominated Michigan for two decades, increasing the pressure on Day. Urban Meyer won all of his seven games in the series, and Jim Tressel won nine of his 10 from 2001 to ’10. Earle Bruce also won in his debut in The Game in 1979.

Day emerged in triumph, too, as Ohio State rolled 56-27.

After the game, Day said he felt “overcome with emotion.”

“There’s just so much that goes into this game,” he said.

For the past two seasons, Day had served as the offensive coordinator under Meyer. Last November, he was the play-caller when the Buckeyes scored 62 points against the Wolverines, the most they had ever scored in the series.

They nearly matched the total with their latest scoring onslaught. But the consequence was heightened for Day after two seasons as an assistant. This time, the result would go down in his win-loss column.

“To say that there’s not stress coming into a game like this would be a lie,” Day said. “There's so much riding on a game like this. You understand and feel the weight of everybody involved with it. To win like this, right now, it’s a relief. It really is.”

Day referenced the success that Meyer had against the Wolverines as “big shoes to fill.”

While Meyer led Ohio State to a national championship and won 90 percent of his games, a significant part of his legacy was owed to his performance against the Wolverines. His restaurant that opened in Dublin this year includes a “7-0 Room.”

During the week of preparation, Day tried not to dwell on the magnitude of The Game.

“Any time I started to think about, what if, what if,” Day said, “I just got right back into my work and just focused on trying to put a game plan together.”

It paid off.

Day said he felt one of his proudest moments was the locker room scene after the victory, watching his players in a thrilling celebration.