COLUMBUS — Finally, Ohio State gave just a little nod that the last non-conference matchup of the regular season didn’t carry all that much weight.
The Buckeyes will still celebrate any win. There will be a Champions Dinner for the players who graded out at the highest level. And Ohio State took at least a couple minutes to acknowledge how special some of the performances were in the 76-5 destruction of Miami (Ohio) on Saturday at the Horseshoe.
But instead of a full-throated party, the Buckeyes almost immediately turned the page to Nebraska. The real tests for No. 6 Ohio State have arrived, and the program wasted no time looking forward instead of back at the rain-shorted blowout over the RedHawks.
Of we’re going to go into Lincoln, a lot of things to clean up if we’re going to go beat those guys next week,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “Already on to those guys and focused on preparing for them next week.
“We’ll start talking about that [Sunday] morning — actually kind of talked about it just a little bit in the locker room, and they were all ears. So a big challenge and that starts even [immediately after the game].”
The Buckeyes are turning the page in a hurry. But Lettermen Row is still looking back at some of the lessons from the fourth win of the season for Ohio State, and here’s What We Learned before the attention shifts fully to the Big Ten.
Justin Fields finding his footing for Ohio State
There appears to have been a concerted effort during the first four weeks to keep Justin Fields from running much and exposing himself to injury. The Buckeyes might not admit that, but it certainly seems to be the case as he’s turned down running lanes, had few designed rushes called and generally has avoided showing off his remarkable athleticism much. But Fields is starting to take the next step as a dynamic weapon and rushed for a pair of touchdowns in the win over Miami (Ohio), breaking out a couple jukes to go with his breakaway speed and a frame that can absorb contact. When the competition gets tougher, the ability to potentially unleash Fields more will only make the Buckeyes more dangerous.
Buckeyes are more diverse on defense
If an opponent showed up with a game plan that could expose the Ohio State defense a year ago, odds are it would have a full half to keep exploiting it — if not more. The worst defense in school history had a number of problems that were created just by sheer stubbornness, but that isn’t the case for the Buckeyes this season. Miami had a few creative ideas to solve the Silver Bullets early in the first quarter, but co-defensive coordinators Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison adjusted quickly. In one case, the Buckeyes actually went back to the press-man coverage that was so inconsistent a year ago, which is yet another tribute to the way the revamped coaching staff is having an impact with all the talent it inherited. The ability and willingness to switch up schemes makes Ohio State so much more difficult to contend with than a year ago.
Garrett Wilson is star in making for Ohio State
The highlight-reel catches are obviously a good starting point, and Garrett Wilson is making them look routine even just four games into his career. The freshman can certainly still improve, and position coach Brian Hartline will undoubtedly be making that point to him coming off a four-catch, 54-yard performance that included his insane touchdown catch in the south end zone. But there might be another way the Buckeyes could use him to provide an instant impact based on how comfortable Wilson looked on a 52-yard punt return in the second half. It might be time already for Ohio State to consider a change there, because the spark he provided was plain to see.
Chase Young can get in Heisman Trophy mix
OK, a defensive player isn’t going to win the Heisman Trophy. And Chase Young is going to have a hard time even getting the most votes on the Ohio State roster thanks to the ridiculous production of Justin Fields and the dark-horse candidacy of J.K. Dobbins. But if ever there was a guy built to get into the mix on the other side of the ball, Young is putting together the kind of eye-catching statistics that could do it. Young already has seven sacks, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick despite having his workload lightened in all four blowouts to start the year. Imagine what he might be capable of when the Buckeyes actually need him to play a full game.
Chris Chugunov still No. 2 for Ohio State
The Buckeyes had the outcome sealed by halftime, which left plenty of time for them to evaluate the backup options at quarterback. And it still appears like Ohio State has the most faith in Chris Chugunov, who did nothing to hurt that belief by completing 6 of his 7 attempts for 86 yards with a pair of touchdowns. The difference between Chugunov and Fields is significant, and clearly the ceiling for the program would be much lower if they needed to go to the bench for some reason. But Chugunov throws the football with confidence, and he appears to have a solid edge over Gunnar Hoak at this point.