Silver Bullets Misfiring In Pass Rush

Ohio State is near the top of the country in most defensive stats, but the one in which the Buckeyes fall short is a glaring one to the Silver Bullets. That would be the team's sack total, which shows the Buckeyes to have only five in four games. Since the win against Eastern Michigan, Ohio State defenders have pledged to rectify that.

Jim Heacock wasn't exactly angry after No. 2 Ohio State's 72-20 win against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, but he wasn't pleased, either.

He was accepting of the fact that sometimes opposing teams do good things, which the Eagles – losers of 16 consecutive games – did on the way to three long scoring drives, but his real area of concern was why the Buckeyes emerged with only two sacks on the day.

"I think what we'll see is we probably hit the quarterback 10 to 15 times," Heacock said in the Ohio Stadium postgame interview room. "I thought we hit him on all the long passes, but it's a fraction of a second and you have to get there. We're there and we're hitting him, but what good does that do when the ball is already gone?"

Indeed, EMU quarterback Alex Gillett took a number of hits, but the sophomore – who came in as only the seventh most efficient quarterback in the Mid-American Conference – still delivered a number of on-target balls into small windows that moved the Eagles down the field.

He did it while keeping his shirt clean for the most part, a common theme for opposing QBs for the first third of the 2010 season. Possessing what has been described as one of the best front sevens in the country led by All-America candidate Cameron Heyward, Ohio State has only five sacks in four games.

That mark of 1.25 sacks per game places OSU in low company – 91st overall in the country and eighth in the Big Ten. Heyward, who is yet to earn a sack in 2010, showed frustration that the front end isn't helping a young, injury-riddled secondary that ended up taking the brunt of the criticism for EMU's ball movement.

"Our D-line has to step it up," Heyward said. "I think if we had gotten to them a little bit earlier and just disrupted passing, if we control it up front, it leaves our back end, but I think our back end is doing a really good job right now."

Dexter Larimore – not exactly known as a sack master given his job as the team's run-stuffing nose tackle but the team's leader with 1½ on the year – agreed.

"As a front four, we talk about trying to be one of the better defensive lines in the nation," he said. "When you can't get pressure against Eastern Michigan you think about, ‘What the heck are we doing? What are we doing wrong? What are we doing right? What's going on?' "

For his part, head coach Jim Tressel said he admired Gillett's moxie on Saturday and noted that ideally the Eastern Michigan quarterback wouldn't have had as much chance to throw the ball.

However, the Eagles did do a few things to keep the Buckeyes off balance, using motions and quick passing. Using the latter, EMU was often able to get the ball into the hands of tight end Ben Thayer, who ended up leading the visiting squad with five catches.

Such quick-passing attacks have been commonplace against OSU in 2010. Marshall rarely waited more than a beat or two to get the ball out in its spread offense, while the Ohio and Eastern Michigan attacks were predicated on quick plays and deception a lot of the time.

"I think there are three things that teams do to try to keep you off-guard from a protection standpoint," Tressel said. "One, they move the pocket. Two, they throw very quickly, get everybody out and throw very quickly. Or, three, they leave more guys in and run one- and two-man routes. We get all of that."

Miami (Fla.), meanwhile, used a more pro-style attack, but the Buckeyes still pressured Jacory Harris into four interceptions. The biggest pick of the day, Heyward's goal-line interception that led to an 80-yard rumble, came with Harris backing up in the face of a zone blitz.

That's one way the Buckeyes have affected the quarterback without actually getting sacks, but there's no doubt the team would actually like to add to the sack total. After Larimore's team-high total, the Buckeyes have received one sack apiece from Johnathan Hankins, John Simon and Tyler Moeller with the other half-sack going to Jermale Hines.

When asked how the team could add to that total and get to the quarterback a beat quicker, Simon had a simple answer.

"Just comfort," he said. "Just running through those plays and getting off the lone of scrimmage just a half a second faster. Those are things we're all going to work on."

With the Big Ten season on the horizon, Heacock made it sound as though the Buckeyes would be doing just that after the win against Eastern Michigan.

"I think we're in a position to make some pressure and make some sacks, and we're in positions to make some plays, and we didn't do either one," Heacock said. "We're going to have to get better, that's for sure."

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