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Another sluggish start for Ohio State defense

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — For the Ohio State football team, Saturday’s loss at Ross-Ade Stadium began long before Purdue’s game-winning overtime drive.

Going into Saturday’s matchup, OSU knew that if it won out and Penn State suffered two losses, its Big Ten Championship dreams could come true. However, the Boilermakers foiled those plans with a 26-23, win against the Buckeyes in overtime before Penn State fell to Nebraska.

Purdue’s offense reaped the benefits of a slow-to-start Buckeyes defense and dozens of missed tackles, which tacked on yardage and moved the chains throughout the game.

Failed coverage became the final error in overtime when OSU allowed Purdue fifth-year senior quarterback Robert Marve to connect with sophomore receiver Gary Bush for a 14-yard pass on a third-and-12 conversion.

Despite Purdue holding the ball for 30:04 in the game against OSU’s 29:56 of possession, coach Luke Fickell attributed his defense’s performance to players being tired at the end of a drive.

“Sometimes later in a longer drive you see the fatigue get to you, and I think that’s what happened there at the end,” Fickell said.

The Boilermakers were off to an early 10-0 lead after missed tackles and failed interception attempts, which were frequent for the OSU defensive unit.

Sophomore defensive back C.J. Barnett attributed slow starts against both Indiana on Nov. 5, and Purdue to the opposing offenses “coming out fast.”

“Just like Indiana did to us last week, they had us running around and a little bit discombobulated,” Barnett said.

While Barnett said he’d have to watch the film to see exactly where the breakdown happened in the overtime coverage, he admitted the defense “had a lot of missed opportunity left on the field.”

After senior linebacker Andrew Sweat left the game with an injury, it was up to freshman Ryan Shazier to take his place.

Shazier, who finished the game with seven tackles and a forced fumble, said the Boilermakers “started fast,” but that the defense’s problem was rooted in a breakdown of fundamentals.

“Our tackling wasn’t that great,” he said. “We’re improving. I think that we’re just a little bit over-agressive. We go for kill shots a lot. (We’re) not being fundamentally sound and not making tackles.”

Sophomore defensive back Christian Bryant agreed.

“People miss tackles in every game, but we need to just be more fundamentally sound,” Bryant said. “In practice the coaches preach on tackling and just keeping our heads up, coming in balanced. We do it on some occasions, but there’s just some occasions that we are going 100 mph and it just happens.”

Bryant compared the defensive fight to the OCt. 29 game versus Wisconsin, but said this time the defense’s fight didn’t end in favor. He also mentioned a breakdown in communication as a contributing factor.

“We had guys not paying attention,” Barnett said. “We just got to play better and get focused in.”

The Buckeyes’ next chance to “get focused” will be when Penn State visits Ohio Stadium Saturday.

Penn State is coming off a loss to Nebraska and is just days removed from the end of Joe Paterno’s coaching career. The PSU Board of Trustees fired Paterno amid mounting pressure related to the revelation that former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky allegedly sexually abused children.

Saturday’s game is scheduled kick off at 3:30 p.m. at the ‘Shoe.

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