Ohio State’s J.T. Tuimoloau reveals motivation behind historic performance – FOX Sports

“Let the game come to you.”

Of all the text messages Ohio State defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau received this past weekend, that one from his mom stuck with him as he took the field against Penn State.

“She sends me a text before I go play,” Tuimoloau told FOX Sports college football analyst Matt Leinart. “I went out there and that text is what made it a great performance for me.”

Ohio State’s J.T. Tuimoloau recaps the game of his life against Penn State

Matt Leinart talks to Ohio State DL J.T. Tuimoloau about his incredible performance against Penn State.

“Great” might be an understatement when describing Tuimoloau’s outing in the Buckeyes’ 44-31 victory over the then-No. 13 Nittany Lions.

The sophomore defensive end finished the game with six tackles, two sacks, two interceptions a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and scored a touchdown in the win. He became the first FBS player this century to record two interceptions, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the same contest.

FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt dubbed Tuimoloau’s outing “as good a performance as I’ve ever seen. FOX Sports’ Emmanuel Acho summoned former Nebraska great Ndamukung Suh’s showing against Texas from the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game: “[That] was the greatest college football game I had ever seen by a defender … today, I saw a better game.”

The performance had social media buzzing, as well, with reactions from a long list of professional athletes including LeBron James, Paolo Banchero, and former Buckeye standout Chris Olave.

When asked what it meant to receive such high praise from so many people, Tuimoloau was quick to reference the same individual whom he credited for his outstanding game.

“I called my mom right after the game, and I kind of had that moment where I looked back at all the things my parents sacrificed for me and my family to get to this point,” Tuimoloau said. “That played a huge part in it.”

While Tuimoloau made it a point to credit his family for his recent success, he also pointed out Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who is in his first season at Ohio State. Knowles served as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 2018-21 before joining the Buckeyes’ staff last December.

“He is always bringing the play-free and play-fast mentality,” Tuimoloau said of Knowles. “Having him here allows us to play free and just go. He wants us to be on our toes all the time and always be ready.”

Ohio State extends lead with J.T. Tuimoloau pick-six

The Buckeyes took a 44-24 lead over the Nittany Lions after J.T. Tuimoloau intercepts Sean Clifford and takes it to the house.

Since Knowles’ arrival in Columbus, the Buckeyes have improved drastically on the defensive side of the ball, holding opponents to 270 yards per game, which ranks sixth among FBS teams. Ohio State allowed more than 370 yards per contest just a year ago.

Tuimoloau will now look to build on last weekend’s performance, as the Buckeyes try to take care business on Saturday against Northwestern and get one step closer to securing a spot in both the Big Ten Championship Game and the College Football Playoff.

If Tuimoloau is able to continue his torrid pace, it will be hard for Buckeye fans not to start putting the former top-ranked recruit in the same conversation as recent OSU standouts like Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa and Chase Young.

“Those three guys … those are Ohio State greats,” Tuimoloau said. “Just to be behind those guys is a true honor.”

So are all the congratulatory text messages, especially those from Mom.

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