Cancellation of Ohio State vs. Maryland game puts Justin Fields' Heisman chase on hold

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields will be idle this week as the Buckeyes' game at Maryland was canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak among the Terrapins.

Justin Fields hasn’t prioritized winning the Heisman Trophy this season, though it would be nice.

But that pursuit has been put on pause for a week with the cancellation Wednesday afternoon of Ohio State’s game at Maryland because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Terrapins.

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Fields and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence entered this season as the main favorites for the Heisman. Lawrence’s quest has taken a hit because he’s been sidelined with COVID. Now Fields will be idle this weekend.

Fields has downplayed the importance of the Heisman chase. He is more intent on achieving college football’s team achievement — the national title.

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Because Ohio State started several weeks some other conferences’ seasons, Fields had much ground to make up in the Heisman Trophy chase. Most of that has already been done. In a weekly survey of Heisman voters by USA Today, Fields this week trails only Alabama’s Mac Jones, who has played six games, in the balloting.

In three games, Fields has been close to perfect. He is completing nearly 87% of his passes while throwing for 908 yards. He has thrown as many touchdown passes (11) as incompletions. Fields hasn’t been intercepted.

“Of course, I see it on social media,” Fields said of the Heisman speculation during a Zoom call Wednesday before the Maryland cancellation was announced. “But if I don't continue what I'm doing, even this week or next week, all that talk is a moot point so I'm not really focused on that. I'm just focused on staying consistent, keeping the same routine and doing my best each and every play.

“You just have to prioritize what goals are more important to you. Our team goals are first on my list because I think people look at that at a different level.”

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Fields had dazzling numbers last year to become a Heisman finalist — 41 touchdown passes with only three interceptions in his first year as a Buckeye — but Ohio State’s national title dreams ended with a loss to Clemson, and Lawrence, in a College Football Playoff semifinal.

No longer a newcomer, Fields worked hard this offseason on his leadership. He says that’s as important as his stats, even if it’s impossible to quantify.

Tight end Jeremy Ruckert is one of several Buckeyes who have praised Fields’ growth in that area. He said that Fields doesn’t talk about the Heisman, though his teammates sometimes do.

“You can just tell that whatever he does, he's always doing it for us and not for himself,” Ruckert said. “He's more about the team than individual stats. Like our coaches say, if you just worry about us and worry about the guy next to you, individual stats will come and big plays will come. He's an example of that in many ways. He's just our leader.”

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Part of that leadership is making sacrifices. To safeguard against the coronavirus, Fields rarely leaves his apartment other than to go to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, walk his dog, Uno, or go to the grocery.

“I don't really go anywhere,” he said.

He had hoped to go to Maryland this week, but COVID has changed that.