Defense dominates Russell, Iowa offense

There's a lot of focus on the Ohio State offense today, but the defense put in one of their best showings of the year yesterday as they shut down talented running back Fred Russell and the rest of the Iowa offense. We also have comments from OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio.

Another strong performance from Ohio State's defense helped lead the Buckeyes to a 19-10 victory over Iowa on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes were limited to 219 total yards - including 153 passing and 66 rushing.

Iowa tailback Fred Russell was bottled up and then some by the swarming OSU defense. Russell entered the game averaging 5.3 yards per carry, but was limited to less than two yards per tote (22 carries for 42 yards).

"Looking on film, we thought he was going to be the best back we would face up to this point," Ohio State linebacker Mike D'Andrea said. "We just shut him down."

In practice this past week, the Buckeyes stressed eliminating Russell's cutback lanes. When he is on, he is one of the most dangerous backs in the Big Ten. But he could get nothing going against the Bucks. When he decided to cutback, or reverse field, he usually lost yards.

"We knew he liked to cutback, and we were not going to let that happen today," D'Andrea said. "That's the thing you really have to be aware of, is where your help is at. Your safeties coming down and everything. You really have to be aware of the cutback, and we did a good job today."

Defensive end Will Smith also talked about why the Bucks were able to handle Russell so well.

"We knew he was a cutback runner," Smith said. "We knew if we played our responsibilities and everybody was in their gaps, somebody was going to make the play. I guess that's what we went out and did. A lot of linebackers made a lot of plays, defensive linemen made a lot of plays and we just played as a team."

The Buckeyes were up against a decent Iowa offensive line and were determined to prove something after giving up a lot of rushing yards to Wisconsin last week.

"Last week, we were taking it pretty hard that we lost, and we kind of felt that Wisconsin's offensive line kind of got the edge against us," Smith said. "So the defense, as a whole, came out today and were fired up. We knew we had to stop the run because they had a great running back."

Outside linebacker A.J. Hawk and strong safety Will Allen led the Buckeyes in tackles with seven apiece. Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock played the best game of his young career with six stops and a sack.

Pitcock, Smith and nose guard Tim Anderson spent the majority of the day disrupting things in Iowa's backfield. It was very impressive that they were able to get so much penetration consistently.

"Our defensive front, I think, did an extraordinary job controlling the tempo of the football game," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "You knew that Iowa was going to struggle to consistently move the ball against us, but to their credit, they never stopped scrapping.

"But really, from a consistency standpoint, our defensive front controlled the tempo of the game and put pressure on the passer. Guys in the second and third levels, you know, did an excellent job of being where they were supposed to be. But it starts in the trenches and our guys won the trenches."

Anderson put pressure on himself to have a big game because he knew that Iowa was without its starting center (Brian Ferentz; son of head coach Kirk Ferentz). Left guard Eric Rothwell moved over to center, but that left freshman Mike Jones in there at guard.

Anderson was not about to let a freshman block him.

"I knew I had to make plays," he said. "Just moving their left guard to center and then putting the freshmen in there, because that's my side of the ball. You've got to take advantage of that. This is my fifth year. I'm a senior. When you go against true freshmen, you've got to take advantage of that."

One of the few times that OSU's defense faltered came on a third-and-19 play in the third quarter with the Bucks up 17-3.

Iowa quarterback Nathan Chandler was pressured, but was able to avoid the rush and found Ramon Ochoa - who got behind safety Nate Salley - for a 51-yard reception.

The play led to Iowa's only touchdown, as kicker Nate Kaeding scored on a fake field goal run.

But, other than that one gaff, the Buckeye defense dominated. Even when Iowa got the ball back at its own nine-yard-line late in the fourth with the score 17-10, you had the feeling that there was no way it was going to be able to mount a long drive and score.

As it turns out, a snap over Chandler's head (how do you snap the ball over a 6-7 QB?) went through the end zone for a game-clinching safety, so there was no dramatic defensive stand by the Bucks. But, it was nice to save the drama for a change.

Smith gave credit to Ohio State's fans for helping cause the big safety.

"Everybody came on the field and we were fired up and I think the key of that play was the fans in the (North) end zone," he said. "They were yelling. I didn't even get the call - I didn't even know what the defensive call was, it was so loud. We've just got to take our hats off to our 12th guy out there."

Iowa turned the ball over three times - two on fumbled snaps and one on an interception by Chris Gamble in the game's final moments.

Dantonio Speaks

OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio added his two cents on another stellar effort by the defense. Here were some of his comments after the win over Iowa:

* On the fine play up front: "Well, you have Tim Anderson who anchors it. Then you have Will Smith. He had a couple of pretty big plays in there. Then, Simon (Fraser) was also obviously able to have a big game as well. When you're able to stay fresh and bring in guys like Quinn (Pitcock), Joel Penton and David Patterson -- we probably rolled eight or nine players in there -- I think you have an advantage."

* On bouncing back after a loss at Wisconsin: "We constantly talk about playing one play at a time, to line up, regardless of what happens, the next play and have the same amount of effort and toughness. That's really what we emphasize. We can't go back. You try to look forward and I think our guys wanted to make a statement today."

* On the emergence of DT Quinn Pitcock: "Quinn is a very good player. The nice thing about Quinn Pitcock is he is a redshirt freshman and he will be here another three years. He is a smart player with a lot of toughness."

* On the defense's overall effort: "We played. We played. I can't say what we did, other than we did our pressure package and played our base defense. But everything that we called, I felt, from the press box, for the most part, we dominated the man across the line of scrimmage from us. They didn't have a whole lot of areas to run the ball. There were great examples of team pursuit. There were a lot of negative yardage plays."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories