Beyond the Hashes: Michigan

By Chad Peltier on November 25, 2012 at 12:00p

So how many of you predicted that the Buckeyes would start the Urban Era undefeated? 

There's still work to do and room to improve next year for a potential national championship run: the passing game needs to be more consistent, the defense can't give up big plays and must work on tackling, and we can't have as many punts blocked. 

As Ryan comes totally unblocked...The OSU passing game was extremely efficient

But for now that talk is premature – we can just enjoy every last second of this season's perfection. 

We've witnessed Braxton Miller thrive in the offense he was born to run, Hyde prove that a big power back can work in Meyer's offense, and John Simon end his legendary career with a four-sack effort against Wisconsin. 

This team transcends the numbers that follow – we can't quantify Simon, Boren, or any of the other seniors' effort and dedication to Ohio State this season. So, let's mostly just feel good about the numbers 12 and 0. 

The Offense

The offense was largely able to move the ball on the Wolverine defense, but uncharacteristically struggled getting touchdowns out of drives.

  1D 3D 4D Yards Pass Rush TO Penalty QS Sack
vs. UM 22(21) 30% - 396 189 207 1 9-74(84-774) .371 4

This is most apparent with how often Drew Basil saw the field. Basil came into The Game with just six attempts on the year and left with eleven, converting 4/5.

Further, the Buckeyes averaged just .371 points per play against the Wolverines. While this was a full .1 points higher than against Wisconsin, it is indicative of an offense that was inefficient in the red zone and repeatedly shot itself in the foot.

The Buckeye offense was largely able to move the chains against the Wolverines thanks to an extremely efficient performance by Braxton and a Certified Wolverine KillerTM day by Hyde.

While Miller usually requires some big runs in order settle in and open up the pass game, Herman and Meyer dialed up effective passes even though Braxton didn’t attempt many designed runs early. Braxton passed for 189 yards against the number one-ranked pass defense in the country with rollout passes and packaged inside zone/hitch routes. 

However, untimely penalties combined with turnovers – including Corey Brown’s muffed punt and Braxton’s fumble – pushed the Buckeyes into repeated third-and-long situations. The Buckeyes’ nine penalties for 74 yards was three more than their season average.

Further, Michigan DC Mattison dialed up some devastating overload blitzes to Braxton’s weakside in passing situations, which resulted in four sacks.

Penalties were undoubtedly a problem throughout the year and this wasn’t the offense’s most efficient performance, but we must keep in mind that this is just year one of a completely new offense.

How beautiful is it that this is a “rebuilding year” and Braxton was just a sophomore? Next year is going to be a lot of fun, Buckeye fans.

The Clock. The Buckeyes completely controlled the clock for almost 37 minutes of the game, limiting Michigan to 47 total plays.

  Time of Possession # of Plays
vs. Michigan 36:50 70
This Season 30:20 70
Last Season 30:41 62

I’ve repeatedly insisted that the time of possession battle was often overrated, but it was key here, as the Buckeyes were able to run 23 more plays than the Wolverines.

The Buckeyes end the year with a TOP of just 21 seconds less than last year and an average of eight plays more per game.

Hyde probably broke this tackle for 12 yardsHyde's running powered the offense over Michigan

The Defense

The clichéd “it was a tale of two halves” storyline could not have been more applicable than for the Buckeye defense, which completely shut the Wolverine offense down in the second half, preventing them from crossing the 50-yard line.

The Silver Bullets came out like it was still the first half of the season, allowing two big plays because of poor tackling.

If not for Gardner’s throw to Roundtree and Robinson’s run (in which Howard and Bryant tackled each other) then we’d be looking at a much different ball game.

Michigan was able to average .446 points per play, though this is entirely because they only ran 47 plays, two of which were for long touchdowns.

  1D Yards Pass Rush TO TOP TFL Sack INT 3&Out RBSR QSand
vs. UM 13(19) 279(360) 171(243) 108(116) 4 23:10 7 4 1 2 37% .446

The Wolverine offense ended with 37% successful carries, but nearly every successful rush was Denard’s during the first half as all other rushers were held to -14 yards. Further, Denard was limited in the second half for some mysterious reason, rushing four times for -2 yards.

The defense stepped up with Simon out, forcing three fumbles(!), one interception, four sacks, and seven tackles for loss.

With the brilliant second-half performance by Fickell and Withers’ crew, the Buckeye defense actually outperformed their season average in pass and rush yards.

Special Teams 

Special teams were largely uneventful for the Buckeyes (the unfortunate roughing the kicker penalty was on the same punt as Corey Brown’s fumbled return), but I’d like to recognize Buchanan for his excellent final day as a senior.

Buchanan averaged 44.3 yards per punt and was able to pin all three within the Michigan 20. Because of his punts, the Buckeyes were able to flip the field the few times they did need to punt, completely dominating the field position battle throughout the game.

Player Analysis

Braxton Miller. I was extremely impressed with how Braxton threw the ball yesterday, as he went 14/18 for 189 yards and a touchdown and it looked like those numbers could have been as high as Herman and Meyer wanted them to be.

  Comp/Att % Yards TD INT Rating
Miller 14/18(148/254) 78% 189(2039) 1 -(6)  

Braxton had his most efficient day through the air so far this year, completing 78% of his passes, only two of which were rated as “difficult” or “uncatchable” (the other two incompletions being throwaways).

Braxton was particularly efficient throwing on the run and throwing the hitch on the packaged read, as ESPN noticed:

Braxton’s continued development as a passer will be key next year, so it’s encouraging for him to go out on such a high note.

Running Backs. Braxton didn’t see as many carries against Michigan (the box score attempts is deceiving with four sacks) largely because Hyde was so successful both inside and outside the tackles.

  Atts Yards YPC RBSR EX PLays YPC-Ex Plays
Hyde 26(185) 146(970) 5.6 62%(60%) 15, 17 4.7
Miller 20(221) 108(1341) 5.4 46%(54%) 42 3.5
Dunn -(25) (133) -      
Boren -(11) (33) -      
R. Smith 1(32) 4(215) 4.0 100%(75%)   4.0
C. Brown 1(10) 21(96) 21.0 100%(90%) 21
Hall -(40) (218) -      
Guiton - (2) (16) -      

Hyde ran with power through first contact, recording a very impressive 5.6 yards per carry and 4.7 yards per carry after removing his two explosive plays. We’ve known that Hyde was effective on inside zone, but I was particularly impressed that Hyde ran with surprising speed and shiftiness on inverted veer, which took Hyde outside the tackles.

Braxton struggled running early with Michigan’s overload blitzes and spies, failing to have a successful carry until his sixth rushing attempt. However, you can only contain Braxton for so long, as he burst for 42 yards in the second half.

Wide Receivers. Wide receivers coach Zach Smith must have done something special this week, as the Buckeye receivers only had a single dropped ball on the day (on a difficult pass by Braxton, nonetheless).

  Yards Catch Rate
Spencer 9 (136) 1/1 (12/20)
D. Smith 63 (618) 2/3 (30/53)
Stoneburner 9 (269) 1/1(16/25)
C. Brown 95 (669) 8/8(60/78)
Boren (42) (5/7)
Heuerman (94) (9/13)
Hyde 8 (51) 1/1(7/9)
Reed (13) (1/1)
Vannett (122) (10/14)
Hall (31) (3/3)
M. Thomas 5 (22) 1/1(2/2)
C. Fields (55) (4/6)
R. Smith  (55) (2/2)

In particular I have to give a shoutout to Corey Brown for turning in a perfect 8/8 game and a career-high 95 yards. Brown was easily the team’s most consistent receiver throughout the year with a 60/78 catch rate. He led the team with 669 yards after some had written him off for having the dropsies in his early career.

Next year will be about identifying the third and fourth receivers (the “playmaker” position in particular), as the top two of Brown and Devin Smith are solid, and Heuerman and Vannett are effective tight ends.

Defense. The second half of the game saw almost every member of the Silver Bullets record a big play, showcasing the young talent that will be back next year for a potential title run.

  Tackles TFL Sack FF FR PBU INT
Boren 9 2.0 1.0   1    
Roby 8            
Shazier 5 2.5 1.0        
Barnett 5            
Bryant 4     1   2  
Hankins 3            
Howard 2       1    
Bennett 2 1.0 1.0 1     1
Sabino 2 .5          
Washington 1 1.0 1.0 1      
Williams 1       1    

Boren was maybe the player of the game on defense, recording a team-high nine tackles, two of which were for loss, one sack (Boren could have run over an elephant with that hit), and one fumble recovery.

Young lineman Adolphus Washington was credited with a sack, tackle for loss, and forced fumble, while Spence and Schutt were constantly gang tackling Denard, Rawls, and Vincent Smith in the backfield. Spence was in with Shazier to stop Denard’s fourth-down conversion attempt in the third quarter.

The defensive line and linebackers stepped up in the second half as Michigan attempted to run Denard on second- and third-and-short (speaking of which, why did Al Borges completely move away from using Denard and Gardner together? Why didn’t Denard attempt even a single pass to constrain the defense that knew he would run?).

Also encouraging, Christian Bryant had two really excellent pass breakups in a row in the fourth quarter. Bryant, Roby, Barnett, and Doran Grant will (likely) all be back next year in what figures to be a solid secondary.

I’m extremely encouraged for next year, as even though the defense loses an incredible, selfless player in Zach Boren, the heart of the team in John Simon, an actually respectable corner in Travis Howard, and very solid multi-year starters in Goebel, Sabino, and Nathan Williams, there is a lot of playmaking ability coming back next year.

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