Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields injures thumb in Big Ten title game

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra

INDIANAPOLIS – Justin Fields stuck out his right hand and braced himself before falling down on a third down in the red zone during Ohio State’s win over Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game.

But his thumb absorbed much of the impact with the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, colliding at an awkward angle.

“It kind of just bent backwards,” Fields said during a Zoom call with reporters following the game.

Fields didn’t specify when the sequence exactly occurred, though it seemingly came later in the game and likely left him with a sprained thumb. The Buckeyes’ star quarterback said he expected it to limit him for at least a few more days.

“It's pretty stiff,” Fields said. “I really can't move it. But I think it's just a sprain. I’ll get some ice on it and it should be good in a few days.”

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields launches a pass during the first quarter of the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.

The injury could again leave Fields banged up for the College Football Playoff should the Buckeyes secure one of the four spots as expected when the final rankings are released on Sunday.

Last season, Fields sprained a knee ligament about a month before the playoff semifinals and it forced him to wear a brace in a loss to Clemson.

In the aftermath, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said Fields was not 100 percent as a result of the knee sprain that had lingered in the leadup to the postseason.

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During Saturday’s win over the Wildcats, Fields attempted only two passes in the fourth quarter.

It was in part due to their rushing game’s success, but also the limitations felt by Fields.

“It was killing me, so hopefully we have a good amount of time to get it recovered and healed up,” Fields said.

In a matchup with Northwestern, which featured the nation’s most efficient pass defense and a pair of all-conference defensive backs, Fields faced other troubles.

He was twice intercepted and completed 12 of 27 passes for 114 yards. It marked lows for completion percentage and passing yards since transferring to Ohio State.

Fields made sure to attribute the struggles to issues beyond his injured thumb.  

“I'm not blaming my thumb because I don't want people to look at my thumb as an excuse,” he said. “It's just flat out me.”

He was missing leading receiver Chris Olave, who had caught about a third of his completions this season, but also praised Northwestern for doing a great job and having a sound defense.

“It’s really on me to be honest,” Fields said. “I wish I could say that they just had it locked down, but I have to be better and that’s that.”

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman