Beyond the Hashes: Wisconsin

By Chad Peltier on September 29, 2013 at 1:00p
Braxton was mostly his old self last night, showing glimpses of how good this season can be

The game – and the numbers – were ugly. But the Urban era trucked on to 17-0 regardless, setting up next week's matchup as a College Gameday-worthy face-off for the Big Ten. 

I have three overriding questions from last night: 1. Did the offense just seem a little rusty or do the numbers support that too? 2. How was the defense lockdown against the run but allow career highs for the opposing passing game? 3. Is this team statistically worthy of its ranking and can it contend with the other top-5 teams? 

Just Shaking Off the Rust? 

In their first test against a real, live, breathing defense, the Buckeye offense sputtered at times. If the offense could execute consistently, it is clear that the Buckeyes are talented enough to score on anyone in the country.

The Miller-led offense scored on 5/12 drives, picking up points on every other drive until the second half before closing out the game with three ugly attempts to bleed the clock.  

  Yards/Play Yards/Point Points/Play
Offense vs. Wisconsin 5.7 12.6 .46

Though the second half probably left a bad taste in your mouth, the offense performed almost as well as it did against Cal, especially when looking at points per play (PPP). The Buckeyes had .59 PPP in Berkeley against a much less efficient defense. Yards per play was significantly lower (~1.2 YPP) against Wisconsin, suggesting that the Buckeyes were fairly efficient in getting points out of drives due to quality field position. In fact, eight of the Buckeyes' drives started on the Buckeyes' 30 or better. 

So was the Buckeye offense "exposed," Braxton "rusty," or in need of a little Kenny G/Hall time? I think it's fair to answer no, probably not, and yes. Jordan Hall and Kenny G were extremely limited, which is surprising given their effectiveness during the past three games. However, Braxton's throwing mechanics, escapability, and open-field running all suggest that he didn't lose much from his MCL-imposed hiatus. 

  • The Buckeyes ended with six explosive plays (three on the ground and through the air) compared to Wisconsin's four. 
  • Arizona State (the other good team the Badgers have faced) had 468 yards of total offense on 93 plays. That's actually just .34 PPP and 5.03 YPP, indicating that the Buckeyes had a better day against the Badger defense. The Sun Devils just put up 62 points on USC
  • Hyde had just a 41% Running Back Success Rate, though this was artificially low due to the play calling – Hyde's number was called more than usual on second- and third-and-long. However, Hyde's effectiveness (and the offense's in general) was significantly limited in the second half). 
  • The Buckeyes are second in the country (along with Air Force, Army, and Oregon) in explosive run plays this season. 
  • Cam Johnston deserves a shoutout for his amazing fourth quarter 55-yard punt. All six of his punts landed inside the 20 against Wisconsin and Abbrederis only managed three return yards. 

How to Stop the Run

Stave was better than expected, but the front 7 deserve praiseBennett and the defensive line deserve praise 

I have little doubt that the Badgers will end the year as one of the nation's best rushing offenses (assuming Melvin Gordon returns to full strength), but the Buckeyes put on a clinic on how to stop power running offenses. 

One measure of run defense is looking at the opposing running backs' RBSR, which controls for games in which the yards per carry is high due to one or two outlier explosive run plays. Melvin Gordon  managed one explosive run – a 16 yard scamper – but the nation's leading rusher before the game was largely kept in check:

  RBSR Explosive Plays
Melvin Gordon 47% 1-16
James White 38% 1-17

You have to be ecstatic with numbers like that, especially considering the opponent. 

The pass defense on the other hand? Not so much. We knew after the Cal game (as well as all of last season) that the Buckeyes struggled with short passes, screens, and other dink-and-dunk style offenses (like Northwestern's), but Stave and Abbrederis both set career highs against the Buckeyes. 

Stave's 8.7 yards per pass was even better than their output against Purdue (7.5 YPP). This "elite receiver setting career records against Ohio State" meme needs to end soon, with Cal's Treggs and Harper both getting the better of Roby as well.

  Tackles TFL Sack PBU INT FF
Shazier 9 2.5       1
Roby 8 1   3 1  
Perry 7          
C. GRant 7 1 1      
Bennett 4 1 1     1
D. Grant 3     1    
Spence 1 .5        

We'll examine the tape in the Charting Project to see exactly where the problem lies, but opponents throw early and often against Ohio State. The pass defense is 54th in the country and opponents are averaging 35 throws per game, indicating that opposing offensive coordinators have identified the Buckeyes obvious weakness. Losing Christian Bryant – a vocal leader and underrated defender – for the season definitely won't help. 

However, I don't mean to sound doom and gloom on the defense. There is a lot of young talent that will get the chance to develop throughout this season, while Doran Grant, Bennett, and Shazier all had fantastic days against Wisconsin. The Buckeyes won the turnover battle while forcing two additional fumbles that weren't recovered by the defense. 

Yesterday proved that Columbus is certainly the court of the B1G King; now it's on to bigger and better things. 


Comments Show All Comments

BuckTheWorld's picture

Statistically the buckeyes are awesome. 

An Angry Fan

Jack Burton's picture

Meyer played some tresselball in the 4th quarter.  Could it have been partly due to Meyer not wishing to embarrass coach Andersen after going up 31-14?

It's all in the reflexes - Me

JKH1232's picture

I have to admit, I'm consistently surprised that people seem shocked that Meyer subscribes to "Tresselball."  If you watched Florida in their Meyer era, the formula was pretty much: 1) get an early lead, 2) play some D, 3) choke them to death in the 4th quarter.

chicago12's picture

Now we need to switch the defense from predominantly stopping the run to stopping pass for next week. What is the early line for the game?

Doc's picture

Why hasn't the defensive coaches fixed the dink and dunk problem?  This is the recipe to beat us. Roby played 12 yards off of Abredderis all night when EVERYONE in the stadium knew they were throwing to him. I hope they get this fixed before Nerdwestern picks us apart. 

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

kalabuckzoo's picture

I think its clear they want to limit the deep pass and give up the underneath stuff.  The plan seems to be outscore your opponent and try to limit fast/long td's on defense.

d5k's picture

Uh, did you watch a different game?  Roby got burned on double moves, not because of his proximity to the line of scrimmage.  He often had his eyes in the backfield and tried to play really tight coverage thinking he was athletic enough to deny separation.

NorthernOhioBuckeye's picture

The thing I noticed on the double moves is that when the receiver makes the first move (or the out move) Roby is breaking towards the line instead of flattening out at that point. Therefore, when the received makes his second move (back down field) Roby is heading in the opposite direction and therefore causes separation. This is not first game where Roby has had this problem. I've seen it numerous other games as well.
This can be fixed with a little film study and practice. The idea here is to respect the double move and to not break on the ball until it leaves the QB's hand. By breaking towards the line on the first move, you will get an int on occasion, but when the Off coach starts seeing this, they will run the out and up double move to free up  the recieve. 

osupolo's picture

Opponents are averaging 35 pass play per game. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that they get down early to tOSU and have to pass. Seeing how effective the Badgers were against us in passing game I'm sure we'll see a lot more pass attempts. 

Oldschoolbuck's picture

We could also look at 35 passes/game against the D as coming from a bunch of spread and "Bear Raid" type offenses. Wiscy was the first real "ground & pound" opponent we've faced.
Yes, the D-backs have to up their game, especially now that Bryant's out. Hope he recovers completely & quickly... maybe get him a med redshirt.
LBs had a decent night; anyone notice?

Jugdish's picture

Their QB had too much time and the DBs can only cover for so long. We stopped the run but did not blitz to keep their QB in hurry up mode. I think our LBs played well at stopping the run but Fickle needs to dial up the defense to get some pressure. The front 4 are dominate. Wisky played well in the passing game which was a surprise. Otherwise this game would have been so lop sided for the Bucks.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

MN Buckeye's picture

It seemed to me that we played 3-man pass rush quite a bit. Is this really an effective strategy for shutting down the opponent's passing game?

d5k's picture

They were 3-12 on 3rd down so it wasn't obvious passing situations that hurt us including mixing up blitzes and rushing 3.  It was only the early down play action passing that hurt us.  But we weren't willing to soften our defense (7 man boxes, cover 2 shells) and allow them to run.

southbuc's picture

Keep in mind we sold out to stop the run. Urban said befor the game that if they could run on us it would be over. This means that coverage was going to be spotty against the pass. It's as much about scheme as anything else. The lack of push or pash rush from the front four in the first half was concerning but it got fixed and Bennet and the ends were in the backfield the whole second half. 

d5k's picture

They ran a wide variety of play action plays/patterns too, it wasn't like we got burned by 1 route over and over.  And when you are basically telling all 11 guys to key the run you are going to give up a couple play action passes if the QB can make good throws.

toad1204's picture

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

pjtobin's picture

This is awesome!

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

German Buckeye's picture

Love that the sword is thru SCUMs helmet.