Ohio State's defense applied more pressure on the quarterback than it had all season in the 30-7 win over Indiana.
The Buckeyes held the Hoosiers to just 242 yards of total offense (189 passing, 53 rushing). They also collected a season-high five sacks and added several QB pressures.
"It all starts with the D-line," OSU linebacker Bobby Carpenter said. "The D-line had a good day and when they have a good day, it allows us to have a good day. Once we start playing well, the corners and DBs start playing good. It really trickles down from the front four back. That's the biggest thing that we've been missing. They've been stepping up for most of the year, but last week we had a let down in the front seven, but they picked it up again this week and we're hoping to move forward."
Carpenter led the Bucks with 11 tackles (5 solo). He also had two tackles-for-loss – including a sack – and an interception.
"It was just a good all around day for the defense," Carpenter said. "We all came together and did what we're supposed to do."
Yes, it was just Indiana, but Schlegel seems to be hitting his stride at the right time.
"That's a huge benefit when we've got a guy like Schlegel who – you can't really call him a backup, he was splitting time," Carpenter said. "He's a good linebacker. He's a very intense and passionate player and when he gets out there he's trying to make plays and win games and that's what you like to have out there because his intensity spreads throughout the defense."
Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock said the Buckeyes were focused on getting more pressure on the quarterback and were able to execute their plan.
"That's the one thing that helped us on defense a lot," Pitcock said. "We've been working hard on that, you know, fitting up where we need to go and executing quicker. I think it definitely worked to our advantage this week. We were able to get in there and put pressure on the quarterback pretty much throughout the game."
Pitcock was tired of seeing quarterbacks have field days against the OSU defense. First it was Brett Basanez, then John Stocco and finally Drew Tate. But IU's Matt Lovecchio would have no such luck.
"The last three weeks, all the quarterbacks have been putting the ball in nice and perfect spots, so we need to get there before he had a chance to throw it," Pitcock said. "I think our coverages were great and it gave us time to get in there and be disruptive this week. It's a lot more fun when that happens. Everyone came together and you just have more fun playing football. Everyone out there was having a great time today."
Carpenter was asked if there were any specific areas the Buckeye defense needs to improve in.
"Well, they had the big play with the wide receiver screen – got about 40 yards on it – but other than that we were able to pretty much shut them down," he said. "We still need to work on those screens and not let anyone get cheap yards on us."
Pitcock thinks the Indiana win was exactly what the doctor ordered. He can't pinpoint exactly why the Buckeyes played better, he just knows they did.
"Just based on the results, we think we may have found an answer this week," he said. "Who knows what specifically it may be, but we're going to study the film and see if we can keep it going each week."
Pitcock feels the rowdy Ohio Stadium crowd played a big role today.
"One of the biggest things is the fans were in the game more than usual and it helped a lot," he said.
Pitcock – who finished the game with four tackles and a half a tackle-for-loss – is relived to end the three-game losing streak.
"I think everybody is pleased and confident. We feel a lot better. It's a relief off our shoulders. We got one under our belt and now we have to get ready for next week."
Hawk, who takes one step closer to the Butkus Award every game, thinks OSU's defense played with more intensity against Indiana than it had all season. There was less thinking and more reacting.
"I just think we were more aggressive today – with play calling and our play," Hawk said. "Lately, it seems like we've been playing not to make mistakes and when that happens, you don't make big plays and you seem to be a step off here and there. Today, I think we were really aggressive and that showed. Our D-line put a lot of pressure on them and our DBs played great in the back end."
Hawk is happy to see Schlegel playing so well next to him.
"Yeah, he's playing really well and we knew he was capable of that," he said. "This game was set up nice for our defense and I think we finally came out and showed what we can do. It's just another step for us – we need to get better."
The defensive line has struggled for much of the season, but Hawk thinks the group is improving each week.
"Oh yeah, every little bit of game experience helps you out, especially at a place like this," Hawk said. "We knew what they were capable of coming into the year. There's a lot of talent there and they've been showing that. They've done a good job of helping us linebackers out and a lot of times they have a thankless job. They might grab a couple of linemen and free us up as linebackers to make tackles. But it's nice for them to get some attention and some sacks today."
Pitcock seems to be emerging as the leader of the group, even though he's just a sophomore.
"They all lead in their own way," Hawk said. "Quinn is a great player and Simon (Fraser) has been here forever showing what he can do. And (Mike) Kudla had a big game today. It's great to see them out there having fun. Dave (Patterson) is out there running around having fun and it's a great experience to be with guys like that and let them get the game experience."
Hawk said Indiana was no pushover.
"They're definitely improved from the Indiana teams of the past," he said. "Good running back, good quarterback and we knew coming in that this wasn't going to be an easy game."
As for Kudla, it was probably his best game in a Buckeye uniform with three tackles and a sack.
"It felt great getting back to basics and back to the Silver Bullet defense," Kudla said. "That's what it's all about. It felt good to go out there and get a win."
Kudla thinks the defensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage against IU.
"We definitely got a bigger push this week," he said. "We came together, we stuck as a unit and that's the thing that will always help you overcome adversity: sticking together.
"Each week we've been turning it up a notch and Coach (Jim) Heacock put a lot of pressure on us to react to what's going on right now. They came to us and said, ‘Hey, we're going to simplify things. We want you guys to go out there and create.' It definitely worked out today all around the board. Offensively, defensively we had a great game today."
Next up for the Buckeyes is Penn State. It will likely be a defensive struggle. The Nittany Lions lost 6-4 to Iowa today.
"That sounds like a dogfight kind of game," Pitcock said. "It's probably going to be a great film to watch to see how (Penn State) plays."