Dustin Fox admits playing against Penn State still brings out a little something extra in him.
His brother, Derek, was a three-year starting safety for the Nittany Lions, and Dustin almost followed in his footsteps.
Fox helped lead the Buckeyes to a 21-10 victory over PSU with six tackles Saturday. The Nittany Lions didn't throw many passes to his side, showing the respect that the senior All-Big Ten cornerback has earned.
"There's a lot of emotions playing against those guys," Fox said. "It used to be more, I think, when I first got here because I was so close to going to Penn State. But, I still know a lot of the coaching staff, so it's always a little bit bigger of a game for me. It's always bit to be able to beat them and be able to call my brother now and rub it in a little bit. It's fun."
Fox is never one to mince words. Yes, the Buckeyes won, but he expects them to play better defensively.
"Our defense played OK," he said. "We've got to get better – we can't let them run the ball on us obviously. That was their game plan and they did it well. We just have to stop the run more effectively to get better."
Fox was asked what OSU can do to shore up its run defense.
"Be more physical, obviously," he said. "When they're running the ball in the trenches, it's a physical war and they beat us at that a little bit today. I don't know how many rushing yards they had (177) but I know it was well over 100 and that's too much for our defense."
Fox wasn't surprised that PSU ran so many quarterback draws with Michael Robinson.
"Kinda thought he would," he said. "But we didn't expect them to be able to run the ball so successfully right at us and get a lot yards."
Robinson struggled throwing the football. He finished just 7 of 21 for 69 yards, with two interceptions.
"I don't know what it is," Fox said. "For one, I think we had pretty good coverage, so you've got to give a little bit of credit there. It's hard to say. He's a scrambling quarterback, so you tend to throw on the run and you're not usually as accurate as you can be. He's a good player. I talked to him after the game and told him he's got a bright future ahead of him."
Fox was glad to see his protégé – Ashton Youboty – come down with a big first quarter interception.
"Yeah, Ashton, he's a playmaker," he said. "Today it seemed like they wanted to go at him all day and he stepped up every time and made a play. I was proud of him. I thought he played great and he's just continued to improve week in and week out."
The other big play was of course Tyler Everett's interception return for a touchdown.
"We knew they were going to run something to our side on that play," Fox said. "Thought they were either going to run the double slant, or maybe some quick outs or something. But, we knew something was coming, so Ty was really anticipating the play there. I don't know how he came up with that. It was a great play.
"The entire secondary played great today. We got a little banged up, but we did play pretty well."
The Buckeyes scored one offensive touchdown, one defensive touchdown and one special teams touchdown – something you don't see very often.
"I guess there's some balance there," Fox said with a laugh. "But, we want to get some more consistency on all phases because we didn't do everything perfect, like Coach (Jim Tressel) said. We did some things good, but we're not where we want to be. We're a much better team than we showed today – at least defensively."
The Buckeyes are now just one win away from being bowl eligible. Fox was asked if the Penn State win sets OSU up well for the stretch run of the season.
"I think so," he said. "We've been talking ever since that Iowa game – the disaster out in Iowa – that we have a five game season left. I think we're just trying to take it one game at a time and these last two games we've been successful and now we've just got to carry it on to the next three games. We've got the next two on the road which is going to be key. We've got to win a Big Ten game on the road."
With 4.3 speed in the 40, Fox used to hold the title of fastest man on the team. But no longer. That distinction goes to Ted Ginn.
"He's a lot younger than I am – I'm an old man," Fox said. "I'd have to get pretty stretched out for me to give him a run. He's fast. He definitely has a second gear. You can see in on that reverse when he split those defenders. He's amazing."
Fox said that the Buckeyes' defensive game plan was to simplify things and be assignment-sound. He says it's good when a defense can just run around, make plays and not think too much.
"Yeah, that's definitely important," he said. "I think the coaches… we had a lot of stuff in our packages prior to Iowa. I think we kind of went back to the drawing board and said, ‘OK, let's just be simple. Let's get back to fundamentals and just go into the game with a simple game plan and let our players make plays.'"
Unfortunatly for the Buckeyes, senior safety Rob "Chic" Harley went down with a season-ending injury. Ironically, it happened the same day his great uncle – the legendary Chic Harley – had his No. 47 jersey retired.
"That's horrible," Fox said. "Chic is one of my best buddies on the team, so I feel horrible for him man. I just told him to keep his head up. Especially today. His uncle got his number retired and everything."
Fox thinks the Buckeyes will be ready to go on the road next week at Michigan State.
"I think so," he said. "I think it will be a good change up now with a couple victories under our belt in the conference. So, I think we're ready. I think it will be important for us to get out there and have some success to help us play."
Fox isn't sure if the Buckeyes are improving at the rate they should be.
"It's hard to say," he said. "Defensively, we played better the last two weeks. Offensively, I think we finally need to get something going there. Get some first downs and helping us to stay off the field a little more, which is awesome. So, if we can just get some consistency going, we'll be fine."
Ohio State might be underdogs the next three weeks, but Fox doesn't really care.
"Well, I never really know when we're the underdog, to be honest with you," he said. "I mean, unless you read the Vegas odds, or line, or whatever. I go into every game expecting to win. So, in the past we've been successful, so that should give us some confidence going into Michigan State and hopefully we'll play well."
Fox had a quick recovery to the fractured arm he suffered in the Marshall game. He says he feels strong and the arm is not a problem.
"Feels great," he said. "It is 100 percent according to the last x-ray."