After a 21-year career as a player and coach at Ohio State, Luke Fickell’s return to Ohio Stadium Saturday was a homecoming.
Unfortunately for the Cincinnati head coach, Justin Fields and the Buckeyes popped all the balloons and spit in the punch.
No. 5 Ohio State (2-0) throttled Cincinnati (1-1) 42-0 in a dominant performance that saw the Buckeyes score touchdowns on four of their first six possessions. They racked up 508 yards of offense.
“We talked about coming into the game, we wanted to be the best in the country with what we do,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “It’s not easy to do.”
Cincinnati gave up 62 yards rushing against UCLA in its season opening win last week. Ohio State junior running back J.K. Dobbins had 60 on one carry — the second longest run of his career, and his second score of the game to put the Buckeyes up 21-0 in the second quarter.
He’d finish with 141 yards on 17 carries.
Dobbins’ first score came on a 1:49, 87-yard drive, where his 4-yard scoring scamper on a shotgun handoff was set up by three straight Fields completions.
The sophomore quarterback ran for two touchdowns of his own to go along with a 20-for-25, 224-yard, two-score performance through the air.
Fields scored on a 7-yard run on Ohio State’s second drive to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead that they would not relinquish. Fields punched in another from four yards out in third quarter to make it 35-0.
To close out the one-sided first half, Fields tossed a 9-yard touchdown to freshman wide receiver Garrett Wilson over the outstretched arms of junior cornerback Coby Bryant. It was the former five-star recruit’s first catch as a Buckeye.
“I think the touchdown to Garrett Wilson was off the charts,” Day said. “That throw and catch there, that was NFL material there.”
Fickell’s defense ranked No. 9 nationally in scoring this past season, allowing 17.2 points-per-game to opponents, but it was the Ohio State defense that blanked the Bearcats in the shutout.
With Cincinnati threatening to score inside the 10-yard-line late in the third quarter, Ohio State redshirt junior linebacker Tuf Borland intercepted a pass from sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder that bounced off his receiver.
Cincinnati mustered 166 yards through the air and 107 on the ground, as Ohio State junior defensive end Chase Young had another impressive outing with three tackles and 1.5 sack.
Young snuffed out the Bearcats’ best chance at a first-half score when he blocked a field goal attempt from Cincinnati redshirt senior kicker Sam Crosa.
With three minutes left in the game, Cincinnati sophomore running back Tavion Thomas fumbled before reaching the goal line, which was recovered by Ohio State in the end zone for a touchback.
Fields connected with redshirt senior wide receiver K.J. Hill just three times against Florida Atlantic, but Hill caught 8 passes Saturday, including a 5-yard fourth quarter touchdown to push the Ohio State lead to 42.
“I think we can be as good as we want to be,” Fields said. “If everybody stays focused, we limit the injuries on the team, I think we can do big things this year.”
Ohio State goes on the road next Saturday to open conference play against Indiana. The Big Ten matchup kicks off at noon.