While Ohio State did open its season Aug. 30 in Baltimore with a 34-17 victory against Navy, the showdown with the Hokies under the now-permanent lights at Ohio Stadium will serve as a second season opener of sorts. The OSU defense will get to unveil its new aggressive defense for the first time.
The Buckeyes will face their first test from a standard – read: non-triple option – offense this weekend, and the players were pumped up for the challenge.
“We’re very excited,” senior middle linebacker Curtis Grant said. “We can’t wait for Saturday. ... It’s a fast-paced defense. We’re going to be very aggressive, and we can’t wait to play.”
Added sophomore safety Vonn Bell: “It’s a great feeling. With these guys in our unit room and the DBs, we’ve worked hard through the offseason. We’ve been talked about bad the last two games last season, and we want to show the world and shock the world. We want to show them the Buckeyes are back.”
No Ohio State fan needs to be reminded that the Buckeyes defense was shredded in its final three games of last season, losing the last two to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Orange Bowl vs. Clemson. The Buckeyes were susceptible to the pass, which is one of the main reasons Chris Ash was brought on to be co-defensive coordinator and revamp the defense.
Aggressive has been one of the main descriptors used by those in the program to describe the new defense, but because of the opener vs. Navy, the changes were not completely on display. Focus and discipline were the keys to stopping the Midshipmen’s triple option attack, with the reworked secondary only facing four pass attempts all game.
Now that the Buckeyes have dispatched Navy, however, it is back to normal and it becomes time for the pass defense to face its first major test of the season. OSU head coach Urban Meyer is among the countless who are eager to see the defense in action.
“Real curious,” Meyer said. “We have to shift gears. … Get back to see if we improved our pass defense.”
The new defense will feature the cornerbacks playing in press coverage and the safeties being more involved in coverage. The secondary isn’t the only group that will be tasked to slow the aerial attack, as the linebackers and the defensive line will be expected to help make life difficult on opposing quarterbacks.
“We’re going to be bringing it a lot, rushing a lot,” sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa said.
Game planning for the Hokies is completely different than preparing for Navy’s triple option, of course. Bosa joked that practicing Ohio State’s basic offense this week has seemed foreign after prepping for the season opener against the Midshipmen.
Those worrying about the quick turnaround should remember 2009, however. The Buckeyes opened that campaign with a hard-fought 31-27 win over the Mids at Ohio Stadium – one week before a showdown against No. 3 USC in Columbus.
The Buckeyes lost 18-15 to the Trojans, but the defense did not shoulder much of the blame. USC scored two touchdowns in the game, the game-winning TD coming with 65 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Brian Rolle, who played for the Buckeyes in both games and helped ice the Navy victory with a crucial interception return for two points on a Navy two-point attempt that could have tied the game, said switching gears on defense should not be a problem for the Buckeyes.
“It shouldn’t be too hard them to transition from week one to week two because (Navy’s attack is) something that, obviously, they won’t see,” Rolle told BSB. “But if something works that Navy does, I’m sure in that second game they’ll get it again. That’s the way college football and the NFL works. If something works against you one week, the team that you play the next week is going to try it as well. So I don’t think they’ll have a problem with (preparation).”