Illinois Notebook: Defense Continues Resurgence

By Kyle Rowland on November 3, 2012 at 11:53p

For the Ohio State defense, it’s been the tale of two seasons. The first half, plus the seventh game, included more points than the Buckeyes were accustomed to giving up, as well several plays of 30-plus yards. 

Blue-collar Buckeyes.

But ever since, the Silver Bullets have hunkered down and gotten back to its reputation.

On Saturday, in a 52-22 win over Illinois, the Buckeyes held the Illini to 170 yards of total offense, less than 100 rushing and passing, while they converted just two of 14 third downs. The Illinois defense had 77 yards on a fumble return, more than 45 percent of the offense's total output.

“Indiana was a setback and we really took it to heart,” defensive end John Simon said. “As a defense, we rededicated ourselves in practice and have been doing everything we can to be prepared for game days. So far it’s been paying off, so we have to keep it up over the next two weeks.”

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase completed 19 passes, but it was more quantity than quality – he only had 96 yards passing. Simon only finished with one tackle – a 10-yard sack – but he spent the better part of three quarters chasing Scheelhaase.

A week after not allowing Penn State to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes limited Illinois to one offensive touchdown. Four Illinois possessions ended in three-and-outs.

“We really interrupted their schedule,” said linebacker Ryan Shazier, who finished with a team-high 14 tackles and a career-high 11 solo tackles. “We made them rip up the pages in their playbook. We did things they weren’t expecting us to do. We got them in 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long, and we would get our defensive linemen in and get our nose running into the quarterback.”

Zach Boren's move to defense was because of injuries.

Give Me A Break

Few teams have dealt with the number of injuries Ohio State has had to through the first 10 weeks of the season. Offense, defense, special teams – each unit has been hit hard by the injury bug.

Needless to say, the Buckeyes are happy the bye week is upon them.

“Everybody's beat down,” quarterback Braxton Miller said. “It’s a struggle. You’ve just got to fight through it.”

Miller has battled bumps and bruises all season. He’s come out of multiple games, including the Purdue game when he suffered a neck injury that sent him to the hospital. Backup Kenny Guiton rallied the Buckeyes in a miracle finish.

Ohio State has some time off in the coming week. But Meyer made sure to let his team know they earned it by performing on Saturday.

“The bye week, there’s no rights around here,” Meyer said. “That’s earned time. If we didn’t play well we would have been in tomorrow working and going all week like a normal workweek. But those guys earned it. I'm proud of them.”

The analyzing of bye weeks is a favorite pastime in sports. Is it at the right time or not, or do they not even matter at all?

Cornerback Bradley Roby said it’s too late in the season and that he believes Ohio State needs to play every week to maximize its respect. But others welcome the off week, especially with the two biggest games of the season looming. 

“I think it will give a lot of guys who have been hurt or injured a chance to rest and hopefully we will get a lot of guys back for Wisconsin,” Shazier said.

Bri'onte Dunn carried the load in the fourth quarter.

Fuel Reserves 

For weeks Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has lamented the fact that Ohio State hasn’t been able to get its backups in the game. That changed on Saturday.

The Buckeyes’ second- and third-stringers got in a full quarter's worth of work.

Running back Bri’onte Dunn had not received a carry since the Central Florida game. But he showed little rust against Illinois, rushing for 73 yards on 13 carries. Dunn scored on a three-yeard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter on a drive that was literally all Bri’onte Dunn.

He carried the ball on all seven plays for 44 yards. Dunn had carries of seven, nine, five, 11, four, five and three yards.

Dunn entered the season as a regular in the running back rotation. But the reliability of Carlos Hyde and emergence of Rod Smith pushed him to the background.

In the season-opening win over Miami (Ohio), Dunn had 31 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. The next week against UCF, he had 29 yards on five carries. But he only saw offensive snaps in one game since.

“You try to get one or two of those (backups) early in the year, but we were so lousy it was hard to do that,” Meyer said. “I’m glad to see because there’s no way you can simulate that in practice. That Bri’onte Dunn, he’s a little looser with the ball, but I thought he ran very hard.”


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BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I'm pretty sure Rod Smith is a little looser with the ball... of course Dunn bobbled one around a little too...

Et_Tu_OSU's picture

Kyle, I think you meant to say, "the emergence of the football from Rod Smith's arms onto the ground."  I'm tired of lamenting/defending/hearing about Smith's talent rather than his production - Dunn just moved up to #2 on the depth chart.

"The revolution will be televised."

kevinfrenchfry's picture

wow, completely disagree with this.  i like dunn, but rod has stepped his game up and kyle isnt the only 11W staffer to write about it (thats number 1).  Number 2, El Guapo is the reason dunn was able to beat that illini defense like a drum, they were EXHAUSTED (c'mon you must know this).  Number 3, if you give up on rod smith, your like ALL the fans AND analysts who wrote off tiki barber (i hate the giants) who had FOUR CONSECUTIVE YEARS of having 8 or more fumbles, and rushes for over FIVE THOUSAND YARDs in his final three seasons. Dont make declarations after a game against the one of the worst big ten teams ever (last in most statistical categories, w/o their best defensive player, first year coach, TEN GAME CONF LOSING STREAK, now 11) rod smith is hungry for a greater role and hes earned it, and he deserves it and i think if something terrible happened to hyde i am inclined to say i wouldnt foresee a big production drop, and are we forgetting his 51 yard td today when illinois might've still actually cared about the game.

rampageripster's picture

dude... Rod has yet to play a game this season where he gets significant carries and does not fumble... Tiki Barber is a very rare exception... Smith will continue to only get limited carries until he can prove that he can hold onto the damn ball

Cause I couldn't go for three

kevinfrenchfry's picture

i agree with that obviously, but i dont believe tiki was a rare exception.  how is it rare when i guy simply stops carrying the ball like a loaf of bread, to simply putting it high and tight, which became tikis kind of signature style, but thats what he needed to do to tak care of business.  idk i guess im just crazy to think this isnt someting urban is going to fix, clearly he wants him in the game and thats because, like many buckeye fans know, the guy is a beast and COULD be the starter on this team ahead of hyde, had he had a better 'tude from day 1

gwalther's picture

Agree with @rampage. I think I mentally inserted a "Nuff said" at the end of his post. 

Class of 2008

MediBuck's picture

I still think you can't keep Smith off the field, as you saw today. The kid has gamebreaking abilities the way you saw on that 51-yard wheel route and the 30-something yard TD burst in the Nebraska game. In fact, I thought he did a much better job of hanging onto the ball while taking it up the gut the last few games. Against Illinois, he was in space and I wager he got a little careless thinking he was against defensive backs. The kid will learn, and we have him for at least two more years. Besides, it's nice to have that depth behind El Guapo, especially if Hyde decides not to return for his senior year.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

lippertini's picture

Smith was very impressive (again) today, minus the fumble.  I don't think Dunn passed Smith today, especially if Meyer is saying that Dunn's loose with the ball in practice himself. 

Et_Tu_OSU's picture

I don't disagree, but saying he "was very impressive (again) today, minus the fumble" (again) is like saying, "that car is incredible, except for the missing stearing wheel."  Dunn looked very good himself, and managed to put the game away while holding onto the ball (regardless of what he's looked like in practice).  I don't take pleasure in pointing this stuff out (quite the opposite, actually), I'm just tired of watching Rod piss away his opportunities becaus he is talented and could really be helping us.

"The revolution will be televised."

bhardy22132's picture

Cause the big TD catch he had wasnt any help...........come on. He is improving every week. I think he is the answer to the Harvin role personally. To say that Dunn moved up to the #2, please. He is not ready for the #2. Obviously UFM sees what we all see in him because his play time on the offense has started to increase. The kid has talent and produces when he is on the field. He is doing just fine.

buckeyedude's picture

As I said on the other article, Rod Smith has a lot of talent. I think he will continue to play a role. And he'll be in there more with Hyde in the backfield in the next two games. I think he'll continue to be used on kickoffs and punt returns.
But because he fumbles every friggin game, he isn't going to be the featured running back. It's going to be El Guapo.
The more touches Smith gets, the more the odds go up of him fumbling the ball. I hate to be the pessimist here, but I'm starting to think this kid isn't going to be able to change his propensity to put the ball on the ground. You KNOW Drayton has been working with him since the beginning of the season, and he keeps dropping the ball.
Turnovers are costly. Especially in close games.



Buckeyeholicwompa's picture

That UCF team we played in September is currently a 2 loss team. Just thought I'd mention that.

NoVA Buckeye's picture

Still trying to figure out how they lost to Mizzou...

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

kevinfrenchfry's picture

thats impressive and all but i think that game, as well as the other early games are a testament to how much of a process it is to work out the kinks with a team, which they're STILL doing, but the in-season strides they've made have been remarkable, IMO.  if we start the season over and put this more confident, more controlled and flat out better version of the bucks out there, every game would look like today, nebraska, and miami of OH. an i think if we played MSU again, it would be more of a thumping than a football game, again my opinion

Kyle Rowland's picture

Great point. Close losses to OSU and Mizzou.

cinserious's picture

Dunn had carries of seven, nine, five, 11, four, five and three yards.
I'm going to use this stat at the craps table @ Hollywood Casino next time I go! Hey, crazier things have happened!

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


No story about the basketball scrimmage against Miami, Ohio. I talked to one of the Miami players in barbershop tonight he said. He didn't think they were 4th best team in country but very good on defense. He like Craft and said Ravenel was strong as a OX. 

kevinfrenchfry's picture

good info there, i can def see the offense being shaky, praying craft steps up his production on that side of the court, but ill still love the guy if he keeps playing his hallmark "fly on cow crap" defense

buckeyedude's picture

I think A. Williams is going to have to become a scoring machine on offense, to help fill the role the Sullinger played. Big shoes to fill there though.



Maceyko's picture

The Illinois D was tired in the 4th quarter.  Not sure we can base anything off of that.  I hate the fumbles also, but not quite so sure that this particular one was that bad.  The helmet got right on the ball.  Now maybe he could have wrapped it with both hands as the defender came flying in but not sure.  Overall though Rod is getting his playing time and getting some highlight moments and he is a part of this offense now.

BeijingBucks's picture

they looked tired in the first quarter... Hyde was like a hot knife through butter

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

gwalther's picture

My cousin coached Brionte in track at Glen Oak... The dude was a 6'2 220lb SPRINTER. That's just incredible to me. He looked like a beast last night.
my cousin basically said this: "because of his size he accelerates a little slower than other sprinters, but once he gets going, look out."

Class of 2008

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

probably why he's returning kickoffs... time to get going, and the speed to go the distance...

osubuckeye4life's picture

I'm happy that we have depth at some positions. 
I really think this team is finally hitting its stride.