Defense Never Rests at Ohio State
Oct. 09, 1996
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Every week No. 2 Ohio State's offense goes up against one of the nation's best defenses.
That's when an offense averaging 52.3 points a game scrimmages against a Buckeye defense giving up 7.5 points a game.
``Lots of times we're out in practice and it's time to go against them and I kind of cringe,'' Ohio State quarterback Stanley Jackson said during preparations for Saturday's game against Wisconsin. ``Uh, here we go again.''
The offense grabbed the headlines with 70-7 and 72-0 romps over Rice and Pittsburgh, but the defense proved the key in subsequent 29-16 and 38-7 victories over then-No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 4 Penn State.
The defense has given up 194 yards rushing on 70 carries _ to Notre Dame and Penn State combined. And it's not as though quarterbacks Ron Powlus and Wally Richardson have had big days either: they're a combined 30-of-67 passing for 297 yards.
So the only real competition the defense gets is when the starters on each side of the ball square off during practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
``Competition _ it makes you better,'' cornerback Shawn Springs said.
Springs, in particular, has benefited from the influx of top receivers the last three years. Two years ago, he went helmet to helmet with current Seattle Seahawks star Joey Galloway. Last year, it was Biletnikoff Award winner Terry Glenn, now with the New England Patriots.
``Last year when I got in the game it was much easier because there weren't too many receivers in he country as fast or as good as Terry was,'' Springs said. ``This year, Dimitrious Stanley's a great player and I go against him and Buster Tillman all the time and that helps a lot.''
More times than not _ maybe a lot more _ the defense dominates the offense.
``They really humble us,'' Jackson said. ``We'll go out there on Saturday against a great defense and put up 38 points or 31 points or 72 points and then we come back against our defense on Tuesday afternoon and we can't score one touchdown. It definitely puts things in perspective.''
``Right now, yes, they are the best defense we've gone against,'' center Juan Porter said.
Tailback Pepe Pearson is averaging 134 yards rushing a game, but knows the yards will come grudgingly against his own defense.
``I knew they were going to be a great defense because we had to go against those guys this spring and this fall,'' he said. ``They were causing a lot of problems.''
Coach John Cooper welcomed back 10 starters from a defense that held four teams to six or fewer points in an 11-0 start.
But those were also veterans from a unit that was humiliated in a 31-23 loss at Michigan. Tim Biakabutuka ran 37 times for 313 yards _ the most ever gained against an Ohio State defense. The Wolverines rolled up 381 rushing yards.
Fresh faces and a fresh approach have helped dim that ugly memory. Fred Pagac took over as the defensive coordinator and implemented an attacking, blitzing style that has kept opposing quarterbacks backpedaling so far.
Winfield Garnett replaced the lone departed senior, Matt Bonhaus, on the line and has performed well. Cornerbacks Springs and Ty Howard have starred in man-to-man coverage, freshman middle linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer has been effective and safeties Damon Moore and Rob Kelly have shown a knack for coming up to shut down the run.
All of which has conspired to make midweek practices a lot more lively.
``I'd say the best defenses we're seeing right now are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,'' offensive coordinator Joe Hollis said.