Football: Defensive line captains shift momentum with third-quarter scoop and score

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Ohio State graduate defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (92) returns a fumble for a touchdown during the Ohio State-Minnesota game Sept. 2. Ohio State won 45-31. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor

Late in the third quarter, No. 4 Ohio State held on to a feeble three-point lead while Minnesota opened a drive with a quick first down.

With a 2nd-and-7 from their own 39-yard line, Golden Gophers redshirt senior quarterback Tanner Morgan took the shotgun snap, faked a handoff to redshirt senior running back Mohamed Ibrahim and surveyed his options. But, it didn’t take long for Ohio State junior defensive end Zach Harrison to burst off the right end, find Morgan and jar the ball loose on a blindside sack.

From there, graduate defensive tackle Haskell Garrett scooped up the loose ball and took it 32 yards to give the Buckeyes a 31-21 lead and shift the tide of the game.

With attention to his game-changing strip sack, Harrison said the play brought juice to the Ohio State sideline and changed the makeup of the game.

“It definitely brought some energy to the sideline,” Harrison said. “I feel like it definitely had an impact on the game.”

The strip sack was Harrison’s first-career forced fumble and something that he said has been a focus in practice.

“[Defensive line coach Larry Johnson] always says sacks are good, but strip sacks change the game. As a D-Line, we take that to heart,” Harrison said. “In practice, we’re always working. Every time we come off the edge, just swipe at the ball, swipe at the ball, swipe at the ball and it was just second nature.”

Although the strip sack was reminiscent of plays made by former Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, Harrison said he’s just trying to make a name for himself and help the team to a win.

“I don’t like to compare myself to anybody. I feel like I’m Zach Harrison and I’m trying to build my own legacy here at Ohio State,” Harrison said.  I’m just happy we went 1-0. I’m happy I was able to help the team get a win and that’s all that matters to me.”

While Harrison’s strip sack on its own changed the makeup of Thursday’s game, it was just the first part of an extraordinary momentum shift that left the Gophers at arm’s length.

Garrett finished the second part of the play, showing off his speed in the open field after scooping up Morgan’s fumble.

Pointing to his speed in the open field, Garrett said that quickness is a staple for a modern defensive tackle.

“It just shows that big dudes can run. We’ve got nimble feet nowadays,” Garrett said. “Back in the day, it used to just be big and just plug up space. But I think there’s an evolution of linemen that are athletic. We can run.”

While the duo of captains made a huge play in a clutch spot, Harrison said the defense as a whole has many areas to improve ahead of Ohio State’s marquee matchup against No. 11 Oregon next week.

“We just got so much room to get better and we all know that and we’re all excited to get better,” Harrison said. “We came out with a win against a good Big Ten opponent. It’s exciting for our defense to know that we have nothing but room to improve.”

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