Now, how about the Buckeyes stop getting hurt?
After the Purdue game I asked if the Buckeyes were really as well coached as Meyer is generally given credit for. Among my criticisms were that Meyer had the team run plays on our last possession of the first half. This was buried in a longer blog but I think it deserves more thought than most 11W readers seemed to give it. Saying that it's just Meyer's style does not address the more fundamental question: was that good coaching?
Football is a contact sport. Teams and players afraid of contact are not going to win. But when to take contact and what kind and how much are fair questions.The more contact a team or a player take the greater the risk of injury or turnover. Obviously a freak injury can happen to someone not even on the field; a fumble can occur on the first carry. But the more times an offense gets hit by the defense the greater the chance that something bad might happen.
This of course is only half the equation - the more plays an offense runs the better the chance of scoring, and games are almost always won by the offense scoring more than the other team does. You want to win you need to run offense.
What to do in a given situation is matter of risk-versus-reward analysis. By the end of the Purdue regulation we were in desparate straights - we were trailing and the clock was running out. We had no choice but to go for it with 47 seconds left and the ball at our 39.
But at the end of the first half, with the ball at our 36 and only 17 seconds left we did not *need* to score then - there was still a full 30 minutes left to play and a 13-7 defecit was not so bad that we needed to score every time we touched the ball. That we gained no yardage on that series does not prove that it was wrong to go for it, the question is what were the risks and likely outcomes. At that point we had not moved on offense for most of the game and there was no reason to think, really, that we would get even the 40 yards we would need for a FG in the 17 seconds we had. Yes, had Smith made a real effort for the first pass we might have been in business- in real time it looked to me like he quit but I could not tell for sure, and the reality is that Smith has been unreliable all year. There was nothing we could count on to get us 40 yards in under 17 seconds. This needed to have been taken into account. And on the next play Miller took a late hit.
There is no question who our best offensive weapon is. But there are reasons why Miller does not run every play - because his body will not survive it and because a one-player offense is much easier to shut down. How much he should be allowed to run is open to debate, but that other "skill" players on offense need to be contributing is universally understood. Miller has had to miss plays in several games due to injury from in-game contact, and what happened in the third quarter put what can happen front and center. Contact can cause injury. That's why even running QBs are urged to slide or go out of bounds rather than repatedly challenging linebackers and safeties with malice in their hearts. Because QBs who don't protect themselves generally are less successful, or have shorter careers. And teams that lose their QBs too often suffer. That late hit at the end of the first half could easily have done to Miller what the tackle in the third quarter did.
I know what Meyer did at the end of the first half; what *should* he have done? If you agree with Sarah's question at the top of this blog I argue that Meyer should have had Miller take a knee and get ready to coach during half time. Even one deep pass attempt with Miller strictly advised to avoid contact does not eliminate the risk of an ofensive lineman going down, though every once in a while the Hail Mary works and it is a standard practice. As might be guessed I am not a big fan of it, but even if this crowd favorite can be justified when it failed and we were 1) too far away to complete a pass into the endzone and 2) had too little time to complete a 40 yard pass AND kick a FG running further plays was not smart. We were not moving the ball, we had no reason to think we would do it in the last 17 seconds. Meyer should have passively run out the clock because Buckeyes *are* dropping like flies, and the probability of success versus the probability of something bad happening did not favor aggressive play calling at that point.
Meyer will be Meyer - I get that. And Meyer has been a winner everywhere he has coached - I get that too. And we are 8-0, you don't need to remind me. But good coaches can have bad days. Good coaches can have bad 17 seconds. I think going for it at the end of the first half of the Purdue game offered more likelihood of a bad result than a good one. You want Buckeyes to stop getting hurt? eliminate the *unnecessary* risks of injury.
What do you think? Telling me that I'm an idiot or that this blog is too long does not answer the question. Let's have some analysis.