Chase Young wants the play to go to him. He prays for it.
With Penn State facing a 4th-and-5 at the Ohio State 43-yard line down one point with 82 seconds left in the game, the sophomore defensive end was lined up, ready to jump off the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped.
As Nittany Lions redshirt senior quarterback Trace McSorley stepped off, changing the play call, Young touched his chest and pointed to the sky, something he said he does often, though it’s not caught on film.
“I think everything is in God’s plan,” Young said. “I prayed and said ‘God, if this play’s coming to me, help me make it.’ I sent one up and it came to me and I made it.”
As McSorley snapped the ball, Young moved around Ohio State redshirt junior defensive lineman Jashon Cornell, who held off the right tackle, immediately plugging the hole Penn State junior running back Miles Sanders attempted to run through for the first down, securing the victory for the Buckeyes.
This tackle capped off a career day for Young, who recorded three tackles for loss, including two sacks, two quarterback hits and two pass breakups in Ohio State’s 27-26 win over Penn State.
Young was recognized as Chuck Bednarik Award Player of the Week, given to the defensive end with the best performance in college football that week. Young was the second Ohio State defensive lineman to receive the award this year, with junior defensive end Nick Bosa receiving the award after his performance in the season opener against Oregon State.
After Bosa suffered an injury during the TCU game, and with no clear timetable for return, Ohio State’s defensive line has had to lean on Young to become a dominant pass-rusher — something he has embraced against both Tulane and Penn State.
“Coach [Urban] Meyer, he tries to tell us not to wait, so I think every chance I got to get on the field, I tried to put my best out there,” Young said. “I guess the Penn State game, I just had a real good game. I thank God I had a real good game. It was a national stage, ABC, and I just thank God that the Penn State game was that I had a good one.”
Even with all the success, Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson said he still sees a young player when he looks at the sophomore defensive end.
With the high expectations Young had going into his career at Ohio State, a five-star recruit out of Hyattsville, Maryland, Johnson said there is still a lot more for him to learn. Things like using his hands at the line of scrimmage, something Young said Johnson called out as he watched tape from the Penn State win.
However, he is looking to correct the mistakes made against Penn State for the Indiana game on Saturday. Young, according to Johnson, strives for greatness.
“He’s a great learner, he wants to learn everything,” Johnson said. “He picks Nick’s brain every day on how to rush the passer, things he can learn. And I think that’s what you want out of a player who’s a highly competitive guy and wants to be a great player.”
Without Bosa, Young played more snaps than he ever had in a collegiate game against Penn State. And Johnson said as he continues to play, offensive lines will have to begin to notice.
But with other weapons on the defensive line, like redshirt junior defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, Johnson said it will be hard for opposing lines to treat Young like they might Bosa.
That’s the kind of attention Young wants from opponents, the attention the injured All-American has.
“He wants the role,” Johnson said. “I think Chase, he’s a competitor, so he wants to do well.”
So far this season, Young has shown potential. He leads the team with four sacks and is tied for the team lead with six tackles for loss.
However, Young still thinks he has a ways to go to meet the expectation he has for himself.
“Not close at all,” Young said. “I made a few mistakes and I got to get the corrected. Obviously, you never want to play a perfect game, but you want to play, you want to try and play a perfect game. That’s what I am trying to do.”
For sophomore cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, the defensive line sets the bar for the rest of the defense in terms of what each unit strives to be.
“Once everyone hits [the level of the] defensive line group, we are just all going to elevate together,” Okudah said.
Even with Bosa out, that mentality for the rest of the defense has not changed. Instead, the rest of the defense strives to be like Young.