The Ohio State defense, which has been under extra scrutiny in recent years, is preparing to take on its second straight unknown foe.
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are scheduled to roll into town Saturday and the Buckeye defense will once again face a different style of offense, something that seems to be a theme in 2014 after OSU has faced Navy’s triple option and Cincinnati’s aerial attack.
Despite playing a team the Buckeyes have never seen before, coach Urban Meyer said he does not think playing Rutgers will make a difference in how the Buckeyes prepare.
“I think nowadays with all this technology you have, they’re going to be watching hours upon hours of film,” Meyer said Monday. “So I don’t believe it’s that big of a deal.”
Meyer added, however, that the Buckeyes will have to prepare for the aerial assault that the Scarlet Knights have the ability to unleash.
“We got to crank it up today against a team that their last game was a tremendous effort by their quarterback, threw for 400 yards,” he said.
Rutgers’ quarterback, senior Gary Nova, threw for 404 yards against Michigan on Oct. 4 to go along with three scores and zero interceptions in a 26-24 win. It was the Scarlet Knights’ first conference win as a member of the Big Ten.
Nova has proven to be inconsistent at times, however, as he had thrown 39 career interceptions entering the 2014 season, and tacked on seven more in six games this year.
OSU co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash said the defense will look for ways to continue to force more Nova turnovers.
“Well, they’re there. I mean, you can’t deny it,” Ash said Monday. “You try to identify the things that rattle them (quarterbacks) whether it be certain line games, certain pressures, certain coverages, things that can get into his head, see if there’s a pattern of the mistakes that a quarterback makes that you’re noticing on film. And if you do, then you want to try to implement those things.”
Ash has coached against Nova before while at Arkansas and said he has seen the senior quarterback improve over the years. Nova and the Scarlet Knights defeated Ash’s Razorbacks, 28-24, last season as Nova threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
“Quarterback Nova is a good player, seen the development he’s made from last year to this year under coach (Ralph) Friedgen being there,” Ash said. “And the receivers are good. They have a system and philosophy they believe in, I think they’re executing it well.”
That system, which Ash described as a more pro-style offense, is something he said Rutgers does a good job of executing, even when the team mixes up its looks.
“A lot of 21, what we call 21 personnel, two backs and a tight end. They’ll give you some 22 personnel two backs and two tight ends,” he said. “A little unconventional from what we’ve seen so far this year but they do a nice job of mixing up their run game and play-action passes off of it.”
The play-action pass is something that redshirt-sophomore safety Tyvis Powell said caught his eye.
“I see that they can definitely hurt us on the play-action pass,” he said. “So for me, playing in the secondary, I basically have to be really disciplined and trust that my brothers are going to stop the run and I just need to focus on the pass.”
Senior linebacker Curtis Grant said he’s excited to play against the style of play that the Rutgers offense brings.
“The play-action pass and the two back set is a little bit easier for the Mike (linebacker) because we can just go,” Grant said. “A lot of times you are fitting the full back so when you got two backs back there, the first thing you are thinking is stop the run, so it adds to the passing defenses as well.
“I would say more my type of game.”
The Scarlet Knights are set to enter Columbus with a 5-1 overall record and a 1-1 Big Ten record, with their only loss coming at home to Penn State in their first Big Ten game.
Rutgers’ trip to Ohio Stadium is scheduled to be its first Big Ten road game.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.