Although Ohio State preaches a game-by-game mentality and takes every opponent seriously, head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes know this week’s opponent is a step up in the competition. Penn State is without a doubt the most talented team that Ohio State has faced this season.
The Buckeyes haven’t been fully pressed yet this season and have been able to rely on their superior talent in order to blow opponents out week by week.
Day, however, calls Saturday’s game against Penn State a ‘talent-equated’ game.
“Well I think our team knows what’s at stake, we have talked about that. But now it’s time to just focus on Penn State,” Day said. “This is a talent-equated game. We all know we have been in some games that we have had more talent than some of the other teams we have played. This is a team that talent equates.”
Day recognized that in some games earlier this season the Buckeyes were able to get away with things because they were the more talented team. But this week, he is preparing his team for a fourth-quarter battle and knows that other aspects of Ohio State’s game must carry them through the day.
“When that happens, it goes back to discipline, it goes back to fundamentals, it goes back to toughness, all of those things that come into play when your talent no longer matters,” he said. “So those are the things and we got to do a good job putting a good game plan together, let the guys play, and then prepare them to go and then the team that’s more prepared will win the game.”
In a game like this, Day’s mindset as a coach shifts to understanding the importance of every minute of the game, especially in a series with Penn State where the last three games between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions have come down to a combined five points.
“I just think every play matters, every yard matters, every series matters, you just have to make sure you understand how important every play is in a game like this more than anything else,” Day said. “Because — and maybe some of those other games it’s like, ‘well, if you didn’t get it that series we’ll get the ball back here pretty quick, we’ll be okay.’ That’s not the case in something like this. We mentioned it just coming off of the game on Saturday. You turn the ball over like we did and they score a touchdown, that could be the difference in the game. That was the difference in the Indiana game last week.”
Ohio State must be mature enough to understand the importance of every series and every play, because at any point, one snap, step, or slip could be the play that changes the game.
“I can’t really say that we have been in a game where that’s been the case this year,” Day said. “So understanding that as coaches, but understanding that as players, is going to be huge.”
Day’s message translated well to his team as each player who has spoken with the media this week has mentioned that this game is ‘talent-equated.’
Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields acknowledged the message and the believe that they must focus on being fundamentally sound and put in the extra work in order to be ready on Saturday.
“Coach Day talks about when talent equates, it’s not about who’s bigger, who’s faster, stronger,” Fields said. “It’s about who prepares the best and who goes about the meetings and stuff off the field, really, the best. So that’s what we’re going to focus on.”