With just under 10 minutes remaining in the third period of Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields faked the hand-off to running back JK Dobbins, kept the ball, and then took off over the left side for a 10-yard touchdown run. He took a big hit from Badger safety Eric Burrell at the goal line, went airborne and then landed hard on his back in the end zone.
Fields got up immediately and celebrated the score, but soon headed for the OSU medical tent on the sideline. He emerged a few moments later, then spent some time stretching before heading back onto the field when the Buckeyes got the ball back. Fields then went on to lead the team to three more touchdowns in their next three possessions.
Even though he was in pain — as evidenced by random winces and slow-to-get-up moments — throughout the third quarter, he was still able to lead his team to a victory over a very tough Wisconsin squad.
After the game, he acknowledged he was sore, but that’s just part of the job when the game is on the line.
“Yeah, I mean, my back’s kind of sore, but I think I should be good in a few days, so nothing really major,” he said.
Fields ran or scrambled eight times in the game and was sacked five times. All told, he was credited with 13 rush attempts for 28 yards. Removing the sacks, however, and his actual rushing numbers show 64 yards on eight attempts, including a long rush of 21 yards on a scramble.
Technically, those 13 attempts were the most in Fields’ career, but he has had other games with more true rushing attempts — including last month’s trip to Nebraska.
He would have gladly run the ball more against Wisconsin had the game — or Ohio State head coach Ryan Day — called for it, however.
“I mean, my attitude for every game really is just to do whatever I need to help the team win,” he said. “So whether it’s run a hundred times a game, throw the ball a hundred times a game, whatever the team needs me to do to win. I’m down to do it.”
As the calendar has turned from September to October and now drifts into November, Fields has been able to experience the beginnings of the range of conditions of Big Ten football.
Saturday’s game was played in a constant rain, but even though the weather was not ideal, Fields protected the ball and didn’t turn it over.
“I feel like I handled it well enough. I mean, we won the game,” he said. “So I think at the end of the day, whether you turn the ball over, whether you don’t, I think coach Day always says, just handle it better than the other quarterbacks. I think I did a good job of doing that. And overall, I mean, we got the win. So I think that’s pretty much all that matters.”
Now with the weather about to turn colder, there are some questions about how well the Georgia native Fields will be able to handle playing in lower temperatures. He isn’t concerned, however, reminding the assembled media on Tuesday that he played in a game in high school that dipped below freezing.
He then also added another trump card that people don’t often think about when looking at the forecasts on their phones.
“The difference between high school and here is that they have the heated benches and stuff like that,” he said. “So I think I should be good on that.”
Fields isn’t concerned about the weather or his back.
He’s focused on getting better for the coming challenges later this month and beyond.
While some see an off week as a week to recover, Fields sees it as an opportunity to improve his overall game.
“I think a lot of guys they use bye weeks to rest and stuff like that, but I don’t,” he said. “I take an approach to the bye week as a time to get better. So during the bye week, I’m just gonna go back to the fundamentals and just working on my feet and pocket presence, and just get down to the basics really.”