Buckeye Defense Can Still Get Better Per Jeff Hafley, Greg Mattison

Ohio State football defense tackling

Ohio State’s first-team defense held Nebraska to just 91 total yards on Saturday.

They did that to a Husker offense that was averaging 556 yards of total offense in its previous three games.

When the Buckeye backups came into the game in the fourth quarter, Nebraska went on drives of 75 and 65 yards. Before that, their longest drive was 49 yards, and five of their first eight drives failed to garner a first down.

Despite the domination, Ohio State defensive coordinators Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison came away from the 48-7 win knowing that they could still get better.

“Oh, when we watch the film tomorrow, you watch every single play and you watch the process,” Hafley said after Saturday’s game. “You throw the score out. Was your step good. Was your hand placement good? Was your leverage good? Were your eyes good? This game, to me, every play is not about the result, it’s about all of the little things that we’ve got to stay on these guys. It’s fundamentals and technique, and that’s the most important thing we can coach these guys on.”

In five games this season, the most yards gained against the Buckeyes this year is 273 by Cincinnati — a game in which the Bearcats failed to score.

Last year, Ohio State only held two opponents under that 273-yard marker, and that was Rutgers and Tulane. Not exactly something to write home about.

Much has already been written about OSU’s changes on defense, but Hafley credits the players for being both physically and emotionally agile.

“I think, one, they’ve bought in to the fundamentals and technique, which are more important than anything,” he said. “Then I think like we’ve talked about for a long time, when you mix in man, you mix in different zones, you change it up, the quarterback gets bad looks, now we’re all looking at the football. You combine that with our pass rush and good things happen.”

A great plan is a must, as is a group of players who have bought in. It also helps when those players who have bought in are pretty darn talented.

Mattison has been a part of some very talented defenses in his day, and what he sees out of his players right now is skill, desire, belief, and an understanding that the present isn’t the finish line.

“I think we’re a defense that’s very talented,” Mattison said. “I think we’re a defense that believes in each other, believes in the system, and believes in what we’re trying to do. And I think we’re a defense that knows they have to work hard every week to get better. You get around defenses sometimes and they don’t see that as they go on. Our guys understand that we can get better. We can get better. We can get so much better and we’ve just got to do that every week.”

Following the game on Saturday, Hafley echoed Mattison’s sentiments and said this defense can get ‘way better.’ That seems like a tall order when you consider just how completely they handcuffed the Nebraska offense.

But it does make one wonder exactly what way better would look like.

“Well, I think we are still making mistakes, but when I say ‘way better,’ I don’t want to sound silly, right?” Hafley said. “But I still think there’s mistakes out there. I think there’s plays we left out there. I think there’s third downs we should have been off the field. I think there’s balls that we got out-leveraged on that shouldn’t have out-leveraged us. I don’t think they should have scored that touchdown. So what does way better look like? No points. I’m really proud of the guys. Really proud of them. I thought the defensive staff did an incredible job. All of them, so that’s a tough question.”

2 Responses

  1. As long as this group remains hungry and gets healthier the better. They have yet to be tested into the 3rd or 4th quarters, but I believe they are being well conditioned. It’s amazing what simplifying and fundamentals do to a group of players mainly 4 and 5 stars.

      Thank You Coached and Men of Scarley and Gray!!!

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