Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey flicked a screen pass backward to wide receiver Donovan Hale, who turned and fired a forward pass to tight end Peyton Hendershot, who dashed the last 27 yards of a 49-yard touchdown.
It took all that for the Hoosiers to make their lone trip to the end zone this past Saturday.
“We showed our defense can be real dominant, and I think we just set the tone for Big Ten play,” junior defensive end Chase Young said. “For them to have to run a trick play on us to get a touchdown like that, we did really good.”
Ohio State held Indiana to 10 points with 42 rushing yards one week after shutting out Cincinnati. It’s easy to see why the Hoosiers had to resort to a double pass.
Co-defensive coordinators Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley said in the offseason they were creating a simplified defense to allow Ohio State’s superior athletes to play fast, aggressive football, and it’s paying dividends.
But there is an occasional downside to that style of play.
“It was a good fake,” linebackers coach Al Washington said. “When you’re aggressive like that, those things happen.”
There are common counter plays to an aggressive defense. Screens and draws can slow a confident pass rush. Play action can suck in linebackers to open up throwing lanes.
However, there’s a reason no team uses those plays as the base of an offense. They work on occasion when unexpected but can’t sustain an offense long term, thus, Ohio State isn’t changing its usual approach.
“We can’t consistently give those up. But we’re not gonna lose our stinger,” Washington said. “We challenge our guys, just everybody be sound with their job as best they can, and we’ll correct the mistakes as we go.”
Ohio State’s players aren’t concerned about teams running trick plays either. Young said he saw it as a compliment, while redshirt senior defensive tackle Robert Landers saw it as an opportunity to learn.
“You’re gonna face adversity during the game,” Landers said. “Something’s gonna happen that you did not see on film going into every week.”
Landers said overcoming adversity is part of Ohio State’s tradition.
“When adversity strikes, rally together, turn the page,” Landers said. “On to the next play, make some adjustments, go forward.”
When a defense limits opponents the way Ohio State has in the first three weeks, one might wonder what you can point to on film that needs work, outside of obvious plays like the double pass Indiana pulled off.
Head coach Ryan Day said Tuesday that the Buckeyes have “so many things” to clean up on film. Players and coaches believe the defense still isn’t close to its ceiling.
Landers echoed Day’s sentiment, referring to himself and the other one-technique defensive tackles.
“It’s even crazier because we’ve had pretty good games these past three weeks, but there’s so much more we need to improve on,” Landers said. “That also helps us not get complacent.”
Ohio State’s defense has a flying chance to deliver another dominant performance against the Miami (OH) Redhawks this upcoming Saturday. Miami lost 35-13 to Cincinnati, whom the Buckeyes shutout in Week 2.