Hager's Notebook: Defense Wants Blame

The Ohio State football lost its Big Ten opener 10-7 to Michigan State at Ohio Stadium. Here are some news and notes from the Buckeyes' loss to the Spartans.

Usually when a defense allows only 10 points its members don't feel frustrated after the game. Unfortunately, that's the situation members of the Ohio State football team's defense found themselves in Saturday afternoon after the Buckeyes lost 10-7 to visiting Michigan State.

Ohio State allowed a 33-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to B.J. Cunningham in the first quarter and very little else. Kicker Dan Conroy added a 50-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, which provided the game-winning points, but the Buckeye defense did have some things to hang their collective hats on. Ohio State held MSU's dangerous tailbacks Le'Veon Bell, Edwin Baker and Larry Caper to a combined 85 yards respectively and picked off Cousins twice.

Still, the defensive players weren't too happy after the game.

"Put the blame on us because we gave up 10 points," senior defensive back Tyler Moeller said. "If we didn't we would have came out with the win."

Moeller and several of his defensive mates were asked about the struggles of the Ohio State offense, and most tried to deflect any potential criticism of their teammates.

"We can't worry about what the offense does," Moeller said. "Like we always say, the game is always in our hands because if we don't let them score and get turnovers we win the game."

The Buckeyes did get turnovers, picking Cousins off twice and recovering a fumble. They also forced three three-and-outs and six MSU punts. That was not quite enough, however.

"It's frustrating as a defense, but we just have to worry about ourselves," sophomore safety Christian Bryant said. "They're going to have to count on us just like we have to count on them."

No Quit In OSU
One positive sign for Ohio State and its fans came from the fact that the Buckeyes did not roll over in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes finally scored in the final seconds and for a split second it looked like they'd have a chance to win the game with a desperation Hail Mary pass. Senior Nate Ebner appeared to have a chance to recover Drew Basil's onside kick, but ultimately Michigan State came away with the ball.

"I really thought we had that onside kick," Moeller said. "I was excited and I thought we were going to throw one up and catch it to win the game. But obviously that didn't happen."

After the game, several of the players turned their attention immediate to the future.

"I just feel we have a lot of season left. Anything can happen," Bryant said. "This is just kind of a down four or five games for us. Trust me, we're going to bounce back."

Despite the disheartening loss, several of the Buckeyes said they were eager to get back on the field. They'll have their next chance to get their first conference win Saturday night at Nebraska in the Cornhuskers' first Big Ten home game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

"The comeback starts tomorrow," sophomore guard Jack Mewhort said. "You've got to get this out of your head and you have to be ready to go to Nebraska."

Reinforcements On The Way
If there was a silver lining to be found after the game, it probably came with the knowledge that the Buckeyes will be closer to full strength when they travel to Nebraska. Three senior offensive starters – tailback Dan Herron, left tackle Mike Adams and wide receiver DeVier Posey – and senior reserve defensive lineman Solomon Thomas return to the lineup after serving a five-game NCAA suspension.

"We're going to go into the game super pumped, super pumped," Bryant said. "We just know what we've got those guys back. We know what we're going to be capable of. … They're going to be on their A-game."

Bryant went on to call the game against the Cornhuskers the start of a whole new season.

"The season is really going to start next week," he said. "That's when we're going to have our whole team and we're going to prepare to win."

Added senior linebacker Andrew Sweat: "It'll be a huge boost. Look at the numbers and what they contributed last year. … They're unbelievable players, unbelievable leaders. I think they're going to help our team, help our offense move forward."

They Said It
Here are some miscellaneous quotes from the Ohio State postgame interviews:

– Redshirt freshman cornerback Bradley Roby on the play in which he batted a Cousins pass into the hands of sophomore safety C.J. Barnett for a touchback early in the fourth quarter: "I wanted to jump early because (Michigan State wide receiver B.J. Cunningham) is a big guy. I didn't want him to catch it in front of me. I wanted to get up early so I could be up there with him. It just happened to hit me in the hand. I'm glad C.J. came and was aware."

– Mewhort on Ohio State's nine penalties for 82 yards: "Penalties are drive killers. Our coaches say that all the time. It's unacceptable, and it's something we've got to fix. Those are mental errors that we shouldn't have."

– Sophomore tailback Carlos Hyde on what future opponents probably think of the Ohio State offense: "Right now I feel like people probably think, ‘They can't pass. We're going to stack the box,' because they know we're going to run the ball. So I feel like they're going to stack the box and try to stop the run. Right now they probably think we're just a one-dimensional team."

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