COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — This time last season, Ohio State was licking its wounds after suffering a demoralizing home defeat to Oregon, a game in which the Ducks didn’t do anything fancy and were more physical than the Buckeyes stop troops.
It was the beginning of the end for coordinator Kerry Coombs, who went to Cincinnati to reunite with Luke Fickell.
Fast forward to now, and the Buckeyes have done a defensive 180 under first-year DC Jim Knowles. The veteran molded Oklahoma State into one of the top defenses in college football and appears to have the Buckeyes trending in that direction.
Toledo averaged 6.4 yards per play in the first half against Ohio State, much of that thanks to the improv skills of quarterback Dequan Finn. The sophomore had 72 rushing and 96 passing yards at intermission.
Through two games, the Buckeyes were ranked in the top 30 nationally in total defense, and top 10 against the run. Knowles is aggressive and adventurous, and the players have taken to his system the way a fish takes to water.
“The thing about defense is it’s a right now proposition,” Knowles said. “Either you stop them or you don’t, that’s the way I look at it. Taking the ball away is one way, one way to stop them. Getting off the field on third down is another way to stop them. Then sometimes the ball ends up in the red zone. Either we did it to ourselves, or sometimes it just gets there through other ways, it doesn’t matter. Then it becomes the field goals, and I think we’ve been doing that’s one area we’ve been doing very well. So there are a lot of metrics; takeaways one of them. We want that to be better.”
Knowles mentioned turnovers, something the Buckeyes have yet to gain through two and a half contests. Oklahoma State was one of the best in the land at forcing turnovers in 2021, so that will likely come for the Buckeyes.
OSU was allowing just over two yards per carry to foes, and its overall rush defense ranks 11th in the nation. Limiting points and stopping the run were key points of emphasis for Ohio State after last season’s shortcomings, and early in 2022, they’ve both been addressed.
“Turnovers, takeaways, they’re one part of the metric to being successful on defense. I think they come as guys get more comfortable in the system,” Knowles said. “And when you’re more comfortable, and you can see the forest through the trees and you’re able to take more chances because you feel comfortable in the system. So I don’t like it, but am I concerned? I’m concerned about everything all the time. That’s just one thing.”
If Ohio State continues to make strides on the stop side, Knowles’ concern and worry will turn to smiles and calm.