Defending a New Domain

By Kyle Rowland on October 24, 2012 at 10:00a

One play, 83 yards.

That’s all it took for Purdue to get its offense humming on Saturday and for the “Here we go again,” comments to rattle around Ohio Stadium.

Tackling made an appearance against Purdue.

It certainly wasn’t the start Ohio State wanted or needed. The Buckeyes were coming of a week in which it allowed 49 points to Indiana, including 15 in the final two minutes. The week before that Nebraska scored 38 points.

Wholesale changes were already in order, with Zach Boren moving from fullback to linebacker and head coach Urban Meyer becoming more involved with the defense.

Then the same problem cropped up again. Making matters worse was the fact that Ohio State had rehearsed Purdue’s opening play several times throughout the week. But when it mattered, players were out of position.

That’s where the gashing for the Boilermakers ended, though. They gained just over 250 yards the rest of the game and the Purdue offense was only responsible for one more touchdown in Ohio State’s 29-22 overtime victory.

"We weren't really concerned,” defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins said of the quick touchdown. “That happens. It’s about the next play. We had tons of juice and we knew we were going to go out there and stop them.”

In the game’s biggest possession – overtime – Purdue started 25 yards away from the end zone. But on four plays it could only gain five yards. On 4th-and-5, Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush sailed the ball to the end zone after he came under pressure, hoping that someone in a Gold and Black uniform would come down with it. Instead, the ball went out the back of the end zone.

“Our defensive line got a lot of pressure on that play,” safety Christian Bryant said. “Our whole front line did a nice job putting pressure on the quarterback and flushing him out the pocket, which forced him to make a bad pass.”

It isn’t very often that the Ohio State defense attracts so much negative attention. It’s been among the conference and nation’s best for decades. But it’s slipped to unforeseen lows the past two seasons. 

In a tale of 59 minutes – the last 59 for the OSU defense and the first 59 for the Purdue defense – Ohio State may have finally turned the corner. Along with the overtime possession, the Buckeyes withstood a 19-play, 10 minute, 32 second drive that ended with CJ Barnett intercepting a pass in the end zone. 

“I thought they played well the whole day,” Meyer said. “I thought our defense might have had their best performance. Obviously the first one was kind of a little trick play. You take away that play, which you can't take away that play, and our defense played really well.”

Purdue failed to score a single point off of the Buckeyes’ four turnovers. Defending after offensive miscues has been one of Ohio State’s strengths this season. On possessions following Ohio State’s 13 turnovers, opponents have scored just 13 points – a touchdown and two field goals.

Still, Purdue’s touchdowns were 83 yards and 31 yards. On the season, Ohio State has allowed five touchdowns of 50 yards or more. This week, the Buckeyes will deal with a versatile offense that has been a part of five consecutive wins. They’ll also have to deal with a raucous atmosphere.

Purdue had little chance of scoring in overtime.

Penn State has averaged 34 points per game in its five wins. On the flipside, the Nittany Lions have only scored 15 points per game in two losses. Bill O’Brien’s high-powered offense is running around 90 plays per game and is averaging more than 405 yards.

“Penn State has great football players right now,” Meyer said. “They’re very well coached. 

“Coach Coop, my personnel director, gave me the list. It’s going to be a good draft day for the Penn State Nittany Lions.”

Penn State beat Iowa, 38-14, last week in Iowa City, and in the first half alone, the Nittany Lions ran 50 plays, gained 304 yards and scored three touchdowns. The fast-paced offense has gained the nickname NASCAR in State College.

Bits and pieces of O’Brien’s past were thrown into a blender and the playbook emerged. From Brown to Georgia Tech to the New England Patriots, chunks of those offenses have now emerged from the ashes at Penn State. O’Brien has been an offensive assistant – and many times the coordinator – throughout the entirety of his coaching career. And the most common denominator is the no-huddle offense.

“We’ve been doing this for a while,” O’Brien said. “None of us invented it. I mean, if you want to say who invented it you'd have to go all the way back to Paul Brown. He invented the shotgun and no-huddle and two minute offense.”

The Nittany Lions’ Jimmie Johnson has been quarterback Matt McGloin. In the season’s first two games, losses to Ohio and Virginia, McGloin didn’t complete more than 56 percent of his passes and totaled four touchdowns and an interception.

McGloin’s numbers in the past five games have been the best of his career. He’s completing more than 65 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdowns versus just one interception. For the season, he’s amassed 1,788 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.

“I think he’s the most efficient passer we’ll see all season,” Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. “He does a nice job of finding the open man. He knows exactly where he wants to go with the football, but if it’s not there he does a good job going through his progressions. We turned on the film (Sunday) night and we actually saw him go through one, two, three on reads. I don’t know if we’ve seen that from another quarterback all year.”

Playing under the guy who coached Tom Brady for five seasons helps. O’Brien isn’t just good at teaching quarterbacks, he’s also adept at putting them in position to succeed.

“No. 1 is you try to get into a certain rhythm,” O’Brien said. “So one of the things that any coach will tell you that runs that type of up-tempo offense is first down is really important. If you can gain positive yards on first down, then your second and medium call or second and short call is a playcaller's dream. That's really the most important thing.”

Another reason for the uptick in McGloin’s production has been the iron curtain he’s playing behind. Penn State has only allowed eight sacks in seven games. On the opposite end of that spectrum, Indiana and Purdue, Ohio State’s past two opponents have thrown 54 and 30 passes, respectively. The Buckeyes had zero sacks on those pass plays.

But one week after no defensive player appeared on the champions list for the Indiana game, seven showed up after only allowing 13 points to Purdue, three of which were defensive linemen – John Simon, Johnathan Hankins and Nathan Williams.

“Words can’t even explain it," linebacker Ryan Shazier said of the defense’s performance. “We've been grinding so much, working so hard. We’ve been going through everything together. These guys are my brothers. I would do anything for them.”


Comments Show All Comments

jthiel09's picture

All of the things I've read from fans, it seemed they were too critical of the defense from Saturday. They played a good game and take away that kickoff (which point wise wasn't the defesnses fault it was the Special Teams) they really did play good. 
Great insight Kyle, another good read.


cplunk's picture

I rewatched the game last night on BTN (the watch a game in an hour thing) and really the D only played poorly on this one play and two drives. The worst drive by far was the all-bubble screen drive where Purdue basically marched down the field at will and scored. Overall though I was very surprised by how well the D played when I was watching with some distance from the emotion of a live game.

Earle's picture

I was surprised at all of the criticism of the defense after the game.  They have deserved it for much of the year, but I though they played much better against Purdue.

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

bhsiba99's picture

It was a better performance overall, but you can't just ignore the big plays that they allowed in evaluating the defensive performance.

gwalther's picture

Ryan Shazier isn't a defensive lineman.

Class of 2008

gwalther's picture

All good mayne. Just was pointing it out. Easy to criticize, hard to write good articles. Thanks for your hard work!

Class of 2008

cinserious's picture

He was in h.s. 20 lb ago lol

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Tim's picture

They would call the fast-paced offense NASCAR in State College.  So country.  Anyway, a big key to our defense is not having Boren or Klein cover anyone in space.

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

The overall defense and tackling were better against Purdue, but I want to see it get better against the remaining four teams on the schedule. One game doesn't make for a better defense.

bassplayer7770's picture

Plus, cutting down on those big plays is a big part of the Defense.  It was painful to watch how slow Klein was on that first play.

NH-IO's picture

Also, I think a lot of these articles are omitting the fact that the OSU D also gave up a 19 play 85 yard drive (I think it may have actually been 90 after a penalty on the first play) that took over 10 minutes.  We got fortunate with the pick in the end zone.  I am very worried about Penn State.  Hate to say it but those number McGloin has been putting up after the first two games are excellent.

brglr14's picture

i think on that drive they out schemed us with the bubble screen. aftert that drive coaches took it away with adjustments. they didnt show that until that drive.

I dont know karate but i do know crazy and i'm not afraid to use it.


CowCat's picture

Penn State will be a challenge, but not as much as some people think.  They really haven't played much of anyone yet.   Iowa and Illinois are having down years.  They barely squeeked by Northwestern.  Lost to Ohio U.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I'd like to see our 4 best defensive performances in the last 4 games... To run the table after a year of 6-7 would be amazing... Plus, I really hate State Penn. 

PF_Flyers22's picture

ugh...NASCAR? Really? So you're comparing your offense to a sport that boils down to turning left for 3 hours? 
I suppose the media does love giving things monikers. God help us if Musburger gets one of their games:
"So what do you think of this NASCAR offense Herbie" 
"And there's that NASCAR making a big play again"
"[Insert B1G Opponent Here] just can't seem to stop this NASCAR offense"

buckz4evr's picture

^^^Followed by "Holy Nascar, that was a great catch!".

timdogdad's picture

yeah and they were the hd offense a few years ago with darryl whats his name at qb from youngstown ursuiine.   we pretty much shut that down in 09.   but i'm glad psu is playing good so it has our attention.  instead of an "oh, half of their starters are gone, we'll once again just show up and will be up 28-0 at halftime."   they did beat illinois and iowa pretty good. they have good balance with the traditional tough d and a revised offense. we better bring the juice.  don't want to get down 10 to start because the crowd will  be raging.    need a quick td start like vs msu.    

Tim's picture

Yeah Darryl Clark was pretty overrated.  Agreed about the change in mindset, though.  Going into the year, I wasn't worried about this game at all and was thinking maybe PSU would go 3-9 or something like that.  Now I'm expecting a tougher game, though I still think we'll win.

buckz4evr's picture

Unfortunately, BOB is going to have PSU rolling in about 5 or 6 yrs. 

William's picture

That will be highly unlikey since they won't even have a full team then. 

LouGroza's picture

If Bob finds a way to win many more games into next year the NFL will come calling. He will not be there long if he remains looking competant.

45OH4IO's picture

BOB better enjoy the spectacular sunset that this season represents and prepare for the harsh winter night of 2013-2020. Like in the movie Pitch Black when the sun goes down.

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I hope the bullets have it all figured out now... jusy no more big plays!
I can't explain how i'll feel if we get denarded again...
(Which is very unlikely)