De­fense helps swing mo­men­tum with take­aways

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Tim May tmay@dis­patch.com @TIM_MAYs­ports

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Ohio State de­fen­sive coaches could see the way punter Drue Chris­man was pin­ning Michi­gan State deep re­peat­edly, de­fen­sive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said, and they could see the way the Buck­eyes were re­spond­ing in the sec­ond half Satur­day.

“The coaches kept em­pha­siz­ing, a lot more than usual, like, ‘ Our mo­ment’s go­ing to come. We’re go­ing to cre­ate a turnover,’ ” Jones said.

It hap­pened. It was the piv­otal mo­ment in the Buck­eyes’ 26-6 win, and Jones was in the mid­dle of it. A pos­ses­sion af­ter the Spar­tans had taken a safety to get out of dan­ger, push­ing the OSU lead to 9-6 in the third quar­ter, they found them­selves on their own 2- yard line in the first minute of the fourth when John­nie Dixon downed an­other lob wedge of a punt by Chris­man.

On the first play, quar­ter­back Rocky Lom­bardi stood alone in the end zone, with three re­ceivers to his left and two to his right.

One of those re­ceivers, La­ress Nel­son, went in mo­tion left to right but ev­i­dently ar­rived at the Ohio State de­fen­sive end Jonathon Cooper dives to re­cover a fum­ble in the fourth quar­ter, beat­ing Michi­gan State run­ning back La’Dar­ius Jef­fer­son to the ball.

cross­ing point be­tween the cen­ter and QB a beat too early, be­cause the snap hit him and ric­o­cheted to the ground.

Jones pounced on it in the end zone for a touch­down.

“We kind of wres­tled for it a lit­tle bit and I came up with it,” Jones said.

It was Jones’ sec­ond touch­down of the sea­son, the first be­ing the in­ter­cep­tion he re­turned in the win

over TCU on Sept. 15.

“They both felt equally as good be­cause they changed the mo­men­tum of the game,” he said.

An Ohio State de­fense that for sev­eral weeks had been ma­ligned for giv­ing up big plays and points, held Michi­gan State’s strug­gling of­fense to 274 to­tal yards, in­clud­ing just 54 rush­ing. And that 54 in­cluded the Spar­tans’ only long play, a 47- yard keeper by Lom­bardi off the goal line in the third quar­ter that briefly gave them hope be­fore the Buck­eyes forced a field goal.

“It shows we have con­fi­dence in ev­ery­thing we’ve been do­ing since the begin­ning of the sea­son, it’s go­ing to work,” said de­fen­sive end Jonathon Cooper, who re­cov­ered an­other Michi­gan State fum­ble on the pos­ses­sion fol­low­ing Jones’ TD. “We’ve been work­ing hard, go­ing hard, and even though ev­ery­body was telling us ‘ Do this, do that,’ we just stuck with the plan and it pays off, as you can see.

“We went out there and showed we are the de­fense, we are Ohio State.”

Jones said the Buck­eyes still have work to do, but agreed that the de­fen­sive play was up­lift­ing.

“This was a big mo­men­tum (swing) for us,” Jones said. “We came out there and played with swag and a lot of en­thu­si­asm.”

[ADAM CAIRNS/DIS­PATCH]

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