By the Numbers - Purdue Offense
By Jeff Amey
For the second straight week, the Buckeyes came out flat, giving up an early 10 point lead while looking listless on both offense and defense. The Buckeyes eventually righted the ship against Indiana, but they weren't able to do quite enough to get past Purdue despite a third-straight game of late game heroics from freshman quarterback Braxton Miller.
This was a frustrating and disappointing game on many levels. While the Buckeyes are winning, the criticism of the coaching staff quiets down a little bit, but when they lose, especially looking like they did on Saturday, it's time to take a long look at where the program is. Any goodwill Luke Fickell won with the fanbase with the win over Wisconsin went out the window on Saturday, and dissatisfaction with the offensive staff seems to have exploded yet again.
Before we get into that, let's look at the stats. Before you start, you should know that the Boilermakers gave up more yardage in their loss to Rice, and over 600 yards of offense last week to Wisconsin. They were giving up more than 400 yards per game coming in. The Buckeyes couldn't top 300, including overtime.
66 Total Plays--298 yards--4.5 yards per play
18 pass (27%)--8/18 for 132 yards 2 TD
48 rush (73%) for 166 yards 1 TD--3.5 ypc
14 Offensive Possessions
Ave. of 4.7 plays--21.3 yards
Ave. Start--OSU 30
First Down--27 plays (41%) for 103 yards
2 pass (7%)--1/2 for 14 yards
25 rush (93%) for 89 yards--3.6 ypc
Ave. gain of 3.8 yards
Second Down--22 plays (33%) for 88 yards
8 pass (36%)--4/8 for 52 yards
14 rush (64%) for 36 yards 1 TD--2.6 ypc
Ave. of 8.5 yards to go
Ave. gain of 4.0 yards
Third Down--16 plays (24%) for 94 yards
7 pass (44%)--2/7 for 53 yards 1 TD
9 rush (56%) for 41 yards--4.6 ypc
Ave. of 8.6 yards to go
Ave. gain of 5.9 yards
Fourth Down--1 play (2%) for 13 yards
1 pass (100%)--1/1 for 13 yards 1 TD
Ave. of 3.0 yards to go
Ave gain of 13.0 yards
Playaction Passing--9 Total
3/6 for 45 yards
2 scrambles for 7 yards
1 sack for -5 yards
Two Back Formations--29 plays (44%) for 88 yards (3.0 ypp)
5 pass (17%)--2/5 for 20 yards
24 rush (83%) for 68 yards--2.8 ypc
Shotgun Formations--27 plays (41%) for 189 yards (7.0 ypp)
12 pass (44%)--5/12 for 92 yards 2 TD
15 rush (56%) for 97 yards 1 TD--6.5 ypc
Pistol Formations--5 plays (8%) for 15 yards (3.0 ypp)
1 pass (20%)--1/1 for 20 yards
4 rush (80%) for -5 yards--(-1.3) ypc
One Back Formations--5 plays (8%) for 6 yards (1.2 ypp)
5 rush (100%) for 6 yards--1.2 ypc
RUN TYPE BREAKDOWN--48 attempts
Counter/Trap--5 (10%) for 34 yards--6.8 ypc
Draw--1 (2%) for 3 yards--3.0 ypc
Lead Zone/Iso--14 (29%) for 57 yards--4.1 ypc
Option--3 (6%) for 6 yards 1 TD--2.0 ypc
Outside Zone--4 (8%) for 7 yards--1.8 ypc
Power--6 (13%) for 14 yards--2.3 ypc
QB run/scramble--13 (27%) for 36 yards--2.8 ypc
Sweep--2 (4%) for 9 yards--4.5 ypc
Other Stats of Note
~ 5 offensive penalties for 23 yards
~ Ohio State started on the Purdue side of the 50 twice--3 points (FG)
~ 2/2 in the Red Zone (2 TD)
~ 5 sacks and no turnovers
~ 30/66 plays took place on the Purdue side of the 50--(45%)
~ 26/66 plays went for no gain/loss--(39%)
~ 13/66 plays went for 10+ yards--(20%)
~ 6/14 drives went 3 and out--(43%)
~ Actual playcall breakdown with scrambles/sacks figured in--28 pass 38 rush
~ First Down plays of 3 yards or less--20/27 (74%)
To answer some questions you might have about where some things OSU did are characterized in the breakdown, I put the single wing plays under "Shotgun" formations. I can't bring myself to call what they're doing a "Wildcat" because that is way more imaginative than what the Buckeyes are doing. That involves at least a fake to a receiver in motion to help freeze defenders on the edge. The Buckeyes have run one play from it all season long, and that is just a simple Lead-Zone play. It's almost straight out of the 1940's and 50's, and is simply a way to run their base play with things a little more even in the box, taking the QB out of the equation and forcing the defense to defend one more man.
I'd like to point out a couple of other things that don't show up in the breakdown. The Buckeyes ran a lot of over-balanced I formations with the tight end on the twin receiver side. He was covered up and couldn't go out in patterns if the Buckeyes chose to pass from the formation, which didn't matter because they never did. They were in that formation 12 times and gained a total of 42 yards for an average of 3.5 yards per play. That includes 29 yards on two runs by Boom Herron on counter plays, which means the other 10 plays gained only 13 yards for 1.3 yards per play. Purdue countered this formation with 9 in the box and played 10-15 yards off the slot receiver with a safety. Remember, not one pass call from this formation. They didn't even call the counter plays until well into the second half.
That itself is what's wrong with the Ohio State offense in a nutshell. They continually call plays into the strengths of what the defense is doing, only occasionally doing something outside of their tendencies. Those few plays that go outside tendencies are run once, maybe twice, then shelved, never to be seen again.
Take first down playcalling. Purdue was loading the box and attacking the line of scrimmage the entire game on first down, usually with 9, but never less than 8 in the box. On all four first down pass calls, there was at least one receiver or back running free. One play was messed up due to immediate pressure, but the other three could've been big plays.
If the Buckeyes at least showed willingness to throw the ball more on first down, even if they completed none of them, it might loosen things up a little bit for the running game. Some games, especially if the opposing defense isn't very good, this won't matter very much, but if a team sells out on early downs to stop the run the way Purdue was, how does the coaching staff not do something, ANYTHING, different?
As frustrated as I am with the offensive staff after this game, I can't help but be encouraged by certain aspects of Braxton Miller's play. For one, he's obviously a competitor. He's doing whatever he can within his understanding of the offense to move the offense. He has his strengths and weaknesses, his greatest weakness being simply youth, but over the past several games, he has been the difference between winning, or at least being in a position to win, and losing.
Miller had another rough day stat-wise in the passing game, but he's showing small signs of improvement. He's showing better understanding of where his outlets are. Both of his first two completions were outlets to his backs, with the second one going for a touchdown. Those plays were there for him all game long, especially on early downs (1st and 2nd) as the Purdue defense was playing run very hard and didn't even have the back covered on a few of those plays. Miller still has a tendency to stare down his primary on plays and misses wide open outlets or secondary receivers. On nearly every one of his long pass attempts in this game, there was a shorter man running WIDE open.
He isn't being done many favors with the pass patterns being called. It seems the coaching staff is more concerned with clearing things out for him to scramble by sending the receivers deep on low percentage completion routes than getting Miller easy reads and throws to make on shorter routes that are more likely to be open against the coverages. I can understand that reading the defense isn't a strength, and Purdue did have some success confusing him by dropping into zones after showing man at the snap, but to not even try?
After the game, Jim Bollman said that throwing intermediate and short routes takes precision. Yes, and it takes good timing and chemistry between the quarterback and receivers as well. My question is, just what are the Buckeyes doing in practice? If precision and timing are an issue, how is this not something that they are working on at least a little bit every day? I realize how the coaching game works and they spend a lot of time implementing gameplan, but with fundamentals of the passing game being so weak, there has to be time devoted to it, right?
Grade--B- He nearly had another Wisconsin moment with the fourth down touchdown pass, and was fantastic with all of the big runs in the fourth quarter, especially when he wasn't feeling 100%. The scary part (in a good way) is that I think they're barely scratching the surface of his potential.
All three running backs got into the fray against Purdue, but they found the sledding tough against a defense that was stacked to stop them. They finished the game with 120 yards on 31 carries between them all, but nearly half of their yardage came on just three plays with the other 28 carries gaining just 63 yards, for a little over 2 yards per carry.
Boom Herron led the way with 62 yards on 18 carries, Carlos Hyde only managed 12 yards on his four carries, but the big day belonged to Jordan Hall. He added 46 yards on 9 carries, but made more of an impact as a receiver out of the backfield, leading the team with three receptions for 58 yards and both receiving touchdowns in the game. Herron added one reception for 20 yards early in the game and both backs were open out of the backfield numerous more times in the game.
Grade--B+ Little of the issues came from the backs. Zach Boren had too many to block to open up holes for the running backs, and there was little room for them to go. When they got their opportunities, they made the most of them.
With Verlon Reed out for the season, and Philly Brown injured and out for this game, it fell to little used T.Y. Williams to come out and lead the receiving corps in receptions with just two, with one more each for Evan Spencer and Devon Smith. Chris Fields ended the game with more penalty yards than receiving yards for the third time this season.
There were opportunities for this to be a much bigger game for the receivers. There has been a lot of talk about the young receivers not getting open.
In this game, the Big Ten Network camera man did a decent job of staying in a wide angle on a lot of pass plays, allowing me to see the receivers work more often than normal. I didn't see a lot of plays where there wasn't anyone open. Instead I saw the receivers come open often, but Miller wasn't usually looking at them. Miller has had a tendency to stare down his primary too long, which has been drawing the defense to where he's looking, which in turn opened opportunities for him elsewhere on the field. If that part of his game ever starts to click, look for the receivers to start coming into their own. I just don't think it's going to happen for him this season.
Grade--B Jake Stoneburner is still doing well blocking, but isn't able to get any kind of separation on his pass patterns against linebackers and safeties. Opposing defenses are locking him down when he goes out.
This game was another example of the offensive line looking bad when they are put in a bad position with too many people to try to block. Purdue played almost the entire game with at least 8 in the box, only coming out of that when the Buckeyes had three receivers on the field. They played run downs aggressively and on pass downs tried to control gaps. The fact the Buckeyes finished the day with 166 yards on the ground against a defense arrayed like that is a feat in itself.
As has been noted in many places, Antonio Underwood started at right tackle and had a rough day of it. He was average at run blocking and had trouble with inside speed moves in pass protection. Miller was sacked three times in the first half, and all of the pressure initially came from Underwood's man.
The line was much better after the switch with Jack Mewhort going to tackle and Cory Lindsey to guard. The backs actually had some success running behind the right side in the second half.
Grade--B- Underwood drags the grade down some, and while the play and formation calling did the line no favors, there still was too much penetration.
For as surprisingly decent as special teams have been this season, this was a game where special teams let the team down. There were several plays that could've affected the outcome of this game had they gone another way, but none moreso than the blocked extra point at the end of the game. The missed extra point allowed what was probably going to be a win become a life and death struggle.
The rest of special teams were fair. Coverage has been good on kicks all season. Ben Buchanan had a so-so day, but he was kicking into a stiff breeze for half of the game.
Grade--C+ The extra point drags the grade down quite a bit simply for when it happened. Blocked kicks are inexcusable.
The players, in post-game interviews, alluded to a belief th have ey could run on anyone, anytime, no matter how many players were in the box. By the end of the first quarter, it should've been painfully obvious that wasn't going to be the case against Purdue. They finished that quarter with 11 yards on 9 plays and three 3 and outs.
While I will give the staff a little credit for adjusting to try a few different things through the next three quarters, it was still more of the same that we've come to expect from a Bollman-led team against a team determined to take away the Buckeye's strength. Run the ball constantly into the opponent's strengths, go outside of tendencies occasionally for a good gain, then immediately shelve that play, never to be called again, and go back to beating their heads against the wall until they bring out another play that goes away from tendencies. Oh, and if they need to actually move the ball, rely on your freshman quarterback to improvise his way to first downs on third and long after two straight calls that went nowhere.
My biggest problem with the coaching staff on gameday is that there is no contingency if the opposing defense is taking away what the Buckeyes want to do in a game. Purdue came into this game determined not to let the Ohio State running game beat them. Once that was obvious, the Buckeyes don't have easy-read short playaction passes ready to counter it? It took until the FOURTH quarter before the Buckeyes ran a playaction pass when the receivers weren't all on long routes, and it was completed to a WIDE OPEN Evan Spencer.
Instead, we get the Buckeyes using a formation 12 times in a game that makes Purdue's life easier by eliminating the tight end as a receiving threat just by where he lines up. Then we get them running the ball to the strength of that formation against 9 in the box on every play until the middle of the third quarter, They finally ran a counter than gained 8 yards, followed by another that gained 21 yards later in the game. We also see them not even bother to attempt a pass from it though the opposing team is giving them single coverage on the outside and playing off the slot by 10-15 yards!
We see the Buckeyes pound their head against an extra man in the box for an entire half, and the adjustment is to bring back the 1940's and 50's with the single wing? That worked for a 25 yard gain the first time they did it, but after that play, the Boilermakers played it with no expectation that the Buckeyes would pass from it, crashed hard, and gave up more than 3 yards on only one more play from it the rest of the game. It doesn't help that the Buckeyes ran the same play from it the whole time...with no motion...or any threat to do anything else but a simple lead-zone.
This team is young, and that puts limitations on what and how much you can teach them, but is getting to the same formation a slightly different way through different pre-snap motion at least all that difficult a concept?
For me, this was the most frustrating game to watch this season. This was a breaking point for me. This team had no business losing to Purdue on Saturday, and they have no business being 6-4 at this point of the season. The defense has it's own issues, which we'll get into later this week, but there is too much talent on the offense for it to look this poor week after week, despite the youth at quarterback and receiver.
Grade--D- I can't give them an "F" since they at least TRIED a few different things, including calling a total of 28 pass plays, but it wasn't nearly enough to give them anything except the next step above it. I'm not asking for the coaches to draw us up a playcalling masterpiece, but at this point they're giving us crayon stick-figures. Winning allows criticism to be squelched at least somewhat. Losing opens back up this can of worms every time.