Bank Blog: Quick Thoughts Defense

To no surprise, last Saturday's game between Ohio State and Michigan State was a physical battle, with the Buckeyes pulling out a one-point win. How did Ohio State's defense respond to recent criticism? Who stood out on the defensive side of the ball?

- I thought there were positive sign for the Ohio State from the previous week's game with UAB, especially holding them to field goals and not allowing the Blazers inside the 25-yard line. That effort carried over to the Michigan State, where the defense simply won the game. They had to overcome three bad turnovers from the offense, all of which would have led to Buckeye points, but the defense never buckled and stood strong all game-long. Without the turnovers, Ohio State wins that game 34-16. The defense was THAT good.

- The numbers tell the story in this game from a defensive perspective. Michigan State had only 303 total yards, but more importantly, only 34 rushing yards. That might be the story of the game. Once again, the Buckeye defense made an opponent kick field goals, and that's always a recipe for success in this high-scoring era of college football. Michigan State had 17 first downs, and exactly ZERO of those first downs came rushing the football. The Spartans were 4 of 15 on third down. Ohio State made Michigan State totally one-dimensional, forcing the Spartans to throw 42 times, and keeping everything in front for the most part. There were only two sacks, but the front-seven pressured the QB relentlessly. Credit Luke Fickell with a great game plan, and getting his players to execute it.

- Nathan Williams, Johnathan Hankins and Johnny Simon were unbelievable against both the run and rushing the passer. It's almost too good to be true to see Williams playing at the level he was at last Saturday. The defensive line owned the Michigan State offensive line, and that isn't even debatable. They eliminated Leveon Bell from the football game, with help from the linebackers. This was not a game for boys in the trenches, and Ohio State played like men. Mike Vrabel got a big hug from Urban Meyer after the game, and it was deserved.

- The linebackers played like Ohio State linebackers, which they haven't been for a few years. Not sure about Etienne Sabino against a spread offense, but in Big-Boy Football he sure stands out. He was the defensive player of the game, and he earned it with his play. What we saw Saturday is precisely why he was rated as a five-star prospect coming out of high school. It was the type of play that earned him defensive MVP of last year's Gator Bowl against Florida. He was all over the field, stopping ball-carriers, covering tight ends, and rushing the passer. Ryan Shazier was under control and rarely caught out of position, which makes him a better player in this defensive scheme. Props to Storm Klein who was thought to be off the team a few months ago, but now is playing a key role. Again, not sure about Klein's effectiveness against the spread, and he will surely be pulled for another defensive back, but in a physical war you want him on your side. You might question the speed and lateral quickness, but there's no doubting the toughness and ability to play the run.

- Bradley Roby and Travis Howard were good once again, and kept the Michigan State wideouts under check for the most part. Both were big in run support, no surprise for Roby, but not always a constant for Howard. Without C.J. Barnett, Orhian Johnson was needed to step up, and he was solid as he has been most of the year. Christian Bryant might not be a fan favorite, but he is one of my favorites. Like Shazier, he needs to play under control and within the defensive scheme, but he is an important part of this defense. Bryant's play has been getting better with each passing week, and he will hit people coming up from his safety spot. His coverage is better, and he plays the game so hard, just as it was meant to be played. Bryant has an NFL future waiting for him someday. Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown is also starting to get big minutes with Barnett out.

- Make no mistake, the defensive staff knew they have been under fire lately, and they responded by bottling up one of the Big Ten's better teams. They get a totally different assignment this week with Nebraska, and they should be familiar with the Husker offense after watching them trample the Buckeyes in a second half blitzkrieg from a year ago. Against Taylor Martinez, they will be forced to defend outside the hash marks, and that hasn't been a strength this season. The defensive line folded last year in the second half against Nebraska, after dominating early. Which defense shows up this week? It had better be the one from the first half last year against the Huskers, or Ohio State will get beat by Nebraska.

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