- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The unique scheme, the extra blockers and the lack of chances to unleash the pass rush are in the rear-view mirror.
Now Ohio State just has to go back to basics and remember what it’s like to play against a balanced offensive attack again.
The Buckeyes had spent plenty of extra time in training camp gearing up for Navy and its triple-option ahead of the opener last weekend, and even if they didn’t execute their defensive plan for success perfectly, they were certainly stout enough to escape a difficult matchup with a win. But after spending so much energy last month preparing for that run-heavy style, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has to slightly change the way his team practices this week to help it acclimate back to a more traditional approach with Virginia Tech visiting the Horseshoe on Saturday night.
“We have to shift gears,” Meyer said. “Getting ready for that game is tough enough, it’s just now you have to go back to a pass defense that’s brand new.
“We actually started in earnest yesterday on the field. Usually we don’t do much on Sunday, but we did and we’ll see if we have improved our pass defense.”
The Midshipmen hardly provided any chances to gauge that reconfigured unit in the secondary last weekend, relentlessly hammering away with its ground game as it piled up 370 yards on 63 carries while only attempting four passes.
Statistically, the Buckeyes have obviously had far better performances defending the rush. But Navy’s execution, the speed at which it operates a complicated system to defend and the talent it has in the backfield, all made for a tricky matchup for the Buckeyes, largely because their personnel is much better suited for opponents who will actually let them rush the passer more than every once in a while.
Defensive end Joey Bosa rarely had a chance to pin his ears back and flash his athleticism around the edge. Evaluating tackle Michael Bennett’s play in the opener was a challenge because he was constantly battling double-teams and trying to avoid blockers coming low to cut him down. Even while chipping in six tackles and a sack, Adolphus Washington’s impressive season debut didn’t necessarily provide a great glimpse of his role in Ohio State’s new-look defense this season -- though Virginia Tech should certainly help reveal some answers about the entire unit.
“It feels good to get that behind us,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “Play Navy, get it behind us and now go fast forward with a team that runs some things we can adjust to and play a little faster.
“As we got closer in the last week or two we spent more time getting ready for Navy, but we had done some things early on to get ready moving forward. Plus, our offense gave us a good challenge running some zone stuff, so we were not totally away from it. But now it’s going back and relearning everything we taught early in the season.”
That process got underway a bit earlier than normal for the Buckeyes this week. But odds are, there weren’t any complaints as Ohio State turned the page from Navy and started planning for a different sort of defensive success against the Hokies.
“I think we’re ranked pretty high in pass defense,” Meyer joked. “ ... But I just think of our defensive line. Joey Bosa didn’t come to Ohio State to squeeze down blocks and keep people off his ankles, that’s what he had to do last week. He came to rush the quarterback and penetrate.
“There’s some big smiles across our defense now to let them go play.”
18hBrian Bennett and Austin Ward