By the Numbers - Colorado Offense
Game one of the Braxton Miller era was met with cautious optimism by Buckeye Nation, and I'd venture to say that the game played out the way most fans were expecting. Miller is an exciting playmaker, but very raw. It was expected the coaching staff would lean heavily on the running game to shield him somewhat from the pressure of having to do too much, and that's what we saw. If there were any surprises, it would be that Miller did a better job of protecting the ball and the Buckeyes did not turn the ball over.
The Buckeyes earned their 37-17 win, and while the offense will probably not be prolific this season, it might at least be competent. Since there have been early comparison's to Denard Robinson, let's hope he has more success in the Big Ten season than Denard has had.
There is going to be plenty to talk about after every Buckeye game this season. Let's get through the stats and see what we learned.
61 Total Plays--331 yards--5.4 yards per play
15 pass (25%)--7/15 for 111 yards 2 TD
46 rush (75%) for 220 yards 2 TD--4.8 ypc
12 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.1 plays--27.6 yards
Ave. Start--Colorado 47
1st Down--28 plays (46%) for 145 yards
7 pass (25%)--3/7 for 39 yards
21 rush (75%) for 106 yards 1 TD--5.0 ypc
Ave. gain of 5.2 yards
2nd Down--19 plays (31%) for 69 yards
3 pass (16%)--1/3 for 15 yards
16 rush (84%) for 54 yards 1 TD--3.4 ypc
Ave. of 8.3 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.6 yards
3rd Down--13 plays (21%) for 115 yards
5 pass (38%)--3/5 for 57 yards 2 TD
8 rush (62%) for 58 yards--7.3 ypc
Ave. of 8.4 yards to go
Ave. gain of 8.8 yards
4th Down--1 play (2%) for 2 yards
1 rush (100%) for 2 yards--2.0 ypc
Ave. of 1.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 2.0 yards
2/5 for 47 yards 1 TD
First Downs Earned--18 Total
5 by pass
12 by rush
1 by penalty
Two Back Formations--32 plays (52%)
5 pass (16%)--1/5 for 15 yards
27 rush (84%) for 143 yards 1 TD--5.3 ypc
Shotgun Formations--23 plays (38%)
9 pass (39%)--6/9 for 96 yards 2 TD
14 rush (61%) for 72 yards--5.1 ypc
One Back Formations--4 plays (7%)
1 pass (25%)--0/1 for 0 yards
3 rush (75%) for 2 yards--0.7 ypc
Three Back Formations--2 plays (3%)
2 rush (100%) for 3 yards 1 TD--1.5 ypc
RUN TYPE BREAKDOWN--46 attempts
Draw--4 (9%) for 32 yards--8.0 ypc
Lead Zone/Iso--11 (24%) for 56 yards 1 TD--5.1 ypc
Option--6 (13%) for 36 yards--6.0 ypc
Outside Zone--9 (20%) for 39 yards 1 TD--4.3 ypc
Power--4 (9%) for 14 yards--3.5 ypc
QB run/scramble--11 (24%) for 42 yards--3.8 ypc
TEAM--1 (2%) for 1 yard--1.0 ypc
Other Stats of Note
~ 4 offensive penalties for 30 yards
~ Ohio State started on the Colorado side of the 50 six times--27 points (3 TD 2 FG)
~ 5/6 in the red zone (3 TD 2 FG)
~ 3 sacks and no turnovers
~ 43/61 plays took place on the Colorado side of the 50--(70%)
~ 14/61 plays went for no gain or loss--(23%)
~ 1/12 possessions ended 3 and out--(8%)
~ Number of plays of 10+ yards--15--(25%)
~ Actual playcall breakdown when sacks/scrambles included--23 pass 38 runs
Not exactly spectacular statistics. This was another game where the opposing defense didn't really do a whole lot of things to try to stop the offense, but for this game at least, the offense didn't look powerless to move the ball against it. For the most part, the Buffaloes played a 3-4 with their strong safety rolled up, a deep safety and man to man on the outside when the Buckeyes were in "21" personnel, and pretty much only switched to 2 deep safeties when they went shotgun. There was some blitzing, especially in the second half, but it was pretty vanilla.
Overall, I was encouraged by the direction the offense is going, and I think it presents the Buckeyes with their best chance to win games going forward.
Whenever the Buckeyes start a new quarterback this is going to be the longest section of this article. After getting just 48 snaps in the first three games, Miller got the first start of his Ohio State career and more than doubled his snap total with 55 plays. There were a lot of unknowns in what he brings to the table. The early signs are encouraging.
If we learned one thing about Miller this week, it's that he's a very exciting runner. Truly great runners have an instinct for when they've got a man off-balance and how their blocking is going to set up to blow past tacklers, and Miller has it right out of the gate. That alone makes him an exciting player. He still has to learn about the position and the fact that the offense hasn't had a chance to gel around him yet should excite you even more.
There is a long way for him to go in the passing game however, and that should temper your enthusiasm for at least this season. One big positive I saw from him was his footwork and general mechanics. They are pretty good for a freshman, and are a solid foundation for the rest of his passing game to be built on. Most of his issues stem from inexperience more than anything else. Quarterback is the position where the speed difference from high school is the greatest and hardest to adapt to.
When he starts getting a better feel for pressure, and using his legs to extend plays for his receivers rather than taking off on scrambles, he's going to be that much more dangerous. He actually did keep his eyes downfield and nearly hit Carlos Hyde for a big gain in the fourth quarter in one of those situations.
All in all, I think the coaches called a fine game for him, calling several planned runs, and it was clear he was given the green light to take off if his primary receiver was covered. After the Buckeyes went up 34-10, it seemed the coaching staff asked him to stay in the pocket, make some reads, and throw the ball around a little bit. I thought he did a decent job all things considered, hitting a couple of nice passes, making a good throw on a blitz hot read though the receiver wasn't on the same page, and having a couple more easily catchable passes dropped. He could've easily finished the game 10/13.
Grade--B Braxton's inexperience severely limits the offense, but the simplicity also allows him to be himself without thinking about things too much. This might be grading him a bit high, but I'll admit to being dazzled a bit by the running ability.
With the Colorado defense playing 8 in the box nearly the entire game, it would've have been surprising for the running game to struggle, but that's not what happened. Jordan Hall had a huge impact on special teams, and he nearly had several big gains in the running game as well, just getting tripped up as he was about to break free on more than one play. It will be interesting to see what happens at running back when Boom Herron returns because Hall has been the best player in a Buckeye uniform the past two games.
Carlos Hyde is slowly improving every week, and there were a few plays where he impressed me with his patience and ability to find the hole and get through it. I really enjoy watching him run sprint draw plays, as he's able to get a good head of steam going and he punishes the defensive backs at the end of those runs. He gained over 20 yards on three of those against the Buffaloes.
One guy that seems to be a lost man in the offense this season is Jaamal Berry. He's been dealing with injuries, but got a few carries in this game. Now that he seems to be closer to 100%, is he going to be a part of the offense or not?
Grade--B+ Both backs missed just enough holes and cutbacks for me to drop their grade slightly. Still, Hall and Hyde behind Zach Boren was tough for the Buffaloes to stop, even though they were loading the box.
Last week, this group finished the game with zero completions. While it took a little while for Miller to hit any in this game, when he finally did, it came in a big way, and it seems as if a star might be emerging from the group of freshman receivers seeing the field early this season. Devin Smith was targeted six times by the two quarterbacks, and finished the day with three of the team's seven receptions (though it should've been four of eight) and both of the passing touchdowns. You can't help but to be impressed with his athleticism and his willingness to go up and get the ball. The Buckeyes needed someone to emerge at receiver, and it looks like Smith is going to be that guy.
I was a little surprised to see how often Jake Stoneburner stayed in to block instead of going out into a pattern. Reid Fragle finished the day with two receptions, while Stoneburner finished the day with zero catches and another ball bouncing off of his hands, though that one would've been another tough catch. A good receiving tight end is a young quarterback's best friend. I would expect to see the ball in Stoneburner's hands more before this season is over.
Grade--B- No one besides Fragle and Smith had a catch in this game before the score was 37-10. The drops and misreads need immediate improvement.
One of the biggest compliments you can give an offensive line is to not mention them much when you're talking about a game. When people aren't talking about them, they're doing their job. I still think this is the best line I've seen at Ohio State since the mid-90's. If Mike Adams can come in and pick up where he left off last season, this line can be dominant. Colorado was loading the box, yet the Buckeyes could still run the ball.
Miller was sacked three times, but only one of those was due to a bad miss on the line. One came on a blitz Miller didn't recognize until too late and the other came as he half rolled right into the defender. The rest of the game, he wasn't significantly pressured. Most of his scrambles were from his first option being covered rather than pressure.
I will say that going forward, I expect teams in the Big Ten to blitz and put a lot of pressure on the line of scrimmage against Miller and the Buckeye offense. Teams will attempt to make Miller pass the ball rather than run wild on them. I expect the line to have times where they don't look as good as they do now.
Grade--A- I thought they did a pretty good job of making things as easy as possible for Miller.
After last week's game, almost all Buckeye fans wondered whether the coaches were going to have the intestinal fortitude to make the switch at quarterback that nearly everyone could see was necessary. It turns out they did. Pulling a senior quarterback to play a freshman creates a whole other set of problems, especially when most of the practice time up to this last game saw Bauserman getting the majority of snaps.
After the switch was announced, I think most Buckeye fans expected to see exactly what we saw from the offense against Colorado. They called plenty of plays to take advantage of his strengths, allowed him a quick trigger to scramble when his first passing option wasn't there, and leaned heavily on the running game. All in all, I think the coaches called a solid game.
Miller's skill set calls for a gameplan more similar to what the Buckeyes were doing with Pryor playing quarterback than the power running and playaction heavy passing attack the Buckeyes started this season with. I wouldn't be surprised to see the gameplans start to center around the threat of Miller running the ball in the coming weeks.
While this is probably the style of offense that gives the Buckeyes the best possibility of winning games, winning or losing will also be heavily related to how well the quarterback plays. Both Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor had their growing pains when thrust into that same situation and same offensive style in the past and we can probably expect that from Miller if that is the way the offense evolves.
At this point, the 2011 season is going to revolve around how well the coaches can develop Miller quickly into some semblance of a threat in the passing game. Past success with this situation tells me Jim Bollman will do an adaquate if not underwhelming job of calling games for a young quarterback. Quarterback coach Nick Siciliano has come under some fire for his relative inexperience. This situation will be make it or break it time for him, at least in the fan's eyes.
Grade--B+ I thought the coaches did a pretty good job of balancing of letting Miller be himself and shielding him from having to be "the man" yet. A good line and running game will only make that easier.
After last season's series of debacles on special teams, especially early in the season, I thought we would be in for more of the same this year. Maybe I just didn't have faith in Luke Fickell's ability to focus on this area with everything else going on with the program right now. I'm glad to say I was wrong.
Not only are the coverage teams much better this season, with Nate Ebner and Ryan Shazier seemingly in on every tackle and coming up with a fumble recovery near the end of the first half of this game, but the return games have been a real weapon as well. Jordan Hall has transformed himself into a dangerous return man on both punts and kickoffs and nearly took one back against Colorado.
Drew Basil struggled early in the season, but went three for three in this game to give everyone a much needed boost of confidence in him. Ben Buchanan has also become a weapon and once again did a good job of placing his punts inside the 20-yard line.
Grade--A+ This was as close to a perfect game on special teams as I can remember. It's nice to not cringe when I see a special team on the field.
When I look at the youth on offense, I find myself thinking of a certain group of "super-sophemores" from a few generations back. This group isn't going to win a National Championship this season, but the raw talent is obviously there and if this group can stay healthy and together, the next several seasons have the potential of being very fun to watch. I can't help but think we're watching the infant stages of something that might end up being great. For now, we focus on Michigan State and the first test of a Big Ten defense for the offense. This game will tell us a lot about how the rest of the season will go.
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