Beyond the Hashes: Michigan State

By Chad Peltier on December 8, 2013 at 12:30p
This team still has Clemson, folks. Hold your helmets high.

This is the first time I've written a losing Beyond the Hashes, and it doesn't feel great. The Buckeyes played an extremely streaky game, from the defensive efficiency, to both Hyde and Braxton alternating effectiveness and explosive plays, to overall offensive drive efficiency. 

It was Sparty punch, Buckeye counter-punch, and then Sparty knockout, with time expiring before Braxton and Hyde could stabilize for a final swing. The numbers below aren't pretty, and it's sometimes just self-flagellation to read a detailed description of a loss, but hopefully they provide both context and depth for the emotional pit in your stomach. 

Yards Come and Go 

Hyde and Braxton's legs were almost the only way the Buckeyes could generate yards, but their effectiveness varied significantly over the course of the game. Below are the Buckeyes' running back success rates, with explosive plays in parentheses:

  1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q
Braxton 0% (0) 57% (3) 67% (1) 40% (0)
Hyde 100% (0) 25% (0) 75% (1) 50% (0)

The fourth quarter was difficult to watch. The 4th and 2 was undoubtedly the play of the game for the Spartans, in which Herman decided on an outside zone with Hyde leading. While the play had been extremely successful earlier in the game, Narduzzi had seen enough of it by that point. 

In fact, the running back success rates really illustrate how much of a chess match this game was for Herman and Narduzzi. Hyde and Braxton's RBSR's completely flip-flop by quarter. Braxton found some running room – and really tried to put the team on his back (or legs, more accurately) – during the Buckeyes' 24-point run in the middle of the game. 

Overall Efficiency: Not So Good

OSU Offense .380 5.94 6 1.85 4.85
OSU Defense .436 6.08 6 2.83 6
  • This was obviously the least-efficient performance the Buckeyes had on offense all season. While six explosive plays is not bad based on the season average, they were all concentrated in the middle third of the game. The Buckeyes gained just 46 total yards after the 5:36 mark in the third quarter. 
  • Before the game I felt very confident that the team that won the turnover margin would win the game. At +1 for the Buckeyes, obviously that wasn't the case. However, the Buckeyes' next drive was a punt after eleven yards, so it had a negligible effect on the game.  
  • For the first time all season, the explosive play margin was zero. That actually was the difference in the game – not the turnover margin. The Buckeyes allowed three explosive pass plays to spring the Spartans in to their first seventeen points, then three rushing explosive plays to finally put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. 
  • The Spartans bucked their offensive statistical trends from previous games. Not only did MSU have more explosive pass plays than anyone expected, but they had longer drives, and converted more third downs, than their previous twelve games. 
  • Conversely, the Buckeyes had just one third down conversion the entire game. When you can't win first or second down, third down becomes simply unmanageable. The Buckeyes typically won first down despite rushing on seventeen of 31 first down attempts for 130 yards (7.67 YPA). The problem was first down passing – the Buckeyes were 4/13 passing on first downs. 
  • Obviously Cook's performance was the difference in the game, as he passed for a career high and his second-greatest number of attempts. 
  • While the offense has had great success with the two-minuted drill to close out the first half before, the offense had a surprising inability to pick up yards quickly through the air when playing from behind. The offense only threatened with the ground game, and the passing game was almost only effective off of play action and short packaged passes. Without the threat to run the ball (late in the fourth quarter), the offense still couldn't pick up yards without the threat to run opening play action. 
  • Regardless, Hyde, Braxton, and the offensive line turned in gutsy performances on the ground. They deserve all the credit in the world for running on that defense. Good luck, Cardinals. 

Efficiency in Three Acts 

It was truly remarkable how the game momentum shifted twice throughout the game. After the Spartan's furious start, the Buckeyes settled in and looked like they might run away with it during the third quarter, only for the Spartans to go on a 17-0 run to close the game. 

Momentum is a tricky thing in sports analytics. While your eyes see streaks of points on the field (as well as fired up/dejected sideline demeanor), there really isn't any empirical basis for "the hot hand." Regardless, the game really had three acts, and the Spartans led two of them. Below are the efficiency metrics separated in to the three "acts:"

Start - 9:01 2Q 2.4 0 5
9:01 2Q - 5:36 3Q 9.1 4 5.3
5:36 - End 2.7 0 4.3

The Buckeyes didn't really have longer drives during the scoring spree, just more explosive plays. 

You'll get him next year, Spence. Or just get Tajh Boyd. That'll do too. Close, but no sack. 

The division between the three acts couldn't be more pronounced than when looking at the yards per attempt. The yardage per play more than tripled, as Herman called a fantastic middle of the game. 


Everything suggested field position would be vitally important. The Spartan offense is certainly ball control oriented (except when it isn't, I guess), while their offense has only shown the ability to score when the defense or special teams set them up. 

However, field position really didn't determine the outcome of the game. Despite four drives starting on the Buckeyes forty yard line or better – meaning less than sixty yards to a touchdown – the Buckeyes only received points off of one of those possessions. As already mentioned, the interception resulted in four plays and a punt as well. If you go against Tresselball, you have to take advantage of advantageous field position. 


Comments Show All Comments

3cent's picture

Yeah field position meant nothing...As you stated we had great field position that led to nothing not even field goals....While they had terrible field position and had long drives to score td's.

dwcbuckeye's picture

You said:
"Obviously Cook's performance was the difference in the game, as he passed for a career high and his second-greatest number of attempts."
isnt that at the core of our problems all year?  Every QB has a career day

D-Day0043's picture

Good field position was wasted on dumb play calling. Instead of going for the first down, they were going for the kill shot, calling low percentage pass plays, or calling predictable plays. Herman picked the wrong time to get cute. 
They could have handed the ball to Hyde on every play and MSU couldn't stop him.
Braxton is clearly a different passer when he isn't playing at home. He is very inaccurate on the road.
I am not impressed with Herman's play calling at all. He doesn't know how to spread the ball around and basically four players only touch the ball with any consistency. The intermediate passing game is nonexistent.

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Ethos's picture

hell even Hall got 10 yards on the one play he was in. just the dumbest play calling ive seen all year

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

2morrow's picture

Couldn't agree more -all the stats in this column would have been negated if Hyde had gotten 30-35 carries - Ballgame...When they went ahead 24-17, with even some decent play calling they could have gone up with at least two field goals to 30-17, or even 38-17. MSU had a good pass defense but had NO ANSWER for HYDE. He could have run wild same as at the um game. That one (and um) is on UFM. Last night should have been"  if I see anyone except Hyde carrying the ball, you're fired." No excuse for this. Maybe some good can come from it. Defense was better tan at um, though that is not saying much. Still MSU didn't win, we were out coached and lost.

D-Day0043's picture

I have watched quite a bit of MSU this year and their offense was down right painful to watch. They had a hard time even hanging on to a pass. Our defense was so bad that they made Conner Cook and his receivers look like the greatest show on turf.

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Nutinpa's picture

I will respectfully disagree and nitpick.
Agree that Meyer and his mensa were doubt.  Play calling in the 4th quarter sucked.
But to suggest that MSU did not win and our coaches lost it for us seems to revert back to the canard that we have or had "superior talent".  You need only look at Sparty's LBs and secondary to see the cavernous difference in talent on the Defensive side of the ball.  Our WRs were as inept as they were vs. LSU in the 2008 Title game. Sparty's DBs squatted on our WRs and they loaded the box to snuff out that lame QB draw play.  If we want to say that based on recruiting of 4 and 5 * recruits that we should never have lost the game, then fine.  I would suggest that is a naive assumption.
Braxton Miller can run the legs of of Connor Cook and most of the other QBs in the country. But Cook made the throws that Miller could not. 
Bottom line, I would not presume the talent gap between us and them is anything to speak of.  Players make plays.....theirs did....ours did not.  And don't forget the FG we literally gave them to start the game with dumb azz penalties.  Those were poor plays made by Grant and Shazier...not by the coaches.

D-Day0043's picture

No you're right. Miller was inaccurate, the receivers couldn't get open and when they did Miller couldn't hit them, the secondary and LB's, other than Shazier, flat out sucked. Shazier even had a stupid penalty. The secondary looks like they have never played the game before.
I do think Herman's play calling is vanilla, lacks creativity, and is predictable. And he has no idea how to spread the ball around.
 Fickell has done absolutely nothing to make any sort of adjustment on defense. They haven't shown any improvement throughout the year, they have gotten worse. The defensive formations he sends out against certain offensive formations and situations is flat out ignorant. Rushing 3 in a third and 4, or playing the nickel against a two wide receiver set. The defensive line is the only solid unit on the defense, so their should be no situation in which you remove one of them, yet they kept calling it time and time again and it failed almost every time. They were able to get two interceptions rushing 3 all year, and despite dropping 8 they gave up thousands of yards. 
Either the coaches are recruiting bad players or they simply aren't teaching them properly.

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Ethos's picture

please let's abandon the obvious "empty backfield means its a miller keeper plays". I almost lost a 60 inch tv from that shit. 

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

D-Day0043's picture

I know. That was a Bollman special. He would
run that crap over and over the last year he was here.

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Eph97's picture

"Did we win? Did we win?"
No we lost, and there needs to be staff changes on the defensive side. Hope certain coaches get their dreams of becoming head coaches realized during the off season.
Would love to see DJ Durkin or Ron Vanderlinden running this defense.

D-Day0043's picture

When Fickell made that comment I knew we were in trouble. Refusing to admit your faults and not taking stock of your weaknesses keeps you from growing. When coaches start making defensive comments like that then they are usually on their way out.

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3technique's picture

Any one would be better than the bend but then leave inferior athletes open defense.

D-Day0043's picture

You want to see how a zone defense play with their corners 10 yards off of the line of scrimmage? Turn on the Bengals - Colts game. By the time the receiver catches the ball the corners have closed the gap and they are hitting the receiver. Granted these are professionals, but the concept is the same. Keep things in front of you so you can react. The Buckeye corners have no idea what they are doing. This is either on the players for not being smart enough to learn what the coaches are teaching, or the coaches for not changing their scheme to fit the style of their players.

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Bamabucknut's picture

A team wins with both a good offense....and a good defense.The Buckeye offense has  been overcoming the lack of a strong Buckeye defense all season.
In this game ..our offense was suppressed(as one would expect against the #1 defense) and our defense was poor....again.
Our we have unable players ? NO
Do we have coaches who are not able ? (you answer that question.I answered it 5 games ago when lesser opponents were setting school offensive records time after time).

klfeck's picture

Its sad to say but some of us having been saying all year that this was not a NC team. Defense wins championships. Exhibit Oregon and their lack thereof. Hopefully, UFM can do what needs to be done on D. As far as I am concerned, Roby is way overrated and can hit the road. I hope Ryan Damn Shazier sticks around. They also need to teach Grant how to pass defend. Turn your head son... Joey Bosa is a beast and a legend in the making. I feel bad for Hyde. Hope he has an amazing NFL career. Go Bucks.



Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University

ATLBuckeye09's picture

Sitting in Lucas Oil Stadium last night watching that game was so hard to do. I had a confident felling all week. Looking back it was overconfidence because all tOSU has done for 2 seasons was win. I also sat in Memorial Stadium in Berkley earlier in the year and I said then this not a NG Defense. I said all year this defense would cost us a game. I say now thank God it happened last night instead of in Pasadena on January 6th! I believe in what Urban is doing with the program and I know this is not what he expects of a defensive system that wins NC's. I do believe that there are changes coming to the defensive coaching staff. All the slamming of Fickell (and rightly so) leaves me wondering what about Everett Withers?? He is Co-DC and safeties coach!!!! Our safeties are consistently caught out of position and scrambling to catch up. I too am done with Roby and say good riddance!!! Although he seemed to tackle much better last night. Leading to me to ask why hasn't he tackled like that all season? Bosa is going to be total monster for us & Spence is good but MUST step it up more next season.

Because they wouldn't let me go for 3!
Woody Hayes 1913-1987

2002osubuck's picture

The problem I saw and those numbers showed, we should've run Hyde all game then run PA deep or the TEs running up the seam. We were the least effective when we chose to throw in the 1st and 4th quarters, while those were the most important times we needed to establish the run and then close out the game. All we had to do was feed the beast, control the clock and maintain the momentum Hydes ferocious running brings. I'd like to know why Meyer kept throwing the swing pass to Hyde, instead of running right behind our incredible o-line like we had successfully all year.

ATLBuckeye09's picture

Exactly! I sat there in the stadium thinking the same thing about that swing pass in the flat to Hyde. That is not his game! Play calling all night was below average at best! They better go back to the drawing board and take an honest look at the play calling. And now I sit through another year living in SEC country having to listen to their crap again.

Because they wouldn't let me go for 3!
Woody Hayes 1913-1987

Barnsey69's picture

I have been discussing that play for the last 10 minutes with co-workers. I like the call but right, why was Hyde getting the ball there and not J-Hall or D-Wilson?? And for that matter, where the hell was Dontre in the game plan?? Must have been eating some of that delicious pizza, but he definitely wasn't on the field except for KO's. The coaches have been saying all year that it is too obvious when he is in the game because the D knows what's coming...even after 12 games??!! 

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

d gordon a's picture

2 years now and I`m still waiting for the quick slant receiver ex Harvin ,gonzales, hartline? Does anyone remember that play recently?