The sophomore linebacker cracked the lineup for the first time in the Buckeyes' 19-10 win over Iowa on Saturday and finished with two solo tackles.
"I think he played well," OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio said. "He's played well here. He's played a lot of football here."
Carpenter's statistics might not be all that impressive, but you can tell that he has arrived. He was running sideline-to-sideline, he played physical, and just seemed to bring a lot of energy to the defense.
But Carpenter didn't want to talk himself up afterwards. He wanted to talk about another outstanding performance from OSU's defense as a whole.
"The defense, we played great," he said. "We played good as a team. D-line, linebackers, defensive backs – we made the plays when we had to."
The young linebacker corps got the job done against a physical Iowa offense.
"As a whole group, we played well," Carpenter said. "A.J. (Hawk) played well. Mike (D'Andrea) and Freddie (Pagac) played well. We just came together and made plays."
With Rob Reynolds serving his one-game suspension, Carpenter said there was even more motivation to play well.
"Yeah, I think as a whole defense, we were hurt that he wasn't able to play today it being homecoming and him being a senior. I think we missed him a little bit, but we rallied around that and played the best we could."
On Iowa's only touchdown of the day – a fake field goal – Carpenter was clearly held in pursuit of kicker Nate Kaeding. But, he tried his best to be politically correct when asked about it.
"I recognized it was a fake and I may have got held a little bit, but what can you do? They didn't throw a flag, so you have to move on," Carpenter said.
Linebacker Jason Bond started the second half in place of Carpenter, but that only lasted a few plays. Carpenter was a little too pumped up for the game in the first half.
"They were just trying to help me keep my composure a little bit," he said. "I got a little excited. Plus, we didn't have too many guys rolling in there, and I was playing a lot on special teams, and they wanted me to get some rest because they knew it was going to be a long, physical game. They got Jason some reps in there and he played well."
For Carpenter, it was nice to finally get his first start. At most programs in the country, he would have been in the lineup a long time ago.
"It means a lot to get that first one out of the way and play pretty well," he said. "It's a lift for my confidence, and I showed the coaches they can have confidence in me."
Carpenter and the Buckeyes' defense somehow held the dangerous Fred Russell to just 42 yards on 22 carries. Carpenter thinks OSU's domination of Iowa's offensive line was the reason Russell was shut down.
"Fred Russell's a great running back," Carpenter said. "We just happened to be there and make the plays. I think we handled their offensive line a little bit."
Carpenter knows that he has arguably the nation's best defensive line playing in front of him.
"The key to having a good linebacker corps is having a good D-line," he said. "They did their job today and helped us get off blocks and enabled us to get to the ball. Our defensive line is unbelievable."
Ohio State's defense knew what to expect from Iowa because it had faced the same type of attack the previous week at Wisconsin.
"They were similar to Wisconsin a little bit," Carpenter said. "They run the ball and throw deep. Our biggest thing, I guess, was a gut check. They were a tough team – had a good running back – and it was a showdown, I guess, for everyone to see from last year. I think we came in and responded well. We shut them down offensively."
After the long winning streak was snapped, it was imperative that the Bucks didn't lose two games in a row. That's the type of streak that no one in Columbus wants to see.
"You fall down, but it's how you get back up that's important," Carpenter said. "We responded well. The special units had a good game. The defense held them off and the offense did what they had to do.
"We hadn't lost in 19 games and when you lose for the first time in a long time, no one really knows how to respond. But, it just shows the senior leadership we have on this team. We had a good week of practice and came out ready to play."
In practice last week, the Buckeyes didn't try and downplay the fact that it was a big game.
"They were ranked ninth in the country and we were ranked eighth," Carpenter said. "We knew it was a big game. I think a lot of people have been doubting us all year, waiting for us to lose, and we lost finally, and I think everyone thought it was going to keep steamrolling. It was important for us to stop the bleeding right there and come out and show the country and the Big Ten that we aren't going to lay down. We're still in the hunt for everything we want to do."
Just how physical were the Hawkeyes? Were they even stronger than Wisconsin? Carpenter says no.
"It was physical, but I think Wisconsin was probably more physical," he said. "They came out ready to prove something last week. Iowa came in here, and I think they were a little bit intimidated by the fans at first and especially that last drive when they needed to get some points. They jump offsides and then their center snaps it over the quarterback's head. I think the fans played a big role in that. They helped intimidate them and they kind of played hesitant."
As usual, the margin for error for OSU's defense was microscopic. But like he said last week, Carpenter doesn't worry about what the offense is doing. He thinks that if the defense does its job, the Bucks are going to win.
"We had some big plays on special teams and some big plays from our offense – including one that was called back," he said. "I thought we were going to put up some points today. Seventeen points? That's enough for us to win. There is no way we should allow more than two touchdowns in a game.
"Like I said, the defense took it as a gut check. We know our offense isn't putting up so many points every game, but hey, it doesn't matter. If we can keep holding them down, we're going to win the game no matter what. So, we took that as a challenge and came out this week and said, ‘Hey, we're not going to let them score very many.'"
The Iowa game marked the second time this season that the Bucks won without scoring an offensive touchdown. But they can't keep doing that, can they?
"Hey, however you win, is however you win," Carpenter said. "It doesn't matter if it's by an inch, or mile. Coach (Jim) Tressel has a good system and Coach Dantonio does, so we just play the best we can on defense, and if we hold them to a shut out, we can't lose. That's our philosophy."
Carpenter spends a lot of time working with the special teams, so he took a lot of pride in watching Michael Jenkins break free for the Buckeyes' first punt return for a touchdown since 2000 (Nate Clements vs. Purdue).
"Our defense just shut them out and to see our punt return team just go down and score right away was just great," Carpenter said. "You see the fruits of your labor, so to speak."
Carpenter was asked if he had butterflies making his first start.
"Not really," he replied. "Just the only thing was knowing it was going to be a long, physical game and we didn't really have a lot of guys rotating in at linebacker. I knew I was going to have to go all 60 minutes and play on special teams as well."
Carpenter was a little gassed talking to reporters afterwards. It's been a couple years since he's been that drained after a football game.
"It has been a while," he said. "Been since high school. I got my thumb banged up a little bit, and I didn't play quite as well as I wanted to in the first half because of that. But I got taped up at halftime, and I was ready to go. But, yeah, I'm not used to being tired after a college football game. It's a nice feeling though."
Overall, the Buckeyes have had the best defense in the country over the last year and a half. It has been shutting down teams, even though OSU's offense hasn't scored a lot of points, or controlled the clock.
"We take a lot of pride in that," Carpenter said. "Coach Tressel says part of our formula is having a relentless defense. Whether they drive down the field and score, or kick a field goal, or go three-and-out, we have to keep coming the next series. We have to be ready to go; ready to play. Trying to get turnovers and trying to get three-and-outs so we can get the ball back to our offense."
But as good as OSU's defense played, Carpenter thinks there is still room for improvement.
"Yeah, we can still get better," he said. "We have some guys that are injured. We got Darrion Scott back – he played a little today. But some of our other D-linemen (like Marcus Green) were sitting out and Rob was sitting out. But, when we're playing like that, I don't think anybody can run on us, or pass.
"But, no, we haven't reached our peak in my opinion. There are certain plays, certain drives, when we'll put it all together and we have some great individual players, but we have to play together as a team. And when we do that on the defense, everything just clicks and you see what happens."
Carpenter reiterated that the strength of the team is the defensive line.
"Definitely it's been the D-line for the past year and a half," he said. "They make the whole defense run. They get pressure on the passes and they keep the O-line off the linebackers and let us run and make plays. So, all the credit on our team I think deserves to go to them. They are a veteran group, and they always seem to get the job done."
It was a big weekend in the Carpenter household for more than one reason. Bobby's little brother, Jonathan, broke their father Rob's single-season rushing record at Lancaster High School in a 28-21 win over Pickerington Central.
"I talked to him all night (Friday)," Bobby said of his brother. "I was so proud of him after having such a big game. To get that burden off of him is just so big. It's a weight off his shoulders. It was a 30-something year-old single-season rushing record and he shattered it by 100 yards. He's got one more game to go and I think he's about 250 away from 2,000."