By the Numbers - Offense vs. Nebraska
By Jeff Amey
There are wins, and there are statements, and Ohio State's 63-38 win over Nebraska on Saturday night was definitely a statement to the rest of the Big Ten and America that the Buckeyes are starting to put it together, at least on offense.
After struggling for a quarter with four straight three and outs and only 17 yards of offense, the Buckeyes tore off 475 yards of offense in the final three and scored touchdowns on seven of nine possessions.
New weapons emerged in this game to complement Braxton Miller's running, which was doubly important since the established weapon in the games heading into this one, Devin Smith, was held without a catch. With 140 yards and 4 touchdowns in the game, Carlos Hyde may have finally taken the step up we've been waiting for to become a star in this offense.
Now this team just needs to avoid relying on their press clippings the rest of the way. They have to stay hungry, because they are still vulnerable with a defense that still struggles at times to get stops. If they can stay relatively healthy and avoid a let-down, there is no reason why this team can't finish 12-0.
Let's take a look at the stats.
62 Total Plays--492 yards--7.9 yards per play
14 pass (23%)--7/14 for 128 yards 1 TD
48 rush (77%) for 364 yards 6 TD--7.6 ypc
13 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 4.8 plays--37.8 yards
Ave. start--OSU 34
First Down--30 plays (48%) for 309 yards
7 pass (23%)--4/7 for 87 yards
23 rush (77%) for 222 yards 3 TD--9.7 ypc
Ave. gain of 10.3 yards
Second Down--19 plays (31%) for 113 yards
3 pass (16%)--2/3 for 32 yards 1 TD
16 rush (84%) for 81 yards 2 TD--5.1 ypc
Ave. of 7.2 yards to go
Ave. gain of 5.9 yards
Third Down--11 plays (18%) for 35 yards
4 pass (36%)--1/4 for 9 yards
7 rush (64%) for 26 yards--3.7 ypc
Ave. of 6.5 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.2 yards
Fourth Down--2 plays (3%) for 36 yards
2 rush (100%) for 36 yards 1 TD--18.0 ypc
Ave. of 4.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 18.0 yards
Playaction Passing--8 plays
4/7 for 92 yards 1 TD
1 scramble for 4 yards
First Downs Earned--17 total
4 by pass
11 by rush
2 by penalty
Two back Pistol/Shotgun--25 plays (40%) for 165 yards
4 pass (16%)--4/4 for 92 yards 1 TD
21 rush (84%) for 73 yards 3 TD--3.5 ypc
One Back Pistol/Shotgun--33 plays (53%) for 289 yards
8 pass (24%)--1/8 for 9 yards
25 rush (76%) for 280 yards 3 TD--11.2 ypc
Empty Pistol/Shotgun--3 plays (5%) for 32 yards
2 pass (67%)--2/2 for 27 yards
1 rush (33%) for 5 yards--5.0 ypc
Punt formation--1 play (2%) for 6 yards
1 rush (100%) for 6 yards--6.0 ypc
Run Type Breakdown--48 attempts
Fake Punt--1 (2%) for 6 yards--6.0 ypc
Inside Zone--12 (25%) for 114 yards 2 TD--9.5 ypc
Iso--6 (13%) for 19 yards 2 TD--3.2 ypc
QB Designed Run--5 (10%) for 62 yards 1 TD--12.4 ypc
QB Sack/Scramble--6 (13%) for 12 yards--2.0 ypc
Read Option--16 (33%) for 149 yards 1 TD--9.3 ypc
Triple Option--2 (4%) for 3 yards--1.5 ypc
Other Stats of Note
* 4 offensive penalties for 31 yards
* Ohio State started on the Nebraska side of the 50 twice--14 points (2 TD)
* 5/5 in the red zone--(5 TD)
* 2 sacks against and 1 turnover (fumble)
* 23/62 plays took place on the Nebraska side of the 50--(37%)
* only 11/62 plays went for no gain or loss--(18%) (This is a very good number)
* 13/62 plays went for 10+ yards--(21%)
* 4/13 drives went three and out--(31%)
* Braxton Miller main ball handler--44/60 plays (73%)
* 1st Quarter offense--13 plays for 17 yards--0 offensive points
* Last three quarters offense--49 plays for 475 yards--49 offensive points
At the end of the first quarter, this looked as if it was going to be a disaster of a game for the Buckeyes. Instead I think it's becoming more and more clear that the coaches are willing to sacrifice a quick start on offense for some knowledge about how opposing defenses are going to try to defend the Buckeyes with their scripted plays. I don't think they would mind for some of those plays to work better than they have early in games this season, though.
I have to give Tom Herman and the rest of the offensive staff a lot of credit. Once they figured out what the Cornhusker defense was doing, they called plays that had the offense humming the rest of the game. By the end of the game, the Nebraska defense seemed completely demoralized. Nine of Ohio State's final ten plays were just simple inside zone calls, and they went for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns...against 9 defenders in the box on every one of them.
For the most part, Nebraska dropped a safety into the box and played aggressively against the option, which opened them up for the quarterback counter play that went for big gains the first two times the Buckeyes ran it, including the touchdown on fourth down right before halftime. It almost broke for big gains on the other two times they called it as well. Their defensive calls also left the Cornhuskers vulnerable to playaction, which I finally thought the coaches used well, to the tune of 72% of the passing yardage in the game and the only touchdown pass.
Every week we can see the guys on the roster buying into the system more and more. The effort on every play has been tremendous. You just don't see anyone taking plays off on offense, all the way down to the backside receivers on run plays. They are putting constant pressure on defenses to be good on every play, and while the pieces still aren't there to be a dominant and dynamic offense, there are enough complements to Braxton Miller's running emerging to make this a very difficult offense to stop consistantly.
Let's look at the position groups.
Every game we are seeing Braxton Miller get a little better with his reads and decisions, and it can't be a happy observation for opposing defensive coordinators. He wasn't perfect in this game with his option reads, but he was better, and kept the ball on a couple of plays that broke for big plays that he's been very indecisive on in the past. I'm starting to realize that we could be on the cusp of watching something very special as he continues to develop. I have never seen a player in a Buckeye uniform more dynamic with the ball in his hands (sorry Archie Griffin), and he's only going to keep getting better.
In this game, he jump started things for the offense with his 72 yard run to open the second quarter, serving notice that the game was about to go very different for the Nebraska defense. He finished the game having broken his own quarterback rushing record with over 180 yards and added 128 passing on just 7 competions.
Grade--(A-) It wasn't a perfect game, but it was by far his best of the season so far. The only thing we really need to worry about is his health.
There hadn't been a running back emerge as a dangerous complement to Braxton Miller's running. Carlos Hyde served notice this week with his 140 yards and 4 touchdowns that he might be the guy. He ran the ball hard on every play, and seemed to get stronger as the game went on, gaining the majority of his yardage in the second half. My only real issue is that he gained most of his yardage and scored 3 of his four touchdowns on designed halfback runs. On option plays, he just didn't get very much. Part of that was how Nebraska was defending the option, but I also think that Hyde does better when he's reading blocks rather than wondering if he's going to get the ball.
I don't think there have been many better first carries in a game better than Rod Smith's fourth quarter 33 yard touchdown. It was easily his best run in a Buckeye uniform as he broke four tackles on the way to the end zone. I think he's making a pretty good case for a little more field time as the season goes on, and has shown night and day improvement on his runs from last season. We're left wondering again how Smith will fit into the back rotation when Jordan Hall comes back.
Grade--(B+) I hate to drop this grade, but Hyde left a lot of yardage on the field by missing holes out there on several plays. Last season, he started off showing a lot of impatience behind his blocking, and he's back to doing some of that now. He improved greatly last season, and I think he has the ability to improve that now too.
With the running game on display this week, the receivers weren't called on much to help the Buckeye's move the ball through the air. Devin Smith finished the game with no catches and was only targeted twice on long balls. It was nice to see the tight ends get involved in the play-action passing game, however, and they finished with 85 yards on three catches and the only touchdown reception by Jeff Heuerman.
Corey Brown seemed to take last week's criticisms to heart this week and looked better both receiving the ball and had the huge punt return touchdown. Devin Smith is still probably the big play guy in the offense, but Brown is emerging as the steady threat in the short passing game...just don't throw him screens.
Where the receiver corps really shone in this game was blocking on run plays. I thought Corey Brown struggled with downfield blocking early in the season, but he had a huge block that opened up the field for Braxton Miller's 72 yard second quarter run. Devin Smith may not have had a catch, but he locked up his man consistently on run plays all game. Jake Stoneburner may have disappeared in the passing game, but he hasn't forgotten how to block from his tight end days either.
I find this much more impressive than if this was an Air Raid attack and they were coming down with 10 catches per game. Blocking isn't glamorous, and them getting after it so hard tells me they have bought in. It has been the difference between big plays in the running game, and ten yard Braxton Miller outside runs.
Grade--(A-) Only a couple early drops keeps this from being a higher grade. I can't stress enough how impressed I was by the effort put forth by the receivers on every run play.
Nowhere on the offense is the difference between last season and this season more profound than along the offensive line. Although I rarely thought the offensive line play was as bad as most people thought under the last regime, it was clearly never a strength of the offense. This game started off a little rough as the Buckeyes went through the feeling out process and the Cornhuskers brought a lot of pressure early in the game, but after that 72 yard run to start the second quarter, the line dominated the line of scrimmage the rest of the game.
How much so? Ohio State's last pass of the game came with 9 minutes left to go in the third quarter. The Buckeyes gained over 100 yards and averaged over 10 yards per carry running THE SAME PLAY over and over in the fourth quarter. After two early sacks, the Nebraska defense didn't really come close to Miller again on a pass play. For the game, the Buckeyes averaged over 7.5 yards per carry, and finished with over 350 yards rushing. It doesn't get much better than that.
Grade--(A-) Only those early struggles drag the grade down a little. Overall, it was another fantastic game for the line. Ed Warriner is looking like a great hire for Urban Meyer.
The difference between Urban-ball and Tressel-ball is so vast, it's hard to even put it into words. The biggest difference to me is how the Urban Meyer/Tom Herman offense adjusts to and takes advantage of what the opposing defense is doing, where it seemed the Tressel offense would continually beat their heads against the wall until they realized they could just walk around it...sometimes too late. Meyer/Herman actively engage and try to win the chess game, where Tressel would try not to lose it.
Both ways can be successful, but one is certainly a lot more fun to watch. The most fun thing for me to see is the team continue to buy into what's going on more each week. They're starting to have fun out there on offense, and they're giving maximum effort every play. That's a product of good coaching, and the players seeing their hard work translate to success on the field.
I still don't think the offense has nearly tapped into all it can be yet either. There is still a long way to go with the passing game, and the option can always be run better than it has. The fact is, once the coaches saw what Nebraska was going to do on defense, they made a few small adjustments and didn't really call more than a few different run plays and a few playaction passes to complement them the rest of the game. The players just wanted it more, and took it to the Huskers.
Grade--(A) I'm giving them a pass for the early struggles, since they seem to be using those plays to see what the defense is doing. They don't call them with the expectation they won't work, and the adjustments in this game were superb. The most important thing to making this season a success was getting the team to buy in, and I think they've got that.
I realized too late last week that I failed to include this section. We've been waiting for Corey Brown to emerge as a big play guy this season, and for his first big play, he returned a punt for a touchdown. At the time it came in the game, it was a dagger for the Cornhuskers and really took the wind out of their sails for the rest of the game.
The rest of the game's special teams pretty much boiled down to punt and kickoff coverages, and I thought, for the most part, the Buckeyes did a fantastic job, especially on kickoffs. There was one kickoff and one punt return where the kicker/punter had to make the tackle, however, and it's a good thing those guys are up to the task. I can't help but wonder if it's "when" and not "if" a kick gets returned on the Buckeyes. The one real blight in this game was the failed fake punt.
Grade--(B) The punt return and kickoff coverage brings the grade up, but there were too many breakdowns to give them an A.