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Football: Ohio State’s defense must shift focus to Penn State

Ohio State freshman defensive end Tyreke Smith (11) and senior linebacker Dante Booker (52) combine for a sack in the third quarter of the game against Tulane on Sept. 22. Ohio State won 49-6. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Ohio State comes out of its matchup against Tulane as the No. 4 team in the country with an undefeated record, tied for the 17th-best scoring defense in the nation.

But even with a win against then-No. 15 TCU under its belt, Ohio State has not played an opponent with the offensive weapons that No. 9 Penn State holds.

The Nittany Lions hold the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation with 55.5 points per game, including 63 points in each of their past two games.

The best offense Ohio State has played so far is the Horned Frogs, who ranked No. 44 averaging 35.3 points per game.

After the 49-6 victory over Tulane, which ranks tied for No. 107 in scoring offense, head coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that Penn State offers a completely different challenge to Tulane’s option-heavy offense.

“Completely different. Last week was more of a wishbone-style triple option. This will be a true spread quarterback,” Meyer said. “It’s a much different mindset. You’ve got to make sure you always account for it.”

The true spread quarterback is redshirt senior Trace McSorley, who is Penn State’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (59) with 14 total touchdowns on the season, six of which came on the ground.

McSorley is a mobile quarterback, which Ohio State has faced the past two games, but one who offers an even larger threat with his arm. And, as Meyer said, a stronger offensive line in front of him.

Meyer also complimented junior running back Miles Sanders and said he expects a very similar team that has given Ohio State a lot of trouble in the past two seasons.

“Offensive line is better. And that running back is really good,” Meyer said. “We don’t see much difference at all. Scheme’s very similar to what they’ve done in the past and obviously the quarterback’s the guy that makes it go.”

The last time the Buckeyes traveled to Beaver Stadium, they lost to Penn State 24-21, which was their only loss of the regular season. A year later, former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett threw two touchdowns in the final five minutes to defeat the Nittany Lions 39-38.

Penn State has proven to be one of the most difficult challenges for Ohio State in recent years, and that will happen again on Saturday.

Containing McSorley and Sanders is tough with a healthy roster, but with the loss of junior defensive end Nick Bosa, the Buckeyes will need big plays from other members of the defense to hold back the Nittany Lions’ offense.

After the Tulane victory, Meyer said he liked the play of the defense without Bosa, but said, with the style of Tulane’s offense, it will not help them against Penn State.

“It’s a much different game today than it will be next week,” Meyer said after Saturday’s game. “I thought they played well. They played only 30 minutes of football and we got ’em out. So the challenge of challenges is coming up.”

The “challenge of challenges” will force the Ohio State defense to clean up all the mistakes that occasionally plagued the team thus far.

It is another year with another major matchup against Penn State, and the Ohio State defense prepared for an offense that looks very similar to one that Meyer ran for the past four years.

“You’re playing with a quarterback that can run. That’s one that manages — we’ve had a lot of yards around here over the last years and years and years because of having that ability to do that,” Meyer said. “That’s a real threat. And that’s something that you have to game plan for.”

 

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