“I think we got more back to the basics of playing base defense and playing man for man and stopping the line of scrimmage,” Hubbard said. “We were maybe doing a little too much (last week), trying to be a little too fancy. The coaches did a good job of correcting us. Obviously, we played great up front. I’m proud of the defensive line and linebackers for stepping up.”
The Buckeyes played without two starting linebackers. Dante Booker and Jerome Baker missed the game with head injuries.
Tuf Borland and Malik Harrison earned starts in their place Borland led the Buckeyes with 11 tackles and two tackles for a loss. Harrison had six tackles, including a sack.
Chris Worley, the only regular starting linebacker to play, counseled the two newcomers to the lineup.
“He’s always talking to us whether that is on the field or off of it,” Harrison said. “He just tells us to be calm out there and that the game is just like practice.”
Hubbard credited an intense focus in the week of practice before the game for the improved play.
“Same type of plays we’ve been running since camp,” Hubbard said. “Nothing special. Just hard-nosed football.”
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Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke topped 400 yards passing in the two previous games against Northwestern and Penn State. He threw six touchdowns in those games.
Against Ohio State, Lewerke completed 18 of 36 passes for 131 yards. He threw two interceptions to Damon Webb and Damon Arnette. The Buckeyes sacked him three times.
“I knew we could take advantage of their weak spots on the offensive line,” Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa said. “It was big to put him in pressure situations and make him run, because he loves to roll out.”
Ohio State also sacked Michigan State backup quarterback Messiah deWeaver three times in four plays on Michigan State's final possession. This was the college debut for deWeaver, a redshirt freshman who was one of the top quarterback prospects in the country in the class of 2016.
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All in all, this was a dominant performance by Ohio State’s defense, and it’s hard to predict what it will do in the final two weeks of the regular season against Illinois and Michigan. The Iowa offense that ran over Ohio State in Iowa City gained a total of 66 yards Saturday in a 38-14 loss at Wisconsin.
“I think it was just all-around focus,” Hubbard said. “There were guys playing for each other. There was no talk about anything but we want to win this game. There was literally nothing else but that. That’s all that mattered to us. That’s what we did.”
Illinois at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., ABC, 1410