Ohio State’s defense got back on track in a big way during their 62-3 annihilation of Nebraska. The Silver Bullets hadn’t been playing poorly by any means, but they had allowed 20-plus points in each of the past three games.
The Cornhuskers couldn’t move the ball on the ground or through the air. If it wasn’t for a lucky tipped reception that turned into a 26-yard gain early in the first quarter, Nebraska may have not scored at all. Overall, Ohio State held the nation’s No. 10 team to just 204 total yards — nearly half their average of 404.6 yards per game.
There were great plays made all over the field last Saturday, let’s take a look at three of the best.
Welcome to #Zone6, Damon Webb
Webb got a decent amount of action last season as the defense’s nickel back, but he struggled to find a consistent spot on the field due to Ohio State's depth at cornerback. This changed during the offseason, as Webb was converted to a safety. He won’t be mistaken for Kam Chancellor, but Webb is a more-than-competent tackler who has maintained his great coverage skills at his new position.
Webb has played well through the first nine games of the season, as his 36 tackles are good for the fifth-most on the team. Still, he was largely an afterthought in the secondary due to the excellent play of Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, who have racked up interceptions on a weekly basis. This all changed after one fateful pass attempt by Cornhuskers’ quarterback Tommy Armstrong:
Ohio State shows blitz before the snap, but bails and instead rushes just three men with Jerome Baker staying close to spy Armstrong. The defense is in man coverage with Raekwon McMillan responsible for the running back. As he runs to the flat to cover his man, Armstong attempts to force a pass into a tight window that McMillan is able to make even tighter thanks to his awareness on the play. Marshon Lattimore was in excellent coverage and manages to break up the pass. From there, it was all Webb. After securing the interception, Webb calmly sprinted down the sideline with his crew of defenders-turned-blockers and proceeded to pull off a back juke that would make Lamar Jackson proud.
Webb is a true junior who was good enough at a young age to contribute as a true freshman on the 2014 national championship squad. He’s been overshadowed a bit by Ohio State’s abundance of first-round talent in the secondary, but it was great to see him make a big play on a big stage that set the state for the rest of the game.
Sam Hubbard is not an easy man to block
Ohio State has routinely created pressure with just three or four rushers this season and Hubbard is a big reason why that's been possible. Hubbard may not reach the lofty preseason-sack totals that many had him pegged for, but he’s continued to show how much of a freak athlete he is on a game-by-game basis.
Nebraska uses motion to attempt to get the Buckeyes’ defense leaning the wrong way before pitching the ball to their running back moving left. The Cornhuskers tried to block Hubbard with a tight end before sending help from a full back. After Hubbard easily sheds the tight end’s block, he’s nearly taken to the ground by a nice cut block from the Nebraska full back.
This is where Hubbard shows just how valuable he is to a defensive line. Not only does he take up two blockers on the play, but he manages to spin and keep his balance on the cut block attempt. After regaining his feet, Hubbard continues to force the ball outside where Chris Worley makes the tackle. This play won’t show up in Hubbard’s statistics, but his ability to warrant and then defeat double teams has been second to none on the defense this season. It hasn’t resulted in a lot of sacks so far, but when you see Ohio State linebackers running free into the opposition’s backfield, remember none of that would be possible if it wasn’t for the excellent play from the Buckeyes’ defensive line.
Is Malik Hooker the most electric Buckeye with the ball in his hands?
“Every time I watch him I want to switch him over to offense and flip it to him a few times.”
Why not? I don’t think Buckeye nation would have any issues watching more of Hooker with the ball in his hands. After Denzel Ward made one of his team-high three pass deflections on the day, Hooker came up with the ball and 48 yards of green grass ahead of him:
What followed was a beautiful interception return that featured another nice back juke and some well-timed weaves. Hooker seems to have a punt returner’s ability to let his blocks develop during interception returns and he’s now taken three of his five interceptions to the house this season (though one was called back on a chop block).
Ohio State is one of just 10 teams to allow fewer than 300 yards per game this season. They’ve accomplished this with consistent pressure, tight coverage and the ability to make game-changing plays on a weekly basis. Before last Saturday, Nebraska had been held under 20 points just once in their last 15 games. What a way for Ohio State to make that total two.
The final: 62-3, Ohio State
Defensive player of the game: Sam Hubbard (five tackles and two TFLs)
Defensive play of the game: Damon Webb pick-six.
Next Victim: Maryland. See you all next week.