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Football: Ohio State defense works to correct allowing big plays

Ohio State sophomore safety Isaiah Pryor (12) takes to the field in the first half of the game against Rutgers on Sept. 8. Ohio State won 52-3. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones remembers how the Ohio State defense lined up on what ended up being a historic play for the group in the second quarter against TCU.

Originally a base call for the group, Jones said he was in his gap and a blitz was not called. He said junior defensive tackle Robert Landers moved over and, when the ball was snapped, he tried to do what he always does: get around the offensive lineman in front of him and get into the backfield.

After starting the drive with an incomplete pass, TCU sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson handed the ball off to junior running back Darius Anderson. Finding a hole through the A-gap on the left side of the line, Anderson was off, flying past junior linebacker Malik Harrison in the middle to get out into open space.

The only player with an opportunity to get to the Horned Frogs running back was sophomore safety Isaiah Pryor. After the ball was snapped, Pryor began to move toward the right side of the field, forcing him to turn around at a bad angle to chase Anderson in the open field.

Pryor almost got to the running back, attempting a shoelace tackle when Anderson ran down the sideline. Instead, the safety missed the tackle and Anderson scored on a 93-yard run, the longest touchdown any Ohio State defense has allowed in school history.

For the secondary, this has been a problem before. In the season opener against Oregon State, Ohio State allowed two touchdown runs of at least 75 yards to junior running back Artavis Pierce.

In his first Big Ten Coaches Teleconference on Tuesday, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said plays like this need to be addressed and corrected.

“On defense, too many big plays, and that’s just obvious,” Meyer said. “Get aligned and get the guy down if he makes the second level.”

For junior safety Jordan Fuller, a team captain in the Ohio State secondary, these types of plays have never been the expectation of a group of this caliber.

“I’ll say that’s definitely not our standard,” Fuller said. “We are doing everything we can to erase those.”

He said, as an aggressive defense, some plays are going to be misread, especially in the passing game. He also said the big plays by opposing offenses are a combination of many little things that need to be improved — schematically and experience-wise.

However, that does not mean that Fuller is placing blame on any particular member of the secondary.

“I definitely don’t like people saying that ‘Isaiah should have gotten it, [redshirt sophomore safety Jahsen Wint] should have gotten it right there.’ There’s still 11 guys on the defense too,” Fuller said. “Sometimes it’s that narrative. I don’t like that.”

Fuller said both Pryor and Wint played solid, with each player getting more comfortable by the game. But there are always things to work on.

However, after a play of that magnitude, a 93-yard touchdown run, the longest touchdown run in TCU history, Fuller said he did what the defensive back unit does as a whole: pick up the player who is down.

“Obviously, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t competitive, didn’t get upset when you had bad plays and stuff,” Fuller said. “But we all rally around each other and pick each other up.”  

Fuller said Pryor handled the aftermath well. The sophomore safety ended the game with four tackles, including three solo tackles.

Even with the encouragement from other members of the defense, Jones said this is a glaring issue that needs to be fixed soon before a touchdown like this costs them more than just a place in the history books.

“We just got to work. We got to find a better way to fix those little issues because eventually those little issues become bigger and we end up losing,” Jones said. “We have to find a way. I don’t know exactly what the point of emphasis to change that, but we have to work together as a unit.”

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