The Ohio State defense went into halftime against Florida Atlantic having given up negative 14 yards of total offense, though that’s probably not the proper verbiage.
How does a defense give up negative yardage, after all?
They didn’t allow a loss of 14 yards. They didn’t succumb to the FAU offense and get moved forward 14 yards.
Perhaps the proper way to say it is that the Buckeye defense outgained the Owls by 14 yards in the first half, and any time a team does that, one group of coaches is going to be pretty darn happy.
“Yeah, especially in the first half. I was really proud of those guys,” Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley said after Saturday’s game. “I think the way we ran to the ball, the way we tackled. It looked to me at least from upstairs, like, seven guys running to the ball carrier on every single play. So from that regard, which was probably the thing that I was most anxious about, I’m really proud of those guys. I think they did a good job.”
Florida Atlantic had four drives of positive yardage, four drives of negative yardage, and one drive of absolutely no yardage in that first half. Their final drive of the half went for 15 yards and led to a field goal.
The Buckeye defense was finally as advertised. At least for the first half.
“They played with good fundamentals and techniques,” Hafley said. “They know what they’re doing, their eyes are in the right place. And they’re running to the ball. They showed today that we could do it, especially in that first half.”
The second half was a bit different. Florida Atlantic had drives of 65, 75, and 76 yards, and only went three-and-out once in their five possessions.
“Yeah, I think overall in the second half, just kind of felt — and we’ll see when the film starts — that we kind of let our foot off the gas a little bit,” Hafley said. “But we’ll see. We’ll see when we watch the film.”
The Buckeye defense didn’t get too complicated on the day. They mostly went with three linebackers and a Bullet on the afternoon and didn’t dial anything too exotic up on the play sheet.
And once the Buckeyes were up 28-0, any idea of getting more exotic was placed in a lock box and put on the shelf until next week.
“Well, we felt like today, it was the best way to start the game,” Hafley said of playing three linebackers and a Bullet. “And we got up pretty early and we kind of just wanted to stay really simple. And we felt like with it we could win the game, and we didn’t want to get into too many other things today. After the first half, we kind of said, ‘Hey, these guys are doing a good job, let’s just let them go play.’ We didn’t feel like we needed to dive into anything else.”
Florida Atlantic drew up some fixes for the Ohio State defense at the half and put them to good use. Ohio State chose to dance with what brung ’em.
In the end, the Owls made the Buckeyes pay, but also provided the OSU coaches with exactly the kind of lessons they can focus on this week and down the road in practice and in meetings.
“I mean, it’s a good learning moment. You come out like we did, you just got to do it all four quarters, and you got to finish,” Hafley said.
“They showed what they’re capable of, and hopefully we’ll learn from that. You know, I keep saying, you have no preseason game, so you never know what you’re going to get. Now we see it, and now we have stuff to learn from. And usually you take your biggest jump, at least in my experience, between week one and we two. I know it’s kind of cliché, but it’s the truth. So we’ve got to learn from it.”