Justin Fields Totals 5 TDs as No. 5 Ohio State Beats FAU 45-21 in Season Opener

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2019

COLUMBUS, OH - AUGUST 31:  Justin Fields #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes meets with officials before a game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ohio Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Quarterback Justin Fields' Heisman Trophy candidacy got off to an ideal start Saturday, as he led the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes to a 45-21 win over the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

Making his regular-season debut for the Buckeyes, Fields went 18-of-25 for 234 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, while also rushing for 61 yards and a score on 12 carries.

In addition to Fields' big day, running back J.K. Dobbins contributed 91 rushing yards and one touchdown. Also, wide receiver Binjimen Victor had 65 yards, wideout Chris Olave was tops in catches (five) and tight end Jeremy Ruckert had two receiving touchdowns.

While the Fields-led offense was impressive, the Buckeyes defense was arguably even better. Ohio State outgained the Lane Kiffin-coached Owls 469-228.

It didn't take long for Fields to make his presence felt Saturday, as he kept the ball on a read-option on Ohio State's fourth play from scrimmage and ran through the heart of Florida Atlantic's defense for a 51-yard touchdown:

FOX College Football @CFBONFOX

That didn't take long... Justin Fields gets his first TD of the season for @OhioStateFB 😤 https://t.co/yTSre9kHp0

After a 35-yard punt return by Demario McCall, Fields found the end zone again on the next drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ruckert:

FOX College Football @CFBONFOX

Justin Fields and Ohio State are off to the hottest of hot starts 🔥🔥 https://t.co/BvkxKCReXX

Fields continued the aerial assault on Ohio State's third drive with a 32-yard touchdown strike to a wide-open Victor:

Ohio State on BTN @OhioStateOnBTN

That loft, though. That loft. @OhioStateFB 1st quarter: @justnfields 1 TD run, 2 TD passes https://t.co/9BZr4Lttq8

Then, on the fourth drive, Fields fired a perfect pass to Olave on a post route for a 29-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 Ohio State just over eight minutes into the game:

Ohio State on BTN @OhioStateOnBTN

Update on @justnfields's first quar- You know what, @OhioStateFB fans? You already know. https://t.co/hfhkyuA003

Ohio State's offense went stagnant for the remainder of the first half, though, as a fumble by Fields on a backwards pass and a fumble by Dobbins stalled a pair of drives.

FAU converted a 28-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the first half to avoid the shutout and head to the locker room down 28-3.

After going scoreless for nearly two-and-a-half quarters, Ohio State finally returned to the end zone with 3:27 left in the third when Fields hit Ruckert from three yards out for his fourth touchdown pass of the day:

Ohio State on BTN @OhioStateOnBTN

Wide. Open. @OhioStateFB goes up 35-6. https://t.co/ZGGueuIYAn

On the next drive, FAU finally scored its first touchdown of the season, as quarterback Chris Robison led the Owls on a 15-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a three-yard touchdown run by Larry McCammon III. Florida Atlantic's two-point conversion attempt was also successful to make it 35-14.

Less than three minutes later, OSU struck again, as Dobbins punched the ball into the end zone from one yard out to increase the lead to 42-14.

FAU scored again later in the fourth quarter on a two-yard touchdown pass from Robison to John Raine to make the score look better cosmetically, while OSU closed out the scoring with a 46-yard field goal from Blake Haubeil.


Fields Has Look of Heisman Trophy Contender

While Fields' debut wasn't without a few hiccups, he showed why he was considered one of the top recruits in the nation when he committed to play at Georgia.

Fields made plays with his arm and his legs, and he seems to give the Buckeyes offense an added dimension of danger in comparison to Dwayne Haskins last season since Haskins was primarily a pocket passer.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is one of the best offensive minds in college football, and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller seems to think he can get the most out of Fields:

Matt Miller @nfldraftscout

Justin Fields and Ryan Day are a fun match.

Doing damage through the air and on the ground can give a quarterback a huge advantage when it comes to contending for the Heisman Trophy. Kyler Murray showed that at Oklahoma last season when he threw for over 4,000 yards and 42 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to winning the Heisman.

After watching Fields dominate in the early going of Saturday's game, both former Ohio State star and current Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter and Haskins heaped praise on the big signal-caller:

Cris Carter @criscarter80

Get ready for the next great Qb at THE Ohio State-Justin Fields

Dwayne Haskins, Jr🌹 @dh_simba7

@Quincy_Avery we been knew this was coming @justnfields 🔥🔥

The Ohio State offense stalling after the first quarter gives some cause for concern, but Fields' tools were on full display, and he laid a strong foundation to build upon in subsequent games.

Next week's matchup against Cincinnati will be a tougher test, but now that Fields has a start under his belt, he is better prepared to rise to the challenge.


Stout Defense Will Be Biggest Key to OSU's CFP Hopes

There was little doubt entering the 2019 season that an offense led by Fields and Dobbins would be potent, but there was undoubtedly some uncertainty surrounding the defense.

While the level of competition wasn't particularly high, OSU dominated on that side of the ball Saturday and stymied an offensive savant in Kiffin.

Daniel Beyer of Fox Sports Radio saw enough from Ohio State's defense to declare that it is officially back in business:

Daniel Beyer @danbeyeronfox

Honestly, we all knew Ohio State’s offense would be lethal. The question was how the new defense would be. Right now, it looks like the “Silver Bullets” are back. #Buckeyes

While the Buckeyes went 13-1 last season and narrowly missed out on making the College Football Playoff, defense was a major issue. OSU allowed 25.5 points per game, which ranked just 52nd in the nation.

OSU can ill afford for a repeat performance on that side of the ball in 2019, especially with a tricky schedule that includes Nebraska, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan.

Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press is among those who felt Ohio State showed major signs of a turnaround on that side of the ball against FAU:

Ralph D. Russo @ralphDrussoAP

Ohio State offense just called it a day after those first 4 possessions. On the positive side, as bad as the Buckeyes' defense was last year, it has been an encouraging performance so far derailing the Lane Train

Defensive end Chase Young, who could very well be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, was all over Robison throughout the game, and he has a chance to break the Ohio State single-season record of 14 sacks.

If Young can keep that up over the course of the season, it will go a long way toward shutting down some of the better offenses on Ohio State's schedule.

The Buckeyes are going to score points on a weekly basis, but if they can hold their opponents in check, that will be the biggest difference between making the CFP and missing it.


What's Next?

Ohio State will look to continue rolling next week when it hosts the 1-0 Cincinnati Bearcats at Ohio Stadium.

Meanwhile, FAU will attempt to bounce back when it welcomes the No. 17 UCF Knights to FAU Football Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida.