2014 NFL Draft: DT Michael Bennett plays key role in Buckeyes' big win
Heisman contender Braxton Miller did the scoring to push the Buckeyes over Michigan but fellow junior Michael Bennett's inspired play provided the spark on defense.
The 109th edition of "The Game," pitting rivals Ohio State and Michigan, featured every bit of the passion, pageantry and creative play-calling you might expect.
It also featured some punches, as an ugly brawl interrupted the action in the second quarter and resulted in three players (Ohio State's Marcus Hall and Dontre Wilson and Michigan's Royce Jenkins-Stone) being thrown out. Despite the loss of personnel, the undefeated Buckeyes proved they had the chin of a title contender, withstanding a gritty effort from the Wolverines to win 42-41.
As they have all year long, the Buckeyes were led by Heisman contending quarterback Braxton Miller and senior runner Carlos Hyde, who each showed off the traits to earn positive marks from NFL scouts.
A higher grade could be reserved, however, for Ohio State's junior Michael Bennett, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound penetrator who has steadily developed into one of college football's best young defensive linemen.
Alternately lining up as a 4-3 defensive tackle or on the nose when the Buckeyes switched to a three man front, Bennett frequently crashed through the line of scrimmage to harass Wolverines' quarterback Devin Gardner, sacking him twice and tackling running back Fitzgerald Toussaint for a loss, as well.
Bennett's performance was all the more impressive considering the Wolverines devoted multiple blockers to him on most snaps, including on his 13-yard sack which ended Michigan's first drive of the second half.
A highly aggressive defender, Bennett attacked the double-team of center Graham Glasgow and left guard Erik Magnuson, showing burst off the snap as well as a strong punch to create space for himself. It was the lateral agility, speed and vision Bennett showed while circling to the outside that could have NFL scouts taking notes, as he looped around to track down Gardner for the big loss.
Scouts love defensive tackles quick enough to create havoc in the middle. But for a defender who only emerged as a full-time starter this season, Bennett also showed impressive awareness in sniffing out a double pass that could have resulted in a monster play for the Wolverines.
Gardner took the snap and immediately fired the pass out wide. Michigan had a receiver deep but alert coverage from Buckeyes' star corner Bradley Roby, who has already announced his intentions of leaving early for the NFL, forced the ball back towards Michigan's quarterback, who had three blockers and plenty of open field in front of him.
Bennett, however, recognized that Michigan's offense line had shifted towards their quarterback and he followed the action. His presence forced an inaccurate second pass which Gardner wasn't able to corral, turning a potentially huge gain into just an incomplete pass.
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