November 17, 2012

Selfless Simon sacks Badgers

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

MADISON, Wis. -- Battling a shoulder injury earlier in the season, John Simon seemed confused, if not annoyed, as to why reporters continually questioned him about his health. The Ohio State defensive end simply wasn't comfortable talking about himself or taking credit for some extraordinary efforts.

So one can only imagine how hard it was to get Simon to speak about his record performance on Saturday afternoon.

In his second to last game as a Buckeye- and the final road game of his college career- Simon played perhaps the best game of his life, recording six tackles, including four sacks, in Ohio State's 21-14 overtime victory over Wisconsin on Saturday.

Asked to talk about his performance, which tied Jason Simmons, Bobby Carpenter, and Vernon Gholston for the Buckeyes' single game sack record, the Youngstown, Ohio native deferred credit to just about everybody on the OSU defense, but himself on Saturday.

"Great coverage. Their quarterback was holding the ball for an awfully long time. They had max-protect most of the time," Simon explained. "One time, he just kind of ran into me. The other time, Nathan Williams, we ran a great stunt where Nathan forced him right to me. Total team effort."

What Simon was willing to talk about one Saturday was the Buckeyes' collective defensive effort, which saw them hold the Badgers to 14 points, a week after they scored 62 against Indiana.

The 6-foot-2, 263-pound defensive end was particularly proud of the job that his team did on Wisconsin running back Montee Ball. Despite giving up 197 yards on 39 carries to Ball, the Buckeyes managed to only allow the NCAA's all-time leading touchdowns leader into the endzone once, a factor that played a key role in the Buckeyes' victory.

"We knew that they had a tough run game, and we wanted to stop that as early as possible. I don't think they ever really got it going," Simon said. "We knew how big this game was going to be and how physical, and the tougher team always wins, and fortunately, that was us today."

Although Simon was reluctant to talk about his record-tying performance, his teammates were more than happy to offer him a pat on the back for his big game. Having spent extra time with the workout freak in the weight room in the offeseason, OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier was especially proud of the senior captain's effort against the Badgers.

"I'm really happy for him because he's been working hard. He's probably the hardest worker on the team. He's in there day in and day out, he works out almost every day," Shazier said. "He's a 100 percent team player and he deserves the accolades he got today."

Cutting his interview session short of four minutes without the suggestion of a sports information director, it was clear that Simon wasn't in the mood to talk about anything that wasn't team-related after the Buckeyes' battle with the Badgers.

Perhaps the Cardinal Mooney product will be more willing to talk after next weekend's game against Michigan, where the Buckeyes will have the chance to become the sixth OSU squad in program history to finish a season unbeaten and without a tie to its credit. Asked about what that would mean to him on Saturday, Simon didn't bite on the chance to look ahead of his last week of practice at Ohio State.

"The key word there is we can be that, and we're not yet," Simon said. "We got another week to go, and preparation for next week starts tomorrow."

And should he make a play or two in his final outing against the Wolverines, perhaps Simon won't be so shy to talk about his individual outing. After all, it only took him being asked three times on Saturday before he finally allowed himself to take a little credit.

"Well it helped us get the win," he finally relented. "So whatever I can do."


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