Defense Dominates Ohio State Scrimmage

The Ohio State defense eviscerated the offense 78-24 in a spring jersey scrimmage few who had been watching the team practice since the beginning of April saw coming. The offense, with nine starters returning from a unit that finished the 2009 season strong, struggled from the start on Saturday in a windy Ohio Stadium.

"It was a nice cool day in the ‘Shoe," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "A little wind blowing around. Days like that the Big Ten championship will be determined. That's probably the most lopsided jersey scrimmage score that I've seen."

On the first play, Terrelle Pryor had Dane Sanzenbacher open deep down the right sideline but underthrew him by several yards. That turned out to work in the offense's favor when cornerback Donnie Evege collided with Sanzenbacher as he slowed to try to make the catch. A 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty ensued, but the offense failed to take advantage.

After Pryor completed a 9-yard pass to Sanzenbacher on the second play, the defense dominated throughout, beginning with a sack by Devon Torrence on second down of that series, one that was further doomed by an offensive penalty that soon followed.

The second series between the No. 1 units started positively with a 17-yard pass from Pryor to fullback Zach Boren, but it quickly fizzled as linebacker Brian Rolle knocked down a first-down pass from Pryor and defensive tackle Johnny Simon flushed Pryor and forced him to throw the ball away on second down. On third down, Pryor threw incomplete on a pass that fell short of receiver Taurian Washington.

When the No. 2 units took the field, the script remained much the same.

Solomon Thomas streaked in from the offense's left side to sack Joe Bauserman for a 2-yard loss on first down and two subsequent Bo DeLande runs yielded only 11 yards.

Bauserman was hit again to start the following series, but instead of a sack, the contact produced a wobbly pass over the middle that landed in the arms of safety C.J. Barnett.

That was the first of five turnovers on the day, a key stat for the defense in the scoring system the coaching staff utilizes that rewards big plays and stops for the defense and first downs and regular scoring plays for the offense.

"We feel like it's kind of slanted for the offense to win most of the time, so to get as many points as we did shows signs of how well we played," Torrence said.

The defense won the jersey scrimmage for the third consecutive time and will continue to wear the scarlet practice jerseys until at least the next jersey scrimmage during preseason practice.

Most of these events feature significant swings in the scoring as head coach Jim Tressel gets creative with field position to keep things close, but the head coach said he did not contemplate such a move this time.

"No, I've been accused of manipulating scrimmages if that's where you're going with this, but never to that degree," Tressel said.

"He always does that," Torrence retorted later. "Don't let him fool you. He always messes with the results, just to keep things competitive. We always expect it."

This time, though, Torrence said he wasn't surprised no such move was made.

"No, we were beating them pretty bad, so no matter what I don't think they would have come back today," the cornerback said.

The defense knocked down seven passes and got consistent pressure on every quarterback, particularly when the second and third teams were on the field, but the offense did not do a lot to help itself.

Five passes were dropped and six times there was a botched exchange between a center and quarterback.

Three times the defense recovered those fumbles, including one in the end zone by John Simon after Pryor could not handle a shotgun snap from Michael Brewster.

That play was the only touchdown of the day for either side and a 12-point score for the defense that swelled its lead to 45-14.

"When you have those, you're going to have a hard time catching up," Tressel said.

The passing numbers accurately reflected how the offense performed all day.

In unofficial stats, Pryor completed 5 of 16 passes for 45 yards, while Bauserman was 4 for 12 for 73 yards and an interception. Third-stringer Ken Guiton hit 5 of his 14 throws for 37 yards.

Sanzenbacher, who caught two passes for a game-high 34 yards, was among those surprised by what transpired.

"It was definitely very frustrating, just a lot of little things going wrong," Sanzenbacher said. "Maybe it was some calls people weren't focused. Maybe our offense as a whole just wasn't ready to go, but I think it's a good thing to be able to make those mistakes now in the spring so we can get a lot of good film to look at and get it fixed."

The performance marked a considerable contrast from earlier spring drills when the offense has mostly looked crisp.

"I was very surprised by our lack of development in the plays and lack of execution because I feel - like a lot of people have seen during the spring - that we haven't looked like that," Sanzenbacher said. "It kind of looked like a new team."

On the bright side for the offense, there was room to run for several running backs.

The offensive star of the day was easily Jaamal Berry. Playing mostly with the second unit, the shifty redshirt freshman ran for 76 yards on 17 carries before exiting late after rolling an ankle. DeLande totaled 54 yards on 14 carries while Jermil Martin had 43 yards on 11 totes. Starter Dan Heron ran four times for 12 yards.

"I thought (Berry) looked pretty good," Tressel said, noting he was not sure of the severity of Berry's ankle injury. "Looked to me like he's got an ability to burst. That was really the first time he was able to get in there and get rolling."

The only other player noticeably injured during the scrimmage was No. 1 left guard Justin Boren, who said he had a foot stepped on. He did not finish the scrimmage, but he said later the injury was not serious.

Tressel sounded happier to have gotten through the day without suffering any other injuries than he was worried about how the offense looked.

"I don't get upset about things," the coach said. "They are what they are. You have to watch'em and evaluate'em and come up with a rational as to why they got that way and then what you have to do to fix it."

Meanwhile, the defense was feeling justifiably satisfied with its work as the unit works to replace five starters.

"The biggest thing to me is the defense came together as a unit and really played," said senior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, who had one of nine sacks on the day. "We proved it means something to us, and when we come together we'll be tough against any offense that comes into that stadium."

Simon, Thomas and Melvin Fellows all had two sacks apiece while Rolle had one as well.

Also among the standouts on defense was sophomore linebacker Jonathan Newsome, who batted down a pass and recovered a pair of fumbles.

Both sides were missing a likely starter as cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and running back Brandon Saine did not play because of injury. Also sitting out the scrimmage was reserve cornerback Travis Howard.

For full stats and more impressions on the jersey scrimmage, check out the Ask the Insiders message board.


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