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.
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.”