Defensive coaches are fond of saying players have to earn the right to rush the passer, and that is exactly what the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes plan on doing when they take on Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners tonight at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman.
Although Oklahoma has a prolific quarterback in Baker Mayfield, the Buckeyes know stopping the ground game of the seventh-ranked Sooners will be a key to their success.
“They have a big offensive line,” Buckeyes sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “We need to stop the run first to even get the opportunity to get to the quarterback, so we’re going to focus on stopping the run to get them to throw the ball and once they throw the ball, that’s when we’ll get after him. We’ll need to play fast and tire them out, wear them out.
“Facing Tulsa and even Bowling Green and seeing the tempo they threw at us really prepared us because Oklahoma will do that as well. All good teams do. It’s especially beneficial for the young guys to see how fast this is going to go, so it’s good to have the experience under our belts.”
On the season, Mayfield has completed 38 of his 53 throws for 567 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions for the Sooners (1-1).
During his three-year career as a starting quarterback, first at Texas Tech in 2013 and then, Oklahoma over the past two years, Mayfield has completed 525 pass attempts for 6,518 yards and 53 touchdowns against 16 interceptions.
“He’s really elusive, really quick,” Mayfield said. “He seems to be staying in the pocket more this season than he has in the past, but once he feels that pressure, he can really take off, so we need to contain him and work the scramble drill a lot this week. He’s a really special player, so it’ll be a new challenge.”
The only returning starter along the defensive line for the Buckeyes from the 2015 season, Hubbard believes the young men in the trenches are improving at a good rate.
“It’s just what we’re coached to do,” Hubbard said. “The young guys inside are going to keep improving every week. They just need that experience of going up against a starting offensive line in a game situation and working on their moves. I want to get back there every play, and I know everyone else on this line does too.”
And if Hubbard and the defensive linemen accomplish their tasks, he believes the nation’s most prolific secondary with seven interceptions and three touchdowns, will have the opportunity to make plays against the Sooners.
“I’m not surprised,” Hubbard said. “They’ve played in games, Malik (Hooker) played on special teams last year and Marshon (Lattimore) got into some games last year. Plus, they go out in practice and make plays. Practices are sometimes harder than games at Ohio State.”