By Bryant Billing
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The high expectations on Ohio State starting quarterbacks have only increased in the last decade after the likes of Terrelle Pryor, Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins have played at the position.
Justin Fields started his third game at QB for the Buckeyes in a 51-10 thumping of Indiana on Saturday and looks on his way to being mentioned with that group.
Fields, a sophomore who transferred from Georgia last winter, is still learning on the field. He got a lesson off the field as well, as he was peppered with questions from reporters after the win about his “subpar” performance.
How bad was his game? He completed 19-of-33 passes (57.5 percent) for 199 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked once and picked up 16 yards on four carries.
The numbers aren’t as huge as the type produced by Haskins, who completed 33-of-44 passes for 455 yards and six touchdowns in a 49-26 win over the Hoosiers last year.
Then again, the Buckeyes didn’t often accumulate 314 rushing yards in a game last year, like they did Saturday. And running certainly seemed to be the game plan — the Buckeyes gave the ball to J.K. Dobbins on nine of their first 18 plays.
“The goal is to move the ball down the field and control the game and score points,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I think Justin is doing a good job and the receivers are doing a good job as well, but it’s a different identity than we had last year, and it’s still going to be changing week in and week out.”
Fields isn’t the only new starter involved in the passing game, as the Buckeyes graduated three of their four top receivers from last season. That’s part of the reason Day said the squad is happy to give the ball to a veteran in Dobbins.
“We missed some deep balls early when Justin had guys open and just didn’t hit them,” Day said. “He knows he left some yards on the field. But again, I think the maturity of a team is to go find issues on film and go get them fixed. … I thought we did that well last week, and I hope we do that again.”
Fields said he thinks he’ll be much better by the end of the season.
“There’s a lot of things I can work on,” Fields said. “This game’s not the best grade, but this team, we’ve been playing very well, but we all have a lot of room to improve. I think our ceiling is very high. We haven’t reached our max potential.”
Rough day for Ramsey
Anyone thinking Fields’ performance was subpar won’t have a high opinion of Indiana backup quarterback Peyton Ramsey’s effort.
Ramsey started for Indiana on Saturday in place of Michael Penix Jr., who was held out for undisclosed reasons. He was the team’s starter a year ago and against Ohio State completed 26-of-49 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
He had a harder time Saturday against a defense that is looking to reclaim the “Silver Bullet” moniker of the Jim Tressel days.
Ramsey completed 19-of-33 passes for 162 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted on the last play of the third quarter by Damon Arnette, who returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. He was also sacked four times.
“They did a good job of knocking us out of our rhythm early,” Ramsey said “… They came out and punched us in the mouth. I believe it caught us off guard and knocked us out of our rhythm a little bit.”
Olave does it again
Chris Olave blocked a punt and had at least one touchdown reception for a second consecutive Big Ten regular-season game.
Olave, a sophomore, scored a 37-yard pass from Fields early in the second quarter. On the next drive, he blocked a punt attempt by Indiana’s Haydon Whitehead, which went out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Olave caught two TD passes and blocked a punt in Ohio State’s 62-39 win against Michigan last November.