By the Numbers

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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 10/30/2012 11:44 AM
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Football
By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey

This was supposed to be the game that got the Buckeyes. It was a night game and Happy Valley was in "Whiteout" mode. The Nittany Lions were on a five game winning streak and actually looked pretty good during it. The Penn State defense was playing tough. QB Matt McGloin was doing a good job with their offense. This was going to be their defining moment in the season before the sanctions started doing their job on the Penn State program.

It didn't turn out that way.

Instead, after a shaky start, the Buckeyes went into Happy Valley and dominated the Lions on both sides of the ball on their way to a 35-23 win that almost cements them as the Leaders division champion this season. Not bad for a team that was supposed to be rebuilding this season and really bad news for the rest of the conference, because this team still has a long way to go to reach its potential.

Let's take a look at the stats before getting into what we learned this week.

RUN/PASS BREAKDOWN

72 Total Plays--377 yards--5.2 yards per play

                19 pass (26%)--7/19 for 143 yards  1 TD  1 INT

                53 rush (74%) for 234 yards  3 TD--4.4 ypc

12 Offensive Possessions

                Ave. of 6.0 plays--31.4 yards

                Ave. start--OSU 21

1st Down--30 plays (42%) for 106 yards

                6 pass (20%)--1/6 for 22 yards

                24 rush (80%) for 84 yards--3.5 ypc

                Ave. gain of 3.5 yards

2nd Down--26 plays (36%) for 174 yards

                6 pass (23%)--3/6 for 22 yards

                20 rush (77%) for 152 yards  1 TD--7.6 ypc

                Ave. of 7.7 yards to go

                Ave. gain of 6.7 yards

3rd Down--16 plays (22%) for 97 yards

                7 pass (44%)--3/7 for 99 yards  1 TD  1 INT

                9 rush (56%) for -2 yards--(-0.2) ypc

                Ave of 4.6 yards to go

                Ave. gain of 6.1 yards

                Conversions--7/16 (44%)

First Downs Earned--18 Total

                4 by pass

                10 by rush

                4 by penalty

Playaction Passing--7 Plays

                2/6 for 35 yards

                1 sack for -6 yards

FORMATION/PERSONNEL TYPE

Three Back Shotgun/Pistol--6 plays (8%) for 49 yards

                6 rush (100%) for 49 yards--8.2 ypc

Two Back Shotgun/Pistol--27 plays (38%) for 123 yards

                5 pass (19%)--2/5 for 35 yards

                22 rush (81%) for 88 yards  1 TD--4.0 ypc

One Back Shotgun/Pistol--35 plays (49%) for 123 yards

                12 pass (34%)--3/12 for 23 yards  1 INT

                23 rush (66%) for 100 yards  2 TD--4.3 ypc

Empty Shotgun/Pistol--2 plays (3%) for 85 yards

                2 pass (100%)--2/2 for 85 yards  1 TD

Victory Formation--2 plays (3%) for -3 yards

                2 rush (100%) for -3 yards--(-1.5) ypc

RUN TYPE BREAKDOWN - 53 ATTEMPTS

Inside Zone--8 plays (15%) for 33 yards  1 TD--4.1 ypc

Power--5 (9%) for 4 yards--0.8 ypc

QB Designed run--10 (19%) for 40 yards--4.0 ypc

QB Sack/Scramble--4 (8%) for -8 yards--(-2.0 ypc)

Read Option--21 plays (40%) for 119 yards  2 TD--5.7 ypc

Speed Option--1 play (2%) for 14 yards--14.0 ypc

TEAM--2 plays (4%) for -3 yards--(-1.5) ypc

Triple Option--2 plays (4%) for 35 yards--17.5 ypc

Other Stats of Note

* 1 offensive penalty for 5 yards

* Ohio State started on the Penn State side of the 50 once--0 points

* 3/3 in the Red Zone--(3 TD)

* 3 sacks against

* 1 turnover (INT)

* 28/72 plays took place on the Penn State side of the 50--(39%)

* 21/72 plays went for no gain or loss--(29%)

* 11/72 plays went for 10+ yards--(15%)

* 2/12 drives went three and out--(17%)

* Braxton Miller main ball handler--59/72 plays--(82%)

* Number of drives started inside the Buckeye 20--7/12 (58%)

* Ave. drive on those seven--5.1 plays--31.4 yards--2 TD

I have to admit going into this game unconvinced that Penn State was really all that good of a team. After watching them play I thought their 5-2 record was more smoke and mirrors than good play. After the game, I have to give them some credit. They aren't the most physically gifted team after all of the defections, but they played every down hard, and their defense was better than I gave them credit for being, especially up front. Their offense was exactly what I thought they were, but I didn't think the Buckeye defensive coaches had it in them to call the game they did on Saturday.

As for the Buckeye offense, the first half was a little painful to watch as the crown noise seemed to rattle the offensive line and Braxton Miller, but they were able to get things on track in the second half, at least on the ground, and made things look easy on their way to three straight touchdown drives and an insurmountable lead. Despite having an awful game passing the ball, Braxton Miller was electrifying on the ground in the second half, including one of the best looking one yard touchdown runs you'll ever see.

If you had told me before the game that Devin Smith and Corey Brown would both finish the game with no catches, and Carlos Hyde would be held to less than 3 yards per carry, I surely would've thought this game ended in a Buckeye loss. The Buckeyes just continue to do what it takes to win the game. In this one, they needed Miller to come up big on the ground, and while he didn't get a whole lot of help aside from a couple good Rod Smith runs and the long catch and run touchdown by Jake Stoneburner, it was enough for the Buckeyes to put up 28 offensive points.

Let's take a look at the position groups and see what we learned this week.

Quarterbacks

Last week's injury to Braxton Miller against Purdue looked scary. I don't think anyone would've been surprised had he not played this week against Penn State. Instead, we were treated to another 100+ yard rushing performance on 25 carries, and two touchdowns. He started slowly in this game, especially through the air, and it seemed the crowd noise and the adrenaline from the envirnonment, combined with a little hesitancy from the injury combined to make his first half a little ugly.

So what did he get right? I have to say that there was a moment in this game where I think I saw the light go on for Braxton Miller in the option game. On Ohio State's  8 play 70 yard touchdown drive in the second half, they called seven read-option plays, and those were the seven best read option plays of Braxton's career at Ohio State. He did a great job of riding the halfback and forcing the defensive end to commit before making the decision to pull or give. I think he made the right read on all of them, and the Buckeyes marched down the field rather easily. That alone should be reason to scare Big Ten Defensive coordinators.

There's no ignoring that Braxton struggled in the passing game against the Nittany Lions, but it helps to note that the mistakes he is making are mental, which means they are correctable. His main issue is that when he gets jacked up emotionally or if he starts feeling pressure, his footwork goes out the window. It's hard to throw a consistantly accurate ball if you aren't pointing your toe and stepping into the throw, and that's a lot of what we saw out of him Saturday night. When his footwork was good, the balls were right on the money.  When it wasn't, we saw overthrows and easily intercepted underthrows.

He also really needs to understand the difference between the need to rope a ball to the receiver and when to put some air under it and lead the receiver to an area for an easy catch. The missed touchdown pass in the first quarter to Corey Brown was inexcusable, and was simply Braxton throwing the ball on too much of a rope trying to make the perfect pass. Those passes don't need to be perfect. Just give the receiver something to work with and he'll stop leaving so many points out on the field.

Grade--(B)  This grade would be lower if he wasn't such a dynamic runner.  The passing was nearly abysmal aside from the touchdown pass, but he's simply electrifying as a runner.

Running Backs

It wasn't a spectacular day for Carlos Hyde, but he gutted out 55 tough yards against a front that was stacked to stop the run. You have to like how he keeps his legs driving and never lets the first man take him down cleanly. He would've finished with 10 more yards, but lost them due to the bad snap in the second quarter on a direct snap play that looked to be there.

Rod Smith didn't get nearly as many carries in this game as Hyde (4 to Hyde's 22), but made the most with his touches by nearly finishing with the same yardage total. Hyde and Smith are starting to look like a pretty lethal one-two punch in the backfield. Smith has a little more wiggle and a good jump cut move, where Hyde is a pounder with speed. There have been a lot of calls for more carries for Smith, and I think he deserves them as long as he can hold onto the ball.

I can't finish this section without mentioning how good of a job Carlos Hyde did staying in to protect Miller on pass plays in this game. Penn State blitzed at least one player on the vast majority of plays in this game, and I thought he did a good job of picking up defenders throughout the game. This is the dimension I don't think Smith brings to the table yet.

Grade--(B+)  The grade goes up due to the pass blocking.  If the Buckeyes can ever get their passing game going to compliment the running game and loosen opposing defenses up, expect the numbers to go up significantly for this group.

Receivers

Since the Buckeyes managed to complete only seven passes it's safe to say that the receiving corps wasn't a huge factor but they did contribute. Both Corey Brown and Devin Smith finished the game with no catches despite being targeted several times. They just weren't thrown catchable balls, and you can't really blame them for that.

Evan Spencer led the team with three catches, which was nice to see since he seemed to almost be forgotten after the first few games this season. Jake Stoneburner came up with the play of the game for the receivers with his 72 yard touchdown pass to salt the game away for the Buckeyes. He has struggled to get open at times this season, but seems to have come on the past few weeks and is being rewarded with more targets. He's doing a better job getting in and out of breaks, and it's helping him get open.

Grade--(B)  Nearly an imcomplete since they didn't get a chance to show much in the passing game, but the outside blocking was again good, and I don't want to ignore the Stoneburner touchdown.

Offensive Line

There were times in this game where the offensive line didn't look all that good, but a lot of credit has to go to the Penn State defensive front for that. If Penn State has a strength this season, their front seven is probably it. They spent most of the game blitzing from multiple angles and sources, and attacked the line of scrimmage relentlessly on run downs. I thought the line handled it pretty well, but there were occasional breakdowns.

If there is a weak spot on the front, it is probably Marcus Hall. He struggled with pass protection and if there was pressure, it usually came from his man first. There was probably more overall pressure on him in this game than in any other game this season in passing situations. The run blocking wasn't great, but looked better after the Buckeyes went with a more up-tempo pace in the second half.

Grade--(B)  They've gotten several A's from me this season, but this wasn't A material.  There were a lot of uncalled holds, but for Penn State fans that think it was unfair, there were just as many uncalled holds on their offensive line.

Offensive Coaching/Gameplan

The Tom Herman hire at Offensive Coordinator is a good one for Urban Meyer.  He's not afraid to keep calling things that are working, and will force a defense to defend it before moving on to something else. He came out with several read-option plays early, which were stuffed by the Penn State defense. He went away from it with several different run calls, then came back to them in the second half after the Penn State defense made some adjustments. That's when the option came to life and he just kept calling it until the Buckeyes ended up in the end zone.

With Penn State playing so aggressively, I would've liked to see them do a little more short passing off of playaction, especially given the man coverages they were seeing, but it's a minor complaint considering how badly Miller was passing the ball.  Short, easy passes might have helped settle him down, though. 

Overall, I thought the gameplan was a pretty good one, despite the early struggles. Had Miller been on in the passing game, this could've easily been a blowout.  The key is, he's willing to call whatever it takes to win the game.  If it means 25 Braxton Miller carries, that's what he's going to do.  It's refreshing to have a coaching staff that actively tries to win the game on offense instead of trying not to lose it.

Grade--(A-)  I've went from "Not sold" on Herman to a believer in nine short weeks. Now we just have to hope that he doesn't go anywhere for a few seasons.

Special Teams

Another week, and another awful breakdown on special teams that allows an opposing score. This week was the punt team allowing another block, this time recovered in the end zone for a Penn State touchdown. The punt team is Urban Meyer's area of concentration on Special Teams, and these continued breakdowns here are just inexcusable. There seems to be at least one breakdown of some sort per week now.

As for the rest of the Special teams, kickoff coverage was great in this game, and the punt coverage, when they got it off, wasn't bad either. Punt return did nearly nothing, and allowed several punts to roll for a long way to be downed inside the Buckeye 20 in the game. On the negative side of that, there were two penalties on returns that caused the Buckeyes to start backed up inside their own ten yard line. The Buckeyes were constantly in bad shape in the field position battle in this game, and the penalties only added to it.

Grade--(D-)  Coverage teams aside, this was another inexcusable breakdown for seven points that this team can't afford and a few costly penalties. It hasn't cost the Buckeyes a game yet, but poor special teams are nothing you want to play Russian Roulette with.

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