By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey
Coming off an undefeated season, the 2013 version of the Ohio State Buckeyes entered this season with some pretty lofty expectations. Saturday's 40-20 win over the Buffalo Bulls may not have been exactly what we were all expecting, but I don't think it's time to start breaking out your worry stones just yet.
There were several good things to come out of this game, not the least of which was that they managed to put up 216 yards of total offense and 23 total points in just 17 offensive plays in the first quarter. The rest of the game turned out to be a sloppy mess of negative plays, turnovers and the occasional flash of more good things, but there's no denying that first quarter happened and that the offense looked exciting.
So which Buckeye team are we going to see more of this season? Will it be the electrifying offense we saw in the first quarter, or will it be the hot mess of most of the final three? I think it's important to recognize that, while there were some issues, especially along the offensive line in certain situations, the offense was pretty vanilla for most of this game both in playcalling and formations. Most of the running game was just their basic gives and read option plays. While more were called, the Buckeyes only attempted 5 passes the entire second half after tossing it 18 times in the first.
As long as some of the wrinkles up front get ironed out and some of the younger players continue to develop, especially Dontre Wilson, the offense is going to be very good this year and will be tough to stop for most of the defenses the Buckeyes will face. Are they Championship material? I don't think this game answered that question yet.
Let's take a look at the stats before getting into the position groups. For this season, I will be breaking down the different option plays into a little more detail in the Run Type section.
68 Offensive Plays--459 yards--6.8 yards per play
23 pass (34%)--16/23 for 202 yards 3 TD 1 INT
45 rush (66%) for 257 yards 2 TD--5.7 ypc
13 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.2 plays--35.3 yards
Ave. Start--OSU 29
First Down--31 plays (46%) for 115 yards
9 pass (29%)--6/9 for 49 yards 1 TD
22 rush (71%) for 66 yards 1 TD--3.0 ypc
Ave. gain of 3.7 yards
Second Down--24 plays (35%) for 264 yards
9 pass (38%)--6/9 for 117 yards 2 TD 1 INT
15 rush (62%) for 147 yards 1 TD--9.8 ypc
Ave. of 10.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 11.0 yards
Third Down--12 plays (18%) for 80 yards
5 pass (42%)--4/5 for 35 yards
7 rush (58%) for 45 yards--6.4 ypc
Ave. of 5.4 yards to go
Ave. gain of 6.7 yards
Fourth Down--1 plays (1%) for 0 yards
1 rush (100%) for 0 yards
Ave. of 1.0 yards to go
Ave. of no gain
Playaction Passing--10 total plays
4/6 for 84 yards 3 TD
2 sacks for -5 yards
2 scrambles for 22 yards
First Downs Earned--19 total
7 by pass
10 by rush
2 by penalty
Two Backs--20 plays (29%) for 122 yards
3 pass (15%)--1/3 for 21 yards 1 TD
17 rush (85%) for 101 yards 1 TD--5.9 ypc
One Back--48 plays (71%) for 337 yards
20 pass (42%)--15/20 for 181 yards 2 TD 1 INT
28 rush (58%) for 156 yards 1 TD--5.6 ypc
Run Type Breakdown--45 attempts
Counter/Trap--4 (9%) for 15 yards--3.8 ypc
Inside Zone--4 (9%) for 16 yards--4.0 ypc
Power--8 (18%) for 29 yards--3.6 ypc
QB designed--2 (4%) for 11 yards--5.5 ypc
QB scramble/sack--12 (27%) for 61 yards--5.1 ypc
Read Option--11 (24%) for 113 yards 2 TD--10.3 ypc
Speed Option--1 (2%) for 9 yards--9.0 ypc
Veer/Inverted Veer Option--3 (7%) for 3 yards--1.0 ypc
Other Stats of Note
* 2 offensive penalties for 18 yards
* Ohio State started on the Buffalo side of the 50 once--7 point (TD)
* 1/1 in the Red Zone--(TD)
* 7 sacks against
* 2 turnovers (1 fumble 1 INT)
* 20/68 plays took place on the Buffalo side of the 50--(29%)
* 19/68 plays went for no gain or loss--(28%)
* 15/68 plays went for 10+ yards--(22%)
* 2/13 drives went three and out--(15%)
* Braxton Miller primary Ball Handler on 49/61 plays--(80%)
* 19/31 first down plays went for less than 3 yards--(61%)
This game was expected to be a walkover for the Buckeyes, but someone forgot to inform the Buffalo Bulls that they were supposed to lay down. Their defensive front, led by Khalil Mack, was better than I think anyone expected, and individually he laid bare some problems the Buckeye coaching staff are going to have to shore up before the competition ramps up in the Big Ten season. It seemed Mack was constantly in the Buckeye backfield and helped get them back in the game with a very athletic interception return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter.
All in all, I would say this was a good eye-opener for the offense. I think things came a little too easily in the first quarter, and they let up in their intensity through the final three to some extent. The Bulls' defense was nearly able to play their way all the way back in this game. They were just an illegal hands to the face penalty from pulling to within three points early in the second half. To the Buckeye's credit, from that point on the Bulls never really threatened to get close again, but sloppy and unfocused play like that could come back to bite them against a better team.
Despite all of the nit-picking, the Buckeyes did manage to put up over 450 yards of total offense despite having an awful day on first down, Braxton Miller suffering through some cramps, and two of their top backs out due to suspension. Jordan Hall put up the best numbers of his career, going for over 160 yards and two long touchdown runs. Miller managed to throw for more yards in the first half than the entire Buckeye offense was able to gain in the second half (174 first half passing to 149 second half yards).
The first game might not have been what we expected, but I still think there is reason to be excited for the 2013 season. Let's take a closer look at the position groups and see what we learned.
This off-season, we've heard all about how improved Braxton Miller's throwing mechanics were, and I think most Buckeyes fans were anxious to see this in action. I was a little concerned that the Bulls weren't going to put enough pressure on him to see if he reverted back to his old self under pressure, but that wasn't the case. It's still pretty early to tell for sure, but what was immediately evident was that when he had time, Miller's mechanics were indeed much improved. His footwork was night and day better than his first two seasons and he was striding into his throws pretty well through the first half.
There were still some issues that he still needs to work on, however, and they are still going to somewhat limit his effectiveness in the passing game until he improves them. While I thought he did a pretty good job of recognizing coverages and making quick decisions to run against man, I also thought he still showed the tendency to stare his receivers down, completely missing wide open receivers, especially short crossing routes. The coaches have been raving about his knowing where all his receivers were and his ability to see the field, but I just didn't see that. I didn't see him check down to his shorter routes once.
There's nothing really to make of the cramping issue, since it is easily correctable and not really uncommon in hot early-season games, but it did allow us another glimpse at Kenny Guiton, who came in and does what he usually does...lead the Buckeyes on a touchdown drive. It was nice to see him voted as a captain for this season.
Grade--(B) If we were grading just the first half, this would probably be an A, despite the interception. Miller looked in command of the offense and the passing game, completing his first seven and 12 of his first 14 before the pick. After that play he looked hesitant to pull the trigger and only completed 3 of his last 8 for 18 yards.
Jordan Hall has been a player that has always been described as "with promise", and has been described as the best back on the team several times by Urban Meyer. With both Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith out due to suspension, this was Hall's opportunity to shine, and he made the most of it by going over 160 yards and scoring on two long touchdown runs. It will be interesting to see what happens with the back situation when both of those guys are back full time. It was nice to see him get a moment in the sun after all he's been through in his career, but will he hold onto the starting spot? And can he keep it up against Big Ten competition?
With the game fairly close, it kept the younger players we've been wanting to see (Warren Ball, Ezekiel Elliot, Bri'onte Dunn) from seeing much field time. Among them, they managed just 8 yards on 3 carries, so I don't think there's much we can glean from this game about them.
Grade--(B+) I would've liked to see Hall break a few more tackles. He ran strong, but went down to first contact and arm tackles a little to easily. It's hard not to imagine Carlos Hyde running through most of those.
Last year, the receiver corps was a huge question mark going into the season, with no proven commodities and a group full of young guys. The names haven't changed much, and it seems the returning players have fallen right back into their roles from last season. Devon Smith is the deep threat. Corey Brown is picking right up where he left off last season, and if anything looks like a more exciting player. Chris Fields is on the field more often than he was last year so far, and made the most of his time with two touchdown catches.
Buckeye fans were excited to see the freshmen that the coaches have been raving about in the pre-season, especially Dontre Wilson, and it's clear that they have designs on finding ways to get him a few touches per game. Aside from the costly fumble, which can always be expected from young guys, it's easy to see why the coaches are so high on him. He's elusive and just plain fast. He nearly broke one early in the game on a screen pass, but his best play was probably the kickoff return just when the Buckeyes needed it after the Bulls' pick-six. Fields may have the starting role as the hybrid back/receiver, but Wilson will still get touches this season. He just has to work on his ball security.
Grade--(A-) I'm actually a little excited about this group. There were two dropped balls, but there were also some pretty good plays out there by the entire group. The downfield blocking was also pretty good on several plays, and better than last season in general. It's just up to Miller to get them the ball.
I hate to be down on the offensive line when they put up 40 points and over 450 offensive yards, but I think there were some serious concerns that came from this game here. You don't finish a game with 7 sacks against and everything is wine and roses...even if a few of them were the quarterback's fault.
First things first. I have to give them some credit for the run game. There were some plays where they were just crushing open huge holes for Jordan Hall, leading to two long touchdown runs, which is something we haven't seen much out of the Buckeye offense for several seasons now. The Buckeyes put up over 250 yards rushing and averaged nearly 6 yards per carry despite the seven sacks and several negative yardage plays.
Pass protection, on the other hand, was a little shaky, especially Tyler Decker at right tackle. He showed incredibly poor technique with his hands despite adaquate footwork. Khalil Mack simply abused him several times with both quick outside moves and bull rushes. Having issues at either tackle spot is never a good thing for the passing game. When Decker was beaten, it was badly and immediate, and that is the way quarterbacks get hurt. This is a spot that needs to improve immediately.
I was expecting a little more from this group. There have been some nagging injuries in the pre-season that may have affected the cohesiveness of this group a little bit, and Buffalo's defensive front may have been better than expected, but this group has a lot of starts between them, and I was expecting the running game to have a field day. We'll have to see how things develop the next couple of games before getting too concerned though.
Grade--(B) Good, but not great. Right tackle needs immediate improvement. Let's hope this gets to be the dominating group we expected them to be.
This was an interesting game in as much as the hype and expectations coming in coupled with the realities of breaking in new players on both sides of the ball and developing the identity of this year's offense probably made what we expected to see a little unrealistic. It was a pretty basic gameplan with very little in the way of frills and some of the other things we know we're going to see later, such as designed quarterback runs.
There were a couple inside shovel option plays, a failed attempt at an inside jet sweep as well as a few different screen plays we didn't see much of last season. Other than that, it was mostly the base run plays coupled with the read option that represented most of the running game. While the final tally was 23 passes vs. 45 rushes, when scrambles and sacks are factored in, the actual playcalling broke down to 35 passes vs. 33 rushes, which was a little surprising, both in the calling itself and the fact that the Buckeyes had so much trouble pulling the trigger on so many of the pass plays.
I get the feeling that the majority of the issues there came from Miller being a little hesitant to pull the trigger after the interception and the pressure he was getting from Khalil Mack coupled with a desire not to let Buffalo back into the game due to a mistake conspired to stymie the passing game in the second half. Was that a conscious (coached) mindset for Miller, or was that him not being quite as confident in himself in the passing game as we were led to believe? We'll find out the answer to that question in the coming weeks.
When it comes down to it, coming off an undefeated season with most of the offense returning means that a National Championship is the goal. What I saw in the first quarter was Championship material. What I saw in the final three was sloppy and unfocused play and minor weaknesses exposed. Despite winning all 12 games last year, I don't think the Buckeyes put together 60 minutes of solid all-around effort in any those games. I don't want to see that trend continue this season. I want to see the Buckeyes put teams away, and if they're going to give up 20 points, that it be against the second and third string guys late in the fourth quarter.
Grade--(B) This just seems like a "B" kinda game. It was far from bad, but nothing really stood out as great, and that includes the gameplan and execution of it. There is still room for improvement, and this is just one game, so I still don't think it's anything to be too concerned about...yet.
Pretty decent all-around. Drew Basil hit all of his extra points and his only field goal attempt. The coverage teams were pretty good. I was little underwhelmed with the freshman punter, but it was only one game and the first of his career. The penalties in the return game were a little annoying, but it looks like this could be a good season for Buckeye returners. Corey Brown was close to breaking a couple of them, and it seems as if it will only be a matter of time before Dontre Wilson takes one back.
Grade--(B+) This would probably be some type of an A if not for the return penalties. Those kill field position, and cost the Buckeyes almost 50 yards of field position in this game.