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Justin Fields nearly flawless in leading Ohio State to opening rout

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra

Justin Fields wasn’t perfect on Saturday. It just seemed like it.

The Ohio State quarterback, a Heisman Trophy finalist as a sophomore last year, completed 20 of 21 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 52-17 season-opening victory Saturday over Nebraska.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws against Nebraska during the second quarter on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

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Fields also ran for a 17-yard score, complete with a Braxton Miller-like spin move to get into the end zone. He ran 15 times for 54 yards, often getting first downs on short-yardage plays in a game in which tailbacks Master Teague III and Trey Sermon often had trouble finding running room.

His only incompletion was a deep post pattern to Chris Olave late in the second quarter when the receiver had the ball but couldn’t hold on as he was hit in the end zone.

“I thought Justin played well,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “He didn't force anything. He did a good job with his feet. (He) was accurate.”

His only minor quibble was that Fields was sacked three times after holding onto the ball in hopes of making a play instead of throwing it away.

Garrett Wilson and Olave were his favorite targets, as expected. Wilson caught seven passes for 129 yards, including a 42-yarder for a touchdown. The sophomore will be used primarily in the slot this year, and his combination of speed, hands and body control makes him a matchup nightmare.

“Garrett's just a great receiver all around,” Fields said, “and I think him being in slot and being able to work outside and able to go in different directions just makes him more dynamic.”

Olave had six catches for 104 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter after he took a big hit while lowering his body after a catch. Day was optimistic about Olave’s status after the game.

“He seemed good,” he said. “He was in good spirits and had a good look in his eye. We’ll see tomorrow morning.”

As for Fields, it’s clear that he’s ready to put the Buckeyes’ offense on his shoulders. He worked hard in the offseason both in improving as a quarterback and in using his star status to help get the Big Ten to reconsider its decision not to play this fall.

“I think I'm better from last year to this year,” Fields said. “That's what the offseason is for. That's where we're practicing for.

“I think I'm better in all aspects — throwing the ball, running the ball, and just knowing the offense and knowing what the defense is doing. But I still have room to improve, and that’s what I’m going to do from week to week.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch