Ohio State’s JT Tuimoloau reveals the motivation behind the historic performance

“Let the game come to you.”

From all text messages Ohio State defensive end JT Tuimoloau received this past weekend, the one from his mother stayed with him as he took the field against Penn State.

“She texts me before I go to play,” Tuimolowu told FOX Sports soccer analyst Matt Leinart. “I went there and that text made it a great performance for me.”

Ohio State’s JT Tuimoloau recalls the game of his life against Penn State

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

“Awesome” might be an understatement when describing Tuimolow’s breakout performance in the Buckeyes’ 44-31 win over 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 called Tuimoloau’s outing “as good a performance as I’ve ever seen.” FOX Sports I think Emmanuel shouted former Nebraska great Ndamukung Suh’s performance against Texas in the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game: “[That] was the greatest college football game I’ve ever seen from a quarterback … I saw a better game today.”

The performance caused a stir on social media and with reactions from a long list of professional athletes, including LeBron James, Paolo Banchero and former Buckeye standout Chris Olave.

When asked what it means to receive such high praise from so many people, Tuimolowo was quick to point to the same person to whom he credits his outstanding play.

“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,” Tuimolowo said. “That played a huge part in it.”

While Tuimoloau went out of his way to credit his family for his recent success, he also pointed to 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 last December.

“He always brings a free-play mentality and a fast-paced game,” Tuimolowo said of Knowles. “Having it here allows us to play loose and just go. He wants us to be on our toes all the time and always ready.”

Ohio State adds to the lead with JT Tuimoloau with the sixth pick

Ohio State adds to the lead with JT Tuimoloau with the sixth pick

The Buckeyes took a 44-24 lead over the Nittany Lions after JT Tuimoloau intercepted Sean Clifford and took it to the house.

Since Knowles’ arrival in Columbus, the Buckeyes have improved dramatically 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 look to take care of business Saturday against Northwestern and move one step closer to securing a berth in both the Big Ten Championship Game and the College Football Playoffs.

If Tuimoloau can continue his hot 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 … these are great states in Ohio,” Tuimolow said. “Just to be behind these guys is a real honor.”

So are all congratulatory text messages, especially those from mom.

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