Captain's Corner: Defense Sets The Tone

Jerry Rudzinski has his weekly look at the Buckeye gameday performance. Why was physical play the key this week, and why might what we have seen in the red zone not be such a bad thing? The captain talks about that and more.

Entering the San Diego State game, I felt the key for the Buckeyes was playing physical. Even with a special teams blunder, or a negative turnover ratio, or missed red zone opportunities, or the other traditional "keys to the game," SDSU was an opponent OSU should beat. Playing physical would create enough "three-and-outs" by the defense, and it would keep the time of possession in our favor with a sustained Buckeye running game. At the end of the day, the defense was physical, and OSU dominated the clock. The running game was adequate and the SDSU team, especially the offense, should be sore the early part of this week.

The defense will occasionally give up the big one. It is bound to happen. I would almost rather see a defense susceptible to a big play every now and then than I would see a defense that has an offense jam it down their throats for a 15-play drive. These other offenses give scholarships to really fast players. In addition, the coaches spend 365 days a year drawing plays on a chalkboard. It will happen.

We need to be concerned if a team like SDSU comes out and bullies OSU's front seven. We need to be concerned when the defense looks intimidated and worn down from bigger, stronger bodies shoving them around. That was not at all the case on Saturday. We might question why that touchdown took place on the first play of the game, but I think it might have been coincidence actually. That could happen halfway through the third quarter. That is why we practice and recruit offense as well as defense. That is one for SDSU.

Anyone who asks "What does Troy do that Justin doesn't do?" had their question answered on the first OSU touchdown. A 14-yard red zone rush for Smith showed us why they tagged him "Athlete" instead of "Quarterback" during the recruiting process. Smith is shifty and often times creative. His vision of the passing game and physical dimensions don't always add up to other All-American quarterbacks we've seen in college football, but he can many times out-athlete some very athletic defenses. It is what it is. He is an athlete playing quarterback. Troy Smith or Jim Tressel don't need to apologize for that. If the Buckeyes had a healthy secondary helping him in the first half of that Purdue game last year, Smith would probably be undefeated as a starting quarterback. He had some blunders yesterday, but that is expected considering he had only played half a ball game since last November. His vision, rhythm, and control of the offense should improve week by week.

Well, the Buckeye fan base certainly voiced their opinion on what is needed in the red zone after the loss to Texas. Saturday, the coaches revealed their opinion on what needs to happen in the red zone – establish a running game. A blend of option, quarterback keepers, and traditional I formation rushing plays will allow OSU to go after teams. So the Buckeyes play on a short, tightened field when they cross the 20. Good. They can get in a fight on the line of scrimmage in a long or short field. They can pound people with a tightened or wide-open field. Red zone is less about play-calling and more about mindset. Defensive coaches always preached to me and our defense about mindset near the goal line. Offensive coaches are allowed to do the same. OSU will need to spread things out as the Big Ten approaches, but that is the easy part. The hard part is laying the foundation of an aggressive mindset inside the red zone.

Iowa will keep us busy this week in practice. Tate was 15 of 18 for 247 yards last week. Iowa didn't beat us last year. They owned us. I wouldn't be surprised if the coaches called some practices off a few minutes early to create more time to watch the game film from last year. Unlike SDSU, playing physical in the Big Ten opener won't be enough. Without it, we will be blown out. However, to begin 1-0 in league play, the Buckeyes need to play physical and also carry out the traditional "keys to the game."

Buckeye Leaves…

Santonio Holmes – He is teaching teams that kicking away from Ted Ginn Jr. might not be that good of an idea. In addition, I love watching wide receivers that take ownership of spacing, the defensive backfield, their route running, and the ball once it is put in the air. He is special.

Josh Huston – Kickoffs, field goals, and extra points. "Huuuuuuuuuuu." I never thought I'd see a kicker be Team MVP like last year. If it weren't for #47, we might have another kicker MVP through three games.

Mike Kudla – Coach Heacock is giving a lot of credit to the defensive line for their performance the last 59:49 of the game. Kudla seemed to spark things. He was like the mosquito that wouldn't go away for that SDSU offense. Motor and effort earn a Buckeye Leaf in my book.

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