Beyond the Hashes: UAB

By Chad Peltier on September 24, 2012 at 11:10a
22 Comments

While it certainly wasn't the blowout that many of us expected, the Buckeyes nevertheless turned in a very efficient day on the ground and managed to epitomize the "bend but don't break" defense. 

The only problem is that many believe that the defense shouldn't be bending at all against the likes of UAB. 

Brax made it look easyBraxton didn't run much, but was deadly when he did 

Offense

While the pass game is certainly developing as Braxton continues to turn in efficient performances (though maybe not fear-inducing), the run game is certainly the strength of this team - as we'll see more in depth later, the running backs all turned in very efficient performances against UAB (as we'd hope).

However, Braxton ran far less against UAB than in his first three games. We've only played through the non-conference schedule so far, and it's clear that Braxton has played more "caged up" in the past two games as far as scrambling during called pass plays.

Team Offense
1d 3D% 4d% yards passing rushing turnovers penalties quickstrike sacks
20 (21.5) 33% - 347 (427,1708) 143 (198,791) 204 (229,917) 0 (1,4) 7-60 (31-260) .509 2 (7)

It's possible that Braxton will be set loose to run (especially against Michigan State and Nebraska), and who knows if Urban's offensive strategy will remain constant during conference play - it's simply unclear whether current passing trends (run-pass balance, ~25 attempts per game, slightly under 200 yards) will continue.

If I had to guess, I think the staff leaned on Hall and limited Braxton's carries again not only to preserve Braxton for Big Ten play, but to also give Hall confidence in his foot. You can certainly expect Braxton to carry the ball more frequently in big games against Michigan State and Nebraska.

Finally, it's interesting that the quickstrike score is so high (.509) but the Buckeyes were only able to put up 29 points against UAB. Basil isn't getting very much work in the first year of the Meyer and Herman offense - there's been a lot of boom or bust, with the offense either going three and out (limiting our TOP) or scoring touchdowns.

The Clock. Saturday marked the lowest number of plays this year, even lower than last year's average. 

  Time Of possession # of plays
vs. UAB 26:05 57 
Season 28:54 280 (70)
Last Season 30:40 (avg) 62 (avg)

UAB really controlled the clock well, moving down the field and eating clock, if settling for field goals. It certainly didn't help that the offense had a few bad 3-and-outs that limited our time of possession. 

So far this year opponents are winning the overall TOP. 

Defense

Now that we've finished the non-conference schedule against powerhouses like Miami of Ohio, UCF, and UAB, we can make a few comparisons and assessments about this year's Silver Bullets.

Team Defense
opp 1d opp yards opp pass opp rush turnovers opp top tfl sacks int 3 & outs opp rbsr quicksand
22(72) 403 (395,1579) 259 (277,1109..) 144  (118,470) 2 (9) 33:55 2 (16) 1 (10) 1 (7) 1 (10) 44% .188

This game can be summarized in two stats: There was only one 3-and-out for the UAB offense, but the defense managed a .188 quicksand score - second lowest on the season so far next to Miami.

This means, in announcer-speak, that while the defense never really "broke", it certainly bent frequently against the 84th ranked total offense. The Silver Bullets regularly let the UAB offense use quick screens and quarterback scrambles to soak off clock time and drive down the field, only to hold them to field goals. 

Doran with a huge dayAt least the future looks good with Doran and Roby at corner

The opposing team pass average is terrible - we've regularly turned opposing quarterbacks into superstars averaging 277 yards per game. The pass defense reflects that, ranked 107th in the country.

While pursuit on screens improved during the second half, it's clear that opposing offensive coordinators are using the same strategy: quick screens, bootleg passes underneath our secondary, and outside runs.

On the other hand, the rush defense is far better after four - 34th in country. However, UAB put up the highest opposing running back success rate, with 44% of their runs categorized as "efficient".

Player Analysis

Braxton Miller. Saturday was a slightly below average passing day for Braxton: His completion percentage was almost exactly the same (60%) as season average, he had slightly less passing yards (149 compared to an average of 143), and he had five less attempts than his average after four games (25).

QB Stats
  Comp/att % yards td int rating
Miller  12/20 (60/98) 60% (61%) 143 (189, 754) - (7) - (2) 120.1 (145.3)

Though this wasn't Braxton's best day throwing the ball - eight poor throws compared to eleven "catchable" or "dead on" throws - and there weren't any truly huge plays, the passing game was still fairly efficient.

Throw Chart
  into coverage uncatchable throw away difficult catchable dead on
Miller  1(6) 2(9) - (4) 5(17) 6(34) 5(29)

What's not readily apparent from the numbers alone is that Braxton seems to get into streaks - I know, I know there's no such thing as the "hot hand" statistically – but Braxton (and the entire offense) seems to really get on a roll periodically. However, when Braxton throws crisp, accurate balls (usually on roll outs, play action, and scrambles), the offense looks positively unstoppable. As one of the game commentators pointed out, Braxton is usually on top of his game after a few successful runs. 

What's best about watching Braxton is that I never have the same degree of fear every time he goes back to pass like I did when, um, some past quarterbacks did. Even when the passing game isn't lighting defenses up, it is still efficient, and Braxton rarely turns the ball over or forces throws. 

Also interesting is that Braxton has the authority to call audibles now, as he seemed to do several times during the game. It's clear that he is maturing as a passer even if he's not averaging 300 yards a game yet. Braxton is 89th in the country in passing yards.

Rushing. 

  Att yards ypc rbsr ex plays ypc-ex plays
Hyde - (24) (109) -(4.54) - (57%) - (16) (4.0)
Miller 9(67) 77(454) 8.56 (8.11) 78%(63%) 19,17 (17,33,22, 65,37,24,55,19,17) 5.86 (3.53)
Dunn -(12) -(60) (5.0) - (82%)   (5.0)
Boren 2(11) 7(33) 3.5(3.3) 100%(64%) 3.5(3.3)
R. Smith 6(12) 24(50) 4.0(4.17) 83%(75%) - 4.0(4.17)
C. Brown 1(4) 4(42) 4.0 (10.5) 100%(100%) (19) 4.0(7.67)
Hall 17(34) 105(192) 6.2(5.65) 88%(71%) (15) 6.2(5.36)

The rushing game was amazingly efficient: Braxton had the lowest running back efficiency score, with “just” 78% of his carries being efficient. Both primary running backs, Hall and Smith, were over 80% efficient on the day - and neither of Hall’s inefficiency runs were his fault.

Hall was great for getting every yard possible, falling forward, hitting the hole hard, and making one cut then going. In fact, Hall’s first inefficient rushing attempt of the game was during the third quarter when Braxton had a slow and incorrect read on third down. Further, his second and last inefficient carry of the game was a seven-yard gain on 2nd-17 - it simply didn’t pick up 60% of the yards for a first down. Extremely impressive, efficient game for Hall.

Braxton remains the team's best breakaway threat even with Hall back in the lineup (though Braxton's explosive plays were much shorter this game), so it was a bit strange that Braxton’s first carry didn’t come until 9 minutes left in the second quarter (and it was for 14).

While Hall displayed some of the moves that had Meyer raving during the spring and summer, Braxton showed why he is the best ball carrier on the team during plays like his first touchdown run: patience to wait for Boren’s block, the spin move, then the acceleration and dive into the end zone with arm extended. Beautiful.

Then in the 4th quarter, Braxton showed patience waiting for the block by Hall, then accelerated to the sideline before a spin move at the end. Braxton is now tied for 16th in the country in rushing...with Denard Robinson. Ugh. Braxton is also 25th in total offense. 

Finally, as a quick note: Braxton's rushing attempts are slightly different than the box score - this is because I'm interested purely in rushing ability here and not sacks, which are noted above. I removed Braxton's two sacks (one of which was a weird bump from Linsley getting beat) and added 13 yards back to Braxton's yards - his official season rushing yards total is only 441. 

Wide Receivers. While I expected a carpetbombing of the UAB secondary, the timing in the passing game actually looked a little off, resulting in lower than average numbers against a much lower than average defense.

  yards catch rate +/-
Spencer - (70) - (5/9)  
D. Smith 39 (272) 4/6 (17/26)
Stoneburner - (92) - (7/10)  
C. Brown 67 (233) 4/6 (20/27) +
Boren - (35) 0/1 (4/6)  
Heuerman 10 (28) 1/1 (3/3)  
Hyde - (2) - (1/1)  
Reed - (13) - (1/1)  
Vannett - (18) - (4/5)  
Hall 21 (21) 2/2 (2/2)   
M. Thomas 6 (6) 1/1 (1/1)  

It was a fairly common day for the wide receiver corps in most respects - Devin Smith and Corey Brown were targeted most frequently, catching two thirds of their passes - except for the fact that Braxton didn't seem to spread the ball around as much. While seven players caught a pass against Cal, only five did against UAB. 

While that's not necessarily worrisome as long as the receivers have good catch rates (and Heuerman, Hall, and Michael Thomas all made the most of their targets), I was surprised to not see Stoney snag a reception at any point during the game. 

I loved the quick screen to Hall - which was extremely similar to the numerous plays that UAB ran successfully against the OSU defense throughout the game - during the touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Though we only saw two of these quick screen passes to Hall, they were both successful, allowing Hall to showcase his cut-and-go open field running style.

Finally, a shoutout to Mr. Michael Thomas, who recorded his first reception as a Buckeye after leading the way during the spring game. It's clear that Thomas has talent, but he needs to put it to use on Saturdays in order to avoid the Honorary Bam Childress/T. Wash In-Season (lack of) Performance Award.

Defense. The helmet stickers this week are fairly obvious: 

Doran Grant, everybody. Wow. The stat line speaks for itself: 7 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TFL, 1 sack, and 1 interception. Is it possible Grant pushes another member of the secondary for starting time? 

Hankins absolutely killed it this week, with ten tackles and .5 a TFL. Hankins even notably pancaked his blocker on 2nd and nine in the first quarter. It's very uncommon for interior defensive linemen to end the game with as many tackles as Hankins has had the past two games, proving why he's a likely first rounder. 

While the linebackers as a unit have been disappointing, Sabino and Shazier have at least been racking up the tackles, leading the way with 11 and 13 tackles respectively. Sabino also had two nice pass break-ups - one on a big hit and the other on a swat. The MLB spot continues to be the weakest spot on the defense (though Corey Brown did record 6 tackles from the STAR position).

22 Comments

Comments

LouBuck35's picture

Hancake!

I want a fall Saturday in Ohio Stadium..

timdogdad's picture

for what it's worth, the usc cal score was basically the same as our game vs cal at half time.  and central fla plays mizzou this weekend.  so just something to gauge..    and e mich was leading msu at h time  so there's no reason we can't be also.  

Ill_Buckeye's picture

But dont you know the sky is falling!?!?!?!!

Culp's Freaking Hill's picture

It's a strange feeling being undefeated and feeling like we're not a top 20 team.  It's hard to tell at this time.  I guess we'll see.

Twitter: @conquestnorman

Chad Peltier's picture

Great points. As Urban just said in his presser, rewatching the game will probably make fans feel better about the team. There are some issues, but I'm not totally sure the team will have the same strategy in conference play. 

The transitive property is dangerous in football, but you're right that you have to be encouraged by the USC-Cal score. 

Estrada's picture

I felt better after watching a bit of the USC-Cal game; for large chunks of the game Cal was able to drive down the field against the Trojans but just fell apart in the red zone (leading to a number of FGs instead of TDs).  Now certainly USC deserves credit for stopping the bears in the red zone, but overall I think Cal showed that they're better than they played against Nevada and Southern Utah.

shortbus20's picture

Every time I read one of your articles I end up reading them 2 or 3 times because of all the info to digest...Thanks

  • shortbus20
OSUBias's picture

Are you manually tracking all of this? If so, impressive, though I will mention I think one of your passes is miscategorized. Miller definitely missed on a screen pass to hall in the first or second series. It was so offline that you may have thought he was throwing it to the WR, who was blocking, but it was definitely designed for Hall. That was the worst throw of the day, that I saw. Coming towards the camera side of the field when we were heading in the "we can't get a first down" direction.

Shitter's full

Chad Peltier's picture

Thanks, I do all player stats (efficiency, passing, receivers) myself. 

I remember that throw - maybe the one where Meyer had his arms up like "What the heck was that?!?". I believe that was one of his "uncatchable" throws. Any uncatchable or throw away passes don't count against the receiver, as the receiver had no chance to catch it (unless Hall could jump like superman). That's a good find though, I'll put my "methods" for grading the throws up next time.

OSUBias's picture

No, I think uncatchable sums that one up pretty well. Though he wasn't trying to throw it away, that's really what he was doing. Urban's reaction to that actually made me laugh, overpowering my own annoyance.

Shitter's full

Boxley's picture

Yep he was way over his receiver. Braxton seem to throw much better to his right, on short passes. Grant did have a great day. He had a few receiver drops on some  drives, and as soon as that happens he seems to be thrown off and the series folds.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

buckeye76BHop's picture

Love your articles Chad, but I've taken the stance on not thinking about last week.  As Urban is correct, it wasn't as bad as the score board indicated...however...it's B1G play now.  Time to sack up, stop missing tackles, stop silly mistakes and penalties.  This team is better than that and it will (hopefully) be obvious after this weekend.  I have a feeling MSU and OSU are both struggling to this point and need a good win to pick it back up.  Stop Le'Veon Bell and I believe you beat MSU...I just hope OSU doesn't beat themselves.  That seems to be their M.O. this year even though they're 4-0.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."
"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Chad Peltier's picture

Thanks!

I need to go back and check the tape, but I believe you're right and the overwhelming majority of points given up this year have been because OSU beat themselves - huge lapses in coverage, big bombs, poor tackling leading to long runs - instead of sustained drives by the opposition. However, OSU hasn't played very tough competition either.

741's picture

@Chad: What is the definition of the "Quickstrike" category?

Chad Peltier's picture

It's a metric devised by Mr.SEC that I used to look at the B1G earlier this year:

Quick Strike measures how easily a team can score points.The stat is a simple one.  Take a team’s total number of points scored.  Divide that number by the number of plays an offense runs… and there’s your points-per-play ratio, your Quick Strike number.This isn’t just a measure of offense, however.  Obviously, non-offensive points are counted in this as well.  Special teams and defensive plays also help to set up offenses with short fields.

741's picture

Got it. Thanks!

Boxley's picture

Offense is averaging 37.75 point per game.
Defense is surrendering 17.25 points per game.
That is a good ratio anytime, anywhere as long as the offense continues to score we should win..

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Baroclinicity's picture

I think the main concern with the yardage is that the better teams we play in conference play are more likely to score than the likes of a UAB when getting into our end of the field.  We'll see if this is a truly bend-but-don't-break defense.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Jeremy91's picture

If the offense can average 28ppg I think we'll be in good shape. I believe that this defense will start playing sound football and keep our opponents under 24ppg for the rest of the year.

"Do not pray for an easy life. Rather, pray for the the strength to endure a difficult one" - Bruce Lee

Buckeyejason's picture

True, but offensively we haven't faced any respectable defenses and defensively we haven't faced any repspectable offenses..well Cal and Miami are respectable but not good by any means.

BUCKEYES BABY!

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Luckily - I was golfing in the mountains of WV and didn't see the game, however, it didn't sound too good on the radio, I must say!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

bgohio22's picture

Excellent analysis again, Chad.  My mood last Saturday could best be described as bored confidence.  But after looking at the numbers--this team could easily blast off to 11-1 or lose 4 games.