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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 11/19/2012 11:07 PM
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By the Numbers - Wisconsin Offense
By Jeff Amey

Ohio State's 21-14 overtime win over the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday sets up another game with the Buckeyes undefeated heading into Michigan week. The last two times we've been here, in 2006 and 2002, the Buckeyes came away with close, hard-fought wins and a berth in the National Championship game. This season, there is no prize at the end of the tunnel.  The prize is beating Michigan and capping a perfect season.

In a season full of close games, this one was probably the toughest win. The Badgers had a good game plan for slowing down Braxton Miller.  Wisconsin's HB Montee Ball nearly outgained the Ohio State offense by himself, and were you aware that apparently he was close to some kind of important record?

From the coaches to the players, this was a pretty poor offensive showing, but I don't think it had to be this way.  As much as I've liked what Tom Herman has done with the offense this game left me scratching his head as to what he was seeing and what made him get away from the plays in this game that had worked, and what has been successful for the Buckeyes all year.  The players have to share in some of the blame, but I don't think the coaches put the Buckeye offense in a position to succeed.

This game turned on two big plays.  First was Corey Brown's punt return to open the scoring in the game. That punt return was the difference and another step in the development of Brown as a big play guy for the Buckeyes. Second was the forced fumble by Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino on the goal line to not only stop the Badgers from scoring, but to keep Montee ball from breaking the career touchdown record. The defense was unable to keep them out of the end zone on the next drive, but kept the surging Badgers from running away with things in the fourth quarter when all the momentum was on their side.

There's more to say about this game, but first let's take a look at the stats.  For the first time this season, they're pretty ugly.

Run/Pass Breakdown

59 Total Plays--234 yards--4.2 yards per play

                18 pass (31%)--10/18 for 96 yards

                41 rush (69%) for 138 yards  2 TD--3.4 ypc

13 Offensive Possessions

                Ave. of 4.5 plays--18.0 yards

                Ave. Start--OSU 24

First Down--27 plays (46%) for 114 yards

                6 pass (22%)--3/6 for 28 yards

                21 rush (78%) for 86 yards  2 TD--4.1 ypc

                Ave. gain of 4.2 yards

Second Down--20 plays (34%) for 93 yards

                8 pass (40%)--5/8 for 44 yards

                12 rush (60%) for 49 yards--4.1 ypc

                Ave. of 7.4 yards to go

                Ave. gain of 4.7 yards

Third Down--12 plays (20%) for 27 yards

                4 pass (33%)--2/4 for 24 yards

                8 rush (67%) for 3 yards--0.4 ypc

                Ave. of 9.3 yards to go

                Ave. gain of 2.3 yards

                Conversions--3/12 (25%)--all in first half

Playaction Passing--17 Total Plays

                8/12 for 74 yards

                4 scrambles for 23 yards

                1 sack for -4 yards

First Downs Earned--14 Total

                5 by pass

                8 by rush

                1 by penalty

Formation/Personnel Breakdown

Two Back Pistol/Shotgun--21 plays (36%) for 103 yards

                4 pass (19%)--4/4 for 32 yards

                17 rush (81%) for 71 yards  1 TD--4.2 ypc

One Back Pistol/Shotgun--34 plays (58%) for 133 yards

                14 pass (41%)--6/14 for 64 yards

                20 rush (59%) fro 69 yards  1 TD--3.5 ypc

Empty Pistol/Shotgun--3 plays (5%) for -1 yard

                3 rush (100%) for -1 yard--(-0.3) ypc

QB Kneel--1 play (2%) for -1 yard

                1 rush (100%) for -1 yard--(-1.0) ypc

Run Type Breakdown--41 attempts

Inside Zone--11 (27%) for 54 yards  1 TD--4.9 ypc

Power--2 (5%) for 21 yards  1 TD--10.5 ypc

QB Designed Run--13 (32%) for 40 yards--3.1 ypc

QB scramble/sack--7 (17%) for 6 yards--0.9 ypc

Read Option--7 (17%) for 18 yards--2.6 ypc

TEAM--1 (2%) for -1 yard--(-1.0) ypc

Other Stats of Note

* 2 offensive penalties for 25 yards

* Ohio State started on the Wisconsin side of the 50 once (OT)--7 points (TD)

* 2/2 in the Red Zone--(2 TD)

* 3 sacks against and NO turnovers

* 19/59 plays took place on the Wisconsin side of the 50--(32%)

* 19/59 plays went for no gain or loss--(32%)

* 8/59 plays went for 10+ yards--(14%)

* 4/13 drives went three and out--(31%)

* Braxton Miller Primary ball handler--46/59 plays (78%)

* 1st half playaction passing--5/9 for 55 yards

* 2nd half playaction passing--2/3 for 19 yards

* 2nd half offensive production--24 plays--49 yards--4 first downs

What did the Wisconsin defense that was so effective in shutting down Braxton Miller in the running game? On the Buckeye's first two possessions, the Badgers tried playing their base defense, but Braxton immediately got things going  running the ball.  His first three runs were designed runs and went for 24 total yards, half his total for the day. After that second possession, the Badgers adjusted their defense, and Miller gained just 18 more yards on the ground the rest of the day.

The Badger's adjustments were fairly simple. They decided to pick their poison and play to make sure that Miller wasn't going to beat them with his feet. On run downs, they played loose man coverages on the outside, crashed their safeties very hard on any run action, and played contain with their defensive ends.  For the most part, they were conceding the flats and sometimes the middle of the field. 

On sure pass downs, their line played to contain Miller in the pocket, and their secondary played zones that took away the downfield combinations most commonly run by OSU so far this season. Wisconsin looked as if they had done a good job preparing for the OSU passing game. Miller had a hard time finding anyone open early, and had a difficult time creating in the backfield to keep plays alive. 

You have to hand it to the Badger's coaching staff and players.  They gambled on stopping Miller and it nearly worked out for them. When the Buckeyes didn't adjust to the Badger adjustments, they were downright stagnant on offense, especially in the second half. The Buckeyes went away from the few things that were working for them in the first half (attacking the flats), and never really turned to Carlos Hyde or the option game to force the Badgers to do anything different.

Despite the struggles, when it came to crunch time in overtime, the Buckeyes found a way to get it done. They finally called an outside read option play to Carlos Hyde and Miller made a few Miller-like runs to set up the final nail in the coffin, which was, unsurprisingly, a Carlos Hyde touchdown run. The offense, and the offensive coaching staff owe the defense a big debt of gratitude for getting them there.

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


As the Buckeye quarterback goes, so goes the offense. Miller was held to a season-low 144 yards of total offense (48 rushing  96 passing) by a defense that was determined not to let him beat them with his legs. When the Badger defense adjusted to take him away, he immediately started looking lost.. 

I'm also not sure why the coaches got away from the read-option game.  Miller might be the best player, and best home-run threat on the team, but if a defense is determined to not let him beat them, then the coaches HAVE to trust the rest of the team to step up and deliver.

Grade--(D+)  In a season full of decent to good games from Braxton, there was bound to be a time when he looked lost. 

Running Backs

Carlos Hyde was so under-utilized in this game, I'm almost forced to give the running backs an incomplete grade for the day.  It is almost criminal that he finished the first half (31 plays) with just five carries, and regulation with just 13. Aside from a few quick throws to Devin Smith, Hyde was the only real bright spot on the offense, yet wasn't able to make a huge impact from lack of touches. Hyde averaged almost 6 yards per carry.

On a few different occasions, I actually found myself envying the Wisconsin coaching staff a little bit. They have a bruising halfback and got him nearly 40 carries. Ohio State has a bruising halfback and he didn't get 15 until overtime. While it may be true that the Badgers don't have anyone nearly as dynamic as Braxton Miller to compliment Ball, they also make sure opposing defenses respect their power game. I'm not advocating Ohio State abandoning their offense and adopt a power I game centered around Hyde, but I do think the Buckeyes should stick to making defenses respect what Ohio State does best. Right now that is the read-option game, with a good helping of power running with Hyde.

Grade--(A-)  Hyde seemed a little frustrated in the post-game interviews, and he had good reason to be. 


A good passing game has several components, but the most important factors are before the ball ever gets thrown. The quarterback needs time to scan the field and read the defense, and the quarterback has to have the ability to do the reading and know where to go with the ball. None of that is receiver dependant. The receivers getting open will have something to do with the the players themselves, and a good receiver will be open easier and earlier than one that isn't, but this is also affected by the routes called, and the defense they're up against.

Against the loose man to man coverages the Buckeyes were facing on most early downs, the Badgers were practically conceding the flats, and anytime the Buckeyes went there, the receiver was wide open. It is harder to get open on downfield routes against that coverage, but certainly not impossible, and it takes the quarterback seeing and anticipating it, and getting the ball out of his hands. Those kinds of passes are the kind that Miller continues to struggle with, even when there are players open.  He's been late on a lot of downfield throws, and has a hard time anticipating receivers coming open, only throwing it when he SEES them open.

When the Buckeyes faced zone defenses, the Badgers did a pretty good job of having defenders in the area of the routes the Buckeyes have run most often this season. Miller had trouble finding anyone open, and the Badgers trying to contain him in the pocket meant he had a hard time keeping plays alive in the backfield to do the ad libbing we've become accustomed to this season.

What I'm getting at here is that when the passing game is off, it's not been all the receivers.  On replays, I see guys coming open constantly.  Sometimes Miller isn't even looking that direction as he's staring down someone till he throws it, and there are some plays where he's just giving up on the play too quickly and starts scrambling.  The receiving corps has their issues, but it's not a constant "lack of separation".

Grade--(B)  I'm not nearly as down on the receivers as a lot of fans seem to be. They were open on a lot of plays. Miller just needs to pull the trigger.

Offensive Line

When I watched this game live, I didn't think the offensive line had all that good of a game against the Badgers, but on review, I realized that they actually did a pretty good job with the Wisconsin front. Most of the success the Badgers had against the Buckeyes came from having more players at the point of attack than the Buckeyes had blockers. This usually came from safety help crashing hard on any run action from Braxton Miller rather than missed blocks up front. When the Buckeyes went with the power run game, they were able to open huge holes up front, which only makes it harder to understand how the coaches got away from it.

If there was any real issue in this game, it was with the snaps.  There were more high snaps than in the rest of the games this season combined. It seemed to take Braxton out of his rhythm a little bit and kept him uncomfortable. He's got enough going on that snaps have to be the one thing he never has to worry about. 

Grade--(B+)  They didn't dominate the Badgers up front, but they did a pretty good job on them all game long. They opened holes in the power game, and the sacks against came from Miller holding the ball or bailing on plays too quickly rather than linemen getting beat.

Offensive Coaching/Gameplan

It was really hard to reconcile the playcalling in this game with what we've seen from the Buckeyes all season. One of the biggest strengths I've seen from Tom Herman has been his willingness to take what defenses are giving him and not pound his head into the wall, doing whatever it took to move the ball, but this game went completely away from that.

The Badgers were conceding the flats, and I thought the Buckeyes did a pretty good job of attacking them in the first half with quick playaction passes, but completely got away from that in the second half. They came out with several designed quarterback runs, but failed to adjust when the Badgers started playing to take those away.

I was actually surprised when I went back and saw the Buckeyes ended up running seven read option plays, but two of those were to Corey Brown (not his strong suit) and there were three others where I thought Miller made the incorrect read on the inside zone read. The only successful one of the whole game was the first play of overtime on the long outside ride read. , The way the Badgers were playing Braxton, that might have been there all game long.

How do the Buckeyes get away from the read-option as the basis for their attack?  How do they not turn to Carlos Hyde when he's the only thing that's been working in the run game?  How do they not keep attacking the flats if Wisconsin is giving it to them?  Why would they keep running Miller when it was clear to everyone watching that the Badgers were playing to get the ball out of his hands?  After a season full of what I thought was pretty good offensive coaching and playcalling, these aren't the kinds of questions Buckeye fans want to be asking before heading into a Michigan game with the Buckeyes undefeated.

Grade--(D)  Not a complete fail since they did enough to win the game in overtime, but it certainly wasn't a good game in the coaches booth. 

Special Teams

For one of the few times this season, the special teams were instrumental in a Buckeye win instead of almost costing them.  Corey Brown's touchdown return helped ignite the team a little bit when they were looking very lack-luster and got them on the board first, which helped dictate the game a little bit in favor of the Buckeyes.  It's good to see him starting to emerge as a play-maker in his own right after struggling early in the year.

Ohrian Johnson didn't play much star due to the Wisconsin offensive style, but made a great play to down a punt at the one yard line. It's effort plays like that that can spell the difference between wins and losses. 

With the Buckeyes punting the ball so much, it fell to Ben Buchanan to try to flip field position for the Buckeyes, and I ended up feeling underwhelmed by his performance.  His last two punts were just over 30 yards each and gave Wisconsin a short field both times. 

Grade--(B+)  A good effort all around.  Other than a long kickoff return to open the game and the short punts, there wasn't anything to complain about and the punt return was huge.

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