Patterson Keeps Plugging Away

Ohio State senior defensive tackle David Patterson isn't putting up big statistics, but he has been rock solid in the middle for the Buckeyes when he's been healthy. We caught up with Patterson to get his thoughts on OSU's escape at Illinois last week, the upcoming game at Northwestern and much more.

David Patterson believes in the power of positive thinking. Therefore, the senior defensive tackle and captain wasn't disappointed with Ohio State's lackluster 17-10 victory over Illinois last week. At this stage of the season, a win is a win and Patterson doesn't think the Buckeyes have lost any of their confidence.

"Well, we don't expect to go through a whole season without any close challenges or any close games at the end," he said. "When you are playing good teams that is going to happen.

"I think it was good for us to build character and guys are going to need that because when you're playing Northwestern and the rest of the teams that you have, there may be a time where we do get down. There may be a time when things aren't going our way and we really have to dig down deep and have guys step up and make plays for us. So, I think it was needed a little bit."

Patterson does not think the Buckeyes will work any harder than usual this week in practice leading up to the Northwestern game on Saturday in Evanston (3:30 p.m., ABC).

"Well, I think this week in practice we'll just do what we've always been doing, which is practicing hard and trying to get better every week," Patterson said. "(Defensive coordinator Jim) Heacock does a great job of putting practices together where he can get the most out of his players. We have a lot of good players in practice and our scout team gives us tremendous looks every day. Every day we work harder to try and get better for that upcoming game, so I think this is just going to be another week like that where we will be studying a lot of film and really getting after in practice so we will be the best we can be by the end of the week."

Northwestern (3-7, 1-5 Big Ten) is coming off its most impressive game of the season – a 21-7 victory at Iowa. The Wildcats are very young, but Patterson thinks their offense is beginning to come around. The group is led by sophomore tailback Tyrell Sutton.

"Well, watching Northwestern on film just (Monday) and a little bit (Tuesday) morning, they look impressive," Patterson said. "Tyrell Sutton is a great back – I think he's one of the best in the country. He plays with tremendous quickness, he plays low, he catches the ball out of the backfield, he blocks well, he can do a lot of different things for that football team that really helps them. And their quarterback (C.J. Bacher) looks like he's starting to come into his own and he looked pretty sharp in the game against Iowa. So, I would expect them to have some confidence because it looks like they are starting to put it together."

Patterson talked more about Sutton, Ohio's 2004 Mr. Football from Akron Hoban.

"The thing I like about him is that he's a running back that has a defensive mindset because he delivers the blow," he said. "I've seen guys come to hit him and he throws his forearm out there and he tries to get physical right back with you. I like his running style."

Patterson missed two games in October while receiving from minor knee surgery and he says he is feeling no lingering effects.

"No, my knee feels great," he said. "Dr. (Chris) Kaeding did a great job on my surgery and I really haven't felt any soreness since the day after the surgery. So, it's feeling pretty good."

Patterson and Quinn Pitcock are among the best defensive tackle tandems in the country. However, the top-ranked Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0) were without Pitcock against Minnesota (concussion) and he did not start against Illinois. This week against Northwestern will be the first time in over a month that Patterson and Pitcock will start together.

"Well, it's going to feel great," Patterson said. "I think it's actually going to start (Tuesday) at practice because Quinn didn't take that many reps last week in practice and we weren't really sure if he was going to play. So, just him getting back to practice (Tuesday) we'll start to get in a better rhythm.

"And when Joel Penton is in the game I play on the right side and he plays on the left side. But when Quinn is in the game, he plays on the right side and I play on the left, so it's kind of a different feel just from an alignment point of view. So, when you have a great player like Quinn playing next to you, it does nothing but help the team and help me play better, so I can't wait to have him back in there."

Patterson was pleased to hear that Pitcock is one of four finalists for the Lombardi Award.

"I'm ecstatic about it," he said. "If it was up to me, he would get it right now, but I don't have a vote. I think he deserves it. He's a great player, hard worker, great leader, so I think he deserves it."

A year after struggling to force turnovers, Ohio State's defense has racked up 19 interceptions this season. Head coach Jim Tressel said on Tuesday that the defensive line's ability to put pressure on quarterbacks is one of the main reasons OSU has forced so many picks.

"Well, we try and put pressure on the quarterback because we know that if we give him time all day he will … as good as our DBs are they can't cover for five and six seconds," Patterson said. "So, we think on defense the more pressure we can get on the quarterback, the more we can make him force the ball or make quick decisions and our DBs will have chances at getting picks and those guys have done a great job and they've been out there ball-hawking. They really feel that if the ball is in the air, it's theirs."

One of the pleasant surprises on the defense has been fifth-year senior cornerback Antonio Smith. It was announced earlier this week that he is one of 11 semifinalists for the Thorpe Award.

"I heard that on the radio on my way over here and I couldn't believe it," Patterson said. "I was so happy. We call him Yao and Yao works so hard and he's a great leader and is just a cool guy to be around. I remember when I first got here and you see Yao now compared to then and it's just amazing and this is just a testament to him and his work ethic and his heart."

Yes, that's right. In a cruel twist of irony, the 5-9 Smith is nicknamed after the 7-6 Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets. Smith was playing well in a pickup basketball game and was given the moniker by a former OSU assistant coach.

"It was from a basketball game a few years ago between the team and coach Mel Tucker called him Yao and it just stuck," Patterson said.

The 6-3, 295-pound Patterson isn't putting up huge statistics this year (16 tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss) but that's not his job in OSU's defensive scheme. His job is to eat up space on running plays and collapse the pocket on passing downs.

"Well, I feel I'm having a decent year personally, but it's not about that," Patterson said. "All I am thinking about is winning our first outright Big Ten championship since (1984) and getting to the national championship. We have it in front of us and we just have to keep working hard and doing the right things. I'm just focused on doing my job and doing whatever it takes to help us win games."

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