Junior fullback Zach Boren was still fired up after the Ohio State football team got back on the winning track Saturday afternoon with a 37-17 victory against Colorado.
After watching the Buckeyes struggle in an ugly loss at Miami (Fla.) the week before, Boren watched as his team changed its attitude during its preparations for the Buffaloes.
“We’re going to be fighters,” Boren said. “Every week, I guarantee you, we’re going to come out fighting. This was the first week that we had that mentality. We’re going to keep it up.
“Every week at practice it’s going to be stressed by me and the older guys that we’re going to come out and fight. I knew we’d take care of business today.”
That fighting attitude helped the Buckeyes post their best performance since the opening week of the season against Akron. Ohio State never trailed, got off to a good start and limited Colorado’s offense to a handful of drives that didn’t end in three-and-outs. It was a big step forward after a loss at Miami in which the offense never got on track and the defense allowed the Hurricanes to take command early in the game.
“We took a big step,” senior center Michael Brewster said. “It shows that no matter what people said after last week, no matter what happened, this team is going to keep fighting. We’re going to fight for everything we get. I knew this team would bounce back. I knew we would continue to grind and charge and try to get the job done.”
The positive result came at a much-needed time for the Buckeyes. Big Ten play starts next week against visiting Michigan State, and the game against the co-conference champion Spartans begins an October that will pit the Buckeyes against teams with a combined 15-1 record. After hosting MSU, Ohio State travels to Nebraska, heads to Illinois and then hosts Wisconsin after an open week.
“The stakes are always higher,” Brewster said. “I can’t wait. I’m so excited to start Big Ten play, especially with this step we took today. It provides a lot of confidence for our young guys. If we can start this thing off 4-1 (with a win against Michigan State) and get (suspended players Mike Adams, Boom Herron, DeVier Posey and Solomon Thomas) back I think it’ll be beautiful.”
Defense Steps Up
After missing 27 tackles a week earlier against Miami (Fla.), the Ohio State football team’s defense fared much better in a 37-17 victory against Colorado.
Not only did the Buckeyes tackle better against the Buffaloes, but they forced six three-and-outs.
“We have heart,” junior defensive lineman John Simon said. “We’re always going to fight back.”
Simon and several of his unit mates said getting off to a good start against CU was important. Miami scored 14 first-quarter points in its 24-6 victory, forcing Ohio State to play catch-up for most of the night.
“Giving up two quick scores (last week) hurt us,” he said. “It was a big key for us to start fast today, which I think we did. It helped us get situated.”
Colorado’s first four drives ended after only three plays, something OSU junior cornerback Travis Howard said helped give the defense a boost.
“Any time you can go out there and start off the game fast and shut down your opponent it makes the defense more confidence,” Howard said. “We played with a lot of confidence today.”
Howard said the entire defense showed more fire against Colorado than it did against Miami and had a better feeling on the field at Ohio Stadium than it did against the Hurricanes.
“We knew we had to go out there and make plays,” he said. “(Head coach Luke Fickell) said if someone makes a play, get up on them and celebrate. That’s what we did. As you could see, we were having fun out there.”
The defense did an especially good job of shutting down CU’s top offensive weapons in wide receiver Paul Richardson and tailback – and Ohio native – Rodney Stewart. Richardson had caught 18 passes for 360 yards and four touchdown passes in Colorado’s first three games but was limited to four grabs for 38 yards against the Buckeyes.
Howard said stopping Richardson was a priority for OSU’s secondary.
“The whole time in practice our coaches were preaching that we needed to know where he was and make sure someone was always around him,” Howard said. “The whole mentality was to go out and be physical with him.”
Stewart contributed 82 yards of total offense, 55 on the ground on 11 carries and 27 through the air on five catches. He had averaged 74.3 yards rushing and 92.3 yards receiving through CU’s first three games.
Hall Does It All
Junior tailback Jordan Hall’s versatility was on display against the Buffaloes. He not only led Ohio State’s rushing attack with 84 yards on 17 carries but he also had a 90-yard kickoff return that was stopped just short of the goal line in the third quarter.
Hall was disappointed he didn’t score on the long kickoff return took some grief from teammates because he was caught from behind by Terrel Smith, but those same teammates were singing his praises after the game.
“Jordan does it all,” Howard said. “He’s a big-time player on offense and on special teams.”
More important than his final stats was the fact that Hall was able to finish the games. Cramps limited the Jeannette, Pa., product in the humidity at Miami. He was good to go throughout the game against Colorado.
“It definitely felt good to be out there the whole game because last week felt like I let my team down because I couldn't play in the second half,” Hall said.