Defense wins championships! But it sure helps if they can get a little bit of help from its offense.
Ohio State managed to put up 10 points on the board in the first half against Penn State but that was it for the game. And as a result, all of the hopes and dreams for their season were all but shattered in one fell swoop.
"We were trying to make a play on the defensive side of the ball," said Donte Whitner. "We knew that we would probably have to make a touchdown or get a key interception to give the offense a short field. But that didn't happen."
Ohio State had 130 total yards at halftime against a very good Penn State defense and finished the game with 230 total yards of offense. On the other hand, the OSU defense gave up 121 yards of offense at the half and allowed Penn State just 195 yards of total offense in the game.
"We weren't down on the offense at all out there. We just kept thinking good thoughts," Whitner said. "We weren't down on the offense. We really thought that they would come through and score some points for us."
The interception and the 36-yard return to the OSU 2-yard line by Calvin Lowry of Penn State was cited more than once as being the big difference in the game in the visiting media room. It was one of two big turnovers in the game by the Buckeyes.
"We were talking about turnovers the whole game and we needed to get a couple and we didn't," said A.J. Hawk. "When you lose the turnover margin it's hard to win the game and we didn't get our offense the ball in the right field position tonight."
The OSU offense had two drives in the game over 10 plays and those drives, respectively, resulted in a first-quarter field goal and a second-quarter touchdown right before the intermission.
"I think the offense did fine," Hawk said. "Our offense had a lot of great drives today and that helps us out as a defense, getting us off the field."
Ohio State's longest drives in the second half were 9 plays for 28 yards, 7 plays for 23 yards, 5 plays for 19 yards and the last drive that resulted in Troy Smith's fumble went for 5 plays and 37 yards. All of the remaining five drives in the game were three-plays-and-out.
"They got 10 points for us and we feel like, going into a game, if you give us three points that's all we need," Hawk said. "We feel like we need to come out and play well and tonight we didn't stop them like we needed to."
It's really hard to play much better than the OSU defense did from the middle of the second quarter on in an adverse environment like they were in at Penn State.
"We obviously don't feel good about what we did, we didn't stop them when we needed to," Hawk said. "But we're going to have to get back and make sure we watch this film and see what happened exactly and how they attacked us because a lot of times it wasn't anything fancy, they would just ran the ball at us and do it well. And we didn't tackle well, we didn't do what we needed to do and that's our job, to tackle, so we have to make sure we get back to work this week."
From an offensive standpoint, it was Penn State who looked liked they had the bye week coming into the game.
"They did a good job of getting the ball off quick and recognizing our zone pressures when they were coming," Bobby Carpenter said. "And my hat's off to (Michael Robinson) he made some great plays. There were times that we had pressure in his face and he pulled the ball down and ran and he got away from us, and other times he stood in there and we'd give him a hit but he would throw the ball and deliver it on target."
The defense thought they could force Robinson into critical turnovers.
"We were trying to and it was tough," Carpenter said. "When you blitz you give things up and they were doing a good job of picking up our zone pressures and throwing quick to our boundary and we knew that we couldn't allow them to do that. So we had to try to get pressure with our front four and they did a good job of blocking it out."
But it came down to blocking and tackling for the most part.
"People talked about all of their freshman receivers but we knew there was going to be a battle up front and the team that ran the ball the best was going to win the game," Carpenter said. "They ran it on us a little bit in the first half and that's something that we can't have happen.
"They really weren't hurting us that much with the passing game. It was their running game. They were running the ball on us a little bit and that was opening up the pass. So we had to make a commitment to stop the run in the second half and I think we did it and they didn't want to make any mistakes."
A loss is a loss but Nate Salley felt good about the effort they gave on defense.
"I can't say that I'm happy because we lost but I believe we did a pretty good job," he said. "I believe we went out there and played hard, everybody played with a lot of effort and a lot of heart and that's all that you can really ask for. There were some plays that we definitely could have made or should have made but that didn't happen, so we just have to try our best to keep moving forward and the seniors have to try our best to continue leading this team."
Whitner summed up the disappointing defeat about as succinctly as possible.
"This loss hurts but we're not going to dwell on this loss," he said. "We're going to come out next week and we're going to play a good football game. We're going to work hard all week and we're going to play a good football game."
The words came out right but you could hear the disappointment in the voices.
"It's really tough. When you come into a season and what we expected to do and where we expected to go, it's tough losing a game like this," Hawk said. "But that's the thing, we're not 15 or 16 years old and we can come back and regroup and make sure we play well. There's still a long season and we're playing a great Michigan State team next week that we have to get ready for, so we can't sit back and worry about what happened this game. We have to make sure we get better."
Penn State is now the only team without a loss in the Big Ten and Ohio State no longer controls their own destiny.
"We wanted to be outright Big Ten champions and hopefully get a national championship, and two losses kind of puts us out of the national championship picture," Carpenter said. "We have to play every week now hoping that Penn State gets a loss and we can win out."
Working hard and staying positive is really the only productive alternative for this team at this time.
"Our goal definitely was to win a national championship but we still have a great chance to be Big Ten champs and we're just going to try move forward and be as positive as possible right now," Salley said. "We can't put our heads down and start to be negative and point fingers or anything like that. We have to try our best to stay optimistic and keep moving forward because that's the only way we can continue to win games."
The season is what it is now.
"If I was going to write a script for a perfect season for the seniors, this isn't how it would be," Carpenter said. "But the reality of it is that we're a 3-2 team right now and we're 1-1 in the Big Ten but we're still not out of the Big Ten title race. Every team but Penn State has a loss in the Big Ten so we're going to have to go out and battle week in and week out, focus on each game and try to win each one."