Big Ten Championship: Offensive Breakdown

By Ross Fulton on December 10, 2013 at 1:45p
77 Comments

An erratic opening offensive game plan and miscues helped stick Ohio State in a 17-0 hole. The Buckeye offense got on track once Braxton Miller began making plays – often out of nothing – but in the end the Buckeyes fell short.

Ohio State's late game struggles resulted from a failure to capitalize on potential opportunities. An inconsistent passing game too often left the offense behind schedule, and potential yards were left on the field through poor execution. 

The Spartans did not shut down what Ohio State does well. But Pat Narduzzi's defense won against the Buckeye offense's relative weakness; its wide receivers and the Buckeye passing game.

In hindsight, the Buckeyes probably should have stuck with its inside run game until Michigan State stopped it. But it remains the case that the Buckeyes had opportunities down field and did not capitalize. 

Below I examine Michigan State's defensive strategy, the Buckeyes' response, and how Michigan State won on the edge. 

This is what we do

Michigan State's defense operated exactly how one would expect. The Spartans played their base 4-3 over, cover 4. Their safeties were often no more than seven yards off the line of scrimmage, and Narduzzi generally cheated his nickel/sam linebacker off the slot receiver into the box.

Michigan State's nickel cheating into the box.

To compensate for leaving the slot receiver uncovered, the Spartans would, at times, roll a safety down at the snap to cover the slot and play cover 1, In so doing, the Spartans hoped to prevent Ohio State from automatically throwing wide receiver screens to uncovered receivers.

Following the snap Michigan State blitzed frequently, particularly on third down, The Spartans employed their trademark double-A gap cross dog, but also utilized field side pressure. 

Pushing the Edge

The Buckeyes opened by attacking the weaknesses in the Spartan scheme, namely the in the flats and over the top. Urban Meyer and Tom Herman's goal was to loosen up the Spartan safeties.

Unfortunately, Ohio State made little hay doing so. For instance, Herman dialed up swing routes to Carlos Hyde for little or no gain. And the Buckeyes had deep opportunities, but critical drops – such as the one by Corey Brown – prevented explosive plays.

Ohio State's offense only got on track in the second quarter once Miller scrambled off designed pass plays.

Michigan State's blitzing, in combination with man coverage, left wide swaths of field open for Miller, with no Spartans to react because their backs were turned in pass coverage. It was a risky strategy by Michigan State, given Miller's running ability. And, in fact, Miller left further opportunities on the field by staying in the pocket too long. He took sacks and/or threw balls away where, if he was more willing to tuck and run, he could have gathered positive yardage.

Hitting their Stride ... For a Moment

Miller hitting several big runs got the Buckeye offense going. Ohio State began having success with Hyde and Miller on designed runs, as well as hitting several critical play action passes. 

As soon as the Buckeyes grabbed the lead, however, the offense again became stuck in neutral. The relative inefficiency of the Buckeye passing game caught up with Ohio State. The Buckeyes were only four of 13 throwing on first down. This led to a night of the Ohio State offense finding itself behind schedule. This had a multiplier effect, making it even harder for Ohio State to rely upon their running game when it was second or third and long. 

The inconsistent passing game had multiple culprits. As has all too often been the case this season, the Ohio State passing game become overly reliant on throwing vertically. It is difficult to determine if it is a function of the play calling, if the play calling is trending towards such routes because those are the only ones where the receivers are getting open, or if Miller is throwing deep even when mid-range routes in the pattern are available. Whatever the case, all too often the Buckeyes missed long, only to leave themselves in second and ten.

Miller himself was inconsistent. He made some nice throws, but also missed several open receivers – particularly on the sidelines – and did not attempt to fit the ball into tight windows, except on rare occasions, like the touchdown he tossed to Brown in the second quarter. As mentioned, he also held the ball too long when he could have picked up yards scrambling.

But the Buckeye wide receivers were as, if not more, culpable. All season, my belief was that the primary way a good defense could slow the Ohio State offense was use man coverage against the Buckeye wide receivers, who have not demonstrated an ability to get separation. And, with the possible exception of Brown, Ohio State's receivers struggled to get open all game against the Spartan secondary. Buckeye receivers did not win contested balls and worse, when they were open, they made several drops, none more harmful than Evan Spencer's on third down.

Miller thus did not receive any help from his receiving corps, and, as noted, it is possible that a reduction in the pass patterns called resulted from a lack of confidence in this unit.  It is also not coincidental that Miller's late season accuracy swoon coincided with Brown's stress fracture.  

Winning Strength vs. Strength 

Making the passing game inefficiency worse, even with the Spartans' aggressive strategy the Buckeyes rushed for 7.67 yards per attempt on first down. In hindsight, Meyer and Herman should have stuck with the run until the Spartans stopped it. Instead, the Buckeyes threw on first down almost as much as they ran (13 passes versus 17 runs). Even assuming those 13 throws include two spikes in the two minute drill, it remained a sub-optimal breakdown given the Buckeyes' strength rushing the football.

In fact, the Buckeyes would have likely gained more yards on the ground if Miller was more consistent in his reads. Particularly noticeable were several inverted veers where Miller kept when he should have handed off, the most critical being on third and four in the fourth quarter, where if Miller gives to Jordan Hall he still may be running.

Carlos Hyde was thus underutilized despite a fairly efficient performance. The offense's first series is emblematic of the entire game. On first down, Hyde ran for six yards. On second down, Herman dialed up a swing route to Hyde that was limited to a two yard gain. Then in third and short, Corey Linsley snapped the ball prior to Miller being ready, leading to a blown play. Ohio State thus went from second and medium to a harmful three and out. And the series reflected the Buckeyes' unwillingness to consistently rely upon their inside run game.

In so doing, Meyer and Herman seemingly got stuck in a no-man's land of play calling. On the one hand, they wanted to throw the football against the Spartans' aggressive strategy, but they did not fully trust the passing game. The Buckeye offense thus threw fairly frequently, but frequently did so with low percentage vertical routes. If they did not trust their passing game, they may have been better served by going all in on the run game with Hyde and Miller.

Dancing with the One that Brung 'Ya

Building upon that, many will second guess the fourth quarter, fourth down lead outside zone with Miller.

But Meyer succinctly explained his reason for the call.

Yeah, it was my call.  I wanted to put the ball in the hands of our best player, Braxton (Miller).  We usually run that play a lot.  We ran it to the boundary.  I knew they'd pressure us.  Thought he might be able to come out the other end of it.

I believe this was the correct strategy. Despite the miscues described above, Ohio State is not in that game (or 24-0) without Miller's running ability. He is perhaps the most dynamic runner in college football and ran the ball effectively all Saturday. So it made sense to put the football in his hands. Plus, the play was one Jeff Heuerman missed reach block from being a big gain. 

To me, the more problematic call was the previous play, that being the third down quarterback counter trey. Again, I do not see a problem running Miller. But by going empty and splitting Hyde wide, it eliminated a thread that Michigan State had to concern itself with and telegraphed the play call.

The Back Got too Sore

Although the Ohio State offense undoubtedly failed in not scoring after a recovered onside kick, interception, and punt block, blame directed towards the offense can only go so far. All year, the Buckeye offense carried the defense. Yet the moment the offense needed the defense to get a stop the defense could not do so.  

The reality is that this team was always going to rise and fall with its offense, which perhaps showed the ceiling for the 2013 Buckeyes. But the fact remains that the offense's inability to convert in critical situations doomed Ohio State's chances of winning.

77 Comments

Comments

Bamabucknut's picture

It's so frustrating  to see the great passers OTHER teams have.

Furious George 27's picture

I wouldn't say they are great passers, rather that they are facing a pass defense that makes them look that way. I could make the case that Miller and the WRs got rusty because they abandoned  the pass for the run because it was working the last three games which is true. The sad part is the way OSU ran on MSU in the 2nd and 3rd Qtrs I have no doubt they could have won running it 90% of the time.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

jeremytwoface's picture

I feel like Braxton's passing ability dictates the play calling. I'm not sure the coaching staff has a lot of confidence in him to make the tougher throws.
 
Take the first screenshot for example...

I feel like I saw this all night. When we had 3 WRs in (which is almost always in this offense), they seemed to leave one almost completely open.
Now, I realize that they were just cheating the LB in and that sometimes he would bounce back out into coverage... Or that the safety would cheat up and cover that 3rd WR.
I'm not offensive genius so maybe I'm missing something, but it seems obvious for them to send that slot WR on a quick out route and he will be wide open... Maybe even run the outside WR inside and do a little pick. Easy 5 yards or so with a chance for the WR to make a play one-on-one and get a huge gain.
 
So the question is, do the coaches not see it? Am I missing something that would make this play not work? Or do they not trust Braxton to make that outside throw?

The first man gets the ((((Oyster)))), the second man gets the shell.

jeremytwoface's picture

Also, in this situation, wouldn't you be able to run the TE right up the seam and have him one-on-one with a LB??
 
I fee like that would be a huge mismatch.

The first man gets the ((((Oyster)))), the second man gets the shell.

Ross Fulton's picture

To your first point re the slot receiver.  I covered it in the article and you observed the same things in your post.

The truth is that OSU did throw quite a few quick throws to Brown, particularly early in the game.

As to your second point, in MSU's D the LB is not going to cover that seam route; the cover 4 safety is. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't think Heuerman against MSU's safeties is a huge mismatch. He didn't offer any evidence it was Saturday.

jeremytwoface's picture

I appreciate the response... Like I said, I'm no offensive mastermind and a lot of this stuff might fly over my head.
But it seemed like most of the passes to Brown seemed to be little bubble screens and not an out pattern. Which is all well and good, but once the outside WR starts to block the DB, it's obvious what they are doing. Why not run Devin Smith down field and clear out that space toward the sideline?
 
And in regards to the TE pass (I'm assuming you meant LB and not TE in your comment), it seems like that throw was there early in the game. I believe Heuerman had one catch and it was for 35 or 40 yards. I'm not sure Braxton threw his way the rest of the game....
 
 

The first man gets the ((((Oyster)))), the second man gets the shell.

Jack Fu's picture

But it seemed like most of the passes to Brown seemed to be little bubble screens and not an out pattern. Which is all well and good, but once the outside WR starts to block the DB, it's obvious what they are doing.

I'm no Ross, but it seems to me that if you run the slot receiver on an out pattern there, you run the significant risk of them being in zone coverage, in which case that outside CB is sitting right there and an out route is a pick-six waiting to happen. The bubble is much safer exactly because of the other WR's blocking.

jeremytwoface's picture

Ok so you're saying the coaching staff doesn't trust Braxton to make that read?
 
Seems like a pretty easy read to me to determine man or zone.
If it's zone, just check out of that read.... pump fake to the short WR and throw deep down the sideline.
Plus, they were playing man almost the entire night. The bubble screen was not working very well against their stout DBs.

The first man gets the ((((Oyster)))), the second man gets the shell.

Jack Fu's picture

Ok so you're saying the coaching staff doesn't trust Braxton to make that read?
Seems like a pretty easy read to me to determine man or zone.

I feel like we're saying different things here so I want to make sure I have the premises correct. This part of the conversation started because you posted a screenshot of MSU not covering the slot receiver in our 3-wide set. You appeared to argue that OSU should have recognized this and checked to an out route to that receiver, rather than a bubble. If my reading of the premises is not correct, then we are talking at cross-purposes.
Checking to an out route there essentially means you are planning on throwing the ball to a place where there is already a defender stationed. You are counting on that defender vacating that area in order for your check to have success. In my opinion that carries a significant risk that the defender in question doesn't leave. Your audible is therefore dependent on post-snap action, which kind of defeats the entire purpose of it: it seems to me that an audible is an attempt to take advantage of the defense's alignment. An out route doesn't accomplish that. A bubble does, because it moves a receiver to an area where there is only one defender anywhere nearby, and that defender should be blocked by your outside wide receiver because you are receiving the pass behind the line of scrimmage.
As to your suggestion that Braxton could simply "read" the outside corner and decide not to throw that route you've just checked to: yes, I think that seems to be asking a little much and, as I said, I think that defeats the purpose of your check in the first place.
I could be wrong (I am not a coach and, in general, don't know shit), but I think checking to an out route there, to the wide side of the field, based on that alignment, doesn't accomplish anything.

jeremytwoface's picture

I totally see what you are saying and it makes sense.
My initial post was to point out that the MSU defense was not covering a receiver on almost every single play. The two DBs were playing man on the outside. 
I've also said that the MSU LBs were taking a step forward on every single play with Braxton and Carlos in the backfield together. Seemed prime for a play-action pass down the seam.
And I wasn't saying that Braxton should audible before the snap, I was saying the coaches should have made adjustments to MSU's defense positioning themselves like this on almost every play it seemed.
I'm with you in that I generally don't know what I'm talking about lol... But I feel like the offense has gotten less and less creative all year. A Carlos and Braxton rushing attack has been working great but they even seemed to get away from that a bit in this game. And if wasn't Braxton or Carlos, it was a bubble screen/swing pass or a deep ball. Maybe MSU just wasn't allowing over the middle passes. But from what I remember, it seemed like the space was there.

The first man gets the ((((Oyster)))), the second man gets the shell.

Go Buckeyes14's picture

I feel like the drops hurt us the most. Other than not keeping the chains moving they also made Braxton look like he had an inefficient performance. I don't understand why the playcalling has moved away from follow concepts, mesh concepts, and smash/snag concept type plays. Miller has demonstrated his ability to read and make the throws in those kinds of plays going back to the Penn State, Iowa, and Purdue games. It will be interesting to see how much he improves during the month of bowl practice against Clemson. Will you be doing a breakdown of the Clemson offense and defense in the lead up to the Orange bowl?
 

Ross Fulton's picture

We did run a quick out at a critical time. It was 3d and 6 in the fourth quarter. We ran a smash combo. Evan Spencer was wide open and Braxton put the ball right on the money. And he dropped the football.

jeremytwoface's picture

I feel like I've tried to wipe most of the game out of my memory lol... So I don't really remember this. 
But it seems familiar. If he was wide open, maybe they should have gone back to it? 
 
The drops DID hurt us a lot.

The first man gets the ((((Oyster)))), the second man gets the shell.

GregB's picture

So combine a TE seam with a slot wheel route and a WR curl.  The corner will stay with the curl safety covers the seam and its doubtful the LB can get outside to cover a wheel

d gordon a's picture

 LIKE YOU . I DON`T KNOW AT WHAT TIME IN THE GAME IT WAS BUT WILSON FLARRED RGHT AND THE LINEBACKER WAS HIS COVERAGE  MILLER TO ME WAS LOOKING RIGHT AT HIM WHEN HE WAS SEPARATED BY 15 YDS? AND DIDN`T PULL THE TRIGGER

DMcDougal24's picture

I'm sure this was as difficult for you to write as it was for me to read. The telegraphed 3rd down QB draw plays were beyond frustrating, especially when the Buckeyes went empty backfield. Carlos Hyde receiving 4 carries after the Buckeyes took the lead in the third quarter was also frustrating.. While those plays certainly left an impression in my mind as critical plays, this game came down to Braxton Miller's arm and his inability to make the throws we needed (or, in some cases as you mentioned, the receivers not being able to catch them). 

Furious George 27's picture

Yes, I think that play could have been more effective if you had the TE slip behind the D for a 3 yard catch. For the most part the WRs were not making the easy catches when needed and for some unknown reason we felt the need to go deep which he nearly hit. He was 5 drops from going 13-21 and 3 TDs if the plays were made. So I cannot say it was all on the arm.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

BuckGuy003's picture

What just hit me is that if the miller run worked, wed all be praising how we imposed our will onto their defense. It's a double edged sword. Only problem is I think we could have imposed our will if it were Hyde running it.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

How about if Hyde gets the ball and he gets stuffed for no gain right up the middle?  We would be sitting here today saying..."what a predictable play call.  Everyone and their mother knew we would run Hyde on 4th and 1!"   It's a no win if the play call doesn't work.  
For instance imagine how risky it was to throw play action on 4th and 1 with Clarrett in the backfield against Purdue back in 2002.  If Krenzel misses Jenkens on 4th and 1 there everyone would have been yelling about the play call and talking about Clarrett being a beast.  Shows how sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose some.  The National championship would have been ruined by play calling in people's minds!!

RBuck's picture

Yes it was an offensive breakdown.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

Buckeye Chuck's picture

Coming into the game, I might have said 24 points would be a good day against the Spartans defense, but the game plan amounted to unilateral disarmament. They didn't shut down Hyde; we did that ourselves.
Another excellent report card from Ross, hard as it was to relive everything.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

Maestro's picture

As much as I love reading these and appreciate your hard work Ross I don't know that I can stomach this one yet.  When you do the defense I will just go ahead and say thank you.  I know I won't be able to stomach that one.  Great season of wonderful information.  Thanks a million.

vacuuming sucks

German Buckeye's picture

Concur.  Not looking for a prototypical packet passer like Manning or Brady, but come on, at this level, your QB has to be able to make all the throws and more importantly, read the defense and get it to the open receiver.  That is not asking to much at this level of competition.  Not sold on if Braxton had the headspace to do this. 

Ross Fulton's picture

A)  You have to take Miller as the total package. Look at the number of plays he makes. Without Miller OSU had zero shot.

 

B)  Where were the open receivers? 

 

SOF_Buckeye's picture

I won't completely disagree with you on this, especially in the current circumstances going into the CCG. However, the offense had a more open dynamic when KG was running it earlier in the season. No, KG is not the complete athletic monster Brax is, but because he was in, his abilities allowed a more wide open attack (better passer, not as good of a runner), and more of a chance to develop all of the weapons on offense. When Brax came back, he did that for awhile, my gut says in response to the success KG had, and the confidence the team and fans were showing in KG. However, as the season wore on, both Brax, and also Herman reverted to previous form, and the rest of the offensive weapons were stunted. But, even with that, and only using the 2 headed monster, one of the heads (and in this instance, the more effective one) was cut off, and not by the MSU defense.
As for the open receivers, they've been there, but Brax's accuracy on short/mid range throws is not good (very evident in the Mich game). 
Don't get me wrong, I believe Brax is phenomenal; but in a way, the abilities he is best at limit the overall firepower of the offense; and unless he makes major progress in the offseason, I don't think our passing game will change much from this year. I truly hope I am wrong.

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." Woody Hayes

ibuck's picture

KG is not the complete athletic monster Brax is, but because he was in, his abilities allowed a more wide open attack (better passer, not as good of a runner), and more of a chance to develop all of the weapons on offense.

This! It may be the reads, but Kenny gives up the ball, and Braxton is reluctant to. About 50-60% into the season, they instructed Braxton to hand off the ball when a read was in doubt, and the offense was more effective in that regard. But it seems he reverted to never seldom handing off or pitching out the ball. And that makes the offense less efficient, and a good defense more effective. 
Interestingly, if KG goes in for a series, or even just warms up, Miller seems to make better reads, or hand off the ball.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

D-Day0043's picture

To your point B) receivers getting open seem to be a ongoing struggle. It seems like we have had trouble with receivers getting open for quite a while now. In your opinion is it talent or coaching?
Secondly, why is there now intermediate passing game? Everything seems to be either go routes, deep posts, or short hitches, curls, and quick outs. It seems to me that they are leaving the middle if the field alone. I can't understand why the quick slant isn't a staple of the passing game to loosen up the boundaries and counter the blitz. MSU blitzed quite a bit on third down, if we had burned them in the vacated area a couple times then they would have probably backed off.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

FailtotheVictors's picture

It was the right call by Meyer on the 4th down play.  Huerman just missed his block.

- Respect the Rivalry -

Tim's picture

Probably one of only a few missed blocks all season by Heuerman...

2morrow's picture

It shouldn't have gotten to 4th down. The 3rd and 4 play before that, they went empty backfield and had Hyde out of the game. Just before Hyde left the field, I thought, give it to Hyde twice, MSU has not been able to stop him all night. Then they went empty backfield on 3rd down!!! And then I was sure on 4th down they would give it to Hyde. Miller had been good but they had also stopped him a fair number of times. Hyde was unstoppable. Huerman had no shot at blocking the guy. His rush was to the outside - like they knew what was coming. Very bad call. I would say that even if they had made the first down.

bassplayer7770's picture

In mid-season, I recall Braxton going through his progressions and often making accurate throws.  Why, in the last four games, did he seem to regress?

jccavanaugh's picture

Two guesses:
1) Nerves, at least in the Michigan and MSU games. I'm not sure Brax has shown the ability to bear up well under the pressure of being behind and having to make up ground.
 
2) At least in the MSU game, he did make several very nice throws that were, if not on the money, then at least quite catchable. Sometimes our WRs just dropped them (Spencer) and in almost all of them, the DBs were right there playing lights-out coverage. You know how Roby was known as a "shutdown corner" after last year? Well, MSU has more than one DB playing at that level, and they've been doing it all year. 

AltaBuck's picture

In fact, the Buckeyes would have likely gained more yards on the ground if Miller was more consistent in his reads. Particularly noticeable were several inverted veers where Miller kept when he should have handed off, the most critical being on third and four in the fourth quarter, where if Miller gives to Jordan Hall he still may be running.

I was wondering the same thing. MSU crashed down hard on that play to stop Miller. If Hyde was the RB instead of Hall on that play, I bet you Braxton hands it off.

I have been known on occasion to howl at the moon. - Crash Davis

1MechEng's picture

The fourth down play might have had a chance if Heuerman makes his block and seals the end.
On edit - Fail obviously types faster than I do.

Earle's picture

Where was inverted veer the whole game?  Beyond the missed read when they ran it with Hall, how often did they run it?  Especially with the way Miller was running the ball, I didn't think Sparty would have an answer for this, especially if they ran it with Wilson.  And speaking of Wilson...

Italics are for emphasis.

Ross Fulton's picture

They ran it 5 times, give or take.  Miller kept each time.

 

Michigan State had the play pretty well defended frankly.

Earle's picture

Maybe so, but would've liked to have seen Dontre try to outrun or elude MSU's edge defenders.  At worst, maybe him being in the game makes them defend the play differently, since OSU pretty much telegraphs when they are giving him the ball.

Italics are for emphasis.

BuckGuy003's picture

Really appreciate you answering people's questions bud. Keeps us informed.

williamwhite37's picture

Still say the decision not to pound Carlos on third down was the most regrettable - Sparty should have gotten a full dose of El Guapo, would have never come to 4th down. I'll take my chances running Hyde twice on 3rd and 3
 
add: Great stuff, enjoyed it all season

2morrow's picture

exactly right - Hyde should have gotten it on 3rd and 4th down and about 10 or 15 more carries overall. MSU had NO ANSWER for Hyde. I find it baffling that our coaches ignored him. We beat ourselves. MSU has good corners and a good pass defense but they were giving up an average of 63 rushing yards a game and had not allowed anyone to gain 100+. Hyde and Miller both went over 100 and had the coaching staff utilized him, Hyde would have most likely have rushed for nearly 200 yards if he had gotten 30-35 carries. If we use Hyde instead of D'cking around when we were up 24-17, we go up maybe 27-17 or 31-17 - same after the interception. We could have separated by 2 or 3 scores and really put a lot of pressure on the MSU offense.
Our coaching staff lost that game.
Guess everyone is entitled to an off night now and then. I'm glad we were 24-0 and hope we start a new streak by crushing Clemson - but this was a chance to move forward with a win over a top 10 team - and we blew it.

Yamosu's picture

This is the most frustrating play calling game I have seen.  Carlos Hyde was having more than a "fairly efficient performance"... He was putting up 8 yards a carry in the second half and over 6.5 per carry for the game.  All Ohio State had to do was give the ball to their senior running back in his second to last game after he helped bring them the lead, take time off the clock, and then celebrate. 
This is the most painful moment I have had since Buford took that last three point shot, after shooting a fantastic 2-15, instead of giving the ball up to a wide open SENIOR CAPTAIN David Lighty or THE BEST THREE POINT SHOOTER IN THE COUNTRY Jon Diebler. 
Best running back in the big 10, senior, second to last game, running over everyone, hadn't been stopped for less than 2 yards all game, third and short... AGH

jeremytwoface's picture

He is perhaps the most dynamic runner in college football and ran the ball effectively all Saturday.

I kind of disagree with this. Yes, he ran the ball effectively, but to me it was more on scrambles than on called runs It seems like most of the called runs didn't work and the only time he was effective was when the DBs were downfield covering and/or the LBs were blitzing... so there was nobody there to stop him when he scrambled away from the pocket.

The first man gets the ((((Oyster)))), the second man gets the shell.

yrro's picture

I think that's why we blame the offensive failing. The defense gave some stuff up - but defense and special teams also set up the offense in amazing field position several times only to have them squander it.
If you can't get 4th and 1 with the game on the line, you don't deserve to win.
I have to say that I do disagree with Urban here. Miller is your biggest play maker - but he is your *big play* playmaker. Hyde is your constant. I challenge you to find two consecutive runs from Hyde in this game or any other this season that do not net you 3 yards.
Let Miller work his magic on earlier downs, and hand it to Hyde when you have to get those yards. One block away from a big play does nothing for you in this situation.
I think the fan reaction stems from one thing - when we got to 3rd and 3, every single OSU fan thought "We've got this. No way Hyde up the middle twice doesn't give us first down." And we've seen that play calling from this staff over and over the last two years. Suddenly seeing two calls that could have been stolen from Bollman's playbook... it's a hard way to lose. 

Yamosu's picture

This plus a billion

2morrow's picture

Great point - you can't find two consecutive runs from Hyde that don't get you 3 yards.

D-Day0043's picture

My thoughts exactly. I just stared at the television in disbelief. They could have literally handed the ball off to Hyde on every play and scored on every drive. This game kind of reminded me of the Miami game a couple years ago. Hyde was gaining 6 or 7 yards per carry and for some reason they tried throwing the ball and failed. They could have ran the ball every play and won.
Auburn didn't seem to have a problem running the ball 60 times. If your defense can't stop anyone and you have the ultimate ball control back, why on earth would you not ride him all night? Completely baffling.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

RedStorm45's picture

Miller has been suspect on his reads all season.  Not to bring up the QB controversy, but Guiton made his reads correctly almost every time.  There were several zone read plays that leave you scratching your head with Braxton.
 
This was as I suspected in my drunken stupor at the game on Saturday.  The inside run was there most of the game, but for whatever we reason we went away from it.  So dumb.

Ross Fulton's picture

If Guiton plays that game OSU loses 34-3 IMO.

SOF_Buckeye's picture

You give excellent analysis; however, here, you are wrong. We may have lost, but KG would have opened up the passing, especially the short and mid range aspect. Plus, el Guapo was not being stopped; and while KG is not the runner Brax is, he is not Dan Marino- he can move. I haven't advocated putting KG in over Brax, but KG as a passer is better and more consistent, and opens up the offense more.

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." Woody Hayes

jeremytwoface's picture

I disagree...
I think most of the night, the passes weren't there. I don't think many receivers were open all night.
 
Now IMO, I think that there were plays that we could have called to get guys open, but maybe I'm wrong.
Braxton, though, single handedly got us back in this game. I don't think Kenny does that.

The first man gets the ((((Oyster)))), the second man gets the shell.

OldColumbusTown's picture

I am in 100% agreement with this statement.
This offense was shell-shocked after the first 20 minutes or so of this game.  The only reason the offense began to hum is Braxton's scrambles against the man coverage.  That forced MSU to better account for Braxton's improvisations, and began to allow Hyde a little more space to roam.  Once that happened, OSU imposed their will offensively.
I get that people want to harken back to KG's performance earlier in the year and how well he played.  I love Kenny G.  Those games were against the defenses of San Diego State, Cal, and Florida A&M.  Enough said.  Against an MSU defense that makes it hard to get anything more than 2 yards regularly per play, Kenny G's running ability would not have affected the game much, and MSU would have completely keyed on Carlos Hyde.  The threat of either Braxton or Hyde is what makes this run game so special, and therein lies the frustration with the last two run calls on 3rd and 3/4th and 2, because OSU essentially telegraphed each to the point where Sparty knew what was coming.

2morrow's picture

Disagree - Hyde gained 7 yards on his first carry and then we threw a dink pass and then had the snap that BM wasn't expecting. PUNT. Same on second series. PUNT. We ran only like 9 plays into the 2nd quarter. Hyde was getting 4-5 yards per carry until BM broke it and then that increased to the 5-7 yard range. I am not an advocate one way or another for using KG - I am however an advocate for using your best weapon - HYDE. MSU had NO ANSWER for him.
 
At the very least, especially in the end of the 3rd quarter we should have lined up and said here comes Hyde - he is going to keep coming until you stop him - like a few of our other games this year. Had they given him the ball 30-35 times, he would have put up 200 yards and the Bucks win going away instead of p*ssing away good field position several times in the 3rd and 4th quarter throwing long and medium passes. I would have taken my chances with Hyde pounding them and I think that would have opened up everything - they would have had to start cheating more guys into the box and Miller would have been able to get loose for a few bigger runs and maybe even some more wide open receivers in the passing game.

omahabeef1337's picture

Where does the confidence in Guiton come from? It comes from success against the easier part of the OSU schedule. People need to live in reality. I love Guiton and I'm glad he's on the team, but Cal's defense isn't MSU's.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

IMO Guiton is very limited in the number of routes he coud throw against a defense who possess talented DBs.  Guiton doesn't have the arm to throw that td to Brown IMO, and he doesn't have the arm to fit the ball into tight spaces unless the route is <5 yards.  The deep balls he throws are all rainbows that require the receiver to completely beat his man to catch.  If you were throwing Kenny's deep balls against MSU he gets picked 3 times.  Kenny also isn't going to pick up the same type of yardage as Miller on his scrambles, and against that secondary MSU has he would have had to scramble a good bit.  Anyone who thinks Braxton's arm was the primary reason OSU lost this game are just grumpy.  Braxton should have been at least 13/21 if not 14/21 and at least 2 maybe even 3 TDs.  Spencer's drop was just as critical as the presumably poor play calling.  Braxton also had little reason to believe his receivers were going to make the play if he threw the the ball in tight coverage.  Braxton usually loses trust in his WRs when they start dropping the ball every time he puts the throw right on the Money.  Philly's TD catch was really the only time a receiver made a play for him.  Hopefully one of either C. Smith, Clarke, Marshal, Greene, or Thomas step up next year and make some plays at WR.  We will see if one of the incoming freshmen studs like Brown or Samuel can make some plays right away. 

RedStorm45's picture

I wasn't saying play Guiton.  I was saying the reads appeared to have been correct more often under Guiton, whereas Braxton perhaps relies a bit too much on his own athleticism.  There were several times where I was left asking why he didn't hand it off.  Oh well.

Ethos's picture

i'll stand by my theory that Hermann was knocked out during the 3rd and 3 situations and Borges quickly grabbed the headphones and told them to do what they did.  It's the only logical explanation on why he would not hand it to Hyde.

"What do you need water for, Sunshine?!" - Coach Coombs, if you don't love this man, you have no soul.

2morrow's picture

Borges won a call in radio contest where he got to select the situation and the plays to call.

Iwearmocs's picture

That Heuerman block was terrible.  If he can hold that we pick up a 1st there.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Exactly, and Carlos took out his man, looked like it could've been 6 even..............

saevel25's picture

I think it was Cam Newton who did this read. You don't read the end, you read the safety. What OSU should have done is, put in two TE's. Motion one to block, and keep the other in the slot. Read the safety, if he drops into run coverage, then throw the seam, if not then hand the ball off to hyde or keep the ball himself. I would run a seem pass every play possible. Just torture that one safety all night. It would force linebackers to shade towards that side if they don't bring the safety down. You got to attack something all night, just to wear it down. That would have been the focal point to me. The DB's are to good for Michigan. I would test the safeties, who have been known to let coverage get behind them. Heck, throw Wilson in the seam, tell him "RUN TO THE END ZONE MY CHILD". 

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Ross: I forgot to record the game, and my memory banks are erasing the game from my mind as we speak, so I haven't looked at it again, but was MSU starting to shut down Hyde inside at some point after the 24 points were scored, thus Herman felt the need to run the best constraint (i.e. not-Carlos up the middle) plays he thought could be executed by this offense?

RedStorm45's picture

No.  We go up 24-17, Hyde is averaging 7 YPC, and Herman gives it to him four more times the rest of the way.

2morrow's picture

and only twice in the 4th quarter - really bad play calling.

2morrow's picture

Here were Hydes carries in the second half  -
3rd quarter - 18, 6, 3, 11, 10, 8, 12 (Hall also had a 13 in here)
4th quarter - 4, 3
The 4 was around the 12 minute mark of the 4th quarter and the 3 was around the 7 minute mark. He touched the ball twice in the 4th quarter.

IBleedSandG's picture

I believe this was the correct strategy. Despite the miscues described above, Ohio State is not in that game (or 24-0) without Miller's running ability. He is perhaps the most dynamic runner in college football and ran the ball effectively all Saturday. So it made sense to put the football in his hands. Plus, the play was one Jeff Heuerman missed reach block from being a big gain.

This. If Heuerman effectively walls off Allen, Brax gains 10+ yds on that play and he might even house it. Ugggggh.

"You pick up the rifle and go as hard as you can possibly go."
-UFM

Maestro's picture

Yep, Hyde made a great block on the play.  It was set up nicely.

vacuuming sucks

Will in Arizona's picture

Agreed, Heurman has to at least hold there and take a chance that it doesn't get called - worst case is that its 4th & 12.  By letting the guy go, the play has almost no chance.
 
Sometimes the defense wins, and this time it did.  Bring on Clemson.

D-Day0043's picture

Haeurman got blown up a couple of times in the game that I saw. That one was the most glaring. 
What the hell happened to Vannett? We saw quite a bit of two tight end sets last year and this year he has barely seen the field.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

Maestro's picture

Bottom line IMHO.  If Brown and Smith catch the 2 deep throws that went through their hands we have a completely different ball game.  Miller missed throws on the run all game, but he threw some very nice deep balls and got ZERO help from his receivers.

vacuuming sucks

omahabeef1337's picture

One huge penalty I haven't seen very many people mention was the false start on 3rd and 5 late in the game. 3rd and 5 in the maroon zone is a totally different playcall than 3rd and 10.

misterbulbous's picture

I think a lot of this goes back to that opening MSU drive when our defensive penalties allowed MSU off the hook so many times.  Granted, it was only 3, but the 8 minutes off the clock and tone just seemed eerily familiar to other big games where our offense failed to deliver.

D-Day0043's picture

That is why I disagreed with deferring to the second half. Everyone knows that Sparty is a grind it out, maximize time of possession offense. Iowa did the same thing to us. The defense can't stop anyone, so you end up sitting two thirds of the first quarter on the bench. It throws off the whole tempo and it allows MSU to dictate the tempo. Take the ball first and score, give yourself a cushion, then make Sparty play catch up. I know Meyer was trying to give his defense a vote if confidence, but at this juncture they are who they are and they can't be trusted.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

buckeyepastor's picture

Meyer and Herman have been very vocal about how improved the offense is, and how much more comfortable they are with it, but in key situations it seemed all year that there were only two players they trusted to touch the ball - Braxton and Carlos.  Fortunately for us, they delivered time and time again and more than earned that trust.  But it really felt, especially with the receivers and to a lesser degree with the backs, that there were only a handful of players that were looked to.   The ineffectual swing passes to Hyde were mentioned here.   What do those plays yield if it's Hall or Wilson getting it out there on the edge with one man to slip for daylight?   
We will miss Carlos something fierce next year and under-utilized him on the big stage last weekend, but I am excited for the void it creates and seeing who steps up to fill it.   If we can get to a place where not only the QB, one running back, and a couple of our receivers are trusted as playmakers, but where several different backs can be brought in without their presence sending a message to the defense about what to expect, or where we can go 5-wide and have the defense truly have at least 3-4 guys that are dangerous athletes, we will be a monster to stop.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

I do know one thing. Meyer and whomever is his future OC will absolutely have to fix these problems because I don't seem to think Sparty is ever going to be bad on defense as long as Dantonio/Narduzzi are there. We gotta play at Sparty next year too.

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

Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed and the bright spot is..................we have some time to fix that exact issue both before the Clemson game and next year as well.

rkylet83's picture

I have been waiting so long for this breakdown.  As usual Ross knocks it out of the park.  
I feared solely relying on Miller/Hyde running prior to the game, but in hindsight that probably would have won the game for us.  The stats tell us we may not have needed to pass as much, mostly because our receivers could not win the one on one versus the Spartan secondary consistently.  If you're getting nearly 8 yards a carry why stop doing it.  Eventually it will lead to bigger plays down field.  No need to get cute if you don't have to.  
I think this breakdown shows why Braxton Miller needs another year in college.  He has improved a ton, but still lacks the instincts of knowing when to run and when to pass...leading to many sacks as Ross explained.  Also he still is hesitant to throw to one on one matchups that aren't wide open.
The defense is to blame for losing this game, but I think had simply executed on a couple of the many missed opportunities we would have won regardless.  Philly catches a pass in his hands in the 1st quarter and we're on the 10 yard line (minimum 3 points), Smith catches a pass in his hands in the end zone during the 3rd quarter (7 points) and we've made up the differential right there.  
I'm ready to let this one go.  We lost to a team that executed better than us.  I don't think they (MSU) are a better team, but they did what they had to and we didn't respond.  Bring on Clemson.

TheMinnesotaBuckeye's picture

"I love it when we empty the backfield!"
-- Said no football fan ever