A case of beer and 2 pizzas helped Ryan Day get through the 'surreal' 2020 MSU game

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch
  • Because of COVID, Ryan Day missed the Buckeyes' last trip to East Lansing.
  • Day not optimistic about Jaxon Smith-Njigba's chances of playing.
  • TreVeyon Henderson appears ready to return.

This is Ryan Day's fourth year as Ohio State's football coach, but Saturday will be the first time he will lead his team in East Lansing against Michigan State.

Two years ago, Day had to miss the game after testing positive for COVID-19. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson served as acting coach for the Buckeyes' 52-12 victory.

Day tested positive the week before the game, so he did what the typical 41-year-old guy knowing he would be stuck at home for 10 days in quarantine would do.

Oct. 1, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; 
Players gather around Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day during of Saturday's game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Columbus. Mandatory Credit: Barbara Perenic/Columbus Dispatch

"I stopped by the store with my mask on and bought a case of beer and two pizzas," Day said with a laugh on his radio show Thursday. "I came home and said, 'Daddy's home.' "

Hoping to stay COVID-free, Day had stayed apart from his wife and three kids for seven weeks, living in a quasi-guest house at their home.

He watched the Michigan State game in his basement with his son, R.J., while his wife and daughters stayed upstairs.

"When you watch your team play on TV like that in real time, it's unbelievable. It's kind of surreal," Day said.

Despite missing three assistant coaches and 23 players, including three starting offensive linemen, the Buckeyes led 28-0 at halftime and cruised.

"It was in hand pretty quickly," Day said. "But those first couple of drives, I was screaming and yelling and walking around the basement.

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"As the game got the way it did there in the second half, I got to at least enjoy watching it. I didn't say I relaxed because you just never relax until the game's over."

With a short-handed coaching staff and roster, the Buckeyes had to adjust responsibilities on and off the field.

"That was hard," Day said. "I thought Larry and (strength coach) Mick (Marotti) did a great job. I zoomed in before the game to be able to talk to the team. That was a wild experience, but the guys handled it really well. The leadership was great."

Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba warms up before the Buckeyes' kickoff against Rutgers.

Ryan Day not optimistic about Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba hasn't played since the first half of the Toledo game on Sept. 17 because of a hamstring injury, and Day didn't sound optimistic about him playing Saturday.

"He is (progressing)," Day said. "Nobody wants to get back more than Jaxon. It's been frustrating for him, and so we're just taking it on a week-to-week basis and hopefully he can start making some progress and get back on the field."

Day was more optimistic about running back TreVeyon Henderson's chances to play. Henderson aggravated an injury during warmups for last week's Rutgers game and was held out.

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"He's further along certainly than he was last week," Day said. "It was kind of a late scratch for us. We're hoping to get him back out there this week. We're certainly going to need him. On the road, you have to be able to run the football."

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Henderson and Miyan Williams have shared snaps this year. Williams tied a school record with five touchdowns last week.

Day said he was "very positive" about the possible return of several other injured Buckeyes such as Tanner McAlister and Cam Martinez, but declined to go into specifics.

"I'd rather not get into any of the injury updates right now," he said. "Things can change so quickly. Once I started commenting on one, then I've got to comment on somebody else, but those guys had a good week of practice."

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