By the Numbers - Miami offense
There have been some pretty tough losses to take as a Buckeye fan over the last decade, but none of them have been this bad to a team as decidedly mediocre as the Miami Hurricanes are this season. Most Buckeye fans expected the offense to struggle some this season with so many new faces and the quarterback situation being what it is, but a certain level of competency was also expected. Instead we got a quarterback perfomance that reminded me of the 2001 UCLA game and the lowest point total scored by the offense since the 35-3 loss to USC in 2008.
The loss, and the way it happened, put Head Coach Luke Fickell in a very precarious position.
There's always plenty to talk about after a loss, but first let's get through the horror show that is the statistics for this game.
55 Total Plays--200 yards--3.6 yards per play
18 pass (33%)--4/18 for 36 yards 1 INT
37 rush (67%) for 164 yards--4.4 ypc
11 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.0 plays--18.2 yards
Ave. Start--OSU 37
1st Down--25 plays (45%) for 126 yards
6 pass (24%)--2/6 for 23 yards
19 rush (76%) for 103 yards-5.4 ypc
Ave. gain of 5.0 yards
2nd Down--18 plays (33%) for 65 yards
5 pass (28%)--1/5 for 9 yards 1 INT
13 rush (72%) for 56 yards--4.3 ypc
Ave. of 7.5 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.6 yards
3rd Down--12 plays (22%) for 9 yards
7 pass (58%)--1/7 for 4 yards
5 rush (42%) for 5 yards--1.0 ypc
Ave. of 5.8 yards to go
Ave. gain of 0.8 yards
Two Back Formations--28 plays (51%)
6 pass (21%)--0/6 for 0 yards 1 INT
22 rush (79%) for 122 yards--5.5 ypc
Shotgun Formations--26 plays (47%)
11 pass (42%)--3/11 for 27 yards
15 rush (58%) for 42 yards--2.8 ypc
One Back Formations--1 play (2%)
1 pass (100%)--1/1 for 9 yards
RUN TYPE BREAKDOWN--37 attempts
Draw--1 (3%) for 17 yards--17.0 ypc
Lead Zone/Iso--17 (46%) for 103 yards--6.1 ypc
Option-- 8 (22%) for 35 yards--4.4 ypc
Outside Zone--2 (5%) for 1 yard--0.5 ypc
Power--3 (8%) for 8 yards--2.7 ypc
QB run/scramble--4 (11%) for -3 yards--(-0.8) ypc
TEAM--2 (5%) for 3 yards--1.5 ypc
Other Stats of Note
~3 offensive penalties for 15 yards
~Ohio State started on the Miami side of the 50 once--3 points (FG)
~2/2 in the Red Zone (2 FG)
~2 sacks and 2 turnovers (1 fumble 1 INT)
~28/55 plays took place on the Miami side of the 50--(51%)
~21/55 plays went for no gain or loss--(38%)
~4/11 drives went three and out--(36%)
~Number of plays of 10+ yards--8 (15%)
~Joe Bauserman offense--37 plays for 92 yards--6 points--0 turnovers
~Braxton Miller offense--18 plays for 108 yards--0 points--2 turnovers
~Number of completions to Wide Receivers or Tight Ends--0
This is the section that I reserve for any praise the other team deserves, but I don't have a whole lot to put here other than Miami has a lot of decent athletes on their defense. The Miami defense didn't do a whole lot special to stymie the Ohio State offense, yet the offense could do virtually nothing against them. There was very little blitzing, and they played mostly man to man with their corners, yet the Buckeye quarterbacks finished the day just 4/18, with two of those completions coming on the last two plays of the game when the Miami defense was playing prevent.
The Buckeyes managed only 9 yards on third down and did terrible inside the opponent 10-yard line. That meant the Buckeyes had trouble sustaining drives and getting into the end zone when they did. OSU quarterbacks finished with just one 3rd-down completion for 4 yards and 0/3 in the red zone. Even though the receivers and tight ends were targeted 11 times none of those ended up being completed.
Amid all the doom and gloom, there were a couple of bright spots for the offense. Jordan Hall returned from suspension and was an immediate spark for the offense. He left the game on his first play of the 2nd half, just when it seemed the Buckeyes might get back in the contest, and wasn't the same when he finally returned in the 4th quarter. He finished the game with 85 yards rushing on just 14 attempts and went for more than 10 yards on each of his first four carries. He did that behind a line that was opening up massive holes in the Miami defense every play.
There's plenty to talk about in the position groups. Let's dive right in and see what we learned this week.
If there is anything we learned this week, it would be that Braxton Miller needs to replace Joe Bauserman as the starting quarterback. For most Buckeye fans, the decision to start Bauserman over Miller was an uneasy one. Over the two previous seasons, there was never a point when anyone wanted to see him on the field instead of Terrelle Pryor, and these past two games have shown us exactly why. While there are a couple of positives in his game, mainly centering around being very careful with the ball, there just isn't enough upside to warrant him being the starter. He's just not a playmaker. He's not good at reading defenses, anticipating receivers coming open, or even throwing them open in tighter coverage. When he does throw the ball, he has a painfully slow release with a long windup, and he tends to throw the ball more like a baseball than a football at times. He also tends to either lock onto a receiver too long without letting it go, resulting in several throwaways, or he checks down very quickly.
Last week, I was hesitant to call for Braxton Miller because there was no guarantee he'd be better at any of those things, but this week all that has changed. When it comes to the throwing part of the quarterback position, I don't think he could possibly be any worse than Bauserman. He obviously brings the ability to make plays with his legs when pass plays break down and can be a threat in the running game. There is still no guarantee that he will be able to move the ball through the air consistantly, but it simply can't be much worse than it was on Saturday night with Joe in the game.
It's as simple as this: Joe is a 5th year senior with no upside left to explore. He is what he's going to be. Miller is a freshman with a lot to learn, which should start with tucking the ball away much better when he's running with it, but it's clear he has a lot of upside. He will make mistakes, possibly a lot of them, but the experience he'll gain will be invaluable. There's always the danger of damaging a young quarterback's psyche when he's "thrown to the wolves", but the coaches can shield him from a lot of that through playcalling, such as what the Buckeyes did in 2004 with Troy Smith and 2008 with Pryor. Miller is the future, and I think the future is now.
Grade--F Two completions for 13 yards when the game was still in doubt. Two turnovers by the freshman with two more balls on the ground recovered by the offense. Good quarterback play can make a good team look great. Bad quarterback play can make a good team look terrible. This game was option B.
Considering the passing game was nearly non-existant, I came away impressed with the ability of the running backs to move the ball against the Hurricanes. As I already alluded to, Jordan Hall was the spark that got the offense going when he finally came into the game on Ohio State's third series. He's improved so much over last year's version. It was hard to believe it was the same player. He was hitting the holes fast, seeing and running through cutback lanes, and generally blowing through arm tackle attempts by the Miami defense. If he can stay healthy and on the field it looks as if he and Boom Herron can being a dominant one-two punch when Boom comes back.
Last week, I was pretty hard on Carlos Hyde. I said he looked good up to the point where he took the ball and started running and that he wouldn't be Ohio State's next great back. My mind hasn't changed on the "next great back" part, but I'm going to apologize for the first part of that. I thought Hyde did a pretty good job of finding holes and hitting them harder than he did in the first two games. Clearly experience has helped him a little bit, and it looks like Herron's tutilage might be helping him a little as well. I think he had the best individual effort of the game, picking up an errant snap on a third down play and fighting for a first down on Ohio State's first field goal drive.
All in all, when you combine the quicks of Hall and Herron when he returns with Hyde's power and put it behind the blocking of this offensive line and Zach Boren, the running game looks as if it could be pretty potent this season. If the Buckeyes do go with Miller going forward, having a strong running game will ease a lot of the pressure on him to have to win games himself.
Grade--A- This was one of the few bright spots in the game for the Buckeyes. Hyde still missed a few holes, but it was nowhere near as bad as it was the first two games.
I graded the quarterbacks an "F" this week, partly because they finished the game with exactly zero completions to this group. The receivers didn't do the quarterbacks any favors with 5 drops of catchable balls. Verlon Reed looked like the Buckeye's best receiver in the first two games, but led the way with two drops. Chris Fields, Evan Spencer and Jake Stoneburner all dropped one as well, though Stoneburner's would've been a tough catch on a hard throw that was behind him.
A lot has been made of their youth, and they did seem to play nervous early in the game, but the perception is that they weren't getting open at all either. We don't always get a good look at what the receivers are doing from television coverage, even with the wider view we get with HD, but there were several times I saw receivers open but the ball didn't end up going their way. Most of the routes that come open are ones that depend on timing and anticipation, such as curls/hooks and deep comebacks, and I have no confidence at this point in Bauserman having that kind of chemistry with his receivers to even begin throwing timing routes.
After three games of the Buckeyes running several playaction rollout flood combinations per game, Miami had them pretty well covered all game long and Bauserman ended up throwing most of those away. A lot was made in the pre-season of the Buckeyes using the short passing game, including a lot of option routes with the tight ends. We saw a little of that against Akron, less against Toledo, and none of it against Miami. They threw one WR screen pass that went incomplete, and none of the three-step quick passes we saw a couple of times in the first two games. Are all of the receivers on the team afraid to run a slant pattern, or are they not even a part of the offense?
Grade--D The only thing keeping this from being a "F" was Reid Fragle and Jake Stoneburner's blocking on run plays. This group has GOT to be better.
Here's where Buckeye fans might run into a bit of a conundrum when it comes to the offense this season. The hatred of Jim Bollman as Ohio State's offensive coordinator is probably pretty close to universal at this point, but he is also the offensive line coach, and I think this is the best offensive line I've seen at Ohio State in over a decade. Not only were they opening truck size holes in the Miami front all game, but there was very little pressure on the quarterbacks.
Had the Buckeyes not had all of the off-season turmoil and none of the players out or departed due to "Tattoo-gate" and whatever "gate" the charity thing is named, this offense would probably be national championship caliber. Imagine Herron, Hall and Pryor running behind this line with Zach Boren lead blocking and a young, but talented, receiving corps led by senior DeVier Posey. This has become a season of what might have been, and it's a shame that such a great looking line is now relegated to easing transitions instead of competing for championships.
Grade--A The offensive struggles did not come from the line. How does the general feeling of Bollman's incompetence jibe with what we're seeing from the line this season?
There was plenty of blame to spread around for this game, and we've already covered where it had to be directed at players. That leaves whatever's left to fall to the coaching staff, and there is plenty. One of the most surprising things to me so far this season was how coherent the gameplan seemed to be against Akron. The next week against Toledo, I was left to wonder if that was a one game accident. After breaking the Miami game down, I'm left thinking it was. Once again, this felt like a grab-bag of plays called seemingly by drawing them out of a hat.
On the bright side, the Buckeyes had success running simple lead zone plays and the coaching staff kept running them, 17 times to be exact. They had success with Braxton Miller running the read option, and they let him do it several times on his fourth quarter drive. Unfortunately, that's about as far as I can go for praise this week.
I've already touched on the short passing game we were hearing about in the spring and in fall camp, and the lack of any semblance of it against Miami. Bauserman has had issues reading the defenses and letting go of the ball on intermediate and slow developing (rollout) plays, yet the Buckeyes continually went to those plays on pass plays in this game. I was expecting a lot more from the three-step pass game, more screens to the wide receivers, and a healthy dose of the tight ends. Instead we're getting both quarterbacks zoned in on Stoneburner whenever he's in the game, and virtually no quick passing game.
If Bauserman is having so much trouble reading things, the coaches aren't putting him in a position to succeed if they call a bunch of plays that require him to read the defense. They at least tried to cut down on that with the playaction rollout passes, requiring him to make pretty simple reads, but he's having trouble with even that.
On a more fundamental level, the decision to roll with Bauserman as the starter was obviously a tough one for the coaches. With so many new and young faces, especially at the skill positions, I imagine they felt that a freshman quarterback wasn't the right way to go, and I can understand that. Maybe they felt Bauserman's maturity as a senior would provide some leadership to a side of the ball sorely in need of it. Unfortunately, when you see him laughing on the sideline down 17-6 and in the middle of one of the worst quarterback performances in Ohio State history, you have no choice but to question that maturity and leadership.
The coaching staff has done nothing but waste time with Bauserman while they should've been concentrating on getting Braxton Miller ready to go. At this point, I'm not sure if Buckeye Nation has any confidence in the offensive staff to get him ready at all, but the switch needs to be made.
Grade--D The Buckeyes looked completely unprepared for this game. Other than lead zone plays, it was truly a horror show.
If there's a game ball to hand out after this game, Jordan Hall is a strong candidate, but the one who should get it is probably Ben Buchanan. After a shaky season last year and a couple of good, but not great, games to start this season, he single-footedly helped keep the Buckeyes in this game with some booming and well placed punts that allowed the Buckeyes to win the battle of field position all night. OSU started at their 40 yard line or better on all but one of their second half drives at least partly due to his punting. It certainly wasn't his fault the Buckeyes were unable to do anything with their favorable position.
As for the rest of the special teams, Drew Basil finally hit on his field goals, nailing two of them in this game. The return game was adaquate, but nothing special outside of a good Jordan Hall punt return in the 3rd quarter. The coverage teams were decent, but allowed a long punt return that helped set up Miami's second touchdown drive.
Grade--B+ Buchanan brings this grade up quite a bit. It's good to see him have success after struggling much of last season.
The Buckeyes now come back home to face a pretty bad Colorado team. This game will be telling in a lot of ways. I think some changes are immediately necessary in order for Fickell to stay in the good graces of the fanbase. If the offensive looks as unprepared as they looked against Miami would be a huge strike against the entire staff, including Fickell. This young team is at an early crossroad.
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