Ohio State's rout of Wisconsin this season served as a launchpad for Chase Young's push for the Heisman Trophy.
Young, vying to become the first purely defensive player to win college football's most prestigious award, sacked Badgers quarterback Jack Coan four times, tying an Ohio State record, and forced two fumbles.
But as the teams reconvene Saturday in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, Young arrives on the heels of his most subdued performance this season. For the first time in his 10 games, he did not record a sack at Michigan. The Wolverines' offensive line made a considerable effort to double-team him.
Jeff Hafley, the Buckeyes' defensive co-coordinator, thought Young still left an impact in the victory.
“It's not like the whole entire game they completely took Chase out,” Hafley said. “Because they didn't. He had a bunch of pressures, a bunch of tackles, and he hit the quarterback.”
The official stat line left him with only two quarterback hurries. But Michigan's effort might offer a possible blueprint for teams to follow, including Wisconsin, which had its offensive line double-team Young less often than the Wolverines. If the Badgers emulate the approach, Hafley remarked, “it can be very beneficial,” and coach Ryan Day likened it to when wide receivers are double-teamed.
So much focus on Young lessens the burden on the Buckeyes' other defensive linemen as they rush the quarterback.
“You only have so many guys to block with,” Hafley said, “so if they take too many and put them over on one side, there's going to be less on the other side.”
In the previous matchup with Wisconsin, Young also lined up in different spots on the defensive line, including as a stand-up pass rusher. It was a unique wrinkle the Buckeyes used. They might need a new one.
“I think every game you evolve a little bit,” Hafley said. “Each game, you look at an opponent, and they do things differently.”