Beyond the Hashes: Nebraska

By Chad Peltier on October 7, 2012 at 5:00p

Earlier this week, Meyer was asked about high scoring games, to which he replied, "I like a 70 every once in a while." 

Making it look too easyBraxton certainly decleated a few more "Blackshirts"

This caused Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples to write:

If Meyer gets the skill players he wants, he'll hang 70 points on some Big Ten opponent in the not-too-distant future. 

Meyer apparently thought this week was as good as any, as he decided that he only needed Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde in order to hang 63 on the Cornhuskers. Who needs "the skill guys he wants" (Jalin, Zeke, Jacobs, etc) when he has Braxton? 

My theory? Meyer knew it was Eat Too, Brutus this week and knew he needed to impress the 11W tailgaiters. 

While the Buckeyes have a few B1G revenge games left - Purdue and Penn State, for instance - the Buckeyes went a long way towards achieving their goal of being undefeated this week. 

The Offense

Ok, ok. Some of you will complain that we only passed for 127 yards. When you can rush for an astounding 371 yards, who needs to pass? 

vs. Neb 19(126) 45% 50% 498(2589) 127(1197) 371(1492) 1(8) 9-76 (46- 401) 1.02 2(10)

The Buckeyes unleashed a bizarro-world, space-age Big Ten offense that used the running game to set up the running game - three yards and a cloud of dust? More like 72 yards and 106,102 screaming fans. 

The Quickstrike score (a metric describing number of points per play) was an astounding 1.02 points-per-play against Nebraska. That means the scoreboard people could have added slightly more than a point to every single Buckeye offensive snap. This quickstrike score is far more than any this year, even the .659 against Miami of Ohio. That's right, Nebraska - the offense had a higher points-per-play against you than against Miami of Ohio. 

Some people decried the spread coming to Ohio State, and Meyer has an answer for you: 

“You can see what we are. We’re kind of a pound ya offense right now,” Meyer said. “I don’t mind that. I’ve not had a lot of those. But that’s a pound ya offense.”

Further, the resurgent offensive line only gave up two sacks to the Blackshirts (yes, they're the Blackshirts whenever I want them to be), with just 10 throughout 6 games this season. That's a remarkable improvement that starts with Warriner. 

It wasn't all sunshine and decleated defenders, however; the Buckeyes still had a lot of penalties this week, with 9. So far, the Buckeyes are averaging almost 2/3 of the field in penalties per game. 

The Clock. With the game plan so heavily focused on the running game, it's easy to see why the Buckeyes only produced 62 offensive plays. 

  Time of Possession # of Plays
vs. Nebraska 28:08 62
Season 29:01 68(409)
Last Season 30:40 62

With only 62 plays - which is equivalent to last year's Walrus-slow average - combined with the no-huddle, the offense held the ball for only 28 minutes, but nevertheless controlled the game's tempo. 

The Defense

While surrendering 38 points is never a good thing, the defense was able to contain Burkhead apart from one 73-yard touchdown run and limited the surprisingly efficient Martinez to 214 yards and 3 interceptions. 

  Opp 1D Opp Yards Opp Pass Opp rush TO OPP TOP TFL Sack INT 3&Outs Opp RBSR QuickSand
vs. Neb 21(110) 437(2319) 214(1586) 223(727) 4(13) 31:52 9(29) 4(16) 3(10) 3(15) 46% .535

The Nebraska offense is clearly good this year, but the .535 points per play from the quicksand metric is certainly not great. It helps, however, when you can get three interceptions and one fumble recovery.

It's a beautiful thing to see a coaching staff take advantage of players' talentsHyde bulled his way in for 4 TDs

The Nebraska offense was able to use the passing game along with several big plays of their own - 73 yards from Rex and a 74-yard pass caught by Bell - to pick up first downs.

The Ohio State defense struggled with picking up three and outs, as they're averaging under three per game this year. In fact, it was a highlight-reel kind of day for both sides of the ball, as John Simon and company picked up 4 total sacks and four turnovers to complement the big plays on offense. 

Braxton Miller. The offensive coaches must have seen early on in game planning that they could gash the Nebraska defense on the ground, so Braxton didn't really need to have a huge game through the air: 

  COMP/ATT % Yards TD INT Rating
Miller 7/14(83/135) 50% 127 (1060) 1(9) -(3) 149.8 (145)

Last week I grumbled about how the H-backs and running backs weren't as involved in the passing game and Braxton must have heard me, because Corey Brown was the only receiver to catch a pass. Braxton targeted only six guys, with four catching a pass. 

While Braxton had a huge day running the ball, he was nonetheless average through the air. 

Rushing. The running backs combined for close to 400 yards rushing, averaging 7.7 yards per rush. What more could you want?

  Atts Yards YPC RBSR Ex Plays YPC- EX Plays
Hyde 28(63) 140(298) 5.0 (4.7) 69% (62%) 23, 16 3.9
Miller 16(106) 186(782) 11.6(7.4) 69% (63%)  72,18,15,31,23 2.5
Dunn - (12) - (60) (5.0) (82%) (5.0)
Boren - (11) - (33) (3.0) (64%) (3.0)
R. Smith 2(14) 38(88) 19 (6.3) 100% (79%) 33 5.0
C. Brown 1(6) 1(49)   0% (5/6..) 1.0
Hall - (40) - (218) 5.5 (73%) - (5.2)

When a team has a "speed" and "power" back tandem (or stable), the speed back is generally less efficient in terms of running back success rate (i.e., the back will be less consistent at getting first downs but occasionally have a big touchdown run) while the power back is generally more successful picking up consistent first downs but doesn't make as many big plays.

After 6 games it is safe to say that Braxton does both for this team. Braxton is successful on about 63% of his rushes, second only to Hall out of backs with more than 30 attempts (which is a good enough sample size). Likewise, Braxton clearly has the most home run potential on the team, with 15 plays of 15 yards or more on the season (every other back has combined for only 6). 

That's not to say Hyde and Hall are not effective running backs - far from it - but Braxton is clearly the dominant running threat on the team. However, Herman and Meyer have effectively mixed the consistent Hall and Hyde (when one is healthy) with Braxton. The rushing game is effective because the running backs are mostly consistent (62-73% of the time) with a few big plays and Braxton fills the "playmaker" role. I'd imagine future running back classes will likely try to mix the big play guys (Ezekiel Elliot, for one) with bigger backs in the Hyde, Rod Smith, and Dunn mode. 

Wide Receivers. As I mentioned previously, it wasn't the biggest day for receivers: 

  Yards Catch Rate
Spencer (70) (5/9)
D. Smith (351) 0/2 (19/31)
Stoneburner (92) 0/1 (7/12)
C. Brown 35 (352) 3/4 (35/45)
Boren 7 (42) 1/1 (5/7) 
Heuerman 53 (81) 2/2 (5/5) 
Hyde (8) (2/2)
Reed (13) (1/1)
Vannett 32 (50) 1/2 (5/7)
Hall (31) (3/3)
M. Thomas  (6) (1/1) 

I'm starting to wonder what happened to Stoney, Evan Spencer, and Reed, who showed promise early this season. I guess it's hard to complain when different guys seem to step up each week, but it is nonetheless shocking to see Devin Smith held without a catch on the day. 

We can at least be encouraged by the growing rapport between Philly Brown and Braxton, as well as the high catch rate for all receivers. 

Defense. It was a decidedly mixed bag of big highlight-reel plays and total breakdowns for this defense that is clearly still developing. Obvious helmet stickers go to Shazier, Bryant, Simon, OJ and Roby. 

  Tackles TFL INT PBU Sacks
Shazier 11 2     1
Bryant 9        
Goebel 8 1      
Simon 7 5     2
Klein 7 1     1
Howard 6     2  
Johnson 5   1    
Williams 4        
Roby 4   2 1  

Meyer said it best, I think: 

“Defense can get better,” Meyer said. “Created some turnovers, but can get better. Pleased with their effort, but we all know we can't give up those kind of yards and those kinds of points and win the game.”

Regardless, it's hard to overlook Shazier's team-leading 11 tackles and 2 tackles for loss (which puts him at 59  and ~10 per game), Simon's two sacks, or Roby's two interceptions. 

While both Simon and Roby have been having stellar seasons, they've each been deficient in a statistical area: sacks for Simon and interceptions for Roby. Each player picked up two of their deficient statistic. 

While the passing defense certainly has work, it's hard to complain about a 25-point win, especially now that the arguably toughest stretch on the schedule is over. 

The Buckeyes were successful in their first two revenge games this year - now there are only three more revenge games to go. 

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