Peaks and Unhappy Valleys — By the Numbers: Ohio State at Penn State

Tuf Borland, Jonathon Cooper Ohio State Football Buckeyes

[Editor’s note: NEWBrutus is a long-time poster on our forum who has contributed statistical breakdowns for us in the past. Up today is a look back at what went right, wrong, and indifferent against Penn State.]

Ohio State and Penn State played another instant classic last Saturday. The Buckeyes overcame their offensive struggles in the first half and mounted one of their better defensive performances to erase a two-touchdown deficit late in the fourth quarter. Here are some of the statistical highlights.

Explosive problems continue…

Penn State was able to gash Ohio State on Saturday with explosive plays. Ten of the Nittany Lions’ 76 offensive plays gained 15 yards or more. Those 10 plays also accounted for 336 of the 492 total yards gained (68.3%). Among the gains were four plays which hit for more than 30 yards. There were 3 passes which went for 31, 36, and 93 yards and a QB run which gained 51 yards.

This remains an ongoing concern for the Ohio State fan base. Explosive plays lead to points. Penn State had 17 possessions last Saturday. Of those, 11 drives resulted in either a punt, turnover on downs, or a turnover.  There were three total explosive plays in those 11 drives. The other seven explosive plays occurred when Penn State scored touchdowns or kicked a field goal attempt.

Going forward, it remains critical to find ways to limit those big gains by OSU’s opponents.

Explosive but not efficient….

One of the five factors to winning a football game is measuring explosiveness. And the most basic way to do that is to calculate yards per play. Penn State won that battle on Saturday thanks in part to those big gainers. Overall Penn State averaged 6.5 yards per play and Ohio State just 5.1.

But Penn State lost the efficiency battle. Their success rate for the game was 30.3% compared to Ohio State’s 38.3%.  Here is a side by side comparison of the two offenses for each down.

Ohio StatePlaysYardsYPPSuccess


Explosive Plays 





Neither team was particularly efficient, but the difference between Ohio State’s first half and its second half was noticeably different.

 PlaysYardsYPPSuccess RateExplosive Play
1st Half Totals30933.1.2001
1st Down13282.2.2310
2nd Down9424.7.2221
3rd Down8232.9.1250


 PlaysYardsYPPSuccess RateExplosive Plays
2nd Half Totals462966.4.5004
1st Down211848.8.6193
2nd Down14604.3.4290
3rd Down9515.7.3331
4th Down210.5.5000

Successful plays are defined as follows: On first down – a gain of 50% of the yards needed to start the next set of downs, usually 5 yards.  On Second down – a gain of 70% of the yards needed to move the chains. So on 2nd and 10, you need 7 yards. On third and fourth down a gain of 100% of the yards needed to make a first down.

In fact the first half was one of the worst halves of football since Clemson took us behind the woodshed in the 2016 College Football playoff.

Having success on first down is significant. It translates to easier second and third downs and makes it easier to keep the chains moving. Give credit to Penn State, they had a good game plan and were able to execute. The Buckeyes didn’t help matters either with some key drops and poor protection, but adjustments were made and things got moving again for the Ohio State offense.

Explosive plays are a problem, but the defense flashed moments of dominance.

There were periods of time when the Ohio State defense was absolutely dominant. The big gains happened, but if you look at what Penn State was able to do on their other 66 plays, it is hard not to be impressed.

 PlaysYardsYPPSuccess Rate
Non-Explosive Plays661562.4.197
Explosive Plays1033633.61.000

Penn State managed just 156 yards on their other 66 plays, an average of 2.4 yards per play. Their success rate on those other plays: 19.7%. The 19.7% opponent success rate on non-explosive plays is the best of the season thus far, and it happened against one of the statistically best offenses in the country.

This wasn’t a bend-but-don’t-break performance. Rather, it was more of an “all or nothing” type of thing.

Finishing Drives

One of the other major factors to winning a football game is how well you finish drives.

PosAvg StartTD FGA FGMOff. Pts Pts /Dr Dr Eff.Sc. Chance SC Eff. Pts/ SC

Ohio State held a slight advantage in drive efficiency. But the bigger issue was Penn State’s inability to convert their seven scoring chances into enough points. (A scoring chance is a drive where you have a first down inside your opponents 40-yard line). Three of Penn State’s scoring chances featured a punt, a missed field goal, and getting stopped on downs. That hurts.

Haskins Heisman Hype….

Each week we dedicate a section of this to Dwayne Haskins and his amazing abilities to throw a football to other people. Penn State turned up the pressure, the guys up front struggled a bit, and the Haskins Heisman Hype took a step backwards this week.

 Comp. Att. Yards Pct TD Int Pass Eff
Or St.223031373.3%51209.31
Penn St.223927056.4%31134.82

The numbers are still pretty incredible, but slightly more human like this week. The next few weeks could provide a boost to his numbers again.

Who got the ball last week?

Also a regular theme here is how are we spreading the ball to the people who can make plays. Here is the breakdown for Penn State.

ChancesPct of Chances Yards Pct of Yds YPP
14 – Hill842.11%5641.48%7.00
21 – Campbell1157.89%7958.52%7.18
7 – Haskins4100.00%8100.00%2.00
2 – Dobbins1963.33%11867.82%6.21
25 – Weber1136.67%5632.18%5.09
13 – Berry1100.00%0.00
9 – Victor214.29%5564.71%27.50
11 – Mack750.00%2529.41%3.57
80 – Saunders214.29%55.88%2.50
83 – McLaurin321.43%00.00%0.00
Grand Total76100.00%389100.00%5.12

Chances are targets and carries. It is where the ball was going or who had it when the play ended.

The H-Backs are weapons. Both K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell are making things happen when the ball is in their hands.

The next three opponents don’t look to pose the same challenge as the Lions, and two of the next three are in the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium.

2 Responses

  1. Why does it take until half time for OSU to make offense or defense adjustments?

  2. The numbers tell the story we’ve seen all season long (Already heading into week 5 wow!) – this is a defense that has the athletes to compete for a championship – however, the big plays takes it down to just getting into a playoff (maybe). If this is the same Urban Meyer who moved a fullback to the Mike to salvage a defense in 2012(?) – then I think things will be fine.

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