Five Things: Cal

By Chris Lauderback on September 16, 2012 at 3:00p
17 Comments

It wasn't pretty as Ohio State overcame 11 penalties, at least that many missed tackles, a turnover and over 500 yards of Cal offense before prevailing, 35-28, yesterday afternoon on a picture perfect day for football in the Horseshoe. 

AP Photo: Jay LaPreteBrax: 79% of the yards and 91% of the points vs. Cal

Braxton Miller had an up and down afternoon completing just 16/30 through the air - engineering five three-and-outs in six possessions at one point - but bookended that rough patch with 249 yards passing and four TD with another 75 on the ground and a TD. Throw in a two-point conversion and the true sophomore accounted for 32 of Ohio State's 35 points and 324 of their 412 yards.

And he still has room to improve? Dude is ridiculous. 

Despite the sieve defense and the hail of miscues on both sides of the ball, the Buckeyes are still locks to be 4-0 ahead of the trip to East Lansing which was the goal. 

The seven-point win against a Cal team Ohio State was favored to beat by 17 cost them four spots in the AP poll but the bottom line is that even though Urban and staff have a multitude of things to fix, those errors didn't cause a defeat. 

While the team goes back to the drawing board, let's take a look at this week's Five Things. 

SACKS ALIVE

Struggling to generate a consistent pass rush in the first two games, Luke Fickell dialed up an increased number of blitzes to aid the rotating front four and the result was a season-high six sacks after registering just three combined in wins over Miami and UCF.

Getty Images: Jamie SabauHank exploded for 10 tackles and a sack

The sacks were split evenly as the blitzers picked up three (Shazier, Sabino, Roby) while the guys up front combined for three of their own via Big Hank, John Simon and Garrett Goebel.

The added pressure helped build a 20-7 lead at the half as the Buckeyes picked up four sacks, six TFL and held the Bears to 1.8 yards per rush.

Two sacks on Cal’s opening possession for a total of -21 yards helped force a punt after the Bears reached midfield. On Cal’s last possession of the half, Shazier brought down Zach Maynard on a 3rd and 10 snap to stall the drive after the Bears had crept to the Buckeye 47-yard line.

Early in the 3rd quarter, Simon got loose via a speed rush off the edge for a seven-yard sack on 3rd and 10, against thwarting a drive as Cal had moved to the OSU 48, trailing by only six at the time.

Hank had what looked like a huge sack at the time as he bull rushed Jordan Rigsbee on 2nd and 10 to set up 3rd and 20 on Cal’s final possession. Clinging to the 35-28 lead, Hank’s sack pushed Cal back to their own 15 but a weak PI call on a woefully struggling C.J. Barnett gave Cal an automatic first down before Christian Bryant’s INT effectively ended the game four plays later.

Of course, bringing pressure can also be risky and at times Cal burned Fickell’s Bullets, using the blitz to create mismatches in the open field.

Cal’s first TD came on a 3rd and 3 blitz in which Tedford used a jailbreak screen to Chris Harper after the blitzing Buckeyes basically vacated the middle of the field.

Leading 20-7 midway through the 2nd quarter, the Buckeyes were burnt again on the blitz but got lucky as a holding call wiped out what would’ve been a 47-yard TD toss on 3rd and 7. Nathan Williams lined up at LB as the Buckeyes sent five to the QB but Sabino got scorched at the line as his man took a short toss for the would-be score.

All in all, the increased blitzing and a more determined front four did generate more pressure but at times, it also left the Buckeyes vulnerable. Those plays really illustrate why it’s important to be able to get pressure without the aid of a blitz. If the Buckeyes have to rely on it, they’ll be forced to do it more often, creating opportunities for the opponent to make big plays.

LINEBACKER U OR LINEBACKER WHO?

It’s no secret the Buckeyes have struggled to put elite playmakers on the field at linebacker over the last handful of years, something the Buckeye faithful aren’t accustomed to in Columbus. This year is starting to resemble those since 2008 where one guy might have the juice but the rest of the corps is lacking.

Last year was a real struggle with both Sweat and Klein proving to be too slow to be elite. Brian Rolle was a beast in 2010 but while mates Ross Homan and Andrew Sweat were decent, they weren’t great.

The 2009 trio of Rolle, Homan and Austin Spitler was less effective than the ’10 version. Rolle was coming into his own, Homan was serviceable and Spitler was at times a disaster.

Fast forward to 2012 and while I certainly don’t wish to imply the position is currently void of talent, there is no question this crop has flaws – some of it (hopefully) the product of youth, and some of it the product of simply not being fundamentally sound.

Getty Images: Jamie SabauRDS: 13 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 FF...and can still improve!

Ryan Shazier looks to be the lone physically elite linebacker and as a true sophomore, I still believe he has an all-conference performer ceiling.

Yesterday, he led the squad with 13 stops while adding two TFL, a sack and a forced fumble. Solid numbers to be sure, but to be a great Ohio State linebacker, he’s still got work to do when it comes to pursuit angles and, most important, wrapping up.

Sometimes overly eager to make the big hit, he approaches ball carriers with his arms inside. This has never been more evident than when he became the 3rd and final would-be tackler to fail in bringing down Brendan Bigelow before the kid broke off an 81-yard run, cutting the OSU lead to 20-14 in the 3rd quarter.  Shazier was also victimized by Bigelow on his 59-yard jaunt, tying the game at 28 midway through the 4th.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not down on Shazier but considering who he lines up with, Ohio State must be able to count on him to basically never miss a tackle, which brings me to Etienne Sabino and Curtis Grant.

Sabino, a 5th year senior, managed seven tackles and a sack yesterday so it wasn’t all bad news but even though I love the kid for his commitment to being a graduate and an outstanding representative of the program, he has failed to live up to the on-field expectations.

After struggling to understand the defense his first few years in Columbus, Sabino has had consistency issues since landing a starting spot. He’s capable of bringing the big hit but just as susceptible to a missed tackle or getting roasted in coverage.

As noted, he was the guy responsible for the 47-yard TD that was luckily called back by a phantom holding call. Standing at the line of scrimmage, he shuffled outside the tackle box to pick up C.J. Anderson but just as he engaged the receiver, he got his feet too close together and fell down on his own, allowing Anderson to make the grab and race untouched to the endzone.

You can argue schematically it makes no sense to ask Sabino to cover a guy like Anderson one-on-one but at the same time, he’s shown issues with defending receivers whether it be zone or man, often getting sucked up when in zone allowing QBs to hit TEs over the top and failing to beat his receiver to the spot when in man. Flat out, the Buckeyes need him to be better.

Essentially handed the starting Mike spot, Curtis Grant was barely visible as the Buckeyes often took him off the field in favor of a nickel/star the first two weeks. Yesterday, Grant’s participation was more apparent but for mostly the wrong reasons.

He made a nice stop on Cal’s 2nd possession of the afternoon, a 2nd and 5 play in which he stopped Isi Sofele short of a first down leading to a punt, but things then went south.

On the first play of Cal’s 3rd possession, Grant plugged the middle and had a handle on Sofele but inexplicably let him slip away from the scrum, allowing him to scamper 26 yards to the OSU 49.

Two plays later, Grant didn’t pick up Allen in his zone fast enough, timidly shuffling to his left, allowing a short pass to evolve into an 18-yard pickup. Again, you don’t want Grant on Allen there but Grant has to more quickly diagnose what’s happening and aggressively attack the point of reception. He was too slow to react and offered a one-handed wave at Allen as he knifed through the secondary. Storm Klein took his spot on the ensuing possession.

Again, no hate on these guys but Ohio State needs improved consistency from the corps. I have to believe they think the same.

mr. hanky

The field resembled the United Nations complex far too often yesterday with flags littering the landscape. 

The Buckeyes racked up 11 penalties for 101 yards, many of the stupid variety, giving Ohio State 21 total penalties for 180 yards in the last two weeks.

The infractions included a handful of personal fouls, a couple of illegal formations, two false starts with an illegal block, an offsides and a facemask thrown in for good measure. At least one of the personal foul calls was soft (Williams on the push of Sofele) and the PI call on Barnett was a joke.

Still, a few of the penalties were very costly or could’ve been.

Corey Linsley, after playing great football the first two weeks, put OSU in 2nd and long with two different penalties on 1st down. He’s a cerebral kid so it was kind of shocking to see him flagged a couple of times.

Adolphus Washington had a big offsides penalty on the drive that gave Cal a 21-20 lead. Washington lined up in the neutral zone on 3rd and 8, putting Cal in a more manageable 3rd and 3 which they promptly converted via a four-yard pass to Allen. Cal scored the go-ahead TD three plays later.

Reid Fragel racked up 15 yards in penalties including a false start on 2nd and goal from the one-yard line with OSU trailing, 21-20, midway through the final quarter. Luckily for Reid, Braxton and Stoney bailed him out with a TD two plays later via the old Tebow jump pass play. 

I have a feeling Bloody Tuesday might focus on the penalty situation in hopes of cleaning things up.

a few good men

I really try to avoid overreaction following a loss or tighter than expected victory because I do recognize that a win is a win and no team will be perfect, especially a team so young adjusting to a new coaching staff.

Getty Images: Jamie SabauBryant repeatedly brought the hammer

That said, a handful of guys on defense really had outstanding days against Cal. That’s saying something when you consider the Bears racked up over 500 yards of total offense.

We all read and heard how Simon played hurt and gave an impassioned speech in the postgame locker room. I could write about his heart each week so I’ll skip talking at length about #54 because it’s a given he’s the heart and soul of this team.

His partner up front, Johnathan Hankins, doesn’t get quite as much love sometimes because of Simon’s performance/reputation and sometimes simply because linemen don’t always get the love they deserve as it’s harder to see what they're actually doing amongst the collection of hogs in the trenches.

Yesterday, Big Hank was a beast. The future top 10 pick was 2nd on the team with 10 stops including a sack for -10 yards. He was eating up offensive linemen with straight up bull rushes and when he didn’t reach the backfield, often times he was double teamed, freeing up lanes for teammates.

Beyond that, I thought he was much more demonstrative than usual yesterday, both encouraging and imploring the defense to step up. I was truly impressed with the effort he brought on a day when OSU needed everything he could provide.

The secondary has taken some heat so far this season, though I still contend they’ve been collectively stronger than the DL or LB groups through three games. They’ve given up some big plays but have also made some big plays of their own, often at crucial times.

Yesterday, both Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant had pretty solid performances. They both had a negative blip or two but the positives they offered were huge.

Roby put forth an inspired effort and overcame a shoulder injury that forced him to miss some 2nd half action finishing with nine stops, two TFL, one sack and two pass breakups. Bryant said after the game Roby tipped him off to the route that was coming, helping Bryant grab the INT that preserved the victory.

Speaking of Bryant, a big hitter who’s had some ups and downs during his three years in Columbus, he overcame a few hiccups of his own on the way to five stops, two breakups and the noted interception that sealed the deal.

The key interception was his first as a Buckeye but it wasn’t his only big play. With Ohio State nursing a 20-14 lead late in the 3rd quarter, Bryant brought the wood on back-to-back plays, forcing Cal to try a field goal on their 4th possession of the 2nd half. On 2nd and 5 from the OSU 25, Bryant blew up Spencer Hagan on an incompletion, forcing him off the field on a cart. On the next snap, Bryant was at it again, popping Anderson in the chest just as the ball arrived for another incompletion. Both were truly big-time plays.

charitable guests

Ohio State players weren’t the only ones in a giving mood as Cal penalties and miscues helped the Buckeyes fend off the upset bid.

Trailing 20-7 in the 2nd quarter, the Bears were flagged four times on one possession. A holding penalty on Jacob Wark wiped out a 47-yard TD toss on 3rd and 7, instead resulting in a 28-yard gain to the OSU 29.

Two plays later, on 2nd and goal from the OSU 12, a holding call on Jordan Rigsbee wiped out a 10-yard carry to the OSU 3 by Maynard, backing the Bears up to the 22-yard line.

After a five-yard completion made it 3rd and goal from the 17, Maynard found Wark for a completion to the OSU 8 but a personal foul on Chris Adcock for a dirty helmet to helmet hit on Sabino backed the Bears up to the 23. On cue, Vincenzo D’Amato pulled the FGA wide left.

As it turned out, D’Amato was just getting warmed up. He pulled a 42-yarder late in the 3rd quarter that would’ve trimmed OSU’s lead to 20-17 and midway through the 4th, he pulled another 42-yarder that would’ve given Cal a 31-28 lead.

Three plays later, with the Buckeyes looking at 3rd and 7 from their own 28, Marc Anthony and Alex Logan inexplicably “got nosy” cheating up on Philly’s short route, allowing Devin Smith to get behind them for the game-winning 72-yard scoring strike.  Braxton did make a move toward the line of scrimmage to get their attention but the mental mistakes certainly helped Ohio State cash in for the decisive six.

17 Comments

Comments

OSUBias's picture

I'm not sure why everone keeps calling the PI on Barnett soft or a joke. If it happened the other way around and wasn't called we'd all be flipping out. He full out ran into the receiver before the ball got there. Just because he was looking elsewhere and didn't realize he was running him over doesn't matter.
A win is a win, but there are a lot of areas to work on. Speed in the LB core when in coverage, and wrapping up across the board. The offense went Bollmanmode 3-out for a quarter and a half. All of that can be fixed. The penalties are frustrating, though. We've always been a team that played relatively clean football. The last two games make it seem like we have no discipline.

Slider...you stink

Buckeyejason's picture

I'd say Homan was pretty good in 2010. All-big ten along with Rolle. 
Braxton will easily go down as the schools greatest QB in history barely anything drastic happening. Just shows you how active Hank is at 320lbs with 10 tackles.

BUCKEYES BABY!

ODEEZ330's picture

yea i thought homan was abeast and worthy of a spot at
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
yea i though homan was a beast too and worthy of carrying the mantle of great lb'ers at osu. him and rolle were a deadly duo, watch tht oregon rosebowl these 2 and the dline ate up their run game, spitler and sweat were more meh.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
lbU

O'Deez330
stark county football

Bucknut-in-the-South's picture

I am just as committed to Buckeye excellence as the next guy - I have been rooting for the scarlet and grey since the days of Bill Willis, Bo Rein, and Ike Kelly.  Hell, Ollie Cline was my high school principal, and I taped Archie Griffin's ankles as a student trainer.  However, I am having a problem with all of this hand-wringing over what is obviously a young team and a work in progress.  This is basically the same team that went 6-7 last year.  Though Urban Meyer is a great coach, he is not Gandalf.  The growing pains of a young team with a new staff are evident.  We are a year away from anything approaching excellence.  Along with most of you, I am frustrated at times, amazed at others.  Braxton Miller is going to be the best qb in Ohio State history, John Simon will be remembered as one of the greatest Buckeyes ever, and Urban Meyer will, in spite of a few missed tackles and a dropped pass or two, lead the Buckeye faithful to the promised land.  The ride may be a bit bumpy this year, but then, I have always loved roller coasters.  Strap in, hang on, and enjoy the ride!

Northbrook's picture

Well said BITS. Sums up my feelings too.

cinserious's picture

I agree with you and also would like to add that as this is basically the same team we had last year, we now have an improved Braxton Miller and an improved coaching staff so now we win the close games we all new we could've won last year under the Bauseman/Bollman combo. However, the defense seems much like last year, and that is not representative of OSU-style defenses. I'm confident the offense will get done what we need this year but the defense will determine this year's sucess.

"Get him a body bag, Yeah!"

gravey's picture

The box score is a bit embarrasing on the D side.   Look at our MLB tackle stats...and Simon's numbers.   I wish there was a missed tackle stat...it would be a negative, so you could wind up with negative tackles.  I think a couple of dudes would have be in minus territory.
Still...a win is a win.  We claimed that about 8 times in 2002.   I'm happy to say it about 8 additional times this season.

FindlayBuck's picture

Tackling seems to be a lost art form at nearly every level of football these days. Hopefully "Bloody Tuesday" willl really hammer home the idea of wrapping up the ball carrier, and taking him to the ground.

Seabass1974's picture

I was watching some of the post game interviews of the players and it got me wondering. Is Tresselball so ingrained in the team that it is something to overcome? I only say this because many of the players said with the 20 - 7 lead they got complacent and lazy and said they weren't really worried (summarization). It's just an observation, what does everyone else think?
 
Also, I'm not knocking Tressel but as we all know he liked to get a lead and sit on it. It seems many of the players are used to these philosophy.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

SPreston2001's picture

Yeah I think its going to take a few years for the team to take on Urbans personality and completely detach themselves from the old JT ways. I had to look over at the sidelines to remind myself that Urban was coaching because offensively that was a JT game! Im not sure when the light is going to come on for our players, but at times they just seem undisciplined! UGLY GAME!!

cinserious's picture

It did seem like a Tresselesque game except for the red-zone situations. Tress was far to happy to accept 3 points where Urban knows how to get that TD everytime!

"Get him a body bag, Yeah!"

d5k's picture

I dont really like the jabs about how our LBs shouldnt be matched up against an rb in man coverage or a crossing wr in zone. Pretty sure math requires rb on lb matchups if we play cover 2 or 4 in particular. And its obvious that linebackers will have to pick up receivers coming across of their zone... I just disagree with any suggestion that the schemes we are running are flawed or unsound. You cant put corners on everyone with deep safeties and still stop the run. The problems in the first 3 games have only been tackling, angles and a few coverage lapses. These are bad mistakes that will hopefully be corrected. But not by changing anything about the structure or playcalling. And obviously we should pump the brakes and realize that other than the freshmen d linemen this is a team that went 6-7 and this is still a turnaround to have solid production on offense and 3 - 0 record.

Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

Totally agree, DSK. The issue isn't scheme, it's execution. OSU already takes one LB off the field to defend the pass. The remaining LBs (Sabino and Shazier) have to guard a player or a zone. Every team that plays football does that and these guys have to get better. Who knows? We may see Williams, Perkins, or Marcus before the season is up.

Chris Lauderback's picture

To be clear, I didn't take any jabs about LB's not being matched up with WR/RB from a scematic perspective. I said that a person can argue it but the bottom line is that the LB's, specifically Sabino, simply have to better in this facet of their responsibilities. Obviously, they'll need to pick up a RB and sometimes a WR which means they can't fall down at the line of scrimmage or get sucked up by play action, among other things.

Totally agree on your thoughts about pursuit angles and missed tackles. I think I spoke to those as well.

JLP36's picture

Sabino and Grant were both extremely elite LB prospects out of HS.  Both could have played almost anywhere.  Athleticism is not a problem.  Sabino is a great athlete playing football.  He lacks LB instincts and will never be a great one.  I will be thrilled if he can just be decent and consistent.  LBs cannot miss tackles.  I fear Grant is going to turn out to be like Sabino, a physical beast without LB instincts.  He has had far too few snaps to make that a final judgement.  It seems like any stud LB would thrive behind this D line as a Mike against the run.  For a Mike in any scheme against a run, it does come down to see ball, smash ball.

JLP36

HSBDAWG's picture

Right now the Defenece reminds me of a scud missile when tackeling not a bullet let alone a sliver one. There tackles for the most part is head down, hands in and all shoulder( the highlite hit). When some of the best tackles I ever seen was head up and across the body, shoulder on the bellybutton or hip at angles and drive through them till you hit the ground and knocking the wind out of the guy so when he see you coming again you see the fear in his eyes.