The Ohio State defense came out on the field and tossed a large wet blanket over the Hoosier attack. Before their 8 play, 58 yard drive against the Buckeye second and third string defensive units Indiana had managed only 73 yards of total offense for the afternoon. That breaks down to just over 18 yards per quarter of play.
In somewhat of an understatement, Tim Anderson said, "Saturday, everybody did what they were supposed to do. You can look at the tape and see on just about every play there was a guy in every single gap and, you know, from the linebackers to the D line to the DBs, everybody was where they needed to be. When your defense does that, there's really not much place for a running back to go."
In fact, there was nowhere for the running back or quarterback to go. By the end of the third quarter, Matt Lovecchio and the rest of the Hoosiers looked like they simply wanted to go only one place - home.
However, the Buckeyes are cognizant that Indiana is not the challenge that will be presented by Penn State.
"We're very aware that that was a young team we played," commented coach Tressel. "Sometimes when you get ahead of a young team early, I think especially that touchdown before the half, it was a little bit disheartening for their team, but our guys kept playing. The guys that came in and got more playing time than they've had stepped up and played well also."
They are…Penn State…
Given the history of this series, the Buckeye players expect the Nittany Lions to come out fighting Saturday. Forget that Penn State is a woeful 2-6 and is merely fighting to stay bowl eligible while Ohio State 7-1 with an outside shot at the national title. Dustin Fox opined, "Records don't mean anything at this point and especially not in this rivalry because Penn State and Ohio State is a traditional rivalry, and it goes back. We're going to get their best shot obviously so we have to prepare for it."
Asked if he thought that the desperation of Bowl eligibility would make Penn State play that much harder, Fox replied, "Well, I don't know if they are desperate. I mean, when you are 2-6 you want to win any game you can, especially a big game like this. It's a conference game. I'm sure they will be excited and want to get after us so we have to be ready for them."
In other words, don't expect the Buckeyes to overlook this team because of their record. They are bent on finishing this season strong.
Starting for the defense…
On the defensive line for Ohio State expect to see Will Smith, Tim Anderson, Simon Fraser, and more of Darrion Scott. According to Tim Anderson, Scott's condition is improving, "I think he is close to being back to 100%. I think…the coaches have been kind of easing him back in there, but I think he is feeling good and is ready to go." That is good news for the Buckeyes but bad - very bad - news for the Nittany Lions. The only games in which Ohio State has allowed a 100 yard rusher the last two seasons have been those in which Scott was either nicked up or completely out of the game with an injury.
Penn State likes to try and run the football and plays physical along the line of scrimmage. While they had little success last week against Iowa, the Lions will certainly test the mettle of the Buckeye front four and the rotation of the defensive line.
At linebacker will be Robert Reynolds, Fred Pagac, Jr., and A.J. Hawk. It will be their job not only to stuff the running back but also guard against the PSU quarterbacks breaking containment. "Obviously, I think Robinson is the better runner," said Fox. "I mean he does pretty much everything - plays receiver, plays running back." Not that he has forgotten what Zack Mills did against the Buckeyes two years ago. Fox continued on to say, "Mills can pass the ball and he can run, so he can do both. I think Robinson is just a tremendous athlete."
In the defensive backfield, Ohio State will start the usual four in Dustin Fox, Nate Salley, Will Allen, and Chris Gamble. Donte Whitner, who has come up with big plays in consecutive games, will likely be the nickel back. Their task is to stifle any receivers (including Michael Robinson) the Penn State offense sends into passing patterns.
How it will play out…
Penn State probably believes it has faced some pretty tough defenses this season with Purdue, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Sadly for them, they have yet to face the top performing unit in the conference - Ohio State.
Joe Paterno and his crew will undoubtedly come out trying to establish the run. The Ohio State defensive front 7 will shut that down almost immediately if they employ a running back. The only hope for the Lions is to employ Mills and/or Robinson as almost a Wing-T or Option quarterback with them running the football behind a multiple tight end/fullback formation.
Given the lack of production from their receiving corps and the absence of Johnson, the Buckeyes might employ a bit more man to man coverage this week than in previous games. This will allow more blitzing and aggression in attacking the football by the safeties and linebackers - pressuring the oft erratic Lion quarterbacks. Mills and Robinson have combined to pass 256 times, completing only 118 (46%) and tossing 7 interceptions to only 5 touchdowns and 169.9 yards per game.
Look for Ohio State to start reaping the turnovers and roll to a fairly easy win.
Ohio State 33 - Penn State 13
A few additional quotes on this week's game
On the atmosphere at Happy Valley
"It's crazy. The fans are just - the fans are outrageous. They really get into the game, and you hear that lion growling every time they get a first down or every time they score. It gets annoying up there but that's football."
On the mobile QB threat with Robinson and Mills
"It's difficult because then you are going from a guy that is going to drop back, and you don't really have to worry much about him running because if he does you are going to be able to get him anyway. When you have quarterbacks that are mobile like that, they are not only a pass threat, they are also a run threat at the same time."
Does JoePa still have an aura about him for modern players?
"I think so. It's JoePa! I mean, he's a great coach. I know he is going to get his guys ready to play…I still think he is a legend."
"You can see that Michael Robinson can make plays. You can also see that some turnovers have hurt them. You can see that some special teams transition has hurt them, yet they've had some opportunities to put some pressure on in both their special teams and their offense. They've thrown the ball to the tight end very effectively the last two or three games. I only say that because we were studying Wisconsin, and we had the Penn State-Wisconsin game, and I thought they did a great job of throwing the football to the tight end, and they're physical. They don't stop playing. If you turned on the film and watched any of the Big Ten ball games they've been in, it's been a play or two plays that have turned the game, not into anything of a decisive victory, but the people that have beat them by a touchdown, have made a play or two more than they did."