COLUMBUS — Justin Fields was surprised. Ryan Day was surprised.
They were pleasantly surprised, though.
Even though he had been careful to tap the brakes on the enthusiasm of Ohio State fans about what the Buckeyes acquired when Fields transferred from Georgia in January, Day knew the former 5-star recruit was capable of producing explosive plays with his arm and his feet at any time.
And Fields, obviously, knew what he could do on a football field.
But both were at least a little surprised when Fields threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the first eight minutes of OSU’s 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic in the Buckeyes’ season opener at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
Fields started with a 51-yard touchdown run, then threw touchdown passes to Jeremy Ruckert, Binjimen Victor, Chris Olave and came back to Ruckert for another score later in the game.
“The big plays will come. I didn’t think they would come that fast. They were coming fast and furious early on,” Day said.
Fields said he was surprised how easily he got through Florida Atlantic’s defense on his 51-yard run.
“When I was running I was thinking to myself, ‘That was kind of easy.’ It definitely surprised me,” he said.
OSU’s sophomore quarterback, like his coach, has some big cleats to fill.
He is following Dwayne Haskins, who threw for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns, both school records last season, on his way to becoming the Washington Redskins’ first-round draft choice.
Recruiting gurus went back and forth on whether Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Fields was the top-rated quarterback coming out of high school two years ago.
Being preceeded by that kind of reputation only added to the expectations some Ohio State fans have for Fields.
Saturday was the first extended look at Fields at Ohio State and the reviews were mostly positive.
He will, of course, be compared to Haskins. Those comparisons might be unfair in one area and they might be unfair to any current or future Ohio State quarterback, because Haskins was probably the most accurate deep ball thrower in the history of OSU football.
With his touchdown run, Fields showed that as a runner he is already ahead of Haskins. That 51 -yard gain amounts to 47 percent of Haskins’ rushing total for all of last season.
Day evaluated Fields’ performance against Florida Atlantic this way: “I thought he performed well. You know, playing with great energy, making good decisions, but more importantly, managing the game and taking care of the ball.
“Overall, I thought it was well done. For a first start, it was well done,” he said.
Fields said, “I think overall I did a good job. All aspects of my game can get better and improve. I’m just going to get back in the film room and see what mistakes we had and just fix those and get ready for Cincinnati (OSU’s next opponent).”
Two other Ohio State players making their first starts liked what they saw from Fields.
“He was a great leader. He was precise, which is just what we’re looking for. He did a great job,” center Josh Myers said.
Ruckert said, “We’ve all been saying he’s just a baller. He gets out there and he’s so athletic and such a good quarterback. His athleticism coincides with his decision making.”
His decision to transfer has already won applause in the world of Ohio State football. More of what he showed on Saturday and more growth will produce even more of it.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.