Fields Makes Most of Opportunity
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Chris Fields saw the end zone and he wasn’t going to be caught.
sets sail on his 69-yard touchdown punt return.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Not by the punter.
He would never have heard the end of it.
“All I saw was the punter and I can't be tackled by the punter,” he said with a smile.
“That's what coach says, and I ended up being successful.”
The Buckeyes trailed Toledo 15-7 late in the first half of Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium and they were in desperate need of a spark.
The Ohio State offense had struggled since Jake Stoneburner’s touchdown on the opening drive and the upset-minded Rockets were getting ready to take a lead into the locker rooms.
Not so fast.
Or maybe very fast.
Fields received a punt at his own 30 yard line. He slipped a tackle at the 40 and another at midfield before racing to the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown return.
Chris Fields streaks down the sideline toward paydirt.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“It was a good unit,” Fields said.
“Everybody got their blocks, everybody did their responsibility. I saw a clear lane.”
Other than punter Vince Penza, the only Toledo player who had a shot at Fields after he crossed midfield was safety Jermaine Robinson. It looked he might have an angle on Fields near the 35 yard line, but freshman Ryan Shazier took care of him with a vicious crack-back block that freed Fields for the score.
“I tried to go block (the punt), but I couldn't get it. Then I saw Chris coming back, and missing a few tackles, and everybody else was on the ground,” said Shazier, a rookie linebacker out of Plantation, Fla.
celebrates in the endzone.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“There was only one guy to beat, the punter. And I saw somebody else come in and try to get him, so I thought it was best to get that block out of the way and help him score.”
For those watching the game at home, Shazier was the Ohio State player wearing No. 10 who almost got his hand on Penza’s punt. Instead he ended up with the block of the year thus far.
“It all starts on special teams,” said Shazier, who was also on the field playing the Leo defensive end spot on Ohio State’s fourth-down stop in the final minute.
“I'm just doing whatever the coaches want me to do right now and whatever I can do to help the team.”
That mentality is also paying off for Fields, who has waited three years for his opportunity. The redshirt sophomore out of Painesville Harvey wasn’t even supposed to be out there.
He began the year as Ohio State’s No. 3 punt returner, but quickly found himself thrust into the role after the suspension to tailback Jordan Hall and the injury to receiver Corey “Philly” Brown.
“As for Chris Fields, he stepped up,” OSU Head Coach Luke Fickell said.
“I think going into the game, Philly was a little dinged up from last week, probably the same ankle. So Chris talked about it last week. He had a couple of opportunities last week. Probably a lot more open last week than it was this week, and I think he learned from it.”
Fields only had one catch for six yards Saturday against Toledo, but his punt return may have been the difference in the game. It gave the Buckeyes some momentum, but more importantly it tapered some of the confidence Toledo had garnered in the first half.
It also gave the Buckeyes another playmaker on a team that seems to be losing them by the minute.
“We all came in knowing we had to step up,” Fields said.
“We saw Philly down. He actually had an ankle injury before that. It was last Saturday really that geared it up. It sucks, but we've got to move forward and I hope everything is fine with him.”
Brown went to the locker room after his injury and came back on crutches wearing an air cast. He will likely miss at least a few weeks with an ugly ankle injury, but at least the Buckeyes found his replacement in the meantime.
“I'm excited about what Chris Fields did,” Fickell said.
“Not just because he took it back, but how much he maybe improved from last week to this week in his punt returns.”
At this point, the Buckeyes will take whatever they can get.
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