"There's nobody more disappointed than the players and the coaches," he told reporters following Wednesday's practice in his first public comments since the team's 35-3 loss to USC on Sept. 13. "The only thing I know to do and the only thing I think our players know to do is go back to work. We got in early this week, we've been in earlier, we've stayed in later, players are working hard, watching more film."
That statement or a variation of the theme was repeated a number of times as Heacock tried to explain how a defense expected to rank among the nation's best was torched by the Trojans on national television.
At USC, the Buckeyes suffered their worst defeat during the Jim Tressel regime. The Trojans piled up 348 yards of total offense despite having the ball for a little more than four minutes less than the visiting team.
It seemed that OSU's defense was powerless to stop whatever the USC offense wanted to do – and Heacock did not necessarily dispute that observation.
"We didn't win enough battles when we were out there," he said. "There's no question about it. And I certainly wouldn't say the scheme was all that great either. We can all share in the downside, but there were some good things also that we can hopefully build on. There's no question in anybody's mind that we certainly have to play better as we go through the season. We've got to improve drastically and swiftly."
During the game against the Trojans, Heacock said the Buckeyes blitzed while in man defense "12 or 14 times." The problem was not that they did not blitz enough, he said, but that the blitzes did not get there in time.
That is a situation that can be remedied through practice and time in the film room, he said.
"We blitzed actually a lot during USC – we just couldn't get there," junior safety Kurt Coleman said. "One of the touchdowns we were blitzing and actually I didn't get there in time. We're working on that every day in practice. Our mentality is we're going to get after the QB."
Although the coaches – to a man – proclaim to be oblivious to the criticisms of the outside world, OSU's decisive loss to USC has opened the Buckeyes up to a world of national disdain. While national pundits are lambasting the program for coming up short in two consecutive national championship losses as well as the game against the Trojans, local sentiment is also skewing negative.
The focus for the OSU defense this week has been to try and find ways to stay positive.
"We'll see how tough our team really is mentally when we go out there on Saturday," senior captain and linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "I think guys aren't feeling sorry for themselves. As a team we're ready to go out there and be back in the ‘Shoe and excited about our next challenge. If we dwell too much on this past weekend, it's just going to have a negative effect on this team."
Following the USC game, the Trojans spoke as if they knew exactly what the Buckeyes were going to do before they did it and were then able to hit OSU for big plays. Regardless of whether or not that might be the case, Heacock said that should not have a big impact on the final outcome of the game.
Rather, the biggest way to affect the final outcome is to simply outplay the team on the other side of the line of scrimmage, he said.
"You'd like to say we're playing this defense and we're going to beat you," he said. "Sometimes you have to do that and you have to play well. I still think it comes down to what happens between the lines and who's hitting the hardest and who's playing the hardest and who's tackling the best. It really comes back down to fundamentals and who's making plays."
The task moving forward for the Buckeyes is to try and ensure that they are the team that makes the most plays. That might be harder than it sounds.
"I feel like as long as we can put our players in the best position to make plays and when our players have the opportunity to make plays they make them, then I think we'll be successful," senior captain and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "It's not always the best team that wins, it's just determination: who makes the most plays. They made the most plays last week."