The Game is now just four days away.
Ohio State and Michigan will renew the greatest rivalry in all of sports this Saturday in Ann Arbor.
There are storylines galore this week. Ohio State is looking to maintain its perfect record and stay near the top of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Michigan is trying to avoid losing eight straight to the Buckeyes for the first time in series history.
Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh could become the first head coach for either school to start his career 0-5 in the rivalry.
The winner will become the all-time NCAA leader in winning percentage among major conference teams.
Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio State players and coaches met with the media for their only pregame interviews of the week.
OSU head coach Ryan Day, LB Tuf Borland, OG Wyatt Davis, SAF Jordan Fuller, WR Chris Olave and LB Pete Werner met with the media to share their thoughts on The Game.
You can watch those interviews in their entirety below.
A complete transcript of Ryan Day’s press conference is located at the bottom of this post.
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 26, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Last year Michigan’s defense seemed to be in man coverage almost 100% of the time. This year mixing it a little bit more. What differences have you seen from them on defense this year?
RYAN DAY: They’ve gone to a lot more zone. But they mix it up. Coach Brown does a great job of that. He’s always had a lot of different coverages, a lot of different looks. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of them on Saturday.
Q. When Justin went down late in the fourth quarter, he bounced back up. What kind of conversation was that? Heart in your throat a little bit?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, for sure any time you see your starting quarterback on the ground, it’s not a good feeling. He was able to shake it off, run off the field. We expect him to be fine.
Q. With that volume of carries, in big games, you hold nothing back, is it too many for him? When you watched the film, what did you think?
RYAN DAY: When we play in big games like that, we certainly rely on him to run some. It’s not typically quarterback design runs, although we have some of those. A lot of them were reading somebody. He can either keep it or run it. Some of those are scrambles when you look at his numbers.
He does a great job extending plays. But Penn State kind of forced him to run the ball a little bit. He did a great job. Other than the two turnovers, I thought he was unbelievable.
We’ll continue to do that when we think it’s appropriate.
Q. You coached under Coach Meyer for two years with his schedule of this week, how to handle it. Are you tweaking anything? What does Thanksgiving look like? Senior tackle, do you still do that?
RYAN DAY: Just because of the holiday, we keep Tuesday, Wednesday pretty similar. We have our family dinner Wednesday night, then we get in here early. Coaches work late Wednesday night. We get in here early and practice Thursday. We do our senior tackle, let everybody get home for Thanksgiving. Go back at it Friday.
Pretty similar to what we’ve done in the past.
Q. Growing up in New England, what was the rivalry that you as a kid liking football focused on?
RYAN DAY: Growing up, it was mostly the pro sports because that’s where I was from, Boston area. It was Red Sox-Yankees, Celtics-Lakers. Patriots didn’t have many rivals at that point.
Growing up, that was your identity. Definitely with the Red Sox, everybody can relate to everybody that grew up in the state of Ohio, put the block O on.
Q. When you’re bringing guys in from out of state, how do you get them to understand the priority that this rivalry is to the school?
RYAN DAY: In recruiting we talk to them right from the get-go. That’s one of the reasons why some people come to school here, is for the rivalry. We make such a big deal of it.
As you know, when you walk in the building, it’s all over the place. We talk about it all the time, talk about it recruiting in all areas, strength and conditioning, football, other areas.
It’s something that you just ingrain. The more these guys are in the program, the more they get it. We still have a huge majority of our guys from the area. They get it. They talk to the guys about that.
Q. The big matchup in this game the last few years has been your offense and Don Brown’s defense. Coached together at Boston College. How close did you get there? Has he been someone you’ve stayed in touch with at all?
RYAN DAY: He actually coached against me when I played, then coached my brother at UMass, then we coached together at Boston College, now get an opportunity to coach against each other in a huge rivalry game, which makes it hard.
Nothing but respect obviously for his background and what he’s done defensively over the years. One of the best guys in the business.
Q. Growing up in New England, do you have memories of this game at all, anything in particular you remember?
RYAN DAY: Just it was always on this weekend. One of the most heated rivalries. I remember watching it. I remember being in a hotel room watching when Curtis Samuel scored in double overtime. So many memories of what this game means. No mystery throughout the country that it’s the biggest rivalry in all sports.
Q. Integrating players. How did you get into it when you first arrived here to what this meant?
RYAN DAY: For the first, I don’t know, six months my son and I, when we came in the building together, we’d sit there in the front atrium and watch the video of the season before. Just as you get here, you start to live it every day, you understand it.
Coach Meyer certainly talked about it all the time, learned that way. Then being in the game twice, the respect that I have for the rivalry is off the charts. It’s one of the reasons, makes it so special to be at Ohio State.
Q. There’s a lot of reasons this has been lopsided since early 2000s. Is there a secret sauce that’s involved in this? What did you learn from Urban, what specifically, if anything, on how to handle this?
RYAN DAY: Again, if you’re working on it all year, then you’re prepared, whether you’ve worked on it the spring, the pre-season, certain periods that you set aside just to work on the team up north.
You talk to guys all the time about what it means, so they understand coming into the game what to expect. It’s always on the schedule that way. We have the countdown in the building. I think everyone understands the importance of it, that’s the first thing.
When you’re talking about the game itself, it goes back to the fundamentals: taking care of the football, executing the game plan, giving them a good plan they can execute.
Being on the road is a little different than being at home. We have to handle that, being loud, the crowd noise. We’ll handle that today, make sure we pipe in the crowd noise during practice, show composure there.
It’s going to come down to winning the one-on-one battles in the end.
Q. Several surveys out there, Buckeye Nation. 40% given a choice would rather beat Michigan and lose in the playoff than win a national title and lose to Michigan. Does that surprise you at all?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know. I just know we’re focused on this game. I don’t know. I mean, a lot of people do a lot of what if scenarios and everything. I know that this game means everything to us. Nothing matters if we don’t win the game. That’s the only way I look at it, we got to win the game.
Q. What stands out to you about Michigan’s offense and how have you seen it sort of develop and progress over the course of the season?
RYAN DAY: I thought since the halftime of the Penn State game, they’ve really played good football. Patterson is throwing the ball well. Receivers are good. Collins, Jones, their tight ends are good. Offensive line. Good job against Notre Dame. Good scheme, good coaches.
They found a rhythm in the second half of the season. Probably our biggest challenge again. As we’ve gone on in the season, we’ve been challenged more and more. This will be the most talented group we’ve seen by far.
Q. Misdirection, is that something that could negate Chase Young? How do you see your defense having to respond to that?
RYAN DAY: They’re sound, they do a good job. I think at the end of the day it comes down to players. I don’t think they’re going to do anything that we probably haven’t seen. Maybe they will.
But I think at the end of the day it’s going to come down to execution and guys winning their one-on-one battles.
Q. Last year you had a huge recruiting battle head-to-head with somebody in this state with Harrison. Over the course of the past seven years, doesn’t seem like you butted heads with Michigan at all on the recruiting trail. Are you ever surprised by how little of a presence they have in Ohio on the recruiting trail based on the fact they’ve won a lot of games?
RYAN DAY: Well, we take a lot of pride in recruiting the state of Ohio. We put their recruiting list on the board, compare our guys to theirs just about every day, every week. Something that Mark looks at every day.
Part of how you live this rivalry is you compare yourselves every day against them. We take a lot of pride in the fact we recruit Ohio at a high level, are very competitive.
We do a good job, too. They have good recruiters, obviously a wonderful program. It’s always a big challenge. That’s why we go at it every day.
Q. Their recruiting board is on your wall. What can you learn from that? How long has this been going on? As the head coach of this program, I’m assuming you’ve had to transition into the role of understanding what the entire strategy is. What do you learn from it?
RYAN DAY: I mean, yeah, it’s been there since I got here. It just gives you some awareness of where we’re at, the battles that we’re in against certain guys. We rank our people. We just want to always know exactly who those guys are because we know we’re going to be playing them. That’s what’s important.
In recruiting sometimes you don’t worry about the guys you don’t get, you worry about the guys you do get. When you’re going up against a team up north, you know you’re going to be playing against them, so it does matter who you don’t get. We look at this very carefully.
Q. Do you make decisions on recruiting based on what is on their board?
RYAN DAY: It influences us, for sure.
Q. Everyone saw what you did last year against Michigan’s defense, 62 points. It seemed like a lot of it was stuff you had in to beat man-to-man coverage. How have you seen every defense you’ve played adjust to you since you did that, how that shaped your offensive plan this season?
RYAN DAY: This is a whole new year. We look at the film a little bit to see what they did, everything like that. They’re going to make adjustments on all that stuff. They’re very well-coached.
We really don’t look at that much at all. We’re really looking at this year, kind of what we do, what they’re doing. Their personnel is different now. What he’s doing is significantly different.
Yeah, I mean, guys are kind of on a week-to-week basis, they look and see what we’re doing, they try to stay a step ahead you. That’s the evolution of a season. Once you get more and more games on film, they make the adjustments from there.
Q. What percentage of zone coverage do you think you all see this year and how does that compare to last year?
RYAN DAY: Probably pretty similar.
Q. Not different after you put 62 on Michigan?
RYAN DAY: No, I mean, I just think all of those plays weren’t against man-to-man. There were some. He mixes up his zones. There was some zone in there too.
Q. Justin and Chris were both talking about executing the deep ball coming off the Rutgers game. One or two were underthrown. When a guy has an arm that is that strong, can it be any harder to calibrate it to make sure he’s putting the ball in the right place, maybe overcompensate, leaving it short?
RYAN DAY: The first one, it was a calculated throw we wanted to shoot down the field. Chris is so fast that he kind of outran his arm on that one to the field. That was a big ball.
The other one to me it was a little bit more he had to move in the pocket because somebody flashed in his face. It didn’t come out on rhythm like we like. Typically it’s just a timing thing. Justin has a very, very strong arm. It’s usually in the pocket so that’s why we want to firm up the pocket so the ball comes out on time.
Q. Coming out of the Penn State game, you said in the second half when things were kind of going south, retrenched, weren’t as aggressive as you normally are. In hindsight, do you think that was the right thing? Does it inform anything you might do this week knowing it’s probably going to be a close game, tough situation?
RYAN DAY: No, no, it doesn’t change anything. I think absolutely it was the right thing to do at the time. Won the game. You do everything you can to win the game.
We’re aggressive. We always will be aggressive. We’re going to be aggressive, yeah.
Q. In terms of what this game means to you, you’ve always said you don’t feel pressure here, you feel opportunity. You took over for a coach that went 7-0. Your first game against Michigan, how are you approaching this game for you personally?
RYAN DAY: I’m trying to do the best I can to make it like every week, although we all know it’s not. Do a little extra here, there, to make sure we’re covering every single scenario we can, making sure we’re letting the guys have a great plan.
But if you start to overdo things, then you can get yourself jammed up. That’s why all the work gets done ahead of time, that’s why we live it 365. When you get here during the week, you don’t have to all of a sudden come up with an unbelievable speech on the Tuesday. The guys know what’s. You can put the focus more on giving them a good plan, making sure things are tight, spending your focus on making sure the guys are prepared.
Q. When you took over on December 4th, were you already thinking about this game?
RYAN DAY: Oh, yeah. It’s no secret that part of your evaluation as the head coach at Ohio State is how you do in this game. We all know that. When you take this job, you understand it. You can win them all, not win this game, feel like it’s a disappointment. I get that, embrace it. That’s why we’re working so hard this week.
Q. What is that key area that’s between tight and loose that you want to get to for this game? You don’t want the guys too tight. How do you play that?
RYAN DAY: I call it focus. I think when you look at someone’s eyes, you can tell if they’re focused or not. Based on how well you prepare, the more confidence you have.
I look at it like if you’re taking a test, you know the answers to the test, you’re focused, but not you’re nervous. You’re locked in, know you’re going to do well, you have all the answers to the test. If you don’t know all the answers to the test, you start getting nervous, anxious.
As long as our focus is right, we understand that. I’ll be shocked if it isn’t, and we prepare the best way, that gives us our best chance to be successful.
Q. We don’t get to talk to these two guys this week. Greg Mattison and Al Washington Jr. How special a week is this for them considering where they were a year ago? How much do you lean on them for insight?
RYAN DAY: Here and there. They’re busy getting their side ready to go. I’m sure there’s a range of emotions. Certainly when we get on the bus and head up there, there will be even more.
It’s just one of those things that’s part of the job. You work through it. They’ll be really professional about it. They know there’s a lot riding on this game. They want to do great for their players and family, everything like that. I’m sure there’s a lot of emotions going on there.
Q. Did you go after them because of something also they could bring to this week in particular?
RYAN DAY: No, no. The major attraction was that I knew both of them very well. One I was a coach when he played, then I coached with him. The other one I coached with, have a tremendous amount of respect for.
My whole plan was that when I have an opportunity to have my first coaching staff, everyone in that room I trusted that had my back when things didn’t go so well. That was it. It just so happened to be against a school up north. I know sometimes that’s hard to swallow, but that’s just the way it was.
Q. Is there a specific moment or memory you have after you arrived here at Ohio State where you realized just how important this rivalry was to people here?
RYAN DAY: I mean, I don’t think it was just one moment. There’s a lot of moments just because it’s every day, it’s every day in the Woody, when you recruit, everything. I don’t think there was one moment.
There’s a lot of moments. The most memorable I think for me when I tell the story is that when we talk about throwing out the records, anything can happen in this game, what happened to J.T. We’re preparing, getting ready to play in that game. Right as the ball is about to kick off, J.T. is hurt, he can’t go back in the game. The game hasn’t even started yet. Here we go, we’re in the rivalry game.
Had to adjust there. He played in the first half. Dwayne had to come in, go win the game. That just goes to show you there’s no records in a game like this. It’s a rivalry, anything can happen. Buckle up and get ready.
Q. How exciting was it going through this rivalry week as a head coach for the first time?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, I mean, it’s exciting. I don’t know if that’s the number one emotion right now for me. There’s so many things going on. But once we get closer to the game, I’ll get more and more excited to play the game.
Right now the focus is on getting our guys ready, preparing, making sure practice is right, making sure our guys are healthy, making sure everything is in place to give our guys the best chance to be successful. As the game gets closer, the competitiveness starts to get ramped up and you are ready to play.
Q. What did it tell you about Chris Olave last year for him to have two touchdown catches in the Michigan game?
RYAN DAY: I think you learned what followed after that, which is that he’s a great player. I don’t think anybody really knew up until that game what he was capable of. Then what you’ve seen afterwards is what he is capable of.
Obviously to play in a game like that and to become a legend in the history of the game as a freshman, to block a punt, have two touchdowns, that’s just unbelievable. Look what he’s done from there.
Yeah, that was a great way to start off his career.
Q. Does seem like Michigan is playing more zone this year. Ohio State, there was a time when you were playing press man pretty much every snap. Now you mix up coverages. In today’s day and age, do you feel like most defenses have to give different looks at this point? Can a good college team come out and say we’re playing man, we dare you to beat us?
RYAN DAY: I mean, yeah, teams do. Teams like to change it up. I’ll say this: nobody gives more looks than Don Brown when it comes to different looks. He takes a lot of pride in that. I know that. Over the years his different teams, they’ll play more zone than man, they’ll play more man than zone. What he does a great job of is he puts his guys in positions to be successful.
Some of those things last year maybe it seemed like they were still zone. He changes it up. He does a great job. I know he’s going to do another good job this weekend.
Q. You’ve been asked this a million times. Everybody grows up with stuff. The two previous head coaches here grew up with this. They could tell stories when they were a kid about Ohio State and Michigan. You didn’t grow up in Ohio. Doesn’t disqualify you. When you come to learn about something as an adult, maybe it’s not in you, I think maybe on some level you have a different appreciation of it. It’s not necessarily in your blood but when you start learning about it you start understanding it.
RYAN DAY: Well, yeah, I think for me to see what this means to the people of Ohio, the Buckeye Nation, that’s to me where it really hits home to me. It strikes in my heart strong. I just see this is everything.
I just know the Ohio State football team means everything to the people of Ohio. It runs deep in their blood. It’s who they are, it’s their identity, their pride. To be the head coach of the football team, that’s an unbelievable responsibility.
That’s why we stay late at night, we come early in the morning, make sure we do everything we can to make sure we’re successful in this game because it means so much to so many people. I take that to heart.
Q. You were asked about your history with rivalries as a sportsfan. You were a football player yourself. What is your experience with rivalry games in terms of your play as a quarterback?
RYAN DAY: When I was in college, we had a rivalry against Maine. That was big back in New Hampshire, we fought for the musket. That was the prize. That was a big rivalry for us.
Then growing up, in our town of Manchester, New Hampshire, we have about a hundred thousand people, four high schools. There were rivalry games, crosstown rivals. We play Thanksgiving Day, the Turkey Bowl in Gil Stadium in Manchester, New Hampshire. Everybody in the city would come out for those kind of games. Those were kind of my experiences.
Q. Did anything in your background prepare you for what the rivalry means here in Columbus?
RYAN DAY: Again, just seeing. I’ve been around sports my entire life, watched sports my entire life. That’s what I’ve been since I could walk, is just being a part of everything, seeing what it means to so many people.
Again, growing up for me it was more of the pro teams because that’s what I saw. It was still everything. I remember family members crying when the Red Sox were in the World Series and the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs. Things like that you remember because that’s the way life was.
Going into the Garden to watch Bird go against Magic Johnson, those types of things. That’s the reason you become a coach, is to be in those types of environments. That’s what this is here.
Q. The ball security issues from last week, you haven’t had them really all year. Any common thread? Just good defensive plays by Penn State? How much is that emphasized this week?
RYAN DAY: It’s completely inexcusable. That’s how you ruin a whole season, right there. That being said, I think it was a little bit of both. I think we were a little careless. I think a couple of them were really good plays. The one to Justin, the goal line, the guy is pretty tight. The guy puts his helmet right on the ball. Not an excuse. It wasn’t being careless, but not good enough. We score right there, the game could be completely different. It wasn’t.
Then the two fumbles there between J.K. and Justin in the third quarter, again, inexcusable. Were they good plays or not? I don’t know. All I know is they can’t give up the ball. We give someone the football, we put the whole team’s trust in their hands, the future in their hands. They know that.
It’s something they’re not great champion, they were warriors, they both played real tough. They played really good. But if you give up the ball, you’re not a champion. You put our team at risk.
We talked about it. We’re going to get it fixed.
Q. Michigan’s run defense, early in the year, it looks like statistically they shored it up. What do you see when you look at them?
RYAN DAY: I think they were kind of finding their way early in the season. They found a rhythm now. Again, I think probably since the second half of that Penn State game is when they caught their rhythm. Wisconsin did hit some runs on them early with Taylor.
But they’re good. They found their way. He’s done a good job of getting the guys in the right positions to be successful.
Q. Shea Patterson is playing his best football of the season. When you look at tape of him, can you tell why that is? Doing anything different?
RYAN DAY: I don’t really know. I’m not there, so I don’t know the dynamics of what’s going on. It’s hard to tell when you don’t know people.
I do see him being more confident. I see a group that feels like they’ve found an identity. They got really good receivers, by the way. Those receivers are talented. Offensive line is giving them time.
I don’t know exactly what made them all click, but it seems like it’s going well right now for them.
Q. About Chris’ performance, how important is that type of performance in that type of a game for a freshman player?
RYAN DAY: Gives him confidence that if he can do it in that game, he can do it in any game, which he’s shown he can do. What a great opportunity for him to step up in a big-time rivalry game.
This year, who is going to be the guy that steps up and becomes a legend in Ohio State football history? That’s what is fun about playing in a game like this.
Q. What was your record as a starter when playing for the musket?
RYAN DAY: Oh, I think I might have been 1-2, yeah. I got to check to be sure (laughter). That was a while ago.
Q. What do you remember when J.T. finally went down for good at the end in terms of getting Dwayne ready for that?
RYAN DAY: Going into the game, the week before we played Illinois at home in the pouring rain. Dwayne came into the game and fumbled on like a second snap. They returned it for a touchdown. We had to put J.T. and the starters back in the game, which was a complete nightmare. That’s my last memory of how Dwayne was doing on the field. Now we are in the rivalry game, trying to win the game.
I think his first two snaps were two false starts. It was third and three, a false start. It was third and eight, we got a false start. Third and 13, threw the fade to Austin Mack. From there, he stepped into it.
You talk about Chris’ moment. That was probably Dwayne’s moment to say I’m here now. Up until that moment, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go down.
Q. Were you upstairs?
RYAN DAY: I was in the box. Here we go. Have at it, brother (smiling).
Q. In this rivalry, looking back last really 20 years, the team that wins the rushing battle. Obviously that typically happens in football. In this rivalry, why do you think that’s been magnified or really important?
RYAN DAY: I think it’s important in every game because you control the clock, you control the game when you can run the football. I thought we did that last week other than the turnovers. If we don’t turn the ball over, we pretty much control that game. We ran the ball.
But I just think it’s important that way. You can throw the ball, that’s fine. When you can run the ball, you can control the clock, you control the game. I think that’s why it’s typically important.
Q. Jonathon Cooper announced last week he’s going to pursue a redshirt. He can appear in one more game. How do you determine where he comes back, what game you want to use him for?
RYAN DAY: A lot of things come into play. The depth of our D-line. His overall health, if he’s exactly at 100%. What the game plan is. It’s good to know we have a game we can use him in if it fits.
Certainly he’s going to play in another game this year, we just don’t know exactly which one yet.
Q. In regards to having Al Washington and ingredient Mattison on your staff, how much help does that give you in a game planning perspective in terms of what Don Brown may be thinking?
RYAN DAY: Not much. It’s a different team, they’re a different team. A couple things here and there. For the most part you just watch the film. You have to figure out what your guys can do. Sometimes that stuff gets overrated because you start to overthink things.
I mean, those guys obviously have their hands full on the other side. They’re busy over there.
Q. You study these guys year-round. You know what they’re about, what all the players are about. How good is this team you’re going to face? Is this the best club you’ll face this year?
RYAN DAY: It’s the most talented we’ll see. I mean, they have the ability to be as good as anybody in the country when they’re playing well. I think they’re playing their best football now. Certainly we’re going to get their best shot on Saturday.
Q. From the time that Urban stepped down until he gave you the whistle, after the Rose Bowl, was there anything he said to you one-on-one about this game?
RYAN DAY: No, just because I think we talked about it all the time during those two years. It was just how important it was. We were coming off the heels of the rivalry game last year. We played very well on offense. The time that we had put into that game plan, I think he understood how much I appreciated what he did to build this rivalry up in his seven years here, what his record was. To think he’s 7-0 is completely overwhelming sometimes.
All you do is put one foot in front of the other, keep working. That’s all we’ve done, our coaching staff, what I’ve done. We’re going to do the same thing this week.