Ohio State coach Ryan Day said he “definitely” expects Justin Fields to play in next Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game against Alabama despite the rib injury the quarterback sustained in the semifinal victory against Clemson.
Fields was injured in the second quarter of Ohio State’s 49-28 win in the Sugar Bowl when he was speared in the back by Clemson’s James Skalski. The linebacker was ejected for targeting.
Fields returned to the game after missing only one play. He threw a touchdown pass on the next play after the injury, and six TDs overall for the game, though he conceded that the pain was intense.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields leaves the field after being injured during the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl win over Clemson. Fields is expected to play in the championship game against Alabama on Monday, OSU coach Ryan Day said.
Under Day, the Buckeyes do not disclose details about injuries, but the coach was optimistic on Monday about Fields’ status against No. 1 Alabama. Fields was scheduled to speak on a CFP conference call, but the moderator said he was unavailable and would speak later in the week.
That left it to Day to address Fields’ status.
“Oh, yeah, I definitely expect him to play, but we don't get into specifics on injuries,” he said. “We give our availability report at the end of the week. That's always been our policy.”
Fields lay on the field in obvious pain before walking gingerly off the field and entering the medical tent. After one handoff by freshman C.J. Stroud, Fields returned.
After the game, Day said that Fields knew he had to return. That raised questions about whether Fields was pressured to return by others or whether he insisted on continuing to play because of the stakes of the game.
“I leave all that stuff up to our medical people, who are the best in the country,” Day said. “Justin is such a competitive guy. He wasn't going to come off the field, and that's just the way he's wired. You're going to have to pull him off the field.
“It was a pretty amazing performance. The next day, his comment to me was he felt better waking up in the morning than he expected. So we'll keep working through the week and have a great week of preparation and get ready to play on Monday night.”
Fields completed 22 of 28 passes for 385 yards and ran for 42 yards at opportune times.
“When you saw the way that Justin finished the game, it was remarkable,” Day said. “I thought that was one of the gutsiest performances I've ever seen in person.”
Asked if Fields’ condition might affect practices for the Alabama game, Day replied, “We're just going to practice the way we normally practice. Nothing’s going to change.”
Fields' performance came after two disappointing ones in Ohio State's biggest two previous games of 2020. He threw three interceptions against Indiana while throwing for 300 yards in a 42-35 win. Against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship, he completed 12 of 27 passes for 114 yards without a touchdown and was intercepted twice.
Fields injured his throwing thumb in the fourth quarter of that game, but he answered questions about that and more against Clemson.
"You started to hear some rumblings about the fact that he didn't play very well, and I know that bothered him," Day said. "It took a couple days to recover from. But that's part of being a quarterback, and I think that's part of learning as a quarterback is overcoming adversity, and the truth is he really hasn't had a lot of adversity.
"This is somebody who's had a lot of success throughout his career. He's very, very talented and very, very smart, and so when you look at the great quarterbacks, they all have to overcome that adversity."
Now the rib injury will provide more of it. How much, for now at least, is purely conjecture.