Dantonio: Defense Does Job Vs. UW

Defensive coordinator pleased with way the Buckeyes held high powered Washington attack in check.

So how good was that performance by the Ohio State defense in Saturday night's season opener against Washington at Ohio Stadium?

They held UW, which averaged 420.7 yards per game last year, to just 262 yards total offense. Which accomplishment was bigger: Holding the Huskies to 7 yards in 24 rushing attempts or keeping UW down to 255 yards passing (the Huskies threw for 346.2 yards per game a year ago)? The answer, of course, is that both feats were doggone impressive.

"They are as good as advertised," Washington coach Keith Gilbertson said after the Buckeyes spoiled his debut with the Huskies. "They are big, powerful and quick and have lots of athletes. They have tremendous defensive backs, linebackers and defensive linemen. Their defensive front is tremendous.

"I have nothing but good things to say about Ohio State. They are going to win a lot of games."

Ohio State's 21-0 halftime lead, coupled with UW's inability to run the ball, led the Huskies to rely more on the pass. Washington attempted 49 passes and ran the ball just 24 times.

And even the yardage UW got was somewhat suspect. UW quarterback Cody Pickett threw for an even 100 yards in the fourth quarter, when the Buckeyes had already built a 28-3 advantage. Most of those yards came against OSU defensive units comprised of second team players.

"They found out the first couple of times they ran the ball that we have a pretty good run defense," said OSU head coach Jim Tressel. "They abandoned that plan pretty quickly."

Defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio agreed that the defensive front led the charge for the Buckeyes.

"Our defensive front played like they practice," Dantonio said. "They get great coaching (from Jim Heacock and Luke Fickell). They have a high level of intensity in that (meeting room) because they have competition there and leadership there.

"We are blessed to have some great players like Darrion (Scott) and Will (Smith) and Tim Anderson. Those guys have been playing here a long time and are dominant defensive linemen. The young guys we put in there should help us be fresh. I thought our linebackers did a good job as well."

Dantonio also praised defensive end Simon Fraser, who tallied three tackles-for-loss among his team-high seven tackles.

"Simon Fraser is a big play guy," Dantonio said. "He is a very competitive person and a champion. We are very fortunate to have guys like that."

OSU did not force a turnover in the game. But the defense did the next best thing, getting UW off the field on three-and-outs in six of the Huskies' 16 possessions.

"One of our goals is to hold people to three-and-out five times a game," Dantonio said. "But we're just trying to make plays. What impressed me the most was the fact we played like we talked about. We wanted to play hard and play with great physical toughness. I thought we did that."

Dantonio credited Scott, who missed time during the preseason due to ongoing problems with a groin injury, for delivering the goods on game night. Scott had two tackles, including a crushing tackle-for-loss on tailback Rich Alexis on a third-and-4 situation in the first quarter.

"Darrion is a great player," Dantonio said. "He has had some injuries. Hopefully, he has worked his way through those."

Much of the focus was on the safety positions, where new starters Will Allen and Brandon Mitchell were joined by nickel man Nate Salley. Allen and Salley each had five tackles and Mitchell had three. Salley and Mitchell also broke up passes with Salley crushing would-be receiver Charles Frederick in the second half.

"I thought Brandon and Nate played very well," Dantonio said. "They probably had a couple mistakes in there. They ran and they hit and they didn't back down. They showed some toughness and I think they're good tacklers."

Tressel knows Washington will not be the last team to test the Buckeyes through the air.

"We know we're going to be tested," Tressel said. "The guys up front are veterans and the corners are veterans. They set the tone. We have a mixture of new guys and veterans. If we can just keep working hard, we should have a pretty good defense."

Smith said going against Washington's high tech passing attack should serve the Buckeyes well down the line. After all, N.C. State, Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan all figure to try and air it out against OSU.

"This should prepare us to play against some better teams," Smith said. "It is good to face a great quarterback at the beginning of the season like Cody Pickett. They struggled a bit, but he still showed us he is a great quarterback. He made a lot of great checks. This should only help our defense."

Anderson said he liked the way the defense played as a unit.

"We were flying around and making good open field tackles," Anderson said. "When there was a tackle, there were four, five or six guys there. I think that was the key why we had such a good performance tonight.

"It was nice to finally attack someone else for once. We've been going against the same guys for four or five weeks. It was nice to finally see some new faces."

Whether this year's defense measures up to the one that led OSU to the 2002 national championship remains to be seen. But the unit's first performance definitely was a step in the right direction, Dantonio said.

"We always evaluate everything at the end of the year," Dantonio said. "This is a good starting point for us. Last year's defense was tremendous and that's the measuring stick for us right now."


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