By the Numbers
By Jeff Amey
When the Purdue Boilermakers took their first play from scrimmage 83 yards for a touchdown there was a sense of "here we go again". The players said that play settled them down, and I guess they were right, because the defense played a lot better from that play on, giving up only seven more plays of 10 or more yards and allowing only one more offensive touchdown.
There were still several issues, some that I feel will not be completely fixed this season, but as a whole, I thought this was a positive step for the defense. After some initial tinkering with drop-back passes, the Purdue offense went to their usual spread option attack with the screen and short passing game and playaction. After that touchdown, while the Boilermakers could move the ball at times, the Buckeyes held the Boilers to an average of less than four yards per play and managed five three and outs.
The defense still has a long way to go, but it looks like the pieces are starting to fall in place for this to at least be an adaquate defense. Their next three games seem to fall either more into their wheelhouse (Penn State, Wisconsin) or the offense has been dreadful (Illinois). They have those three games to get it together for the big test at the end of the year against Denard Robinson and the rest of the Michigan offense.
Let's take a look at the stats for the Purdue game.
69 Total Plays--346 yards--5.0 yards per play
30 pass (43%)--19/30 for 230 yards 2 TD 1 INT
39 rush (57%) for 116 yards--3.0 ypc
13 Defensive Possessions
Ave. of 5.3 plays--26.6 yards
Ave. start--Purdue 35
First Down--26 plays (38%) for 188 yards
8 pass (31%)--6/8 for 133 yards 2 TD
18 rush (69%) for 55 yards--3.1 ypc
Ave. gain of 7.2 yards
Second Down--24 plays (35%) for 86 yards
11 pass (46%)--6/11 for 53 yards
13 rush (54%) for 33 yards--2.5 ypc
Ave. of 7.0 yards to go
Ave. gain of 3.6 yards
Third Down--17 plays (25%) for 68 yards
10 pass (59%)--7/10 for 44 yards 1 INT
7 rush (41%) for 24 yards--3.4 ypc
Ave. of 6.8 yards to go
Ave. gain of 4.0 yards
Fourth Down--2 plays (3%) for 4 yards
1 pass (50%)--0/1 for 0 yards
1 rush (50%) for 4 yards--4.0 ypc
Ave. of 3.5 yards to go
Ave. gain of 2.0 yards
First Downs Allowed--14 total
8 by pass
5 by rush
1 by penalty
Purdue Offense vs. 4-3--18 plays (26%) for 75 yards
6 pass (33%)--5/6 for 41 yards
12 rush (67%) for 34 yards--2.8 ypc
Blitz Percentage--6/18 (33%)
No Gain/Loss on blitz--0 (0%)
Purdue Offense vs. 3-4--8 plays (12%) for 47 yards
2 pass (25%)--2/2 for 33 yards 1 TD
6 rush (75%) for 14 yards--2.3 ypc
Blitz Percentage--6/8 (75%)
No Gain/Loss on blitz--1/6 (17%)
Purdue Offense vs. 4-2-5--39 plays (57%) for 195 yards
19 pass (49%)--10/19 for 131 yards 1 TD 1 INT
20 rush (51%) for 64 yards--3.2 ypc
Blitz Percentage--9/39 (23%)
No Gain/Loss on blitz--6/9 (67%)
Purdue Offense vs. 3-3-5--3 plays (4%) for 25 yards
3 pass (100%)--2/3 for 25 yards
Blitz Percentage--2/3 (67%)
No Gain/Loss on blitz--1/2 (50%)
Fake Punt--1 play (1%) for 4 yards
1 rush (100%) for 4 yards--4.0 ypc
Purdue Offense vs. Base (no blitz) defenses--45 plays (65%) for 257 yards
19 pass (42%)--12/19 for 176 yards 2 TD 1 INT
26 rush (58%) for 81 yards
Purdue Offense vs. Blitzes--23 plays (33%) for 85 yards
11 pass (48%)--7/11 for 54 yards
12 rush (52%) for 31 yards--2.6 ypc
Purdue Offense vs. Man to Man (Combo) defenses--20 plays (29%) for 75 yards
9 pass (45%)--5/9 for 38 yards
11 rush (55%) fo 37 yards--3.4 ypc
Purdue Offense vs. Zone Defenses--48 plays (70%) for 267 yards
21 pass (44%)--14/21 for 192 yards 2 TD 1 INT
27 rush (56%) for 75 yards--2.8 ypc
Other Stats of Note
* 1 defensive penalty for 13 yards
* Purdue started on the Ohio State side of the 50 twice--0 points
* 0/3 in the Red Zone
* No Sacks
* 1 turnover--(INT)
* 18/69 plays went for no gain or loss--(26%)
* 42/69 plays went for three yards or less--(61%)
* 8/69 plays went for 10+ yards--(12%)
* 27/69 plays took place on the Ohio State side of the 50--(39%)
* 5/13 drives went three and out--(38%)
* Purdue Offensive Penalties--1 for 5 yards
The Buckeye defense was called a lot more aggressively than normal. They blitzed at least one extra guy on 23 plays, and while they didn't get there with sacks, they were able to disrupt a lot of plays. Nearly half of their yardage against Blitzes came on two plays. One was a timely HB screen call that went for 19 yards and the other was a draw play.
The Buckeyes didn't have a whole lot of no gain/loss plays in the game, but nearly two thirds of them went for three yards or less. They gave up only 8 plays of 10 or more yards. Aside from the two big play touchdowns, the defense actually did a pretty good job. As has been the case, however, the big plays ended up equaling points for the other team, and they still haven't been eliminated.
Also impressive was the fact that the Buckeye defense held the Boilermakers scoreless inside the red zone (1 turnover, 1 blocked FG, and the turnover on downs to end the game). Purdue also started two drives on the Buckeye side of the fifty and came away empty both times. If the Buckeyes can just eliminate the big plays on defense and special teams, we could possibly stop breaking out the 2002 vintage Rolaid packages.
Let's take a look at the position groups and see what else we learned.
The past two weeks I've seen a disturbing trend when people start talking about the Buckeye defensive line. There have been a lot more people that think the line isn't living up to their billing mainly because they haven't gotten to the opposing quarterback and sacked him on pass plays. The dreaded "over-rated" term has been thrown around. I think taking one statistic (sacks) and using it to define whether a group is over-rated or not is wrong-minded thinking.
Take this game for example. Purdue came out early and tried some drop-back passes. The Buckeyes didn't end up with a sack, but got several pressures and would've had a sack had the quarterback not managed to get back to the line of scrimmage before going down. After their third possession, Purdue didn't go back to their drop-back game until overtime. When they did, the pressure was right back in the QB's face. The vast majority of Purdue's passes were three step drop quick passes or screens of some sort.
When it came to running the ball, the Boilermakers managed three plays that gained 10 or more yards, while the vast majority of the rest were gains of three or less (26/39 rushes). Both Johathan Hankins and John Simon were unblockable on run plays, and they blew up a lot of them before they even got started or allowed the linebackers free flow to the ball.
I think a lot of the complaints have to do with the line not dominating games. It's a legitimate gripe, but the defensive line can't do it all by themselves. They had more help from the linebacker corps in this game than they've been getting, and the defensive backs also stepped up at times, but they've hardly been dominant in the back seven. There are ways to counter a good defensive line (screens, quick passes, draws), and if the rest of the defense isn't able to stop those, is that really the line's fault?
Believe what you like, but I think without the defensive line this defense is really bad. Like West Virginia bad. It's the sole reason why things haven't been exponentially worse this season.
Grade--(A-) It's easy to not appreciate good line play, but make no mistake, this group is the heart and soul of this team.
This was an interesting game from the linebacker perspective. Week two of the Zach Boren experiment was much better than week one. Nathan Willams and Noah Spence were also utilized in linebacker roles several times, mostly as blitzers in a 3-4 package, but Williams also spent some time playing linebacker in the 4-3 sets. The addition of new blood breathed new life into the front end defense, at least in my opinion.
Ryan Shazier played what was possibly his best game in a Buckeye uniform and did a much better job of staying within himself and making solid tackles. He still missed a few, but wasn't trying to tackle shoulder high nearly as much and did a better job with his leverage problems. Zach Boren showed that he has good linebacker instinct on several plays, especially against the run. He did a good job of finding the ball early and getting a hat on the ball carrier on several plays. He also gave maximum effort on every play, which is refreshing to see from defensive players.
Storm Klein has caught a lot of heat for that first play of the game where it looks like he was beaten badly in man to man coverage, but I'm not so sure that's what we were SUPPOSED to see on that play. I can't be entirely sure, because it was really THAT bad all around, but I think the Buckeyes were supposed to be in some kind of zone coverage. I can't be sure though because Travis Howard followed the man he lined up on across the field, but it also looked like the other players were playing a zone and not a man. The safeties looked like they were playing zone by rotating to deep thirds, which left a deep third of the field wide open, which is where the ball ended up. Klein ended up looking bad, but I don't think the blown coverage was his fault.
Grade--(B) This was probably the best linebacker play the Buckeyes have had all season. I expect big things from this group against Penn State as well.
The Boilermakers had some success through the air against the Buckeyes, but made nearly half of their yardage total on two plays. The defensive schemes allowed the Boilermakers a lot of freedom in the flats, and they took advantage of it with outside screens and quick flat passes. On the bright side, aside from the touchdown on the screen pass in the third quarter, the Buckeyes read and tackled those short passes pretty well.
I would still like to see the Buckeyes call more man to man, especially if they're going to do more blitzing in these games. Purdue averaged a little over 7 yards per completion vs. man to man coverages and just over 4 yards per attempt. Against zones, the Boilermakers averaged about 14 yards per completion and 9 yards per attempt That's a significant difference, and one that shouldn't be ignored. When facing a quarterback that isn't a significant run threat the Buckeyes are better as a man to man team.
One major problem I have with the defensive backs, especially in zone, is that they do an extremely poor job of fighting through outside blocks, Travis Howard especially. When someone gets their hands on them, they're blocked and rarely come off to make the tackle. For the corners to stop those outside screens consistantly, they need to either knife in before they can be blocked or control their blocker with their hands instead of letting the blocker get their hands on and control them. Bradley Roby is the only one that has any success doing it.
Grade--(B-) The breakdowns here cost the Buckeyes two long touchdowns. Field Corner has been a really weak spot for the defense this season.
The coaches have a long way to go to redeem themselves in the eyes of most Buckeye fans, but they're taking baby steps in the right direction. I enjoyed the fresh looks on defense with 3-4 sets and blitzes. Having Spence, Hankins, Simon, and Williams on the field at the same time is a good move. I'd still like to see them get a little more aggressive a little more often, but that was closer to what I think the defense is capable of.
Zach Boren, unsurprisingly, has already become one of the better players on defense after just two games at linebacker. I don't like seeing seniors get benched, but Boren is light years better than Klein on reading and reacting on run plays. He still has a way to go in coverage, but is clearly the better choice of the two.
With Penn State next, the Buckeye defense should have another week where they look better. Their offense plays to the Buckeye's strengths. It will be interesting to see whether they even attempt to spread the Buckeyes out and use the outside screens and quick passes. I'm really more interested to see how the Buckeyes handle the Illinois offense the week after, as it is more the type that has given the Buckeyes fits this season.
All in all, this week I liked the gameplan and liked the different uses of personnel. This was the best they've looked against a team that likes to spread defenses out. The key is still going to be eliminating the big plays. If they start doing that, I think they win their next three games.
Grade--(B+) The big plays DID happen though, and we can't give them a pass on them. Will they ever eliminate the miscommunications in the defensive backfield?
Donate by Check :
1380 King Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43212
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.
(c) 2010 The O-Zone, O-Zone Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, rebroadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.