Cus Words 10/14: Architecture of Aggression

Ohio State unleashed the defensive hounds last weekend, which is a good thing with a powerful Michigan State attack on tap for the next test. BSB staffer Marcus Hartman weighs in on those topics, ranks the Big Ten and checks the TV listings in this week's edition of Cus Words.

What we learned last weekend: This defense does have some of the flexibility the coaching staff told us it was looking for in the spring and preseason.

The Buckeyes flipped from nickel to the base when Purdue had some brief success running the ball, subbed Donald Washington for Jermale Hines in passing situations and rolled through a bunch of defensive linemen with varying degrees of success. Linebackers blitzed from multiple angles, too.

And was that excessive use of man coverage we saw in Ohio Stadium? From the guys in the scarlet jerseys? Well, I believe it was.

That was what a stellar, attacking defense is supposed to look like.

Let's not go crazy, of course. This was not one of the better Purdue offenses of the past decade.

Is that terribly important, though? I'm not sure that it is.

What is best focused on should be the emphasis on aggression the Buckeyes got from their coaches last Saturday afternoon.

Wasn't it a nice change of pace?

I'm sure matchups had something to do with it. Purdue was not very dangerous on the outside, which I would guess makes it easier to feel like its possible to attack the Boilermakers one-on-one, but could this be a forbearer for what is to come?

Were Jim Heacock, Luke Fickell and company trying out something new in advance of the heavy artillery packed by some of the teams on the horizon?

Maybe there wasn't as much different stuff going on as we might believe. The players definitely confirmed after the game that aggression was a buzz word before the game. That is not imagined. But no matter the perception of Ohio State and its zone tendencies, the Buckeyes do try to pressure the opposition every weekend. They haven't had as much luck this season as they have in previous years, but that doesn't mean the effort isn't there. The competition has been at least a little better, so that has something to do with it.

I guess we'll see over the next five weeks, won't we?

What we can expect to learn this week: There should be no doubts about the Buckeyes' manhood after this weekend.

We learned with the Wisconsin game that Ohio State can counterpunch, but that comeback was necessary because the Badgers were able to whip the Buckeyes up front for much of the night.

Purdue's visit to Ohio Stadium let us see that the defense can go on the attack in multiple ways, but the Boilermakers also have some limitations in terms of offensive personnel.

In East Lansing, we'll learn if the Buckeyes have it in them to stand up to a power running game.

They weren't up to the task earlier this month against Wisconsin, but now Michigan State offers a chance at redemption. (And one with a healthier Todd Denlinger, too.)

The Spartans have a better, quicker tailback, but then again the Badgers had two good, big fellas and Michigan State has no one of consequence behind star Javon Ringer.

The difference between the offensive lines? I guess we'll have to wait and see, but the Buckeyes swamped the Spartans up front last year.

Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer hasn't been much to write home about since heading to East Lansing from Cleveland St. Ignatius as Ohio's top quarterback recruit five years ago, but he's played the care-taker role well this season and is certainly better than Wisconsin's Allan Evridge, so there might be more to worry about in the passing game.

Ohio State dominated Michigan State up front last year - which I must admit came as a mild surprise to me - so we'll just have to wait and see what this year will bring.

All-Buckeye Beater Nominees: Props go this week to several members of the Purdue defensive front seven. Linebacker Anthony Heygood was very impressive with 12 tackles – 11 solo – and showed good athleticism in corralling Terrelle Pryor in the open field a couple of times.

Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan had a great game, too, coming up with six tackles, including two sacks, and tackle Ryan Baker was also a standout up front (four tackles. Including three for loss).

Cornerback Brandon King will get some postseason consideration, too, for playing solid pass defense. He had a tackle for loss and broke up a pass.

DVR Directions: Keep it simple this week. Ohio State is not going to get back into the national title picture without figuring out a few issues of its own – and, of course, the Buckeyes must beat Penn State next week. So after an hour of watching the Buckeyes test their mettle in East Lansing (beginning at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC) make sure the DVR is set to record the third-ranked Nittany Lions as they play host to Michigan on ESPN at 4:30.

This should be no contest, but the Wolverines have already shown they can beat superior Penn State teams before, so I suppose anything can happen. Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman will have the call of that mismatch.

Brad Nessler will call the Ohio State game with Bob Griese and Paul Maguire offering color commentary.

Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll (previous week's ranking in parenthesis)

1. (2) Penn State (I guess 48 points at Wisconsin makes up for the 20-point game at Purdue)
2. (1) Ohio State (I need to see more from the offense before I can be confident in the Buckeyes again, but opportunities to impress are plentiful)
3. (5) Michigan State (Opportunistic defense with a great running game. Sound familiar?)
4. (8) Minnesota (Again, credit the Golden Gophers for taking advantage of opportunities given by the Fighting Illini)
5. (3) Illinois (Not yet good enough to overcome lots of mistakes)
6. (4) Wisconsin (Rather than complaining about their first three conference games, the Badgers should have tried to win one)
7. (6) Northwestern (The Wildcats aren't ready for prime time but they aren't bad.)
8. (9) Iowa (RB Shonn Green is the difference between the Hawkeyes being bottom of the run or middle of the road)
9. (11) Purdue (I suppose Purdue really is better than the numbers, but that's still not all that good)
10. (7) Michigan (The Wolverines' main problem is they aren't really good at any aspect of football, as near as I can tell)
11. (10) Indiana (And things won't be getting better with the start of basketball season, either.)

Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. He can be reached for comment, cursing or questions via email at

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