Early in the third quarter, things were looking down for Ohio State.
Down 14-13, TCU was moving the ball well, but the Buckeyes remained within a point, even without an offensive touchdown to their name.
Then, junior defensive end Nick Bosa, went down with an injury, which, eventually, kept him out for the rest of the game.
TCU eventually would score, padding the lead to 21-13, and Ohio State was still left without its best defender.
In the Buckeyes’ 40-28 win over the Horned Frogs, it took something the team has talked about all season long: the “next man up”.
“It was a little bit of a wake-up call because we lost our best guy,” redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said. “There’s no one to rely on. We got to rely on ourselves. We got to rely on each other. I think tonight, after a hard first half, we did.”
Jones was a key contributor without Bosa on the field, finishing with six tackles, two for loss including a sack, as well as an interception, which was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter, giving Ohio State the 26-21 lead, a lead that led to the eventual win.When asked what the biggest play of the game was, acting head coach Ryan Day said it was Jones’ interception.
“The defensive score was the biggest one,” Day said. “We get the turnover from Dre’Mont, get the ball back and it hit for K.J. [Hill], It went fast right there, and that’s where the game, I think, turned.”
Ohio State outscored the Horned Frogs 27-14 after Bosa left the game, forcing two interceptions in the second half, one by Jones and the other by junior linebacker Malik Harrison, to seal the win in Arlington, Texas.
Senior defensive tackle Robert Landers said the Buckeyes’ rotation on the defensive line helped seal the gap left by Bosa’s absence.
“Us rotating was a big key factor in this game up front because it allowed us to, at times, set the tempo for ourselves,” Landers said. “After a while, we started settling down when we started rotating and got a hang of the tempo. I feel like the game started to fall more into our hands.”
Day said Ohio State’s defense is loaded with players who can make a big impact.“We do have a ton of playmakers,” Day said. “On defense, the guys rushing the pass, the guys on the back-end making plays. We get defensive scores like that. It’s huge.”
Bosa may be the largest factor at defensive end, recording a sack in each of his last six games dating back to last season, but Ohio State’s defensive capabilities move far past the junior.
With Jones, Landers, sophomore defensive end Chase Young and junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper up front, the Buckeyes hold a lot of depth past Bosa.
The secondary still needs to prove itself, allowing 308 yards passing to sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson, but the Buckeyes continued to make enough stops to pull out their first victory against a ranked opponent.
Jones said the defense has plenty of places to improve, specifically in the first half, when Bosa was still on the field.
“That’s the worst half of football we probably played this season,” Jones said. “We have so [much] room to grow.”
Day did not give any timetable or clarification of Bosa’s injury after the game.
The Buckeyes are likely deep enough to handle Tulane, even if the team is without its star defensive end. But with Happy Valley on the radar, it is likely Ohio State will want Bosa back sooner more than later, even with the impressive performance against TCU as Bosa watched on the sidelines.