COLUMBUS — Ryan Day’s first two games as Ohio State’s acting head coach have occurred under friendly conditions: inferior opponents at home.
The next contest presents a significant deviation as the fourth-ranked Buckeyes travel to Arlington, Texas, to take on No. 15 TCU. It’s not a true road game — AT&T Stadium is 18 miles from TCU’s campus — but the fan split will tip in the Horned Frogs’ favor Saturday in what is one of the most anticipated games in that school’s history.
“We are going to be who we are and do what we are,” Day said Monday. “I think when you start to stray and focus on other things, like it being a big game, that’s when you get distracted. We’ve got to focus on us, and if we play the way that we know we can play, then that’s going to give us the best chance to win. If we start to overthink it or anything else, then we are not putting our best foot forward.”
TCU, known nationally for coach Gary Patterson’s defense, is putting up admirable numbers on offense. The Horned Frogs rank 14th in total offense, averaging 48.5 points per game, but their opponents — Southern and SMU — didn’t offer much resistance.
TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson (3) presents a unique challenge for Ohio State as a dual-threat quarterback. He's passed for 328 yards while gaining 112 on the ground.
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The biggest question facing TCU entering the season was at quarterback. Kenny Hill departed (along with much of the offensive line), thrusting former four-star recruit Shawn Robinson into the starting role. Through two games, he’s completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 328 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception while gaining 112 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries.
“We recruited him,” co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “He’s a really good player who is multidimensional. He’s a strong-armed guy. He’s a huge test for our defense. This is a very athletic, fast, productive offense.”
Robinson is the first dual-threat quarterback the Buckeyes have faced this season. Traditionally, OSU hasn’t succumbed to running and passing threats. But it doesn’t lessen the challenge.
“When the quarterback carries the ball and can do it well, the defensive math changes,” Schiano said. “Really, playing good defense is getting people to the point of attack and then making the tackle. When the quarterback runs it, you need to get another guy to the point of attack. And he doesn’t run it all the time. He reads it. It's like option football, so it changes. On the passing downs, if he has the ability to scramble, you have to account for that.”
AT&T Stadium is familiar ground for the Buckeyes, who opened as a 12½-point favorite. The venue hosted their win against USC in the Cotton Bowl and Ohio State’s national championship win against Oregon in January, 2015.
But the hospitality won’t be quite the same this time. TCU should have a sizable crowd advantage, and it doubles as the first time Day and Dwayne Haskins face an unfamiliar routine as head coach and quarterback.
“You’re not going to get anything for free,” Day said. “You're going to have to earn everything that you get.”
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