By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey
The big question going into Ohio State's road trip to California to take on the California Golden Bears was if Braxton Miller was going to play, and if he did, could he be himself? We got our answer not long before kickoff with Miller in street clothes and Kenny Guiton warming up for the first start of his Buckeye career. All he did was lead the Buckeyes to a 52-34 win which featured over 600 offensive yards and the longest play from scrimmage in Ohio State football history. Just another day at the office, right?
Any question about how the offense would do with Guiton getting the start were answered early and often, with the Buckeyes building a 21-0 lead after just 10 offensive plays that gained a total of 190 yards. This included a beautiful 90 yard touchdown pass from Guiton to Devin Smith on the second play of the game. Two offensive plays later, the pair hooked up for another long touchdown pass that was an even better throw than the first.
It was clear from the first snap of this game the California defense was out-manned. With the Buckeyes going up-tempo for a good portion of the game, it would've been a little disappointing for the Buckeyes not to put up some big offensive numbers. Similar to last week, while the numbers and points are nice, I'm not sure how much we really learned about the Buckeye offense. You could, however, see the offense evolve a little bit with a few new plays and wrinkles off of their staples. No matter what the California defense tried, the offensive coaches had an answer for it. It is also becoming clear that this offense is no longer reliant on Braxton Miller's legs for big play potential. Weapons are emerging and the offense is becoming more and more fun to watch.
Let's get into the stats before we look at the position groups.
87 Offensive Plays--609 yards--7.0 yards per play
32 pass (37%)--21/32 for 278 yards 4 TD
55 rush (63%) for 331 yards 3 TD--6.0 ypc
13 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 6.7 plays--46.8 yards
Ave. start--OSU 31
First Down--38 plays (44%) for 238 yards
15 pass (39%)--10/15 for 115 yards 1 TD
23 rush (61%) for 123 yards 1 TD--5.3 ypc
Ave. gain of 6.3 yards
Second Down--30 plays (34%) for 258 yards
10 pass (33%)--5/10 for 116 yards 1 TD
20 rush (67%) for 142 yards 1 TD--7.1 ypc
Ave. of 7.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 8.6 yards
Third Down--15 plays (17%) for 74 yards
6 pass (40%)--5/6 for 46 yards 1 TD
9 rush (60%) for 28 yards--3.1 ypc
Ave. of 7.4 yards to go
Ave. gain of 4.9 yards
Fourth Down--4 plays (5%) for 39 yards
1 pass (25%)--1/1 for 1 yard 1 TD
3 rush (75%) for 38 yards 1 TD--12.7 ypc
Ave. of 1.0 yards to go
Ave gain of 9.8 yards
Playaction Passing--16 total plays
9/15 for 179 yards 2 TD
1 scramble for 7 yards
First Downs Earned--25 total
4 by pass
20 by rush
1 by penalty
Three Backs--6 plays (7%) for 7 yards
1 pass (16%)--0/1 for 0 yards
5 rush (84%) for 7 yards--1.4 ypc
Two Backs--18 plays (21%) for 137 yards
4 pass (22%)--1/4 for 32 yards
14 rush (78%) for 105 yards--7.5 ypc
One Back--62 plays (71%) for 465 yards
26 pass (42%)--20/26 for 246 yards 4 TD
36 rush (58%) for 219 yards 3 TD--6.1 ypc
No Backs--1 play (1%) for 0 yards
1 pass (100%)--0/1 for 0 yards
Run Type--55 attempts
Counter/Trap--1 (2%) for 0 yards--0.0 ypc
Inside Zone--17 (31%) for 110 yards 1 TD--6.5 ypc
Power--1 (2%) for 5 yards--5.0 ypc
QB Designed--3 (5%) for 19 yards--6.3 ypc
QB scramble/sack--1 (2%) for 7 yards--7.0 ypc
Read Option--8 (15%) for 26 yards 2 TD--3.3 ypc
Reverse--2 (4%) for 15 yards--7.5 ypc
Speed Option--1 (2%) for 32 yards--32.0 ypc
Sweep--2 (4%) for 3 yards--1.5 ypc
TEAM--2 (4%) for -10 yards--(-5.0) ypc
Triple Option--4 (7%) for 8 yards--2.0 ypc
Veer/Inverted Veer--13 (24%) for 116 yards--8.9 ypc
Other Stats of Note
* 3 offensive penalties for 25 yards
* Ohio State started on the Cal side of the 50 twice--14 points (2 TD)
* 5/5 in the Red Zone--(5 TD)
* No sacks
* 1 turnover (fumble)
* 50/87 plays took place on the Cal side of the 50--(57%)
* 23/87 plays went for no gain or loss--(26%)
* 15/87 plays went for 10+ yards (17%)
* 1/13 drives went three and out--(8%)
* First quarter offense--22 plays for 285 yards--24 points
For the second week in a row, I don't really have much to put in this section where I recongnize what the opposing team did well against the Buckeyes. In reality, this game could've been much worse for the Cal defense. A turnover on the Buckeye's fourth drive and missed pass on the fifth meant the Buckeyes only put up 24 first quarter points instead of a possible 35. The way the Cal defense tried to defend the option was very questionable, and the Buckeyes could've had an even bigger day running the inverted veer. The Bears used their defensive ends to keep the offensive tackles from getting to the linebackers instead of being any kind of force, which left the outside wide open all game. The Buckeyes simply used Jeff Heuerman outside to cut off pursuit from either the linebacker or safety, and had a field day with it...especially when they gave it to Dontre Wilson.
I like the way the offense is progressing and the way the plays mesh together into an overarching plan. Last season, it was clear the weapons weren't there to make the plan work. This season, with a healthy Jordan Hall and a developing Dontre Wilson, there are weapons in the running game to compliment the running of whichever quarterback is in the game, as well as a developing screen and intermediate passing game to compliment the deep threat of Devin Smith. I still want to see the offense do it against a defense that is even moderately competent, but it's hard not to be impressed with the direction the offense is going.
Let's get into the position groups and see what else we learned this week.
Has there ever been a better backup quarterback at Ohio State than Kenny Guiton? In case last season's heroics and last week's game weren't enough for his legacy, how about etching his name into the Ohio State record book with the longest play from scrimmage in Buckeye history with his 90 yard touchdown pass on the game's second play? There may not be a quarterback controversy in Columbus when Braxton Miller is healthy enough to play again, but how do you keep Guiton completely off the field at this point? He has earned meaningful snaps from here on out.
It's hard not to be impressed with Guiton's command of the option game. He made a couple of bad reads, but his decision-making and patience on his reads are two areas in which I believe he surpasses Miller. The patience he showed in letting that speed option play develop on fourth down and one in the third quarter was one of the best plays I've seen an Ohio State quarterback make in a long time.
Last week, I said that with Guiton you're giving up a more dynamic passing game for a better option attack. He spent the first quarter of this game proving that notion wrong, going 8/11 for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those incompletions were smart throwaways when no one was open, and the third was one of his only bad passes on the day. While he only threw for 80 more yards after the end of the first, with the running game working so well, he never really had to do much more.
Grade--(A-) Guiton is receiving a lot of praise this week, and deservedly so. He looked exceptionally well prepared, and did a fantastic job of leading the team in his first career start. Guiton has already matched the total number of A's I've given to Braxton Miller in two games.
The coaches were talking up Jordan Hall in the months leading up to this season, but I don't think most Buckeye fans were buying into it and were simply looking forward to when Carlos Hyde finished out his suspension and returned to the Buckeye backfield. The past three weeks have shown that the coach's hype maybe wasn't just that, and that Hyde might have some difficulty getting himself back on the field now that his suspension is over. For the second time in the first three games, Hall set a new career high, with 168 yards on the ground and three touchdowns while adding in five receptions in the passing game.
The only real weakness I'm seeing in his game is that he just isn't very good at breaking tackles. His spin move has gotten better and he's avoiding tacklers a little better every week, but I'd like to see him break some of those arm tackles instead of going down. With Hall doing so well, there wasn't much left over for the other regular running backs. Rod Smith got a few touches but only gained 8 yards on three carries.
For the third-straight week, we also got to see the Buckeyes get true freshman Dontre Wilson involved in the offense from the hybrid back/receiver spot, and he didn't disappoint. Excluding his kickoff returns (2 for 46 yards), he got 8 offensive touches in this game, gaining 107 yards on them. He was deadly getting the ball wide on the inverted veer option plays, and it looks as if it's only a matter of time before he finds the end zone on one of them. He also did a better job getting upfield on screens in this one. He has added an element of speed to the outside that they didn't have last season. Look for him to stay involved in the offense even after Hyde returns to the fold this week.
Grade--(A-) I would've graded even higher if Hall had broken a few more tackles. He had a good game, but he still left a lot of yardage on the field. I still have a hard time not seeing Hyde breaking a lot more of those arm tackles.
Last week I thought was a slight step back for this group. I came away from this week's game back to being optimistic about them. Devin Smith showed he can still get behind defenses, to the tune of two long touchdown receptions. Corey Brown is still working the intermediate and short routes very well, and Jeff Heuerman is still a force outside blocking. We're still waiting on a third receiving threat to emerge, though that might also be Dontre Wilson from that Hybrid spot.
In this game I was most impressed with the outside blocking, especially Heuerman's. The Buckeye backs didn't have a difficult time getting the edge on most outside running plays, but broke them off for huge chunks because the receivers did a great job of locking their men up downfield. There have been some, including me, that wonder at times why Evan Spencer is in the game since he doesn't seem to emerge as a receiving threat. This is the reason why. He does a good job of downfield blocking every time he's in the game.
Grade--(A) On nearly every pass play I saw wide open receivers all over the field. Guiton had his choice of just about anyone he wanted on nearly every play. With the screen game improving and the running game working there will be more opportunity for big plays from this group, but I still want to see what happens against a better defense.
In game one, I was underwhelmed by the offensive line. In game two I thought they played pretty well. Game three against California was simply dominating in nearly every phase. Taylor Decker struggled mightily in game one against Kahlil Mack, but has come along very well since, and looked good both run and pass blocking against Cal. Marcus Hall eliminated his mental penalties from last week as well. The full time return of center Corey Linsley from injury seems to have gelled this unit.
The Bears never really got close to Kenny Guiton on pass plays, and there were huge holes for the backs to run through on called runs. I'm not sure the Cal defense is a good measuring stick for the line, however. Their defensive line didn't have any standouts coming into the game, and I thought their scheme to stop the run was very weak in general. While it was nice to see them push around a team like that for 60 minutes, I want to see them take on another team with some good defensive linemen.
Grade--(A) Regardless of opponent, it was a dominating performance. The only real nitpick for the game was not getting enough push in short yardage situations, but with over 600 yards of total offense, that was a pretty small issue.
There was a time a few seasons back that this was my least favorite section to write every week. Under Urban Meyer and with Tom Herman at the wheel, this is starting to become one of my favorite sections. It has been fun to watch the development of the offense the past 15 games, and you can see it continue to evolve a little bit more each week.
The Buckeye offense put the Cal defense into so many different binds, that it was nearly impossible for them to stop the Buckeye offense with the personnel they had. They tried base defenses early on to the tune of 21 quick points. They tried to pressure the line of scrimmage, but gave up some huge chunks of yardage to the Ohio State run game. In the end, they laid their defensive backs back and tried to keep and make plays in front of them, which allowed the Buckeyes to methodically drive the ball down the field in the second half. It was a clinic of offensive football.
The thing that stands out most in my mind was that the offense didn't change much, if at all, with Kenny Guiton running the show. It's not only a testament to his preparation, but a testament to the coaching staff's ability to get him ready to go. I also thought they did a good job of playing to Guiton's strengths and minimized the few weaknesses he has.
As I've said in some of the other sections, I'm still not completely sold until they go up against a defense with a pulse, but you have to be impressed with the improvement of the offense in nearly every phase of the game over what we saw last season. If the young weapons continue to develop, and the quarterback and running back situation sort themselves out without issues, this is going to be a fun season to watch...at least when the Buckeyes are on offense.
Grade--(A+) Now I think the question is going to be how long Urban Meyer is going to be able to keep his offensive staff intact. If he can, I think they can build this offense into a juggernaut.
We keep waiting for someone on the special teams to break out and and do something special, but we'll have to wait another week, as they were solid but not spectacular against Cal. Drew Basil still hasn't missed anything this season. Cameron Johnston has been decent but not great punting the ball. The return teams seem close to breaking one but still haven't done so. The coverage teams were pretty good this week, but allowed one long kickoff return in the third quarter. At least they pretty much eliminated the stupid penalties in the return game, except for the questionable block in the back call on the first Cal punt of the day.
Grade--(B+) At least the Buckeyes aren't losing this phase of the game, as they have seemed to do at times the past 3 seasons.