By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – The popular notion that Joey Bosa might not be playing as well this season as last season was quickly dismissed by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and Bosa earlier this week.
The first-team All-American defensive end had a Big Ten-best 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for losses last season but didn’t get his first solo sack this season until last Saturday in a 49-28 win over Maryland.
The difference between this year and last year might be a matter of a few inches or half of a step.
“I think I’m getting to the quarterback way more than last year,” Bosa said on Monday. “I think I’m getting to the quarterback a lot but maybe not bringing him down.
“It’s pretty annoying getting there so many times and only coming up with a sack and a half. I think I’m playing well. But as long as our team is doing well, I’m happy,” he said.
Meyer said he measures Bosa’s performance by more than just sack numbers and that he has played better as a junior this season than he did as a sophomore. Despite his success at sacking the quarterback, he had too many missed assignments in 2014.
“We don’t see that this year,” Meyer said on the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday. “If he keeps swinging, the sacks will come.”
Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash offered a more detailed explanation of why the 2015 version of Bosa is better than last year’s version.
“He gets after it in both the run and pass game. Whether he shows up in the statistics for getting sacks or not, he is affecting the game because offenses have to account for where he is,” Ash said.
“A lot of offenses are sliding their protection over to where he is not getting a one on one. Some people are chipping him with a back or a tight end. He is making an offense work to do things differently to eliminate him from the game. He might not show up on the stat sheets all the time with a lot of tackles or sacks, but he’s changing the game.”
OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott offered a shorter explanation for Bosa’s declining numbers on Twitter after the Maryland game.
“Dude gets held every play,” Elliott tweeted.
The signature play of Bosa’s career ended a Penn State upset bid in double overtime last season.
The Nittany Lions (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) are coming to play No. 1 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) on Saturday night.
Last year, Ohio State jumped out to a 17-0 lead but saw Penn State tie the game at 17-17 to send it into overtime.
With Penn State facing a fourth down and five to go situation in the second overtime, Bosa got through the Nittany Lions’ offensive line untouched and pushed running back Akeel Lynch into quarterback Christian Hackenberg for a game-ending sack.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to top a moment like that,” Bosa said. “I was so exhausted I didn’t even run the play right. I just shot the gap and I was supposed to loop out. It ended up working out pretty well,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.