Ohio State Defense Rights Itself

After giving up a boatload of yards at Minnesota, the Buckeye defense looked to be back in form against Illinois on Saturday. The defense harassed quarterback Tim Brasic all day and gave up very little to the struggling Illini. After the game, Quinn Pitcock and Bobby Carpenter talked about the performance of the defense against Illinois.

Once again, all is right with the world. One week after suffering a humiliating performance in Minnesota against the Golden Gophers, the Ohio State defense returned to normal.

The Buckeyes gave up 398 yards passing and over 500 total yards to Minnesota in a game the offense picked up the slack for a 45-31 win. Against Illinois, however, the offense stuck around and the defense returned to its normal form in a 40-2 blowout.

"Last week we didn't play as well as we should," linebacker A.J. Hawk said after the game. "This week, we wanted to stay off the field a little longer and come out and make some plays and do a better job."

The two points were a result of a bad snap on an extra point that was picked up and returned 75 yards by Illinois' Kevin Mitchell. If not for that, Ohio State would have preserved its' first shutout of the season while only giving up 160 yards of total offense to the Illini.

The performance was a testament to the Ohio State pass rush, which all day long got after Illinois QB Tim Brasic. The Buckeyes finished with five sacks of Brasic, while allowing him just 92 yards.

"One of the number one things we always talk about is pressuring the quarterback," Pitcock said. "We feel like we really got in his mind and he wasn't sure who might come in after him."

For Illinois, protection has been a major issue all season. 

The Illini entered the game giving up a Big Ten worst 23 sacks, while Ohio State led the Big Ten with 31 sacks on the season. Along with the pass rush, it started up front for the Buckeyes on the run as well.

For the entire game, Ohio State allowed just 68 yards rushing, and nearly half of that (32 yards) came on a single carry by E.B. Halsey in the first half. It was a return to form for a defense that allowed over 100 yards in the first half to Minnesota's Laurence Maroney.

In the process of shutting down the maligned Illinois offense, Ohio State was able to substitute for a lot of players and get some much-needed rest. Apparently, the bumps and bruises of a long season have begun to mount.

"I've been banged up a little bit, so I was in and out," said linebacker Bobby Carpenter. "We've got some guys who were rolling in and out. We're just trying to keep everyone healthy."

Carpenter, who wouldn't say what his injury was, said it wouldn't be something that would cause him to miss any time

Ohio State is now back up to third in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 76 yards a game. The Buckeyes are No. 7 nationally in total defense, allowing 280 yards a contest.

The defense will need to show up again this Saturday as the prolific Northwestern Wildcats invade Columbus, having one of their best seasons in school history. 

But Illinois was not all fun and games. 

Despite being held to 160 yards, Carpenter and the Ohio State defense had high praise for Brasic, who they say was one of the toughest guys to tackle this season.

"I think you put him on any other team, and he might be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten," he said of Brasic. "Scrambling around, making plays like he did – he's a heck of a player."

Pitcock echoed those sentiments.

"He's really good, and I think he was often looking to run more than pass," he said. "They (Illinois) tried using the rush to their advantage and turn a negative into a positive. It's almost like they knew they couldn't stop the pass rush, so they tried to use that to their advantage so he could run."

Although no one was making a big deal out of it, there was definitely a pride issue on the line against Illinois. After giving up 31 points and over 500 yards to Minnesota, the Buckeye defense wanted to come out with a lot of intensity.

Meanwhile, motivation will be a big factor for other reasons this week.

Last year, Northwestern beat Ohio State in overtime in Evanston. It was the first time in many years the Wildcats had beat Ohio State, and it was also the first of a 3-game losing streak for the Buckeyes.

Just like earlier in the season, when Ohio State played the revenge card against Iowa, the players expect last season's defeat to play a part in their preparation.

"I think without a doubt it's going to be something like that," Pitcock admitted. "It's definitely going to be a motivation thing going into this game."

The Illinois game was a return to basics for the Buckeyes and their defense. While the offense has been putting points on the board in bunches, the defense wants to continue stifling opponents as they have done for most of the season.

Against Northwestern and Michigan, that will be no easy task. 

"We saw a little bit of Northwestern up on the screen, they will be a challenge for us as they have a high-scoring offense," Pitcock explained. "We did not play to our capability last year. We will have to work hard to be prepared for them." 

But Saturday, there was no questioning Ohio State's defense showed up to play.

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