Ohio State's Justin Fields looks to bounce back from three-interception performance

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Two poor decisions against Indiana on Saturday led to interceptions by Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, including this third-quarter heave when Fields tried to avoid a sack.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields saw three of his passes picked off in last week’s win over Indiana.

But the Buckeyes aren’t concerned about the issue lingering as they prepare for Saturday’s game at Illinois.

“We've got 100% confidence in Justin. It’s just a bump in the road,” wide receiver Chris Olave said on Tuesday. “Everybody has games like that.”

Interceptions have been uncommon for Fields. In his previous 17 starts since transferring from Georgia last year, he had thrown only three, including only one against Big Ten competition.

Olave said he expects the star passer to be the same rather than be rattled by the up-and-down performance against the Hoosiers.

“He's going to bounce back better than ever,” Olave added.

Buckeyes coach Ryan Day attributed some of the uncharacteristic interceptions by Fields to forcing throws, an initial assessment Fields had in the aftermath of the game.

It prompted Day to remind him not to try to do too much, noting it can make bad plays worse, especially under pressure. Fields’ third interception came as he tried to escape the Hoosiers’ pass rush and avoid a sack.

“We certainly could have done a better job in protection,” Day said, “certainly could have put him in some better spots coaching-wise, and then he could have also made some better decisions just throwing the ball away, ditching it. But that's hard. He's so competitive.

“Then he also made a bunch of plays with his feet as well. So that's hard for him to let go sometimes, but that's part of playing quarterback, and I know that he's looking to get better in that area.”

Illinois ranks fourth in the Big Ten in interceptions this season with seven. The Illini are atop the conference in takeaways with 13.

Missed targeting

Day said he was “very, very upset” with a targeting penalty that was missed on a hit to Fields late in the fourth quarter against Indiana, a sequence he brought up during a conversation with Big Ten officials this week.

After the ball left Fields’ hand on a pass that fell incomplete on fourth-and-1, he absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit by safety Jamar Johnson.

At the time, Fields was already being brought to the ground by one of the Hoosiers’ defensive linemen.

“I don’t know how that was missed,” Day said, “but those guys have a tough job and they’re trying to figure all of that out. I know that part of it the last couple of years has been sensitive, but they missed that one.”

Not only did the hit put Fields in harm’s way, but had Johnson been flagged for targeting, the Buckeyes could have gained a first down. Instead, Indiana regained possession.

Families back

Families of Ohio State players and coaches, as well as those from Illinois, will be permitted to attend Saturday’s game, Fighting Illini coach Lovie Smith said this week on a conference call.

After being at the Buckeyes’ first three games this season, family members were not at Ohio Stadium last Saturday after a health advisory was put in place in Columbus due to spiking coronavirus cases in central Ohio.  

Number tribute

After wearing the No. 50 as a tribute to his grandfather in last Saturday’s game, center Josh Myers said his grandmother, Beverly, “went through about an entire box of tissues” when she saw him in uniform.

Before each season, she has given Myers cutout pieces from her late husband’s Miamisburg high school uniform. Donnie, who died in 2009 from Alzheimer’s disease, had worn No. 50.

Myers will be back to wearing No. 71 this week. 

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman