By the Numbers - Defense, Colorado
By Jeff Amey
After the last week's game against Miami there was some concern about the defense heading towards the Big Ten schedule. The Buckeyes had one more out of conference game against Colorado to help work out some of the kinks, though the Buffaloes don't run a typical Big Ten offenses right. The Buffaloes managed to gain over 300 yards, more than 200 through the air, but the statistics are deceptive. The Buckeyes did little blitzing and played the majority of the game in zone coverage. As a result, the Colorado quarterback found holes in the defense for a few big gains when he wasn't pressured.
It was typcial day for the defense. Colorado couldn't run, finishing with less than 100 yards. The Buckeyes gave up some passing yardage, but tightened up on 3rd downs and in the red zone. Colorado needed two crazy conversions on fourth down on both of their touchdown drives to get into the end zone.
A lot was made of the missed tackles last week against Miami, but the defense as a whole tackled. Let's take a look at the statistics and get into what we learned about the defense this week.
Run Pass Breakdown
55 Total Plays--314 yards--5.7 yards per play
39 pass (71%)--22/39 for 238 yards 2 TD
16 rush (29%) for 76 yards--4.8 ypc
11 Defensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.0 plays--28.5 yards
Ave. start--Colorado 18
1st Down--22 plays (40%) for 116 yards
14 pass (64%)--6/14 for 62 yards
8 rush (36%) for 54 yards--6.8 ypc
Ave. gain of 5.3 yards
2nd Down--18 plays (33%) for 100 yards
12 pass (67%)--8/12 for 82 yards 1 TD
6 rush (33%) for 18 yards--3.0 ypc
Ave. of 8.6 yards to go
Ave. gain of 5.6 yards
3rd Down--13 plays (24%) for 64 yards
11 pass (85%)--6/11 fro 60 yards
2 rush (15%) for 4 yards--2.0 ypc
Ave. of 8.5 yards to go
Ave. gain of 4.9 yards
4th Down--2 plays (4%) for 34 yards
2 pass (100%)--2/2 for 34 yards 1 TD
Ave. fo 5.5 yards to go
Ave. gain of 17.0 yards
First Downs Earned--11 Total
7 by pass
3 by rush
1 by penalty
Defensive Formation Breakdown
Colorado Offense vs. 4-2-5--32 plays (58%) for 180 yards
19 pass (59%)--11/19 for 132 yards 1 TD
13 rush (41%) for 48 yards--3.7 ypc
Blitz Percentage--7 (22%)
Negative Blitz Plays--1
Colorado Offense vs. 3-3-5--22 plays (40%) for 134 yards
19 pass (86%)--11/19 for 106 yards 1 TD
3 rush (14%) for 28 yards--9.3 ypc
Blitz Percentage--5 (23%)
Negative Blitz Plays--0
Colorado Offense vs. Prevent--1 play (2%) for 0 yards
1 pass (100%)--0/1 for 0 yards
Colorado Offense vs. Base defense (no blitz)--43 plays (78%) for 252 yards
33 pass (77%)--18/33 for 188 yards 2 TD
10 rush (23%) for 64 yards--6.4 ypc
Colorado Offense vs. Blitz--12 plays (22%) for 62 yards
6 pass (50%)--4/6 for 50 yards
6 rush (50%) for 12 yards--2.0 ypc
Colorado Offense vs. Man to Man (Combo)--17 plays (31%) for 41 yards
7 pass (41%)--2/7 for 9 yards
10 rush (59%) for 32 yards--3.2 ypc
Colorado Offense vs. Zone--38 plays (69%) for 273 yards
32 pass (84%)--20/32 for 229 yards 2 TD
6 rush (16%) for 44 yards--7.3 ypc
Other Stats of Note
~ Two defensive Penalties for 20 yards
~ Colorado did not start on Ohio State's side of the 50
~ Colorado was 2/2 in the red zone--2 TD
~ Defense had one sack and two turnovers (two fumbles)
~ 20/55 Colorado plays went for no gain or loss--(36%)
~ 11/55 plays went for 10+ yards--(20%)
~ 4/11 Colorado Drives went 3 and out--(36%)
The Buckeyes made a couple of changes on defense, most prominent being at safety, where C. J. Barnett replaced Ohrian Johnson. Early returns on that move were good. A lot has also been made of a "Dime" package, though in reality it was just a different personnel package for the 3-3-5 they've been using. It put the best cover men on the field against Colorado's pass game.
Every game gives us a little more information, so what did we learn about the defense this week? Let's swing through the position groups and see.
As this season has gone on, we've learned a lot about the defensive line. First and foremost, we've learned that the line is not quite as effective without Nathan Williams. Second, we've learned that John Simon is a beast. At times against Colorado, he was simply unblockable, even when they doubled him. He's been the most consistan player along the front all season. Thirdly, Johnathan Hankins has become a force that opposing offenses are making sure to account. That has opened things up even more for Simon at times. He has a motor that doesn't quit and has done a good job chasing down plays from behind.
Aside from those guys, the defensive line has been solid, but none of them really stand out. Garrett Goebbel and Adam Bellamy both have shown flashes from the inside spots. J.T. Moore has done a decent job filling in for Nathan Williams, but as yet he brings nowhere near the pass rushing ability as Williams. Michael Bennett and Darryl Baldwin both also saw extended time, showing the coaches have a fairly deep set of linemen they trust to be on the field.
A lot was made the previous week against Miami about their inability to get off of blocks and keep the linebackers clean, but to be fair to them, the Hurricanes only really hurt them with one running play (the toss sweep) and they were allowed to get away with an awful lot of holding on those plays, especially their tight end. Against Colorado, there seemed to be a Buckeye in the backfield on every called running play, and the defense did a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback, especially Simon, who finished with no sacks but several pressures. You have to give the Colorado QB some credit for finding open receivers against the pressure he was facing.
Grade--B Simon is a beast and Hankins has been a force, but the rest of the line needs to step up and start getting off of their blocks better.
If the Buckeye defense has a weakness, it's the linebacker corps. When I say weakness, I just mean the weakest link in the OSU defensive chain, not that they are terrible. All three of the starting linebackers are fairly solid tacklers when they are able to get into position. It's been the getting into position part they've had trouble with.
While I like Storm Klein, he seems a step slow at times on the field, especially when it comes to changing direction. If he gets into position to make a hit, he brings it with bad intentions, but he's had the hardest time of the linebackers of getting into position. Some of those same things can be said of Andrew Sweat as well. Sweat has good straight ahead speed, but he's a little slow laterally and when he changes direction. He also has a tendency to try to go around blockers instead of taking them on and using his hands to get off of them. It has taken him out of position on running plays occasionally and was the direct reason for both of Colorado's big runs in this game.
Etienne Sabino has good speed in all areas, but he more often than not is using it to compensate for either getting out of position or over-pursuing plays. There are times where he looks lost dropping into zone coverages, and while I'm not positive it was his responsibility every time, there were times where I felt that it was his error in not dropping quick enough that allowed some of those seam throws to the tight ends that Colorado was doing.
One of the other changes I saw personnel-wise was getting freshman Ryan Shazier into the game for several series. He has been a beast on special teams. After rewatching the game, I can see why he hasn't been on the field much yet. He's still inexperienced and it showed on Saturday. He looked unsure of himself in zone coverage, and looked as if he was thinking too much instead of just playing the game. More time on the field will help solve these problems, and I think we'll see that as the season goes on.
Grade--B- I was a little underwhelmed by this group. I don't think they're terrible, but they aren't a dominant group either.
The biggest personnel change on the defense this season was switching C.J. Barnett for Ohrian Johnson, but it was a little hard to tell how much that helped the pass defense, as coverage was Johnson's strength. One thing I will say is that Barnett is much better in run support, and he stopped several runs for shorter gains than I think Johnson would have.
The pass defense wasn't really tested downfield much with Colorado doing most of their damage over the middle in the linebacker zones. On the bright side, that means the coverage downfield was good in most cases.
Grade--A- My only real criticism would be Travis Howard not doing the best job of contesting a couple of passes. Remember he replaced Dominic Clarke in the lineup when he came off of suspension.
Jim Heacock has consistantly put the defense in the best position to stop opposing offenses. There have been some seasons where he has seen fit to attack quite a bit, and others where he prefers to play more read and react. This season seems to be shaping up towards the latter.
Against Colorado, the defense played mostly zones and blitzed very little. While the defensive line did a good job of getting pressure on the QB some of the time to force quick or bad throws, when they were blocked the QB was able to find holes across the middle where the LB's were playing. When the Buckeyes went to man to man, which was accompanied about half the time with a blitz, they only gave up 41 yards on 17 plays and just 9 yards passing.
The read and react style of defense is probably good for the team, since it forces opponents to drive the field and reduces the likelyhood of big touchdown plays, but it also turns the ball over less and can allow the opponent's offense to get into a rhythm at times. With the offense being so shaky, I can understand forcing opponents to make plays and trying to reduce the big ones, but it doesn't seem to play as well into the strengths of the personnel.
Grade--B+ I thought the Buckeyes could've played a little more man coverages in this game. Colorado's receivers didn't seem to be that much of a threat. Other than that, it was typical Buckeye defense.
Now that we've reached the Big Ten season, you can expect some much sterner tests of the Buckeye front seven, which concerns me when it comes to the linebacker corps. They haven't been the best against the run, and I'm interested to see what they do against a team like Michigan State which will most likely spend a considerable amount of time trying to establish the run. Will we see more read and react, or will the coaches be forced to take a few more chances. We'll see this weekend.