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Big game: Ohio State coach Ryan Day expects battle to the end against Penn State

Photo by Ohio State Athletics

Unlike James Franklin, Ohio State coach Ryan Day isn’t opposed to calling this week’s showdown — the biggest game in the Big Ten this season — what it really is.

“Big game,” he said. “We’ll see (what happens). But this is a big week of practice for everybody.”

Day expects a game that could come down to the final play against Penn State, which he knows has given the Buckeyes a lot of trouble in recent years.

“The goal is to win the game. It can’t be anything else,” Day said on a Zoom call. “Like I told the guys, the last few years here, it’s taken to the last play of the game to go win, and that’s gonna be the expectation.

“It’s hard to win in Happy Valley,” Day noted. “We’ve learned that before. … All it takes is one play against a team like Penn State, you lose the game.”

The Nittany Lions lost their opener at Indiana, 36-35 in OT, and they were sloppy in all three phases of the game.

Day, however, saw something very different when he watched the game film.

“I think they looked excellent on all three phases,” he said. “I think they looked well coached, they have good talent. This is gonna be a tough game.

Day called the Indiana loss a “very unique game.” The Lions dominated statistically against the Hoosiers, but still lost.

“The score doesn’t really tell the tale watching the film,” Day said. “They have good players in all three phases, and they’re well coached. So this is gonna be a difficult game. A lot of respect for James and his coaching staff over the years. You’ve got to earn wins against these guys.”

Day said Penn State is “always gonna be hungry when they play us,” and that’s especially true this week.

“Certainly when you lose a game like that (at Indiana), everyone just gets a little bit more hungry,” Day said.

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Day was asked what it will be like playing at Beaver Stadium with no fans. Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the PSU whiteout is worth 10 points, and the Lions won’t have that this week.

“That’s a really great environment,” Day said of the whiteout. “It’s loud, it’s hard to communicate.”

But this year, “It’ll be different,” Day added. “It was different here last week (in Ohio State’s home opener), and so that part is strange.”

Penn State will not have star linebacker Micah Parsons, who opted out for the NFL, or starting running back Journey Brown, who’s out with a medical situation.

“Those are two very, very good players, and very unfortunate that America and the Big Ten aren’t able to see those guys play,” Day said. “Hate to see that. That’s not good for our conference. So, any time you have good players like that, certainly it’s felt. But just like anything else, you’ve just got to rally and move on, which they are doing. And they have really good players, they’ve recruited well. … You don’t easily replace good players like that.”

As for the game, Day said his team has to take care of the ball better than it has in recent meetings against PSU.

“One thing we’ve got to do, we’ve got to do a better job taking care of the football,” he said. “You look at the last couple years, we had too many turnovers, too many fumbles. We’ve got to do a good job of that this year. Something that’s gonna be hammered really from Sunday night all the way til we kick the ball off.”

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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