what you want about the Ohio State offense, but you can put your full faith and
trust in the Buckeye defense. Even when the numbers don't really look too good.
That was the scenario at halftime even though OSU led 17-10 at the intermission.
A glance at the halftime statistics showed that the Buckeyes had given up 287 total yards, all of which came via the Spartan aerial attack, and if it wasn't for the big interception and return by Tyler Everett near the start of the second quarter the balance of the game could have taken on an entirely different complexion.
"That's huge," Jim Tressel said about the impact play that Everett made. "Turnovers are the key to everything. Whenever there's a 70-yard flop on a turnover like there was there, that's huge. They had a little rhythm and a little momentum, and on that particular play I think we began putting a lot more pressure on them and, I think, a lot of people were a part of that turnover."
That was no ordinary turnover, however. Michigan State was on the march with a 7-3 lead and they had the ball second-and-nine on the Ohio State 18-yard line. Everett stepped in front of a Jeff Smoker pass at the 6 and raced up the OSU sideline 66 yards to set up a Buckeye touchdown that gave OSU a 10-7 advantage. In essence it was a 14-point turnover.
"It was pretty early in the game. I think defensively we were just still trying to get used to their tempo, what they were doing and that type of thing," said Tim Anderson. "That was a good drive for us to do that and then not give up any points. Not only that but (Everett) had a pretty big run-back and set up our offense real nice. So it was huge. It was a big turnaround emotionally and momentum-wise, and it put (the game) back in our hands."
With the Michigan State running game under control from the outset, the Ohio State defense still needed to address the vaunted Spartan passing attack. The interception aside, Smoker was on fire for most of the first half completing 26 of his 37 attempts for 265 yards and a touchdown.
"We felt that we weren't really getting pressure on him at the beginning of the game and we felt that individually we had to step up our game and help out the secondary. He had too much time to throw," said Will Smith. "In the second half and the second quarter we got pressure on him."
OSU's D forces a fumble
Smoker, who was suspended from the football team for a portion of last
season, came into the Buckeye game averaging 258 yards passing per contest,
completing 64 percent of his 313 passes.
"Jeff Smoker is a good player, these guys (Smith and Tim Anderson) will tell you that," Tressel said. "He's a tough guy, these guys were hitting him and he was getting back up. He's got a quick release. I'm a Jeff Smoker fan. You have adversity and you face it and you go forward, and my hat's off to him. He's a great success story."
Obviously some of the guys on the Buckeye defense thought highly of talented Spartan signal caller.
"I think we pressured him at the end o f the game and flustered him a little bit," said Bobby Carpenter, "but he's a good pocket-passer, he's an NFL-type quarterback and he picked us apart there for a little bit."
Another young Buckeye linebacker also thought Smoker played a good game.
"Of course I think he played well. We knew he's been playing well all year and he got a lot of yardage on us today," said A.J. Hawk. "I think he's in a great system and he knows how to do it, he knows how to run the system. I think their offense is a pretty explosive offense."
Smoker threw 55 times on the day to set a school record, but he only managed 86 yards through the air in the second half.
"We adjusted some of our blitz schemes and got a little more man coverage and got six DBs on the field sometimes," Carpenter said. "I think they couldn't really compensate for that."
Smoker looks over the Buckeye defense
Mark Dantonio talked a little bit about how the Buckeyes reacted to the
challenge of defending Smoker and the Michigan State offense.
"That was the first team probably in a while that's played very effectively versus us in that type of offense and we had to go back and rethink some things," the coach said. "And we missed some tackles which is uncharacteristic and I think they ran seven screens in the first half so they were screening us and doing different things and made the game complex, that's for sure.
"But when we got ahead I didn't want to give up anything long. We did pressure him a couple of times and when we did pressure him in the second half, we hit him. The (Donte Whitner) interception was a pressure. And I think Donte came in and hit him one time and I think we maybe had two or three sacks in the second half. But we had to readjust some things because they were doing a great job."
Although they were basically a pass first, run second team as it was, the Spartans completely abandoned their running game early on. Michigan State had zero net yards on the ground at the half and had just five total rushing yards for the game.
"They're a big passing team but they run the ball surprisingly well just because everyone thinks only about the pass and then they give up the big runs," Carpenter said. "And our key today was just to shut the running game down completely so we can concentrate on the pass, and I think we did that and that's why we were successful."
Robert Reynolds on the tackle
Hawk said that they have to try and physically dominate every opponent by
stopping them on the ground first and Michigan State was no exception.
"They didn't try to run too many times today but anytime you can hold them to minimal yards rushing then of course were excited," he said. "We know Purdue is a great team next week and we can't wait to get out there again. We see a different thing every week and I think we'll be prepared."
There's still more work to be done on both sides of the ball for the Buckeyes as they head into the final two weeks of the campaign.
"Obviously, defensively we had a good day against the rush," Anderson said. "Up front we got to work on our pass rush and we got to work on our pass defense. Our offense had a good day rushing the ball and throwing it, I don't how many yards they put up but I think it was over 400 (395 yards). So I think we're getting better and that's the key right now. Go back and study the film and see what we can do to get better."