Ohio State’s brilliance on full display at over Penn State

Rare in the college division are teams who have mastered so many of the football arts as have the Buckeyes (2-0). “We’ve got a lot of...



Rare in the college division are teams who have mastered so many of the football arts as have the Buckeyes (2-0).

“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” said Ryan Day, 18-1 as head coach.

“I think we really made a statement today about what kind of team that we have, that we’re not one-dimensional, we can do all different types of things,” said tight end Jeremy Ruckert, who caught two short touchdown passes as the football flowed as it flows best: by committee.

Even when brief suspense greeted No. 18 Penn State’s 75-yard drive after halftime for a touchdown that meant a bygone 21-3 deficit had narrowed to 21-13, that suspense had a caveat. When you score against Ohio State, the ball goes back to quarterback Justin Fields and his teammates.

So within 2½ minutes, Fields had lofted a pretty 49-yard touchdown pass up the left sideline to Chris Olave, the accuracy glowing as the lead re-widened.

So by the end, Fields had placed a 28-for-34 showing atop his 20-for-21 the previous week against Nebraska for a dreamy early-season total of 48-for-55. Clearly he had his own present and future in mind when, as a second-year Ohio State quarterback who transferred from Georgia and starred last season, he lobbied so hard and so publicly to play once the Big Ten first canceled this fall season, but one might see it also as a public service. Those who fancy the sight of highbrow quarterbacking can see someone even more refined than in his outstanding 2019, someone still clearly chapped by that closing interception in the College Football Playoff semifinal Dec. 28 against Clemson.

It’s almost too obvious to mention that he has thrown no interceptions among his 55 passes so far this time around. He threw three — against 41 touchdown passes — last year.

“We put in so much work in the offseason,” Fields said. “I worked my butt off.”

Then there’s Ohio State’s annual churn of nightmares to defend or who will defend you, with some nightmares always leaving, other nightmares always coming in. Now there’s Garrett Wilson, the receiver who spent the opening offensive play running off into 62 yards of open terrain after a handoff. There are the eight people who caught footballs, led by Wilson’s 11 for 111 yards and Olave’s seven for 120, which also included a gorgeous thing on the last sliver of end zone on the left for a 26-yard touchdown catch that made it 14-0. “I think the combination of our receivers tracking deep balls and Justin throwing the ball down the field with accuracy is tremendous,” said Day, who brings some NFL experience to his play-calling.

There’s Master Teague III, who rushed 23 times for 110 yards. There’s an offensive line that often pushed Penn State (0-2). It’s no wonder Day went for it on two fourth-and-one plays during the fourth-quarter drive that shoved the score to 38-19. “I needed a drink after that drive,” he said of the one that ended with Fields’s one-yard touchdown pass to Ruckert but added, “You have to trust it.”

There are defenders like Jonathon Cooper and Pete Werner, who chased Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford into spoilage of an early fourth-down play, or Zach Harrison, who once almost devoured both Clifford and a back trying to block for him.

All of this went unwitnessed by the usual 100,000-plus, who could not attend on a cold pandemic Halloween night with a full moon and only the players’ families in attendance. They did not get to create Penn State’s traditional white-out spectacle.

Of course, that fact also upheld an adage: Sometimes it’s better not to see things.

Sure, they would have witnessed one of the catches of the year, a one-palmed wonder for a 21-yard touchdown up the left sideline by Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, who caught eight passes for 144 yards and three scores. They would have seen their team show some pluck even if they don’t see themselves and their program as an entity needing pluck. They would have seen their coach go for that fourth and two from the Penn State 45-yard line with more than 11 minutes still left in the first quarter, a signal of respect (for Fields et al) if ever there were one.

Maybe they could have passed some time quibbling about that.

But mostly, as their team trailed 21-3 and 31-13 and 38-19, they would have stayed as silent as the cardboard cutouts Penn State used to raise money to help families coping with childhood cancer, even if they would have found brief solace in two playings of Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s eternal “Monster Mash.” Otherwise, even Fields’s woes often wound up mended by his throws.

During an 89-yard drive in the second quarter that made things 21-3, a snap from the Penn State 1-yard line managed to fly over his grasp for a 13-yard loss, and he managed to model precisely what one should do in such situations. He stopped trying to pick it up and just plopped down on the thing. When he almost tripped down in the third quarter, he still looked up and flipped to tight end Jake Hausmann for a 13-yard gain. With a rusher rushing up next door and threatening at least to alter the throw, he still steered a 26-yard corner throw to Wilson.

“He worked really hard this week to get prepared in the meeting room,” Day said. “He was on it. When you start to take the meeting room easily to the field, that’s when you become special.”

He threw all kinds of touchdown passes, four of them, the two to Olave and the two to Ruckert, on a third down and a fourth. He was a sight to see, this artist Fields, unless you were on the side that preferred not to see it.

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Newsrust: Ohio State’s brilliance on full display at over Penn State
Ohio State’s brilliance on full display at over Penn State
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