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Defense comes through

September 12, 2010
By ED PUSKAS Tribune Chronicle Sports Editor


The Miami Hurricanes and their fans like to say it's all about the U, but when push came to shove at the Horseshoe on Saturday, it actually turned out to be all about the D.

As in defense.

The Ohio State Buckeyes and their Silver Bullet defense delayed the Hurricanes' return to elite status by intercepting Miami quarterback Jacory Harris four times in a 36-24 victory that wasn't really that close.

Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa had two of the interceptions and defensive linemen Nathan Williams and Cameron Heyward had the others. Ohio State also sacked Harris twice and pressured him throughout a damp, gray afternoon at Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes' relentless defense came make average quarterbacks look really bad and good quarterbacks look pedestrian.

Harris, considered a Heisman Trophy candidate after passing for more than 3,000 yards last season, was just 22 of 39 for 232 yards. When Harris wasn't getting knocked around or throwing picks, he looked ordinary.

"We knew we had to get a lot of pressure on him," Chekwa said. "We saw last year that he made a lot of bad decisions when there was a lot of pressure in the pocket. Sometimes he'd just throw the ball up for grabs."

Harris didn't really do that, despite how ugly four interceptions can appear in the final statistics. All four of them might have gone for completions had Ohio State's defenders not been in the right place at the right time.

In other words, Harris' interceptions were not Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn picks. A couple of them might have resulted from bad decisions, but his execution wasn't altogether terrible. It just wasn't good enough against the Buckeyes.

"On two of them, I know the receiver ran the wrong route," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "But still, if they run the wrong route, throw it out of bounds."

Harris posted on his Twitter account earlier Saturday that the Hurricanes were, "On our way to make history!" He was a bit more contrite after Miami's path back to national prominence met with more resistence than expected in Columbus.

"I deserve to take the blame for the loss," Harris said. "I'm a leader on our team. I take full ownership for whatever happens. When things go right, people give credit to the quarterback, so it's my fault when things go wrong."

Everything seems to be going well for Ohio State's defense, which has allowed only one touchdown - a 9-yard pass from Harris to tight end Chase Ford - in its first eight quarters. Miami's Matt Bosher made a 51-yard field goal, but the Hurricanes' other two scores came on an 88-yard kickoff return by Lamar Miller and a 79-yard punt return by Travis Benjamin.

The defense has made a habit of making big plays, especially in the shadow of the goal line.

Heyward's interception came at the Buckeyes' 5 and the big defensive end rumbled 80 yards with the ball after stepping in front of a Harris pass.

"I'm still tired," Heyward said. "I should have pitched it right after I got the ball."

Defensive tackles Dexter Larimore and John Simon each sacked Harris once.

"We pride ourselves on being stingy," Larimore said. "We especially focus on our red-zone defense. If anything, we're always looking to force a field goal in red-zone situations."

Simon said the Silver Bullet defense is all about 11 guys doing what they're supposed to do on every play.

"Our defense is very solid," he said. "We are against great teams, but we're in the right place at the right time. If all 11 guys are doing their job, good things happen."

And as scary as it might sound for opposing quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, Larimore said the best is yet to come.

"We can always get better and improve," he said. "We did a good job, but not great. We need to get more hits on the quarterback and more sacks."

After all, at Ohio State, it's all about the D.



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