By the Numbers: Offense Illinois

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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 10/18/2011 11:47 AM
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By the Numbers - Illinois Offense
By Jeff Amey

It wasn't pretty, or even all that fun to watch, but the Ohio State Buckeyes went into windy Champaign, Illinois underdogs and left with a 17-7 win over a previously unbeaten team.  In case you live on the moon, the Buckeyes only completed one pass the entire game, and attempted only four.  It would've made Woody proud.

The amazing thing was that Illinois had to know what the Buckeyes were going to do, yet they could never really stop it.  It was simply amazing to see the simple lead draw play work time after time on them.

I have read a surprising amount of complaint about the offense after the game considering it was a win.  Yes, the Buckeyes only completed one pass in four attempts.  Would another 2-14 day have made you happy?  Braxton Miller has been having trouble throwing spirals.  Have you seen what happens to a ball in heavy winds if it isn't spiraling?

The Buckeyes won by doing what they had to do. The offense was able to do just enough to get the win when they were put into good position by the defense. Most importantly, they avoided going into their bye week on a three game losing streak with Wisconsin next on the docket.  You have to be impressed that this team managed to gut out a tough win after losing the last two in ugly but different ways.

This is actually going to be one of the easiest breakdowns I've ever done since the Buckeyes didn't really do all that much.  There are a few things to talk about, however, so let's get through the stats.

Run/Pass Breakdown

55 Total Plays--228 yards--4.1 yards per play

            4 pass (7%)--1/4 for 17 yards  1 TD

            51 rush (93%) for 211 yards  1 TD--4.1 ypc

12 Offensive Possessions

            Ave. of 4.6 plays--19.0 yards

            Ave. start--OSU 31

First Down--23 plays (42%) for 93 yards

            2 pass (9%)--0/2 for 0 yards

            21 rush (91%) for 93 yards  1 TD--4.4 ypc

            Ave. gain of 4.0 yards

Second Down--20 plays (36%) for 74 yards

            1 pass (5%)--0/1 for 0 yards

            19 rush (95%) for 74 yards--3.9 ypc

            Ave. of 7.4 yards to go

             Ave. gain of 3.7 yards

Third Down--`12 plays (22%) for 61 yards

            1 pass (8%)--1/1 for 17 yards  1 TD

            11 rush (92%) for 44 yards--4.0 ypc

            Ave. of 10.2 yards to go

            Ave. gain of 5.1 yards

            Conversions--3/12 (25%)

Playaction Passing

            0/2 for 0 yards

First Downs Earned--11 total

            11 by rush

Formation Breakdown

Two Back Formations--33 plays (60%)

            2 pass (6%)--0/2 for 0 yards

            31 rush (94%) for 137 yards  1 TD--4.4 ypc

Pistol Formations--9 plays (16%)

            9 rush (100%) for 20 yards--2.2 ypc

Shotgun Formations--8 plays (15%)

            1 pass (12%)--0/1 for 0 yards

            7 rush (88%) for 26 yards--3.7 ypc

One Back Formations--4 plays (7%)

            1 pass (25%)--1/1 for 17 yards  1 TD

            3 rush (75%) for 29 yards--9.7 ypc

Victory Formation--1 play (2%)

            1 rush (100%) for -1 yard--(-1.0) ypc


Counter/Trap--3 (6%) for -1 yard--(-0.3) ypc

Draw--10 (20%) for 61 yards--6.1 ypc

Lead Zone--9 (18%) for 32 yards--3.6 ypc

Option--3 (6%) for 10 yards--3.3 ypc

Outside Zone--5 (10%) for 33 yards  1 TD--6.6 ypc

Power--11 (22%) for 54 yards--4.9 ypc

QB run/scramble--9 (18%) for 25 yards--2.8 ypc

TEAM--1 (2%) for -1 yard--(-1.0) ypc

Other Stats of Note

~ 4 offensive penalties for 29 yards

~ Ohio State started on the Illinois side of the 50 twice--14 points (2 TD)

~ 2/2 in the red zone--(2 TD)

~ 4 sacks against and no turnovers

~ 15/55 plays took place on the Illinois side of the 50--(27%)

~ 16/55 plays went for no gain or loss--(29%)

~ 5/12 drives went three and out--(42%)

~ Number of plays of 10+ yards--7 (13%)

~ Actual playcall breakdown when sacks/scrambles are figured in--11 pass  44 rush

Jim Bollman and company actually called 11 pass plays for this game, yet Braxton Miller threw the ball on only 4 of them, taking as many sacks in the game as he attempted passes.  I can't imagine more pass calls going much better than the ones actually called, so I don't really understand all of the complaining about the lack of passing. 

The Buckeyes got the lead by running the ball, extended the lead by playing opportunistic defense and running the ball, and put the game away with yet more opportunistic defense and completing their one pass. 

The offense was jump started this week by the return of Boom Herron.  Going into this game, I was concerned he might start his season slow, much as he did the previous two, but those concerns were unfounded.  He is clearly the best running back on the roster, and made his presence known immediately with 23 yards on his first 3 carries.  Say what you will about his off-field transgressions, but this team needs him on the field on Saturdays.  The running game was a lot more dynamic with him toting the rock.


When it comes to evaluating Braxton Miller there isn't a whole lot to go on.  From the little passing that was attempted, signs weren't all that encouraging.  As already pointed out, there were actually 11 passes called, which means he only attempted a pass on 36% of those plays.  That alone shouldn't give anyone a whole lot of confidence in the passing game, but that's not all.

When he did actually let the ball go he wasn't very accurate, overthrowing two passes over the middle with the wind and throwing into coverage on another.  He ended up on his back four times, and only one of them was solely due to immediate pressure.  He just looked indecisive, like most freshmen trying to pass the ball.  The other three were scrambles, including one nice one on a play I've never seen OSU use before.  Boom Herron came underneath Miller looking for a shovel pass, but had a defender right on him.  When Boom didn't get the ball, he looked upfield and became a lead blocker, which Miller followed for a 35 yard gain in the third quarter.

Grade--C   When I think about the lack of passing, I look at this position and how he actually played when passes were called.  The final tally was 11 plays...two ended up in big gains, 2 were short gains, three went for no gain, and four went for losses.  Still think they needed to pass more?

Running Backs

Last week I wondered if Boom Herron was going to make an immediate impact, and whose carries he was going to take if he did play. Both of those questions were answered on Saturday.  Boom showed remarkable patience on his runs, and manufactured yardage on some plays when he was seemingly bottled up for little or no gain.  It was a pleasure to see a back see and run to daylight on nearly every one of his carries.  His touchdown run was one that none of the other backs have been able to make this season.

The answer to the second question was that Boom took Carlos Hyde's carries.  This was a little surprising.  On the bright side, Jordan Hall did much better with his 12 carries in this game than he has in the past couple of weeks, gaining 56 yards and gaining the last first down to put the game away for good.

The Illiois defense was playing run the aggressively most of the game. The Buckeyes only really hurt the defense with four different run plays, yet the running backs had success.  They initially had success with simple inside and outside lead zone plays. When Illinois defense became even more aggressive with their defensive line trying to defend those, the coaches took advantage by calling lead draw plays over and over again to continued success.  Boom's patient running style is ideally suited to this play, and it was fun to watch him gain yardage almost at will in the second and third quarters.

The Illini never really stopped the Buckeye running game. Ohio State drives only really stalled when they got behind the sticks with penalties or tried passing the ball.

Grade--A   A special shout out once again to Zach Boren, who once again blasted open holes on lead plays.  He's the best fullback I've seen in Scarlet and Grey in a long time.


This section is going to be extremely short.  For the second game this season the wideouts finish a game with no receptions.  Jake Stoneburner did a good job on his touchdown pass, and both tight ends did a pretty good job blocking for the running game.  I'd like to be able to give the wideouts something, but there weren't even really all that many runs that allowed them to pick up blocks downfield to write about.

Grade--Incomplete   I'm sure they'll all take the win, but it was probably a pretty boring day on the field for the wideouts.

Offensive Line

Is there anyone out there still that thinks this is an under-achieving group this season?  Anyone?

211 yards rushing the ball is nice against any opponent.  When you figure in another 42 yards of lost rushing due to sacks, kneel-downs, and a gaffe on a handoff, it's a little more impressive.  When you also factor in that the other team has to know it's coming, and it gets to be almost amazing.  The fear of most Buckeye fans was that the Illinois defensive line was going to dominate the Buckeye's line, but that was far from the case.  When it came to running the ball, it was exactly opposite, and the left side of the line absolutely owned their defensive counterparts all game long.

The line did have a few hiccups, however, especially in pass protection.  Whitney Mercilus came into this game leading the nation in sacks, and added 1.5 to that total against the Buckeyes.  He got to the backfield nearly every time the Buckeyes went back to pass.  There were also a few plays for both guards that they'd probably like to have back, allowing penetration that stuffed running plays for no gain or loss.  It was a very good day run blocking for all three seniors, however.

Grade--A-   I have to mark it down a little for protection problems and a few lost one on one battles, but overall it was a very good day for the line.

Offensive Coaching/Gameplan

Since 2001 it has never really been all that fun to watch the offense when the Buckeyes travel to Champaign.  The passing game always seems to go out the window, but never to this extreme.  The coaches seem to talk about the weather there like it's impossible to pass in it, yet we watched as Nathan Scheelhause completed 20/34 passes on the Buckeyes on Saturday.  The wind there was a convenient excuse for what we all know the problem to be.  The coaches have no confidence in the passing game, and didn't want to use it if they didn't have to against Illinois to win the game.

This seems to have polarized the fan base to some degree, and I can understand.  Has it really come to this?  Do the Buckeyes have to run 80% of the time the rest of the season to win?  Is there really no way the Buckeyes can put together any kind of passing game?  The answers are...I don't know.  It worked for the Buckeyes in this game, but more because the defense was playing lights out and turning the ball over in plus territory than anything the offense was able to do. 

I have to give some credit to the coaching staff for finding some things that would work against the Illini and sticking with them until they proved they could stop it, which they never really did.  Amazingly, Illinois started the game with two high safeties and never really dropped one into the box to help stop the run, instead playing their front seven very aggressively.  It gave the Buckeyes the numbers to keep running, and to their credit, they did.  I can even give them some credit for going to the lead draw plays when the Illinois defensive line started trying too hard to penetrate. It was stunning that the defense never really adjusted to it, though it wasn't as if the Buckeyes were breaking off 20 yard gains running the ball either.

You also have to give some credit to Jim Bollman for having the guts to call timeout to adjust the pass play that scored the touchdown to put Ohio State up by three scores in the fourth quarter.  That was a very important play and drive for the Buckeyes to put this game out of reach, and considering what a lot of fans think of his coaching ability, it showed that he does more than just occupy a seat on Saturdays.

Grade--B   It was an almost draconian gameplan, but the bottom line is that it worked and the Buckeyes won. 

Special Teams

Another game, another solid performance by Ben Buchanan.  He's been one of the main reasons the Buckeyes have a winning record at all this season.  His average was a little low for the game, but he did a good job of keeping the Illini from flipping field position several times and downed two punts inside their twenty.  Drew Basil hit an impressive 43 yard field goal against the wind on Ohio State's first drive of the day where it looked like he kicked it outside of the hash and it curled back between the goalposts.  That was a very tough kick, and he almost made it look easy.  The coverage and return teams were all solid, but didn't do anything special in this game.

Grade--B   I'm still surprised how much the special teams have turned around from the disasters we saw on a weekly basis last season.

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