Chris Worley


Last Saturday was far from the finest three hours for Ohio State’s linebackers in a lopsided loss at Iowa, but they had little time for remorse.

After the Hawkeyes, who traditionally have set up the pass with a physical running game, did the opposite in a 55-24 upset, here comes Michigan State, which started using a similar blueprint recently. The Spartans threw a combined 113 passes for 845 yards and six touchdowns in a triple-overtime loss to Northwestern, followed by an upset win over Penn State.

Ohio State middle linebacker Chris Worley and fellow linebackers Jerome Baker and Dante Booker now have to figure out what the Michigan State offense, led by quarterback Brian Lewerke, may throw at them Saturday in a game that will determine the leader in the Big Ten East.

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“No team really stays the same in this game,” Worley said. “So teams are going to adapt.

“A good thing is, it’s still football. Stop the run. Stop the pass. Try to outplay their defense, and if we outplay their defense, technically we should win. So the biggest thing is going out there being nine units strong and going back to playing Ohio State football.”

Where Iowa took advantage of Ohio State the most — and it’s an area in which the Spartans are capable — was in releasing tight ends into the passing lanes, often after play-action fakes.

Rudiments demand that linebackers respect the threat of a running play before dropping into pass coverage or blitzing. Like Oklahoma in a win over Ohio State on Sept. 9, the Hawkeyes sometimes caught the linebackers and safeties in a compromising freeze. Michigan State did the same to Penn State’s defenders last week.

“Each play, 11 people have to do their job or, if you’re playing a good team, you’re going to get taken advantage of,” Worley said. “One little mishap, one little miscommunication, one little confusion, that’s going to be a touchdown once you get to this level. So the biggest thing is just everyone doing their job.”