College football: Ohio State prepares for ‘challenge’ at Penn State


Ryan Day

COLUMBUS — Ryan Days says a trip to Penn State is always challenging.

“Going into State College is going to be a huge challenge, it always is,” Day said as he discussed OSU’s football game at Penn State on Saturday at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

“Our guys understand what a challenge this is going to be. No matter when you go into Penn State it’s going to be a challenge. We know whether it’s a night game, an afternoon game or a noon game it’s going to be a challenge.

“Their crowd is going to be in it and will play a factor. They’re a good team. We’ve got to play our A game,” he said.

No. 2 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) is coming off a 54-10 win over Iowa. No. 13 Penn State (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) beat Minnesota 45-17 last Saturday a week after being dominated 41-17 by Michigan.

Ohio State has won six of the last seven times it has played at Penn State after losing five of its first seven games there after the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993. Overall, OSU has won five in a row over Penn State and eight of the last nine match-ups between the two teams.

Some other thoughts from Day:

• Smith-Njigba update: Day expects wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba to be available to play at Penn State but he will continue to be evaluated every day.

Smith-Njigba, who set Ohio State records with 95 catches and 1,606 yards last season as a sophomore, played around 20 snaps against Iowa and had one catch. He has played in only three games and has just five catches because of a lingering leg injury issue.

“We’ll see. As the week goes on we’ll know more,” Day said. “When you come out of games like that, you have to keep evaluating and see how things go. But we’ll keep figuring stuff out and by the end of the week we’ll have a better idea.

“He’s always been trying to get back out there. He’s a competitor and it’s hard for him not to be out there. We wanted to make sure we kept that number at about 20 (snaps) and didn’t put him out there any more. There was nothing else, just the normal evaluation,” Day said.

• Fleming emerges: Wide receiver Julian Fleming has shown the talent which made him the No. 1 receiver recruit in the country in the 2020 recruiting class by pulling in six touchdown passes in the last five games.

“I think now you’re just seeing the best version of Julian for a lot of reasons. He had a couple injuries that derailed him. He stuck with it. He had an unbelievable off-season. Now you’re starting to see the best version of him,” Day said.

“He’s strong, he’s powerful, he’s physical and he’s a presence out there. You’re starting to see the big play ability downfield the last three games.”

• More injuries, illnesses: Safety Josh Proctor and cornerback Cam Brown, who missed last week’s game, could return this week.

Walk-on freshman running back T.C. Caffey, who was the Buckeyes’ No. 4 running back, has suffered a season-ending injury, though. Chip Trayanum, who was playing linebacker, will take over Caffey’s spot on the running backs depth chart.

“It was just an illness. He will be back practicing this week,” Day said about Proctor. He described Brown’s injury as “not a long term thing all, so we expect to have him back soon.”

Long snapper Bradley Robinson suffered what could be a season-ending knee injury against Iowa.

• Go ahead, fine me: During his press conference, Day recalled how his absence from an ESPN awards show in December 2019 had drawn a fine for OSU. But he thought the reason he missed it was a good one.

“We were doing a home visit with C.J. Stroud so they can fine us whatever they want,” he said.

• Why change? Day said he sees no reason to have one running back who dominates the carries. TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams will continue to share the workload.

“I think we’re pretty good where we are right now,” he said.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.


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