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Last updated: 10/03/2012 3:13 AM

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Football
Meyer: ‘Go Put Your Nose On It’
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After a couple of shaky performances in the nonconference schedule, Ohio State’s defense came out with a nearly flawless performance against Michigan State in the Big Ten opener.

The Buckeyes’ defense overcame three turnovers by Braxton Miller and the OSU offense and forced a key three-and-out in the final minutes of a 17-16 victory in East Lansing. The defense also limited one of the more effective power runners in the country to more than 100 yards below his season average, but there was one moment where the defense looked about as bad as anything Urban Meyer has seen.

Urban Meyer
Photo by Jim Davidson
Urban Myer

“One awful play, that's the one I remember too,” he said Monday during his weekly press luncheon.

“I got (Etienne) Sabino really good after that. You'll no longer see us try to strip that. We're not doing it anymore.”

What Meyer is referring to was the 29-yard touchdown pass from MSU quarterback Andrew Maxwell to wideout Keith Mumphery. It was the first career touchdown for Mumphery, who broke no fewer than five tackles on his way to the end zone.

In reality, calling them broken tackles is a bit of an insult to tackles everywhere. These were more like swipes. This is how the play was described   by Ozone contributor Ken Pryor, a high school football coach who provides us with our X’s and O’s analysis.

The throwback pass to Keith Humphrey caught Orhian Johnson out of position, then rendered him reaching for Humphrey’s flag instead of trying to make the tackle. Travis Howard had a shot at him, but he seemed surprised Humphrey didn’t run into his waiting arms as if he’d been waiting for Travis all his life to come tackle him.

Christian Bryant gave a gallant effort (and by gallant I mean pathetic) with his shoulder bump that did nothing more than push Humphrey back into Howard who, again, seemed surprised that the ball-carrier simply didn’t take a knee at that point. Enter Etienne Sabino, who tries to rip the ball out of Humphrey’s arms to no avail. In the fray, we see Nate Williams get in on the act, but the other Buckeye defenders seem to be holding Humphrey up instead of bringing him down, so they all go for a ride into the end zone. 

What should have been stopped for an 8-yard gain turned into a 29-yard touchdown that should have left this group nothing short of embarrassed.

It certainly seems to have embarrassed the head coach, who has seen enough of his defense trying to strip the ball out instead of bringing the runner to the ground with malice and authority.

“You want to strip a ball, put your face on the ball and knock it out of there,” Meyer said.

“There was such an emphasis made last year on stripping the ball, because weren’t very good here last year on creating turnovers. One way to create turnovers is to get your hand in there and strip the ball. I’ve never been a big fan … go put your nose on it.”

Overall, the tackling was much improved from last week against UAB to this week against Michigan State. Even the UAB game was a drastic improvement over what this defense showed against Cal, when they again tried to strip the ball from Brendan Bigelow on his two long touchdown runs.

Part of that, Meyer said, was a tougher mentality and part of it was just fundamentals.

“I think if you interview a hundred coaches, they'll give you 50 mental, 50 physical. So it’s obviously a combination of both,” Meyer said of his team’s improved tackling.

“I know what the guy to my far right would say (motioning towards Earle Bruce), it's mental. I agree with that, but I think the fundamentals of tackling is something we teach. I get kind of defensive when people say people don't teach tackling anymore. You're damn right we do. We do a lot. Probably more than any school in the country.

Cornerback Bradley Roby actually led the team with nine tackles, while linebackers Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino each finished with eight. Safety Christian Bryant had seven and was very active around the line of scrimmage, as the Buckeyes often brought an extra defender into the box against Michigan State tailback Le’Veon Bell.

“I loved the energy of our defense,” Meyer added.

“I loved the fact that we played tighter to the line of scrimmage. I love the fact that we put pressure on the corners. I like the multiplicity now. I like where we are as a defense.”

Meyer sort of expected them to play better against Michigan State’s traditional Big Ten power offense. They still had some issues with the quick screens and short passes to the perimeter, so Saturday’s game against Nebraska will be another big test for this group.

“I think we're better now, but this is a tough one,” Meyer said.

“This is a dynamic offense. The one thing when you make a mistake and it's an 8‑yard gain, this one's a mistake, and it's an 80‑yard gain. This is the big difference that I see with Nebraska's offense.”

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