It may not look like it after a 76-5 victory, but Ohio State faced adversity –– if only briefly –– down five in the first quarter against Miami (Ohio).
This past week, up just 7-3 on Indiana with a shaky offensive opening, the Buckeyes were pushed in the first quarter on the road.
In both cases, Ohio State came back with a second quarter of total football dominance that may reflect the full potential and aptitude for resiliency this Buckeye team possesses.
“Coach always tells us that we’re going to eventually get punched in the face so it’s about how we responded,” sophomore quarterback Justin Fields said. “I think we responded in a great way. Just have to keep doing it.”
Despite the 71-point victory, it was Miami that delivered the first punch Saturday.
Entering the game with the No. 91 scoring offense in the country, Miami was not expected to move the ball against a stifling Ohio State defense that gave up just 10.3 points per game ahead of the matchup.
However, freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert was able to pick up two first downs, enough to pin a team that had been dominating opponents in field position down at its own 2-yard-line to begin the game.
Head coach Ryan Day said Fields doesn’t get the ball out as quick as former quarterback Dwayne Haskins, and it showed on his first drop-back Saturday.
The Georgia transfer took his time in his own end zone on the second play of the drive, and never saw senior linebacker Myles Reid coming as he caught Fields for a strip sack before he could release it.
“It was funny, early in the game we couldn’t really get into the rhythm of the tempo,” Day said. “It was just kind of funny the way it worked.”
The resulting safety gave Miami something that no other team has had against Ohio State this season –– a lead.
With the ball back, up 2-0, Gabbert and the Redhawks marched right back down the field on a 14-play, 66-yard drive, assisted by a defensive holding and pass interference call, and kicked a field goal to extend their lead.
Miami outgained the Buckeyes 113-70 in the opening quarter.
Then, it all changed.
Akin to the 23-point flurry Ohio State mounted in just seven minutes at Indiana a week ago, the Buckeyes scored seven touchdowns in eight possessions to end the first half, including 42 points in the second quarter alone.
Fields went 10-for-16 with 195 yards and four touchdowns in the quarter, and added another two scores with his feet. For perspective, the single-game total touchdowns record at Ohio State is seven. Fields nearly bested that in 15 minutes of football.
It wasn’t just Fields and the offense that flipped a switch, however.
At Indiana it took a blocked punt by sophomore wide receiver to flip the momentum in Ohio State’s favor. On Saturday it was sophomore cornerback Sevyn Banks, whose blocked punt set the stage for senior wide receiver Binjimen Victor to extend the second quarter Buckeye lead with a 30-yard touchdown.
After allowing the field goal, an Ohio State defense that looked susceptible to giving up chunk yardage in the first quarter suddenly clamped down, causing three turnovers on six of Miami’s second quarter possessions, and giving up just one first down.
Two strip sacks from junior defensive end Chase Young and junior cornerback Jeffrey Okudah’s first career interception all turned into touchdowns from the Ohio State offense.
“We were opportunistic in those situations,” Day said. “I thought going into the game we had opportunities to get turnovers — in other games that we weren’t quite there, we got them today so that was good.”
When things don’t go as planned early against a team you’re expected to beat handily, it would be easy to hit the panic button.
However, junior linebacker Baron Browning said it takes a push for the Buckeyes to play their best football, and they’ve proved it the past two weeks.
Beginning next week in Nebraska, Ohio State will have the chance to prove how well it can respond to the undoubted uptick in adversity it will face against a gauntlet of Big Ten opponents.