Saturday in his debut as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, sophomore Justin Fields completed 18-of-25 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic. He also added 61 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground.
His five touchdowns tied Dwayne Haskins’ OSU record for touchdowns responsible for in a first start.
While there were many good things that transpired from last Saturday, there were also a lot of learning experiences for Fields. Both Fields and head coach Ryan Day acknowledge there is much to improve upon as the schedule continues to unfold.
“He played well in terms of game management. Didn’t try to do stuff that wasn’t there. There was some times where we did get that three-man rush and he didn’t force it,” Day said.
“He got us going in those drives that we did and scoring later on it was because he kind of kept us on the schedule and didn’t try to force the ball in there. I thought did he a good job there. You know, a few things, reads, a few protection things we’ve got to clean up, but again the more experience he has, the better he’s going to be.”
For Fields to get better this week to prepare to face Cincinnati on Saturday, there is a long list of aspects within the offense that he will be working on, both in the passing game and in the running game.
“There’s a lot that we do and there’s a lot that goes into our offense in the running game, there’s a lot of reads,” Day explained. “There’s things that happen pre-snap. There’s things that happen post snap. There’s decisions that have to be made whether he gives the ball, pulls the ball, whether he throws the ball in a perimeter bubble game or something like that.
“And then the pass game, there’s a ton that goes into that. Are we into the right route, the protection calls, the decisions in terms of progressions, the location of the ball, his technique, all those things come into play.”
Every coach looks at his players as works-in-progress. The best players see themselves the same way. Aftter reviewing the film, Fields was able to point to areas that he specifically wanted to work on before this Saturday’s game.
“Fixing the little things, just like protection wise and just going through all of the reads,” Fields said. “I guess just carrying out the fakes and just doing all of the little things right.”
Fields also showed maturity in acknowledging that it was his job keep the tempo of the entire offense up throughout the game. After going up 28-0 in the first quarter, the offense seemingly began going through the motions. It is a lesson best learned in a 24-point win and not a 3-point loss.
For a first start, few Buckeye quarterbacks have been better, and yet after explaining the positive parts of his game with reporters, there was always the understanding that he could get better.
The even better news is that he also knew where and how to make that happen.
Justin Fields is going to face a much different defense on Saturday. Cincinnati is fast, physical, and disciplined. He is going to have to be quicker with all of his decisions, and he is going to have to make use of every last bit of what he learned in last week’s game.
If he does that, then it will not only bode well for Saturday, but for every other Saturday to come as well.