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Quarterback Justin Fields regrets interceptions in Ohio State win

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra

Justin Fields offered a blunt review of his performance against Indiana on Saturday afternoon.

“I didn’t play well at all,” he said.

While Ohio State prevailed in a 42-35 victory, remaining on track to reach the Big Ten championship game and secure a spot in the College Football Playoff, some uncharacteristic turnovers by its star quarterback raised eyebrows.

Fields was picked off three times by the Hoosiers’ defense, matching the number of interceptions he had thrown in 17 previous starts with the Buckeyes.

Two of Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields' interceptions were on plays when the junior tried to extend a play and threw into coverage.

His aggressiveness often seemed to get the better of him, and the Hoosiers, who have forced more takeaways than any other team in the Big Ten this season, took advantage.

Indiana safety Jamar Johnson came in for an interception early in the first quarter when Fields tried to fit a pass in a seam over the middle of the field. He was looking at receiver Garrett Wilson, who snagged a 65-yard pass from him on a deep ball to open the game, but this window was too tight.

“That’s on me,” Fields said.

His second pick came two drives later, toward the end of the first quarter. As a pair of defensive linemen lunged toward his feet, Fields heaved a pass toward the sideline. It was intended to land out of bounds, he said, a throwaway ball in an effort to avoid a sack. But the pressure from the defense saw him underthrow it, and the ball landed in a swarm of defenders before it was tipped by a few of them and ultimately corralled.

Ohio State vs. Indiana:Buckeyes get bruised but not buried

When he was intercepted for the third time, Fields confessed he was trying to do too much at that point.

It was early in the third quarter, when the Buckeyes were facing a third-and-9 from their 26-yard line, and Fields was escaping pressure as he spotted freshman receiver Julian Fleming out of the corner of his eye. His pass sailed too long and was grabbed by Johnson.

“I think he tried to force it a little too much,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. “But overall, I thought he played really gutsy. He made some big-time throws, and they were blitzing. Literally every snap. So there were going to be negative plays, there were going to be some big plays. That’s how it played out.”

Fields finished 18-of-30 passing for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns, along with his three interceptions.

He also ran for 78 yards and a touchdown, a 17-yard run into the end zone that came at a critical moment late in the first half as the Buckeyes completed a 14-point swing, capitalizing on a turnover by the Hoosiers to take a 28-7 lead at halftime.

The pressure was significant. Indiana sacked Fields five times and forced him into some poor decisions. But Day felt his overall production was critical for the Buckeyes as they prevailed, staying unbeaten in this season.

Turnovers would be corrected. They survived. And Fields, despite his own tough critique, was proud of the unblemished record.

“We got the ‘W’ at the end of the day,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman