COLUMBUS, Ohio- Linebacker Jerome Baker knew going in what this game would look like going in. Facing a team that is second in the nation in rushing yards per game…
Any game against a wishbone offense will skew the rush defense data at the end of the season. After giving up a total of 121 yards through the first two games, the Ohio State defense gave up 259 yards rushing on 58 carries, giving up a touchdown to the fullback Darnell Woolfork.
However, playing against what many defenders considered as a disciplined offense, the defensive front allowed only 4.5 yards per rush, not allowing any single Black Knights rusher to accumulate 100 yards of rushing.
That kind of performance can take a toll on a defense like Ohio State.
“Coming off the field, you know you just went to battle,” Baker said. “We came in knowing that they were going to run the ball. We did the best we could.”
As the Black Knights continued to run, it did take a toll on one linebacker specifically. Chris Worley had to leave the game early one because of what coach Urban Meyer said as a sprained foot.
One of the main ideas of Buckeye football is the idea of “next man up.” When Worley went down with an injury, freshman linebacker Tuf Borland came in and took advantage of the playing time.
“We pride ourselves on being ready when our numbers are called,” Borland said. “I just got the opportunity tonight.”
And ready he was. Borland led Ohio State with 12 tackles, including a tackle for loss, and had a quarterback hit in the Buckeyes’ 38-7 win over Army West Point. This was his first legitimate opportunity at playing time after recording one tackle against Wisconsin last season.
After the game, Borland was lauded over by Meyer, calling his performance “fantastic” and that he played his way into an opportunity to play more often. Even Baker
“He came to perform,” Baker said. “Anybody that knows Tuf knows that he does his job on the field and off the field. It’s kind of good seeing him get some playing time and seeing him do what he do.”
For Borland, it was all about the defensive approach of the triple option, swarming the ball up front to limit the space in the open field to run.
“They are very disciplined,” Borland said. “You have to be in the right spots all the time. You have to have everything covered in every situation and I think we did a pretty good job.”
Before he was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Raekwon McMillan, a former Ohio State captain, played linebacker with Borland redshirting his first season. According to Borland, McMillan was the one to start calling Borland by anything other than his first name, saying that he had to earn it to be called “Tuf.”
According to Borland, McMillan’s tradition is still alive and well.
“Anything but Tuf,” Borland said. “Pretty much whatever they feel like calling me.”
Going into the stadium knowing that he would be rotating in, thinking that Worley and Baker would get the majority of the playing time, Borland entered the postgame interview room as the game’s leading tackler and one of the main reasons why the Ohio State defense was successful.
You would think that after a performance like this, hewould have earned to be called “Tuf” by his teammates. However, Borland thought the opposite.