COLUMBUS — Ryan Day doesn’t want to hear that Ohio State has a couple of games against JV type teams before things get really serious the last two weeks of the regular season with games against Penn State and Michigan.
“If you’re where we’re at right now, when you’re undefeated at this point the season, they’re all big. If you don’t think they’re big, try losing one, see how that goes. They’re all big,” the Ohio State football coach said on Tuesday at his weekly press conference.
Maryland (3-6, 1-5 Big Ten) comes to Ohio State (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) on Saturday, then the Buckeyes go to Rutgers (2-7, 0-6 Big Ten) the following Saturday. The Las Vegas betting line has OSU as a six touchdown favorite over Maryland.
“We got to stay locked in on today’s practice, this week, and then we go from there,” Day said.
“You’re dealing with 18, 19, 20-year old young men who you’ve got to make sure you’re on top of them. You’re talking to them constantly about those things. It’s a daily thing. It’s not something where we just have a canned message for the week. We approach every day the best we can.
“I think at this time of the season, you’re into November, crazy things can happen. We have to continue to stay focused on the things that have got us to this point: the discipline, the toughness, taking care of the football, tackling,” he said.
Ohio State doesn’t have to look very far to see that crazy things can happen in November.
Last November, OSU was a huge favorite over Maryland, which had scored a total of two offensive touchdowns against Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State, but the Buckeyes had to struggle to win 52-51 in overtime. If Maryland quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome hadn’t missed an open receiver on a two-point conversion on the game’s final play, the Buckeyes would have lost.
“That was a wild game. It was one of those back-and-forth games. It seemed like who had the ball last would win,” Day said.
Island recruiting: Ohio State quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich flew to Hawaii during OSU’s off week last week to watch quarterback Jayden de Laura and made a scholarship offer to de Laura, who is currently verbally committed to Washington State.
That came one year after Day flew to Hawaii to land 4-star offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi.
“We obviously want our foundation of recruiting to be right here (in Ohio). Then we go out throughout the entire country to look to find the best players in the country. The United States and the globe have gotten smaller every year based on the internet, computer, travel,” Day said.
“These guys nowadays are just so much more in tune with all the different schools that are within the country. Guys are traveling. The more guys that we see come from remote areas who do well, then we continue to work on that. But we also know the challenges that come with it,” he said.
Defensive turnaround: Day does not agree that Ohio State’s drastic improvement on defense since last season is just a matter of simplifying its approach.
“I think there’s a lot that goes into it. I don’t think it’s as simple as that,” he said. “I think so much of it has to do with a bunch of guys who sat around for a whole off season and heard that they struggled. They came in with something to prove. They worked really hard in the off season, got bigger, stronger, dove into the defense, created great relationships with the coaches. Now they’re playing at a high level.”
At home with the Days: Once he leaves Ohio Stadium after a win in a noon game, Day said his routine involves more football. Specifically, watching football on television.
“One of my favorite things to do after a noon win is go home, sit in the recliner with the family, order food and watch games. I love that. That’s some of my favorite memories.
“We get in the car and go home, the family gets together, we turn up the music real loud after a win, drive up 315, sit on the couch, enjoy each other, turn the fire on, watch games. If you talk about being happy, that’s me being happy on a Saturday afternoon.
“Whatever game is on, we’ll watch it. Hopefully that’s the case on Saturday,” he said.
Reunion with Jones: Former Ohio State linebacker Keandre Jones is one of the leaders on Maryland’s defense with 11 tackles for losses and six sacks.
Jones played three years at Ohio State but never started a game after being a 4-star recruit. Most of his playing time was on special teams. He transferred to Maryland in late January and was able to play this season after getting a waiver from the NCAA.
“We didn’t want to see him leave, but supported him in his decision,” Day said.