Jim Knowles' Ohio State defense refuses to be satisfied after bend-but-don't-break effort

Lori Schmidt
The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State's defense kept Arkansas State out of the end zone, held the Red Wolves to 53 rushing yards and found their way into the backfield 12 times during Saturday's 45-12 win. But as disruptive as they were, the Buckeyes were unsatisfied with their performance.

"Didn't quite finish it the way we would have like to have seen, quite honestly," said coach Ryan Day. "It was kind of a bend-but-don't break style today."

Steele Chambers and Cody Simon led OSU with six tackles a piece, but they were among those who thought there was room for improvement.

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"We're not where we want to be at," said Simon. "You never really want any penalties."

Instead, the defense was flagged seven times for 65 yards.

"I feel like just being able to disrupt the ball, just being able to play offense on defense," said Chambers, "I think that would be big for us to start doing."

Instead for the second straight week, Ohio State failed to force a turnover.

Sophomore cornerback Denzel Burke tried for an interception in the first quarter on a 3rd-and-11 play from the 48-yard line but ended up committing pass interference. It set up a Red Wolves' field goal on their second possession. Burke was then victimized on a 58-yard pass play with 14:48 remaining in the second quarter that also set up an Arkansas State field goal.

That pass went to Champ Flemings, who registered 10 catches for 105 yards.

It also resulted in OSU rotating in JK Johnson, who had three tackles.

More:Here are 5 things we learned from Ohio State's 45-12 win over Arkansas State

New Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has been quick to insert players such as Johnson into the lineup, both because of the team's depth (27 different defensive players registered a tackle against Arkansas State) and to reinforce a message of accountability.

And that's what the OSU defense did Saturday – hold itself accountable. Because for all the shortcomings, the fact remains that in two games, the team has given up one touchdown: Audric Estime's 1-yard rushing score in the second quarter for Notre Dame.

Michael Hall has emerged as a force. After recording four tackles and two tackles for loss against the Fighting Irish, he followed up with three TFLs Saturday. He might have even had more had he not left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter.

September 10, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. (51) is attended to by medical personnel in the game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Scheller-The Columbus Dispatch

"It's not something that we expect him to miss any time for," said Day. "There was no concern coming out of (the game) that it was going to be long term."

And while Burke may have struggled, safety Josh Proctor was in that same position a week ago and managed to bounce back.

"I took today as my second shot," Proctor said. "Feel like I did pretty good."

He had three tackles, but just as his teammates had done, expressed a degree of frustration.

"Could be a lot better," he said. "Probably get on the film and watch over there with coach and see where we went right, where we went wrong."

And of all the positives for the Buckeyes, that might be the greatest: that after two weeks in which they showed marked improvement over the 2021 season, they still are striving for more.

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