Downright Defensive: Buckeyes In Regroup Mode

We provide comments from various Ohio State coaches and defensive players on last week's game at Minnesota as well as what lies ahead today with Illinois (3:30 p.m., ESPN). We have comments on Donte Whitner's play, giving up big plays and how they think the Fighting Illini (and future opponents) will try and attack OSU.

The Ohio State defense took one on the chin in last Saturday's 45-31 win at Minnesota.

The Buckeyes surrendered 578 yards of total offense and still won the game comfortably by two touchdowns. Media members had a chance this week to discuss that showing as well as this Saturday's game with Illinois (3:30 p.m., ESPN) with members of the coaching staff and the defense.

Now comes Illinois, which is 10th in the Big Ten in total offense (379.5 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (20.1 points per game). The Illini are led by junior quarterback Tim Brasic, who is fourth in the Big Ten in total offense at 244.4 yards per game.

Here are some comments from OSU coaches and players on the defense and the challenge presented by the Illini:

Jim Tressel, head coach

* On Donte Whitner earning OSU's defensive player of the week honors at Minnesota -- "Donte Whitner played a very physical game. I think the way that he came up and tackled and being in the right place most all of the time, grade winning performance, and I think there's a cumulative effect when there's hard hitting in the secondary. Some of those five yard gains turn into two yard gains later in the game, and as the day unfolded, our defense was relentless, which we talked about needed to be on the road. No matter what's going on, just keep smacking people, and Donte Whitner led the charge from that standpoint and was our defensive player of the game."

* On Minnesota's big plays -- You know, that was a different situation there. Eight of those plays were 297 yards. I've never seen that happen. To Minnesota's credit, they jumped up and caught some balls, made some plays. The thing I liked best about the whole scenario was that our guys weren't going to sit and sulk about that, they were going to keep playing and keep pounding. As the second half unfolded, I don't know how many yards they rushed for in the second half, but it wasn't very many. And take away that last 80-yard drive, we -- we really dominated the second half with our defense, but we can not afford to have eight plays like that. That's for sure."

* On CB Ashton Youboty losing confidence -- "I don't worry about that. You don't have to say anything to him. He has a lot of pride in his performance and he has a deep commitment to what he wants to do for his unit and his team, and no one feels worse when you end up a play and two bodies end up on the ground and the other one has the ball. The guy without the ball feels bad, whether it's our receiver or our DB, and I don't worry about his confidence. He's a competitor."

* On whether Youboty was injured -- "I don't know if he's a hundred percent, but he's tough. He played the run -- they put a lot of balls out in his area and he played it. And so -- I don't know that I'd say he was a hundred percent but I don't know who is, you know, at this stage of the season. If you you've been playing as many plays as Ashton and Quinn and Donte and Santonio and the rest. Everyone's a little sore."

Donte Whitner, strong safety

* On coming off a tough showing like Minnesota -- "I would say we do have a chip on our shoulder. If you take away those six or eight big plays for 280-plus yards, they have 200-something yards offense. We have to do what we do. Ashton had a tough game outside. It could have gone 50-50 – either he gets it or the receiver gets it. They made some good plays. He's going to come out and play hard this week."

* On Youboty's confidence and what he learned -- "There is no confidence issue with him. Even in the game, when it happened … to be a DB, you have to have a short memory. Ashton has a short memory and he's a good player. Ashton learned that you can't take things for granted. In practice, you have to go up for every ball like it was a game. Sometimes in practice you don't go up for a ball and you blow it off and say, ‘I'll get it in the game.' There's no more of that. We have three games left.

"Teams are looking at that game from last week and saying, ‘We can attack him.' It's time for him to step up now. He does have a target right now. But what teams don't know is that Ashton is a good player. If teams test him like that and he does what he is supposed to do, the ball should be going the other way."

* On DE Mike Kudla's speed to track down Minnesota's Laurence Maroney on a key fourth-down stop -- "It was big. I've seen him in practice and winter conditioning and spring ball. I wasn't surprised. He's fast. He came in here and played linebacker. He's one of the strongest guys on the team. When I see him do something like that, it's amazing but I've seen it before."

* On freshman CB Malcolm Jenkins running down Maroney on a 52-yard run, saving a touchdown at least for a few plays -- "Nobody really knows how fast Malcolm is because he hasn't been timed here. That's not the first time he did that. He did that against Texas, too. We're excited to see how fast he is. I'd say he runs a 4.4. I know he's fast. I know Maroney is fast. You watch him on film and not many people have caught him from behind."

* On containing Brasic -- "We have to keep him inside the pocket and not let him get outside and run the football. That's where he can hurt you. We have to also stop the option."

Quinn Pitcock, DT

* On improved defensive line play -- "I do think we are getting a lot better push this year than last year. We are letting loose a little bit more. I think guys understand the defense better. They understand their responsibilities more."

* On losing the yardage battle but winning the game -- "Yeah, we won and we're happy. Whatever you can do to win is great. It was the second most yards ever against Ohio State, but we'll take it because we won. At the same time, we'll look at stopping the big plays. If we had stopped the big plays, we probably would have met our goals.

"They knew we were going to try and stop the run. We did pretty well at that except for that 52-yarder. They max protected and we had man coverage on. They went deep and it was over everybody. It ended up just being Ashton out there. It was a good scheme on their part."

* On failing to sack Minnesota Bryan Cupito, who threw for 396 yards -- "It is a tough situation. No matter what team we play, we want to stop the run first. With this team, we especially wanted to stop the run first. Then, we wanted to stop the pass. We probably didn't react as well to the pass. It was one of those tough situations. It depends who we're playing."

* On registering sacks -- "We're the first line of defense. We have to stop the run and affect the quarterback. We know we have to affect the quarterback the next few weeks. That will help us out."

* On playing for first-year defensive coordinator Jim Heacock -- "It makes it exciting. From his years of coaching, I can tell he knows what he is doing and he definitely enjoys the game."

Marcus Green, DT

* On finishing the season strong -- "I want to make these last two games the best two games I've ever played. That goes for the defense and the whole team. We want to go out of here on a winning note."

* His general comments on Illinois -- "From what I've seen on tape, last week they had 28 first downs against Wisconsin. They have a pretty good offense. I haven't had a chance to watch their defense. From what I've seen on tape, they're pretty good. I'm not taking them lightly and I don't think anybody on our team is."

* On Minnesota's big plays -- "It wasn't pretty. We felt like we missed a lot of opportunities to stop the run. If people had just been in the right gaps, we think we could have stopped some of those big runs and big passes. But Minnesota has a great offense and a great scheme and they played it really well.

"There were mistakes we made that are really uncharacteristic of what we do. If we eliminate those, I think we'll be OK."

* More on the Illini -- "They've got my attention. They couldn't quite get the ball in the end zone (against Wisconsin). I think they're pretty good at what they do. They are similar to Indiana. They like to throw the ball around and get their running backs involved."

A.J. Hawk, OLB

* His take on the Minnesota game -- "Give Minnesota credit. They have a great offense. Their quarterback played well and they hit a few deep balls on us. We were trying to load the box and that puts a lot of pressure on the guys on the back end. We're over that game."

* On OSU pulling out the win -- "That's why it's a team game. Our offense came out and made big plays the whole game. We did have a few stops like the Kudla tackle and Nate Salley forcing the fumble."

* On Illinois -- "You watch them on film and they come out and they're hanging with teams for a while. They throw so many things at you. That makes it tough for us. They don't focus on one thing. They could run the triple option and they could also spread you out and throw. We have to prepare for everything.

"I think their quarterback has played well. They rotate three running backs who can all play and they have good wideouts. It's just little things here and there that have hurt them. But we know we will get everyone's best shot and it will be a tough game."

* On not looking past Illinois, which is winless in Big Ten play -- "The maturity of this team and the experience we have, we know we can't take them lightly. We've gone into games where we have been favored and lost. Guys like us have been around that. We let the younger guys know how that feels. Plus, we're excited to be back at home after two straight road games.

"It was a battle last week. We want to come back and prove we can get this done, especially for our fans here in Columbus."

* On how Heacock keeps the defense hungry -- "Coach Heacock, as our coordinator, does a good job in keeping us grounded. He says if we don't come out and have a good day tomorrow we're going to have problems. That keeps us working hard every day."

* On Pitcock and the play of the defensive line -- "Quinn is a guy that deserves a lot more credit than he gets. The whole D-line is like that. They do so much dirty work for us linebackers. They can never get enough credit. Quinn had a great game last week. When he does his job, it makes our defense look good. The average fan is not going to notice him. We appreciate him a lot."

* On getting back to pressuring the quarterback -- "We need to affect the quarterback to be successful as a defense. Last week, it was tough. They were max protecting and that makes it tough on our front seven to get pressure on them. It will be no different this week. We know they like to spread it out and throw the ball. They can also run it when they want to.

"But that will be huge these last three weeks getting pressure on the quarterback."

Luke Fickell, co-defensive coordinator

* On what was learned at Minnesota -- "It's a great humbling experience, I hope. We have to shore things up and play better. We just hope that you learn from those kind of things and move on. You strive and you want to be a great defense and you talk about not giving up big plays. You can't be a great defense if you give up big plays."

* On adjustments OSU made in the second half against UM -- "We all like to think we do something special, but it all comes down to those guys. We have good players to put in the situation. You get them motivated and get them running. That was the biggest difference between the first half and the second half. We relaxed, we gathered ourselves and we started playing a lot faster."

* On Illinois -- "They do a lot of different things. They do a great job of checking to the sideline. If you're in one thing, they'll get out of it. They are hurry-up. They make you prepare to stop everything. We have good players we have to give them the opportunity to run around and play fast.

"You can watch some of those games and they do some really good things. They have some good players and they have a good system. There are still things those kids are learning, but at any given time they can move the ball.

"They run the option. They have the double wing and look like Air Force. Then, they'll spread it out like Michigan State. They can hang their hat on their quarterback and a lot of the things he has done to make plays with his feet and his arm. I think that's really how they go."

* On whether Jenkins will start at corner -- "I think Malcolm will still be the starter, but we need to get Tyler (Everett) back in there and do some things with him. This will create some competition and a chance for those guys to sub for each other."

* On whether teams will try and throw deep on OSU -- "(Illinois has) a quarterback who can throw it and they have some receivers. Everybody has a plan to take shots, but if you stop them then they'll stop doing it. You have to be sound."

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