Jenkins Atones For Penalty In Big Way

After his roughing the kicker penalty gave Penn State a second chance to put the only three points of the game on the board before the half, Malcolm Jenkins more than made up for it when he picked off an Anthony Morelli pass and returned it 61 yards for a TD to help seal the 28-6 win for Ohio State. Jenkins, a relative unknown when he first came to OSU, is certainly a well-known commodity now.

While everyone in Ohio Stadium was hoping that Malcolm Jenkins was indeed inbounds on the return of his fourth-quarter interception for a touchdown when the game was still close at 14-6, Jenkins himself had something else on his mind during the stoppage to review the play.

"I knew I didn't step out of bounds. I was more worried about them saying that I spiked the ball too early," Jenkins said. "Man, I guess I was just too excited with it being my first pick to the crib and everything. I thought I passed the goal line till I saw the replay. It was kind of close but..."

Spiking the ball in itself is bad enough as it is when everyone who enters the endzone on this Ohio State team knows that he's expected to hand the ball to an official if he's fortunate enough to get there. Doing it before you get to the goal line is definitely not a recommended activity for anyone on the OSU roster.

"Oh no," said Jenkins when he was asked if was ever going to spike the ball again. "I'm handing it to an official every time."

Jenkins just happened to be involved in another controversial play earlier in the game at the very end of the second quarter. With the score tied at 0 and just three seconds remaining in the first half, Penn State lined up to kick a 23-yard field which was no good, wide left. But Ohio State was flagged for a roughing the kicker penalty which moved the ball from the seven to the three.

So with the time now expired in the first half, Penn State got a second chance from 21 yards out and this time Kevin Kelly kicked it through the uprights to give the Nittany Lions a 3-0 lead at the intermission. Jenkins was the one called for roughing the kicker.

This is actually the first field goal attempt which Kevin Kelly pushed wide to the left. He made the second one from two yards closer after the roughing penalty.

"We're taught to lay out, even if you don't block it, to put pressure on the kicker. I guess I landed and slid and he kind of stepped forward and I ran into him," Jenkins said. "The call is the call. I ran into him so that deserves a penalty."

Jim Tressel certainly wasn't critical of the effort to block the field goal attempt during his post-game remarks even though he wasn't sure it was Jenkins who was the one that was flagged when Tressel was asked if he thought Jenkins went from being a goat to hero in the game.

"They told me it was (#) 21 but I couldn't tell you who it was. The officials could have been inaccurate but, no, I wouldn't call anyone a goat for having a penalty. He was playing hard. Whoever that was that roughed the kicker was playing hard," said Tressel about Jenkins' effort to try to keep the game scoreless at halftime. "I think the kicker slipped and went flying into our guy who was at a good angle. But again, I'm not the official. So I wouldn't say that anyone was a goat but I will say this: Malcolm Jenkins is a good player. He's constantly getting better. He does a good job of leading, even from a young age, and the play that he made when it was 14-6 was back-breaking."

Because of that back-breaking play that Tressel was referring to and other plays that he's already made in his young career as a Buckeye, Jenkins has been nothing but a pleasant surprise since he came to Columbus as an unheralded prospect from Piscataway, NJ where he started for three years and helped to lead Piscataway High School to three-consecutive state championships on the gridiron.

After making his college debut against the Miami Red Hawks in the season-opener last year, Jenkins went on to start three games at the boundary corner when Tyler Everett was banged up and he recorded 37 tackles on the campaign. He even had a career-high in tackles, six solos and three assists, against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl in January.

"It's been a great experience," said Jenkins when he began to talk about the ride that he's been on ever since he's come to Ohio State. "Even off of the field with my teammates and the people that I meet. My teammates are like my brothers and coming from New Jersey it's real comforting having like a second home out here. I think that everybody has supported me a lot and has a lot of confidence in me so I just come out every week and play for them."

But he admitted that he never expected to have the kind of individual success that he has had up to this point in his young career.

"Nah, never in my wildest dreams," Jenkins said. "But now that it's here I just want to stay humble and keep getting better."

Jenkins never allowed his relatively unfamiliar background to handicap him in any way in his search for early playing time when he initially came to Ohio State. Hardly anyone, outside of the staff obviously, knew very much about him when he was a member of the 2005 recruiting class.

"Once you come into camp, what you did in high school doesn't matter," Jenkins said. "If you're not starting, if you're not performing on the field, then that's your fault. I think that me, Anderson (Russell) and a lot of my class came in and we did what we had to do in camp. We played hard and made plays and once you do that, the coaches have no choice but to play you."

He never thought of himself being at a disadvantage at all.

"I wasn't a big-name recruit but two weeks into camp I'm in the two-deep," Jenkins said. "I just think it all comes down to how you come in and how you know the game."

And everything he did last season, and in spring ball, only made him that much better at the start of his sophomore campaign.

"It put me in a great position to be a leader for the secondary," Jenkins said. "Last year, getting the experience I had, I only started a couple of games, but, at least it was a base. So I come into this year and I have confidence when I come on the field. And when I have confidence, the rest of the secondary has confidence. So I think last year was a great stepping stone for this year."

And after successfully defending someone of the caliber of Limas Sweed from Texas, when it came time to match up with the likes of Derrick Williams from Penn State, Jenkins and the rest of the secondary was confident in their ability to defend him and the rest of the talented corps of receivers for the Nittany Lions. Williams was held to just three catches for 22 yards in the game.

"All week you prepare for that. He's one of the top receivers in the nation," Jenkins said. "So whenever you (go against someone like that) you want to prepare your best and be ready for him."

The secondary accounted for two touchdowns in the Penn State game, a feat an Ohio State defense last accomplished on Sept. 7, 2002, when the Buckeyes beat Kent State, 51-17, at Ohio Stadium.

Antonio Smith returned one interception of a pass thrown by Anthony Morelli back 55 yards for a touchdown just one minute and 24 seconds after Jenkins returned an interception, also thrown by Morelli, 61 yards for a score with 2:31 remaining on the clock in the fourth period. Jenkins' interception all but ended any remaining hopes that Penn State had about mounting any comeback at the time.

"We just disguised the coverage and I think he misread it and tried to squeeze one in," Jenkins said. "And luckily I got the interception."

The return of the pick by Jenkins, his second interception in as many games, was obviously a real crowd pleaser.

"When I caught the ball, I just thought that if I can make Derrick Williams miss then I should have a good chance of running it back," Jenkins said. "And I did that. I just did nothing but run to where there was space and some of my teammates got some good down field blocks and led me to the endzone."

Ted Ginn certainly gave Jenkins passing remarks for his interception return for six points.

"I know how Malcolm is and I know how he thinks. ‘I can't get tackled.' " Ginn said. "I knew he was going to try to get into the endzone. That's just how physical (he is) and the play of his mind."

It's obvious, from going against him regularly at practice, that Ginn believes that Jenkins can play with anybody.

"Malcolm is a great player," Ginn said. "He's physical and likes to talk trash and some guys can't take that. He talks trash, constantly, every day. It actually helps me out because I know that if Malcolm keeps talking trash to me then other guys are going to do the same thing. So it just gets me focused."

With the three interceptions in all during the Penn State game, the second week in-a-row they've done that, the ball-hawking Ohio State defense now has eight thefts on the season which is two more than they had all of last year. And when you consider that they held the Nittany Lion offense to just six points and they recorded a solid defensive stand to prevent a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the young defensive unit has quite a bit to hang their hat, er, helmet on after this victory.

"It was big for us. It gives us a lot of confidence. I think our defense showed up big-time today," Jenkins said. "This (is) what we've been waiting for. Now we just have to get better."

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