Ohio State Special Teams Player of the Week Joe Burger Earns Top Recognition for Thwarting Indiana Fake Punt Attempt

By Eric Seger on October 5, 2015 at 5:00 pm
Joe Burger was named Ohio State's special teams player of the week, in large part for thwarting an Indiana fake punt attempt.

It's not often the Columbus media gets a chance to speak with the special teams player of the week under Urban Meyer — especially when that player is a walk-on.

"We try not to refer to him as a walk-on in that way because they're not. Him, Craig Fada, there's no difference between those guys and anybody else," co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said Monday. "That's the beautiful thing."

The guy Fickell referred to is Joe Burger, a junior from Cincinnati LaSalle High School who along with his roommate Fada have made an impact on Ohio State's special teams often in 2015.

Burger's latest act, the halting of a fake punt ran by Indiana in Ohio State's 34-27 victory Saturday, earned him special teams player of the week honors from his head coach.

"The black shirt, who is the player of the game on special teams, was Joe Burger, obviously stopped a fake punt for us and a very important guy on punt block and KOR," Meyer said Monday.

GIF: Joe Berger stuffs Indiana's fake punt attempt

Burger hardly ever makes press clippings, but did Saturday when he denied the Hoosiers a first down on 4th-and-1 from their own 11-yard line. At the time the Buckeyes trailed 10-3, and Burger's stop put Ohio State's offense in stellar field position for its next drive. The Buckeyes kicked a field goal.

"Actually going through film, (special teams) coach (Kerry) Coombs was going through the different looks and different fake opportunities that they had and one of them was that exact look that they showed on Saturday," Burger said Monday. "When the play happened, it was almost like, 'Is this real? Are they showing that exact look?' Having that familiarity and practice with it, was one of the reasons we were able to stop that play."

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson attributed the ugly error to a miscommunication between his staff and his punter, Erich Toth.

"We had something up, and unfortunately the way we done it, we had the ability to go a couple directions and we kind of practiced it in a direction where all of a sudden we got a look and we called it to go the other way and unfortunately it didn't get communicated," Wilson said after the game. "Basically, Erich just busted, just busted on the right, and we blocked — it was kind of set up and he just made a mistake."

It looked bad, but Burger did his job and capitalized on Toth's blunder.

GIF: Joe Berger blows up an Indiana fake punt.

"I mean, it was kind of shocking," Burger said. "I wasn't thinking since they were on their own 12-yard line or so. It was 4th-and-short, but either way, that's why we practice and that's why we're ready for any such opportunity that would come up and that's why we prepare."

Wide receivers coach Zach Smith, who heads the punt block unit, was the first person on Ohio State's sideline to greet him after he chased down Toth for a three-yard loss. And, according to Burger, Smith promised him something.

"He ran down and gave me a big old high-five and he's like, 'I'm going to get you a steak dinner for this or something,'" Burger said with a huge smile. "Just kind of jokingly. It was fun."

Fada's name was initially spoken by the Indiana public address announcer when he credited the tackle, but both he and Burger have the respect of their teammates and coaches alike for what they do not only on punt team but also kickoff and in team meeting rooms.

"You can't imagine what (Burger) and Craig Fada and some of those guys that work their tails off every single day bring to us," Fickell said. "They don't obviously get on the field a ton and they don't get noticed unless something unique happens, but they're far more responsible for what the linebacker unit really is."

Just in another day's work for Burger, who said the team erupted during its Sunday film session when that play came across the screen.

"That's pretty cool. That's what you do it for, you do it for all the guys in the room and all the guys in my unit, especially the linebacker room," Burger said. "I'm just happy I'm able to contribute and help the team win in a physical way. Made a play that contributed on the scoreboard to a victory on Saturday."

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