Blowout Loss to Clemson Brought Ryan Day to Ohio State

BruceHooley

Ohio State and Clemson will work up a healthy animus toward each other in advance of their Dec. 28 College Football Playoff semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl, but OSU should make sure to say two words to the Tigers well in advance of kickoff:

"Thank you."

That might seem a strange thing to tell a team that spanked you, 31-0, the last time you met on the very field in the very stadium where they will play again on Dec. 28 with a berth in the national championship game at stake.

But the Buckeyes likely wouldn't be back on this stage, and certainly wouldn't be coached by Ryan Day, if not for the beating Clemson administered in the 2016 Playoff semifinals.

It was after that humbling, the worst loss and only shutout in Urban Meyer's 17 seasons as a head coach, that Meyer said:

“Ohio State is not used to this. I’m not used to this, and we will not get used to this. That’s not going to happen again. So we’ll get things worked out.”

Meyer's desperation and determination to fix a broken offense that passed for 127 yards in that loss to Clemson, after passing for 126 in the regular-season finale against Michigan, sent him scouring the country for an innovative play-caller.

He reached out to a young assistant with the San Francisco 49ers who had served under him years before as a graduate assistant at Florida.

That Mr. Fix-it was Day, who since his arrival as quarterback coach in 2018, offensive coordinator in 2018 and head coach in 2019 has turned Ohio State into one of, if not the most-explosive offense in the country.

When Day arrived at Ohio State in January of 2017, the quarterback room that greeted him included:

  • J.T. Barrett, already a two-time All-Big Ten quarterback, quarterback-of-the-year in the conference, reigning Big Ten Silver Football winner and third-team All-American.
  • Joe Burrow, Ohio's 2015 Mr. Football, now the likely Heisman Trophy winner after a graduate transfer to LSU in the summer of 2018.
  • Dwayne Haskins, a future Silver Football winner, Big Ten championship game MVP, Rose Bowl MVP and first-round NFL draft pick.
  • Tate Martell, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country in the recruiting class of 2017, who had graduated early from high school to enroll at OSU that month.

Handing that quarterback talent to Day has worked out like it did for the guy who handed Michaelangelo a paint palate and some brushes when he walked into the Sistine Chapel.

Ohio State’s average of 534.2 yards of total offense ranks fifth in the nation, the third straight year since Day's arrival it's ranked in the Top Ten. Oklahoma is the only Power 5 team to averaged more than the 524.8 OSU has over that span.

OSU has gained at least 500 yards in 27 of 41 games since the beginning on the 2017 season and scored 40 or more points 24 times and 30 or more points 32 times.

Each of the three offenses Day has put his fingers on at Ohio State will, as soon as quarterback Justin Fields adds 47 yards to his total, have featured a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher.

  • Fields has thrown for 2,953 yards, 40 touchdowns and one interception.
  • Last year, Haskins threw for 4,851 yards, 50 TDs and 8 picks.
  • In 2016, Barrett passed for 3,053 yards, 35 scores and 9 interceptions.

That's 125 touchdowns from Day's starting quarterbacks, against 18 interceptions...a nearly 7-to-1 ratio.

Lest you think his offenses are all pass and no run, consider that OSU ranks fourth in the nation this season 35 runs of 20 yards or more, and starter J.K. Dobbins has only 18 of those amid his 1,829 rushing yards.

Ohio State is explosive and unpredictable, balanced and powerful -- all the things it wasn't when Clemson clamped down on Meyer's ego and the Buckeyes' attack four seasons ago.

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