By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey
And just like that, the most bittersweet but intensely satisfying football season in Ohio State football history ends with the Buckeyes a perfect 12-0 record. Ohio State's 26-21 victory over "That Team up North" was this team's way of thumbing their noses at ESPN, the Pollsters, the NCAA, and even their own Athletic Director who told them there wouldn't be a bowl ban, then chose to send last year's team when the punishment came down. This team really did seem to have an "us against the world" mentality at times, and while they were hardly perfect this season, they refused to lose any of their games and will be remembered for that more than anything else.
As poor as I thought last week's game with Wisconsin was called on offense, I thought Tom Herman did a pretty good job of sticking to the things that were working in this game against Michigan. The mistakes in this game seemed to come from the players instead of coaching gaffes. There was only one series where I thought the coaches tried to get a little cute and it backfired, but even then they were trying to run a play that had worked earlier in the game.
Considering how many mistakes the players were making in the form of mental mistake penalties, bad snaps, and the quarterback trying to hard to make a play, they really had to beat two teams out there, Michigan and themselves. The offense actually did a pretty good job of moving the ball, but had a miserable time on third downs and ended up having to attempt five field goals making four. For the second week in a row, it was really the defense that won the game for the Buckeyes, shutting down and shutting out the Michigan offense in the second half to preserve their precarious lead.
There is a lot more to say about this game and this season, but first let's get through the stats.
69 Offensive Plays--395 yards--5.7 yards per play
18 pass (26%)--14/18 for 190 yards 1 TD
51 rush (74%) for 205 yards 1 TD--4.0 ypc
12 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.8 plays--32.9 yards
Ave. start--OSU 40
First Down--33 plays (48%) for 231 yards
9 pass (27%)--8/9 for 120 yards 1 TD
24 rush (73%) for 111 yards--4.6 ypc
Ave. gain of 7.0 yards
Second Down--23 plays (33%) for 156 yards
5 pass (22%)--4/5 for 35 yards
18 rush (78%) for 121 yards 1 TD--6.7 ypc
Ave. of 7.9 yards to go
Ave. gain of 6.8 yards
Third Down--13 plays (19%) for 8 yards
4 pass (31%)--2/4 for 35 yards
9 rush (69%) for -27 yards--(-3.0) ypc
Ave. of 7.6 yards to go
Ave. gain of 0.6 yards
Playaction Passing--11 plays
10/10 for 135 yards
1 scramble for 6 yards
First Downs Earned--21 total
8 by pass
13 by rush
Three Back Shotgun/Pistol--1 play (1%) for 0 yards
1 rush (100%) for 0 yards--0.0 ypc
Two Back Shotgun/Pistol--32 plays (46%) for 249 yards
9 pass (28%)-7/9 for 101 yards
23 rush (72%) for 148 yards--6.4 ypc
One Back Shotgun/Pistol--31 plays (45%) for 150 yards
8 pass (26%)--6/8 for 78 yards 1 TD
23 rush (74%) for 72 yards 1 TD--3.1 ypc
Empty Shotgun/Pistol--2 plays (3%) for 4 yards
1 pass (50%)--1/1 for 11 yards
1 rush (50%) for -7 yards--(-7.0) ypc
Victory Formation--3 plays (4%) for -8 yards
3 rush (100%) for -8 yards--(-2.7) ypc
Run Type Breakdown--51 attempts
HB Counter--1 play (2%) for 1 yard--1.0 ypc
Inside Zone--4 plays (8%) for 15 yards--3.8 ypc
Power--5 plays (10%) for 47 yards--9.6 ypc
QB Designed Run--8 plays (16%) for 76 yards--9.5 ypc
QB Scramble/Sack--8 plays (16%) for -21 yards--(-2.6) ypc
Read Option--18 plays (35%) for 112 yards 1 TD--6.2 ypc
Speed Option--1 play (2%) for -8 yards--(-8.0) ypc
TEAM--5 plays (10%) for -17 yards--(-3.4) ypc
Triple Option--1 play (2%) for 0 yards--0.0 ypc
Other Stats of Note
* 5 offensive penalties for 30 yards
* Ohio State started on the Michigan side of the 50 four times--6 points (2 FG)
* 4/5 in the Red Zone (2 TD 2 FG 1 Missed FG)
* 5 Sacks against
* 2 Turnovers (2 Fumbles)
* 43/69 plays took place on the Michigan side of the 50--(62%)
* 19/69 plays went for no gain or loss--(28%)
* 17/69 plays went for 10+ yards--(25%)
* 1/12 possessions went three and out--(8%)
* Braxton Miller primary ball handler--59/68 plays (87%)
* Drew Basil season FG percentage going into this game--4/6 (67%)
* Drew Basil vs. Michigan--4/5 (80%)
As you can see in the stats, there isn't an area that really stands out that they did exceptionally well at, and the only real problem area was on third down. There are a few things that certainly could've gone better, such as getting more than six points when they start on the opposing side of the fifty yard line four time, and run nearly two thirds of their plays on Michigan's side of the field, but it ultimately didn't come back to bite them. For the most part, the offense had their way with the Michigan defense, but you have to give the Wolverines some credit for stiffening in the red zone when it mattered the most.
As I said in the lead, the players themselves were most responsible for any issues the offense had in this game. One promising drive in the first half was absolutely killed with three penalties on the same three down sequence which forced the Buckeyes to kick a field goal. Four drives ended in third down sacks, and one ended with a bad snap, which followed a second down sack near the goal line. Four of those five sacks were avoidable, and were mistakes on Braxton Miller's part rather than bad offensive line play.
When the Buckeyes weren't commiting mental mistakes, they pretty steadily marched the ball down the field. Only one drive went three and out, and the read-option and power running game was working pretty well. One of the more impressive stats of the day is that the Buckeyes went 10/10 on playaction passes. The Wolverines tried some of the same tactics Wisconsin used the week before to shut down the offense, but this time the coaches stayed with the playaction short passing and used the read-option instead of going away from it. Michigan played to get the ball out of Miller's hands, and Carlos Hyde picked up the slack on his way to 146 yards on 26 carries.
Let's take a look at the position groups and see what we learned about about this team in this game and this season.
As has been the case for the vast majority of the season, if the offense is doing well, it is generally because Braxton Miller is also doing well, and if they struggle, he's usually the cause of that too. In this game, when it came to the read option, he generally made good reads with the ball. There were a few times when I thought he might have pre-determined he was going to keep it and made the incorrect read, because the Wolverine defensive ends consistantly played him instead of the halfback, and I don't think he ever really got the read to keep.
When it came to passing the ball, I thought he did a better job in this game than he usually does in keeping his eyes downfield and checking the ball down to outlet receivers on several occasions when his first read wasn't there. He did an excellent job in the playaction game, getting the ball out quickly and accurately, and hitting Devin Smith on the deep ball early in the game. The only struggles I think he had was when they called drop-back passes, especially in empty sets which include when they line up a tight end at H-back. He had some trouble recognizing blitzes and took a couple of very hard sacks and other times bailed on the play and lost his footing in the backfield.
Over the course of the season, there has been an interesting dynamic with what Braxton has done well and what he's struggled with. Early on, he really struggled with his reads in the option game, and looked more often like he was guessing instead of actually reading the defenders. As time has gone on, he has improved that part of his game immensely. He still has points where it seems he's guessing or pre-determining, but on most plays you can clearly see him making the reads. As a passer, he's not made a lot of progress this season. He's been good when he doesn't have much of a read to make, such as the short playaction game, but he's stuggled with his footwork for much of the season, and still has tendencies to stare down receivers and not throw the ball unless he sees the recevier open instead of anticipating or throwing him open.
On the negative side of things, I actually think he's regressed a little bit as a runner as the season went on. Whether it was the injury at Purdue, or the colder weather amplifying how the hits felt, or the coaches telling him to avoid taking big hits, he just wasn't running the ball nearly as decisively at the end of the season as he was early on. I'm not saying he should try to be Carlos Hyde and start fighting for every inch, but the early Braxton made one move and blew by the arm tackle of a defender, where the late season Braxton was trying to make too many moves and allowed all of the pursuit to catch up to him. Watching him run the ball the past two games was actually a little painful.
Grades--vs. Michigan (B-)--Season--(B)--This will be an interesting off-season for Braxton. Expectations are going to be through the roof for him. He probably won't go to New York this year, but will be one of the leaders in the Heisman race to start next season. He has to improve his drop-back passing and get back to being himself in the running game. For this game against Michigan, I can give him no better than just above average. Most of his good plays were followed by a poor decision.
In a season where it seemed that Braxton Miller was the only weapon the Buckeyes had on offense, how fitting was it that Carlos Hyde did most of the heavy lifting in the final game of the season to finish off the Wolverines? He has come such a long way over the course of the past two seasons, it truly is remarkable. He didn't finish this season with 1,000 yards, but came pretty close despite missing the better part of three games with injury. He finished the season with 17 touchdowns and I think has a firm grasp on the starting job to open next season despite a loaded stable of backs.
He went from a man just holding the fort until Jordan Hall came back from injury, to a man out of the lineup due to injury, to becoming the ying to Braxton Miller's yang, to being the best running threat on the team the last few games. You have to love how he approaches every run with the mentality that he's not going down on his own. The other team has to tackle him. As unhappy as I was with how under-utilized he was against Wisconsin, I thought the coaches did a good job of making sure the Wolverines respected his power by keeping him involved in the game throughout.
As impressed as I was with Hyde over the course of the season, I'm anxious to see what the coaches do with the stable of backs they'll have available for next year. Rod Smith looked very capable with the ball in his hands this season when he could hang on to it. Brionte Dunn showed flashes of what he might be able to do, and the Buckeyes could get Jordan Hall back for another season. Those are just the commodities that we have any idea about. There are several more players that will factor into the rotation next season.
Grades--vs. Michigan (A)--Season--(B+) One of my favorite memories from this season will be watching Hyde bear down on an opposing safety and see that they want to have very little to do with trying to take him on. Michigan had no answer for him all game.
This is another position in which there was a huge transformation as the season went on. Early in the year, we spent a lot of time talking about Devin Smith and how he emerged as a big play guy in the offense to compliment Braxton's running. By the end of the season, teams (including Michigan this week) were playing way off of him to take the big plays away. That didn't stop him from making a huge play on Ohio State's first drive to set up a touchdown, but he did only pull in one more reception on the day.
What it has done, however, is open up the flats for the short passing game, which has been very successful for the Buckeye offense whenever they chose to exploit it, especially off of playaction. The main recipient of the benefits of this change has been Corey Brown. He went from struggling to find a niche in the offense early in the season, to being a playmaker in his own right. He finished with 8 catches and nearly 100 yards receiving against Michigan and added in a 21 yard run on an option play for his longest rush of the season. He did give up a very costly muffed punt, but made up for it with play after play in the short passing game.
What remains to be seen is if the rest of the receiver corps emerges for next season to compliment these two guys. They combined for over half of the reception total for the team this season, with senior Jake Stoneburner coming in a distant third. There have been a lot of guys see field time this season, but none have put a firm grasp on that third and fourth slot. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.
I realize over the course of this season, I have neglected to mention an important couple of guys in the offense that allowed the Zach Boren move to linebacker and have done a good job both pass blocking and receiving when they get their opportunities. Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman have only combined for 17 receptions, but their contributions have been invaluable. Neither brought the dynamic blocking to the table that Boren did, but they were both good enough to make the move barely noticable in terms of offensive output. Both are young guys that have the opportunity to contribute much more in the future.
Grades--vs. Michigan (A-)--Season--(B) Two of the four incompletions in this game were throw-aways. Another was a bad overthrow. Only one pass was dropped and that would've been a great catch had it been made. The only negative in this game was the muffed punt really.
No matter what has gone on this season, this group has been the heart and soul of the offense. All of Braxton's early season heroics and the Hyde running as the season has gone on wouldn't have been possible without the year this group has had. All five guys started all twelve games. It was a group that couldn't afford injury and only Reid Fragle missed any significant time in any game this season due to injury. I don't think this is the best offensive line in Buckeye history. Not even close. But with the perception that the Buckeye offensive lines have under-achieved the past decade or so, the line play this season was a refreshing change.
In this game, I thought the line pretty much dominated the Michigan defensive line most of the day. The Wolverines finished the day with five sacks, but I didn't think any of them were the line's fault. If there was anything to really complain about, it would again be bad shotgun snaps for the second week in a row. There were several that went high and disrupted the timing of the play, but two were potentially devestating. One was on third down near the goal line and was followed by a missed field goal. The second was as the Buckeyes were trying to put the game away at the end. Luckily the ball went straight to Carlos Hyde and they were able to successfully put the game away, but those are problems the offense can't afford to have.
The entire line minus Reid Fragle should be back for next season, so I'm anxious to see what this group is capable of for next year. If they can get someone ready to go in his place, I think the Buckeye running game next year is going to be potent.
Grades--vs. Michigan (B+)--Season--(A-) Only the bad snaps and the false starts (4 total) really drag the grade down for the Michigan game. For the season, the line has been steadily good all year, especially against the teams that were supposed to give them the most trouble.
I've seen several people upset with Tom Herman again this week for the Buckeyes having to kick so many field goals instead of putting touchdowns on the board. The complaint again seems to be "lack of adjustments". I agree that was a major issue last week against Wisconsin, but I think those people are wrong this week. Aside from ONE series, and basically one play on that series, I think Herman called a great game for the offense. The attempted screen pass that resulted in a sack when they Buckeyes had second and one from the four yard line was probably a bad call, but I think all of the other major gaffes in this game can be laid at the feet of the players themselves.
Herman doesn't cause bad snaps, or Braxton to miss a 5 blockers vs. 6 rushers blitz. He doesn't cause Miller to bail on a play too quickly and take a bad sack. He also doesn't cause Miller to make a bad or pre-determined read on a read-option play. What he DID cause was for the Buckeyes to keep attacking the flats with the short play-action passing game, kept Carlos Hyde involved in the offense through the read-option and power running game, and when the chips were down and they really needed some yardage, he figured out early in the game that the classic power-o play, which is the old "Dave" in Tressel-speak, was there for the taking when they really needed it. They ran it four times in the game prior to the last drive, twice going well over 10 yards with it, and when the Buckeyes needed a first down on third down and seven on that last drive, he called it again and it went for 13.
For the season, I can't tell you how impressed I am by what this coaching staff did. They took a team that went 6-7 last season, installed a new offense, and somehow got the team to buy into and believe in it for twelve straight wins. It wasn't always pretty, and in fact had some moments when it was downright awful, but it got the job done. Heading into the season, I wouldn't have even imagined it was possible.
I'm so excited to see what the future holds for the Buckeyes. If they manage to keep this staff together, I think the sky is the limit for this offense and group of offensive players. Expectations are going to be very high next season, but I think this staff might be capable of meeting or perhaps even exceeding them depending on how Braxton develops over this off-season. Losing the extra practices from the bowl ban are going to hurt, but I think they will be a much better offense next season regardless.
Grades--vs. Michigan (A)--Season--(A+) I think the biggest obstacle to a successful season this year was getting the players to believe and buy in. The belief is there, and the players have bought in. Now let's see if they can make a run at it again next year.
How fitting was it that on the day Ohio State honors Jim Tressel and the 2002 Buckeye National Championship team, the Ohio State kicker has a big day and is instrumental in Ohio State's win over Michigan? Drew Basil doubled his total field goals for the season in this game, hitting four out of five and accoutning for 14 of the Buckeye's 26 points in the game. We've been so used to the Buckeyes putting the ball in the end zone when they get to the red zone, it was a little nerve wracking to see him out there so much when he's been so inactive this season, but he came through with flying colors, and the miss didn't end up costing the Buckeyes anything.
The only other gaffe this game was Corey Brown's costly punt muff that led to a Michigan touchdown, but other than that, the coverage teams were good, Ben Buchanan had a pretty good day punting the ball, and the return team got the Buckeyes better field position on a couple important kicks. Overall, a pretty good day.
For the season, this has been a frustrating year again for special teams. This has been probably the most inconsistant group on the team, and needs major improvement for next season.
Grades--vs. Michigan (B+)--Season--(C-) Can we please not have to hold our breath on every special team play next season?