ATHENS — Ohio State lost the war against Georgia but won the battle of neutralizing the Bulldogs’ most dominant defender on Saturday night.
All-American Jalen Carter played 52 snaps but made only one tackle, with Buckeyes’ QB C.J. Stroud able to elude the UGA star the one time Carter had a clean shot on him.
What mattered most, of course, was on the scoreboard, where Georgia scored a 42-41 win over Ohio State in the CFP Peach Bowl.
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The Bulldogs surged in the fourth-quarter surge, its offense exploding for 18 points while the defense settled in after Javon Bullard knocked receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. out of the game, yielding only one field goal in the fourth quarter.
There were several key matchups within the game, including the Ohio State offensive line and offensive coordinator against Carter.
The Buckeyes didn’t stop Carter with any one player, rather, double teams and a moving pocket as former SEC head coach and Georgia and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt explained.
“I though they did a nice job of moving the quarterback off the spot,” Pruitt shared, noting how Ohio State play calls often involved a moving pocket.
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When you are a pass rusher, an interior defensive tackle, an edge guy or a DB coming off the edge, it’s (about) where the quarterback sets up in the pocket,” Pruitt said.
“Traditionally, if you throw the ball 40 times in the game, 35 of them the quarterback is going to be 4 to 6 yards behind the center.”
But that was not the case on Saturday night, as Ohio State knew what sort of disruptive force Carter has been and planned accordingly.
“I thought Ryan Day did an excellent job with the half rolls, the half-boots, the split protection and moving the quarterback where he’s not always there,” Pruitt said.
“These guys weigh 320 pounds up front and are working to get to the spot — and then he’s not there.”
Further, Pruitt noted, Ohio State was effective enough in the play-action game to keep Carter and the Georgia defensive linemen off balance on many occasions.
“With a lot of the action, they did a nice job slowing Georgia’s pass rush,” Pruitt said. “It came off run actions, so for a defensive lineman, you are keying the guy in front of you, you’re striking and you feel like it’s a run — they are getting hats and hands on people, and they feel like it’s a run.
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“But then all the sudden they have to counter, (because) the quarterback isnt where he normally is and he’s 15 yards over there, and that makes them tired.”
The athletic Carter still managed to play a season-high 52 snaps, even in a stuffy Mercedes-Benz Stadium that had some players cramping up.
TCU quarterback Max Duggan has more mobility than Stroud, but it seems unlikely the Horned Frogs line will be able to neutralize Carter to the same extent.
Here’s a look at the snap count for Georgia defenders against Ohio State, per PFF:
CB Kelee Ringo, 70
FS Chris Smith, 70
SS Malaki Starks, 68
CB Kamari Lassiter, 68
LB Smael Mondon, 63
DB Javon Bullard, 61
DT Jalen Carter, 52
OLB Robert Beal, 52
LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson 50
DT Nazir Stackhouse, 37
DE Mykel Williams 36
DE Tramel Walthour, 22
DT Bear Alexander, 16
LB Trezman Marshall, 15
DT Zion Logue, 14
OLB Jalen Walker, 13
DT Warren Brinson, 13
OLB Chaz Chambliss, 12
DT Tyrone Ingram-Dawkins, 11
OLB Marvin Jones, 8
DB Tykee Smith, 8
DB David Daniel-Sisavanh, 6
LB Rian Davis 5