SDUT: Tough test in Columbus

  • Welcome to America's Finest Sports Forum and Podcast! is one of the largest online communities covering San Diego sports. We host a regular podcast during the major seasons. You are currently viewing our community forums as a guest user.

    Sign Up or

    Having an account grants you additional privileges, such as creating and participating in discussions. Furthermore, we hide most of the ads once you register as a member!


#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA
San Diego State football coach Tom Craft didn't dawdle while searching for superlatives or applying appropriate plaudits.

When the subject is Ohio State's defense, opposing coaches don't require an inordinate amount of prompting.

"In my 29 years of coaching, this is one of the best, if not the best, defense I've ever seen," said Craft, whose team will visit the No. 9 Buckeyes on Saturday. "We have to play faster to be able to neutralize their speed. The (defense) they had when we went back there two years ago was good, but this one looks faster. It has so many moving parts. They're really good."

And plenty angry. In the wake of Saturday's home loss to No. 2 Texas – its first at Ohio Stadium in 36 nonleague games – Ohio State fell from No. 4 to No. 9, a slip that has the Buckeyes fuming with frustration and pining to pound anything that moves.

In SDSU, Ohio State would seem to have the ideal foil. Perched on the precipice of opening the season 0-3 for the second time in Craft's tenure, the Aztecs offer an offense that last week used nine sophomores and three freshmen in a 41-29 loss at Air Force.

It is an offense that has been weakened by injury at both tackle spots and ranks 101st among the nation's 119 Division I teams with a turnover margin of -4.

Enter Ohio State, which in seniors A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel arguably offers the best trio of linebackers in the nation. Considered certain NFL draft picks, the three combined for 31 tackles against Texas, a game in which the Buckeyes forced three turnovers, including two interceptions.

And if there is a better defensive player in the country than Hawk, he would do well to announce himself. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Hawk was an absolute terror against Texas, earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors with 12 tackles (seven solo), two sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Twice tabbed the Big Ten's preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Hawk has finished in double figures in tackles 14 times, including a remarkable 20-tackle game in a loss to Wisconsin last year. His 141 tackles in 2004 were the most by an Ohio State player since four-time Pro Bowler Chris Spielman posted 156 in 1986.

"He is a smart football player, but don't get me wrong," Texas coach Mack Brown said of Hawk. "He'll punch you right in the mouth."

Center Jasper Harvey, who played in the Aztecs' 16-13 loss to the Buckeyes two years ago, is one of three seniors on an offensive line responsible for keeping Hawk at bay and quarterback Kevin O'Connell out of harm's way.

"They had potential first-round picks on defense when we played them in '03, but we went in there and played them tough from the first whistle to the last whistle," Harvey said. "We're going to have to play faster and we're going to have to play harder, but I know what the size of my heart is and the size of everybody else's heart on this team. When we line up on Saturday, nobody on this team is going to be scared to play."

Perhaps not, but in front of 105,000, there will undoubtedly be more than a few knees knocking. Through two games, the Aztecs' freshman and sophomore classes have already accounted for 12 starts on offense.

Conversely, Ohio State's defense features seniors and juniors at every position except freshman nickelback Jamario O'Neal. Schlegel and left tackle Marcus Green are fifth-year seniors.

"We have to do everything as fast and as correctly as we possibly can," said Aztecs senior left guard Taylor Schmidt. "We've all been in games that have involved special players who are really talented, but it's not something that you can let yourself become focused on. As an offensive line, we pride ourselves on competing with the best and we want everyone's best.

"Ohio State has lost games before, how come we can't beat them? We're capable of doing anything any other team has done."
Extra points
Senior Jacob Elimimian's career could be over after he suffered a broken arm during warmups in Saturday's game at Air Force. Craft said Elimimian, a reserve cornerback who earned honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference honors as a sophomore, has been lost for the season . . . Craft said junior defensive tackle Emil Metroka, who has not played since undergoing surgery for a knee injury suffered during spring drills, will play against Ohio State . . . Senior defensive end Bobby Miller, who underwent surgery last year for chronic tendinitis problems in his knees, has returned to practice and is taking part in contact drills.
Smith to start
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said yesterday that junior Troy Smith will start at quarterback against the Aztecs while Justin Zwick, who started the first two games, will be relegated to the sideline. Tressel has been enduring an outpouring of criticism for the way he alternated the two quarterbacks in the Buckeyes' loss to Texas. Smith was 5-for-11 for 78 yards and a touchdown and added 13 rushes for 27 yards. He led Ohio State to points on five consecutive possessions and a 16-13 lead, then suddenly was replaced by Zwick. The Buckeyes scored three points on drives with Zwick at quarterback.

Smith was suspended by the NCAA for the season opener after it was discovered he had accepted $500 from a team booster.