Winning openers is another OSU tradition

By Jim Naveau -

COLUMBUS – Ryan Day knows all about the expectations when you become Ohio State’s football coach.

Six words say everything. Just win. Just win them all.

And that expectation to go undefeated starts with the first game. The last time, actually the only time an Ohio State football coach ever lost his first game with the Buckeyes was 127 years ago.

The 1892 OSU squad started its season with a gigantic pratfall when it was soundly beaten 40-4 by Oberlin in Jack Ryder’s first game. No other Buckeyes football coach has ever begun with a loss.

The 1897 team nearly made David Edwards a loser in his first game, but it pulled out a 6-0 win over Ohio Medical, which turned out to be OSU’s only win that season.

The 1946 team tied Missouri 13-13 in Paul Bixler’s first game as Ohio State’s coach. But other than that, OSU openers have produced wins throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

Urban Meyer’s first game at Ohio State in 2012 was a 56-10 win over Miami (Ohio), highlighted by Braxton Miller throwing for 207 yards and rushing for 161 yards.

Luke Fickell’s only opener in 2011 was a 42-0 win over Akron in which much criticized quarterback Joe Bauserman had a career day when he passed for three touchdowns.

Jim Tressel’s first win in 2001 was also over Akron, 28-14, and was perhaps extra emotional because it came just three weeks after the death of his mother Eloise Tressel.

John Cooper’s opening day in 1988 produced a 26-9 win. Earle Bruce’s win in the first game of the 1979 season was also over Syracuse, 31-8.

Woody Hayes’ win in his first game as OSU’s coach came by a 7-0 score and was not indicative of the way the Buckeyes would play for him for almost the next three decades. The only score in the game came on a pass.

Technically, Day has already coached an opener at Ohio State since he was the interim coach last season when Meyer was suspended for three games. But this is the first time he is completely in charge.

So, what are Florida Atlantic’s chances of spoiling Day’s first real opener Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium? Not good. Not good at all.

The Owls are coming off a 5-7 season, which included a 63-14 loss to Oklahoma. And much of the talent from that team is gone, at least on the offensive side of the ball.

Both of last year’s running backs were selected in the NFL draft. Devin Singletary was taken in the third round by the Buffalo Bills and Kerrith Whyte Jr. went to the Chicago Bears in the seventh round. Last year’s top receiver and left tackle also are gone.

Defensively, Florida Atlantic gave up 31.8 points a game last season. Six starters and last year’s defensive coordinator didn’t come back this year.

FAU coach Lane Kiffin, who has been the head coach at USC and Tennessee at the college level and head coach of the Oakland Raiders for 1 1/2 seasons, has attracted the top-rated recruiting class in Conference USA two of his three seasons as the Owls coach. But those two recruiting classes were ranked No. 60 nationally.

Florida Atlantic is playing up a level or two from Conference USA and cashing a big check. Ohio State is hoping to answer some big questions, starting with what can it expect from new quarterback Justin Fields and have the defensive problems of last year been fixed.

Ohio should get another opening day win and it shouldn’t be a struggle.

The prediction: Ohio State 35, Florida Atlantic 14.

By Jim Naveau