Jersey Triumph Fitting Given Defense's Play

Losing veterans like James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins might not have as big of an impact on the Ohio State defense as one might have thought. If the spring is any indication, the Silver Bullets plan to pick up in 2009 where they stopped in 2008, and they proved that by producing an excellent effort to win Saturday's jersey scrimmage.

One almost senses that, on the whole, it just had to be this way.

All spring, reporters have watched the defense not quite have its way but look very good against the Ohio State offense in practice scrimmage sessions.

Then the defense, donning white, looked like white flashes for the first three-fourths of the Saturday jersey scrimmage, at one point opening up a 34-7 lead thanks to a number of sacks and stops. At one point, the Ohio State offense had seven first downs on 14 drives, and Solomon Thomas was outscoring the ‘O' by a 10-7 score thanks to five sacks.

So even though the offense rallied with two late touchdowns, it seemed like justice was served when Aaron Pettrey's extra-point try sailed wide on the final play to preserve a 56-55 win for the stop troops in Ohio Stadium.

An effort that good didn't seem like it should go for naught.

"I think so," Lawrence Wilson, a defensive end who didn't play while continuing to recovery from injury, said when asked if the win was a culmination of dominating spring efforts. "We've been playing tough all spring. We've been emphasizing running to the ball, playing together as a unit. I think we played well today."

For most of the day, "well" seemed like an understatement. The defenders racked up 13 sacks and made two interceptions while coming close to at least two other picks. The Buckeye passing game was nearly nonexistent and often went backwards thanks to those sacks, though the offense was able to sustain movement on the ground at times.

While the entire tenor of the event changed when quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor and Joe Bauserman were allowed to put on contact jerseys, there was little doubt that the defense had a day worth writing home about.

And once the final ball went wide to the right of the north goalpost, the defense reacted as though it had won something of importance, rushing the field and jumping up and down.

The win was the defense's first in the event since the spring of 2007, a span of three contests.

"We're definitely excited," Wilson said. "We haven't won the jerseys in a few years, so that's why we were talking about, ‘We have to get the jerseys back, we have to get the jerseys back.' And we pulled it off."

Observers might not have predicted that the defense would look as good as it has all spring given the losses suffered. Chief among those were the graduation of the team's best tackle, Nader Abdallah, as well as lauded national award winners James Laurinaitis at linebacker and Malcolm Jenkins at cornerback. Three-year veteran cornerback Donald Washington also chose to leave early to enter the NFL draft.

But the players who have stepped in seemingly haven't missed a beat. Austin Spitler has been a solid force at linebacker while Brian Rolle has impressed by flying to the ball at every turn. At cornerback, Andre Amos and Devon Torrence have made plays all spring, and neither looks like a bad choice to take over as a starter.

"I really do feel great," senior safety Anderson Russell said about the defense's progress in replacing the departed veterans. "I'm not going to say we're not going to miss those guys because they were great players, but I expect us to pick up where we were last year."

Both of the cornerbacks named had crucial interceptions in the scrimmage, none bigger than Torrence's pick of a Pryor pass to the end zone intended for Lamaar Thomas.

"Turnovers are the name of the game," Amos said. "We actually had a meeting about it before we went out. It just shows that one play, an interception on the goal line, changed the whole game around."

With plenty of experience and talent still on the field, the Buckeye defense has been a ball-hawking unit from the first whistle of the spring. Physical play and intensity have been hard to find, either, and those are traits the team expects to have when September hits because of the high level of experience still found on the team.

"Our defense is a group full of motivated guys, and they love to play the game," Amos said. "That's just who we are. Every day we try to get out there and enjoy each other because there's not going to be another time like this. You're around 10 other guys that are on the field or the 50 that's on the sideline, and it's just a great time to be together."


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