When we look back on it, it will likely have been the first of many starts at
Ohio State for Bobby Carpenter.
The sophomore linebacker cracked the lineup for the first time in the
Buckeyes' 19-10 win over Iowa on Saturday and finished with two solo tackles.
"I think he played well," OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio said.
"He's played well here. He's played a lot of football here."
Carpenter's statistics might not be all that impressive, but you can tell
that he has arrived. He was running sideline-to-sideline, he played physical,
and just seemed to bring a lot of energy to the defense.
But Carpenter didn't want to talk himself up afterwards. He wanted to talk
about another outstanding performance from OSU's defense as a whole.
"The defense, we played great," he said. "We played good as a team.
D-line, linebackers, defensive backs – we made the plays when we had to."
The young linebacker corps got the job done against a physical Iowa offense.
"As a whole group, we played well," Carpenter said. "A.J. (Hawk) played
well. Mike (D'Andrea) and Freddie (Pagac) played well. We just came together
and made plays."
With Rob Reynolds serving his one-game suspension, Carpenter said there was
even more motivation to play well.
"Yeah, I think as a whole defense, we were hurt that he wasn't able to
play today it being homecoming and him being a senior. I think we missed him a
little bit, but we rallied around that and played the best we could."
On Iowa's only touchdown of the day – a fake field goal – Carpenter was
clearly held in pursuit of kicker Nate Kaeding. But, he tried his best to be
politically correct when asked about it.
"I recognized it was a fake and I may have got held a little bit, but what
can you do? They didn't throw a flag, so you have to move on," Carpenter
Linebacker Jason Bond started the second half in place of Carpenter, but that
only lasted a few plays. Carpenter was a little too pumped up for the game in
the first half.
"They were just trying to help me keep my composure a little bit," he
said. "I got a little excited. Plus, we didn't have too many guys rolling in
there, and I was playing a lot on special teams, and they wanted me to get some
rest because they knew it was going to be a long, physical game. They got Jason
some reps in there and he played well."
For Carpenter, it was nice to finally get his first start. At most programs
in the country, he would have been in the lineup a long time ago.
"It means a lot to get that first one out of the way and play pretty well,"
he said. "It's a lift for my confidence, and I showed the coaches they can
have confidence in me."
Carpenter and the Buckeyes' defense somehow held the dangerous Fred Russell
to just 42 yards on 22 carries. Carpenter thinks OSU's domination of Iowa's
offensive line was the reason Russell was shut down.
"Fred Russell's a great running back," Carpenter said. "We just
happened to be there and make the plays. I think we handled their offensive line
a little bit."
Carpenter knows that he has arguably the nation's best defensive line
playing in front of him.
"The key to having a good linebacker corps is having a good D-line," he
said. "They did their job today and helped us get off blocks and enabled us to
get to the ball. Our defensive line is unbelievable."
Ohio State's defense knew what to expect from Iowa because it had faced the
same type of attack the previous week at Wisconsin.
"They were similar to Wisconsin a little bit," Carpenter said. "They
run the ball and throw deep. Our biggest thing, I guess, was a gut check. They
were a tough team – had a good running back – and it was a showdown, I
guess, for everyone to see from last year. I think we came in and responded
well. We shut them down offensively."
After the long winning streak was snapped, it was imperative that the Bucks
didn't lose two games in a row. That's the type of streak that no one in
Columbus wants to see.
"You fall down, but it's how you get back up that's important,"
Carpenter said. "We responded well. The special units had a good game. The
defense held them off and the offense did what they had to do.
"We hadn't lost in 19 games and when you lose for the first time in a
long time, no one really knows how to respond. But, it just shows the senior
leadership we have on this team. We had a good week of practice and came out
ready to play."
In practice last week, the Buckeyes didn't try and downplay the fact that
it was a big game.
"They were ranked ninth in the country and we were ranked eighth,"
Carpenter said. "We knew it was a big game. I think a lot of people have been
doubting us all year, waiting for us to lose, and we lost finally, and I think
everyone thought it was going to keep steamrolling. It was important for us to
stop the bleeding right there and come out and show the country and the Big Ten
that we aren't going to lay down. We're still in the hunt for everything we
want to do."
Just how physical were the Hawkeyes? Were they even stronger than Wisconsin?
Carpenter says no.
"It was physical, but I think Wisconsin was probably more physical," he
said. "They came out ready to prove something last week. Iowa came in here,
and I think they were a little bit intimidated by the fans at first and
especially that last drive when they needed to get some points. They jump
offsides and then their center snaps it over the quarterback's head. I think
the fans played a big role in that. They helped intimidate them and they kind of
As usual, the margin for error for OSU's defense was microscopic. But like
he said last week, Carpenter doesn't worry about what the offense is doing. He
thinks that if the defense does its job, the Bucks are going to win.
"We had some big plays on special teams and some big plays from our offense
– including one that was called back," he said. "I thought we were going
to put up some points today. Seventeen points? That's enough for us to win.
There is no way we should allow more than two touchdowns in a game.
"Like I said, the defense took it as a gut check. We know our offense isn't
putting up so many points every game, but hey, it doesn't matter. If we can
keep holding them down, we're going to win the game no matter what. So, we
took that as a challenge and came out this week and said, ‘Hey, we're not
going to let them score very many.'"
The Iowa game marked the second time this season that the Bucks won without
scoring an offensive touchdown. But they can't keep doing that, can they?
"Hey, however you win, is however you win," Carpenter said. "It doesn't
matter if it's by an inch, or mile. Coach (Jim) Tressel has a good system and
Coach Dantonio does, so we just play the best we can on defense, and if we hold
them to a shut out, we can't lose. That's our philosophy."
Carpenter spends a lot of time working with the special teams, so he took a
lot of pride in watching Michael Jenkins break free for the Buckeyes' first
punt return for a touchdown since 2000 (Nate Clements vs. Purdue).
"Our defense just shut them out and to see our punt return team just go
down and score right away was just great," Carpenter said. "You see the
fruits of your labor, so to speak."
Carpenter was asked if he had butterflies making his first start.
"Not really," he replied. "Just the only thing was knowing it was going
to be a long, physical game and we didn't really have a lot of guys rotating
in at linebacker. I knew I was going to have to go all 60 minutes and play on
special teams as well."
Carpenter was a little gassed talking to reporters afterwards. It's been a
couple years since he's been that drained after a football game.
"It has been a while," he said. "Been since high school. I got my thumb
banged up a little bit, and I didn't play quite as well as I wanted to in the
first half because of that. But I got taped up at halftime, and I was ready to
go. But, yeah, I'm not used to being tired after a college football game. It's
a nice feeling though."
Overall, the Buckeyes have had the best defense in the country over the last
year and a half. It has been shutting down teams, even though OSU's offense
hasn't scored a lot of points, or controlled the clock.
"We take a lot of pride in that," Carpenter said. "Coach Tressel says
part of our formula is having a relentless defense. Whether they drive down the
field and score, or kick a field goal, or go three-and-out, we have to keep
coming the next series. We have to be ready to go; ready to play. Trying to get
turnovers and trying to get three-and-outs so we can get the ball back to our
But as good as OSU's defense played, Carpenter thinks there is still room
"Yeah, we can still get better," he said. "We have some guys that are
injured. We got Darrion Scott back – he played a little today. But some of our
other D-linemen (like Marcus Green) were sitting out and Rob was sitting out.
But, when we're playing like that, I don't think anybody can run on us, or
"But, no, we haven't reached our peak in my opinion. There are certain
plays, certain drives, when we'll put it all together and we have some great
individual players, but we have to play together as a team. And when we do that
on the defense, everything just clicks and you see what happens."
Carpenter reiterated that the strength of the team is the defensive line.
"Definitely it's been the D-line for the past year and a half," he
said. "They make the whole defense run. They get pressure on the passes and
they keep the O-line off the linebackers and let us run and make plays. So, all
the credit on our team I think deserves to go to them. They are a veteran group,
and they always seem to get the job done."
It was a big weekend in the Carpenter household for more than one reason.
Bobby's little brother, Jonathan, broke their father Rob's single-season
rushing record at Lancaster High School in a 28-21 win over Pickerington
"I talked to him all night (Friday)," Bobby said of his brother. "I was
so proud of him after having such a big game. To get that burden off of him is
just so big. It's a weight off his shoulders. It was a 30-something year-old
single-season rushing record and he shattered it by 100 yards. He's got one
more game to go and I think he's about 250 away from 2,000."
Sophomore LB Bobby Carpenter came through in his first start Saturday, which will likely be his first of several starts as a Buckeye. Dave Biddle has more.