COLUMBUS – After the departure of players like Chase Young and Davon Hamilton following last season, Ohio State knew there would have to be a collective effort to fill the big holes those players left behind. In game one against Nebraska, their presence was missed early on as the Buckeye defensive line struggled to have a strong physical presence.
In week two against Penn State, the Ohio State defensive line set the tone of the game from the start and was completely dominating Penn State’s offensive line. The Rushmen played with physicality, urgency, and they executed.
Against Ohio State last week, Nebraska quarterbacks ran 22 times for 165 yards, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. In the first half of the game at Penn State, Nittany Lions’ quarterbacks ran 12 times for 13 yards, for an average of 1.1 yards per carry. By the end of the game, Penn State ran 27 times for 44 yards, for just an average of 1.6 yards per carry.
It was clear that the defensive line was at their best against the Nittany Lions. There was so much pressure defensively that Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford barely had a chance to make plays, and even when he had a chance, he had to make the plays quickly.
“After Nebraska, we went back and watched the film and saw what we could get better at,” senior Jonathon Cooper said following the game on Saturday.
There was a different vibe or swagger about the defensive line that was simply missing last week. If the Buckeyes maintain the energy level that was present in the Penn State game and they continue to play with the same level of dominance, this defensive line as a unit can be something really special.
Cooper said he thinks Ohio State’s defensive ends are the best in the country and they showed that in this game.
Two surprising standouts that have emerged as major contributors on the line were senior defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and junior nose tackle Tommy Togiai.
Garrett recorded two tackles. He made a big difference on the defensive line once again, still just two months after recovering from being shot in the face. He won his matchups consistently and his impact was felt.
Togiai showed a lot of hustle and beat a double-team to record the first sack of his Ohio State career. He made his second sack of the night on a 3rd-and-10 that forced Penn State to punt.
Togiai finished the game with seven total tackles with three sacks and three tackles for loss. Before this game, he had never had more than four tackles in a single game in his Ohio State career.
Cooper said he has nothing but good things to say about Togiai and Garrett.
“I think they’re amazing. I think they have been playing the best football of their careers,” Cooper said.
Cooper himself looked really strong getting to Clifford and arguably had his best game as a Buckeye. He was credited with five tackles and a half-sack against Penn State.
“I feel like I’ve always had that in me,” Cooper said following the game. But when asked if it was his best game ever, Cooper said, “I feel like my Team Up North games are pretty good.”
He credited the environment and it being a big game, as well as how the coaches have prepared him as reasons for his game reaching another level on Saturday night.
A number of other players contributed to the success of the defensive line.
To start off the third quarter, defensive end Zach Harrison did a double tackle and tackled Penn State running back Devyn Ford and quarterback Clifford at the same time. He finished the game with four tackles and was credited with a half-sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Tyler Friday, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, Tyreke Smith, Antwuan Jackson, and Jerron Cage also contributed and recorded tackles.
Defensive tackle Taron Vincent also played this week. He was not yet cleared to play against Nebraska last week.
After a performance like Saturday’s and the significant improvement from week one to week two of the season, it’s safe to say that the future of this Buckeye defensive line is bright.
[Photo courtesy of Ohio State Football Twitter]