COLUMBUS – Ohio State had four sacks on the season coming into the Buckeyes’ matchup against Akron on Saturday. Nine sacks were recorded in the game against the Zips despite the defensive line depth being wiped out.
Ohio State was without four significant contributors on the defensive line in Tyreke Smith, Taron Vincent, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, and Tyler Friday who is out for the season. Still, the Rushmen showed up to play in a dominant fashion.
But it was a team effort, both on the interior up the middle and from the defensive ends.
“Coach J [defensive line coach Larry Johnson] really got on us this week to get a pass rush out of the whole d-line room so that’s what we did,” Antwuan Jackson said following the game. “It was just a whole d-line effort.”
Haskell Garrett had two sacks in the first quarter alone and recorded another as the Buckeyes came out of halftime. Zach Harrison had a sack but another Buckeye penalty gave Akron the ball and a first down so it was not recorded. Jerron Cage recorded a sack in the second quarter, Antwuan Jackson recorded a sack, and Ty Hamilton had a sack of his own. Jack Sawyer also recorded the first sack of his Ohio State career. On the final play to end the game, Tyleik Williams sacked Akron’s quarterback for his second of the night.
True freshman Mike Hall also was a key contributor, making his presence felt.
“The game plan we put together and guys executing, we had a lot of experienced players who were out,” defensive tackle Haskell Garrett said. “I feel that the defense as a whole… we got started, now it’s time to roll.”
The Buckeyes finished with 69 total tackles, nine sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and two interceptions. This was by far the most dominant presence the Buckeyes have seen from their defense. The team’s nine sacks was the most since recording 10 sacks against Wisconsin in 2007. The nine sacks are also tied for the fourth most in a game in Ohio State football history.
For arguably the first time this season, the Buckeye defense put serious pressure on the opposing team quarterback.
The pressure up front led to the Buckeye secondary reaping the rewards of the quarterback’s mistakes. Linebacker Cody Simon recorded the first pick of his career, and Ronnie Hickman, who had an interception last week recorded a pick-six against Akron taking it off the receivers’ back and 46-yards to the end zone.
As a result of the presence of the pass rush, the Buckeye secondary was able to read and diagnose plays to properly respond. With the pass rush starting up front, the whole defense was functioning.
The Ohio State defense held Akron to just 222 yards of total offense, the fewest amount since allowing 139 yards to Maryland in November of 2019.
Although the Buckeyes have to face much tougher opponents in the future, it is clear that confidence is building and players are growing in their roles.