COLUMBUS — Ohio State didn’t need a fiery halftime speech in the locker room or have anybody flipping over tables to send a message.
All the Buckeyes had to do was recognize the intensity on the field wasn’t where it needed to be and that any acts of aggression would be much better served on Wisconsin.
There were tweaks to the scheme that had to be made, and a few leaders on the defensive side of the ball did deliver a few pointed words of encouragement. But when the Silver Bullets looked back on the difference between a sloppy start in the Big Ten title game and the absolutely dominant performance that followed with a second-half shutout, all they pointed to was a renewed attention to the details that had made them one of the nation’s best units all season.
“Halftime we went back in the locker room, you know, there wasn’t no need for any yelling,” Ohio State defensive end Chase Young said. “It was the simple things that we just weren’t doing, like tackling, doing our jobs. I feel like the second half we made those corrections … and you see what happened. We didn’t give up any points.
“After we made our corrections, you know, what we tried to do is get three-and-outs. I feel like we for the most part succeeded. I feel like when plays had to be made, they were made. I feel like really that’s the only thing you can ask: When a play has to be made, we make it, get off the field for the offense, I think that’s the best thing we can do. We did it.”
Young continued to set the tone for the Buckeyes as he battled through double- and triple-team blocks, and over time that helped put his teammates in position to win one-on-one matchups. By the time the rally from a two-touchdown deficit was sealed and the clock hit zero, Ohio State has racked up 8 tackles for loss — and Young had tacked on two passes broken up and a pair of hurries to earn himself a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
That second half looked much more like what the Buckeyes have done throughout the rest of the season as part of a remarkable turnaround from the worst statistical year in school history on defense in 2018. And if they’re going to cap off the 2019 season with two more wins in the College Football Playoff, the Silver Bullets will have to be at their best.
What fueled the second-half surge from Ohio State in the Big Ten title game? How much have injuries and fatigue limited the Buckeyes down the stretch? Where will the challenge be moving forward in the College Football Playoff? Former Ohio State captain Zach Boren was back in the Lettermen Row film lab and answered those questions in the latest episode of BuckIQ.
Roll the tape!
Lettermen Row senior writer Austin Ward contributed the editorial content for this post.