ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A noted evaluator of quarterback talent once told Ohio State football coach Ryan Day to “mortgage the house” to get quarterback Justin Fields.
Saturday, Fields owned the house. The Big House, that is.
Ohio State’s sophomore quarterback passed for 302 yards and four touchdowns in Ohio State’s 56-27 win over Michigan at Michigan Stadium, also known as The Big House.
But it was one touchdown pass late in the third quarter that left two teams, two coaches and 112,071 fans staring in amazement … and transferred the deed of the Big House to Fields.
For the second week in a row, Fields took a big hit, went down hard and stayed down for several minutes.
OSU led 35-16 over Michigan when Fields went to the sideline and disappeared into the medical tent.
After seven plays with Chris Chugonov at quarterback, Fields returned and made a play that most quarterbacks never make, much less one they make a couple minutes after getting medical attention.
When the designed play didn’t work, Fields scrambled, rolled to his left and made a perfect pass to Garrett Wilson for a 30-yard touchdown connection.
“I thought it was a magical moment. I thought it was a Heisman moment,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “For him to go down and take that injury. He puts the brace on and comes back out and makes a throw that we didn’t design that way. For him to ad lib and make that throw going to his left, that’s about as good a throw as I’ve seen in a long time.
“That’s just goes to show you what’s inside of him – his heart, his character and his competitive toughness is as good as I’ve ever been around. I can’t say enough about how he played today.”
Fields revealed that he had suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in the Penn State game.
“I was getting a lot of treatment this week trying to get my knee right,” he said. “On that play (against Michigan) it reaggravated it. I needed to switch knee braces. It was hurting when I went down. So I got up, went off the field, went into the (medical) tent and got a bigger knee brace that I do not like to wear but I have to.”.
Day said, “We went into the game saying it was all about toughness. The tougher team was going to win. I’ve never been around a tougher quarterback than this guy.
“He’s competitively tough, he’s physically tough. To come in and make a throw like that? That’s one of the best throws I’ve seen in a long time. In that spot? After taking a hit and just putting a brace on? I don’t even know what to say. It was a magical moment and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
The Buckeyes extended their winning streak over Michigan to eight games in Day’s first season as their head coach. He said the biggest factor in that was the players.
“In games like this it comes down to players and our big-time players played well,” he said.
Film study might show some of the other big-time players played better than Fields from a technical standpoint. But none had a bigger singular moment.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau