By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey
The Wisconsin Badgers came to Columbus this past Saturday night for Ohio State's first big test of the season, and while it wasn't always pretty, the Buckeyes passed with a 31-24 victory over what is probably their only real competition for the division crown. The big story line going into the game was how the Ohio State defense was going to hold up against Wisconsin's power running game, but the big question for the offense was how Braxton Miller would do in his first game action since injuring his knee in week two.
For Braxton, it was a mixed bag of some good, some questionable, with a little bit of great sprinkled in. I have seen several different articles in several different places say that the quarterback situation has resolved itself with Miller's four touchdown, zero turnover performance on Saturday, but I'm not so sure the controversy is over.
.Despite the win and nearly 400 yards of offense against a decent defensive team, I think a lot of Buckeye fans were left wondering about what direction the Buckeyes went after four games of looking like a different offense. The question is: Does Braxton Miller make this a better offense with his versatility and improvisation, or does he hinder it by taking touches away from the other weapons on the team? Would Kenny Guiton be the better choice?
Before we get into these questions, let's take a look at the stats.
67 Total Plays--391 yards--5.8 yards per play
25 pass (37%)--17/25 for 197 yards 4 TD
42 rush (63%) for 194 yards--4.6 ypc
12 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.6 plays--32.6 yards
Ave. Start--OSU 38
First Down--29 plays (43%) for 196 yards
8 pass (28%)--5/8 for 81 yards 2 TD
21 rush (72%) for 115 yards--5.5 ypc
Ave. gain of 6.8 yards
Second Down--21 plays (31%) for 101 yards
8 pass (38%)--7/8 for 51 yards
13 rush (62%0 for 50 yards--3.8 ypc
Ave. of 7.7 yards to go
Ave. gain of 4.8 yards
Third Down--15 plays (22%) for 51 yards
8 pass (53%)--4/8 for 25 yards 1 TD
7 rush (47%) for 26 yards--3.7 ypc
Ave of 5.7 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.4 yards
Fourth Down--2 plays (3%) for 40 yards
1 pass (50%)--1/1 for 40 yards 1 TD
1 rush (50%) for 0 yards--0.0 ypc
Ave. of 4.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 20.0 yards
Playaction Passing--13 Total plays
9/11 for 106 yards 3 TD
2 sacks for -3 yards
First downs Earned--18 total
9 by pass
8 by rush
1 by penalty
Three Backs--1 play (1%) for 21 yards
1 pass (100%)--1/1 for 21 yards
Two Backs--13 plays (19%) for 96 yards
3 pass (23%)--2/3 for 51 yards 2 TD
10 rush (77%) for 45 yards--4.5 ypc
One Back--51 plays (76%) for 272 yards
20 pass (39%)--13/20 for 116 yards 2 TD
31 rush (61%) for 156 yards--5.0 ypc
No Backs--2 plays for 2 yards
1 pass (50%)--1/1 for 9 yards
1 rush (50%) for -7 yards--(-7.0) ypc
Run Type--42 attempts
de Zone--10 (24%) for 46 yards--4.6 ypc
Power--5 (12%) for 19 yards--3.8 ypc
QB Designed--8 (19%) for 46 yards--5.8 ypc
QB Scramble/Sack--7 (17%) for 12 yards--1.7 ypc
Read Option--3 (7%) for 25 yards--8.3 ypc
Speed Option--3 (7%) for 16 yards--5.3 ypc
TEAM--1 (2%) for -4 yards--(-4.0) ypc
Veer/Inverted Veer--5 (12%) for 34 yards--6.8 ypc
Other Stats of Note
* 4 Offensive Penalties for 20 yards
* Ohio State started on the Wisconsin side of the 50 three times--10 points (1 TD 1 FG)
* 1/1 in the Red Zone--(1 TD)
* 3 sacks against+
* No turnovers
* 35/67 plays took place on the Wisconsin side of the 50--(52%)
* 17/67 plays went for no gain or loss--(25%)
* 11/67 plays went for 10+ yards
* 2/12 drives went 3 and out--(17%)
* 391 yards gained out of 746 total possible--(52%)
* Braxton Miller primary ball handler--52/67 plays (78%)
Despite anything that might be said about the Ohio State offense this week, you have to give some credit to the Wisconsin defense, especially linebacker Chris Borland, for standing up well to the Ohio State running game. The Buckeyes managed to gain almost 200 yards on the ground, but didn't have a gain longer than 15 yards, and Borland seemed to be in on almost every tackle. Their defensive line did a good job of eating up blocks to keep their linebackers clean, which allowed Borland to roam free most of the game. Their secondary was fairly young, but did a good job against the numerous shots the Buckeyes took downfield, especially near the end of the first half.
There are a few things that aren't readily noticable in the stats that greatly affected the outcome of this game, most importantly the punting of Cameron Johnston. He punted the ball six times in and pinned the Badgers inside the twenty on all of them, including four inside the 10 yard line. The ability to control field position was one of the biggest factors in the win, and his final punt that pinned the Badgers at the 10 was absolutely huge. Wisconsin's average starting field position was their own 18. The Buckeyes averaged their own 38.
The other important factor was Ohio State's inability, for the second year in a row, to close out the game with a couple first downs against the Badgers. Johnston's punting didn't allow the Badgers to get into a position to come all the way back in this game, but it was a bit of disappointing fourth quarter for the offense after three decent ones. The Buckeyes only went three and out on two drives in this game, and those were the last two when they needed first downs the most.
Now that we've seen Braxton Miller back on the field after nearly three full games worth of Kenny Guiton, I'm not sure the muddied waters of the quarterback situation were cleared up all that much. Miller didn't have a bad game by any stretch...in fact it was a pretty good one for him, but there are things we've seen Kenny Guiton do the past several weeks that make it easy to question if he's not the best choice to lead the offense.
Miller clearly has the stronger arm, and this game was further proof that he has come a long way in the passing game. He is also clearly the more dynamic playmaker with his feet, though Guiton is no slouch running the ball. Miller also has proven improvisational skills that Guiton has never really been tested on with the different level of defenses they've faced. Miller is a dangerous weapon in himself that defenses have to prepare for.
While Guiton may not be nearly as dangerous a weapon himself, there are a few positives he brings to the table that cannot be ignored. He seems to be much more poised in the pocket and stays with the plays longer than Miller usually does, stepping up in the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield instead of moving backwards and immediately going into improvisation mode. Guiton also makes better reads on option plays and is better at making defenders commit than Miller. It has seemed on several plays that Miller pre-determines whether he's going to give or keep and doesn't bother to make a read.
Most important to this discussion, with Guiton not being as dangerous, the coaches have to be a little more creative and use all of their offensive weapons, while it seems Miller almost becomes a crutch for the coaching staff. The offense seems to become a little less diverse with Miller in the game.
After saying all of that, the game situation dictated some of the issues I have with Miller at QB, especially in the fourth quarter when the Buckeyes were trying to possess the ball and run out the clock, but it also illustrates the problem as well. On those two three and outs, the Buckeyes ran the ball six times. Carlos Hyde ran twice for 11 yards. Miller four times for 2 yards, though to be fair one was a bad snap he had to eat. Do the Buckeyes get first downs and end the game with 6 Hyde runs or option plays? It's hard to say, but designed Miller runs didn't get the job done.
How do we answer the question of which one is better to lead the offense? It's clear that this is Miller's team as far as the coaches are concerned, so debate is really moott. It is important to remember that Guiton hasn't faced much in the way of tough defenses. It would be nice to think that everything would come just as easy against a defense like Wisconsin's, but there is nothing we can look back on and say definitively that he could handle it. Miller has been tested time and again against tough defenses, and while he hasn't always been spectacular, he has done enough to win 13 of the 17 games in Ohio State's current win streak. Miller is the man for now, but I expect this issue to come up again if he has a bad game and the Buckeyes lose.
Grade--(B+) He looked pretty sharp in the passing game and found his legs again about midway through the second quarter. He still has some work to do with his option reads and poise in the pocket.
If there is anything we learned about the running back situation in the second game after Carlos Hyde finished serving his suspension, it's that the he has done whatever it took for him to reassume the starting role and is picking up right where he left off last season. The backs got 20 total carries, and Hyde ran on 17 of those for 85 tough yards. It was a little surprising that Jordan Hall only got one carry, but it's clear that the coaches like the power Hyde brings to the lineup.
It will be interesting to see how the coaches handle the back situation going forward. Hall has earned more field time than he saw this week, but who loses time and touches to get him on the field? Will it be Hyde or Dontre Wilson?
Grade--(A-) When Hyde was carrying the ball he was a load and he is also a strong lead blocker on designed quarterback runs. There won't be many linebackers as good as Borland for him to have to block on the rest of the schedule.
It's been nice to watch this group develop from one that was unproven and raw last season to one that may not be spactacular, but is solid and productive every week. The duo of Corey Brown and Devin Smith combined for 12 of the 17 completions and three of the four touchdown receptions. Evan Spencer came down with only one reception, but was targeted more often than in the past and scored the fourth touchdown.
The Buckeyes used the inverted veer much less often than I thought they would considering Wisconsin's alignments, so we didn't see much of the outside blocking, but when they were called on to do so, the downfield blocking was good.
Grade--(A-) There were three catchable balls that weren't caught, but only one of those I would consider to be an easy catch. Evan Spencer's effort on the long pass that ended up hitting the ground was almost rewarded with a spectacular catch.
I was a little underwhelmed with the line play. It was far from terrible, but Buckeyes had all kinds of trouble getting off double teams to get to the linebackers on run plays, which let their linebackers (especially Borland) roam and make plays all over the field. In pass protection, there were some good plays, but also several where Miller got immediate pressure from the edge and was forced to pull it down and scramble.
Still, the offense put up nearly 400 yards against a pretty good defense, so it wasn't a bad day. Miller was kept clean for the most part, and while there weren't huge holes, they were able to move the ball on the ground. I'm willing to give the Badgers some credit for scheme and being prepared instead of being too down on the line.
Grade--(B) It may not have been bad, but there were also no explosive plays out of the running game. Getting off of double teams to the second level is an important part of what makes this offense really go.
As happy as I was with how the offense was developing over the past few weeks, this game left me scratching my head a little bit. The Buckeyes started the game running the read option twice on their first drive for 21 yards, but only ran it once the rest of the game. Hyde was tearing off chunks of yardage early in the first half, but finished the half with just 7 carries.
Part of me is concerned about the lack of the use of the weapons developed through the first four games of the season, but the other part realizes this is the first time the Buckeyes faced a team that could hit back, and the coaches are going to call what they are most comfortable with when the chips are on the table. The important thing is that the Buckeyes win the game, no matter how the ball is distributed.
The concern seems to be that this is fine for taking on good but not great teams like Wisconsin, but will be easily stopped by teams with a great defense. It might be a valid concern. The offense under Miller seems to rely a little bit more on his improvisational skills and ability create big plays than how the playcalling the past few weeks seemed to create big play opportunities by exploiting mis-matches. It all comes back again to the different level of defense they were facing this week and Miller's ability to keep improving his game. Will the offense look as unstoppable under Miller as it did under Guiton? It seems like the weapons for that should be there no matter what defense the Buckeyes are facing.
Grade--(B) I'm not panicking, it was just one game, and Miller's first one back. This upcoming week's Northwestern defense is a little better suited for what Miller likes to do. All of these concerns will go out the window as long as the Buckeyes keep winning.
If I was handing out a game ball for this week, it would go to Cameron Johnston for his punting . It cannot be overstated how important his contribution to this win was. Wisconsin's fourth quarter drives average start was their own 11. Drew Basil still hasn't missed anything this season, and the one big mistake by Corey Brown in the return game was wiped out due to a Wisconsin penalty. The coverage teams were good yet again, even though the Buckeyes gave up their first punt return yards of the season (3).
Grade--(A) This would be an A+ if not for the punt return mistake, even if it was wiped out by a penalty.