Locals lead relentless effort by defense

Tim May
Ohio State linebacker Malik Harrison harassed Michigan all game long, including this sack of Shea Patterson in the first quarter. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Jonathon Cooper was a man on the move Saturday, so much so that the defensive end was gone from the locker room after Ohio State’s 62-39 win over Michigan before he could be summoned for a media interview.

But the junior from Gahanna left his mark on a game like never before, helping lead a defensive effort that, despite giving up 39 points, harassed the Michigan offense, especially quarterback Shea Patterson.

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Junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones, among those who added to the problems for the Michigan offensive line, wasn’t sure what got into Cooper.

“I don’t know. He practices the same, week in, week out,” Jones said. “It’s good to see all that hard work in practice show up in a game.”

Cooper didn’t break the bank, being credited with just three tackles, but he also had a sack and was part of the posse, including linebacker Malik Harrison, who chased Patterson and the Michigan running backs and often cut off paths of escape.

Harrison and Cooper — call it the rise of the East Side, with Harrison hailing from Walnut Ridge.

“We were just out here, I kept telling Coop, ‘Columbus kids, we’re doing our thing,’" Harrison said. “It was great, the kid, 15 minutes away from here, having the best game of my life,” citing his seven-tackle effort, two of them for loss, including a sack. “It’s great to have it.”

Cooper and Chase Young had vowed to take up the slack left by the injury and sudden departure of All-American Nick Bosa after the TCU game, and they have had some moments since then, but not the sustained effort seen against the Wolverines.

“It’s the brotherhood, trying to play for each other,” Harrison said.

That brotherhood was tested this past week with the Buckeyes coming off a 52-51 overtime win at Maryland. The focus from the outside was not as much on the win as it was on the defense getting shredded again. It’s the main reason Ohio State came into the contest against Michigan as an underdog for the first time in 51 games.

Although the Buckeyes gave up 39 points and 401 yards, they also forced two interceptions, by safeties Jordan Fuller and Brendon White, and came up with some key stops when the Wolverines tried to make it a game.

“We watched film, we studied it, we dissected it,” Jones said of the Michigan offense. “We saw the weaknesses and we tried to capitalize the best we can. Hearing the outside noise talking about, ‘We can’t do this. We can’t stop that,’ that definitely fueled us 10 times more.”


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