Jan 1, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) throws the ball against Clemson Tigers in the third quarter during the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021.  Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State’s Day ‘definitely’ expects Fields to play in CFP title game

Ohio State coach Ryan Day is confident quarterback Justin Fields will be healthy and ready to play in the College Football Playoff championship game against Alabama.

“Yeah, I definitely expect to him to play, but you know we don’t get into specifics on injuries … that’s always been our policy,” Day said during a video conference on Monday.

The No. 3 Buckeyes (7-0) and No. 1 Crimson Tide (12-0) will meet Jan. 11 in Miami Gardens, Fla. for the national title.

Fields sustained an injury to his torso Friday in the second quarter of the Buckeyes’ 49-28 win over No. 2 Clemson in the CFP semifinals. The hit by Tigers linebacker James Skalski with the crown of his helmet was so egregious it got Skalski ejected for targeting.

After leaving the game for one play, Fields returned and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass on his first play back. He finished the game 22 of 28 passing for 385 yards and six touchdowns, including four touchdowns after he was injured.

Fields did not speak to the media Monday.

But Day said Fields told him Saturday he “felt better waking up in the morning than he expected.”

This season, Fields completed 141 of 192 passes for 1,906 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just six times.

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day during the third quarter against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State not ruling out playing against Michigan State

Ohio State officials are hoping the Buckeyes will be able to take the field next weekend at Michigan State after being sidelined Saturday as COVID-19 spread through their locker room.

The Buckeyes called off their Saturday game at Illinois late Friday after more positive tests.

It’s unclear how many Buckeyes players tested positive. Head coach Ryan Day is the only member of the program with a positive test to be identified publicly.

And while the program is shut down for now and Day is quarantining at home, athletic director Gene Smith said it is too early to rule out the possibility the Buckeyes could meet the Spartans next Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.

“It’s kind of fluid, frankly,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to go day-by-day, see where we are today and test again tomorrow, see what we have with tests tomorrow. … I wish I could say it’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but I really can’t. We’re going to have to [be patient], because there’s too much uncertainty here. We’re just going to have to look at each day and see what we got.”

This is the second cancellation of the season for the Buckeyes (4-0); their game against Maryland two weeks ago was canceled because of an outbreak in the Terrapins’ program. Maryland lost two games amid their shutdown.

Other teams, including Arizona State and Florida, have missed multiple games this season because of COVID-19.

Day said he is doing well but feels for his players.

“I’m resting comfortably,” Day said. “I have an extremely heavy heart, though. The sacrifices have been made by so many, and the anxiety over months and months and months of every day getting test results back to make sure that the entire program is safe. Then to experience it this week, Thanksgiving week? I can’t sit here and tell you anything other than it’s really, really hard.

“But like I told the team, it’s just another opportunity to get through some adversity, work through adversity and learn more about yourselves. That’s the only way that I can describe and put a positive spin on it right now because it isn’t fun.”

The Buckeyes are scheduled to end the regular season Dec. 12 against Michigan. Teams must play at least six games to be eligible to compete for the Big Ten Championship. The College Football Playoff Committee said last week there is no minimum number of games required to be considered for a CFP berth.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) throws during the second quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Ohio State cancels game at Illinois

No. 3 Ohio State canceled its scheduled football game at Illinois on Saturday, the school’s leadership announced late Friday night.

The cancellation came after another round of testing for COVID-19 on Friday released more positives within the program, Ohio State said in a release. The Buckeyes (4-0) were to have a noon start against the Fighting Illini at Champaign, Ill.

Ohio State wasn’t going to travel to Illinois until Saturday morning.

The Big Ten Conference has no room in its calendar for a makeup date. The game will not be played this season.

“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decision on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”

The Buckeyes (4-0) were ranked fourth in the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday. However, Ohio State could be left out of the Big Ten’s conference championship game if it is forced to cancel either of its final two games.

The Big Ten’s coronavirus protocols include the stipulation that teams must play a minimum of six games this season to be eligible for a division title and a spot in the conference title game. The Buckeyes’ game at Maryland on Nov. 14 was already canceled due to COVID-19 issues with the Terrapins.

Ohio State will need to play its final two games — Dec. 5 at Michigan State and Dec. 12 vs. Michigan — to remain eligible for the title game.

Ohio State said the decision to cancel was made jointly by Smith, president Kristina M. Johnson and head team physician Jim Borchers in consultation with the Big Ten. The school announced an immediate pause to team activities, which will not resume until “medical staff determines it is safe to do so based on protocols established by the Big Ten Conference.”

Earlier Friday, Ohio State announced head coach Ryan Day would miss the game because of his own positive test for COVID-19 with assistant head coach/defensive line coach Larry Johnson to serve in the head role on an interim basis.

On Friday, several media reports indicated an unknown number of Buckeye players in more than one position group had tested positive for COVID-19. Ohio State had not confirmed any number of positive tests within the program or listed players or staff members affected except for Day.

–Field Level Media

Aug 31, 2017; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers running back Mike Majette (24) rushes the ball and is tackled by Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Haskell Garrett (92) and defensive lineman Jerron Cage (98) in the first quarter of the game at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State DT Garrett set to leave hospital after gunshot

Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett was expected to be released from the hospital on Monday, a day after being shot in the face.

Coach Ryan Day issued a statement updating Garrett’s condition.

“Haskell Garrett has been receiving excellent care at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for the injuries he received on Sunday,” Day said. “We anticipate he will be released from the Medical Center this morning. On behalf of his family and this football program, we would like to thank all those who have been a part of Haskell’s treatment and we are grateful that he will be heading home today.

“We will continue to help him and his family any way we can to expedite his recovery.”

Day did not say when Garrett would be able to rejoin the Buckeyes, who will not play a traditional fall season because of the coronavirus.

Columbus police responded at 12:28 a.m. on Sunday to reports of a shooting on Chittenden Avenue in the city. They followed a trail of blood to an apartment on East 11th Avenue, where they located an injured Garrett.

A 6-foot-2 senior from Las Vegas, Garrett has played in 33 games for the Buckeyes. In 11 games in 2019, he had 10 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

He was a four-star recruit in the Class of 2017.

–Field Level Media

Dec 28, 2019; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day prior to the game against the Clemson Tigers in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl college football playoff semifinal game. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

OSU’s Day stumps for quick start to spring season

Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said he’s exploring ways to get his team on the field as soon as possible, including via a spring season that begins in early January.

Day, speaking one day after the Big Ten postponed the fall football season, said the planning process for a spring season must begin now. He said he believes the Big Ten could begin play in early January, schedule eight or nine games, entertain possible postseason play, and wrap it all up before the NFL draft.

“It’s got to be weeks. It can’t be months. We’ve got to start it as soon as we can,” Day said.

Day also wants current NFL prospects, like Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields, to play the spring season. He also wants incoming recruits who enroll midyear to be eligible for the spring 2021 season.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of back-and-forth here, but … starting the first week of January would be the best week to go, an eight-week season. That way there is some separation between that season and the next season,” Day said. “We get some midyear guys to come in and possibly play a two-for-one, they’d get two seasons in in one calendar year, which I think the recruits would be really excited about. That’s the focus right now.”

Day also said he spoke to OSU athletic director Gene Smith earlier Wednesday about any possibilities of playing this fall.

“We are looking at everything, I promise you that.”

Smith, however, said OSU is no longer looking at options that include fall competition.

“It wasn’t realistic,” Smith told ESPN. “We just embraced the spring. That’s what we’re doing.

“There’s not a fall option,” he added. “We’re all about the spring and how do we set that up.”

Ohio State was 13-1 in 2019, and won a third straight Big Ten championship, becoming the first program in conference history to do so outright. Day, entering his second season as the OSU head coach, tied the record for most wins for a first-year FBS head coach last season.

Day, who also subbed in for head coach Urban Meyer for three games in 2018 and is 16-1 overall in Columbus, said the forfeiture of the 2020 season hit him hard.

“You work your whole life for an opportunity to coach a team like this,” he said. “This team is special.

“It could have been a once-in-a-lifetime team.”

–Field Level Media