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January 11, 2021

Ryan Day

Miami, Florida, USA

Hard Rock Stadium

Ohio State Buckeyes

Alabama 52, Ohio State 24

RYAN DAY: Tough night. Tough night. I'm proud of our team, proud of the seniors, proud of the year that we've had. But it was a tough night.

A lot to unravel there, but when you look a team in the eye in the locker room after the long season we've been through, it's hard to start focusing on one or two plays or whatever it was because they've been through so much. I'm proud of the legacy that the seniors have left behind. But you've got to give credit to Alabama. Certainly a very good team, and they played really well tonight.

Q. Coach, I want to ask you about the game difference. You guys played seven games versus their 12 games in the season. Do you think those extra games allowed them more time to get comfortable with each other versus your seven games? You guys still working on some stuff maybe?

RYAN DAY: I think this season has been crazy, disruptive, all of the above. I think some games being canceled, not being canceled, that's what it was. You know what I tried not to do and what we tried not to do was focusing on those things, have built-in excuses. We just kept pushing forward. Not having guys available and then like you said getting into a rhythm.

I thought going into the semifinal game against Clemson we hadn't played our best game yet, and we needed to play our best game tonight against Alabama, and we didn't.

Q. I know this just ended half an hour ago, but I wonder, where do you go from here? This year was so long. You guys worked so hard. I can't imagine that you want to just go straight back into off-season workouts. What's the next step now?

RYAN DAY: Yeah, we need a break. We need to get away. The kids are -- guys are missing their families, and we all just need a break.

We've already started to put together the schedule for the spring, but we all need to get away for a while. This has been a long, long road. Guys miss their families, and they deserve time to be with them.

We'll unwind for a little while, have an opportunity to reflect on what the season has been, and then get back into it. But you're right, you can't just go back into work here. You need some time to rest and reflect.

Q. Ryan, you've done this a lot of times, game-planned for a game, but what's it like looking at film and tendencies and everything else against Alabama and then actually facing them, facing all that firepower? What's it like to deal with it?

RYAN DAY: Well, they're very good schematically, and they have really good personnel. And so it's one thing to have a good play, it's another thing to execute it. We didn't do that well enough on either side of the ball tonight.

Q. Coach, second half why do you think the game slipped away from you guys?

RYAN DAY: I don't think there's one thing. I think it's several things. We didn't finish a couple of those drives, didn't get the 4th down conversion, two of them, and they continued to make big plays. They got up, I think, four scores on us, and we couldn't quite keep up. It was just a combination of things.

I thought there was a point there where if we had got a stop and got into the end zone, that we had an opportunity to get back in within a couple scores, maybe get it down to 10, but that didn't happen. I just think it's a combination of things.

Q. I know that just minutes after his last game or presumably his last game, it's tough to take stock of what Justin Fields meant for this program, but your thoughts in a net shell if this is it for him, 20-2 I believe as a starter, and just the courage and everything he showed and leadership he brought to your program, really kind of bridged the gap for you getting this program and your part of it started.

RYAN DAY: Yeah, I mean, Justin has been unbelievable. He's as competitively tough a player as I've been around. For him to go out there and play today really shows his toughness and how much he loves his brothers; he still took some shots on that hip. He was not 100 percent tonight. He was working through it and made some really good throws, made some gutsy plays, kept us in the game there for a while, but he's an unbelievable player, and I'm going to miss him.

Q. You knew that with their explosiveness and their balance that I guess you were kind of in a damned if you do, damned if you don't feeling on defense, but what was the approach? And as far as how to play the mix of linebackers, mix of defensive backs, what was the choice there and why do you think they were able to exploit it so well?

RYAN DAY: Well, you know, we wanted to make sure we didn't change what we do, just fundamentally, but we also had to have some change-ups because if you just sit there, they're going to pick you apart.

But again, I think it goes back to it's one thing to have some ideas, it's another thing to execute them. We didn't do that well enough. There was just obviously way too many big plays, and then on offense we couldn't go score for score with them, and then the game gets out of hand.

Our guys competed. They played all the way to the end. I wouldn't have any other group with me. They're a special group of men. But to go back to your question, yeah, we had some things that we did that we wanted to change it up. We also wanted to make sure we were doing the same things that got us to this point, but clearly it wasn't good enough.

Q. It's one thing to see a guy on tape, another to see him live. Can you just comment on DeVonta Smith? Have you seen anything quite like that? Is he one of the best you've seen? And the pressure of having to score every time as an offensive coach, can you speak to that?

RYAN DAY: Yeah, no, it's -- that part is tough, and then I think that there's a feeling of if you don't score, you're going to get down and then, like you said, the pressure mounts. We got that turnover early, that kind of got us going a little bit.

But yeah, I mean, I don't know if I've seen one better than that. He just seemed to create a lot of separation. He's obviously very fast. He plays stronger than he looks. He's not a very big guy, but his play strength is significant. He just eats up ground down the field once he gets those strides going. Tremendous ball skills, Heisman Trophy winner and well deserved. He's a great player.

Q. You said you didn't want to change your defensive plan coming into this game, this vision, the structure of this defense is something you said you wanted to keep in place. Do you think you need to change it? Is it too rigid when you get on the field with a team that has this kind of talent, a team that you're going to see every year moving forward once you get to this kind of stage?

RYAN DAY: Well, like I said, we did do some different things. We changed up some of the looks and played some two high, which is not something we typically do a lot of. Pressured some more the last couple games. So I thought we did mix it up a decent amount.

But again, it's another thing to actually execute it. You know, when you're playing against elite players, and this is probably one of the better offenses in college football in a long time, the margin for error is tiny.

I think it's probably more the execution. I thought at least in the first half we did a decent job against the run game, which was a huge emphasis point was we had to stop the run, and they're very well balanced, so that's a challenge when you go against a team like this. But clearly we didn't hold up well enough in the pass game.

Q. I'm assuming Trey Sermon was a huge part of the offensive game plan. How much of a blow was that to lose him? And could you also address the decision to kick the field goal when it was 4th and goal from the 6, I think?

RYAN DAY: Yeah, sure. To lose Trey on the first play of the game is one of those things, whenever you think what's going to happen in the game it's probably not going to happen that way, to lose Trey in the first play of the game. We certainly missed Tommy Togiai in the game and a few others. But you've got to overcome it. Like I told the guys, nobody feels sorry for you, so you've just got to keep pushing forward. It's kind of been the theme of the season.

Well, I think if it was 4th and 1, 4th and 2, 4th and 3, I think you'd probably go for it. But I think it was either on the 5 or the 6, and I think that the percentages there are very low conversion rate. I just said, let's just take the three points and move on.

Q. Looking back on the season, what is the difficulty about the season? I know with the coronavirus, but was that the difficult part of the season, to keep everybody together?

RYAN DAY: Yeah, yeah. There was a lot that went into that. This is probably an hour answer to that whole thing. But yeah, it's been a lot with these guys: Having no fans, having no season, having games canceled, it was a challenge.

But wouldn't have it any other way. What these guys have learned and what our coaching staff has learned and this whole program has learned about what our culture is all about, very, very proud of that. For the guys who were in the locker room who are going to be coming back, they have something to motivate them in the off-season, that feeling of coming off the field. We felt that way coming off the field last year against Clemson, now we feel that way coming off the field against Alabama. We're going to use that as a motivation in the off-season.

Q. How would you reflect on Ohio State football in your opinion in 2020?

RYAN DAY: Yeah, I mean, I thought that the culture of our program, the leadership of our program, the way that our kids fought for a season and then came back, dealt with all the adversity along the way of games being canceled, guys being out, for some programs there was a lot of guys out early and they kind of got them back and were able to get in a rhythm. It was very, very difficult for us to do that. The offensive line was out for an extended period of time, and in this game we had the defensive line, we had wide receivers during the Big Ten Championship game.

So for us to continually work through all of that and get to this moment right here was an unbelievable success. The goal of the game was not to get here, the goal was to win the game.

But all that being said, I couldn't be prouder of our culture, what our kids are made of and where the program is headed.

Q. As you look back tonight, there were a few times where y'all almost made it look easy going down the field and then others were herky-jerky. I wonder as you reflect back what was it Alabama was doing defensively, rolling the dice, et cetera, that gave you the most problems? And could you give us an update on Wyatt Davis?

RYAN DAY: Yeah, Wyatt, just talked to him. He kind of reinjured that knee. He's sore right now. I'm not sure what the diagnosis is. We'll have to check with our doctors. But he's sore. He's certainly in pain.

Yeah, you know, on offense, the thing for us was I felt like when we got the first 1st down, we kind of got going and we get in a rhythm and tempo. When we couldn't get those first 1st downs, I think we had a couple of three-and-outs in the first half, that hurt us. And then I think we had a couple in the second half, as well.

And one of the challenges is that we like to go tempo, but when you go tempo, when you go fast, you put the defense back on the field, and when you go against an offense like this, that's kind of in the back of your mind.

So it was kind of hard for us to get into a rhythm. It was hard for us to get into that kind of tempo. We got a couple 1st downs and we did a nice job there, but there was also the other side of the ball and we had to kind of balance that out. At the end of the day, if we just did a little bit better job executing to get the first couple 1st downs and get into a little bit of rhythm of the drive, we would have done better.

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