By the Numbers Akron - Offense
If Luke Fickell could've scripted his first game as the head coach at Ohio State I doubt he could've done much better than the actual outcome of the game against Akron this past Saturday. After the tumultuous off-season, the 42-0 blowout was probably better than most Buckeye fans could've wished for.
What were the Buckeyes able to take away from a game like this? Considering how vanilla the game plan was, there might not have been a whole lot to glean from this one as far as team identity goes, but there were plenty of things to see personnel-wise, but first let's take a swing through the stats.
You might notice a few things different this season. For one, I changed the terminology of the run type breakdown to better reflect the zone blocking scheme. Secondly, you might notice there isn't a defensive section. Due to the Missus finally breaking down and letting me get an HDTV, I'll be doing a separate defensive breakdown now that I have a better idea of what the defense is doing every play.
79 Total Plays--517 yards--6.5 yards per play
28 pass (35%)--20/28 for 293 yards 4 TD
51 rush (65%) for 224 yards 2 TD--4.4 ypc
12 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 6.6 plays--43.1 yards
Ave. Start--OSU 42
First Down--36 Plays (46%) for 284 yards
13 pass (36%)--10/13 for 170 yards 2 TD
23 rush (64%) for 114 yards--5.0 ypc
Ave. gain of 7.9 yards
Second Down--26 Plays (33%) for 171 yards
11 pass (42%)--8/11 for 110 yards
15 rush (58%) for 61 yards 1 TD--4.1 ypc
Ave. of 6.7 yards to go
Ave. gain of 6.6 yards
Third Down--15 Plays (19%) for 59 yards
4 pass (27%)--2/4 for 13 yards 2 TD
11 rush (73%) for 46 yards 1 TD--4.2 ypc
Ave. of 5.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.9 yards
Fourth Down--2 Plays (3%) for 3 yards
2 rush (100%) for 3 yards--1.5 ypc
Ave. of 5.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 1.5 yards
Play action Passing
12/17 for 200 yards 3 TD
First Downs Earned--24 Total
13 by pass
10 by rush
1 by penalty
Two Back Formations--59 plays (75%)
16 pass (27%)--11/16 for 186 yards 3 TD
43 rush (73%) for 197 yards 2 TD--4.6 ypc
Shotgun Formations--20 plays (25%)
12 pass (60%)--9/12 for 107 yards 1 TD
8 rush (40%) for 27 yards--3.4 ypc
Run Type Breakdown
Counter/Trap--2 (4%) for 24 yards--12.0 ypc
Draw--4 (8%) for 12 yards--3.0 ypc
End Around--1 (2%) for 2 yards--2.0 ypc
Option--1 (2%) for 0 yards--0.0 ypc
Outside Zone--10 (20%) for 68 yards--6.8 ypc
Power--7 plays (14%) for 14 yards 1 TD--2.0 ypc
QB run/scramble--12 (24%) for 54 yards 1 TD--4.5 ypc
Stretch--2 (4%) for 3 yards--1.5 ypc
Zone lead/Iso--12 (24%) for 41 yards--3.4 ypc
Other Stats of Note
* 3 offensive penalties for 30 yards
* Ohio State started on the Akron side of the 50 twice--14 points (2 TD)
* 6/8 in the Red Zone (6 TD)
* No sacks and 1 turnover (Fumble)
* 53/79 plays took place on the Akron side of the 50 (67%)
* 13/79 plays went for no gain or loss (16%)
* 1/12 drives went 3 and out (8%)
* Number of plays of 10+ yards--18 (23%)
* Joe Bauserman offense--6 possessions--46 plays--323 yards--28 points
* Braxton Miller offense--5 1/2 possessions--30 plays--187 yards--14 points
For ten years under Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes opened their season the same basic way. Plenty of formations, a lot of players, and a closer than expected game as the coaches searched for the team's identity. There were some similarities in Luke Fickell's first game. The Buckeyes did play a lot of players, but there were also some dramatic differences.
First, the Buckeyes didn't use a lot of different formations. It was pretty much just base I formations and three wide receiver shotgun formations. Secondly, there was no let-up in the Buckeyes even after they got the big lead and put the second and third stringers in there. For most Buckeye fans, that was probably a welcome departure from the "close to the vest" style the Buckeyes employed under Tressel.
In the lead, I said there wasn't much to take away from this game identity-wise. That's because the formations employed weren't unexpected in the slightest and played into the perceived strengths of this team going into the season. The Buckeyes spent the vast majority of this game using "21" personnel (meaning 2 backs and 1 tight end), emphasizing their strengths at the fullback and tight end position and a supposedly a deep running back corps. The quarterbacks and receivers were, and are still, unproven.
As for the personnel, I wish I could say that we learned a lot, but the lack of competition provided by the Zips only allows us to draw very limited conclusions. Let's get into the position groups and see what we've learned.
We were expecting to see both Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller get the majority of the snaps, and they ended up taking all but three. Most expected Bauserman to get the start (he did), be mediocre at best (he wasn't), then get upstaged by a more athletic Braxton Miller (he wasn't). I was pleasantly surprised by the poise and leadership Bauserman showed in this game, and I would venture to say he's earned the right to start for the Buckeyes. I was impressed with his decision-making, and his ability to run, while nowhere near Pryor levels, was good enough to move the chains a few times this game. Of course it's easy to look good against a defense that gets virtually no pressure on the quarterback the entire game.
The offense seemed to click well with Bauserman at the helm, and the Buckeyes were able to use the play-action game extensively with the running game picking up small but steady chunks while he was in the game. The one thing I liked is that the offense doesn't seem to revolve as much around quarterback play this season as it has in the past, and with such an unproven commodity calling signals, this is for the best. There will probably be a time when Bauserman will be called upon to win a game, but it shouldn't have to be every game.
Aside from a short and disastrous series in the first half, and the first drive of the second, the rest of the game was the Braxton Miller show. Buckeye fans were champing at the bit to see him, and I came away impressed with his potential. The comparisons to Terrelle Pryor are easy, but there are some very marked differences in their respective games.
First, it's obvious that Miller is much more polished mechanically than Pryor was at this point in his career, and probably more than Pryor was at the end. He hasn't gotten himself into bad habits with his footwork or throwing motion, so the foundation to build on looks very strong. I'm hesitant to give him much more than that, however, despite going 8 for 12. He faced virtually no pressure and his receivers were much better than the defenders guarding them. I will say he looked decisive with the ball throwing or running, and he looks like he will be a more physical runner than Pryor ever was. He obviously has the potential to be a star.
Grade-- A This position showed better than I think anyone could've hoped. Miller may be the future, but this looks like it will be Bauserman's team.
Due to injury or suspension, the Buckeye stable of running backs that was supposed to be five deep this season was down to only two for Akron. Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith both bring size to the table, but they are generally thought of as 4th and 5th string, and I could see why. Both backs missed holes and cutback lanes the entire game. Neither showed an explosive burst or hit the holes they did find especially fast. Both were just steady, and rather pedestrian. I was rather impressed with Smith's patience and the way he let his blocking set up, but I thought he missed more holes and cutbacks than Hyde that could've ended up as big runs.
I expect better things out of the running game when Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry and Boom Herron all rejoin the fold. The line was opening up some tremendous holes, and when you add in the lead blocking of Zach Boren and too a lesser extent Adam Homan, the running game looks as if it could be dominant.
Grade-- B- I hate to be so down on this group, especially when they combine for 167 yards on 37 carries. I just thought it could've been a much bigger day for them with the blocking I saw.
One of the other big question marks heading into this season was a very young and unproven receiving corps. With DeVier Posey sitting out the first five games, the top returning players were "Philly" Brown and Chris Fields outside, and Jake Stoneburner at the tight end spot. We've heard good things coming out of camp about Verlon Reed, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, and we got to see in this game those good things might be well founded.
Reed looked like the most polished of the young guys outside. He came down with 3 catches in the game, as did Devin Smith. Brown and Fields combined for three more. Spencer didn't come into the game until late, but wowed the remaining crowd with a sick one-handed catch along the sideline from Braxton Miller. Even T.Y. Williams, who's had drop problems, caught both passes that came his way in this game.
The star of the game from a receiving standpoint was clearly Jake Stoneburner. With the Buckeyes playing so much "21" and running the ball, the play action game becomes a natural compliment to it. No one can benefit more from that than a receiving tight end. At the beginning of last season, I was impressed with what Stoneburner brought to the offense before he got hurt. It looks like he could surpass that easily this season. He's a mismatch against linebackers and safeties trying to cover him. If the base identity of this team is going to be "21" and power running, this will be a big season for Stoneburner if he can stay healthy.
Grade--A Better than I think everyone expected as well. Only 3 drops for the game and two were by backs. Let's see what they can do against a better defense first, though.
Under Jim Tressel, the offensive line was always perceived to be an underachieving group. I always thought that had a little bit to do with how many different things the offense tried to do. In this game, I was impressed with how well the line worked together on running play, especially the experienced right side, which just crushed the Zips defense all game long. I thought the backs could've done a much better job of reading the gaping holes they were opening. The offense looks as if it might be centered around a power running game, and they look well prepared for it as this season starts.
As far as pass protection goes, the Zips got virtually no pressure on the quarterbacks. Protection has been a strength of the line the past few seasons, and it doesn't look as if there has been much, if any, falloff there. It's harder to draw any concrete conclusions about this group. Akron just didn't have the horses to pressure the line at all. I'm going to reserve judgment until the Buckeyes play someone a little meatier on defense.
Grade-- A The Buckeye dominated the Zips in the trenches all game, even after the back-ups came in. Not much more they could've done.
Offensive Game plan/Coaching
I think most Buckeye fans had some pre-conceived notions about how the offense would look this season, but the big question would be how similar the game would be called now that Tressel was no longer on the sidelines. The game plan was pretty simple, as to be expected with the personnel limitations, relative strengths and weaknesses, and level of opponent. I thought the coaching staff did a pretty good job of getting the best 11 out on the field to start the game and maximized their usefulness as the game went on.
It's clear Zach Boren and Jake Stoneburner have to be a big part of the game plan this season, One thing I was a little surprised to see was the Buckeyes go completely away from the one back formations with either a fullback or tight end playing on a wing. Those formations were slowly being reduced every season under Tressel, but never completely abandoned. This game saw exactly zero. We also didn't see many two tight end sets either, basically only in short yardage or red zone situations.
As for how the game would be called, the plays themselves were very similar, though the blocking schemes were slightly different on a couple of the running plays, most notably the counter play the Buckeyes ran twice for good yardage. The biggest difference seemed to be the mind set. When Tressel got a two score lead, there always seemed to be a let-down as the play calling became more conservative and it seemed the coaching staff wasn't even trying to score any more. Not so with Fickell. They kept running the offense with the backups in the game, only really calling off the dogs on the last few plays.
Part of this is obviously to see what the Buckeyes have this season. You aren't going to get Braxton Miller ready to play by having him turn around and hand off 30 times in a row. He needed to run the offense, and Fickell and company let him. But there was also a palpable difference in the attitude of the players on the field. There was no let-up. The backups were playing just as hard as the starters all the way up to the end. I think that is a welcome change in the mind-set of the team.
Grade-- A There are still a lot of things to see before we're all comfortable with Fickell at the helm, but I think that was a good start.
There really isn't a whole lot to say about these groups. Drew Basil missed two field goal attempts, though one doesn't count due to penalty. He did well on kickoffs and extra points, however. The return game was hard to gauge since the regular re turners weren't in the game due to suspension or injury. I was impressed with Nate Ebner on coverage though. He was a beast and either disruptive or in on the tackle on every kickoff. It looks as if last year's coverage problems might not be as big an issue this season. Ben Buchanan had a good game punting the ball and looks as if he's improved over last season as well.
Grade-- B The missed field goals hurt, but everything else looked decent.
The Toledo Rockets come to town next, and will probably be a much sterner test than the Zips were this week, at least when they're on offense. Was the offense we saw against Akron the one we'll see again this week? Will the three suspended players work their way back into the lineup this week? How will the quarterback situation develop in the coming weeks? How will Fickell do when the Buckeyes are finally pushed a little bit? There are still a lot of questions to answer.
Don't forget...defensive breakdown to come later this week.
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