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Northwestern Report Card: Defense

Chase Young extended his sack streak to nine-consecutive games.
Chase Young extended his sack streak to nine-consecutive games. (Scott Stuart)

EVANSTON, Ill. – For the third time this season, the Ohio State defense was able to deny its opponent of a touchdown, as they cruised to a dominant victory over Northwestern.

The Buckeyes would rout Northwestern 52-3 in their first game back from the off week. While the rush defense did not have as dominant of a performance as it is accustomed to having, the pass defense was able to lock up Northwestern. The Buckeyes would turn the Wildcats over twice, while limiting them to 2.9 yards a play.

Let’s take a look at how each unit graded out in the seventh game of the year. The grades will compare the Buckeyes to the rest of college football, so a C grade is average, but a prestigious team like Ohio State has set a higher bar than being average.

Defensive Line

This was the first game all season where the defensive line did not feel like an absolute force on the field. The unit still put together a solid performance, but outside of Chase Young’s sack, there were not many instances where it felt like Northwestern was overwhelmed by the defensive line of Ohio State.

Young would finish with two tackles, one being his sack, but Northwestern was able to focus on him and prevent him from wrecking the game any further. Antwuan Jackson was able to add a tackle for loss, but the line was mostly held in check.

Northwestern was able to rush for 157 yards, but It came at the expense of 47 rushing attempts. Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Tommy Togiai each recorded a solid four tackles to represent the underclassmen on the defensive line.

Grade: B

Linebackers

Pete Werner had four tackles on the night.
Pete Werner had four tackles on the night. (Scott Stuart)

In the absence of Baron Browning, the linebackers were able to put on a solid performance. Despite the slippery conditions the Buckeyes battled early on in the game, the group was able to prevent explosive plays from the Wildcats and make tackles.

Malik Harrison would lead the team with nine tackles while also tallying half of a tackle for loss. He has consistently been the best linebacker for the Buckeyes, so his performance came as no shock.

Without Browning, however, Tuf Borland was asked to step up. He was able to accumulate five solo tackles and a tackle for loss. Next to Borland, Pete Werner was able to add another four tackles to the linebacking unit's solid performance.

Grade: A-

Secondary

The most impressive defensive unit against Northwestern was Ohio State’s secondary. It feels like each game the rush defense and pass defense compete to be the strength of the defense, and tonight the pass defense won.

Shaun Wade seemed to be in the right position at the right time throughout the game, and while he was unable to haul in an interception, he was able to break up two passes.

When the starters were taken out of the game, the backup secondary was able to force a few turnovers. Sevyn Banks and Amir Riep were both able to pull in interceptions to put the cherry on top of a solid defensive performance.

Northwestern was only able to complete 6 of 21 passes for 42 passing yards.

Grade: A+

Overall

The Ohio State defense has continued to find ways to hold opposing offenses down, and the game against Northwestern was no different. The secondary was able to shut down the Wildcats, and Northwestern was unable to find the end zone all game.

The Ohio State defense has been able to mix in a tough rush defense, disciplined pass defense and the ability to force turnovers in order to become of the best defenses in the country. The starters were able to hold Northwestern down long enough for the offense to put the game out of reach, and then the second unit was able to keep up the same intensity.

The Buckeyes were able to perform with discipline and toughness ahead of the big matchup against Wisconsin, and this showed a maturity that a defense needs to have in order to compete for a championship.

Grade: A-