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Ohio State's Ryan Day, Jim Knowles Discuss Primetime Matchup With Wisconsin

"Buckeye Nation’s got all day to get excited and get fired up, so let’s go make this the loudest it’s ever been."
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Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles met with the media for approximately an hour on Tuesday afternoon to recap the 77-21 win over Toledo and preview Saturday’s Big Ten opener against Wisconsin.

Below is a bullet-point recap of what Day and Knowles had to say:

Ryan Day:

  • Day said the stakes get a little higher this week with Wisconsin coming to town. “They’re always good, they’re always well-coached, they’re always sound and they have very good talent, so this is going to be a challenge.”
  • Day said there’s improvement to be made despite the blowout win over Toledo. “Whatever happened the week before doesn’t really matter.”
  • On Wisconsin’s playing style: “They have an identify, for sure. One thing you know about them is they’re not going to deviate from their plan. They’ve been very successful, so why would they?”
  • On the other hand, Day noted Wisconsin throws the ball a little bit more than they have in the past. “They’re more multiple than you think.”
  • Day said the Badgers are “epitome of the Big Ten.”
  • Day on former offensive lineman Harry Miller, who is discussing mental health at a fundraiser tonight. “The courage of a young man that’s had an impact on so many people. We knew Harry was special, we knew he would impact people, but we never imagined something like this … I’m proud of what he’s done and what he’s doing.”
  • On tight end Cade Stover: “I think his heart was on defense, but he realized his ceiling was at tight end.” Said he needs to keep building on it.
  • Day said running back TreVeyon Henderson’s injury is a “short-term thing” and they’re expecting him to play on Saturday.
  • On Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard: "His defenses are always some of the best in the country. It's going to be a big challenge for us, but at the end of the day, it doesn't come down to coaches, it comes down to players."
  • On cornerback Jordan Hancock, who missed the first three games with an injury suffered in the preseason: "It's been a while now since he's practiced for us. He's close, but he's not where he needs to be right now to get on the field."
  • Day mentioned the challenge for both teams of playing a crossover opponent they’re not familiar with, though it helps that they played Wisconsin somewhat recently, including twice in 2019.
  • Day said Mitch Rossi’s touchdown against Toledo was the first time in his coaching career that he’d called a fullback dive. “I think I ran a fullback dive when I was in college, but I don’t think I’ve ever called a fullback dive.”
  • Day noted they’re aware of recruiting rankings, but have their own evaluations. “We try to find the right fit for us.” Said it’s typically pretty close, though there are some that aren’t.
  • On tight end Gee Scott: “I’m pretty sure that Gee didn’t think his journey would go like this when he got to Ohio State, but to Gee’s credit, he’s worked every day. He’s put his head down. He’s shown toughness. He’s got a chance to be a really good football player because he keeps putting one foot in front of the other.”
  • Day said it’s hard to keep an offense in rhythm against a team like Wisconsin, which likes to run the ball and control the clock. Added it’ll be important to be physical and get off the field on third down.
  • On Stover’s involvement in the passing game compared to tight ends in the past: “Give Cade credit, when he’s had a chance to make plays, he’s made them.”
  • Day said they’ve worked scramble drills with quarterback C.J. Stroud in practice, but they don’t specifically call runs for him.
  • Day on playing three night games in four weeks to open the season: “It’s been good for recruiting,” but acknowledged it makes for long days. “The electricity of the Horseshoe for a night game, there’s nothing like it.”
  • “Buckeye Nation’s got all day to get excited and get fired up, so let’s go make this the loudest it’s ever been.”
  • Day said Wisconsin's Graham Mertz and Braelon Allen will be the best quarterback-running back duo that Ohio State has played this season.
  • On the ability to play some depth in the non-conference schedule, particularly at wide receiver and safety: “Not that we have all of the answers right now, but there have been some boxes check and still a lot more to check.”

Jim Knowles:

  • On how he feels about the defense through three weeks: “You never feel totally comfortable. That’s life as a defensive coordinator in big-time college football. It’s not like the NFL. You change week-to-week in terms of what you face.”
  • Knowles said cornerback Denzel Burke is serious about his craft and they believe he's going to get better despite his early struggles. “Life on an island is difficult.”
  • Knowles didn’t think they did a great job against Toledo dual-threat quarterback Dequan Finn: “We had some ideas and schemes, but we didn’t execute very well.” Blamed himself for that. “That starts with me. I feel I didn’t do a good enough job of preparing them.”
  • Knowles knows Wisconsin wants to run the ball and said it will come down to which team is tougher and wins one-on-one matchups. “We just have to put that hard-nosed mindset into everything.”
  • More on the defense: “It’s been good. It can get a lot better.”
  • Knowles expects defensive tackle Michael Hall to play against the Badgers. “That’s what they tell me. That’s above my pay grade.”
  • On giving up several 50-yard passing plays this season, Knowles said “it’s not the end of the world” because the Buckeyes have been able to recover from those big plays.
  • Knowles felt the Buckeyes felt they were a step behind trying to catch Finn and were leaving their feet/diving for tackles. “You’re not going to make plays that way.”
  • On Leonhard: “They have been consistently very good. They have a system and they run it and they know what they're doing. All ofthe things you want to see as a defensive coordinator, I think they've shown it.”
  • On safety Cameron Martinez, who got the start on Saturday with Tanner McCalister sidelined: “I’m completely comfortable with him and confident. I felt he showed up and did a great job.”
  • Knowles said he’s happy with how the defensive tackles have played so far. “They haven’t had many opportunities in the pass rush, but if we’re putting up good numbers in the run (game), our tackles are doing the grunt work.”
  • Knowles on Stroud: “He’s amazing. I’m glad he’s on my team.” Said it makes the defense better to go up against him in practice. “It’s incredible to watch some of the throws he makes, where he places the ball.”
  • Knowles said playing against a dual-threat quarterback “changes the game.” Said everything changes once the pocket is broken. “It’s free-form football, and that’s a lot different than what I try to do, which is control an uncontrollable game.” Said it’s every man for himself at that point.
  • Knowles said there was neither frustration or relief about getting turnovers for the first time this season. “It’s the course of time, repetition, harping on it and the more comfortable they feel, the more they see the play as it happens, and then jump it.”
  • On Allen, he said is a big, strong running back. “In the big back category, he’s as good as any I have seen. We have to make sure we have great form when we tackle him and rally to the football.”

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