By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey
Last week I started by talking about unsatisfying and uninspiring wins. Saturday's 17-16 win over Michigan State was anything but. It was ugly at times, and there were periods of sloppy play on both sides of the ball. The Buckeyes were on the short end of the turnover battle but stull ended up on the long end of the score. So what was the difference?
This was a game the Buckeyes would've found a way to lose last season. Despite the sloppy play, the Buckeyes gutted it out, left it all out on the field, and came away with the win against a pretty good football team in their own house. It was a game where we learned a little bit about the toughness of Braxton Miller. Twice he was injured in this game - one looking pretty serious - yet he was on the field at the end, taking a knee in victory formation to finish out the game.
Another big difference was that the Buckeyes looked alive out there instead of looking like they were going through the motions like they have in the first four games this season. It actually looked like they were enjoying the game again, and it came from the top down. Coach Urban Meyer finally looked like he was having fun, the Buckeyes played with some EMOTION and PRIDE, and they send a message to the rest of the Big Ten that they had better not be overlooked this season.
And they still haven't put it all together yet.
Let's take a look at the stats.
67 Offensive Plays--381 yards--5.7 yards per play
23 pass (34%)--16/23 for 182 yards 1 TD 1 INT
44 rush (66%) for 199 yards 1 TD--4.5 ypc
12 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.6 plays--31.8 yards
Ave. start--OSU 26
First Down--31 plays (46%) for 208 yards
9 pass (29%)--5/9 for 98 yards 1 TD 1 INT
22 rush (71%) for 110 yards--5.0 ypc
Ave. gain of 6.7 yards
Second Down--23 plays (34%) for 103 yards
7 pass (30%)--6/7 for 45 yards
16 rush (70%) for 58 yards 1 TD--3.6 ypc
Ave. of 7.8 yards to go
Ave. gain of 4.5 yards
Third Down--13 plays (19%) for 70 yards
7 pass (54%)--5/7 for 39 yards
6 rush (46%) for 31 yards--5.2 ypc
Ave. of 7.2 yards to go
Ave. gain of 5.4 yards
Playaction Passing--8 plays
4/8 for 21 yards 1 INT
First Downs Earned--20 Total
5 by pass
15 by rush
Two Back Pistol/Shotgun--22 plays (33%) for 132 yards
3 pass (14%)--1/3 for 18 yards 1 INT
19 rush (86%) for 114 yards 1 TD--6.0 ypc
One Back Pistol/Shotgun--38 plays (57%) for 224 yards
16 pass (42%)--11/16 for 126 yards 1 TD
22 rush (58%) for 98 yards--4.5 ypc
Empty Pistol/Shotgun--4 plays (6%) for 38 yards
4 pass (100%)--4/4 for 38 yards
Victory Formation--3 plays (4%) for -13 yards
3 rush (100%) for -13 yards--(-4.3) ypc
RUN TYPE BREAKDOWN
Inside Zone--9 (20%) for 39 yards 1 TD--4.3 ypc
Pass Lateral--1 (2%) for 5 yards--5.0 ypc
Power--2 (5%) for 7 yards--3.5 ypc
QB Designed Run--11 (25%) for 71 yards--6.5 ypc
QB sack/scramble--3 (7%) for 9 yards--3.0 ypc
Read Option--10 (23%) for 50 yards--5.0 ypc
Speed Option--5 (11%) for 32 yards--6.4 ypc
TEAM--3 (7%) for -13 yards--(-4.3) ypc
OTHER STATS OF NOTE
* 1 Offensive Penalty for 5 yards
* Ohio State started on the MSU side of the 50 once--0 points
* 2/2 in the Red Zone--(1 TD 1 FG)
* 1 Sack against
* 3 turnovers (1 INT 2 Fumbles)
* 21/67 plays took place on the MSU side of the 50--(31%)
* 19/67 plays went for no gain/loss--(28%)
* 14/67 plays went for 10+ yards--(21%)
* 2/12 drives went 3 and out--(17%)
* Number of drives of 7+ plays--4/12 (33%)
* Braxton Miller primary ball handler--55/64 plays (86%)
The best part about this game for me was that while they didn't move the ball at will, they did move it very well against what is probably going to be the best defense the Buckeyes face this season. Before the kneel downs to end the game, the Buckeyes had over 400 yards of offense in just 12 offensive possessions.
Michigan State sent a lot of blitzes at the Ohio State offense, and while it wasn't always pretty, I thought the offense did a decent job of handling it. I also think this was a coming out party of sorts for both Braxton Miller and the offensive line. Despite the constant blitzing, the Spartans only managed one sack. Some of that can be attributed to Miller's ability to escape and create in the backfield, but the line also did a pretty good job of picking them up on passes and blocking them on runs.
Despite the near-giddiness when you think that they haven't put it all together yet, the concern over the health of Braxton Miller over the course of a full season is sobering. He's a competitor, and laid it all out on Saturday, but had to come out of the game once, and looked as if he suffered a bad knee injury on another occasion. We know that Ken Guiton has the confidence of Urban Meyer, but I don't think anyone believes he's as dynamic as Miller at the quarterback position.
While this was a good win, the Buckeyes have to find help for Miller in the running game, and I think that can come from Carlos Hyde if he stays healthy. He didn't carry the ball (only 10 carries), but he showed me something in the second half, even when he didn't have the ball in his hands. I've questioned whether he was a good fit for this offense, but came away from this game feeling he's a much better fit than I thought. He's good at getting out and leading for Miller on outside runs, has the size to run inside and speed to bounce it outside. When you add in that he seems to have some pretty good hands out of the backfield, he might actually be ideal for this offense.
Let's see what else we learned about the offense this week.
As I've already alluded to, I think this was a coming out party of sorts for Braxton Miller. Last season, the Michigan State defense completely stymied Miller and the offense to the tune of nine sacks (four against Miller), less than 100 yards of offense, and 0 points before Miller was pulled in favor of Joe Bauserman in the second half of that game. This game, Braxton accounted for over 300 of the Buckeyes' nearly 400 yards of offense and helped the OSU match their point total from last year's game in just 8 plays.
It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for Miller, though, as he took a physical beating, including two seperate injuries and was also responsible for all three Buckeye turnovers. There were several mis-reads in the option game that resulted in unnecessary hits on him as well. Those are things that the Buckeyes just can't have from the player most responsible for making the whole thing go.
We did learn that Braxton is made of tougher stuff than we thought. Despite the injuries, he ran the ball on four of the Buckeyes' final 9 regular offensive plays (not counting the kneel downs). It seemed the Spartan defense was specifically trying to take him out on some plays, yet he never shied away from carrying the ball (23 for the game). That told me more about him than anything else. He has the heart to lead this team to great things if he can just stay healthy and keep learning the offense.
We also learned that Ken Guiton better have himself ready to go at any time. He did a pretty good job of finishing off Ohio State's first drive for the touchdown, but didn't have to do much more than give the ball off to Jordan Hall on those three plays. There will probably come a time this season where he has to play more significant minutes, and he's one play away from being the starter.
Grade--(B) I want to give Miller a better grade, but the turnovers won't allow me to give him an A. Make no mistake about it though, he's one of the biggest reasons the offense went anywhere on Saturday.
Are Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall going to ever be able to get themselves healthy at the same time this season? Together I think they give the Buckeye backfield a decent one-two punch of contrasting styles, but they haven't been able to stay healthy this year, and any plays for playing them both at the same time have gone out the window. Jordan Hall did a decent, but not great, job again in the first half, including the Buckeyes' first touchdown of the day.
I have to say again that I was impressed by Carlos Hyde in the second half. He brings dimensions to the backfield that Hall just can't, the most important being his blocking ability on the outside. On the plays where both Zach Boren and Hyde led Braxton Miller outside, there were some linebackers and defensive backs just getting crushed out there. I think as long as he's healthy, Hyde is the better choice in the backfield going forward.
I was a little surprised that we didn't see Rod Smith considering how well he ran it against UAB, but he probably doesn't bring the same dimensions Hyde does. He'll probably see the field against Nebraska with Jordan Hall's injury, though.
Grade--(B) All of the big runs came from Miller, but when the game was on the line, Hyde did a great job. I also have to add that I'm really going to miss watching Zach Boren next season. He is probably the biggest unsung hero of this offense.
Watching this game live I didn't realize that Corey Brown caught 12 balls. I knew he was on the receiving end of all of the screen passes, but I just didn't think it was that many. All in all, the Buckeyes threw six quick screens (one ended up being a lateral), but only managed to gain 16 yards on those plays. I don't know if Brown is doing a good enough job on those plays after the catch to warrant him continuing to be the guy who gets them. He's just not decisive or elusive enough to make those plays work. The blocking has been there for the most part, but he's hesitating too long and letting the pursuit catch him every time. Other than those plays, he was surprisingly effective in the short passing game, and did a decent job in the open field when he wasn't trying to read blocks.
Was it any surprise that when the Buckeyes needed a big play in this game, Devin Smith was the one to step up and get the ball into the end zone for the Buckeyes? He had only two catches, but that touchdown came a just the right time. Aside from Corey Brown, he's the only other receiver that has Braxton Miller's trust.
The rest of the receiver corps is a mystery. Jake Stoneburner has seemingly disappeared, and was only targeted once. Mike Thomas saw his first extensive field time in the receiver rotation and was only targeted once as well, and that one was intercepted. Evan Spencer wasn't targeted at all that I could tell. This is still an area that is holding the Buckeye offense back. There is some kind of disconnect here, whether it be that Miller doesn't have the ability to look past his primary reads, or he doesn't trust the other receivers. Until the rest of the receiver corps becomes a real threat in the passing game, the offense will be somewhat limited.
Grade--(B) I'd like to see the rest of the receiver corps be more involved in the passing game, but the outside blocking on run plays was fantastic most of the game and that brings the grade up.
I can't stress enough how much better things are up front for the Buckeyes this season. Against Michigan State last season, the offensive line looked lost most of the game against the relentless Spartan blitzes, giving up nine sacks and taking until deep in the fourth quarter to even reach 100 yards of total offense. This year, the Buckeye offensive line handled the Spartan blitzes very well most of the time. William Gholsten was expected to have a big game against the Buckeyes, but did very little, especially after his injury.
Last season, the Buckeyes managed 34 yards on the ground against the Spartans. This season was over 200 before the kneel downs at the end. They finished with almost as many sacks as completed passes last year. This season it was 16/23 on passes. I can't stress enough that this was against a near constant blitz after the first drive.
When it was announced that Reid Fragle would be moving to offensive tackle, I don't think many envisioned him being the starter, let alone one of the unsung heroes of this game. He came up with an important fumble recovery in the first half, and had two crushing blocks down the stretch that allowed the Buckeyes to close out the game. He was also instrumental in neutralizing William Gholsten in this game.
Grade--(A-) For them to get any kind of A against a defense like Michigan State's is a real accomplishment. There were a few minor issues and missed blocks that can't allow me to go higher, but this was the PRIMARY reason why the outcome of the game was different this season.
We've heard several times that the offense is a work in progress, and that's certainly true. I think the coaches are still searching for what this offense is going to do best, all while having a superstar quarterback still learning how to play the position. Doing whatever it takes to win the game is the order of the day, and that means using Braxton Miller's legs more than anything else right now.
I'd like to see them use Carlos Hyde more on designed runs (there were 11 designed HB runs this game) to take some of the pressure off of Miller, or I have doubts about his ability to get through the season on his feet. I would also still like to see them use playaction more in the passing game despite the fact they used it 8 times this game. The running game has been going well enough that I feel there can and probably should be a fake on any first or second down pass play.
I thought the coaches did a pretty good job of having this team prepared to face the Spartan defense, especially along the line. There are things I think the Buckeyes could do better, especially things like getting the ball to someone else on outside screens and taking more shots downfield against man press coverage against the blitz, but those are minor complaints. A bit bigger concern is the lack of any production from the receiver corps outside of Corey Brown and Devin Smith. I can't imagine the gameplan calls for the other receivers to be placefillers on the field, so they've got to get Miller to start looking at the other guys on the field.
I like the direction the offense is going, however, especially if Braxton continues to grow in it. Every game, you can see there are baby steps being made towards becoming a dominant offense. I still don't think they get there this year, but 2013 is starting to seem like it might be a big season for the Buckeyes.
Grade--(B+) If the coaches can start ironing out the obvious wrinkles, I think the offense can improve a little bit immediately. Find someone else to get the ball outside on screens, start riding Carlos Hyde's legs a little more, and find a way to get the other receivers involved in the offense and they should be able to move the ball well enough to beat Nebraska.