COLUMBUS — Ohio State flipped the script defensively from the season opener to the second game of the year.
In the opener, Nebraska torched the Buckeyes for 217 yards rushing, most of which came from the quarterback. The Buckeyes gave up 4.6 yards per rushing attempt — 5.4 yards per attempt without sacks added in — and seemed to be susceptible to the run. Then they went on the road to Penn State, a team determined to run its quarterback and find holes on the Buckeyes defensive line.
The holes that were there in Week One were gone in Week Two. Ohio State dominated the line of scrimmage.
“I thought the D-line created a lot of disruption,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said after the win.
Day is right. The Nittany Lions averaged 1.6 yards per carry. Quarterback Sean Clifford had just five yards rushing on 18 attempts. Penn State running back Devyn Ford had 36 yards, and 23 of those came on one play in the first quarter. Everyone got in on the run defense for the Buckeyes. Tommy Togiai had a huge game. Haskell Garrett dominated again. The defensive ends were stopping the run. Linebackers were filling holes.
Penn State had nowhere to run.
“We had a great game as a defensive line, just coming together,” senior captain Jonathon Cooper said. “I feel like we worked. We prepared for this all season. We talked about this and I really do love my unit.”
The front seven did its part in stopping the Penn State run game, but it wasn’t alone in having a breakout performance. As always after Buckeyes games, Lettermen Row is breaking down who helped their cause in the huge road win for Ohio State.
DT Tommy Togiai
Ohio State’s defensive ends are known as disruptive pass-rushers. The Buckeyes send defensive ends to the top of NFL draft boards nearly every year. But it was a defensive tackle on the interior who made the most impact in the pass-rush against Penn State. Tommy Togiai had three sacks against the Nittany Lions — from the nose tackle position. At his position, three sacks in a season is a good number. DaVon Hamilton had six sacks from that spot last year. Togiai reached half of that total in one game. And if he can do that consistently for the Buckeyes, the ability for opponents to key in on defensive ends is gone. And the Ohio State pass-rush will be even scarier than imagined.
RB Master Teague
Through one game, the Buckeyes run game didn’t seem to be working. But Ohio State made the massive leap forward between the first and second game of the year. That started with lead back Master Teague, who found his groove in having 23 carries, 110 yards and a touchdown run. He had a 31-yard run in the third quarter when Penn State was trying to make the game interesting, and he simply looked more comfortable in the backfield than he did a week ago. If that’s the Master Teague the Buckeyes will have in the backfield, the offense becomes more dangerous to defend.
LB Tuf Borland
Tuf Borland silencing the crowd that doubts him is an October tradition that rivals trick-or-treating. Borland put on a run-stopping clinic in the win over Penn State, especially in the opening quarter, when he had five tackles and assisted on a tackle for loss. He seemed to be everywhere, and he was getting there violently. Penn State thought it would have success on the ground against the Buckeyes. While the Rushmen up front set the line of scrimmage early on, Borland set the tone, making sure Penn State couldn’t run the ball and racking up tackles in one of his best performances.
WRs Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson
Best wide receiver duo in the country? Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson certainly are making their claim for that title through two games. The pair have combined for 464 yards receiving and three touchdowns on the year. And they have each had a contested touchdown go off their hands in the end zone, or it could be more. Justin Fields has been finding them any way he can. Olave is a deep-ball weapon and is smooth near the sideline. Wilson is a versatile threat on crossing routes and down the field. No matter where they line up, they seem to be unstoppable. And with a soft November slate of opponents, they have more opportunities to stake their claim as the best wide receiver pair in America.
TE Jeremy Ruckert
The Ohio State tight ends are among the deepest units on the roster. But that unit for the Buckeyes caught just two passes for 11 yards in the season-opener against Nebraska. That changed in the win at Penn State. Fields found Ohio State tight ends six times Saturday night. Jeremy Ruckert led that charge with four catches for 25 yards and two touchdowns. Ohio State’s offense is too good to try taking away the tight end option, which could lead to more nights like what the Buckeyes had against Penn State. The tight end seemed to be open most of the night, and Ruckert’s huge outing highlighted that.