COLUMBUS, Ohio - For all the success hes had this season, Jeff Smoker is only a freshman and his youth showed against Ohio State.
After MSU (4-5 overall, 1-5 Big Ten) jumped ahead 13-3 in the first quarter, the Buckeyes (7-2, 4-2) began blitzing the first-year quarterback from Manheim, Pa., disrupting Smoker and the MSU offense en route to a 27-13 defeat of the Spartans.
They didnt blitz too much early, Smoker said. Then they started bringing some blitzes later, blitzing a lot of linebackers and bringing safeties. It was something I wasnt quite prepared for and we didnt make the adjustments we had to. They brought the house on some of those plays and we werent quite ready.
Smoker was sacked six times by a Buckeye defense that, entering Saturdays game, led the Big Ten in sacks with 36.
He said Ohio State utilized some seldom-used safety blitz packages.
We didnt see them do that too much in prior games, bringing safeties, he said. They would bring both safeties sometimes and I wasnt quite prepared for it.
Smoker went 10-of-18 passing for 77 yards and an interception before getting replaced by junior quarterback Ryan Van Dyke with 6:47 left in regulation.
Head coach Bobby Williams said Smokers performance was affected by the Buckeye pass rush, among other things at Ohio Stadium.
I thought the atmosphere got to him a little bit, he said. Several times we had some breakdowns in protection and several times I felt he was feeling the rush a little bit.
Senior guard Dave Sucura said Smoker played well considering all the pressure he faced.
I thought he was doing a pretty good job, but its tough being a young guy like that and having to face a defense that throws so many people at you and blitzes from all over the field, he said.
Five different Buckeyes recorded sacks against MSU, including defensive end Brent Johnson with three.
They just send so many different people, Sucura said. When they send blitzes, anybody can come. Thats one of the difficult things about it.
The Spartans racked up 115 yards of total offense in the first quarter while the Buckeyes had zero sacks.
In the remaining three quarters, MSU had zero points and 96 yards of total offense while the Buckeyes recorded seven sacks.
They threw a lot of blitzes at us like we expected, Sucura said. The thing was we didnt pick them up. Its nothing we hadnt seen before, we just didnt make the plays.
The relentless pressure prevented Smoker from getting good passes off on third-and-long situations. One sack forced Smoker to cough up the football with 7:34 remaining in the second quarter, which resulted in a 73-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Ohio State safety Mike Doss.
At one point in the third quarter, the Buckeyes sacked Smoker on three consecutive plays for a combined loss of 13 yards.
They send a lot of guys after you and thats probably why theyve won a lot of games, Sucura said.