By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey
Going into this season, there were some that thought Ohio State's game with San Diego State would be the toughest game of their non-conference slate. Instead, the Aztecs looked like a shell of their 9-4 record from last season. The Buckeyes stormed out to a 35-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 42-7 win that could easily been much worse. Other than just giving the team another game to gel, and Kenny Guiton seeing almost a full game of playing time due to Braxton Miller going down to a minor knee injury early, I'm not sure we really learned anything new about the team this week.
The major thing to take away from this game is that we learned the gameplan doesn't really change at all with Guiton in the game. We have seen him come in and finish drives numerous times in the past, and even saved the game against Purdue. I was impressed with his command of the offense from the first snap, and his decision-making, especially in the option game, was superb. Urban Meyer called him the best back-up in the nation, and considering what he brings to the team in terms of leadership and preparedness, he might be right.
I'm a little concerned that this season's non-conference schedule is doing very little to prepare the Buckeyes for the conference. Next up for the Buckeyes is a California team that lost at home to an admittedly good Northwestern team and then struggled at home to beat FCS Portland State. They should at least test the defense a little bit with an up-tempo offense that already has well more than 100 pass attempts in two games, but their defense looks to barely have a pulse. All we can hope for is that the offense works on their consistancy and keeps playing hard for a full 60 minutes. I still don't think we've seen that this season.
Before we get into the position groups, let's take a look at the stats. It's important to note that Miller is responsible for the first 43 yards of offense, and Guiton the final 402.
70 Offensive plays--445 yards--6.4 yards per play
30 pass (43%)--21/30 for 181 yards 2 TD 1 INT
40 rush (57%) for 264 yards 4 TD--6.6 ypc
13 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.4 plays--34.2 yards
Ave. start--OSU 37
First Down--33 plays (47%) for 244 yards
15 pass (45%)--10/15 for 93 yards 2 TD 1 INT
18 rush (55%) for 151 yards 3 TD--8.4 ypc
Ave. gain of 7.4 yards
Second Down--19 plays (27%) for 93 yards
6 pass (32%)--4/6 for 15 yards
13 rush (68%) for 78 yards 1 TD--6.0 ypc
Ave. of 9.4 yards to go
Ave. gain of 4.9 yards
Third Down--15 plays (21%) for 97 yards
9 pass (60%)--7/9 for 73 yards
6 rush (40%) for 24 yards--4.0 ypc
Ave. of 7.5 yards to go
Ave. gain of 6.5 yards
Fourth Down--3 plays (4%) for 11 yards
3 rush (100%) for 11 yards--3.7 ypc
Ave. of 2.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.7 yards
Playaction Passing--9 total plays
9/9 for 51 yards
First Downs Earned--20 total
7 by pass
11 by rush
2 by penalty
Three Backs--1 play (1%) for 1 yard
1 rush (100%) for 1 yard 1 TD--1.0 ypc
Two Backs--22 plays (31%) for 113 yards
10 pass (45%)--8/10 for 71 yards 1 TD 1 INT
12 rush (55%) for 42 yards--3.5 ypc
One Back--43 plays (61%) for 254 yards
18 pass (42%)--11/18 for 75 yards 1 TD
25 rush (58%) for 179 yards 2 TD--7.2 ypc
Zero Backs--3 plays (4%) for 79 yards
2 pass (67%)--2/2 for 35 yards
1 rush (33%) for 44 yards 1 TD--44.0 ypc
Victory--1 play (1%) for -2 yards
1 rush (100%) for -2 yards--(-2.0) ypc
Run Type--40 attempts
Inside Zone--2 (5%) for 8 yards 1 TD--4.0 ypc
Power--9 (23%) for 31 yards 1 TD--3.4 ypc
QB designed--2 (5%) for 49 yards 1 TD--24.5 ypc
QB scramble/sack--2 (5%) for 8 yards--4.0 ypc
Read Option--7 (17%) for 25 yards--3.6 ypc
Speed Option--8 (20%) for 83 yards 1 TD--10.4 ypc
TEAM-- 1 (3%) for -2 yards--(-2.0) ypc
Veer/Inverted Veer--9 (23%) for 62 yards--6.9 ypc
Other Stats of Note
* 7 offensive penaties for 60 yards--4 on Marcus Hall
* Ohio State started on the San Diego State side of the 50 once--7 points (TD)
* 3/3 in the Red Zone--(3 TD)
* 1 sack against
* 1 turnover (INT)
* 30/70 plays took place on the San Diego State side of the 50--(43%)
* 14/70 plays went for no gain or loss--(20%)--this is very good
* 15/70 plays went for 10+ yards--(21%)
* 2/13 drives went 3 and out--(15%)
* Buckeye's option runs for the game--24 rushes for 170 yards 1 TD--7.1 ypc
This is the section that I usually reserve for special mention of anything the opposing team did successfully against the Buckeyes, but there really isn't much to put here this week. When the game was actually in doubt in the first half, the Buckeyes moved the ball up and down the field, and the Aztecs managed only 99 yards of their own offense. At the very least, it was good that the Buckeye offense had to deal with blitzes from several different players and angles. The Aztecs sent at least one blitzer on almost every play. I thought the line and backs did a pretty good job of dealing with it.
While the Buckeye offense didn't break off much in the way of big plays (other than Guiton's TD run), they did pretty consistantly gain yardage on nearly every play. Only 20% of their plays in the game went for no gain or loss, which is pretty close to the lowest number the offense has had since I started doing these breakdowns in 2003.
I also liked how the ball was distributed to the different offensive weapons and the way different plays complimented each other from the same look. The Buckeyes ran the simple power running play 9 times, and had a complimentary receiver screen pass that worked off of the same line action. It didn't break big, but you have to think it eventually will.
Overall, I thought the offense played a pretty good game. There were a few very minor issues which I'll get into in the position groups, but those are basically just nit-picks and nothing to be overly concerned about. The biggest concern has to be the health of Braxton Miller's knee and what, if anything, it will mean to the offense moving forward.
Most of the things for this section have already been touched upon, but the importance of the fact that the gameplan doesn't change with Kenny Guiton in the game cannot be overstated. I would even go so far as to say that there are a few things that Guiton brings to the game that Braxton Miller does not. Guiton did such a good job making option reads and forcing defenders to commit before making his decisions that none of the Buckeye option plays for the game went for a loss and only five of them went for less than three yards. Add to that his 44 yard touchdown run on a draw play and a nice scramble in the fourth quarter and it makes it a very nice game for him on the ground.
If there are any real chinks in the armor, it would be that he's not the most accurate passer, especially on his long balls. Even considering that, he finished the game 19/28, but only managed 151 yards due to most of them being short easy completions. The trade-off with Guiton seems to be a better option game for a less dynamic passing game.
This brings us to the Braxton Miller injury and what it might mean for the offense going forward. We were told it was an MCL sprain and that he could've gone back into the game on Saturday, which of course bodes well in general, but knee injuries, even minor ones, can be tougher mentally than they are physically. If Miller is back in the lineup this week, is he going to be himself? I'm interested to see what develops in the coming week.
Grade--(A-) I thought Guiton played a fantastic game for a backup QB. The only thing that keeps this grade from being higher was the inaccuracy on the long balls, leading to the Buckeye's only turnover on an underthrown long ball.
With Rod Smith returning to the fold, and the score being what it was, this game was more of a "run by committee" than the Jordan Hall show of last week. Guiton led the team in rushing, mainly due to his long touchdown run, but the other backs all contributed in some way. Hall led the team in attempts with 13 and added another touchdown to his total at the end of the first quarter. Rod Smith got 3 attempts in his first game back, but also managed to find the end zone once.
I think the most exciting thing about the backs this week was the continued development of Dontre Wilson in the hybrid back/receiver role. He only had 8 offensive touches (5 rushes and 3 receptions), but scored the first touchdown of his Buckeye career on a seven yard run in the first quarter. His speed immediately makes him a home run threat from anywhere on the field, and he came close to breaking more than one of his other touches for touchdowns. It will be interesting to see in what other ways the coaches will be able to get him involved in the offense.
As for the young backs, it was most interesting to see that it seems Ezekiel Elliot has moved past both Warren Ball and Bri'onte Dunn on the depth chart. He was the first one in the game after Hall and Smith took a seat for the rest of the game. He only carried 6 times, but it was hard not to notice his burst as he made several nice runs, the best of which was called back for a penalty. Wilson and Elliot make it hard not to be a little excited about the future at the back positions for the Buckeyes.
Grade--(A-) One of the less heralded parts of the running back position is staying in to block on pass plays and pick up blitzes. With the Aztecs sending so many different blitzes, I thought the backs did a fantastic job of keeping the quarterbacks upright. There was really only one badly missed blitz pickup that I saw, and that was by Warren Ball late in the game.
Last week I was pleasantly surprised by this group and excited about what the season might hold for them. This week, while it was far from a bad game, I was a little underwhelmed by the performances outside. Devon Smith led the Buckeyes with 7 receptions, but only managed 46 yards on them, for an average of less than 7 yards per reception. It seemed his first steps after the catch were all backwards, and that's really not what you want to see from one of your top receivers. Corey Brown had a pretty good game with 6 catches and two touchdowns, but also dropped a couple of catchable.
Jeff Heuerman is going to probably be one of the most unsung heroes of the offense. He does a lot of the grunt work in an H-Back/fullback type of role, stays in to block at tight end at times, and spends a lot of his time outside blocking for other players on screens. He did manage two catches of his own including a nice seam route for the first completion of the day.
I would like to see Evan Spencer become a bigger part of the pass offense, but with Smith and Brown as the featured receivers and Dontre Wilson working at both back and receiver, it doesn't leave much offense for him to take. The pass offense still seems to be better than last season. It just remains to be seen who develops into a viable third threat after Smith and Brown.
Grade--(B) Too many dropped catchable balls and too much dancing around after the catch for this to be "A" material. I also thought the outside blocking wasn't quite as good as it was last week.
Last week I was a little disappointed in the offensive line play, especially Taylor Decker in pass protection. This week the Aztecs didn't have a Kahlil Mack to give the line fits, and the Buckeyes were dominant up front for the most part. I will give San Diego State credit for staying fairly aggressive with their blitzes despite not having the greatest corners in the world. I thought the offensive line, with help from the backs and tight ends, did a really good job of picking up the blitzes and giving Guiton all the time he needed to find receivers.
When it comes to line play, no news is almost always good news. The only real negative here the whole day was Marcus Hall having four mental mistake penalties called on him. Those things didn't hurt too much against a team as overmatched as the Aztecs, but those are things they can't have in more important games against better opponents.
Grade--(A-) I thought the line did a good job except in one small area. The power running plays never really got off the ground, with 4 of the 9 they ran going for less than 3 yards and only averaging 3.4 per play on them. This is a very minor nit-pick, however, and certainly didn't affect the outcome.
I came away from this game impressed with the coaches. First and foremost, they trusted Kenny Guiton enough to not change things very much, if at all, with him in the game. If anything, they may have went downfield passing a little less than they might've with Miller in the game, but overall I don't think anything major changed at all.
Second, they are clearly developing some young talent (mainly Dontre Wilson) to be able to contribute when the Big Ten season comes around. They are also developing an interesting array of attacks that opposing defenses are going to have to prepare for. Last week was mostly base run plays and read option. This week was a lot of power, speed option and the veer/inverted veer with playaction passes off of them. They are also opening up a little more of a screen game.
All of this, and they still haven't really brought out some of the things we know the offense is capable of, such as more designed QB runs, and reverses from their established option looks. Add in other things we know of Urban Meyer's offenses of the past, such as slot options.
I like the direction the offense is headed, but I'm also anxious to see what the offense is capable of given 60 minutes of solid effort. I thought the offense took their foot off the gas again in the second half. I'm not looking for the Buckeyes to run up the score on opponents, but I would like to see them play every play like the score was 0-0 and let the chips fall where they may. This isn't necessarily on the coaches, as they didn't seem to call the game any less aggressively in the second half, but the players need to stay motivated, and that is at least partly on the coaches.
Grade--(A-) There isn't much not to like about this game from the coaches. The execution was decent, and the plan to deal with all the blitzing I thought was good. My only problem is the lackluster second half.
Once again it was a solid but unspectacular day for the special teams. Drew Basil hit all of his extra points. The coverage teams were pretty good overall. The return teams did ok, but didn't break anything big. Freshman punter Cameron Johnston did a little better, averaging a little over 42 yards per punt and zero return yards.
Grade--(B+) If nothing else, the special teams are solid and we aren't holding our breath every time one has to go on the field. That's an improvement over the last several seasons.