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Ohio State defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau showed up in the Penn State backfield and end zone Saturday, completing an otherworldly performance that had his name showing up in national headlines.
Tuimoloau highlighted his happy day in Not-So-Happy Valley with a pick six and strip sack, but there also was a tipped pass that landed in the hands of teammate Zach Harrison and a diving interception that showed the rare athletic ability of the 6-foot-4, 270-pound sophomore. Final tally: four forced turnovers that Ohio State turned into 21 points, six tackles, including two sacks among his three tackles for loss in the 44-31 win.
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Debatable whether it was the single-best defensive performance in OSU history, but it certainly belongs in the conversation, and based on highlight variety probably ranks at the top.
I counted about two dozen other single-game performances that deserve to be considered among the greats, too many to list, so I picked four others that especially jump out or fairly represent a defensive category. For example, nine Buckeyes share the record of three interceptions in a game; I singled out Bruce Ruhl’s three-pick day against Wisconsin in 1974 because the Badgers were ranked 13th and because Ruhl came within a whisker of intercepting a fourth.
But credit also to OSU defensive back Fred Bruney, whose three picks against Michigan helped save Woody Hayes’ job. Ohio State was 0-6-1 against the Wolverines since 1944 when No. 12 UM came to Columbus in 1952 and left with a 27-7 loss.
Bruce Ruhl, three interceptions vs. Wisconsin, 1974:
“It’s a unique record, because it takes a certain set of circumstances,” Ruhl said. “The Big Ten didn’t throw much, so you didn’t get a lot of opportunities for one pick, let alone three or four.”
“We were all hyped up, because Woody (Hayes) always built up the competition,” Ruhl said. “The first interception was on the hashmark; we played zone defense quite a bit. The second was on the sideline … and the third was in the flat. The quarterback didn’t see me. I ran in front of it and tipped the ball to myself and ran 30 yards before a big lineman took me out.”
Ruhl likely would have had a fourth INT in the 52-7 win, but OSU defensive back Neal Colzie jumped into the play and tipped the pass over both their heads.
Bobby Carpenter, four sacks vs. Michigan State in 2005:
Remembered as the “John L. Smith rant game,” for the Spartans coach who angrily told a sideline reporter at halftime “The kids are playing their tail off and the coaches are screwing it up.” – a reference to MSU attempting an ill-advised field goal at the end of the half while leading 17-7. Ohio State blocked the kick and returned it for a touchdown to turn the game.
Carpenter shares the record as one of five Buckeyes to record four sacks in a game, joining Chase Young, John Simon, Vernon Gholston and Jason Simmons. The former linebacker recalled, “We had just lost to Penn State and were 3-2. The season was essentially in the balance, and it turned around in the second half.”
Ohio State finished with a school-record 12 sacks en route to a 35-24 win.
Also big: Simon’s four sacks against Wisconsin to help preserve a perfect 2012 season. The Buckeyes won 21-14 in overtime, then defeated Michigan the next week to finish 12-0.
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Arnie Jones, 24 tackles vs. Michigan in 1972:
Jones does not own the single-game record for tackles – linebackers Chris Spielman and Tom Cousineau share the record with 29 – but the middle guard/linebacker has the most in an OSU win. And his 24 came in the 14-11 victory over Michigan, when the Buckeyes stopped the Wolverines on three of four goal line stands to hand UM its first regular-season loss in two seasons.
The last such stand, in the fourth quarter, ended with Jones stuffing UM quarterback Dennis Franklin on fourth-and-inches. A tie would have sent the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl, but coach Bo Schembechler stubbornly refused to attempt a field goal.
“They could have scored nine more points and would have won 20-14, but Bo was, ‘No way,’ ” Jones said. “So they kept trying to score and we managed to hold them out.”
Ryan Shazier, 16 solo tackles vs. Indiana in 2013:
For comparison, current OSU linebacker Tommy Eichenberg had 17 total tackles (11 solo) in his breakout game against Utah last season in the Rose Bowl.
Shazier shares the single-game solo tackle record with Cousineau, who collected his in a 35-35 tie with SMU in 1978. But, again, the name of the game is winning, and Shazier’s 16 came in a 42-14 win against the Hoosiers.
Shazier earns bonus points for his back story on Senior Day. The junior wore the No. 2 jersey of his friend and senior co-captain Christian Bryant, who was lost for the season after breaking his ankle two months earlier against Wisconsin.
“I feel like it’s both of us out there together,” Shazier said then. “And today was for the seniors, too. I was playing for Christian and the seniors, and making sure they went out with a bang.”
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Best Ohio State football defensive performances ever