COLUMBUS – Bradley Roby didn’t flinch. He met the question head on and this time there was no flag was thrown for targeting.
After Ohio State’s 63-14 domination of Penn State on Saturday night, Roby was asked if this had been an important game for him.
The underlying narrative was that Ohio State’s pass defense in general and its best defensive back, Roby, in particular had been tagged as underachievers before Saturday night.
“It was an important game for me,” Roby said. “I knew going into the game they had good receiver (Allen Robinson) and a lot of people would be watching our matchup.”
Roby’s individual statistics weren’t flashy – five tackles and two pass breakups. And Robinson had 12 catches.
But, led by four sacks – two of them by Noah Spence – and interceptions by Corey Brown and C.J. Barnett, Ohio State’s defense came out of the game hearing cheers instead of criticism for the first time in quite a while.
Roby has had ups and downs this season. He was suspended for the opener because of an incident at a Bloomington, Ind., bar last summer. He blocked a punt for a much-needed touchdown at Northwestern.
But he also appeared to struggle at times in coverage more than was expected from someone who considered leaving early for the NFL last winter. Then he was ejected for targeting a receiver in the first half of a 34-24 win over Iowa.
“It was very tough, especially considering after I watched the replay I still didn’t think there was anything wrong with that hit,” Roby said about the ejection. “If that’s a penalty, I just don’t know how to play football. But that’s in the past. I’m over it and I’m moving on.”
Ohio State’s overall improvement in pass defense, both in pressuring the quarterback and covering receivers, was one of the things coach Urban Meyer liked most about the win over Penn State.
“The most impressive part of the game to me was we caused turnovers and we hit the quarterback a little bit. We haven’t been doing that,” Meyer said.
He also liked what he saw from quarterback Braxton Miller, who has completed 79 percent of his passes (40 of 51) in the last two games.
“I love where Braxton is at right now as a quarterback. Last year I felt he was an athlete playing quarterback. Now he’s a quarterback,” Meyer said.
Much was made of Ohio State’s big win being a case of the Buckeyes making a statement.
When it was over, some players agreed with that assessment and others were less eager to embrace it.
“This was definitely a statement game. That’s the attitude we carried into this game, that we were going to make a statement in prime time while everybody was watching. And that’s what we did,” Roby said.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier said, “We’re just trying to go out there and win every game and try to win handily like we should. If somebody wants a message that they saw from this game, they can have one.”
If there was a message for the poll voters, it seemed to be a mixed message. Ohio State remained No. 4 in two of the polls but gained eight points in The Associated Press poll while losing seven points in the USA Today coaches poll.