OSU's Aggressive Defense Stymies Miami

Ohio State's defensive players felt that they played too passive at times last season. If Saturday's win over Miami is any indication, those days are over. The Buckeyes blitzed early and often and pressured Miami quarterback Josh Betts all afternoon. We have reaction from OSU's A.J. Hawk, Nate Salley and Bobby Carpenter.

Throughout preseason camp, Ohio State's coaches and players said that the defense would be an aggressive, blitzing unit.

In Saturday's 34-14 win over Miami University in the season opener, we found out they weren't joking.

The Buckeyes held the RedHawks to 298 yards of total offense (250 passing, 48 rushing) and racked up five sacks for minus-41 yards.

Ohio State mixed up its blitz packages throughout the game – including corner blitzes, safety blitzes, everything you can think of. Miami quarterback Josh Betts seemed confused for the first three quarters and took several big hits.

"You need to pressure," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "That's the thing I heard (defensive coordinator Jim) Heacock talking about all summer long and these guys put pressure on the quarterback. (Betts is) a good one. He has excellent receivers. When you're getting sacked and rushed like our people did to them, it's going to be tough to score points."

Ohio State junior safety Donte Whitner turned in the play of the day for OSU's defense when he returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:21 left in the first half. It gave the Bucks a commanding 20-0 lead.

"There's many times in a game where you can break the spirit a little bit and it was only a 13-0 game," Tressel said. "They hadn't scored, they hadn't moved it, but they had hope because of the score. All of a sudden when the score was 20, there's a little different emotion. So, that play was huge."

Ohio State built its lead to 34-0 in the second half. Miami scored 14 points in the last 2:30 of the game, making the score somewhat respectable.

Betts finished 24 of 44 for 250 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

The RedHawks' talented receivers came as advertised. Martin Nance had nine receptions for 106 yards and the slippery Ryne Robinson had eight catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Senior linebacker A.J. Hawk led OSU's defense with 10 tackles (5 solo) including one sack.

Hawk was asked if all the blitzing was a "new look" from OSU's defense.

"I don't know if you call it a new look, but at certain points in certain games you are going to have to attack against a team and that's what we're going to do," he said. "When we need to, we will. And we'll back off when we have to."

Hawk wasn't quite satisfied with the performance. He felt the defense could have played better.

"Well, we didn't get a shutout," he said. "We would have loved to have a shutout obviously. I think as a whole we didn't play as well as we should have, but I think we got a lot of things done today. Obviously we have a lot of confidence going into Texas next week. We got most of the stuff done that we wanted to. We wanted to make sure we stopped the run early and made them one-dimensional and we wanted to affect the quarterback and I think we did."

Shane Mongomery was in his first game as Miami's head coach. But he was the RedHawks' offensive coordinator the past four seasons and OSU knew what to expect from MU's offense.

"We had a good feel for what they were going to do," OSU senior safety Nate Salley said. "I don't think they threw anything new at us."

With all of the blitzing from OSU, it's safe to say that the "Silver Bullets" are back.

"Most definitely," Salley said. "We want to fly around and hit people and have a lot of fun and I believe we did a good job of that today."

But even Salley wasn't expecting so many corner and safety blitzes.

"Yeah, I think we did that today more than we ever have," he said. "But it's a lot of fun. I know Donte is loving it, you know, running down and getting to blitz a lot. We have a lot of fun just flying around."

Ohio State senior linebacker Bobby Carpenter was also surprised at the amount of blitzes that OSU threw at Miami. He knew OSU would blitz, just not this much.

"Coach Heacock, that's all he's been saying," Carpenter said. "That's what he talks about and we've been blitzing a lot in practice. So, we knew that we were definitely going to go out there and get after the quarterback a lot. I didn't know that it was going to be this much, but Coach Heacock said that is what we were going to be known for and I think we did a pretty good job of it."

The players enjoy using an aggressive brand of defense.

"Oh yeah, I don't know any defensive player that doesn't like to blitz," Carpenter said. "You put your corners out there one-on-one and give them an opportunity to showcase what they do best, which is cover man-to-man. We did a pretty good job of that today."

Ohio State's defense does not set goals for sacks and tackles-for-loss. The unit just wants to put a hurting on the opposing quarterback each week.

"We want to get a lot of turnovers and affect the quarterback," Carpenter said. "Every player on defense has a sign in his locker that says, ‘We must affect the quarterback.' And we have pictures up of every quarterback we're going to face this year. So, any way we can affect them, that's definitely our goal, whether it's him throwing bad passes, throwing interceptions, fumbling the ball, us getting sacks. Whatever we do, we want to make sure that he feels it after the game and we're going to try and do that every week."

Carpenter, Whitner, Mike Kudla and Anthony Schlegel all collected sacks (in addition to Hawk).

Junior cornerback Ashton Youboty played well with eight tackles (6 solo) and a pass break-up.

Junior defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock also turned in his usual solid performance. His game is not about statistics (he had four tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss against Miami) but he gets outstanding push and runs down plays like a linebacker.

Overall, Tressel was pleased with what he saw from his defensive troops.

"I thought the defensive unit did a great job," he said. "They created the play that made the difference, which was the interception for the touchdown. I thought (Heacock) handled it great and the results speak for themselves. And, again, the only thing I'm disappointed about is that we didn't keep it as a shutout."

The game marked the debut for several Buckeye defenders, including: true freshman cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, redshirt freshman cornerback Brandon Underwood, true freshman safety Jamario O'Neal, true freshman linebacker James Laurinaitis, redshirt freshman defensive end Alex Barrow, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Nader Abdallah, redshirt freshman safety Nick Patterson, and junior linebacker John Kerr.

Sophomore strong safety Curt Lukens also saw extended action in the second half (he played in four games last season before missing the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury).

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