After Ohio State's dominating 49-7 win over the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers this past Saturday night, many Buckeye fans for the first time this season let out a long sigh of relief. Finally. Finally, the offense that was supposed to be one of the best EVER imposed their will on a mediocre defense. Finally, the revolving door at quarterback seemed to be settled with an efficient and explosive five touchdown performance by J.T. Barrett (technically that pop pass to Jalin Marshall is credited to Barrett, also apparently Marshall knew exactly what he was doing on that play, lol). Finally, Ohio State stopped the damn run on defense.
One under-hyped aspect of Ohio State's win was the fact that it was the Silver Bullets' most dominating performance against any team in continental America this season. It has been mostly positives for the Buckeye defense this season, but there always seemed to be a slip up across the course of a game that would allow the offense to post at least a score or two on the Buckeyes. This ended last Saturday. Despite allowing a cheap garbage time touchdown with less than 15 seconds remaining, the Silver Bullets played fast, and they played physical, holding Rutgers to only the before mentioned seven points on just 293 total yards.
In any 60 minute game, it can be hard to pinpoint the three most crucial defensive plays that sum up the entirety of the game. But was it easy for America to beat the Germans in back to back World Wars? No it was not. So let us honor America by diving into three of the best Silver Bullet moments from Ohio State's win against Rutgers.
Silver Bullet No. 1: Joey Bosa
Much has been made this season of Joey Bosa "struggling" due to him only having totaled 3.5 sacks thus far. Well, the fine folks over at CFB Film Room have a slightly different take on Bosa, pointing out how through Week 6, Bosa had more than double as many quarterback hurries as any other Ohio State defender. At this point anyone who watches Ohio State games realizes that Bosa is essentially unblockable one-on-one and one of (if not the) best players on the field at all times. This point was reinforced against Rutgers midway through the 1st quarter on a 1st and 10 from the Rutgers 31 yard line.
The first thing that pops out about this play is that Bosa is not being immediately covered by any extra blockers. With two tight ends to the opposite side, all indicators appear to point towards the play being a run away from Bosa, or at least a pass where the running back stays in to help chip Bosa.
Rutgers decides that a play action fake with the running back is a better idea than sending extra blocking help at Bosa. The inward motion from the wing tight end also helped indicate a run, and helped set the stage for what Rutgers planned on being a big play play-action pass That is until someone at Rutgers thought blocking Bosa with a mere mortal at offensive tackle was a good idea.
When running a max protection play action pass like Rutgers did here, the offense keeps eight blockers in to block, and only sends out two receivers in an attempt to give the quarterback the most possible time to launch a pass down the field. Against a non-blitzing four man Ohio State rush, Rutgers literally has enough men available to double team every Buckeye lineman. They decide not to double Bosa, and after easily clearing the Rutgers' left tackle's hips, his path to another quarterback victim is imminent.
All that was left for Bosa to do was shrug.
Silver Bullet No. 2: Gareon Conley
As possibly the best surprise this season for the Buckeyes on either side of the ball, Gareon Conley has held up his end of making life miserable for opposing wide receivers as part of the country's fifth ranked pass defense. This trend continued last Saturday as the Big Ten's receiving touchdown leader Leonte Carroo became the latest inhabitant of "Conley Island" (can this nickname be a thing? Eli can be "The Apple Tree" if he wants, just give it a chance!).
On this play it is actually Rutgers receiver Andre Patton No. 88 who made his way to Conley Island. With Carroo out of the game due to his preexisting ankle injury/Ohio State being up by 35, the Buckeyes laughed off the idea of Rutgers having a viable downfield threat as they loaded literally 10 guys into the box. The two wide receivers being bunched in so close to the line certainly played a part in this, but even if they were split wide, we're still looking at an eight man box with man-to-man coverage on the outside and little help over the top for the corners.
It takes a lot of arm strength to throw a 20 yard out-route on the run, and it's safe to say after this play that Rutgers' quarterback Chris Laviano may not have this throw in his repertoire. Despite Laviano being able to step into his throw for one of the few times this whole game, Conley finds himself in perfect position upon locating the ball. On the receivers hip and ready to make a play, all that was left for Conley to seal the deal was to catch the ball.
And catch the ball he did for his second interception of a so far excellent sophomore campaign.
Silver Bullet No. 3: Sam Hubbard
How a guy can go from safety, to linebacker, to defensive end is truly amazing to me. I guess that's what happens when you're 6'6 223 lbs in high school and one of the nation's best at both lacrosse and football. My only question for Sam is why he allowed this to be his Rivals mugshot. Sam, I love your story and watching you play football, but just do us both a favor and smile next time for your NFL Draft head shot, please.
One thing that has made Hubbard such an effective rusher for the Buckeyes has been his hustle and relentlessness. I realize these are adjectives that can at times be used in the absence of something better to say about the person, but for Hubbard they truly describe his play, and how his past as a safety and linebacker have made him an even better defensive end.
Here Hubbard is positioned as the Buckeyes' left defensive end, facing a one back, three wide receiver formation from the Scarlet Knights. Ohio State isn't doing anything tricky on defense at this point in the game, as they stick to their base defense and only rush their four down linemen on this play.
Rutgers does a nice job giving Laviano space to throw, but this protection isn't as amazing as it looks at first glance. If you notice, Laviano took the snap at the Buckeyes' 48 yard line, and has since retreated to his own 41, good for an 11 yard drop back. This neutralizes the Buckeyes immediate five yard push at the line of scrimmage, and at this point it appears Hubbard may not be able to get past his double team.
Laviano has one chance to throw the ball before being forced out of his comfort zone by Buckeye linemen Jalyn Holmes and Joe Hale, and he chooses to pump fake this open look for reasons unknown. Hubbard, despite being stiffed on his initial rush, keeps working during all of this, and finally breaks free from the double team as Laviano is pumping.
As you probably could have guessed, giving the Buckeye defense an extra chance is never a good plan, and Hubbard makes Laviano pay. Trying to out run a defensive end is normally an attainable task for a semi-mobile quarterback, but when that defensive end used to be a safety, these shenanigans won't cut it. The added stiff arm was a cute try by Laviano, but was no match for Hubbard and company.
While it was J.T. Barrett who stole player of the game honors, and most of the highlights, don't forget about the Silver Bullets playing their most complete game of the season thus far. Rutgers is far from Ohio State's toughest test on defense this season, but they are still the same team who took Michigan State to a seven point battle just two weeks ago. Let's hope Ohio State can use this positive momentum and continue to get better through their bye week, as the Golden Gophers (who at least used to have a sweet offense) await.