Five Things: Michigan State

By Chris Lauderback on September 30, 2012 at 3:00p
49 Comments

"This was a war. This was two sledgehammers going at each other." - Urban F. Meyer

The best thing about 5-0? A chance to go 6-0. 

In what will likely turn out to be the 2nd most physical game the Buckeyes play all year, Meyer's troops overcame a slew of in-game injuries and three Braxton Miller turnovers, escaping East Lansing with a 17-16 victory over a chippy Michigan State squad.

The gutsy effort improved Meyer to 11-0 in conference openers and to 95-5 when leading at the half. 

As a program, the Buckeyes have now won four straight in East Lansing, improving to 14-5 up there overall. Hey Michigan, that's how you're supposed to treat your little brother. 

Bottom line, Ohio State won the trenches so they won the game but this would be the shortest version of Five Things ever if we left it at that, so humor me and click for more after the jump. 

Answering the Bell

The biggest concern heading into the game was whether or not the Buckeye front seven would be able to slow the B1G's leading rusher, Le'Veon Bell. After all, the Buckeyes had given up a combined 471 rushing yards over the last three games on 4.8 yards per carry. Cal scorched the Bullets with long runs on the way to 224 on the ground while even UCF and UAB were able to eclipse the century mark at 103 and 144 rush yards respectively, both doing it with over four yards per carry. 

To their credit, yesterday the defensive line and linebackers answered the Bell in spades. Consider:

  • Ohio State held Sparty without a first down rushing the football. Individually, that hasn't happened to Bell since his freshman year.
  • For the game, MSU totaled just 34 yards on the ground, averaging 1.5 yards per carry.
  • Bell rushed 17 times for 45 yards (2.6 per carry). The 45 yards represent his lowest output since he had just 20 last year against Michigan (7 carries). 

It all starts up front and yesterday it was Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel leading the charge.

After back-to-back weeks producing 10 tackles, Big Hank was credited with just three stops yesterday but the numbers don't tell the story.

First, he was being held on virtually every snap but more importantly, he appeared to occupy at least two blockers on a ton of snaps, providing the much-maligned linebackers a chance to roam and make tackles. Goebel picked up four stops and similar to Hank, often took on more than one blocker. The fruit of their labor saw Sabino and Shazier combine for 16 tackles.

As Finkes noted afterward, even when the duo wasn't making stops, they often pushed the Sparty interior back a couple yards, closing holes and forcing Bell to try and bounce outside with little success. 

Obviously, John Simon and Nate Williams were also effective but when it came specifically to stopping the run, much of the heavy lifting fell to Hank and Goebel and both ensured Sparty was forced to try and win it through the air. 

Imposing Their Will

Just like their trench counterparts, the Buckeye offensive line came into the game with a chip on their shoulder. Clearly, those guys remembered how Sparty's defensive front bullied them a season ago, racking up nine sacks and holding the Buckeyes to 0.9 yards per rush thanks to -64 sack yards.

Fragel is really coming on at right tackle for the Buckeyes

In hostile territory, the entire group responded, helping the Buckeyes rack up 217 rushing yards on 5.3 yards per carry after you subtract Braxton's three kneel-downs for -13 yards. Additionally, they gave up just one sack and one hurry, allowing Braxton to complete 16 of 23 passes. 

Reid Fragel was impressive once more, chiefly holding William Gholston to just four stops. To be fair, some of that could be due to Gholston getting the wind knocked out of his head but there's no question Fragel deserves a ton of credit for effectively transitioning from tight end to right tackle. 

It wasn't just Fragel, however, as the entire line made key blocks and communicated nicely, helping absorb the bevy of blitzes that Sparty came with in hopes of forcing Braxton to beat them with his arm. 

Impressively, Ohio State rushed for negative yards just twice if your throw out the one sack and three kneel-downs. 

Even more impressive was how the line came together to close out the win. Following a huge three and out forced by the Bullets, the Buckeyes got the ball back at their own 18 with 4:10 on the clock and a one-point lead on the scoreboard. On the road, with the entire stadium aware nothing but runs were coming, Ed Warinner's offensive line allowed Braxton and Hyde to run out the clock, opening holes for seven yards, six yards, 14 yards, six yards, zero yards and five yards. 

The last five, on a 3rd and 4 from the Sparty 49, came via Hyde as Fragel sealed off James Ketteridge, sealing a win in the process. 

After years of Bollman overseeing the offensive line and subsequent Five Things ripping the unit to shreds, it feels wonderful to see a functioning offensive line come up big and play a key role in a tough conference win on the road. 

Fanning the Flames

After an offseason of Urban drawing the ire of both Dantonio and his DC Pat Narduzzi, things kicked up another notch yesterday after Narduzzi commented post game that the tapes Ohio State sent Sparty didn't have the entire pre-snap footage, thus omitting visuals of motions and personnel shifts. 

Narduzzi: "No fair! Ohio State's a big bunch of meanies."

Of course, it's not at all surprising that Narduzzi held off with taking this revelation public until after the loss - that way it could be used as an excuse for his vaunted defense giving up 383 total yards, 204 on the ground alone and 6/13 on 3rd down to what is mostly a preditable, one-man offense.  

Beyond the whining from Narduzzi, the Spartans were clearly coached to push the limits of late hits on Braxton as evidenced by the continual borderline shots at him along the sideline, along with the one the zebras did call on OSU's opening touchdown drive. 

Oh, and there's that one play where OL Jack Allen unveiled a Himalayan Eye Rake on Hankins at the bottom of a pile. 

All of this was at least partially influenced by the chirping between the staffs this offseason and I, for one, couldn't be happier. 

For Ohio State's part, Hankins openly discussed wanting to rip Bell's head off. Again, I say keep it coming. 

I'd like to see a cleaner game on the field but all the chatter before and during what was one hell of a physical football game is great for the conference and great for the Buckeyes.

Urban is trying to instill a mentality and a more aggressive, confident culture at Ohio State and if that means hurting a few feelings along the way, that's fine especially if wins pile up in the process. 

A Tip of the Cap

Not that I've been a lone voice on this but as someone who has been pretty blunt in assessing Etienne Sabino's often underwhelming play over the years, I want to give credit where credit is due. 

There've been other times when I gave him some love for strong efforts and I've always known him to be a class act as a person but after just one watch of the game, I'm inclined to say he probably played his finest game in Scarlet and Gray yesterday. 

He didn't set a career high but he did record eight tackles along with a TFL, a sack, a pass breakup and two hurries in a spirited effort. 

More importantly, many of his plays were timely and he came up huge in the 2nd half of a dogfight on the road. Two plays in particular helped ensure the Buckeyes would return from East Lansing with a win in hand. 

On Sparty's possession just after Ohio State regained the lead on Braxton's 63-yard strike to Devin Smith late in the 3rd quarter, Sabino came up big. Andrew Maxwell had just used a couple completions to move MSU into Buckeye territory at the 47 but Sabino blew up the drive with a sack, pushing Dantonio's crew back to their own 46. Now facing 4th and 14, Sparty had no choice but to punt, stifling the drive and giving OSU the ball to start the 4th quarter. 

Two possessions later, with Ohio State nursing a one-point lead and under five minutes remaining, Sabino dialed up one more gigantic play. 

Looking at another 3rd down, this time with nine yards to go, Maxwell dropped back but Sabino came through after patiently waiting for a seam to develop on a delayed blitz and hit the Sparty QB just as he released a throw, causing the ball to fall harmlessly incomplete. Again, excellent vision and patience by Sabino and his play forced Dantonio to once again kick it away, only this time Michigan State wouldn't get the ball back for one last gasp. 

Props to Sabino. That's the type of game the Buckeyes need from him every week. 

Risk vs. Reward

What a conundrum for Urban Meyer and anyone who pulls for the Buckeyes.

Yesterday gave us a glimpse of what we can likely expect to see many more times during the conference slate - Braxton Miller missing plays due to injury.

The fact of the matter is that while the B1G is comprised of some pretty mediocre to awful teams, it's also a physical league full of teams smart enough to realize the best way to beat Ohio State is to not only try to force Miller to throw but to get as many shots on him as possible - clean or otherwise.

The problem for Meyer is that while he's keenly aware his peers will adopt the same "cut the head off the snake" approach to stopping his offense, he also knows this team is likely short on playmakers that can consistently help shoulder the offensive burden.

Cool. I hear ulcers are fun. 

Sure, Devin Smith made a huge play locked up against Adams, Hall can do some things on the off chance he's healthy, and Hyde did provide some much-needed tough inside running, but the bottom line is that Braxton has to get his touches in the run game for the Buckeyes to beat mediocre to good teams. 

Yesterday, Braxton threw it 23 times and rushed it for 23. I'm not sure Urban is thrilled Brax had to carry it 23 times in victory especially considering Miller had to leave the game twice due to injury. 

The first one occurred after Miller took a late hit from Dirty Isaiah Lewis along the sideline and went flying toward a metal storage box and the concrete grandstand. Fortunately, the incident wasn't as bad as it first appeared with Miller avoiding much of the, you know, metal and concrete following the cheap move from Lewis. Still, Miller missed the next three snaps as OSU went on to punch it in for six via Jordan Hall's first TD of the season. 

The second one was even scarier. Trying to build on a four-point lead early in the 3rd quarter, Miller had already moved the Buckeyes 25 yards to midfield when, on a crucial 3rd and 6, he took off up the left sideline for what looked to be a big gainer. Having split a pair of would-be tacklers to gain the corner, Miller tried to turn up field as Max Bullough slowed him at the hips. The minor hit knocked Miller off balance - more importantly off his normal stride - and as he went to plant his left foot, his knee appeared to hyperextend and he crumpled in a heap as we all gasped for air and prayed to the Patron Saint of ACLs.

Fortunately, Miller was far more scared by the awkwardness of the landing than actually hurt but it doesn't minimize the fact it's open season on this kid in the B1G and puts Meyer in the precarious position of trying to win games while keeping his QB in the lineup. 

Miller accounted for 82% of Ohio State's 383 yards of offense and they won by exactly one point. Therein lies the conundrum. 

The Buckeyes have to ride Braxton to win yet doing so puts them at great risk of losing him and the wins he brings. 

This might be a good time to start clipping Pepto coupons because by my count, Braxton's got another 35 games in a Buckeye uniform, including the two B1G Championship games and BCS bowls if he's healthy.

49 Comments

Comments

Baroclinicity's picture

APB officially going out for the tight ends.

Abe Froman's picture

I totally agree.  The whole game our 'group' kept saying that they will run Stoney Down the seam and he should be wide open.  Never really happened and maybe that was because of protection.  
I also thought Sabino played well and that the defense as a whole had their best effort despite the horrendous holding calls.  I am going to start watching Fragel more because when we did watch him, he was superb.  

Basking in the wake of mediocrity.....

cplunk's picture

 Superjazzed about the O line this year. They've played great and gotten better every game. 

ellspar's picture

This has been an overlooked asset in my opinion. Warriner is doing a fantastic job. One of the best unit turnarounds. Now if only Fickell could help get our linebackers back into the AJ Hawk/Laurinitis mold we are used to seeing.

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

I know Stoneburner made no receptions, but he was only targeted twice, and one of those was into heavy coverage and behind him. He needs to be more than an afterthought or third option. He has the hands to make the catch...just throw it his way!

bigbill992001's picture

On that play, Miller threw into a double on Stony and someone, I forget who it was, was wide open on the left outside.    Miller needs to make better reads, decisions and see the field better.    He has so much potential, its scary.

toad1204's picture

Nice to see Guiton come in and have success moving the ball.  Good to know, should something happen, the offense wont be up a creek without a paddle.

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

jkrk's picture

I'm as terrified as anybody about Braxton getting hurt, but how great is it that Kenny G can come in and get us into the end zone? If it were last year I can just imagine Bauserman getting cookies for throwing it through the uprights three times before settling for a FG.

misterbulbous's picture

If you noticed during the first Braxton injury, Kenny G instantly grabbed for his own helmet, threw it on and jumped out on to the field to take over.  That was good to see, he was out on the field before the trainers even got to Brax.

bedheadjc's picture

Cool. I hear ulcers are fun
^^^ This made me snort. And Guiton is the man.

painterlad's picture

A Narduzzi is a tool used to dig up sour grapes back in the Old Country. Either that or an entry in Urban Dictionary.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

bowthrock's picture

Gotta say....Kenny G looks like some goofy character out of an old Kid n Play movie but he shows great composure when he gets in the game! I feel very confident that he can lead this team if we need him to!

"Lets beat the shit out of Michigan".... Urban. Frank. Meyer.

buckeyedude's picture

I agree completely(on Kenny G's composure). Posted almost the same thing before I read your post. /:
Kenny is a very capable backup, if he has to come in. He'd likely start at many other B1G teams.

 
 

btalbert25's picture

I almost think if Braxton were a freshman with no experience, and Urban were taking the team over, Guiton may have been the starter this year.  Braxton being what he is though, which is awesome you have to put him on the field. 
Of course Urban did say game 1 last year while he was announcing that he would have Braxton starting at QB.  He flat out said Braxton was the best player on the team and the best high school player in America the year before.  He just didn't know anything about Kenny G before he took the team over. 

buckeyepastor's picture

One of the things I liked about yesterday, apart from the much improved intensity and aggressive approach from our secondary most of the day, was seeing how this team has continued this season to be much more about TDs than FGs when they get down close.  When we get inside the 20, where in previous years we'd usually see play calls that seemed to be more about preserving us from losing yards than actually gaining them, this year the calls are all about the end zone.   Love that, even if it does occasionally yield a turnover.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

BeijingBucks's picture

yeah the days of red zone woes are a distant memory...
so mamy weapons to choose from on that triple option on short yardage -- whatever the D reacts to do something else

NYC Buckeye's picture

I will be a Tressel backer till the day I die, but yes, this has been noticeable, and has been awesome...

Matt M.'s picture

I was thinking the same thing during the Gholston injury yesterday. Glad he's alright, but have to admit I chuckled when they said he got the wind knocked out of him. Just thought that sounded a bit crazy.

razrback16's picture

Nice writeup, thx!

nickma71's picture

Aside from some sissy tackling again, this was the best effort of the defense yet. Maybe the defensive line isn't as underachieving as I think. Since Mich State like the others avoided running up or middle and went straight to the sidelines just like all the others.

WC Buckeye's picture

Yep. How many YAC did that one kid get on the TD reception because our secondary was more interested in trying to strip the ball? It's an important defensive technique, but COME ON!

"You might outsmart me, but you'll never outwork me"

nickma71's picture

Thank God Tressel recruited players like Guiton. I am quite comfortable with him under center in shotgun. I think his passing is more polished than Miller. Which is amazing since he doens't take many game snaps.

Et_Tu_OSU's picture

Well, Tress didn't exactly recruit him.  Tress missed out on a few other QBs in that class and threw a desperation offer toward Kenny, who was verbally committed to a lesser program and flipped - kid was thrilled to upgrade his scholly and jumped at it, litterally...recruiting starts/over.

"The revolution will be televised."

gwalther's picture

Also - Thank God Tressel recruited players like BRAXTON and HANKINS and a bunch of other dudes who won 5 BCS bowls for Ohio State. 

Class of 2008

buckeyedude's picture

I know it was only three plays, but I think Kenny G did well the little time that he played. While he's no Braxton, I think he has to be one of the best backup QBs in the country.

 
 

joel121270's picture

Watching the replay and ghost on got knocked out. I don't care what you say but looking at the blow he took to his head he got blasted. I have never seen someone get their air knocked out n lay motionless.

yrro's picture

And that is the problem with all this talk of player "safety." As long as the program and player can lie and say that he "had the wind knocked out of him" all the penalties and suspensions and rules about missing helmets mean nothing.

Buckeyejason's picture

I think he has to be one of the best backup QBs in the country.

 He'd likely start at many other B1G teams.

How do you figure?

BUCKEYES BABY!

buckeyedude's picture

It's just my opinion, Jason. :)

 
 

bigbill992001's picture

Whats the deal with Dunn?    He in the doghouse?   Anyone?   Beuller?

gwalther's picture

They wanted him to focus on perfecting taking a knee on kickoff returns. #touchback

Class of 2008

Jdadams01's picture

Per Urban, Smith has passed him.

MediBuck's picture

Really? That's good news. Rod Smith has the tools to be a fluid, physical do-it-all runner as long as he learns to take care of the football. Dunn has some athleticism but could use a couple seasons to mature in the college game.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

Buckeyejason's picture

Dunn doesn't need a couple seasons to mature. The guy is as physically ready as you can get. Expect to see ALOT of him next season.

BUCKEYES BABY!

MediBuck's picture

Oh, I have no doubt the kid is a physical specimen. I was referencing his vision, since most HS RBs are so used to just bowling people over instead of making smart cuts. Even Beanie took a couple seasons to show his full potential.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

Buckeyejason's picture

^ I wish I knew. Could've redshirted him if he's not going to contribute this season.

BUCKEYES BABY!

yrro's picture

Urban is really not big into redshirting.
Which, actually - if you're really pushing for top recruits, is that extra scholarship more valuable to you than an extra year out of a middling player? The really top guys are going to leave a year early anyway.

MediBuck's picture

I was impressed with how Kenny G executed the pitch and zone read on the remainder of that drive. He read the defender perfectly each time--he definitely didn't seem to feel the pressure to keep like Braxton does and showed a little more coolness in that regard. I think we'll be alright with our backup :)

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

nickma71's picture

Point taken. He recruited Kent Graham's kid. Nice arm, concrete shoes. If some of you don't think Guiton looks comfortable back there, I don't know what to say.

RBuck's picture

After years of Bollman overseeing the offensive line and subsequent Five Things ripping the unit to shreds, it feels wonderful to see a functioning offensive line come up big and play a key role in a tough conference win on the road.

 
Paragraph of the year.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

Buckeye Chuck's picture

The best part of that game was the Buckeyes salting away a win by running the ball against a good defense that knew what was coming. We've seen better teams here that weren't able to reliably do that.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

Grayskullsession's picture

Just as Herman said not many teams give up 3 turnovers to a ranked team on the road and can come away with a win. It takes a special team like this to do that. I am cautiously optimistic about this team.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Kenny G stays calm, comes in and runs the show. Exactly what we need him to be able to do.  Three cheers for kenny! Without that TD we do not win.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

NYC Buckeye's picture

You gave the shout out to the O-line which was well deserved, but how about Carlos Hyde?  It was clear from the begining that Hyde came to play on Saturday, he was running TOUGH, falling forward every carry for extra yardage, and some good running on that last drive...    
Does anyone else think that Hyde has proven himself to be the starter, over Hall?    I think its also clear Hall came back a little too early and maybe hasnt been 100%, but I think Hyde should be the starting back moving forward...
Not to complain after a HUGE win (one I did not expect) but what is the deal with the tackling on the defense?  Granted yesterday was awesome, completely shutting down Bell, but on the Mich st touchdown, what the hell?!?  Like 5 guys hitting the ball carrier and not one of them wrapped their arms around him?  Why can't we get this tackling thing down?
Also, Is Jake Stoneburner still on the team?  wth?
 
 

Chris Lauderback's picture

Totally agree about Hyde. He was a beast. I was very impressed and while I'm not sure it matters who starts between he and Hall, there's no question he played with a chip on his shoulder and the Buckeyes absolutely need his inside running to keep defenses honest.

This offense needs both those guys to fill their specific niche to take pressure of Braxton in the run game.

Chris Lauderback's picture

I have to say I'm a little shocked at all the relatively blind faith in Guiton.

I don't think there's any question he's a better option than Bauserman and I do think he's a serviceable player in spot duty BUT considering what we've seen from offensive players NOT named Braxton Miller, it's hard for me to understand how some seem to imply we'll be just fine if Miller goes down. Think about how much of the total yardage is Braxton's each week. Think about the percentage of points that are Braxton's each week.

I agree we could beat some of the teams on our schedule with Guiton but to think we can beat Nebraska, potentially Purdue, win at Wisconsin (no matter how bad we think they are) or beat Michigan is tough for me to believe.

And while I agree KG played well this weekend what did he really do? He correctly read the read/option a few times. I need more than that to hand him the keys and be brimming with confidence.

bassplayer7770's picture

More than anything, I have been impressed with Guiton when he has been called on.  Generally, I think he's made good decisions and kept the Offense moving.  It seems pretty apparent that he is taking a lot of mental reps when he isn't in the game.  At the same time, it's obvious that Braxton is simply electrifying.  When he starts making more accurate reads, better decisions on options, and consistently throws the ball accurately, that kid is going to be extremely difficult to beat!

TMac's picture

I'm not ready to hand KG the keys, he isn't Braxton, but he has done all he has been asked to do.  With injuries it has to be "Next Man Up", and so far he hasn't done anything wrong.  Which is 100% improvement over our option last year. (See Nebraska)

shortbus20's picture

Wow...a lot of people swallowing the Guiton koolaid...No way could he start at another B1G school. We saw him hand off 3 times although he did check out of one called play. We haven't seen him throw since the spring game. I don't think we really want to have to use him for an extended period of time.

 

  • shortbus20