By the Numbers; Nebraska Offense
By Jeff Amey
For 35 minutes of game time, football was fun again.
In those 35 minutes, the Ohio State Buckeyes raced to a 27-6 lead behind a "coming out" performance by quarterback Braxton Miller and the rest of the offense. They put up 284 yards of offense in just seven possessions, including the Buckeye's longest play of the season, a 63 yard touchdown run by Carlos Hyde.
Then the engine sputtered for the first time. The Nebraska defense stripped Miller for the first Buckeye turnover of the day which they immediately converted to a touchdown cutting the lead to 14. On the next possession Miller went out of the game with an injury, Joe Bauserman came in to play quarterback, and by the end of the game the offense resembled a burned out husk up on blocks, while Nebraska sat at the finish line having completed the biggest comeback for a win in their entire history.
I think one thing we did learn from this game is that this team has a lot of raw talent on the field, and with better quarterback play, they can move the ball fairly well. It's just up to the coaching staff to put them in a position to succeed.
There's a lot to talk about after this one, but first let's take a look at the statistics.
59 Total Plays--352 yards--6.0 yards per play
18 pass (31%)--6/18 for 109 yards 1 TD 1 INT
41 rush (69%) for 243 yards 2 TD--5.9 ypc
13 Offensive Possessions
4.5 plays--27.1 yards
Ave. Start--OSU 28
First Down--25 Plays (42%) for 199 yards
2 pass (8%)--1/2 for 32 yards 1 TD
23 rush (92%) for 167 yards 1 TD--7.3 ypc
Ave. gain of 8.0 yards
Second Down--21 Plays (36%) for 60 yards
9 pass (43%)--3/9 for 37 yards 1 INT
12 rush (57%) for 23 yards 1 TD--1.9 ypc
Ave. of 7.1 yards to go
Ave. gain of 2.9 yards
Third Down--13 plays (22%) for 93 yards
7 pass (54%)--2/7 for 40 yards
6 rush (46%) for 53 yards--8.8 ypc
Ave. of 7.1 yards to go
Ave. gain of 7.2 yards
Two Back Formations--30 plays (51%)
4 pass (13%)--1/4 for 32 yards 1 TD
26 rush (87%) for 133 yards 1 TD--5.1 ypc
Shotgun Formations--15 plays (25%)
5 pass (33%)--1/5 for 13 yards
10 rush (67%) for 89 yards--8.9 ypc
Pistol Formations--11 plays (19%)
8 pass (73%)--4/8 for 64 yards 1 INT
3 rush (27%) for 19 yards--6.3 ypc
Three Back Formations--2 plays (3%)
2 rush (100%) for 2 yards 1 TD--1.0 ypc
One Back Formations--1 play (2%)
1 pass (100%)--0/1 for 0 yards
RUN TYPE BREAKDOWN--41 attempts
Counter/Trap--1 (2%) for 2 yards--2.0 ypc
Draw--3 (7%) for 10 yards--3.3 ypc
Lead Zone/Iso--13 (32%) for 47 yards--3.6 ypc
Option--2 (5%) for 18 yards--9.0 ypc
Outside Zone--9 (22%) for 87 yards 1 TD--9.7 ypc
Power--4 (10%) for 8 yards 1 TD--2.0 ypc
QB run/scramble--8 (20%) for 73 yards--9.1 ypc
TEAM--1 (2%) for -2 yards--(-2.0) ypc
Other Stats of Note
~ 5 offensive penalties for 25 yards
~ Ohio State started on the Nebraska side of the 50 twice--10 points (1 TD 1 FG)
~ 1/1 in the Red Zone--(1 TD)
~ 2 sacks and 2 turnovers (1 Fumble 1 INT)
~ 22/59 plays took place on the Nebraska side of the 50--(37%)
~ 20/59 plays went for no gain or loss--(34%)
~ 11 of those 20 came in Joe Bauserman's 18 plays
~ 4/13 drives went three and out--(31%)
~ Number of plays of 10+ yards--11 (19%)
~ 2 of those 11 came in the last 18 plays
~ Actual Playcall breakdown figuring in scrambles and sacks--26 pass 33 rush
~ Braxton Miller offense--41 plays--313 yards--27 points
~ Joe Bauserman offense--18 plays--39 yards--0 points--3 first downs
It was like watching two completely different games. When the Buckeyes lose, we all start looking for who to blame, and for this game the answers to who's to blame, at least for the offense, seem obvious. The Buckeye offense is a completely different animal with Braxton Miller behind center rather than Joe Bauserman. I'm going to echo Brandon Castel in saying that Miller needs to find a way to stay healthy and on the field. He gives the Buckeyes their best chance of at least playing winning offense.
The ire building towards the current offensive coaching staff is starting to reach mutinous proportions. Without Jim Tressel holding it all together the staff looks rudderless. The problems with the coaching on offense aren't universal, however. There seems to be two main problem areas. One is that the quarterbacks look woefully unprepared from week to week. Neither of the two we've seen this season seem to be able to read a defense, either pre- or post-snap. Braxton Miller I could at least understand and excuse, but Bauserman is a 5th year senior, and there is no excuse for him not having a better understanding of what the defenses he's seeing are trying to do and where his open men should be. I'm looking at you Nick Siciliano.
Secondly, and clearly Ohio State's biggest problem, is that while the basic schemes are fine, the implementation of those schemes is haphazard at best, and we're now talking Jim Bollman. This has never been his strong-suit, and this is where this team misses Tressel the most. We're going to get into this subject quite a bit more in the coaching section below, but suffice to say right now, with Tressel at the helm, I seriously doubt Nebraska gets all the way back in that game.
What a difference a week makes. The week before, Michigan State blitzed the Ohio State offense into oblivion, using linebackers to contain Miller in the pocket after the pressure forced him to bring the ball down and look to run. Nebraska came into this game attempting to play a base two deep man to man style without much blitzing or spying Miller. The difference in what Miller could do against that, at least with his legs, was amazing. Some people have been harping on the gameplan being centered around Miller running the ball, but that wasn't really the case. Only four of Miller's runs were designed. All of his other carries were scrambles, and a couple of them were astounding, especially the one right before the end of the first half.
While he looked much better this week, he still has a lot of issues to work though. Most obviously, his injury, while it didn't look serious, was one of those types that tend to linger and could be a problem the rest of the season. Once you roll an ankle, it tends to keep rolling until you are able to give it time to completely heal. When he runs with the ball, he MUST do a better job of tucking the ball away. You can tell he's a very instinctual runner, and when he was in high school he was probably able to avoid nearly everyone on the field and it didn't matter too much how he held the ball. Here, everyone on the field is a high-school all-star and he's just too careless with the ball. The strip was a major turning point in the game and when coupled with his injury on the next series, was devestating to the offense.
In the same vein, he's taking too many unnecessary hits. There were a lot of people, myself included, that didn't like it when Terrelle Pryor ran out of bounds so easily over the past three seasons, but now I find myself hoping Miller does it on occasion. I like his passion and willingness to give up his body for the team, but he needs to learn when it's time to take what you can and get on the ground or out of bounds. He's much more valuable to this team upright than on the sideline.
As far as the passing game goes, he's making baby steps, but he isn't being done a whole lot of favors by the coaching staff. At the very least, he seems to be gaining confidence in the decisions he's making, whether that be to attempt the pass or pull it down and run it.
When Miller went out of this game, I'm guessing that nearly every Buckeye fan out there dreaded the thought of Joe Bauserman coming into this game. How can you not think the team harbors some of those same emotions? I'm not saying the offense quit around him when he came into the game, but there was a palpable difference in the body language of the offensive players after a couple of series with him behind center. I'm not going to pile on, because enough has been said already. I don't think he needs to take any more snaps for the Buckeyes this season, and at this point I'm speculating that he would be just fine with that as well.
Indications seem to point to Ken Guiton getting a look if Miller can't go this week. It certainly can't be much worse.
Grade--D+ Just Miller would've gotten some kind of "B", but Bauserman was a complete fail in this game and drags the grade way down.
Another game, and another reason for me to feel foolish about the things I said about Carlos Hyde to start the season. He finished with the first 100 yard game of his career and two more touchdowns on just 13 carries, including a nice cutback on an outside zone play that went for a 63 yard touchdown in the second quarter. At this point, he looks like the best back on the field for the Buckeyes, even eclipsing Jordan Hall who finished the day with just 49 yards on 17 carries.
With the Buckeyes facing defenses stacking the box and attacking run action hard, Hyde, being the biggest of the Ohio State backs, might be the best choice going forward. He's not quite as good a blocker as Hall on pass plays, but he's a viable receiving threat out of the backfield to make up for that. I actually like it when players prove me wrong, and I'm happy to say I was wrong about Carlos Hyde. In my opinion, he's earned the right to start.
The running back position will be complicated a little bit more with the return of Boom Herron for the Illinois game this upcoming Saturday. How much of an impact will he be able to make and who's carries does he take? He's been a slow starter both of the previous two seasons, and I don't think the Buckeyes can afford a slow start from him if he comes in and takes the bulk of the carries right away.
Grade--B Hyde was impressive, but I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed in Jordan Hall this week. He kept missing cutback lanes and open field and left a lot of yardage on the field on a majority of his carries.
Just one week, I'd like to be able to evaluate this group on some actual accomplishments rather than potential. When you complete only 6 passes in a game, 5 of them going to receivers, it's a little tough to evaluate. It was nice to see Philly Brown back on the field for the offense and making a difference. He led the receivers in both receptions (3) and targets (5), and seemed to give the offense a playmaking threat that had been missing. It was also nice to see Jake Stoneburner return to the end zone after a 3 game absence. The throwback screen allowed him to get to the open field where he could show off his speed.
We have heard Matt Millen repeat several times over the past two games how the receivers haven't been able to get any seperation from their defenders, pretty much blaming the receivers for the lack of passing game for the Buckeyes. You can't believe everything you hear game announcers say.
There is no doubt that this group has a little trouble getting off of press coverage, though it was better this week when Nebraska pressed, but the seperation issue isn't nearly as bad as has been made out. This is where it's going to get back to coaching. Nebraska didn't do anything special coverage-wise. They played man to man nearly the entire game, and only really varied between pressing and playing 7-10 yards off the receivers. There was very little zone or anything really to confuse the quarterbacks, byet we see very few routes when there is a single receiver or route combinations when there are multiples to beat man to man coverages. It's no wonder Miller and Bauserman have trouble finding open men when they continually run easily covered routes for the coverages they're playing.
I've never felt the passing game was terribly complex under this coaching staff, but in the past you could at least understand the concepts they were using. This season, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the route combinations used most of the time, and they certainly don't play to the strengths of the personnel the Buckeyes have right now.
Grade--B- I still think this group is better than they're able to show on Saturdays. The coaches aren't putting them into a position to succeed.
Last week, I saw words like "porous", "terrible", "horrible" and "under-achieving" to describe the 2011 offensive line after a game in which Michigan State's defense admittedly made them look bad with stunts and blitzes from every angle. Nebraska didn't bring that kind of pressure, instead moving an eighth man to the box early in the game in running situations and playing mostly base defenses the entire game. Suddenly the line looks better, the offense gains 243 yards on the ground against a team stacked to stop the run first, and I don't see any of those words being bandied around this week.
The return of Mike Adams solidified what was already a strong group by allowing Andrew Norwell to move inside to guard and freeing Jack Mewhort to move to right guard. This, I think, was the best offensive lineup we've seen to date. His return added not only depth, but a bit of versatility to the lineup. The line was really getting after it in this game, and I think it was a mistake to get away from the running game after Joe Bauserman went in. Eleven of Bauserman's 18 plays were called passes, and that is nearly criminally bad considering he entered the game with a 14 point lead.
Grade--A- Only a couple of breakdowns in the game, but enough to drag the grade down a little bit.
I've already touched on several things that probably should've been in this section, but I think most of the problems with the personnel on the field are stemming from coaching deficiencies, especially at the top. Jim Bollman has been an incendiary figure as the nominal offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes over the past 10 seasons, but prior to this season, he had Jim Tressel to cover for what was generally thought of as a weak playcalling, sometimes seemingly just with the force of his will. Without Tressel, Bollman is being exposed this season as the weak playcaller we all thought he was.
I don't necessarily have problems with the offensive schemes, though the passing game has always been a little too simplistic for my tastes. I just think the implementation of those schemes has always been lacking, especially so this year. The frustrating thing about the offense and the playcalling is that we all know the plays are in the offense, because they shock us every once in awhile with something unexpected, such as the throwback tight end screen in this game, the traps from last game, and counter trap plays in previous weeks. We see those plays, then they seemingly go into a vault, not to be opened again for a season or two.
Jim Bollman didn't do himself any favors with the fans with his post-game comments this week in which he sounded like he had no idea what was going on in the game either personnel-wise, or more importantly as he said it, "what was open down the field or what should have been going on". Let me get this straight. Nebraska was running man to man coverages ALL GAME, yet the offensive coordinator didn't know what was open down the field or what should have been going on? THIS is the leader of the offensive brain-trust?
A lot of the blame for the Buckeye collapse is being heaped on the defense, and rightfully so. At least some of it rests with Bollman and the rest of the offensive staff for getting away from the running game and calling 11 out of 18 passing plays for Joe Bauserman, who has lost whatever confidence he might have had, all the while putting the receivers in routes that had little hope of beating the man to man coverages with the defenders playing 7-10 yards off the ball. Even if the Buckeyes couldn't manage a score in the fourth quarter, they needed to possess the ball in that quarter to give the defense a break. Nebraska went up-tempo that quarter and gassed the defense at the most critical time of the game.
I would be interested in knowing the exact breakdown of duties for this staff. Who has input in what areas in the planning phase, and who has input in the play-calling duties?
Grade--D I have to give them some credit for the first 35 minutes, but the rest of the game was some of the worst in-game coaching we've seen from this staff.
The special teams weren't anything overly special. Drew Basil was the lone bright spot, hitting two more field goals. It's nice to see him doing well after struggling early this season. Ben Buchanan had a decent day punting, and the coverage teams were adaquate, though they did give up one long return. I was expecting more out of Jordan Hall in the return game, but it didn't seem he could find much in the way of running lanes. I have to give some credit to Nebraska, they looked very well coached on coverage.
Grade--B- Slightly above average...that's what we got this week.
We have no idea how the team will react after a loss like the one the Buckeyes suffered. These are the games that can destroy a team's psyche, especially one so young and lacking in real leadership both on the field and from the coaching staff.