By the Numbers - MSU offense
By Jeff Amey
The 2011 Ohio State football team was going to "shock the world" this season, that was their pre-season motto. The Buckeye offense succeeded in doing just that against Michigan State, but not in the way they wanted. The Buckeyes came 10 seconds away from their first home shutout in 29 seasons and first shutout of any type since 1993. It took until their 13th offensive possessions to reach 100 yards of total offense. They didn't make their first first down until there were 24 seconds left in the first quarter, and that was promptly followed by 3 more plays for negative 3 yards.
As usual, I start with the statistics. Brace yourself. It isn't pretty.
63 Total Plays--177 yards--2.8 yards per play
24 pass (38%)--12/24 for 143 yards 1 TD 1 INT
39 rush (62%) for 34 yards--0.9 ypc
14 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 4.5 plays--12.6 yards
Ave. Start--OSU 26
First Down--24 plays (38%) for 59 yards
8 pass (33%) 3/8 for 25 yards 1 INT
16 rush (67%) for 34 yards--2.1 ypc
Ave. gain of 2.5 plays
Second Down--21 plays (33%) for 62 yards
8 pass (38%)--4/8 for 45 yards 1 TD
13 rush (62%) for 17 yards--1.3 ypc
Ave. of 9.3 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.0 yards
Third Down--16 plays (25%) for 47 yards
6 pass (38%)--4/6 for 64 yards
10 rush (62%) for -17 yards--(-1.7) ypc
Ave. of 9.4 yards to go
Ave. gain of 2.9 yards
Fourth Down--2 plays (3%) for 9 yards
2 pass (100%)--1/2 for 9 yards
Ave. of 6.5 yards to go
Ave. gain of 4.5 yards
1/6 for 32 yards 1 INT
4 that ended in sacks or scrambles
First Downs Earned--11 Total
5 by pass
4 by rush
2 by penalty
Two Back Formations--26 plays (41%)
5 pass (19%)--1/5 for 4 yards 1 INT
21 rush (81%) for 25 yards--1.2 ypc
Shotgun Formations--37 plays (59%)
19 pass (51%)--11/19 for 139 yards 1 TD
18 rush (49%) for 9 yards--0.5 ypc
Run Type Breakdown--39 attempts
Counter/Trap--2 (5%) for 15 yards--7.5 ypc
Draw--4 (10%) for 5 yards--1.3 ypc
Lead Zone/Iso--11 (28%) 40 yards--3.6 ypc
Option--4 (10%) for 11 yards--2.8 ypc
Outside Zone--3 (8%) for 4 yards--1.3 ypc
QB run/Scramble--14 (36%) for -38 yards--(-2.7) ypc
TEAM--1 (3%) for -3 yards--(-3.0) ypc
Other Stats of Note
~ 6 offensive penalties for 48 yards
~ Ohio State did not start on the Michigan State side of the fifty
~ Ohio State did not reach the red zone
~ 9 sacks (though it should actually be 7)
~ 1 turnover (interception)
~ 12/63 plays took place on the Michigan State side of the 50--(19%)
~ 30/63 plays went for no gain or loss--(48%)
~ 5/14 possessions went three and out--(36%)
~ Number of plays of 10+ yards--7 (11%)
~ Actual playcall breakdown figuring in Scrambles/Sacks--36 pass 27 rush
The Michigan State defense came into this game as the top defense in the nation, although that was against some weak competition. I'm afraid the competition didn't actually ramp up for them in this game, either. Once again, an Ohio State opponent used a simple game plan, and once again, the offense was unable to do much against it.
For this one, it was simply to attack the Buckeye offense, and the Spartans did it with relentless, methodical efficiency. It was clear from the start that the Spartan coaching staff and players had no respect for Ohio State's schemes or their ability to throw the ball. They blitzed linebackers or safeties nearly every down and rarely dropped any of their linebackers into any kind of coverage instead playing to contain Braxton Miller in the pocket. Their corners either played tight man to man coverage or dropped into a soft zone, more often playing the man to man. Their defensive line continually did stunts, twists, and slants in order to keep the offensive line off balance. It all worked.
Is there a silver lining here? At the very least, we figured out that Braxton Miller isn't really ready for the starting role yet, though the Buckeyes aren't blessed with a whole lot of choice here. We also probably saw a preview of how every defense is going to try to play the Buckeyes for the rest of the season. Some of them will have the athletes to make it work, and you can expect those games to look just as ugly as this one did.
There was a cautious optimism about Braxton Miller heading into this game. We expected growing pains and mistakes, but we also expected to see more of the play making ability he showed the previous week against Colorado, at least with his legs. That didn't happen. In fact, this game showed us that he was wholly unprepared for a defense that attacked him.
The coaching staff didn't do him any favors through play calling in this game, or in the preparation leading up to it. Defenses are going to try to put pressure on Miller. It's the obvious thing to do to a freshman quarterback, especially with such an inexperienced surrounding cast. How do the Buckeyes not game plan with this in mind?
I didn't see many confidence-building routes run by the receivers, nor many things to beat a blitzing defense playing tight man coverages. Intermediate curls and outs were nearly nonexistent. I only saw those routes being used as the primary read on plays a couple of times, and Miller actually completed a couple of them. Instead we saw a LOT of deep comeback and curl routes, combined with other deeper routes such as posts, wheels, and go's. The comebacks and curls were open almost every time I saw a good replay of them. Miller just didn't have the time or confidence to let them go.
Screens would've probably been the most helpful plays for Miller on Saturday, yet there was only one called. It went disastrously when the back was mauled by a defensive lineman that sniffed it out. Miller ended up scrambling for no gain. That was early in the second quarter and the Buckeyes never went back to it. These along with quick receiver screens have to be a part of the offense going forward.
Miller completed over half of the passes he attempted, and a couple of them were nice reads and throws on intermediate routes called in the second quarter. One major issue I think he had was letting his snap count become very predictable leading to disastrous results in the second quarter when the Spartan defensive line started jumping the snap.
Another major issue is that he obviously has no ability to change out of plays at the line. The Spartans figured that out early and took advantage of it the entire time Miller was in. On one play from the I formation in the first quarter, the corner on the weak side of OSU's formation rolled back to safety leaving the receiver on that side completely uncovered! The Spartans did a run blitz to the strong side of the formation and the Buckeyes ran into the teeth of it for a loss. The worst part of it was, you could see Miller watch him drop back and he did nothing.
Joe Bauserman came into the game for the fourth quarter and the Buckeyes still within seven points, but spent almost that entire quarter on his back or running for his life. He was sacked five times and scrambled twice more. He actually let a few of those deep comeback routes go, completing a couple but also throwing a few into the dirt five yards in front of the receiver.
When it comes right down to it, he got five series in the game, and for the first three he looked completely lost, but he actually didn't do a bad job on the last two, though the Spartans weren't playing as aggressively as they were the rest of the game. He was able to find the open guy on those plays, even if he had trouble completing the passes to them.
Grade--D- Not quite a complete fail due to play calling issues. What do the coaches do going forward?
If you've read my column over the years, you know I feel that the coaching staff has gotten away from the power running game in most of their losses. It wasn't as bad as normal this game, and it actually seemed like the Buckeyes wanted to run the ball more, but circumstances kept them from staying with the run several times. For one, they were called for penalties on first down or second and short six times. For two, the Spartans knew the Buckeyes formation tendencies and exploited that for several negative or short yardage plays on first down as. It makes it hard to stay with the running game if you're looking at 2nd and 10 or greater more than 50% of the time.
Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde got a few opportunities, and when the line was able to get the defense blocked, they gained decent yardage. You can't really blame the backs for not gaining yardage when they're getting hit in the backfield, and that happened several times in the game as well. All in all, it's hard to put a whole lot of the blame for this loss at this group's feet.
Grade--C+ Hyde and Hall were the most vocal in the post-game interviews about the play calling, and they probably have the most reason to be.
For the third time in five games this group was nearly a non-factor in a game while it was in doubt. Verlon Reed led all receivers with 4 catches, though three of them were on the last two drives. Jake Stoneburner brought in his first catch since the second game of the season and finished with two short receptions. Other than that, the only real highlights in this game were a 32 yard reception by Chris Fields that got the Buckeyes in Michigan State territory for the first time and Evan Spencer's first career touchdown catch with 10 seconds left.
Every week, we hear announcers say the Buckeye receivers aren't getting any separation from their defenders, but that's not what I'm seeing on replays. I saw them breaking open all game long, especially on those deep comebacks and curls. It takes timing from the QB to complete those and it's not the WR's fault if the QB doesn't let it go.
Grade--C At least there weren't any drops of easily catchable balls. This group seems more talented than they are able to show with the passing game being what it is.
Last week I warned that there were going to be games coming when the offensive line wasn't going to look as good as they have. It didn't take long for that to happen, and I see a lot of Buckeye fans going back to thinking they are under-achieving. I don't think that's the case. This wasn't the greatest game for the line and it was clearly their worst of this season, but I still think this is the best group they've put together in more than a decade.
Center Mike Brewster has started over 40 games for the Buckeyes, but this is probably one he'd like to forget. It's his job to make the blocking calls up front, and the Buckeyes just looked confused many times, and overwhelmed others, by the sheer relentlessness of the Spartan attack. The Spartans threw every twist, stunt, slant and blitz imaginable at them, at times having more defenders coming than there were people to block them. It's no real wonder they looked confused.
I thought the line did a pretty decent job considering their predicament. The quarterbacks had enough time to get the passes off on most of the plays, they just didn't let it go. The line isn't going to be able to block forever on a blitz, the quarterbacks have to make the throws. On run plays, the defense was taking chances all game long, but the coaching staff didn't have much in place for the linemen to run to put them in an advantageous position against it. They had some success with straight zone lead plays, and ran a fantastic trap play from the shotgun near the end of the first half, but they never came back to it, though there was one more trap run in the second half from the I formation.
Grade--D I'm sure most fans won't agree and will want an "F", but I can't do it. There were too many one on one battles lost for a better grade, however.
Offensive Coaching/Game plan
You'll notice that through the positional groupings, there have been a lot of low grades, but there haven't been any "Fs". That's about to change. I think the offensive coaching staff is doing the best that it can and what they think is right for this team. I just don't think their best is good enough for Ohio State anymore. I've said several times this season that Jim Tressel was the glue that held this offensive staff together. Nowhere was that more true than in this game. They looked absolutely lost without him, and it's hard to believe that game wouldn't have been a win with Tressel at the helm even with all of the other issues.
The Michigan State defensive plan was the obvious one for Ohio State's offense at this time, yet the team was woefully unprepared to counter it in any way. The Buckeyes called one screen pass and two trap plays, no quick short passes, and no deep fades to try to loosen the defense up or at least give them something to think about. The trap from the shotgun almost broke for a huge gain, yet the coaches never called it again and the defense never did anything different until the game was "out of reach" at 10-0.
We're five weeks into the season, yet neither quarterback seems comfortable throwing the routes called most often in the offense. The defenses the Buckeyes have seen have been simple as far as coverages go, yet they quarterbacks can't find an open receiver against them? I said last week Nick Siciliano would be under some fire from the fans. The fire is starting to get hot. It's hard to see any improvement or even competence in the quarterbacks at this point. I also have a hard time understanding why he's in the booth this season when the quarterbacks are so obviously in need of guidance.
Not once since I started doing these breakdowns in 2003 have I called for coaches to be let go, but I think it's time to take a hard and long look at the offensive staff.
Grade--F The players are inexperienced, but there is no excuse for what we're seeing on Saturdays. There is too much raw talent on the offense to look like this.
Ben Buchanan did a decent job punting the ball on Saturday, and the coverage teams did a pretty good job covering them. Jordan Hall had a couple of nice returns, but nothing too much to speak about.
Grade--B At least the kickoff return team didn't get a lot of work. Yes, I know I'm reaching.