Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles watches during football practice at the Sherman Smith Training Center.


Syndication The Oklahoman

Buckeyes hire DC Jim Knowles away from Oklahoma State

After a season of spotty defense and 11 days after giving up 42 points to Michigan, Ohio State coach Ryan Day announced Tuesday that Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has been hired to fill that role for the Buckeyes.

Knowles spent the past four seasons at Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys’ defense in 2021 was a major reason why they finished atop the Big 12.

He will stay with Oklahoma State through a Fiesta Bowl appearance against Notre Dame and join Ohio State after the Buckeyes face Utah in the Rose Bowl, also on New Year’s Day.

“Starting Jan. 2, Knowles will be the Buckeyes’ new defensive coordinator,” Day said. “What is most important at this time is that we put our players in the best position possible to finish this season with a win in the Rose Bowl. To that end, we will continue our planning and preparation for the game with our current staff of 10 assistant coaches.”

Significantly, the 56-year-old Knowles helped turned the Cowboys from an offense-oriented program into one that improved its defensive numbers in each of the past four seasons.

While Ohio State was flailing around trying to slow down Michigan as the Big Ten title slipped away from the Buckeyes, Oklahoma State was finishing the regular season with the third-ranked total defense in the country (278.4 yards per game) and was eighth in scoring defense (16.8 points per game), and second in third-down defense (26.1 percent).

Ohio State was 50th in total defense (365.4 ypg), tied for 25th in scoring defense (20.1 ppg), and – notably — tied for 97th in third-down defense (41.4).

Day relieved defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs of play-calling duties after the Buckeyes lost to Oregon, 35-20, back on Sept. 11. Secondary coach Matt Barnes handled that role through the rest of the season, but with the addition of Knowles after the bowl games, Day did not indicate whether Coombs or Barnes will remain on the Buckeyes staff.

Knowles was previously defensive coordinator at Duke (2010-17), head coach at Cornell (2004-09), and linebackers coach at Ole Miss (2003) after earlier stops at Western Michigan (1997-02) and Cornell (1988-96).

–Field Level Media

Michigan Wolverines running back Hassan Haskins runs by Ohio State Buckeyes safety Ronnie Hickman during the first half Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, Michigan Stadium.

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No. 5 Michigan runs down No. 2 Ohio State 42-27

Hassan Haskins tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns, four in the second half, as No. 5 Michigan ended a decade of futility against Ohio State with a 42-27 victory Saturday against the No. 2 Buckeyes at Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Wolverines (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) will play in the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time on Dec. 4 at Indianapolis against either Wisconsin or Iowa.

Haskins scored from the 13 and the 1 in the third quarter for a 28-13 lead as the Wolverines took over while ending an eight-game losing streak to the Buckeyes (10-2, 8-1). It was Michigan’s first victory in the series since 2011.

The rivals did not face each other in 2020 because of an altered schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Haskins had 28 carries for 169 yards and Blake Corum ran for 87 yards on six carries. Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara was 13 of 19 for 159 yards and an interception.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was 34 of 49 for 394 yards and two touchdowns but was sacked three times by Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson.

After the Buckeyes pulled to within 28-20 on a TreVeyon Henderson 1-yard TD run with 14:05 remaining, Haskins capped a 66-yard drive with a 2-yard TD to make it 35-20 with 9:14 remaining.

The Buckeyes got a 10-yard TD catch by Henderson with 4:45 left to make it 35-27, but Haskins carried five times for 63 yards on the ensuing drive and delivered the exclamation point with a score from the 4-yard line with 2:17 left.

The Wolverines’ 14-13 lead through two quarters was their first halftime lead in the series since a 10-7 advantage in 2016.

After the opening kickoff, Michigan went 75 yards for a 7-0 lead on a 14-yard run by A.J Henning.

Ohio State’s Noah Ruggles kicked a 31-yard field goal to make it 7-3 and the Buckeyes took a 10-7 lead on a 25-yard catch by Garrett Wilson early in the second quarter.

Haskins rushed for a 1-yard TD to put the Wolverines ahead 14-10 before Ruggles’ 30-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the half.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs by Maryland Terrapins defensive back Jakorian Bennett (2) during second half action Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021 at Spartan Stadium.

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Stakes high when No. 4 Ohio State faces No. 7 Michigan State

The stakes will be as high as they can be when No. 7 Michigan State battles No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

The loser will have two losses and almost certainly will be eliminated from consideration for the four-team College Football Playoff.

“It’s a huge challenge ahead of us,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “We’ve got everything on the line here. This is what it’s all about. … This is why you come to Ohio State.”

The winner will be in control to represent the East Division in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 4.

Ohio State (9-1, 7-0 Big Ten) is coming off its most efficient offensive performance of the season, scoring touchdowns on its first six possessions in a 59-31 win against Purdue.

The Spartans (9-1, 6-1) use the legs of Kenneth Walker III, who leads the nation in yards (1,473) and rushing touchdowns (17), and the arm of quarterback Payton Thorne, who is second in the conference to Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud with 21 touchdown passes.

While Ohio State is first nationally at 46.3 points per game and the Spartans 26th (34.6), Michigan State second-year coach Mel Tucker is more of a defense-first coach, as he graphically explained Monday.

“I’m not in the shootout business,” Tucker said. “If it ends up being that, then it’s that. But that’s not the goal. … A shootout to me, when I hear something like that, it makes me want to vomit.”

Tucker’s team has been one of the surprises not only in the conference but in all of college football.

The Spartans were 2-5 in the abbreviated 2020 season, including a 52-12 home loss to the Buckeyes. Aided by an abundance of transfers, the turnaround has been quick for Tucker.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position to have this game really mean something. And that’s a good thing,” Thorne said. “Coach Tucker talked last year and he talked in the offseason that he’s not interested in a four-year plan and he’s not interested in getting his recruits here like people talk about. He’s interested in winning now. He said that last year, and he meant it.”

Day said the resurgence of Michigan State exemplifies how tough the conference is to successfully navigate.

“This has been quite a year for the Big Ten,” he said. “If you look at the second half, there have been some unbelievable games. There are no weeks off.”

The weather will be typically cold in Big Ten country this time of the year. The Buckeyes got a taste of it last week when the temperature was a blustery 37 degrees.

The conditions didn’t bother Stroud, the Inland, Calif., native who threw five touchdown passes vs. the Boilermakers to give him 30 for the season.

“I asked him before the game, ‘Can a Cali kid throw the ball in 40-degree weather with 10-mile-an-hour winds?’” Day said Tuesday. “And he said, ‘Yeah, no problem, Coach.’ He just shrugged it right off. It’s always good to see. You never know until you see it, but there will be worse weather coming.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Garrett Wilson (5) dives for the first down as he is tackled by Purdue Boilermakers safety Cam Allen (10) during the first quarter at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Ohio State routs No. 19 Purdue

Garrett Wilson returned to catch two touchdown passes and run for another in the first half as No. 4 Ohio State routed No. 19 Purdue 59-31 in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday.

He was the favorite target of C.J. Stroud, who was 31 of 38 for 361 yards and five touchdowns. Wilson finished with four TDs.

Wilson was unavailable for the Nebraska game on Nov. 6 for an undisclosed reason, but started the Buckeyes (9-1, 7-0 Big Ten) off right with a 21-yard touchdown catch on their first possession. He added a 12-yard scoring reception and a 51-yard touchdown run as part of a 45-17 halftime lead.

He also had a 24-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter and finished with 10 catches for 126 yards.

The Boilermakers (6-4, 4-3) were looking for their third upset of a top-5 team this season but were felled by turnovers in the first half that led to 14 points by Ohio State in a 1-minute, 50- second span. Purdue would later give up two touchdowns in 24 seconds.

Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba had 139 yards on nine catches, TreVeyon Henderson rushed for two touchdowns and Miyan Williams added 117 yards on the ground.

Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell was 40-for-52 for 390 yards and four TDs.

His 25-yard TD pass to Jackson Anthrop tied it 7-7 early in the first quarter.

Henderson ran for a 3-yard score to regain the lead. After backup quarterback Jack Plummer botched an exchange that was recovered by Ohio State, Henderson immediately raced 57 yards for 21-7 advantage and the Buckeyes were never threatened.

Following a 20-yard TD by Smith-Njigba to extend the lead to 28-7 with 13:42 left in the second quarter, Anthrop fumbled away the kickoff at the Purdue 12 and Stroud connected with Wilson from 12 yards for the 35-7 score.

The Boilermakers in 2018 defeated No. 3 Ohio State 49-20 in West Lafayette, Ind. Since then, Ohio State has won 25 straight Big Ten games.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Purdue Boilermakers wide receiver David Bell (3) in the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Ohio State on upset alert vs. plucky Purdue

Momentum and history make an intriguing combination for Purdue going into its game against No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

Living up to its reputation as “Spoilermakers,” Purdue (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) has the opportunity to defeat its third top-five opponent this season. The Boilermakers hope to pull off an upset of the heavily favored Buckeyes (8-1, 6-0) for the second time in four seasons.

While Ohio State struggled to a 26-17 win at Nebraska last week, the Boilermakers downed then-No. 3 Michigan State 40-29 in West Lafayette, Ind.

Purdue also won 24-7 at No. 2 Iowa on Oct. 16. It’s the first time since 1960 that the Boilermakers had beaten two top-five teams (No. 3 Ohio State and No. 1 Minnesota) in a season, and they were the fourth program in the past 50 years to do so while unranked in both games.

That won’t be the case this time if the Boilermakers win because Purdue jumped into the College Football Playoff rankings at No. 19 this week.

“They certainly have our attention,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm was asked this week about the Boilermakers thriving as underdogs, which included his 2018 team embarrassing No. 2 Ohio State 49-20 in West Lafayette. The Buckeyes have won 24 straight Big Ten regular-season games since.

“I probably can’t put my finger on it,” Brohm said. “I do think that we have an aggressive approach, an aggressive style that can sometimes look really good and sometimes not. I think we’re willing to take some chances against really good opponents that maybe others aren’t.

“So, I do think that we’re not afraid of the challenge, and we look forward to really tough opponents and seeing how we match up.”

History can work against Purdue as well. The Boilermakers have lost eight straight in Ohio Stadium since a 31-26 win in 1988. The Boilermakers have not played in Columbus since a 29-22 overtime defeat in 2012.

The Buckeyes are trying to regain their swagger on offense. While they rank second nationally in total offense at 542.2 yards per game, they have been held to a 481.0 average in the past two games vs. Penn State and Nebraska.

Of more concern is producing just two touchdowns on nine trips to the red zone in those games, allowing Noah Ruggles to become the first kicker in school history to make four field goals in consecutive games.

“You don’t play high-level football and win championships kicking field goals,” Ohio State offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson said.

The Buckeyes will be looking for balance in the attack after throwing on 54 of 84 plays against the Cornhuskers.

Last week, in the absence of leading receiver Garrett Wilson, who likely will be available Saturday, Jaxon Smith-Njigba set a school record with 15 receptions, including a 75-yard score, against Nebraska for a career-high 240 yards.

Purdue will counter with quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who threw for 536 yards and three TDs against Michigan State with David Bell making 11 catches for 217 yards and a 5-yard touchdown.

“Some people are just amazing players,” Ohio State safety Marcus Williamson said of Bell. “We have a ton of respect for him.”

–Field Level Media

Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive lineman Damion Daniels (93) and Nebraska Cornhuskers linebacker Garrett Nelson (44) celebreate after teammate Nebraska Cornhuskers linebacker Caleb Tannor (2) sacked Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) Saturday's NCAA Division I football game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on November 6, 2021.

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Noah Ruggles kicks No. 5 Ohio State past Nebraska

Noah Ruggles kicked four field goals for the second straight game for the struggling Ohio State offense Saturday to help the No. 5 Buckeyes hold on to defeat Nebraska 26-17 in Lincoln, Neb.

Ohio State (8-1, 6-0 Big Ten) led 17-10 at the half and Ruggles made field goals of 46 and 35 yards in the third quarter to increase the lead to 23-10.

Nebraska (3-7, 1-6) responded with a 75-yard drive to pull to within 23-17 in the final minute of the third quarter on a 1-yard keeper by Adrian Martinez, one play after a 53-yard catch by Somari Toure.

But that would be as close as the Cornhuskers could get even though they got the ball back and reached the OSU 13-yard line before Chase Contreraz missed a 31-yard field goal.

Ohio State made it a two-possession game when Ruggles added a 46-yard field goal with 1:29 remaining, which made it 26-17. The graduate transfer from North Carolina is 15 for 15 this season.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was 36 of 54 for 405 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

His favorite target was Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who had one TD while setting a school record with 15 receptions that totaled 240 yards, second-most in school history.

Martinez was 16 for 31 for 248 yards, a touchdown and an interception, which ended Nebraska’s last drive at midfield with 56 seconds remaining. Toure had four catches for 150 yards.

Nebraska, which had lost each of its previous six losses this season by one score, played the Buckeyes tight throughout.

Ohio State was held scoreless in the first quarter for the second time this season, the other being in the 35-28 loss to Oregon in the second game.

A 26-yard field goal by Ruggles at 1:25 of the second quarter gave the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead and a 2-yard TD pass to Chris Olave made it 10-0 6:41 before halftime.

Nebraska made it 10-3 on a 39-yard field goal from Contreraz before the teams swapped explosive scores.

First, Smith-Njigba caught a 75-yard pass for Ohio State with 3:34 left in the half, then Toure’s 72-yard reception for the Cornhuskers 41 seconds later made it 17-10.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Jeremy Ruckert (88) celebrates the first down catch in the fourth quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Ohio St. defeats No. 20 Penn St. for 5th straight time

C.J. Stroud passed for 305 yards and a touchdown, TreVeyon Henderson rushed for 152 yards and a score and No. 5 Ohio State defeated No. 20 Penn State 33-24 Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

With Ohio State (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) leading 20-17 late in the third quarter, the Buckeyes extended their lead to 10 points when Henderson broke through the line for a 68-yard run to the 3. He ran in from the 1 two plays later.

Penn State (5-3, 2-3) responded with a 75-yard drive, capped with a 1-yard run by Keyvone Lee for a 27-24 score before Ohio State’s Noah Ruggles made a 25-yard field goal with 7:12 to play to make it 30-24.

He added a 26-yard field goal with 2:41 remaining.

Sean Clifford was 35 of 52 for 361 yards and a touchdown with an interception for Penn State, which has lost three straight.

Ohio State led 17-10 at the half thanks to two touchdowns in less than 90 seconds.

Penn State had a 7-3 lead before Stroud passed 38 yards to Chris Olave to make it 10-7 with 3:48 left in the second quarter.

On Penn State’s next possession, Tyreke Smith strip-sacked Clifford and defensive tackle Jerron Cage picked up the loose ball and rambled 57 yards for a 17-7 lead at the 2:24 mark.

The Nittany Lions got a 47-yard field goal by Jordan Stout on the final play of the first half, then on their first drive of the third quarter tied it 17-17 with the aid of two Ohio State personal fouls. Jahan Dotson capped the 75-yard series with a 2-yard run.

Ohio State has won five straight and nine of 10 against Penn State and leads the series 23-14. The average margin of victory in the previous five meetings was six points.

Next Saturday, Penn State is at Maryland and Ohio State goes to Nebraska.

–Field Level Media