Sunday, September 12, 2010

OSU WANTED TO GET PRESSURE ON HARRIS ... MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

OSU defensive end Nathan Williams celebrates after his interception Saturday against No. 12 Miami. Photo by The Buckeye Times/Joshua Stueve.
COLUMBUS — Going into Saturday's showdown with No. 12 Miami, the Ohio State defense knew that in order to obtain victory — and snap their early season big-game losing streak — they had to apply a ton of pressure on the Hurricanes star quarterback, Jacory Harris.

Mission accomplished.

The second-ranked Buckeyes, behind a tenacious effort by their defensive front, applied pressure on the talented Harris all game long forcing him to throw a career-high four interceptions in Ohio State's 36-24 victory on Saturday evening in Columbus.

"We knew we had to get a lot of pressure on (Harris)," OSU senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said. "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."

That's exactly what happened on Saturday. Even though Harris did complete 22 of his 39 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown, it was the four passes he completed to the Buckeyes defense which ultimately decided the Hurricanes' fate.

On the opening series of the game for Miami, Ohio State defensive end Nathan Williams picked off Harris' pass, setting the Buckeyes up for their first points (field goal) of the contest.

Harris, who continued to face some serious heat from the OSU front four, would go onto to throw two more interceptions — both to Chekwa — before the end of the first half, which the Buckeyes parlayed into another 10 points. The Buckeyes lead at the break was nine.

The most costly interception of the game, though, came on the Hurricanes' opening series of the second half. With Miami finally finding some success moving the football down the field against the stingy Buckeye defense, Harris tried to force a pass over the middle inside the 10 which was picked off by OSU defensive end Cameron Heyward and returned 80 yards to the Miami 15.

Two plays later, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor ran in a touchdown from 13 yards out for the 33-17 lead.

The Buckeyes defense was stellar during the victory, allowing just one touchdown the entire game. The other two Miami scores came via the special teams.

In two games this season the Buckeyes defense has surrendered just seven points as a unit. OSU head coach Jim Tressel stated that his defense's tenacious play warrants some praise.

"Defensively, I mean, we flew around," Tressel said. "Our guys up front are relentless and those linebackers are active and the DBs will hit you even if you might catch a few of them, they'll hit you ...

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

HEYWARD'S JAUNT ... The 80-yard interception return by Heyward was definitely the play that broke the game open. Miami, who couldn't get anything rolling offensively in the first half, seemed to have the Buckeyes defense figured out on the opening drive of the third quarter, as they marched from their own 21 all the way to the Buckeyes 9.

The momentum seemed to be swinging heavily in the Hurricanes favor, that is until Heyward stepped in front of Harris' pass and raced 80 long yards to the Miami 15.

OSU head coach Jim Tressel was surprised his big defender could run that far.

"Cam's play was extraordinary because it was down in the red zone and they were in scoring territory," Tressel said. "I don't remember what the score was at the time, but they were going to bring it down to a one-score game whatever it was at the moment, and he made the play and I was shocked at how far he got."

Tressel also said that the play reminded him of another one in a big OSU-Miami showdown.

"I kept thinking that someone was going to catch up to him and strip the ball 'a la (Maurice) Clarett and Sean Taylor because he was swinging it out there," Tressel said comparing it to the memorable play from the 2002 national championship game. "Oh, man, I was petrified.

"He was tired for about 15 minutes," Tressel laughed. "I mean, that was a long run for a big guy. But Cam Heyward is a great player."

BARCLAY WAS KICKIN' IT ... Although the OSU special teams looked horrible, to say the least, Buckeyes kicker Devin Barclay had the game of his life.

The 28-year old tied an OSU record for field goals made (24, 41, 21, 24, 24) in the win. In fact, Barclay kicked so many field goals on Saturday that his leg cramped up from all of the extra work.

"It was the first time I've ever been in a game where the kicker cramped up," Tressel laughed. "It's unbelievable. I guess we called on him so much he cramped up."

"It was just too many kicks," Barclay smiled. "It's one thing when you're at practice and you have a few kicks, but during games you have to warm up and stay loose. I just need to do a better job of hydrating at halftime."

As for tying the record?

"That's great, but I'm not focused on the individual side of things right now," Barclay said. "I'm more focused on getting the win. 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."

Terrelle Pryor photo by
The Buckeye Times/Joshua Stueve
PRYOR'S PERFORMANCE ... Terrelle Pryor didn't do anything to hurt his Heisman Trophy chances in Saturday's win.

Although he completed just 12 of his 27 passes during the victory, he did manage to mount up 233 yards and a touchdown off those few completions. In fact, on the first drive of the second quarter, Pryor moved the Buckeyes 80 yards on just two plays, hitting DeVier Posey for a 62-yard pass-and-catch, and then firing an 18 yarder to tailback Brandon Saine in the end zone.

Pryor also made plays when it mattered most, picking up critical first downs not only with his arm, but with his feet, as well. Pryor led the Buckeyes in rushing with 113 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

Tressel gave an evaluation of Pryor's performance.

"Well, he didn't have any interceptions," Tressel said. "So that's huge. I've got the numbers here, he was 12-for-27 (passing). You know, we'd like to be better than that, but when you throw it 27 times and get 233, that's probably, you know, nine yards or so per attempt or something like that.

"So anytime you're over eight yards an attempt, that's a good thing."

Tressel also thought he did a good job deciding when to pass and when to run.

"Part of passing is deciding when not to pass," Tressel said.