By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey
It's always interesting to see how the Buckeyes react after a loss. In 2004, there was a three game losing streak, but in every other case after a loss, it has been better than most people thought it would be. The 26-18 loss to Purdue the week before had most of the fan base wondering what we'd see against Minnesota. You also had the sense that the boo-birds would be out if the offense struggled the same way they did the week before.
What we got was a dominating 38-7 performance that featured over 500 yards of total offense and a good game from a beleaguered quarterback that really needed it. There have been a lot of people dismissing this as against "only" Minnesota. Can your memories be that short? Last week they didn't make it to 300 yards of offense and turned it over 5 times to "only" Purdue. This was a step forward for the offense, and while the Minnesota defense hasn't been great this season, that hadn't stopped the Ohio State offense from struggling against other defenses that weren't great.
75 Total Plays--508 yards--6.8 yards per play
26 pass (35%)--13/26 for 240 yards 2 TD 1 INT
49 rushes (65%) for 268 yards 3 TD--5.5 ypc
13 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.8 plays--39.1 yards
Ave. Start--OSU 36
First Down--35 plays (47%) for 287 yards
11 pass (31%)--6/11 for 178 yards 2 TD 1 INT
24 runs (69%) for 109 yards 1 TD--4.5 ypc
Ave. gain of 8.2 yards
Second Down--25 plays (33%) for 166 yards
9 pass (36%)--5/9 for 45 yards
16 runs (64%) for 121 yards 2 TD--7.6 ypc
Ave. of 7.7 yards to go
Ave. gain of 6.6 yards
Third Down--14 plays (19%) for 53 yards
6 pass (43%)--2/6 for 17 yards
8 runs (57%) for 36 yards--4.5 ypc
Ave. of 5.9 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.8 yards
Fourth Down--1 play (1%) for 2 yards
1 run (100%) for 2 yards--2.0 ypc
Ave. of 1.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 2.0 yards
Play Action Passing
6/6 for 170 yards 2 TD
First Downs Earned--22
7 by pass
13 by run
2 by penalty
Two Back formations--23 plays (31%)
6 pass (26%)--4/6 for 97 yards 1 TD
17 runs (74%) for 114 yards 2 TD--6.7 ypc
Shotgun formations--41 plays (55%)
19 pass (46%)--9/19 for 143 yards 1 TD 1 INT
22 runs (54%) for 121 yards 1 TD--5.5 ypc
One back/Empty formations--10 plays (13%)
1 pass (10%)--0/1 for 0 yards
9 runs (90%) for 34 yards--3.8 ypc
Victory formation--1 play (1%)
1 play (100%) for -1 yard--(-1.0) ypc
RUN TYPE BREAKDOWN--49 attempts
Base/Iso--1 (2%) for 1 yard--1.0 ypc
Draw--1 (2%) for 0 yards--0.0 ypc
End Around--2 (4%) for 4 yards--2.0 ypc
Option--10 (20%) for 63 yards 1 TD--6.3 ypc
Power--18 (37%) for 123 yards 2 TD--6.8 ypc
QB run/scramble--10 (20%) for 58 yards--5.8 ypc
Stretch--6 (12%) for 20 yards--3.3 ypc
TEAM--1 (2%) for -1 yard--(-1.0) ypc
Other Stats of Note
~ 3 offensive penalties for 25 yards
~ Ohio State started on the Minnesota side of the 50 three times--17 points (2 TD 1 FG)
~ 2/4 in the Red Zone (2 TD)
~ 1 sack against and 1 turnover (INT)
~ 35/75 plays took place on the Minnesota side of the 50--(47%)
~ 21/75 plays went for no gain or loss--(28%)
~ Number of plays of 10+ yards--19
~ Number of 3 and out drives--1/13 (8%)
There weren't a whole lot of bright spots for the Minnesota Golden Gophers team in the game on Saturday, but the one that shined brightest was their backup quarterback MarQueis Gray. He hadn't been used extensively by the gophers before this game, especially as a passer, but he came in and showed enough raw ability to tell he's going to be a tough one to handle before all is said and done in his Minnesota career.
I don't think there were many Ohio State fans out there expecting a 508 yard output from the Buckeye offense considering what we had seen the past two weeks. What was the biggest difference in the offense this week (and no...the opposing defense is not the only correct answer)?
There are several factors that played into the offense's success in this game, and while the quality of Minnesota's defense is one of those factors, it wasn't the over-riding one. Some will point to the increased use of traditional formations in this game, and while that's a factor as well, considering that the Buckeyes used less than 50% of their I formation calls in this game before the score went to 28-0 and had 423 yards at that point, it's not the over-riding factor either.
A look at the position groups will tell the tale.
For all of the criticism Terrelle Pryor has received this season, much of it deserved, it was his play that was the main factor in the Buckeye's success this week. For the first time in his Buckeye career, I thought he showed everyone clear progress towards being the complete quarterback he's trying to be. It wasn't a perfect game by any means, but if he does end up being a great quarterback at Ohio State before his career is over, we will probably be able to point back to this game as to where it all really started.
While there were still several bad decisions, inaccurate throws (the INT was an inaccurate corner route throw far behind the receiver), and questionable throws into coverage in this game, there can be no denying that he made a lot more good decisions in this game, especially when to run in the pocket, than he has in the past. He also handled blitz situations much better than usual, getting rid of the ball quickly or running rather than sitting in the pocket and taking sacks. It also helped that Minnesota didn't disguise their blitzes very well, however.
As much as I've written about Pryor's shyness to contact in the previous weeks, I was impressed with how he ran the ball in this game. I think he made an effort to get as much as he could out of almost every run this week. Lowering his shoulders a few times helped keep some, but not all, of the hits off of his legs, which is one of the main reasons I was concerned about his running style earlier in the season. Now he has to be careful not to take this too far the other way. There's a difference between running tough and taking unnecessary hits. I thought he did a good job of that in this game.
As far as mechanics go, this was his best game by far. Of his 25 passes, he stepped into the throw on considerably more than half of them, even when a hit was coming on a couple of the throws against the blitz. In general, he seemed to trust his reads and made quicker decisions than we've been used to seeing from him, even when maybe he shouldn't have trusted them (throws into coverage). He also tried throwing some routes that require timing, and while they weren't all that accurate, I think those will come with time and more attempts. It takes trust and practice with the receivers to get those down, and I'm not sure he's really clicking with anyone other than DeVier Posey.
Having said all of this, we have to temper any enthusiasm with his play with the realization that Minnesota's defense wasn't all that good. He needs to show this kind of play against better teams, and he's not going to get that in this upcoming game with New Mexico State. He can, however, use it as an opportunity to continue working on his mechanics so that he might have a chance of doing well against the home stretch of Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan.
Grade--B+ Despite being in the top ten of all-time all-purpose yardage days for the Buckeyes, it wasn't quite "A" material. Let's see him do that against a good defense first.
This has been a "tailback by committee" season for the Buckeyes and this week saw another name join the committee in a big way. Jermil Martin took of his redshirt in the fourth quarter of this game, and on the third carry of his Buckeye career, electrified the crowd with a powerful 39 yard run for a touchdown, the Buckeye's longest of the season. Enthusiasm again has to be tempered by the game situation when he came in, but you had to be reminded of a certain #41 of the past on that run.
With Boom Herron out with an ankle injury, and Brandon Saine going out of the game in the second quarter with a possible concussion, it came down to freshman Jordan Hall to carry the load for the Buckeyes for the remainder of the meaningful time in this game. While he didn't break off any big runs, he did have two decent runs behind simple power blocking, including the first touchdown of his Buckeye career in the third quarter.
If there was one thing I was impressed with when it came to both freshmen halfbacks, it was the vision and patience each on showed on the simple power runs. Saine ran the first four of the Buckeye's 18 power calls in the game for 14 yards, but the two freshmen took the last 14 of those carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns, good for 7.8 yards per carry. If nothing else, it can be said that when Herron and Saine return to the lineup, the Buckeyes are going to be ridiculously deep at tailback.
With the Buckeyes running more traditional sets, especially I formations, we got to see the freshmen fullbacks back in action. You might remember that early in the season, they were more of a liability on the field than an asset, and probably played into the decision to go with more shotgun sets the past four games. While none of them were great, I thought Zach Boren looked the best of what I saw in the game, and all of them looked better than early in the year. Again, it was Minnesota, but they also struggled against Navy in the first game of the year.
Grade--B Flashes of the future showed the future might be great. Might the future be now?
As the season has went on, the receiver situation at Ohio State has gotten to be interesting. It is clear there is only one guy on the field that Pryor really trusts, and that is DeVier Posey. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem like he and Dane Sanzenbacher are clicking on the field. Do they need to spend more time practicing together? Do they not really get along off the field? Whatever it is, their timing on the field is on two different levels. You could see it on several throws to Sanzenbacher in the game.
With Ohio State running a lot of three wide receiver sets, and Duron Carter being the third on the field most of the time, it's been a little surprising there hasn't been anything really go his direction this entire season. With Carter being a freshman, I'm a little more inclined to think the trust issue is at work for him as well.
How long before other teams catch on to this and start bracketing Posey? You have to think that by now, opposing teams see Pryor locks onto Posey. His breakout day on Saturday (8 catches for 161 yards and 2 TD) should make other teams take note if they hadn't already. You have to hope that he starts working out the problems with the other receivers before they head to Penn State.
Grade--B- Posey grades an A for this game, but everyone else brings the grade down considerably. Sanzenbacher ran some especially sloppy routes.
As badly as the line played last week, it was a different group in this game. Last week, the tackles were simply abused by Purdue's defensive ends. This week, the tackles held up pretty well, especially Jim Cordle at left tackle, who might not have been ready to go last week (and was beaten badly on his only three plays of that game). He earned his Offensive Lineman of the Week award.
Again, however, you have to temper any enthusiasm with the knowledge that Minnesota's defensive line wasn't nearly as good as Purdue's last week, at least not at defensive end. However, when the Gophers blitzed, it was usually picked up well, though the Gophers didn't do much to disguise it. I'm back to hoping last week was just an anomaly.
Grade--B+ Purdue is still on my mind when I make this grade. Over 500 yards and 250 rushing is usually grounds for an "A", but I can't get the image of Black and Gold going around the tackles like turnstiles.
Last week, I thought the coaches had their worst gameplan since I started doing these breakdowns 6 1/2 seasons ago, and that's saying something because I've never thought gameplanning was a strength of this staff. 90% (53 of 59 plays) of the offense went through Terrelle Pryor, and I think, at least at this time, that is a losing formula. This week, before garbage time (which I start at 28-0), the percentage of the offense that went through Pryor dropped to just below 70% (43 of 62 plays), and the team wins by 31 points. I think we've learned that Pryor is what makes the offense go, but too much Pryor isn't a good thing.
While I thought the staff did a better job of planning to get the ball out of Pryor's hands a little faster, especially against blitzes, I still find myself wondering why there aren't more screens and draw plays in the offense. The Buckeyes ran their first draw play of the SEASON in this game, and though it went for no gain, it was nice to know it exists in the offense.
There are few plays better at slowing a pass rush and blitzes than screen plays, but the Buckeyes have hardly ran any at all this season. Why? It's almost impossible to understand. Can the receivers not block for the outside screens? Can Pryor not throw them? Can he not sell Halfback screens?
These are questions I meant to touch on last week, but simply forgot to address in the frustration of writing that section of last week's column. I think they're still valid questions and concerns this week, however, especially in light of Minnesota's all out blitz looks. I'm certain we're going to see some blitzing by Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan to end the season. Punish those defenses, coaches!
Getting back to the Minnesota game, I thought the coaches did the right thing in getting away from so much shotgun. It made the Buckeyes too easy to defend. I also like that they sprinkled several designed gives in with read-option plays to keep the opposing defensive ends guessing (look to see if the defensive end is blocked or not to know whether it is a designed give or option play). The plays complemented each other very well, which is something we don't see the staff do enough of week to week.
For those of you that want to point to the use of more traditional formations, here's your ammo for the week. Ohio State ran 63% of their offense from the shotgun up until garbage time. At that time the Buckeyes had 423 yards of offense, and 155 of those yards came from traditional formations, including two touchdowns. The 63% of the offensive calls from the shotgun accounted for 268 yards and the other two touchdowns. Ironically, the 63% of the offense from the shotgun gained 63% of the yards, and the other 37% gained the other 37%. The key here is 423 yards, which the Buckeyes had only attained one other time this season, against Toledo, which had NO defense.
Grade--B+ Last week comes to mind when making this grade. I can't give them an "A" until they start doing a better job of punishing the way teams are defending the offense through play calling.
The Buckeye's first team defense shut out their third team of the season, but this game had a funny feel to it when it came to the defense. You got the sense that if the Gopher offense was executing better and had their best player (WR Eric Decker) the whole game, they would've been able to make a game of this one.
Before the score got out of hand, the defensive line looked far from dominant yet again this week. After the Gophers were put into passing every down situations, the line was able to dominate and affect the quarterback, especially Thad Gibson. Throughout the first half, however, the line didn't do much and the Gophers looked as if they stopped themselves with mistakes (dropped balls and penalties) more than the defense doing it.
One of the biggest question marks still unanswered with this team is the 2nd cornerback spot (across from Chimdi Chekwa), and I'm not sure we liked some of the answers we got this week. Both Andre Amos and Devon Torrence struggled a bit this week, with Amos pulled after two straight slant routes caught in front of him in the 2nd quarter. Torrence seems the better cover guy, but his tackling is leaving something to be desired.
Grade--B+ Despite the complaining up there, it was still a shutout by the starters, with the Gophers never getting closer than the OSU 33 before the 2nd teamers came in.
As this season has gone on, the special teams have gone from what looked like might be some important weapons to real question marks down the stretch of this season. Coverage teams are still good, but the kicking game has become a problem, both punting and kicking. Jon Thoma has been pretty good in short field punting, but is showing a lack of leg strength in long field situations. He's not doing enough to help win the field position battles Jim Tressel favors in close games.
Aaron Pettrey is automatic from 40+ yards, but is having real problems inside of that mark. The Buckeyes can simply not have 18 play drives end up in no points, as happened in the first half, with Pettrey missing a 30 yarder.
Grade--C The Buckeyes need to be doing better in this area.
Help us bring you more Buckeye coverage. Donate to the-Ozone.
Click here to email this the-Ozone feature to a friend...or even a foe.
Return to the-Ozone Columns and Features