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10 September 2016: Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) returns the intercepted pass to the end zone for a touchdown during the game between the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes and the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Khris Hale / Icon Sportswire)

Ohio State secondary looks elite through two weeks

(Photo by Khris Hale / Icon Sportswire)

Ohio State is 2-0 following a 48-3 beatdown of Tulsa, but despite the high-scoring total, it wasn’t the Buckeye offense that led the way.

Tulsa’s defense gave Ohio State some trouble this past Saturday. It was either that or the weather. The game was delayed thanks to lighting and the rain was a factor for much of the contest.

For a program that should contend for both the Big Ten Title and a spot in the College Football Playoff, the weather shouldn’t be an excuse. Urban Meyer couldn’t have been happy that the score was tied, 3-3, at the end of the first quarter, and Ohio State’s first offensive touchdown didn’t come until 9:24 to go in the third quarter.

If it wasn’t for OSU’s defense, the Buckeyes would have entered the half with just a 6-3 lead instead of a 20-3 cushion.

Redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker notched OSU’s first touchdown of the game on a 26-yard pick-six with just over three minutes left in the first half.

OSU’s defense wasn’t content to go into halftime with just a 13-3 lead. With 33 seconds left in the second quarter, redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore took an interception 40 yards to the house. It was the second of two interceptions on the day for Lattimore. He intercepted Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans on the Golden Hurricanes’ first offensive snap of the game.

As a team, Ohio State intercepted Evans four times. Junior Gareon Conley also got into the mix late in the third quarter. The Buckeye defense also allowed Tulsa to scrape together only 185 total yards – including just 58 on the ground — and forced two fumbles.

To put OSU’s defensive performance into perspective, Tulsa put up 45 points against a good San Jose State team in Week 1. The Golden Hurricane notched 512 yards of total offense and didn’t turn the ball over once.

Sure, Saturday’s matchup was between a legitimate CFP contender (OSU) and an AAC team that went 6-7 last season, but the numbers and differences between Tulsa’s offensive output between Week 1 and Week 2 are startling.

The easy takeaway? Ohio State’s defense is good. Really good.

Meyer would agree.

“Our defense is playing so well right now,” he said after the contest. “Obviously, the challenge will come next week against a very good team, and we’re going to jump on that one early and get ready to go.”

The challenge Meyer is referencing is Oklahoma.

Following a Week 1 loss to Houston (another potential CFP team), the Sooners bounced back, as expected, against Louisiana Monroe in Norman. The Sooners beat the Warhawks, 59-17, putting up 640 yards of total offense. Quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 14-of-20 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns. His backup, Austin Kendall, got in and completed 12-of-15 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns of his own.

Joe Mixon ran for 117 yards and Samaje Perine added two touchdowns on the ground.

Ohio State’s defense has look great against lesser opponents, but this will be a true test for the Buckeyes. Oklahoma was in the CFP last season and still has hope to make it back this season.

The Sooner run game, spearheaded by Perine and Mixon, will challenge Ohio State up front, and Mayfield and the Oklahoma passing game will end up being a huge threat as well. Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns last season and has thrown for five touchdowns and 567 yards so far this season.

That said, it seems obvious that OSU’s defense — especially the secondary — is up to the test.

In two games, the Buckeyes have already notched seven interceptions, and three have been run back for touchdowns. Hooker has already snagged three interceptions in two games, and Lattimore is well on pace to keep up with him after his performance against Tulsa.

Impressive, to say the least, for a unit that’s still breaking in new starters.

Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has played a role in that, per Meyer, but he also gave credit to the players on the field when asked about the secondary after Saturday’s game.

“Of course he has an impact,” Meyer said of Schiano. “And Kerry Coombs has an impact as well. But it’s also very good personnel. I think those young guys have really took to coaching, but they’re also very talented guys — a lot of those guys have been paying their dues.

“Greg Schiano certainly does have an impact on this. But it’s obviously very talented players.”

Ohio State secondary looks elite through two weeks

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