Indiana Notebook: Boren Shifted to Linebacker

By Kyle Rowland on October 14, 2012 at 8:16a

Ninety-six hours after learning he would move from fullback to linebacker, senior captain Zach Boren led the defense with eight tackles in an overall spotty performance from the Silver Bullets in a 52-49 win over upset-minded Indiana. 

Zach Boren led the Buckeyes with eight tackles. 

With Etienne Sabino’s injury and the uninspiring play from the freshman linebackers, the Ohio State coaching staff believed Boren was the missing piece to the puzzle – or the piece of putty that could slow down the leaks in a punctured defense.

Boren does have past history at defense, having played linebacker and fullback in high school at Pickerington. His father, Mike, was a linebacker at Michigan when Bo Schembechler was the head coach.

Ohio State was in a nickel defense much of the night due to Indiana’s spread passing offense, with Boren and Storm Klein alternating at middle linebacker.

Forty-nine points and 481 total yards – 353 through the air – wasn’t the display coaches and fans wanted to see one week after surrendering 38 points to Nebraska.

“Spread offenses are really exposing us right now,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. “We have got to get something fixed. We have got to get back to work.”

When a team is 7-0, it’s hard to find flaws. But the Buckeyes have many and most reside on the defensive side of the ball.

“I’m not sure what my feeling is right now other than anxious to get back home and get to work,” Meyer said. “I wish we were in the office right now because we've got to get some things right.”

Indiana running back Stephen Houston rattled off large chunks of yardage much of the game. He finished with 91 rushing yards, 37 passing yards and three touchdowns. Houston was not touched on his 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Most glaring, though, may have been a fourth-quarter meltdown. Ohio State surrendered 22 points and nearly blew an 18-point lead.

“At one point in the game we had them down and we could have finished it,” Boren said. “That’s kind of been the theme all year. We got a little complacent there at the end, then finally turned it up when it really mattered to recover the onside kick. We’ll get better."

Much of the Hoosiers’ success on passing came because of the style of offense they run. A spread offense heavy on screens and short passing plays is the exact formula that has plagued Ohio State all season.

“I have to get more involved and find out what the issues are,” Meyer said. “I don’t think you can pinpoint one thing right now. I have got to find out. I am going to increase my involvement with the defense.”

They’ll have to if they plan on continuing their dream season. The Big Ten may be mediocre, but Ohio State is capable of losing to almost anyone on the schedule.

Howard has dealt with stingers all year.

Injury Bug

You would be hard-pressed to find a more injury-prone team than Ohio State. Meyer has seemingly brought a strange hex with him to Columbus. It all started with Jordan Hall’s bizarre foot injury in the summer.

Since the regular season began, more than a handful of starters have missed games due to injury, a majority of them multiple.

On Saturday, Sabino was out with a broken fibula, but he was just one of the Buckeyes battling an injury. Defensive end Nathan Williams didn’t even travel to Bloomington after suffering from the effects of a concussion he received last week. Williams did not practice any during the week of the Indiana game. It’s the second game of the season Williams has sat out. He also missed the Central Florida game because of a sore knee, the same that received microfracture a year ago.

Two piranhas, members of Ohio State’s outstanding kickoff coverage unit, were also missing. Najee Murray suffered a knee injury and had season-ending surgery during the week, while Armani Reeves is dealing with an ankle sprain.

During the Indiana game, safety Christian Bryant was saddled with a lower leg bruise. He went to the locker room to get treatment and was replaced by Zach Domicone. Cornerback Travis Howard, who dealt with stingers in previous games this season, had another bout wth the issue on Saturday.

While he was out, Doran Grant was burned on a long pass play and committed a pass interference penalty. That prompted Howard's return. 

Happy Homecoming

The Indiana and Purdue games always carry a little something extra for Rod Smith, a native of Fort Wayne. On Saturday, in front of family and friends, Smith made his first trip to Bloomington a memorable one.

He finished with 40 yards rushing on six carries, but did have one black eye - a block-in-the-back penalty that brought back a big punt return by Corey Brown in the second quarter.

Meyer has praised Smith the past few weeks for his work ethic both in the classroom and on the football field. In January, following a missed flight for the Gator Bowl, Smith had just about used up his nine lives at Ohio State.

In a meeting with Smith and his father, Meyer was blunt in his future assessment, saying Smith would be better off transferring. But this week Smith told reporters he never even entertained the though of leaving Columbus.

Nine months later, Meyer is glad Smith didn’t heed his advice.

Stat of the Game

Since 2005, Urban Meyer-coached teams are 18-0 when they block a punt. They’ve now blocked 55 kicks in 133 games.


Comments Show All Comments

bukyze's picture

"An overall spotty performance from the Silver Bullets".  An obvious typo.  I believe you meant to say sucky.

humble0ne's picture

At this point, they are what they are.  I am, however, excited to see what Boren can bring to linebacker.  8 tackles with only one week to prepare is pretty good.  The D really felt the loss of Sabino and Williams this week, and they have struggle with the spread all year.  It will be interesting to see what affect one week of Meyer involvement with the defense, one more week of practice for Boren and the return of Nate Willams has on the Purdue game. 

"It is foolish to expect a young man to follow your advice and ignore your example." --Don Meyer Hall of Fame NAIA Basketball Coach

bigbill992001's picture

It DID seem like he was around the ball a lot, but I didnt realize that he had 8 tackles.    He certainly didnt look lost out there.

buckeye76BHop's picture

I thought he did better than expected.  Even though he had 8 tackles, he was way out of position on pass plays and some run plays too.  Mike LB is a huge hole for this defense and with Sabino and Williams out as well...I can see it being a reason OSU loses a game if they can't figure something out.  A lot of what happened last night will be blamed on the secondary but those short passes and long runs are because the LBs overall are weak.  The Silver Bullets IMO can be called Blank Bullets for the last two games and you could throw Cal and UCF in there too.  This defense is not very good...definitely not as good as I expected them to be.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

BeijingBucks's picture

I like that...
ill dub them the 'tin blanks' until further notice

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

bhsiba99's picture

I think "rubber bullets" is more fitting .... they sting and bounce right off intended targets. :)

LouGroza's picture

Throw in all the injuries, the youth, Boren forced to play linebacker, night road game, every call that was borderline went against OSU, it is safe to say it could have easily ended up a loss. The fact that it was handily in the bag and it ended up where it did was the concerning part. Not something we are used to that's for sure. 

Abe Froman's picture

Injuries are decimating the important position of the linebackers.  It's not like this team was full of depth coming into the year, and now with 2 of the 3 starters hurt, it should be an area of extreme concern.
Meyer is going to get involved with the defense?  If my boss tell me that he is going to do my job, he usually follows it up with a question.  
I was happy to see the offense opened up much more than I expected.

Basking in the wake of mediocrity.....

otrain2416's picture

Can't believe Boren made that transition so quickly good for him. I thought he did pretty well for having zero college experience and less than a week to learn the position. I'm real suprised we didn't put in any of the freshman LBs we have, being that a lot of them have had months to learn the defense

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

Urban John Simon Meyer's picture

I agree on both comments. Boren did a phenomenal job for the short notice training he got. I've heard it said elsewhere on this site that the defense was limited to the looks Boren knew, and that hamstrung them. I don't know about that. It looked like shoddy play on the parts of the linebackers was doing a pretty good job at keeping Purdue in the game...
As to why not start the kiddos, I agree as well. I understand that getting the win is important, but there has never been a better opportunity to have a 'building year' than this, thanks to NCAA sanctions. Let them in- they're going to be all we have next year and we might as well get them some reps, and like you said, they know the defense.

okiebuck's picture

Our Silver Bullets have turned into the Silver Pixies; very disappointing. Sure there are injuries but injuries are also opportunities for the "next guy" to step up. Our scheme; rush only four and play a soft hybred of man/zone needs to be looked at hard. Every once in a while you need to bring pressure from the middle with a linebacker or safety or on the edge with a corner blitz to keep the QB from getting too comfortable; which the IU guy clearly was. They also need to pull out old film and watch how to tackle from Antoine Winfield; Nate Clemons; Laruanitis and Speilman becuase the missed tackles are growing old. IU has a good coach in Kevin Wilson who ran some powerful offenses while at Oklahoma BUT our D is flat out awful; maybe not West Virginia or Texas bad but pretty dang close. Glad to hear Urban say he will be getting more involved on that side of the ball. Fickell, Vrabel, Withers, et all, better get after it or they will be looking for a job elsewhere; much like the pizza guy. Go Bucks!

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

Menexenus's picture

Another black eye for Rod Smith was a fumble that was recovered by Braxton.  At the time, I thought, "Uh-oh, there's another fumble from a guy who is notorious for fumbling..."  I don't think Rod touched the ball again after that (though I could be wrong).

Real fans stay for Carmen.

Nick's picture

He still returned kicks

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

The block in the back on Smith was rather terrible.  the gunner turned into him as he was blocking.  Almost like flopping IMHO.  And damn you Shane Wynn...He would have been AWESOME in Meyer's offense...

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama