Saturday, September 11, 2010

JUST PASSING THROUGH: NO. 2 BUCKEYES DOWN 'CANES, 36-24

Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward takes down Miami tailback Damien Berry, during the Buckeyes' 36-24 win on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. (Photo by The Buckeye Times/Joshua Stueve)
COLUMBUS —With the Miami Hurricanes in town, the Ohio State defense brought the thunder.

Led by captain Cameron Heyward and Chimdi Chekwa, the OSU defenders forced the Hurricanes into four turnovers in a 36-24 victory at Ohio Stadium. The No. 2 ranked Buckeyes held Miami to 104 yards of total offense in the first half and intercepted Canes quarterback Jacory Harris four times.

"The coaches say when the ball is in the air it's just as much ours as it is theirs, and that's how we play," senior linebacker Brian Rolle said.

It may be early in the season, but Heyward may have produced the most pivotal play of the Ohio State Buckeyes season.

Down 26-17 with the Hurricanes facing a critical third down at the OSU 9-yard line, the senior defensive end floated off his stance and stepped in front of Harris' pass. Heyward then chugged down the left side line for 80 yards until he was caught from behind inside the Miami 15-yard line.

"Cam's play was extraordinary because it was down in the red zone and they were in scoring territory," Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel said. "I was shocked how far he got and I kept thinking that someone was going to catch up to him.

"When you can create four takeaways, you're going to have a chance."

Heyward said after the game that he was still exhausted from the 80-yard sprint that later led to a 13-yard touchdown run by quarterback Terrelle Pryor and extended Ohio State's lead to 33-17.

"I had some great blocking in front of me from Ross (Homan) and B. Rolle," Heyward said. "I'm just happy I made the play."

"I was wondering who the guy running down the field was," Homan said. "It looked like he needed an oxygen tank when he got to the sideline."

The Buckeyes dominated Miami in the red zone throughout the game. Ohio State converted on 7-of-9 opportunities and also held the Hurricanes to a 1-of-3 red zone rate.

Another big shift in the Buckeye momentum came early in the second quarter. With Miami holding a 10-3 lead, Ohio State's offense took the field and made a quick statement. On the first play, Pryor sailed a smooth 62-yard pass to receiver DeVier Posey that sparked a crowd of 105,545. On the next snap, Pryor floated a perfect ball to tailback Brandon Saine for an 18-yard touchdown and a tie ball game.

"Momentum is huge in college football and I think that was a turning point for us in the game," Saine said about the two-play, 80-yard drive.

Miami's return unit kept the Canes in the thick of things in the first half. For the first time in school history, the Buckeyes gave up both a kickoff and a punt return for a touchdown in the same game. The Hurricanes went into the locker room with 104 yards of total offense and 181 return yards. Both of Miami's scores came on returns.

"The good news is our guys didn't fold and they know we've got to get better at that," Tressel said.

Chekwa, a Florida native, made his presence felt with two interceptions that led to 10 points. Chekwa said the key to slowing Harris involved causing problems in the pocket.

"We saw last year that he made a lot of bad decisions where there was a lot of pressure in the pocket and he'd sometimes just throw the ball up for grabs," Chekwa said.

One of the underlying tones to the game was Ohio State's ability to successfully take care of the ball. The Buckeyes accumulated 414 yards of total offense and no turnovers behind a balanced performance from Pryor. The junior went 12-of-27 for 233 yards with one touchdown, while also carrying the ball 20 times for 113 yards and one score.

"Terrelle was really focused all week," receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. "He was saying all the right things. His confidence spread to the entire team."

Kicker Devin Barclay stayed busy as the senior tied a school record with five field goals (24, 41, 21, 24, 24).

"I'm more focused on getting the win," he said. "It certainly feels great, but if you get a school record and lose it wouldn't have meant anything. I'm just glad we got the win."

In the end, the defensive domination portrayed by Ohio State is the real story.

"Defensively, I mean we flew around and our guys up front are relentless and those linebackers are active and the (defensive backs) will hit you even if you might catch a few on them, but they'll hit you," Tressel said. "And they did a heck of a job against a very talented team.

"Our defense was smacking them and there's no question our defense loves to play the game."