Bruised bullied Badgered Buckeyes return home battered

Not only did Ohio State leave Madison, Wis., emotionally scarred, suffering its first loss of the season Saturday, but the Buckeyes also left physically scarred, with fewer healthy bodies than when they arrived. OSU’s already-limited defense has become further depleted because of injury. Leaving possibly the biggest void in the OSU defense is the loss of senior linebacker and leading tackler Ross Homan. Coach Jim Tressel said Homan will likely miss the next couple of weeks because of a foot injury suffered at Wisconsin. Already plagued with injuries this year, the defensive backfield has taken another hit with the loss of Tyler Moeller’s replacement, Christian Bryant, who will be out for at least this week’s contest against Purdue. “He had an infection last week, and we thought we had it under control, and he played a little bit in the game, and then he had a not-very-good reaction to it on the plane ride back,” Tressel said. “He’s been over at Ohio State Medical Center trying to get it under control, and I don’t know all the whys and the wherefores and whatnot, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be out of there until late this week.” As far as who will step in during Bryant’s absence, Tressel said he wasn’t sure yet but suggested a few possibilities. “Without having sat in the defensive room and talked about it with them, you have a couple different ways you can go,” he said. “Jermale Hines has played a lot of nickel, which would probably put (Aaron) Gant in the game. Nate Oliver was your No. 2 nickel all spring and all season until he got hurt, and he’s back healthy … or you can do what Iowa does. Iowa plays nickel with their base people.” Also on the defensive side, linebacker Dorian Bell remains out after suffering a concussion against Indiana. No matter who is in there, Tressel expects them to perform. “We’ve got to have someone ready. That’s why you get to practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and have walkthroughs on Friday,” he said. “If you want anyone to care that you’ve had three guys in your secondary hurt, you’re coaching the wrong sport at the wrong school because we’ve got to be ready.” Facing adversity Coming off its first loss in nearly a year, OSU is looking to pick up the pieces from its lackluster performance at Wisconsin last week, and Tressel said that loss will serve as a real test for his team. “We’ve always talked about leadership and maturity and that it’s not really tested until those adverse moments,” he said. “I think you’ll see a good demonstration of our level of maturity and leadership and so forth, and I have confidence we have the right kind of people.” With the loss behind them, the No. 10-ranked Buckeyes turn their sights to the conference-unbeaten Purdue Boilermakers. And although the Bucks once again find themselves attempting to bounce back from a difficult mid-season conference defeat, Tressel said that how his guys respond will say a lot about this team. “We told our guys countless times that there are 10 teams that want one thing for sure and that’s for Ohio State not to be the Big Ten champions, and that’s real,” Tressel said. “And now let’s see how you can handle it, and we’ll get a little glimpse of that at practice, but the real look at it will be Saturday and then the following Saturday and the following.” Continuing special teams woes After making strides in the right direction in recent weeks, OSU kick coverage took another step in the wrong direction at Wisconsin as the Badgers set the tone early, returning the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. “The bottom line is that when you’re covering kicks, there are no excuses,” Tressel said. “They don’t care if you get pushed in the back, grabbed, held, thought you should have gone around it, you thought the ball was going here or there. You have to fit. And just like when you’re playing defense, you have to fit. Kickoff, you have to fit from 70 yards away. Defense you have to fit from the line of scrimmage. We just didn’t fit.” Although the botched kickoff coverage is a point of concern for Tressel, he said it certainly did not cost his team the game. “Please don’t paint the picture that us having the kickoff taken back lost the game,” he said. “We still had 59 minutes and 48 seconds, so we had plenty of time to make up for that, but we’ve got to get better at that.” Defensive struggles The Badger ground game, at times, gave the Buckeyes fits. OSU allowed a 100-yard rushing performance for the first time in 29 games, as John Clay rushed for 104 yards. As questions continued to arise about OSU’s defensive performance, Tressel said the team’s depth at defensive line isn’t what it has been in recent years. “Are we as deep and can we rotate as much as when we had … (last year) you had Thaddeus (Gibson) and you had Lawrence Wilson, you had Doug Worthington, you had Todd Denlinger, you had Rob Rose?” Tressel said. “Those guys all were the rotators last year and they’re rotating elsewhere right now. But that’s where we are.” Despite lacking line depth, Tressel said the younger guys are continuing to come along, and his goal is for them to improve as the season progresses. Not the same Pryor OSU has become accustomed to Terrelle Pryor lighting up the score board, so the junior quarterback’s struggles Saturday seemed a bit uncharacteristic of his season thus far. And although there were passes Tressel said Pryor would probably like to have back, he was pleased with his signal caller’s effort. “I think he played extremely competitively,” Tressel said. “As far as competing and wanting to do anything he could do for the good of the team, he would have gone down to cover kickoffs if you let him, that’s just his nature. “I don’t know what else you can ask of a guy (except) to leave it on the field, and he left it on the field.”

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