In three games, the No. 2 Buckeyes (3-0) have returned four interceptions for touchdowns. With nine games to play in the regular season, they already have tied the single-season school record in that category. The 1987 and 1996 teams also returned four picks for scores.
Ohio State’s defense has put more points on the board (28) than the offenses of its three opponents: Bowling Green, Tulsa and Oklahoma (23 points combined). Could the defense outscore its opponents over the course of an entire season?
“That’s the goal,” linebacker Chris Worley said Monday. “If you do that, we won’t lose a game, technically speaking. But our job is to outplay the other defense. If our defense outplays their defense, we should win the game.”
Four players have scored for Ohio State’s defense. Freshman Rodjay Burns returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the season opener against Bowling Green.
In the next game against Tulsa, the Buckeyes broke the game open with two interception returns for scores in the second quarter. Safety Malik Hooker returned one interception 26 yards for a touchdown, and less than three minutes later, cornerback Marshon Lattimore scored on a 40-yard return.
Every time, Ohio State gets a turnover, the players stick to a script.
“The person who gets the turnover or recovers it hits the near sideline and goes as fast as he can,” Worley said, “and everyone else picks up a block. If it’s an interception, block the intended receiver first and go from there. The big thing for the defense and football in general is just awareness. You always play through the whistle. Once we see it, everyone reacts.”
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State are the only teams in the country with four defensive touchdowns. The Crimson Tide (4-0) have played one more game than the Buckeyes. Marshall, Tulsa and Houston are the only teams with three defensive touchdowns.
The Buckeyes have forced 11 turnovers (nine interceptions and two fumble recoveries) and turned the ball over only twice themselves. They lead the nation in turnover margin (plus nine).
Meyer doesn’t see any luck involved in the defensive scores.
“I think we have obviously very good coaches and players,” he said Tuesday. “We don’t think there’s such a thing as coincidence or good fortune, or why practice that? The fact is the guys are good athletes. They take coaching very well. They’re well trained.”