November 6, 2012

Week 10: Evaluating the Buckeyes' defense

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Three weeks after allowing 49 points to Indiana, the Ohio State defense put together its third impressive outing in as many games, surrendering just 14 points in the Buckeyes' 52-22 win over Illinois after Saturday. After the game, OSU players from each defensive position group discussed the evolution of the unit, and where it stands heading into the Buckeyes' bye week.

Defensive line

The OSU defensive line led the charge for the Buckeyes on Saturday, helping create and open up the lanes that aided the OSU defense in recording seven tackles for a loss against the Illini. Senior defensive end John Simon admitted that the Buckeyes' lackluster performance against the Hoosiers last month was a wakeup call for him and his teammates, which has helped lead to the defenses' resurgence as of late.

"Indiana was a setback and we really took it to heart. As a defense, we rededicated ourselves in practice and have been doing everything we can to be prepared for game days," Simon said. "So far it's been paying off, so we have to keep it up over the next three weeks."

The blowout nature of Saturday's win also paved the way for some younger players to play in the fourth quarter, including defensive lineman Adolphus Washington, who recorded three tackles, including an 11-yard sack in the closing minutes of the game.

"Adolphus Washington, starting to knock that baby look off his face and start playing," Meyer said. "It's good to see. It's priceless to be able to do that."


After being blamed for much of the OSU defense's ineptitude in the first half of the season, the Buckeyes' linebackers are beginning to emerge as if not a strength, than at least a crucial element to the defense's success as of late. The Buckeyes' strong defensive play has coincided with the improvement of Ryan Shazier, who picked up his second consecutive Big Ten defensive player of the week award on Monday, following his 14-tackle performance against the Illini.

"The defense is getting better because of all of the criticism we have been receiving," Shazier said. "We are trying and succeeding, slowly but surely, at becoming a better football team."

The linebacking corps' play has also improved along with the development of former fullback Zach Boren, who played his first college game at linebacker against Indiana, and is already viewed as a one of the leaders of the Buckeyes' defense.

"Definitely, he's improved. He's a leader. He's a guy that goes hard all the time," OSU cornerback Bradley Roby said. "He's grasped the middle linebacker spot pretty good, he's playing pretty well."

Defensive backs

The Buckeyes' secondary played perhaps its most complete game of the season, only allowing 96 passing yards to the Illini and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. OSU safety C.J. Barnett, however was more impressed by the overall team performance by the Buckeyes, who held Illinois to just 170 yards of offense on Saturday.

"I think this is our first complete game in all three phases," Barnett said. "We were able to stay fresh because of the long offensive drives. It's the best we've done defensively in keeping Illinois under 200 yards."

The Buckeyes' defensive effort on the back end was aided by Travis Howard's team-high fourth interception of the year on Saturday, although the fifth-year cornerback asserted after the game that he was close to adding No. 5 as well.

"I made a good jump and got out in front of it to make the play. I almost had another one too," Howard said. "I told (OSU safety) Orhian Johnson if he hadn't been there, I would have been locked in on another."


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