Ohio State Notebook: ‘I haven’t done anything like that in my whole life’

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Jeff Hafley’s First Game

Jeff Hafley considers himself a college coach, having spent 10 years on college sidelines and seven years in the NFL.

But over all of those previous seasons in college ball, he never experienced anything like he did on Saturday.

Since Ryan Day hired Hafley to be co-defensive coordinator, he has been living a life of first experiences, but that’s what Ohio State can do to a guy.

Hafley’s first game in Ohio Stadium was no different.

“A little emotional. Such a special place,” he said of his experience. “It’s been a while since I stepped on a college field. Just a lot of thoughts going through my head. Very anxious, very excited to see what these guys [would do] who I’ve really grown to care about. Special moment.

“All morning was kind of special just to go through the whole pregame, Skull Session. I haven’t done anything like that in my whole life. Fans here are unbelievable. And then the walk, through the walk and have all the fans there to walk on the field. That’s special. It’s pretty cool.”

Just Go Play

After 30 minutes of play, Florida Atlantic had managed negative 14 yards of total offense. Eleven of Ohio State’s 12 tackles for loss came in that first half.

Ryan Day was concerned about tackling coming into the game, but leaving the game, he had to feel great about how that particular aspect went.

This was a defense working together and communicating well, especially the linebackers.

Last year, the linebackers were constantly answering questions about what went wrong. Now they’re faced with answering questions about why things didn’t.

“I think the scheme allows us to go ahead and play,” said senior linebacker Malik Harrison. “Not really thinking. All of the linebackers, we’re not really thinking out there, we’re just going out there and playing. We’re more comfortable. We’ve got a higher confidence and we’re just out there having fun and playing.”

Asked if the defense had been “dumbed down,” Harrison bristled a bit at the notion.

“I don’t think it’s ‘dumbed down.’ They just want us to play,” he said. “Coach Day when he was first trying to get his defensive staff [hired], he told us he wanted the defense to just go and play.”

Talk About the Big Plays

There were several big plays by the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Big runs, big passes, sacks, and big hits.

The biggest hit of the day came from Malik Harrison who was defending the middle of the field when Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant showed up in his zone with a pass headed his way.

Harrison lit up Bryant, separating him from the football and surprisingly not drawing a flag for targeting.

What did Harrison think of the play.

“I was like, ‘bad day for him,’” he said smiling.

Another big play came from junior defensive end Chase Young on a first quarter sack of FAU quarterback Chris Robison. Robison almost escaped, but Young had a handful of britches and he wasn’t going to let go.

“Man, I was trying to hold on as hard as I could,” Young said. “That’s the only thing I was thinking in my head. I was saying I don’t care what my shoulder does, I’m not letting go.”

Statistically, however, the biggest play of the game came from Justin Fields’ 51-yard rush in the first quarter. It was his first carry as a Buckeye and there wasn’t a defender in sight.

On a day when almost nothing surprised Fields, the wide open field on his first carry as a Buckeye was an exception.

“Honestly, it did,” he said. “So when I was running it, I was thinking to myself, ‘That was kind of easy.’ But it definitely surprised me a little bit.”

3 Responses

  1. A question about Buckeyes defense in the second half. None of the articles I read talk about when the defensive backups came into the game. Was it third quarter, fourth quarter ? the changeover to second or third team defensive players would certainly explain what seemed to be a drop-off in defensive intensity for the Buckeyes in the second half.

  2. Wrote this a couple days back regarding the “Leaves and Peeves” piece:

    “Malik Harrison, anyone? Guy played solid. Fast to the ball, hard hitting. Some great disruption. Leaf worthy for sure.

    And while I’m questioning about D, Okudah. Really no leaf from anyone?”

    There’s great potential on D. Okudah is the real deal too. Everyone knows about Young. He’s a beast. We need 3-5 others to emerge for this D to dominate. Hopefully some will be underclassmen and stick around.

    Hafley’s success depends continuity as much immediate success. If you doubt that, just look to Coach Johnson’s record with OSU. He’s already a legend.

  3. Malik Harrison is skyrocketing up the ladder of favorite Buckeyes. Al Washington when he steps in front of the camera’s can tell reporters when the media asks what the difference between last year and this year is, can say of Malik,” “He’s been weaponized.” He’s been playing see ball, get ball. When he can’t get the ball, he’s all out in assault mode to prevent the opponent from getting it either, and he’s been doing it with style since about the mid point of last season.

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