By Mitch Stacy, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — At the halfway point of the season, coach Ryan Day isn’t assessing the performance of his Ohio State team purely by statistics, which, by the way, are pretty good across the board. The Buckeyes are 6-0, dominating opponents, showing few weaknesses and share a No. 3 ranking in the AP Top 25 .
But it’s the toughness the Buckeyes have shown that has impressed Day the most, especially in his quarterback, Justin Fields.
“I think that our chemistry has been really good the first six games,” Day said Tuesday. “I think we have played with toughness, seeing guys tackle and run to the ball, the way guys are running the ball, the way we’re blocking on the line of scrimmage, the way the quarterback is playing. I think the quarterback is tough. I watched the way he takes shots and stands in there. I think our team is getting a little bit of that identity.”
That grit has contributed to a fine six-game stretch for the Buckeyes, who entered the season with a new coach, new starting quarterback, a mostly new offensive line and a defense that struggled last season. Ohio State is enjoying an off week before traveling to Northwestern for a Friday night game on Oct. 18.
“You get a chance to take a deep breath and evaluate where you’re at,” Day said.
Fields, a Georgia transfer, is completing 70% of his passes , has accounted for 26 touchdowns and is the only player in the country to have a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in each of the first six games. Tailback J.K. Dobbins is second in the nation with 826 yards, and the Buckeyes lead the nation overall in yards on the ground.
The defense is third in country, allowing an average of 234 yards per game. All-America defensive end Chase Young is second in the county with 8.5 sacks.
“We all know that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win the next one,” Day said. “So (we’re) keeping that chip on our shoulder. We haven’t proven anything yet, just that we have the capability to do well, but we’re just halfway through the season and we’ve got a long way to go.”
Day said the off week is an opportunity for healing and evaluation after a physical 34-10 win over Michigan State last Saturday. Fields was in for the entire game for the first time after giving way to backups in the previous five blowouts.
“This is definitely the most banged up I’ve been after a game, so I’m definitely glad we have a bye week ,” Field said. “I think we’ll all just get in the training room, just get our bodies back right.”
The Buckeyes return from Northwestern to play No. 8 Wisconsin at home. After a rare second off week, they’ll finish with a stretch that includes Maryland, Rutgers, No. 10 Penn State and No. 16 Michigan.
“The big focus is on self-improvement this week,” Day said. “Each coach is giving tangibles for each of the players to work on. It might be something on the field, it might be something off the field, academically, something along those lines. But the idea is what have we done well and what do we need to improve on? That’s what we’re focusing on this week.”