Just Another Day At The Office For Hawk

A.J. Hawk continues to cement his place as one of the all-time great linebackers at Ohio State. Hawk leads the Buckeyes with 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks this season and appears to be the runaway favorite for the Butkus Award. We caught up with Hawk following Ohio State's 31-6 win over Iowa Saturday.

Of all the attributes A.J. Hawk brings to the football field each Saturday, the most impressive might be his consistency.

Week after week, the same Hawk shows up. He makes all the big plays you would expect from an All-American. Roaming sideline-to-sideline; greeting ball carriers with jarring hits. But he's also a sure tackler and rarely makes a mental mistake.

"That's what football is all about, I think, is just being consistent in what you do and always doing it as hard as you can," Hawk said, fresh off Ohio State's 31-6 drubbing of Iowa on Saturday.

Hawk was a force all afternoon against the Hawkeyes, finishing with 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He now has a team-best 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks on the season.

To somewhat steal a quote from a former Harding halfback (who also played at Ohio State and wore the No. 13): They already have Hawk's name on the Butkus Award, he just needs to go pick it up.

But Hawk could care less about personal accolades. He just wants OSU to win an outright Big Ten championship – and possibly a national championship – and the Buckeyes took the first step with a thunderous stomp on Saturday.

No question Iowa was overrated entering the season. But the Hawkeyes are still a solid football team, especially offensively. For Ohio State to hold them to 137 total yards was beyond impressive.

When asked about his role in the dominating defensive performance, there was Hawk deflecting credit again.

"Today, you have to give tons of credit to all our defensive line," he said. "That's basically the reason we won I think is because they came out and just dominated their front the whole game. People always say that games are won in the trenches and I think our D-linemen did a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback and making the quarterback all comfortable all day. And stopping the run. So, our D-linemen I think are the ones you can thank for this game."

The Buckeyes came into this game extremely well prepared. For all the talk about OSU's offense being predictable, listen to what Hawk has to say about Iowa's offensive scheme:

"We had an idea of what they were going to do coming in," Hawk said. "You never know for sure, because they always change things, but I don't think we were surprised by too many things. You make little adjustments here and there with how they're trying to attack you."

And first-year defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has to get some of the credit for the way the defense played. Everyone will point to all the talent he has to work with – but Heacock called a great game. He prepared his players well, then pushed all the right buttons during the game.

"Coach Heacock, he's a great coach," Hawk said. "He comes out and he just knows what to do. Stays calm under pressure; he knows how to handle a game. If I was going to be a coach I would want to be like Coach Heacock and I don't know how he stays so cool under pressure and he knows what's going on. He has a lot of respect for his players and in return, we want to play well for him because we respect him so much."

Hawk felt the key to the Iowa game was stopping the run early. We've heard it so many times the last few years it's become a cliché, but when OSU's defense makes a team one-dimensional, the Buckeyes roll.

"Yeah, I think obviously we wanted to stop the run early," Hawk said. "They did have some success early this year running on people and we knew if they could run – with the combination of run, pass with (quarterback Drew) Tate – they're a tough team to stop. So, obviously our first goal was to stop the run and contain the quarterback. I think overall we did a pretty good job of that today."

Last week, OSU's players seemed fairly confident about the Iowa game. Not many outside of the football program expected a blowout, but Hawk wasn't surprised.

"Well, we feel going into every game that we have a good chance of doing that," he said. "And we feel like we should if we play like we want to. Today I think we did that – everyone did their own job and executed and tackled well. And when that happens, good things will happen on the field."

But he didn't expect to hold a team like Iowa to minus-nine rushing yards, did he?

"I guess not," he said. "But we just want to come out and like we always say, ‘Stop the run first,' and make a team one-dimensional. Today we did that and it made the passing game a lot easier for us."

The good news for Ohio State in the "style points count" world of college football is that the nation took notice of its 25-point victory over Iowa. Saturday evening, a headline on espn.com read: Buckeyes make huge statement.

But Hawk doesn't want everyone getting carried away after one big win.

"I don't know if you call it a statement game," he said. "The college football season is long and lots of things happen. But I think it was good for us to come out here and play well in our Big Ten opener against a great team like Iowa, just because we needed to come out and start off on the right foot."

From an OSU player's point of view, one of the most entertaining moments of the game was when Tate became so frustrated that he began chewing out his offensive linemen and receivers. His blood then reached a rapid boil when he angrily spiked the ball following a third quarter sack.

Hawk was asked if he got a little extra fired up when he saw some of Tate's antics.

"I guess so a little bit," he said. "But we know he's a competitor and he doesn't like getting a lot of pressure on him and getting sacked as many times as he did. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he's a great player. But yeah, I think we kind of feed off anything you can and when you see stuff like that as a defense you look forward to getting out there the next time."

One positive for Iowa is that its linebackers came as advertised. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter proved that they were the best tandem on the field, at least that's the opinion here, but Iowa's Chad Greenway (14 tackles) and Abdul Hodge (9 tackles) will be playing on Sundays next year, just like Hawk and Carpenter.

Knowing that Iowa also had great linebackers didn't add anything extra to the game for Hawk. He was just concerned about stopping the Hawkeye offense.

"I don't know if it's any extra incentive," he said. "I think the biggest incentive for us as a defense is what they did to us last year. They did pretty much whatever they wanted. But, as far worrying about what their linebackers did, no, we didn't really pay attention to much about what they did. I don't think we're competing back and forth."

But the always-classy Hawk did make sure to say something to Greenway after the game.

"A little bit," Hawk said. "I know Chad a little bit, so, yeah, I just told him, ‘Good game.' He played a good game and made a lot of tackles. I know he's a great player and he's going to play for a while. So, yeah, we said, ‘Hello,' and it was better this year being on my side of the ball, obviously, with the score in my favor."

If you really want to get a smile on Hawk's face, just mention Ohio State's offense. Was head coach Jim Tressel sandbagging the first few weeks, saving some plays for Iowa? Probably. But all Hawk knows is that the explosive offense everyone expected to see this season has finally arrived.

"Yeah, it's great to see our offense drive the ball like they did (Saturday)," Hawk said. "It keeps us off the field and keeps us rested and we had good field position all day. It was a fun game to be a part of, especially watching how well the offense did and how well they ran the ball."

The Buckeyes are off next Saturday, but will have to re-energize themselves for a night tilt at Penn State on Oct. 8. The Nittany Lions have not been overly impressive this season – despite their 4-0 record – but they will be a tough out at home.

"Coming off the bye week, it's going to be big game," Hawk said. "They're a great team this year and it's a tough place to play. The last time we played there they almost beat us and we're going to have to be ready."

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