Buckeyes Turned up the Heat

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Last updated: 10/29/2012 4:12 AM

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Buckeyes Turned Up the Heat on Penn State, Big Ten
By Brandon Castel

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Your move, Big Ten.

With a 35-23 victory over Penn State in his first trip to Happy Valley, where one of the true legends of the game stalked the sidelines for six decades, Urban Meyer officially has Ohio State back on the map in big-time college football.

Meyer’s team can’t participate in a bowl game until next season. The Buckeyes aren’t eligible to play in this year’s Big Ten championship game either, but a convincing road win in one of the most hostile environments this conference has to offer is just the latest proof Meyer’s Buckeyes are the Big Ten’s best.

What does that say about the rest of the conference?

Depends what you think of Ohio State right now, but the Buckeyes jumped from No. 9 to sixth in the latest AP Top-25 Poll. The only other team from the conference to make the top 25 is Nebraska at 21. The Buckeyes ransacked Bo Pelini’s Cornhuskers 63-38 in Columbus earlier this season.

They knocked off Michigan State, Indiana and Penn State on the road, and are just three wins away from an undefeated regular season in Meyer’s first campaign as the new face of the program in Columbus.

Urban Meyer
Photo by Dan Harker
Urban Meyer

“When you come on the road you find out about your team,” Meyer said after a rather convincing victory Saturday evening.

“It's a gladiator mentality, it's us against the world and our guys seem to thrive on that so it was against a very talented group. I'm very pleased with the team win.”

The Nittany Lions have their own turmoil to deal with as a program, but first-year head coach Bill O’Brien had his team playing excellent football over the last five weeks after disappointing losses to Ohio University and Virginia early in the year.

Under O’Brien’s tutelage, quarterback Matt McGloin was the Big Ten’s best, and most efficient, passer entering Saturday night’s blockbuster against Ohio State.

“He has played really, really well. He's the catalyst of everything we saw on film. When he's playing well they're tough,” OSU defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said.

Nathan Williams pressures Matt McGloin
Photo by Jim Davidson
Nathan Williams gets after Matt McGloin

“We knew we had to bring some pressure. That's the kind of defense we have to be. A little more aggressive with more pressure, give those guys up front a chance to pin their ears back.”

According to Meyer, the Buckeyes brought more pressure and played more man-to-man defense with their secondary against Penn State than they have done all season.

“We pressured more against a team that throws the ball,” Meyer said.

“When you have a quarterback that's kind of a pocket player you've got to get him on the ground and try to hurry some throws.”

The Buckeyes knew McGloin liked to step up in the pocket, ala Tom Brady, to avoid pressure, so Fickell inserted sophomore Michael Bennett into the starting lineup in order to help to them get more pressure up the middle.

It paid off early in the first quarter when John Simon recorded the first sack for Ohio State’s defense since that Nebraska game three weeks earlier.

“You always want to get a sack early,” said Simon, who forced a 3rd-and-17 on Penn State’s second drive with his seven-yard sack.

“It might screw with their line a little bit so that was a big play for us. Mike Bennett got some good penetration inside and pushed McGloin back, so I was able to have a little extra time to get back there.”

It also helped that fellow senior Nathan Williams was coming just as hard on the opposite side, with the two meeting in the middle at McGloin on a number of different occasions Saturday night.

“Most of the time I’m dropping but this week we brought pressure on both ends,” said Williams, who had a sack and six tackles against Penn State.

“We wanted to get after him and get the quarterback out of his spot. We knew if we did that, we would rattle his chemistry and we did a good job of that. We got to him and I think we got in his head, I think we got in the offensive line’s head and we forced them out of their gameplan.”

Pennsylvania native Noah Spence, a 5-star prospect who likely would have ended up in State College if not for the scandal, was also effective as a pass rusher on Saturday, but it was linebacker Ryan Shazier who flipped the game on McGloin in the second half.

“We knew it was going to be a close game at first, with both defenses being good,” said Shazier, who was wearing No. 48 instead of his usual 10 to honor a friend who died over the summer.

“We knew somebody had to make a play on defense to get it rolling and get the momentum on our side.”

Shazier did exactly that on Penn State’s first possession of the second half. He came through the middle of the line like he was shot out of a cannon on second down for a nine-yard sack.

On third down, Shazier made the play of the game, stepping in front of McGloin’s pass for a defensive touchdown that quieted the crowd of 107,818.

“We knew they had a great O-line and their quarterback was pretty good and a savvy veteran,” Simon said.

“We really wanted to pressure him as much as we could and we put that on our shoulders to get there as much as possible.”

The Buckeyes sacked McGloin four times, and while they allowed a pair of late touchdowns that skewed some of the numbers, they limited Penn State to just 34 yards rushing.

“We put our hard hats on to go on the road,” Williams added.

“Michigan State and here, we held them to low yardage on the rush. We did a great job of that, we just have to fix up a couple things on the back end and we’ll be good.”

Just how good this team can be is still yet to be determined. They play a feeble Illinois squad in Columbus this week, but close out the season with back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Michigan.

They were supposed to be the class of the Big Ten in 2012. Instead, Meyer has already taken the conference by storm in his first season back on the sidelines.

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