OSU D must step up again

Another week, another big game... and the Buckeye defense will be expected to step up once again and keep the opponent's offense in check.

It's becoming a broken record.

Each game, there seems to be more and more pressure on Ohio State's defense to perform well. If the defense isn't at the top of its game, chances are the Buckeye offense won't score enough points to win.

So, does the situation get frustrating for Ohio State's defense? Sure, they would like to have an offense that scores 30-plus points per game, but they know that is not reality. Not even close.

"Well, we just try and go out and play every play – we don't worry about what the offense is doing," safety Brandon Mitchell said. "Coach (Jim) Tressel made a great point last week: You can't focus on the outcome of the game; you have to focus on each individual play. So, we take each down – whether we just had five straight three-and-outs, or whether they just scored a long touchdown – and we try and focus on each play, one-by-one. We don't worry about what the offense is doing, or what the score is, we are just focused on doing our job that play."

This week against Iowa, the Buckeyes will once again face a team that likes to run the ball, but has the ability to do damage through the air as well.

But, first and foremost, OSU's defense will be looking to shut down the running game.

"They are a team that likes to run the ball, like Wisconsin does," linebacker Bobby Carpenter said. "With Coach (Mark) Dantonio, you've always got to take away the run first. That's what he preaches. They are going to come in here, we're going to give it our best shot and try and stop the run and make them throw. That's what we've always done all year, and that's what we did last year and we're going to have to do it again Saturday."

With the Buckeyes coming off a loss, Iowa will likely come to town confident. The Hawkeyes have had two weeks to prepare and they are coming off a big win over Michigan. Furthermore, both teams will be looking to prove something after sharing the Big Ten championship last year.

"They are going to come in fired up," Carpenter said. "Anytime I think teams come into the Horseshoe to play, they're ready to go. But I think our defense will be ready to play, and I'll be very disappointed if we don't shut them down."

Don't look for OSU's defense to make many changes, just because it is coming off a loss.

"I don't think we'll change much of anything," Mitchell said. "We just have to know our responsibilities and eliminate the big plays. If we would have eliminated the big plays last week, it probably would have been a different outcome.

"We're ready to show that, ‘OK, we lost last week, but we're still a great team.' We're ready to come out and show that to people and show that we're still one of the best defenses and best teams in the country. The defense is going to tighten up."

The defense as a whole has played well this year, but a few players in particular have really stepped up.

Senior defensive end Will Smith had two sacks against Wisconsin, upping his team-leading total to 5.5.

"Will Smith had an excellent day and was our attack force player of the week," Tressel said.

Nose guard Tim Anderson has also been playing well, but has been double-teamed quite a bit. Overall, he has 23 tackles, five tackles-for-loss and two sacks.

Unfortunately, tackle Darrion Scott is still hobbled by an ankle sprain. There is no hiding the fact that Scott's injury is a big loss for the Buckeyes. He is a playmaker, and who knows if he will be healthy the rest of the season. Those ankle sprains have a way of sticking around, especially when a player is brought back too soon.

At linebacker, A.J. Hawk continues to have an outstanding season. He leads the team with 58 tackles and is second behind Smith with nine tackles-for-loss.

With Rob Reynolds suspended, Bobby Carpenter will get his first career start against Iowa.

"Bobby Carpenter will be the SAM linebacker, and his back-up would be Jason Bond," Tressel said. "Bob played a little bit of MIKE linebacker during the game, of which Bob really played football-wise, an outstanding football game. He shared that with Mike D'Andrea and Freddie Pagac. So Mike and Freddie will be at the MIKE position, and Bobby at the SAM, and A. J. at the WILL. Bobby will be backed up by Jason Bond and A.J. by Thomas Matthews."

Tressel thinks that Carpenter is on the verge of becoming a difference-maker on the defense.

"Yeah, Bobby Carpenter is a good football player," he said. "Bobby Carpenter played very, very well on Saturday. He's going to continue to get better and has done an excellent job for us on special teams as well. We feel good about Bobby."

Tressel feels that Carpenter has all the physical skills you would want in a linebacker.

"He's strong. He's physical. He's got excellent speed and movement. Bobby Carpenter will continue to grow into being, I think, an outstanding linebacker."

As for middle linebacker, there are still some serious issues that need to be addressed. Pagac was not a factor against Wisconsin. He has not shown the ability to shed blocks and when he is in position to make a play, he misses too many tackles.

D'Andrea obviously hasn't been much better if he can't unseat Pagac. The fact that Carpenter played so much at MIKE against Wisconsin tells you how confident Dantonio is with Pagac and D'Andrea.

Looking at the secondary, strong safety Will Allen continues to prove his value each week.

"Will Allen had an extraordinary game (against Wisconsin)," Tressel said. "He was the defensive player of the week."

Allen is fourth on the team with 36 tackles. Interestingly enough, free safety Nate Salley is third with 37.

At cornerback, Dustin Fox is solid and then some. He is fifth on the team in tackles with 33 and tied for the team lead in interceptions with two. This space wonders how anyone can still have questions about Fox as a corner.

"Dustin graded out extremely well, played in a whole different environment than we'd been playing in," Tressel said. "We'd been spread out all over the field, chasing receivers around and so forth, Dustin was up there in the box, making tackles, doing what he had to do. He shifted gears into doing something that he hadn't been doing for the last five or six weeks, and I think Dustin, who plays, in my mind, one of the most difficult positions in football, which is that boundary corner, continues to grow and is an outstanding member of our defense."

As for Chris Gamble, that is a different story. He is coming off the worst game of his career, but Fox said there is more to that than meets the eye. He says Gamble had a good game, except for his two huge miscues.

"You know, Chris is just a tremendous player, I think," Fox said. "A lot of people kind of look at this past weekend and think he had a bad game. In all actuality, we graded the film out and Chris did his job, like coach said, every play. When you play cornerback, it's a tough position. People only remember the bad plays sometimes and then sometimes they remember the good ones. But it's tough when one play can overshadow that, but Chris is a resilient guy and I think he's having a great year.

"He hasn't had the numbers because people are kind of staying away from him and he's done a good job. He's done his job. We talk about it all the time and we're happy with him and I don't think anybody thinks he's having a bad year or a bad game or something like that. And definitely this week, he'll come out and have a great game."


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