PISCATAWAY, New Jersey- Confidence. That was the feeling that the Ohio State defense was feeling as it left High Point Solution Stadium with a zero under the home team’s name on the scoreboard.
With three straight weeks of the defense giving up less than 300 yards to the opposing offense, the Buckeye defense recorded its first shutout of the year, defeating Rutgers 56-0 in the second conference game of the season.
“It’s all of our hard work paying off,” safety Jordan Fuller said. “Seeing that zero at the end of the game is very special.”
It almost was not so. With 43 seconds left in the game, Rutgers kicker Andrew Harte attempted a 32-yard field goal to put some points on the board for the Scarlet Knights. However, when the ball hit the right upright, the Ohio State sideline erupted like the team had just scored a winning touchdown.
Safety Damon Webb talked about how that kind of reaction was just the competitive spirits of the defensive players coming out, hoping that the shutout would be intact when the clock hit zero. Linebacker Dante Booker agreed and said that shutouts are what defenses work for.
“It was huge,” Booker said. “It’s what you would like to see at the end of the game as a defense. We definitely put in our work for it.”
Recording his second interception of the year in the win, Webb said that, as one of the older guys on the team, he is one of the players that is expected to lead on the defensive side of the ball.
“I’m the veteran back there,” Webb said. “So the young guys feed off me, so I’ll provide energy and you can definitely see that in my play.”
That energy is something that was not limited to the secondary. Defensive lineman Sam Hubbard was second on the team with four tackles, recording a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit and a forced fumble. Defensive lineman Chase Young had three tackles including a tackle for loss.
However, the energy from the middle seemed to come primarily from Booker. Tying his career high in tackles with four, he recorded two tackles for loss, including his first career sack, and brought in his first career interception in the 56-0 win.
Booker said that he got an idea of what he could do on a football field on Saturday night.
“Yeah, I definitely got a taste,” Booker said. “I don’t see myself pulling back from that. It felt good and I’m trying to get that feeling again.”
After giving up an average of 463.5 total yards per game after both the first two weeks of the season, Webb said that he was not dissatisfied with the defense’s performance, but that there was a job to do.
“I would definitely say we had to get better,” Webb said. “We all knew that, so everyday at practice, that’s what our main goal was, to get better and better.”
Since then, the Buckeye defense has only given up three total touchdowns in the last three games and have recorded five turnovers, including four interceptions in the past two weeks.
Booker said that his interception in the first quarter created momentum on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball for the Buckeyes. Webb hopes that that momentum heads into the Big Ten home opener next weekend.
“We are just getting better and better each week,” Webb said. “So, next week, we are back to the drawing board and getting ready for Maryland.”