Weened on Defense, Buckeye Fans Getting Used to a New Offensive Order

By Jeff Beck on September 23, 2013 at 2:30p

Throw out the term “Silver Bullets” in an Ohio bar. Chances are, the guy sitting next to you would know exactly what you're talking about, then would reference his favorite edition.

The term is synonymous with a hard-nosed defense capable of setting the tempo of a game while an opponent struggles in vain to eek out precious yards. Groups like the Silver Bullets of 1998 and 2002 come to mind. Both were able to impose their will on an offense, keeping their counterparts in a game no matter their effectiveness or lack-therof.

A lack of points isn’t a problem for the 2013 Buckeyes. The team ranks fourth in scoring offense behind only Baylor, Oregon and UCLA. In addition, the squad has rolled up 1,244 rushing yards (2nd in the country) 2,116 total yards (6th in the country), 106 first downs (6th in the country), has converted 95% of their red zone trips for a score (tied for 11th in the country) and has a player in Jordan Hall who leads all rushers in the nation with 8 TDs.

Da Silver BulletsSilver Bullets (still) win championships

What’s more, all of these numbers have come with two of the Buckeyes’ 2012 offensive stars relegated to the bench; Braxton Miller because of injury and Carlos Hyde due to suspension. 

Kenny Guiton has played a large role in this success, setting records nearly every weekend. A soft non-conference schedule is also a factor, though the Buckeyes have played equally bad opening slates without such prowess in years past.

The truth is, this offense is good. How good exactly is hard to say, but this coming weekend will help paint a more complete portrait. Still, after four games the “O” looks able to carry the team, something Buckeye fans aren’t used to on the banks of the Olentangy.

Consider this, during the National Championship run of 2002, the offense averaged 36 points per game through the first four games. Troy Smith and Teddy Ginn’s 2006 squad averaged 31 ppg through the first four, while Terrelle Pryor’s 2009-2010 teams averaged 28.5 ppg and 49.25 ppg respectively.

This team is averaging 52.5. 

Which brings us back to the Silver Bullets. Gone are the days of three yards and a cloud of dust playing second fiddle to a knock your block off D. Now, a cold-blooded offense is the star of the show, with the D playing the part of supporting actor.

That’s not to say this defense isn’t serviceable. In fact, they’re not too bad at all. Through four games the D has only given up 13.7 ppg, while forcing 9 turnovers in the process, (good enough for 15th in the nation). In addition, they’re only surrendering 280 yards per game placing them at 13th in the country in total team defense. This has all been accomplished with an entirely revamped defensive line and an incredibly thin-on-experience LB corps.

Truthfully, the defense has only looked suspect in one game: the trip out to California. In that game, the Bullets gave up 503 yards, 371 of which were through the air. However, even Coach Meyer said teams with dreams of shutting down Cal’s pass happy attack are in for a long day.

Simply put, it’s nearly impossible to do. Cal was going to put up points, and they did. What’s important is the Buckeyes had a high-octane counter-punch able to outpace the assault. It should be interesting to see how Oregon’s D fares against Jared Goff and the boys this weekend.

Over the past four weeks, Buckeye fans have been treated to an offensive display rarely (if ever?) seen from the Scarlet and Gray. The barrage has captivated Columbus and will only improve with all of its critical parts in place. But, while points make headlines, defense wins championships.

What’s lost in the hoopla surrounding the Buckeyes' offensive explosion is the Scarlet and Gray's budding young defense looking to become the next wave of Silver Bullets. They're not there yet, but keep an eye out for them in the coming weeks.


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Boxley's picture

Game 5,  Wisky is up. This game will tell us all we need to know about the D. This is our first power run team we have faced this year, and they are pretty good at it.
Northwestern does not have the D to give us issues and we have faced a far better offensive passing team than NW. So I reiterate, the last questions about the D will be answered Saturday.
I think we have addressed any or all the questions remaining on the O, excluding who the starting QB will be from week to week. They will score, a lot.
I pick the bucks to win by 21. Aerial attack in the first Q, mixture of air and ground in the 2nd Q. If we are up by 14-21 in the second half we will go ground and pound on them, eat the clock and win handily.
JMO of course.
My prediction OSU 55, Wisky 28.

"...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


Rebuilding a defense is tougher than rebuilding an offense IMHO. There are going to be bumps along the way. I have a hard time thinking Urban Meyer wants a defense that gives up 25 points per game. He'd just as soon become the defensive coordinator than let that happen. Wisconsin is going to be the test at how far we've come. We don't back down from their power game it's on its way back to Silver Bullet territory. We get run over and have to resort to a basketball score to beat them? Don't want to think about it. We're not going to win a lot of games doing that.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

Aesculus.'s picture

Great Article.  It's so hard to let go of the times when we gave up no more than 2 touchdowns a game.  Even Alabama can't stop a great offense.  To console myself I've started comparing the margin per victory.  2010 Buckeyes had the highest margin per victory at 25ppg since 2007. Right now the Bucks are at 37ppg.  Will that change, sure.  But the point is the same as yours.
We can allow more points because we score more!

cplunk's picture

It won't happen, but I can't think of anything better than Cal upsetting Oregon this weekend. Instant schedule credibility for us and removes a competitor for a national championship slot.
I will be rooting for Cal like I've never rooted for a P12 team before.

D-Day0043's picture

I was thinking the same thing.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

AndyVance's picture

Ditto. Go Bears! Damn shame it's going to be on the Pac-12 Network.

Earle's picture

Yeah, you have to throw out Cal, but still the D is a bit of a concern for me this week.  We're still wondering about Curtis Grant, and none of the wunderkind LB's have made an impact (Trey Johnson is buried behind Shazier and the "Abusement Park" will evidently not open until 2014).
Big, big week for the front 7.  We'll know a lot more about this team around midnight on Saturday.

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

D-Day0043's picture

Honestly I am not concerned about stopping Wisky. They don't have lateral speed so that means a condensed field. We will be in base and that is an advantage to us. As far as our offense goes, we are going to wear their ass out.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

weirdscience's picture

Fantastic article. I think another interesting question is how the offense and defense compliment one another. Having a high octane offense is great when it's scoring TDs, but how well does it handle "non-scoring possessions?" Is the offense capable of winning a field position battle and putting the D in a position to succeed (setting up a punt inside the 10) or fail (turning the ball over in own territory)? Can it facilitate being on the winning side of the turnover battle, rather than "going Denard" (lots of points, lots of TOs) all the time? Bottom line: the reason that "defenses win championships" is because, when facing elite competition, elite defenses tend to be more consistent that elite offenses (prime example: 2009 Rose Bowl). Maybe I need to develop a statistic that captures all this; something like a volatility or efficiency index.  

Menexenus's picture

Can't wait for this weekend!  Beer, then Wisky!  Wooooo!
Get it?  Beer at Eat Too Brutus IV.  Then Wisky, like whiskey, except Wisconsin...
Oh nevermind!

Real fans stay for Carmen.

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Are you a Purdue fan?
See, Purdue's nickname is the ... oh nevermind.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

2morrow's picture

Part way through last year, I wondered if our offense was having a negative impact on the defense and if our concept of a successful defense would need to change. When the Buckeye offense can score on 3 and 4 play drives and we are facing teams that have a goal to run 90+ plays, they are getting many more opportunities to score. Thus in the "old days" an opponent may only have the ball for 9 drives but against the current Buckeye offense, may get 11 or 12 or more cracks at our D. I think this will remain particularly true against other fast paced/spread offenses like a Cal, Indiana, or a Northwestern maybe. I'm not as worried about our D as I used to be but I wish we would develop another linebacker.

Young_Turk's picture

You are correct.  Grading the current defense, one has take in consideration the offense.  How many plays per game is this years defense on the field.  Trying to compare that to the Tressel years, you're not going to compare Bullets to Bullets. 
I would like to suggest 11W stat maven give a shot to equalize current defense against average of Tressel years. 


Oldschoolbuck's picture

If I remember correctly, Urbs had a pretty good D to go along with a high-powered spread in 2006. The Goiters' D-line made our O line look like they were stuck in quicksand in that beat down.
Urban is building a juggernaut on D as well as O (BTW it was good to see Chris Carter playing some nice minutes - yeah, it WAS FAMU!).

Hovenaut's picture

The times have changed, but one unit is still dominant, the other symbiotic in support it seems. It's just flipped from what we've grown accustomed to seeing the past decade.

What remains the same is this: the game will be won in the trenches, both the offense and defense are going to hang their hats on the big boys up front.

Very much expect to see the coaching/training efforts of Warriner, Vrabel and Mariotti on display Saturday night.

MassiveAttack's picture

Defense does NOT win championships!  People keep repeating that, but it is simply not true.  Find some examples of a championships won by defenses.  There are none!  Statistics show that the best defense is a powerful offense.
Now I will allow that a strong defense combined with a serviceable offense can win championships.

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