Beyond the Hashes: Penn State

By Chad Peltier on October 28, 2012 at 12:00p

We've got this team's MO pretty much down (and it only took 9 games): 

Great defense against traditional pro-style rushing teams, weak against passing teams, a great rushing game, a passing game that is still working it out, and the most dynamic signal-caller in the country (five yards) behind center. 

Urban is clearly proud of these guys - gotta love his passion. Urban with two of the game's heroes: Stoney and RDS. 

Listen, you can be upset with Moxie playing like an NFL-caliber quarterback against our defense, but you kind of had to have known it was coming based upon their passing game numbers and our defensive numbers. 

The point is that we know this team's strengths and weaknesses already – and the team keeps winning. We're nine and zero.

Just Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan games separate Ohio State from a perfect season. As Kyle pointed out earlier, this team has some parallels with a certain 2002 Buckeye squad. That's not to say that it'll be a cakewalk - even though all three of those teams lost yesterday, they're still dangerous. 

In any case, let's look at the numbers against Penn State: 

The Matchup

While Phil Steele's computers had Ohio State losing 24-30, Phil himself, as well as Football Outsiders' S&P+ rankings favored the Buckeyes: 

  Record S&P+ RK Off S&P+ RK Def S&P+ Rk
Ohio St 8-0 23 22 27
Penn St 5-2 37 47 31

Ohio State's overall and offensive rankings took a little hit from the poor performance against Purdue, falling from 18th to 22nd on offense.

Both offense and defense S&P+ rankings favored the Buckeyes this week, with a large difference in efficiency between the Buckeye and Penn State offenses. 

The Offense

The offense didn't come out of the gate threatening to blow the roof off of Penn State, but then again, we shouldn't have expected them to, given Penn State's defense:  

  1D 3D 4D Yards Pass Rush TO Penalty QS Sacks
vs. PSU 19 (21) 50% - 377(432) 143(195) 234(245) 1(14) 7-75(67-596) .389 4(18)

Three things stick out to me here: First, There aren't any real excuses for the state of the passing game, which went for 143 yards on 19 attempts and 7 completions from Braxton. 72 of those yards are due to Stoneburner's single touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Without that catch and run, the passing game is 6/18 for 71 yards. Ouch.

I think part of this is because Braxton seemed to be off at the beginning of the game, starting just 4 of 12 and only completing two of those going for more than 10 yards.  

Second, the quickstrike score was the second lowest of the season, with the Buckeyes managing just over 1/3 of a point per play. For a point of reference, the Buckeyes are averaging closer to 1/2 a point per play on the season. This is not to say the Buckeye offense wasn't effective – I'll take 28 points when the defense played like it did – but it turned in one of the least efficient games of the season. 

The Clock. With the Buckeyes' time of possession advantage against Penn State, the Buckeyes march closer to their average time of possession from last year, at just over 30 minutes/game. 

  Time of Possession # of Plays
vs. PSU 32:07 72
Season 30:02 70
Last Season 30:40 62

Part of the reason for this clock control was the Buckeyes' 52 running plays, which isn't an outlier compared to previous games, but high nonetheless. In comparison, Notre Dame rushed 39 times, Bama rushed 40, and Oregon rushed 57 times last night. 

The Defense

It's hard for me to be too mad with this defensive performance when Penn State failed to score a touchdown until there were less than ten minutes left in the fourth quarter.

  1D Yards Pass Rush TO TOP TFL Sack INT 3&Out RBSR QSAND
vs. PSU 19(19) 359(390) 327(277) 32(112) 1(15) 27:53 5(41) 4(20) 1(12) 3(28) 29% .216

The Ohio State defense was able to completely lock down the Penn State rushing game. Sure, there's no Silas Redd this year, but Penn State was still averaging 135 yards rushing/game. It's clear that this defense is up to Tressel/Heacock standards in rush defense against pro-style, between-the-hashes offenses. 

Penn State was held to 1.1 yards per carry on 28 attempts, good for a 29% running back success rate. That's pretty abysmal and the defense's second-best behind totally shutting down Le'Veon Bell and MSU. Further, the Buckeyes held the Nittany Lions to under 1/4 of a point per play - their best quicksand score yet.

The passing defense continues to be the major weakness of this year's Silver Bullets, allowing opposing quarterbacks to average 277 yards per game. That means that after a schedule full of UCF, Cal, Michigan State, and Purdue, opposing quarterbacks have put up close to 300 yards passing on just 20 sacks on the year. 

No big deal, but Brax can now levitate into the end zoneBraxton makes the best 1-yard run EVER.

The sacks, tackles for loss, and passing yards numbers together reveal that the issue is multifaceted – part is pressure, part is coverage scheme, and part is personnel. Four sacks (20 total is good for 29th in the country) and five tackles for loss (87th in the country...) are pretty good, but about as expected given Penn State's drop-back passing game.

No one likes to see The Moxie put up more than 300 yards, but you have to give him and Coach BoB credit – he had pretty good pass placement and decision making overall (including into RDS' hands - and then into the end zone). Speaking of which, Ohio State is currently tied for 13th in the country in interceptions, with 12 on the year (the top spot goes to former OSU coach Darrell Hazell's Kent State squad).

One thing I'm still disappointed with was the number of costly penalties – defensive pass interference, holding, and roughing the passer. Usually I talk about penalties under the offense section, but the defense was responsible for some costly ones against Penn State - something that will hopefully be cleaned up next year. 

Special Teams 

Blocked TDS Given Up PU KO Return OSU Punt Avg
1 fake punt 1 (blocked punt) 6/83  5/205 (+1 block)

The special teams were a mixed, but important, bag for Ohio State: an Ohio State blocked punt for a touchdown, a stopped PSU fake punt, and dominant kickoffs.

Something is clearly wrong with the punt team, as Buchanan had his third punt blocked of the season. On the flipside, Lil Griff will be in strong consideration for special teams player of the game, with his batted down pass on the Penn State fake punt. 

Finally, the Piranhas delivered on kickoff coverage, holding Penn State to an average of <14 yards per return. 

Player Analysis 

Braxton Miller. So it wasn't Braxton's best day passing: 

  Comp/Att % Yards TD INT Rating
Miller 7/19(112/198) 37% 143(1527) 1(12) 1(6) 106.9

In his second-worst passing day of the year (quarterback rating-wise), Braxton did enough to lead the offense to 28 points against a stingy PSU pass defense (ranked 19th in the country in pass defense against FBS winning teams). Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it was pretty. 

Braxton had one of his highest percentage of "bad" passes this week, but when you consider that Braxton led the team to victory over Illinois last year after completing only a single pass, then you know there was room for improvement anyway. Oh look, Illinois is the next game on the schedule...

Also, it's still clear to me that he has the potential to be a much more efficient passer than he currently is. It seems like he gets one bomb per game – whether to Devin Smith, Corey Brown, or Stoneburner yesterday – that just makes your jaw drop. 

Running Backs. While no back besides Braxton managed to hit the century mark, rushing 52 times will almost always put up some big rushing numbers: 

  Atts Yards YPC RBSR Ex Plays YPC-Ex
Hyde 22(126) 55(600) 2.5 64%(60%) - 2.5
Miller 25(164) 134(1112) 5.4 60%(59%) 33 4.2
Dunn (12) (60) - (82%) - -
Boren (11) (33) - (64%) - -
R. Smith 4(26) 48(179) 12.0 75%(69%) 28 6.7
C. Brown (8) (70) - (88%) - -
Hall  (40) (218) - (73%) - -

It wasn't the most efficient rushing game of the season by a long shot, but the Buckeyes were able to use the running game to control the ball and keep McGloin off of the field until the fourth quarter, and the game felt more secure anyway. 

Special congratulations are in order for Braxton Miller who passed the 1,000-yard mark for rushing on the season, becoming just the third B1G quarterback to do so and the first overall 1000-yard rusher for Urban. And how about those two 1-yard touchdown runs in the third quarter? Good Lord. 

Rod Smith came up with a big game, averaging 12 yards per carry, including a bruising 28-yard run (and some really good blocks, like on Braxton's 33-yard run with Rod as lead blocker). 

Anyone else a fan of the two running back set? We've seen Hyde and Corey Brown in the backfield together with Miller in the past, but Rod and Hyde together was cool to see, with a lot of lead-blocking potential here. 

Unfortunately it wasn't Hyde's best night, as he only averaged 2.5 yards per carry. However, at least his carries were efficient – 64% of his rushes were efficient towards first downs. 

My only real disappointment is that Corey Brown didn't get any carries – he's a real threat out of the backfield and deserves a carry or three per game. And speaking of Corey Brown...

Wide Receivers. Ah, so Corey Brown and Devin Smith don't catch a single pass between the two, yet Ohio State still wins? Gotcha. 

  Yards Catch Rate
Spencer 33(118) 3/3(10/17)
D. Smith (505) 0/4(23/45)
Stoneburner 86(236) 2/2(14/19)
C. Brown (447) 0/2(44/60)
Boren (42) (5/7)
Heuerman  (86) 0/2(7/11)
Hyde 2(43) 1/1 (7/8)
Reed (13) (1/1)
Vannett 22(72) 1/1(6/8)
Hall (31) (3/3)
M. Thomas (17) (2/2)
C. Fields (44) 0/1(3/5)

Braxton decided to show the tight ends some love with 3 passes for 108 yards to Vannett and Stoney together. Evan Spencer led the team in receptions with three in a poor showing for the passing game.

Also, that Stoney bomb was LONG overdue – thought he'd have one per game at this point. Here's to that continuing, huh? 

Kudos to Spencer for becoming the fourth Buckeye to cross the 100-yard reception mark on the year. Improvement! 

Defense. Ryan Damn Shazier and Bradley Roby (sorry Roby doesn't have a cool nickname yet). If these two aren't All-Americans by the time they leave this team then I'll eat my hat (I probably wouldn't...don't actually have many hats to eat). 

  Tackles Sacks TFL PBU INT
Boren 7        
Shazier 7 2 2   1
Bryant 6     2  
Williams 6 1 1    
Roby 5     4  
Barnett 5   1    
Hankins 5        
Simon 2 1 1 1  

Shazier had a ridiculous stat line with seven tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFLs, and a Moxie pick-six. He definitely looked like the player we thought he would this preseason – future All-conference, if not All-American. 

Roby really is making an island out there, with four more pass breakups, which leads the nation even though Roby himself has missed a game. Ohio State as a whole leads the nation in passes defended, which is surprising given their rough pass defense. 

Also, a special shoutout to Boren who once again led the team in tackles, displaying excellent form wrapping up and then driving Penn State ballcarriers to the ground. 


Comments Show All Comments

tampa buckeye's picture

Like the look with rod smith and hyde in the game at the same time.  Rod on that 28 yard run just destroyed the safety #10.

Chad Peltier's picture

It's pretty excellent that both Hyde and Rod can be excellent lead blockers for Braxton or take a handoff from that set. 

TheBadOwl's picture

Can I officially nominate "Roby-Wan Kenobi" as Roby's nickname? He clearly used the force to sense where the ball was on that endzone deflection.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

Ethos's picture

I think Boren is showing our defenders how to tackle.  Ever since he's been on Defense suddenly our guys know how to tackle better.  What a brilliant move to put him there.  

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Somehow, Bryce Haynes got credited for a tackle night last. I didn't notice that. How the hell did THAT happen? Is Bryce okay this morning?

johnblairgobucks's picture

Haynes has consistently been one of the first guys down the field on punt coverage, and he's had several tackles this year.

Jdadams01's picture

He used his redshirt year well and put on a good amount of muscle. The kid isn't a bad athlete, either, as he played DE and WR for his high school.

nickma71's picture

A lot of teams have things wrong with the punt. Put the line of scrimmage back together, and fire the moron that thinks it is a good idea to spread out and pull blockers off the line. It is fully predictable, and guess what. It will happen again this year. More than once possibly if they do not go back to a real formation. Last year was the same crap. Who thinks it is good to block "ole!" style because you are spread out?

Scott K's picture

I second this motion.  This spread punt formation is c-r-a-p.
Come on Urban, man up and admit it's wrong (which he did in his after game presser) and PLEASE change it....

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

Unky Buck's picture

I absolutely hate this formation for punts. All an opposing team needs to do is try and send multiple guys through a gap and it's free reign on the punter. Supposedly it's used to help in coverage, but if the punter can't get the ball off his foot without being blocked, what sense is there in having good coverage? It's so frustrating to watch and I wish we'd just go back to the formation that worked.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

Alhan's picture

Heh, I may not agree with the formation, but isn't Urban the special teams coach?  So doesn't that mean that he is the "moron that thinks it is a good idea to spread out and pull blockers off the line"?  You don't really want to fire him, do you?

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

Bolt's picture

I was extremely impressed with Roby last night. Even when he bit on the one play and let his man get behind him he closed in a hurry and made a phenomenal play on the ball. He has been an absolute stud this year. I'm pretty surprised he's not getting more attention nationally.

Aesculus.'s picture

Date Opponent Surface Result Sacks Sack Yards
10/06/12 Nebraska Grass W 63-38     4.0 30
10/13/12 @ Indiana Turf W 52-49     0.0 0
10/20/12 Purdue Grass W 29-22       0.0 0
10/27/12 @ Penn St. Grass W 35-23  4.0 37
While yes we are 29th in sacks, its really the distribution that tells the whole story.  We gave up a large chunck of those passing yards to PSU playing a no pressure scheme.  We sack and everything gets better.
And as you say our DB personel are the best at breaking up and defending the pass.  

Scott K's picture

Why "grass" for the home games Aesculus?  It's field turf in The Shoe.

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

Aesculus.'s picture

I know, just hasn't upgraded our field surface.

jestertcf's picture

Did Klein play last night, or did he just get zero tackles?

~Because we couldn't go for three~

osubuckeye4life's picture

Roby Wan Kenobi hehe I like it! The Force is strong with this one.

BuckeyeVet's picture

How about BradAss Roby (say it fast) or RobyCop?

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx

"The recipient of Oyster's ONLY down vote".

Boxley's picture

A thought for a good nickname for Bradley;
I think the Bradley "Robbem" Roby, as in "He was robbed" works very well, as he robs his opponents of catches all game long.
I can hear "Robbem Roby" he just stole another completion away from a receiver" quite well over the horseshoe PA system and feel good about it.

"...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