By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey
What a difference a week makes. The Buckeyes offense struggled mightily in this game, but just like the highs are never as high as they seem, this low isn't as low as it seems.
Last week, I ended my column with a series of questions. Some of those questions got some answers, and I don't think we liked all of the answers we got. The quarterback situation is a little more confusing than it was going into this game, and I'm a little less confident in Luke Fickell's decision-making when the Buckeyes are pushed, though it worked out for the win in this game.
There were however some positives to take away from this game. Even with all the suspensions, injuries and youth, the team never gave up and worked their way back into position to win the game from eight points down in the first half and from one point down in the second. Toledo came to play and had a simple but good, game plan in place to challenge the Buckeye offense.
There's a lot to talk about, but first let's look at the statistics.
64 Total Plays--300 yards--4.7 yards per play
30 pass (47%)--16/30 for 189 yards 1 TD
34 rush (53%) for 111 yards 2 TD--3.3 ypc
14 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 4.6 plays--21.4 yards
Ave. Start--OSU 33
First Down--27 plays (42%) for 58 yards
6 pass (22%)--1/6 for 8 yards
21 rush (78%) for 50 yards 1 TD--2.4 ypc
Ave. gain of 2.1 yards
Second Down--24 plays (37%) for 177 yards
15 pass (63%)--11/15 for 160 yards 1 TD
9 rush (37%) for 17 yards--1.9 ypc
Ave. of 8.5 yards to go
Ave. gain of 7.4 yards
Third Down--12 plays (19%) for 65 yards
8 pass (67%)--4/8 for 21 yards
4 rush (33%) for 44 yards 1 TD--11.0 ypc
Ave. of 6.1 yards to go
Ave. gain of 5.4 yards
Fourth Down--1 play (2%) for 0 yards
1 pass (100%)--0/1 for 0 yards
Ave. of 3.0 yards to go
Ave. of no gain
5/15 for 116 yards 1 TD
First Downs Earned--13 total
6 by pass
4 by rush
3 by penalty
Two Back Formations--32 plays (50%)
10 pass (31%)--5/10 for 113 yards 1 TD
22 rush (69%) for 53 yards 1 TD--2.4 ypc
Shotgun Formations--15 plays (23%)
11 pass (73%)--6/11 for 35 yards
4 rush (27%) for 51 yards--12.8 ypc
One Back Formations--15 plays (23%)
9 pass (60%)--5/9 for 41 yards
6 rush (40%) for 10 yards--1.7 ypc
Victory Formation--2 plays (4%)
2 rush (100%) for -3 yards--(-1.5) ypc
Run Type Breakdown
Counter/Trap--2 (6%) for 5 yards--2.5 ypc
Jet Sweep--3 (9%) for 8 yards--2.7 ypc
Lead Zone/Iso--1 (3%) for 0 yards--0.0 ypc
Option--3 (9%) for 46 yards 1 TD--15.3 ypc
Outside Zone--10 (29%) for 32 yards--3.2 ypc
Power--9 (26%) for 15 yards 1 TD--1.7 ypc
QB run/scramble--2 (6%) for 7 yards--3.5 ypc
Toss Sweep--2 (6%) for 1 yard--0.5 ypc
TEAM---2 (6%) for -3 yards--(-1.5) ypc
Other Stats of Note
~ 1 offensive penalty for 5 yards
~ Ohio State started on the Toledo side of the 50 twice--7 points (TD)
~ 1/1 in the Red Zone (TD)
~ No sacks and 1 turnover (fumble)
~ 25/64 plays took place on the Toledo side of the 50--(39%)
~ 24/64 plays went for no gain or loss--(38%)
~ 4/14 drives went three and out--(29%)
~ Number of plays of 10+ yards--9 (14%)
~ OSU rushing on "run downs" (1st down and 2nd and 7 or less)--26 carries for 61 yards--2.3 ypc
~ OSU rushing on "pass downs" (2nd and 7 or more and 3rd down)--8 carries for 50 yards--6.3 ypc
So where does the Buckeye offense stand after a game like that? Toledo did not do anything special to make the Buckeye offense struggle in this game. In general, on run downs they played eight or sometimes even nine in the box and left their corners in man to man coverage playing 7-8 yards off of the receivers. They were playing any run action very aggressively, attacking gaps with linebackers and safeties as soon as they read run. That was it. They didn't really do much else on those downs, yet the Buckeyes were never able to attack it successfully, finishing the game with just 61 yards rushing on 26 carries and 3/10 passing for 22 yards in those situations. That isn't a recipe for success.
Doing so poorly on those early downs allowed the Rocket defense to put the offense in long yardage situations on second and third down continually. To the offense's credit, they did manage to do a pretty good job on several second down plays to continue drives, especially in the first half. However, the Buckeye offense did a terrible job on third down most of the game, gaining just 65 yards. 36 of those came on one play, meaning they gained just 29 yards on the remaining 11, converting only two of those. Toledo pretty much played only one defense in those situations as well, dropping into a cover three zone and keeping everything in front of them most of the time. The offense never really solved the defense despite the corners continually bailing to 8+ yards off the receivers prior to the snap.
The problem is that a very simple defensive game plan was able to continually stymie the Buckeye offense, and it is a game plan that the Buckeyes SHOULD be expecting with the personnel limitations they currently have. Why wouldn't teams try to take away the running game and force an inexperienced quarterback to pass to unproven receivers? I fully expect we're going to see more of the same against Miami this upcoming saturday. The only good news I have here is that the pieces of the puzzle needed to solve this problem are already in place, it's just up to the coaches and quarterbacks to make it happen.
We'll get into all of that as we swing through the position groups.
The one-week honeymoon is over. As poised and confident as Joe Bauserman looked in the first game against Akron, he looked timid and even lost at times against Toledo. This was the Bauserman that most fans feared we were going to get heading into the season. So which is the "real" Bauserman? I'm afraid it's a lot closer to the Toledo version than the Akron version.
On the plus side, he's not making catastrophic errors. In a game like this, turnovers would've been a killer and the one fumble nearly was. He's careful with the ball and is clearly not willing to force the ball into coverage. He manages the game reasonably well, and he's able to check the offense into better situations at the line. He's obviously changed things at the line several times the first two games. He also seems to have the team behind him still, flaws and all.
On the negative side, he's giving up on plays entirely too soon, checking to backs or tight ends very quickly, or missing open receivers entirely and throwing the ball away. On plays where Jake Stoneburner is the primary receiver, especially on playaction, he tends to lock on him while others are sometimes running free. When the Rockets were able to get some pressure on him early in the game, it seemed to rattle him as well.
If the Buckeyes weren't thinned out on offense due to suspension and injury, they might be able to get by with Joe behind center and have a successful season. I'm not sure if that's possible with the offense in its current state. They need someone able to get the ball into the hands of the receivers instead of constant checkdowns to tight ends and backs, someone able to check into quick passes when the defense is playing eight or nine in the box and way off the receivers.
So here's where you might think I'm going to start calling for Braxton Miller. The problem is that there is no guarantee that he'll be appreciably better at any of those things, and he could very well be worse at some of them considering his lack of experience within the system. All he really brings to the table is that he's a better athlete, and he might bring a play making ability, at least with his legs, that Bauserman couldn't hope to match.
Grade--C- No catastrophic mistakes aren't able to overcome all of the smaller ones that add up to a below average day for Bauserman. This game didn't HAVE to be that close.
Adding to Bauserman's problems this week was the fact that the running game was downright dismal against Toledo. A lot of it had to do with Toledo selling out to stop the run on running downs, but that wasn't all of it. There were several plays where the line did open a running lane or cutback lane, even against better numbers, but the backs just couldn't find it. Last week, I was harder on this group than any other despite the 42 point win and 167 yards on the ground. I'm not going to be any easier on them this week.
Hyde has the look of a good running back, right up to the point he takes the ball and starts running. For zone blocking schemes to be the most successful, they need to have a back that can see and anticipate holes opening and hit them with speed. It takes an instinct that is very hard to teach, and Hyde just doesn't have it. He's a young guy, and he'll probably get better with reps, but I just can't see him ever reaching that "next great back at Ohio State" status.
We've heard about Rod Smith and how he reminds people of Eddie George, but I'm not seeing that one yet either. Putting aside the second costly fumble in as many weeks, he's been almost as bad at seeing and running through holes as Hyde in the first two games. He's supposed to have another gear, but I haven't seen him do anything but tip-toe on any of his carries this season. He's also a young guy, and will probably improve with repetitions, but he's still a long way off.
Zach Boren is still Zach Boren, and I hope we get to see him blocking for some new names in the upcoming weeks. It pains me to say these things about anyone suited up in a Buckeye uniform, but Hyde and Smith just aren't getting the job done.
Grade--D Hyde does do a good job coming out of the backfield and chip blocking before his release. I have to end it on some kind of positive note.
I think they were entirely under-utilized in this game. Bauserman could've played pitch and catch with them in the three step passing game at any point in the game, yet didn't hit them quick more than just a couple of times the entire contest and only once after the first quarter. Verlon Reed carried the ball or was the target of a Bauserman pass on 7 of Ohio State's first 17 plays, but wasn't targeted again the rest of the game. Devin Smith seems to be the one running the most intermediate and long routes, and had two of the Buckeyes biggest plays of the game with nearly a third if Bauserman hadn't overthrown him. Jake Stoneburner caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season on Ohio State's first drive, and was targeted more than any other receiver in this game.
It seems the Buckeyes DO have some weapons out wide, and if teams start playing defense similarly to how Toledo did this week, the coaches and quarterback need to do a better job of getting the ball in their hands. This game was screaming quick outside screen, yet the Buckeyes never ran one the entire game. Someone please tell me they are part of the playbook moving forward.
Grade--B+ They made some big plays when given the opportunity. One small gripe would be doing a better job of going after the ball in "jump ball" situations.
The line was extremely difficult for me to grade. On one hand the Buckeyes barely topped 100 yards rushing on 34 carries. They were barely able to reach 300 yards of total offense. There were several running plays blown up in the backfield or right at the line of scrimmage. Toledo was selling out to stop the running game, yet I saw several instances of creases opening on running plays the backs missed, and they really weren't able to put much pressure on Bauserman the entire game.
As for individuals, there weren't really all that many breakdowns along the front other than Marcus Hall struggling at times with a speed rush by a much smaller guy. If you're looking for a scapegoat for a poor offensive day, this just isn't where you're going to find it. On most of the unsuccessful running plays, all six (TE included) had their man blocked, only to have a crashing linebacker or safety dart through a gap to blow up the play. It was especially frustrating to watch the backs not punish the defenders for continually doing this by hitting cutback lanes that opened from their aggressiveness.
Grade--B While I'm not going to be overly hard on this group this week, 300 yards of offense isn't going to earn anyone an A.
Offensive Coaching/Game plan
After the game against Toledo, I'm feeling very mixed about the offense coaching staff at Ohio State right now. For example they started off the game with a bit of a gimmicky over-balanced formation jet sweep play to Verlon Reed that came within a good defensive play from possibly breaking for a touchdown. The goodwill the staff got for that call was negated later in the game by running that same gimmicky play from the same over-balanced formation and same pre-snap shift and motion. The result? A four yard loss. That sums up this entire game.
While in the first game you could see a coherent game plan that involved the power running game coupled with a play-action heavy passing threat, this game reminded me of some of the worst of the Tressel year offensive games. The play calling seemed a hodgepodge of plays with no coherent strategy. It continually played into what the Toledo defense was doing, and there were few noticeable adjustments to it as the game progressed, though we know the plays to counter it are in the offense, because the Buckeyes ran them occasionally to decent success.
I will give the staff some credit. Playaction should have hurt the Toledo defense more than it did. The Buckeyes did run 15 playaction passes, but Bauserman was only able to connect on five of them. Those five completions netted over half of his passing total and over a third of the entire offensive output for the game. My problem with the coaching staff in this case has to do with the coaching of Bauserman. On the rollout passes he continually passed up wide open underneath guys to throw the ball away. On drop back playaction passes, he couldn't hit wide open targets on a couple of long balls, and ended up with two more incompletions on good defensive plays.
It's clear that Bauserman is being coached to be very safe with the ball. I'm fine with that to some degree. Turnovers, especially easily avoidable ones, are not what this team needs. We just need to remember that on the risk/reward scale no risk will equal no reward, sSo while I'm not advocating having Joe toss the ball into Peyton Manning-esque windows in the defense, I would like to see him let a few more of those passes that might be contested.
We have to realize what this coaching staff has been up against the past two weeks. The Buckeyes are playing without their top receiver, top three running backs, top left tackle, and a quarterback that has been an afterthought on the roster for the past four years. Keeping this team together and focused considering all that has gone on there in the past several months hasn't been easy. We can all see where things can be obviously better, but it could also be much worse. I'm going to go ahead and say it now, though. I think if Luke Fickell lasts beyond this working interview, I would like to see him put his own stamp on the offensive coaching staff.
Grade--C Do we blame the staff? Is it more on Bauserman? It's hard to say. The pieces of a successful offense are there (though some are suspended), but the puzzle is far from put together, and I think the Buckeyes are in for several more rough offensive games before it gets any better.
There were some definite highs and lows on the special team units against Toledo. The Buckeyes gave up an almost inexcusable blocked punt that really swung the momentum to Toledo's favor, which they rode to a 15-7 lead. For some reason, the man on the left side of the formation moved to his right on the snap instead of executing the correct technique for the outside man on the line. That made the path to the punter even shorter since the blocker vacated the area. I've seen a few people blaming Buchanan for a slow punting motion, which he does have as a three step punter, but it wasn't the reason for this block. It was on the outside man on the line.
On the other hand, Chris Fields returned a punt for a touchdown at a point in the game that the Buckeyes really needed it. It put the Buckeyes back in front just before halftime and pumped the team and crowd up going into the locker room. That play changed the complexion of the game.
Drew Basil has yet to put a ball through the uprights for three points this season, missing his third attempt of the season (though only two count). The Buckeyes really need him to start producing. With the offense being what it is, we don't need the team fretting over whether they are going to be able to put points on the board if the drive stalls.
Grade--C+ Without the punt return, this would be a much lower grade. The only other thing that went really well was a punt downed inside the five.
The Buckeyes travel to Miami this weekend to meet another team in disarray due to an ongoing NCAA issue. It will be interesting to see which team is able to better focus and play better. After watching the Hurricanes play Maryland a couple weeks ago, they look to be an explosive, but inconsistent team on offense, but not exactly world beaters on defense. Let's hope some of the issues with suspensions and the offense are ironed out before they kick this one off on Saturday. Their fans are still itching for revenge for the 2002 game.
No, they still haven't let that go.
Donate by Check :
1380 King Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43212
Help us bring you more Buckeye coverage. Donate to the-Ozone.
Click here to email this the-Ozone feature to a friend...or even a foe.
(c) 2010 The O-Zone, O-Zone Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, rebroadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.