Laurinaitis Makes Name For Himself Vs. Texas

Sophomore linebacker James Laurinaitis burst into the forefront with his play in top-ranked Ohio State's 24-7 win at No. 2 Texas on Saturday. Laurinaitis tallied a team-high 13 tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass in the win. Click here for more on this emerging star.

Up until Saturday night, Ohio State middle linebacker James Laurinaitis was known mostly for a couple of reasons.

First, he was the true freshman pressed into service last November at Michigan when senior Bobby Carpenter went down with a broken leg. Second, Laurinairis is the son of former professional wrestling star Joe Laurinaitis, better known as Animal from the Road Warriors and the Legion of Doom.

But Saturday at Texas, James Laurinaitis made a name for himself and also showed he might be able to carry on the linebacker tradition upheld recently by Carpenter, A.J. Hawk and Anthony Schlegel.

Laurinaitis tallied a team-high 13 tackles, forced two fumbles and also intercepted a pass as the top-ranked Buckeyes rolled over defending national champion and No. 2-rated Texas 24-7 in Austin.

"Any time you go into a game and it's one versus two, you're going to have some nerves," Laurinaitis said after his breakout game. "It's really the biggest test you can face. We knew coming into this game it was going to be a tremendous challenge. It was a fight out there and we were fortunate to come out on top.

"I was just trying to do my job for the benefit of the team. I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time."

OSU coach Jim Tressel was proud to see Laurinaitis deliver such a strong performance in such a big game.

"James Laurinaitis made some plays," Tressel said. "He had the nice interception. He also forced a fumble. No question about it, we've felt that James could be a big part of our defense.

"I think what's going to be fun is that when we watch the film of this game we'll see we had a bunch of different guys play on defense."

Sure enough, Laurinaitis is one of nine new starters on the OSU defense this fall. Holding Texas – which had 56 points in its opening week win over North Texas – to just one touchdown says a lot, Laurinaitis said.

"This was a tremendous thing for us," he said. "To hold them to seven points, it was a great job by our defense. It's a good boost of confidence for us. We made some mistakes and we've got to correct them. But, hey, we know we can play some football now."

During the course of the game – played on a steamy 85 degree night at Austin – the Buckeyes rotated players at nearly every position.

"It keeps people fresh and lets a lot of people know we can play," said Laurinaitis, who shared time in the middle with junior Larry Grant. "We rotate a lot of guys through and that keeps people excited. It's a good thing for our team. Competition and depth is very important."

Laurinaitis talked about the challenge of going against the Texas offense, which was passing the torch itself from former quarterback standout Vince Young to redshirt freshman Colt McCoy.

"It's a good offense," Laurinaitis said. "They do a few things, but they do them well. They did a really good job of running the ball against us. They tried to pound it out against us. But, luckily, we came up with some big plays against them.

"It was maybe the fact that he's young and our defensive line put some pressure on him. Last year, we put pressure on (Vince Young) and even he threw some balls that weren't like him. Our defensive line flew around and did well."

Laurinaitis' first big play came late in the first quarter with the game scoreless. Texas had driven 73 yards to the OSU 7 and was facing second-and-goal. McCoy hit wideout Billy Pittman in the right flat. Pittman made a move and was headed toward the end zone when safety Brandon Mitchell wrapped him up. Laurinaitis flew into the play and hit Pittman, forcing a fumble at the 1.

OSU safety Donald Washington scooped the ball up at the 2 and returned it 48 yards to midfield. That turnover kept Texas out of the end zone and also set the stage for OSU's first touchdown.

"It was a big play," Laurinaitis said. "Any time you can get a turnover down in the red zone after they have marched it on you, it's a change of momentum. It was a big play and our team capitalized on it.

"I was just trying to keep him out of the end zone. I saw him trying to cut back and I knew if he got in there, that might break our backs on that drive. I wanted to do whatever I could to put a hit on him and get the ball out."

Laurinaitis was asked what he was feeling as he saw Washington scamper with the ball.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "It's indescribable. You see a teammate pick it up and start running down the sidelines. You feel instant excitement and energy that revamps your attitude."

OSU was nursing a 14-7 lead early in the second half when Laurinaitis stepped in front of a McCoy pass and made the pick. He then returned it 25 yards down to the UT 21, setting up a key OSU field goal.

"I wouldn't have gotten my interception if the defensive line didn't pressure the quarterback," Laurinaitis said. "It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. It hit me in the chest."

Laurinaitis said upholding OSU's linebacker tradition has not weighed on him that much.

"There is some pressure, but when you're in the middle of it, I just forget about it," he said. "You have so much other stuff to think about. You just have to go out there and play.

"This game is about bending your knees and staying low. It's about who has the most explosion and most tenacity. That's who is going to win. It's about doing the fundamentals you learn in practice. That's what it comes down to."

Laurinaitis was asked what he learned from OSU's former linebacker stars like Hawk and Carpenter.

"Just working hard every day," he said. "Sometimes you hear people say, ‘If you work out every day, you're going to overtrain.' But that is exactly what those guys did. A.J. and them worked out every day after practice. They kept getting better and better. They have the work ethic it takes and they passed down the film study and everything else to us."

Laurinaitis was also asked what this dominating performance will mean for the young OSU defense.

"We'll see what it means," he said. "It gives us a lot of confidence. It kind of proves to some of the guys who maybe had some doubts before that we do have some talent on this defense. We just have to go out there and keep getting better every week."




Buckeye Sports Top Stories

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","mobileBody":"Up until Saturday night, Ohio State middle linebacker James Laurinaitis was known mostly for a couple of reasons.

First, he was the true freshman pressed into service last November at Michigan when senior Bobby Carpenter went down with a broken leg. Second, Laurinairis is the son of former professional wrestling star Joe Laurinaitis, better known as Animal from the Road Warriors and the Legion of Doom.

But Saturday at Texas, James Laurinaitis made a name for himself and also showed he might be able to carry on the linebacker tradition upheld recently by Carpenter, A.J. Hawk and Anthony Schlegel.

Laurinaitis tallied a team-high 13 tackles, forced two fumbles and also intercepted a pass as the top-ranked Buckeyes rolled over defending national champion and No. 2-rated Texas 24-7 in Austin.

\"Any time you go into a game and it's one versus two, you're going to have some nerves,\" Laurinaitis said after his breakout game. \"It's really the biggest test you can face. We knew coming into this game it was going to be a tremendous challenge. It was a fight out there and we were fortunate to come out on top.

\"I was just trying to do my job for the benefit of the team. I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.\"

OSU coach Jim Tressel was proud to see Laurinaitis deliver such a strong performance in such a big game.

\"James Laurinaitis made some plays,\" Tressel said. \"He had the nice interception. He also forced a fumble. No question about it, we've felt that James could be a big part of our defense.

\"I think what's going to be fun is that when we watch the film of this game we'll see we had a bunch of different guys play on defense.\"

Sure enough, Laurinaitis is one of nine new starters on the OSU defense this fall. Holding Texas – which had 56 points in its opening week win over North Texas – to just one touchdown says a lot, Laurinaitis said.

\"This was a tremendous thing for us,\" he said. \"To hold them to seven points, it was a great job by our defense. It's a good boost of confidence for us. We made some mistakes and we've got to correct them. But, hey, we know we can play some football now.\"

During the course of the game – played on a steamy 85 degree night at Austin – the Buckeyes rotated players at nearly every position.

\"It keeps people fresh and lets a lot of people know we can play,\" said Laurinaitis, who shared time in the middle with junior Larry Grant. \"We rotate a lot of guys through and that keeps people excited. It's a good thing for our team. Competition and depth is very important.\"

Laurinaitis talked about the challenge of going against the Texas offense, which was passing the torch itself from former quarterback standout Vince Young to redshirt freshman Colt McCoy.

\"It's a good offense,\" Laurinaitis said. \"They do a few things, but they do them well. They did a really good job of running the ball against us. They tried to pound it out against us. But, luckily, we came up with some big plays against them.

\"It was maybe the fact that he's young and our defensive line put some pressure on him. Last year, we put pressure on (Vince Young) and even he threw some balls that weren't like him. Our defensive line flew around and did well.\"

Laurinaitis' first big play came late in the first quarter with the game scoreless. Texas had driven 73 yards to the OSU 7 and was facing second-and-goal. McCoy hit wideout Billy Pittman in the right flat. Pittman made a move and was headed toward the end zone when safety Brandon Mitchell wrapped him up. Laurinaitis flew into the play and hit Pittman, forcing a fumble at the 1.

OSU safety Donald Washington scooped the ball up at the 2 and returned it 48 yards to midfield. That turnover kept Texas out of the end zone and also set the stage for OSU's first touchdown.

\"It was a big play,\" Laurinaitis said. \"Any time you can get a turnover down in the red zone after they have marched it on you, it's a change of momentum. It was a big play and our team capitalized on it.

\"I was just trying to keep him out of the end zone. I saw him trying to cut back and I knew if he got in there, that might break our backs on that drive. I wanted to do whatever I could to put a hit on him and get the ball out.\"

Laurinaitis was asked what he was feeling as he saw Washington scamper with the ball.

\"It's unbelievable,\" he said. \"It's indescribable. You see a teammate pick it up and start running down the sidelines. You feel instant excitement and energy that revamps your attitude.\"

OSU was nursing a 14-7 lead early in the second half when Laurinaitis stepped in front of a McCoy pass and made the pick. He then returned it 25 yards down to the UT 21, setting up a key OSU field goal.

\"I wouldn't have gotten my interception if the defensive line didn't pressure the quarterback,\" Laurinaitis said. \"It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. It hit me in the chest.\"

Laurinaitis said upholding OSU's linebacker tradition has not weighed on him that much.

\"There is some pressure, but when you're in the middle of it, I just forget about it,\" he said. \"You have so much other stuff to think about. You just have to go out there and play.

\"This game is about bending your knees and staying low. It's about who has the most explosion and most tenacity. That's who is going to win. It's about doing the fundamentals you learn in practice. That's what it comes down to.\"

Laurinaitis was asked what he learned from OSU's former linebacker stars like Hawk and Carpenter.

\"Just working hard every day,\" he said. \"Sometimes you hear people say, ‘If you work out every day, you're going to overtrain.' But that is exactly what those guys did. A.J. and them worked out every day after practice. They kept getting better and better. They have the work ethic it takes and they passed down the film study and everything else to us.\"

Laurinaitis was also asked what this dominating performance will mean for the young OSU defense.

\"We'll see what it means,\" he said. \"It gives us a lot of confidence. It kind of proves to some of the guys who maybe had some doubts before that we do have some talent on this defense. We just have to go out there and keep getting better every week.\"

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