It’s hard to criticize a quarterback with a statline like Justin Fields’ against Cincinnati, which ranked No. 9 in scoring defense in 2018.
The sophomore finished 20-for-25 with 224 yards and two touchdowns passing, adding two scores on the ground. Under his guidance, the Buckeye offense rode to a 42-0 victory against the Bearcats Saturday.
“We were rolling,” head coach Ryan Day said. “We got ourselves in rhythm. But overall I thought it was a solid performance from [Fields], but another step in his progression.”
Athleticism is a part of Fields’ game that is well known, and he wasn’t shy about making it apparent again against Cincinnati.
On Ohio State’s first scoring drive against the Bearcats, Fields dropped back and found no one open. Rather than throw the ball away, he scrambled for 12 yards and a third down conversion to extend the possession.
Two plays later, Fields dropped back on play action, then found himself scrambling again. He weaved his way for a seven-yard score, Ohio State’s first. Day said that the team expected man coverage and received zone.
“His feet are the X-factor,” Day said. “We don’t need to scramble for eight yards, but if he can turn a first-and-10 shot into second-and-6 that keeps us on schedule.”
Day said after the Florida Atlantic game Aug. 31 that a throwaway from Fields was his favorite play, because it was a smart play that allowed Ohio State to reset.
“Once you get out of the pocket, there’s times you’ve got to throw it away,” Day said.
Fields showcased that decision making on a 21-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver Chris Olave in the second quarter.
Two defenders were on his first read, a deep route over the middle. Fields pump-faked to draw the defensive backs in, turned, and fired underneath to Olave. Olave utilized the extra space created by the fake pass to turn a moderate gain into a larger one.
In the fourth quarter, Fields elected to throw away a second-and-goal pass rather than force the ball and risk an interception. Ohio State added a touchdown the next play.
“Coach Day emphasized taking care of the football and just being smart,” Fields said. “Having him in my ear here after every drive just reminds me to do that.”
Fields’ success isn’t solely dependent on him, however.
The Georgia native could have sat down and played a game of chess in the pocket during most dropbacks Saturday.
“They were blitzing from sideways, every which way. The guys were covering it up,” Day said. “The O-line did an unbelievable job.”
Fields gets his shot to keep his momentum going against Indiana Sept. 14.
“I think the receivers and I are getting a better feel of each other,” Fields said. “We’ve just gotta keep going and just get ready for Indiana next week.”