OSU vs. NIU: Defensive Notebook

The spotlight was on the young and inexperienced OSU defense in Saturday's game against Northern Illinois. Kyle Lamb checks in with some notes and quotes from the defensive side of the ball and their thoughts on the outcome.

On Saturday, the biggest question marks surrounding the 2006 Ohio State football team was the defense and the need for replacing nine starters lost to early NFL entry and graduation.

Heading to Austin, Texas for a showdown with the Texas Longhorns this weekend, there might still be many lingering questions. But folks got their first glimpse at a new defense, which featured nine new starters.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel pointed out that he was happy about limiting Northern Illinois below the team goal of 14 points given up. He said making a grade would be tough because of how many players were rotated in and before watching film, but he seemed pleased with the performance despite some flaws – such as giving up 171 yards rushing to tailback Garrett Wolfe.

"We grade so many different things before we assign a total grade, but as David mentioned, the effort was good and if the huddle dynamics were good, no one was panicked and no one had those big saucer eyes and all that, only these guys can evaluate that, then I'd say the grade was good," Tressel said. "Now, we'll watch the film and have plenty to talk about, I'm sure."

As a team, Ohio State gave up 151 yards rushing on Saturday. In 2005, with the exception of 182 yards given up to Minnesota, 117 yards by Penn State was the most allowed by Ohio State. Most impressively, in 3 games against Big Ten opponents since last year, Wolfe is averaging 191 yards rushing.

"I think he's a great running back," added Quinn Pitcock, "as I watched him on film and saw him firsthand here, very fast. He has great vision. He sees the opening and takes off.

"I wish him the best of luck with the Heisman race, but we've still got my buddy here next to me (glancing to his right at Troy Smith) I'm wishing for," Pitcock said.

The 192 yards passing by Northern Illinois was lower than the season average of 208 yards given up by Ohio State in 2005.

* A total of 19 different players logged at least a half a tackle on defense Saturday. Tressel was happy to get so many guys meaningful playing time.

"You know, it was so hard to keep track of who was in because we played so many guys, which I think was a good thing," he said. "That was one of the real good things about today. We got a lot of guys to play against a good offense and great back."

* When junior linebacker Larry Grant intercepted a Phil Horvath pass inside the 10-yard line in the first quarter, and returned it 49 yards, his teammates sarcastically lauded him for running out of gas.

It appeared someone tied a ton of bricks to Grant's back by the time he got to the 45-yard line, before getting tackled by tailback Justin Anderson.

"I guess Larry was tired from running down a kick or something, but he just kind of ran out of gas," said linebacker James Laurinaitis. "That's his 4.5 speed right there."

The play even prompted a good-natured ribbing from Tressel.

"I'm sure some of the guys are going to be on Larry for running out of gas there," he said. "I'm not sure who caught him, but I thought it was the left tackle."

* Wolfe's 171 yards made him the first opposing running back to gain at least 100 yards against Ohio State since October 29, 2005 when Minnesota's Laurence Maroney gained 127 yards against the Buckeyes.

Wisconsin's Anthony Davis was the last opposing player to log over 100 yards rushing against Ohio State at home. Davis gained 168 yards on 39 carries on October 9, 2004. In the past five seasons, Wolfe is only the third back to accomplish the feat in Ohio Stadium.

"Yeah, just to kind of echo what Quinn said, he's an amazing tailback, they have a great scheme for him and they know how to give him the ball where he can make plays, a couple swing passes, a couple good runs, he gets out there behind those pullers," defensive tackle David Patterson said. "I think he's a great running back and I think it was really good for our defense to go against such a great player early on in the season."

* Defensive end Vernon Gholston, linebackers John Kerr and Marcus Freeman, cornerback Antonio Smith and safety Nick Patterson were all starting for the first time in their careers on Saturday.

"I think as a whole we came out and ran to the ball well," said Laurinaitis. "Those guys that are new and getting their feet wet came out and played pretty well."

"We saw a lot of young guys get in there and a lot of 2's down through 3's get in there," added defensive end Jay Richardson. "What you don't want to see is a drop-off. When the younger guys come in there, you don't want a drop-off and production out of talent and you didn't."

* Gholston's two sacks on Saturday were the first two of his career. He has had a reputation for being disruptive, but injuries had slowed him through much of his career.

"Any time you can get away from beating up on each other and get some new opponents, it's a good thing," said Gholston.

Gholston talked about the defense. He was asked if the game against Northern Illinois showed that perhaps they wouldn't have much of a drop-off this year.

"We've been trying to tell people that all along," he said.




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\r\n \r\n","mobileBody":"On Saturday, the biggest question marks surrounding the 2006 Ohio State football team was the defense and the need for replacing nine starters lost to early NFL entry and graduation.

Heading to Austin, Texas for a showdown with the Texas Longhorns this weekend, there might still be many lingering questions. But folks got their first glimpse at a new defense, which featured nine new starters.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel pointed out that he was happy about limiting Northern Illinois below the team goal of 14 points given up. He said making a grade would be tough because of how many players were rotated in and before watching film, but he seemed pleased with the performance despite some flaws – such as giving up 171 yards rushing to tailback Garrett Wolfe.

\"We grade so many different things before we assign a total grade, but as David mentioned, the effort was good and if the huddle dynamics were good, no one was panicked and no one had those big saucer eyes and all that, only these guys can evaluate that, then I'd say the grade was good,\" Tressel said. \"Now, we'll watch the film and have plenty to talk about, I'm sure.\"

As a team, Ohio State gave up 151 yards rushing on Saturday. In 2005, with the exception of 182 yards given up to Minnesota, 117 yards by Penn State was the most allowed by Ohio State. Most impressively, in 3 games against Big Ten opponents since last year, Wolfe is averaging 191 yards rushing.

\"I think he's a great running back,\" added Quinn Pitcock, \"as I watched him on film and saw him firsthand here, very fast. He has great vision. He sees the opening and takes off.

\"I wish him the best of luck with the Heisman race, but we've still got my buddy here next to me (glancing to his right at Troy Smith) I'm wishing for,\" Pitcock said.

The 192 yards passing by Northern Illinois was lower than the season average of 208 yards given up by Ohio State in 2005.

* A total of 19 different players logged at least a half a tackle on defense Saturday. Tressel was happy to get so many guys meaningful playing time.

\"You know, it was so hard to keep track of who was in because we played so many guys, which I think was a good thing,\" he said. \"That was one of the real good things about today. We got a lot of guys to play against a good offense and great back.\"

* When junior linebacker Larry Grant intercepted a Phil Horvath pass inside the 10-yard line in the first quarter, and returned it 49 yards, his teammates sarcastically lauded him for running out of gas.

It appeared someone tied a ton of bricks to Grant's back by the time he got to the 45-yard line, before getting tackled by tailback Justin Anderson.

\"I guess Larry was tired from running down a kick or something, but he just kind of ran out of gas,\" said linebacker James Laurinaitis. \"That's his 4.5 speed right there.\"

The play even prompted a good-natured ribbing from Tressel.

\"I'm sure some of the guys are going to be on Larry for running out of gas there,\" he said. \"I'm not sure who caught him, but I thought it was the left tackle.\"

* Wolfe's 171 yards made him the first opposing running back to gain at least 100 yards against Ohio State since October 29, 2005 when Minnesota's Laurence Maroney gained 127 yards against the Buckeyes.

Wisconsin's Anthony Davis was the last opposing player to log over 100 yards rushing against Ohio State at home. Davis gained 168 yards on 39 carries on October 9, 2004. In the past five seasons, Wolfe is only the third back to accomplish the feat in Ohio Stadium.

\"Yeah, just to kind of echo what Quinn said, he's an amazing tailback, they have a great scheme for him and they know how to give him the ball where he can make plays, a couple swing passes, a couple good runs, he gets out there behind those pullers,\" defensive tackle David Patterson said. \"I think he's a great running back and I think it was really good for our defense to go against such a great player early on in the season.\"

* Defensive end Vernon Gholston, linebackers John Kerr and Marcus Freeman, cornerback Antonio Smith and safety Nick Patterson were all starting for the first time in their careers on Saturday.

\"I think as a whole we came out and ran to the ball well,\" said Laurinaitis. \"Those guys that are new and getting their feet wet came out and played pretty well.\"

\"We saw a lot of young guys get in there and a lot of 2's down through 3's get in there,\" added defensive end Jay Richardson. \"What you don't want to see is a drop-off. When the younger guys come in there, you don't want a drop-off and production out of talent and you didn't.\"

* Gholston's two sacks on Saturday were the first two of his career. He has had a reputation for being disruptive, but injuries had slowed him through much of his career.

\"Any time you can get away from beating up on each other and get some new opponents, it's a good thing,\" said Gholston.

Gholston talked about the defense. He was asked if the game against Northern Illinois showed that perhaps they wouldn't have much of a drop-off this year.

\"We've been trying to tell people that all along,\" he said.

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