Michigan State offensive right tackle Jordan Reid forgot about Baron Browning for a moment Saturday night.
Late in the third quarter of Ohio State’s 34-10 win over the Spartans, Browning lined up as a stand-up pass rusher just outside Reid.
But Reid was focused on Chase Young, who was situated to the right of Browning, closer to the interior of the defensive line.
On the snap, Reid put his left arm on Young, helping double-team him along with Matt Carrick, the Spartans’ right guard.
The instinct to block Young left Browning largely untouched as the linebacker charged into the backfield and leveled Brian Lewerke for a sack.
It was remarkable for its simplicity.
“We didn't have to run a twist or anything,” Young said. “He just went and got it.”
Once Reid realized that Browning was in pursuit of Lewerke, it was too late. Browning had passed him, and Reid’s hands only grazed him.
When the ABC broadcast showed a replay of the sequence, color commentator Kirk Herbstreit observed the dilemma that the offensive linemen faced.
“They've got to be worried about Chase Young,” Herbstreit said.
Indeed, the moment illustrated one of the more challenging aspects for teams when they face Ohio State this season.
Not only is Young one of the best pass rushers in the nation — his 8.5 sacks through six weeks remaining the second-most in the Football Bowl Subdivision, behind the nine by Curtis Weaver of Boise State — but he also commands so much attention from offensive linemen that it leaves other defenders with more room to make plays.
The Buckeyes seemed to anticipate the mismatch against Michigan State.
In several instances, coaches positioned Young closer to the middle of the defensive line. Though mostly a defensive end, Young is big enough, listed at 6 feet 5 and 265 pounds, to play in the interior and take up more space as a cog, rather than solely lining up on the edge.
Young likes the idea, noting that it helped expand his versatility.
He was credited with only a half-sack against the Spartans, the first time he didn’t have at least one in a game this season, but his presence helped throughout the game. The Buckeyes sacked Lewerke four times.
Blitzing linebackers, including Browning, stand to gain from the attention Young should continue to draw the rest of the season.
Browning’s 2.5 sacks came in the past three games, with him freed up along the edge. He likes the pass-rushing role. It is straightforward.
“There's not too much I have to do besides get to the quarterback,” Browning said.
Young said he was happy to see others bring down the quarterback, especially Browning.
“He's always asking me about pass-rush moves, things like that, against the quarterback,” Young said. “I was really happy for him because of the way he practices.”
After Browning drove Lewerke into the Ohio Stadium turf late in the third quarter, the Spartans punted, having retreated from midfield. It had been third-and-14 before the sack.
Browning savored the moment. He raised his arms into the air as the crowd roared. Fellow linebackers Malik Harrison and Pete Werner ran over to celebrate with him. They rubbed helmets.
“It was a momentum changer, and it felt good,” Browning said. “And it felt good to celebrate with my teammates after. That was the most important thing.”
Young could have joined, too.