The Offensive Play Calling in the Big Ten Championship Game

m4's picture
December 9, 2013 at 9:14p

I am surprised that Coach Meyer/Coach Herman did not throw everything at MSU the way Michigan did to OSU the week prior. I thought Coach Meyer and Coach Herman would play like there was no tomorrow but they did not. What happen to the short passing game, you mean to tell me Braxton Miller could not have thrown a 10 to 15 yard pass to a tight end or receiver to loosen up MSU"s defensive front, and I do not recall seeing any reverses or slants. Dontre Wilson and Philly Brown could have been used on reverses. Chris Fields ( the hero of the Purdue game of 2012 along with Kenny Guiton) could have been used. Chris Fields can catch better than Evan Spencer. I believe he would have held onto that first down pass from Braxton Miller. Carlos Hyde was grossly under used. Coach Meyer/Coach Herman could have used Jordan Hall and Eze Elliott to spell Carlos when he needed a break. Rod Smith could have gotten a carry or two. I have not seen Rod Smith carry the ball in a long time. I wander is it because Coach Meyer fears he will fumble the ball away? Braxton Miller has a fumbling problem but his playing time has not been cut. Coach Meyer is an innovator, but he was not innovative in the biggest game of the year. When OSU scored 24 unanswered points I thought the offense was going to take over the game the rest of the way. It had in my opinion the same feel to it that the Nebraska game of 2012 had when OSU's offense completely took over the game. Coach Meyer and Coach Herman pulled out all the stops in that game. Nebraska's defense was completely confused. I know that MSU has a better defense than Nebraska, But MSU's defense was on the ropes,but unfortunately  Coach Meyer and Coach Herman's play calling  on offense became increasingly more predictable  after they went on a 24-0 run. I guess it just goes to show that even top notch coaches have bad days.    

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another-navy-buckeye's picture

I had many of the same questions and thoughts. Something happened during the last quarter of the game that I just did not understand at all. I missed the variety throughout the season but I really missed it during the MSU game.  Seemed our offense was a bit TOO predictable.


jeremytwoface's picture

I was way more disappointed in the offense than the defense. I knew the defense wasn't great, but the offensive play calling was killing me.
I was screaming at my TV for them to run a play action seam rout to the TE. Every single time that Braxton got the snap, the Michigan State LBs took a step towards the line of scrimmage... every time. The middle of the field was wide open.
Also, I saw a number of occasions where we would have 3 wide outs to one side with only 2 DBs out there to cover. Quick slant through the middle and you have an easy 1st down.
And swinging Hyde out to the flat for a pass?? Whose idea was that? You don't want El Guapo going East and West... He's not that type of back. Especially when you are going up against such talented DBs. Now if they would have brought Hall or Dontre out there and did that, I could understand.

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of boooooooooze!! And we'll drink to old Ohio 'till we wobble in our shoes.

KBonay's picture

Coach Meyer/Coach Herman could have used Jordan Hall and Eze Elliott to spell Carlos when he needed a break

He didn't NEED a break.  Only carries 18 times. For 118 yards (that's over 6 yards a touch).  The only real question is, WHY DIDN'T HYDE GET THE BALL.

Yamosu's picture

i feel like whenever this offense has struggled, its come back to el guapo not getting the ball.  over the last couple seasons, several times meyer has said carlos should have gotten more carries.  you know how many times the opposite was said?  NEVER  Well they made the same mistake again, didnt give the ball to hyde and it cost us the game, big ten title, national championship opportunity and the streak.  

Iron_Buckeye's picture

All those damn running backs we got, we couldve had a running back carousel and ran for 500 yards! MSU couldn't stop our running game! Should've shoved that shit right down their FN throats. I'm still heated about this shit.

“The minute we stop expecting greatness from our football program, we become Wisconsin.” Craig Krenzel

bgohio22's picture

THIS. Every team must exercise the competitive advantage they have over the other squad. This year the Buckeyes have a 4 RB that would carry the ball 20+ per game with any other team. This offense never fully utilized Hyde, Hall, Elliot, and Smith when it needed the difficult yards.

teddyballgame's picture

just thinking about how so many weapons weren't even used makes me sick.  the whole game was nothing but braxton or hyde trying to find a crack to run through and mostly failing.

SPreston2001's picture

Well Hyde did his part, Braxton was the one who didnt show up! It seems like Brax hasnt been the same since those knee injuries. He's almost timid and hesitant to run. Im just so frustrated in the playcalling it was atrocious..

rjsmitty's picture

I dont agree with this statement at all. Brax showed up...he rushed for over 140 yards and though his passing shows 8/21 there were a few drops and 2 long passes on the button that were incomplete because MSU DBs had great coverage. Brax was the catalyst that started the comeback! I agree El Guapo shoulda had more carries (30-35 IMO) and could have used Dontre' some but Braxton cant be blamed for this loss. Offensive coaches overthought things and we got out coached, period!

"I don't wanna coach average! To hell with that!"  -UFM

southbay's picture

What's really bothering me is that, as you correctly point out, MSU was on the ropes when Cook threw the interception.  They were behind and about to give up on running the ball against our D.  One or two more first downs and we would have been in field goal range, and that might have been enough.
Instead we got predictable, got no points off the turnover, and then Langford got the 35 yard  run.  They were able to get momentum back after that.
So close, but the inexplicable play calling really took us down the road to ruin.

Patriots13's picture

The last play to Braxton was there Heurman missed the reach block and that's why the play was unsuccessful. The call was fine Heurman missed the reach.

O-H I-O's picture

I reviewed this play already. I agreed with you. The TE didn't finish off his block and allowed the LB to chase down Miller.
Hyde had his man taken down and the WR covered up the corner, which would have gave Miller an easy first down. Like Coach Meyer said, they didn't execute on that play.
Granted, we should have ran the ball more with Hyde throughout the game.

"I don't motivate the players. I get them to motivate themselves. That's the only kind of motivation that's worth a damn." - Woody Hayes

Jack Fu's picture

I haven't been able to stomach watching the replay after my initial viewing of the highlights Sunday morning, but from what I remember I think you're incredibly generous in saying Heuerman "didn't finish" his block. I love the guy, but from what I recall, I think "absolutely whiffed on his block" would be more accurate.

TMac's picture

In theory all unsuccessful plays are due to poor execution. 

ONE Not Done!

Iron_Buckeye's picture

Well my thought is this, if you were the OC...wouldn't you make a play call that is tried and true that puts the ball in Hydes hands where you know for sure that he will at least break tackles if someone misses an assignment and shit Hyde could get stopped and fall forward for 2 yards vs. running a play that they ran in practice and not game tested. With an empty backfield they know Braxton is element of surprise there. 
Still a bad call in my book for the situation.

“The minute we stop expecting greatness from our football program, we become Wisconsin.” Craig Krenzel

OSUNEA1986's picture

Indded, he missed the block, but this play had been attempted and failed earlier in the game for the SAME REASON. It was obvious that, as good as he has been all season, Heurman was losing his matchup SAturday. So why persist in running Braxton right????
I saw it, everyone in our living room knew it hadn't worked and why, but UM & Herman kept running it!

SPreston2001's picture

Yes he missed the block but honestly the ball should have been in Carlos hands. If its 4th and short and its a must get first down, I put my money on Carlos who constantly requires more than one person to bring him down. Every time he hits the pile he pushes it forward for an additional 2-3 yards. Seems like common sense to me...

Toilrt Paper's picture

Urban called that play. It had worked earlier. This time Heuerman missed his block.

TMac's picture

The Offense/play calling upset me more than our known defensive liabilities. It started from the opening 3 & out, which hadn't happened all year. The I thought it was HUGE for MSU when they held us after the attempted onside kick. 3 plays 4 yards and they get the ball back with the lead, after we started from our 41.  Carlos had only 2 fourth quarter touches, and neither on first down......
Not what I expected at all from our offense/offensive coaches. 

ONE Not Done!

BuckeyeDale's picture

Coaches can choke just like players do.  Herman had never been in that type of situation before.  His bio has him being the wonder boy for a bunch of 'meh' teams coming up.  He choked...plain & simple.  He will have more opportunities coming up.  I doubt he goes anywhere for a while.  No way is he ready to be a HC yet.


Toilrt Paper's picture

Urban and Herman communicate all the time, no play is called that Urban dislikes.

acBuckeye's picture

There were open receivers on several plays. Braxton either didn't see them (got happy feet in the pocket) or he was getting too much pressure to be able to set his feet and throw it. I also agree that Heuerman was probably open all night.
But the biggest travesty was not feeding El Guapo more. I don't care what people say about Braxton..... Hyde is our most dominant offensive player, period.

BuckeyeAtHeart22's picture

We didn't need a short passing game.  Nor did we need more clever playcalling.  We could have ran the read option 80 times in a row, and as long as Hyde got 30 carries we take that game easily.  Even when teams stack 9 in the box he still runs so hard he averages 6 or 7 yards a carry.  And as we saw Braxton can always rip off a 50 yard run in the blink of an eye.  Most of us could have called a better game.
3 days later I still simply DO NOT understand why the hell Carlos Hyde didn't get 30 carries!?!?!  It's basically a law of the universe that when Hyde rushes for 195 or more yards, the Buckeyes win.  Poor kid; if he hadn't been suspended, he would have a legitimate argument for the Heisman.
I think his stats had he played a 13 game schedule would be something like 1650 rush yards, over 25 TDs, 200 receiving yards...I could be way off, but I swear I read that somewhere.

Dayton Buckeye's picture

Same thing happened at Wisconsin last year. They stopped giving the ball to Hyde and we almost lost that game. I love Braxton, but feed El Guapo. He is built for 25-30 carries a game. Hopefully they will feed him against Clemson. 

BuckeyeAtHeart22's picture

When you have a player standing on the sidelines at Northwestern in a close game, stretching the hell out of his pads just to get a little oxygen so he could go back in and carry the team some more, well, that's the kid who you want to get the ball to the rest of the season.  I would be so pissed off if I was Hyde.

BuckeyeBartT's picture

I hope Earl gave UFM a private lecture regarding go with what got you there... Why were we afraid to run Hyde against that D??? He got chucks of years very time. Hall only got one carry and got 10+... We should pound Clemson with 25 carries for Hyde and 15 for Hall - figure it out already... 

Toilrt Paper's picture

UNTIL the opponent's D puts 8 in the box with only 6 to block them, THEN pass. DICTATE, make the D change from what they are comfortable with, then react to their change.

outdated's picture

Agree on all that has been said about the play selections for the entire game.  As the season progressed you could see this happening.
We have heard nothing but how Coach Herman is filled with intelligence.  However, I think his IQ was left in Columbus for this game.  Even if certain plays are working you still need to change it up occasionally and obviously if they are not working anyone with intelligence would mix up the play selection.
The Braxton play on 4th down was possibly one of the worst decisions of all time. 
Just a very poor showing on the part of the offensive coaching strategy.

SPreston2001's picture

Terrible play call!! I just knew Carlos was gonna get the ball, but no Brax rolls out to the right....

outdated's picture

I believe but, not sure, there was not even a fake to Carlos and Braxton went down the line-of-scrimmage and did not even get depth for the roll if he was supposed to get depth.
There was not even a fake to Carlos to take some of the heat.
Probably would have had a better chance on a (play action)  roll or sprint pass.  Out of the congestion and a possible run or throw. 

Toilrt Paper's picture

It was Urban's call on 4th down. Herman had NOTHING to do with it. That is unless you think Urban is being untruthful.

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

We can talk about the offensive playcalling all we want. But it's not the offense, it's the defense. Tressel only lost one Big Ten game in 10 years when he had a lead of 4 points or more coming into the 4th quarter. And that was in his first year. So what happened on Saturday didn't happen in Tressel's last NINE years of Big Ten games. Also during those nine years, he never lost a game - not a single B1G or non-conference game - when he scored 23+ through three quarters.

Space Coyote's picture

A lot of this is due to MSU's scheme and how they are set up to stop short and intermediate routes, particularly to the middle of the field. I've written about this a couple times, and trust me, the OSU fan base is far from the first and won't be the last to leave fans wondering "why didn't we attack the short middle with quick throws like slants?"
The way MSU plays with their OLBs, they pretty literally catch any receiver trying to cross and wall off the middle of the field. So any release off the LOS that is initially inside will get caught. On the outside the tend to press with an inside technique. My impression from the game was that MSU's technique was on a different level, and in that instance it really helps because it forces any inside release to initially work parallel to the LOS. On top of that, it makes things like bubble screens extremely difficult, especially with the way MSU plays their safeties over the #2 about 8 yards off the ball and flashing down on first movement.
What this means is that there are really two open areas of the field, you have the short/intermediate out from the #2 or #3 receiver, which is still a long pass that will be contested by a DB (how MSU has been playing the coverage lately) and you have the one on one match-ups deep.
Now, someone was talking about the TE/WR seam from the #2 that was working all day. I haven't watched the 2nd half again but I'm certain MSU made an adjustment to make this throw more difficult. Likely they went to a cage or jam shade (this means the DE lines heads up on the TE or OT) to the initial RB side. This does two things: 1) it puts another DL in the belly run play; 2) it allows the OLB to go out further over the #2 and carry his route (therefore slowing him down). The second point is allowed to happen because the OLB now has outside leverage as his assignment, it also allows the safety more free will to play run and recover on that seam, which wasn't the case in the 1st half and start of the 2nd half when MSU was simply splitting the difference with the OLB or giving a free release to the #2. My guess is this is also why you started seeing more of Miller running than giving to Hyde, as the OLB was initially occupied by the #2 allowing Miller to work in space.
Again, I haven't watched the 2nd half film, but this is a common way for MSU and Narduzzi to adjust within their cover 4 scheme to take away some of the things OSU wanted to do on offense. 
Lastly, to fit some of the offensive playcalling complaints: there is a triangle that is set up when looking how to call plays. One point is taking what the defense gives you (spread teams tend to lean in this direction); another point is doing what you do best (this is more a pro-style philosophy); another point is sticking with your intended game plan that you worked to draw up for a week. Now, this isn't an isosceles triangle, but still, you walk a fine line with how you call the next play. Lean too much one way and the play still has perfectly good logic, but isn't the right call. And so you work within that triangle trying to find the right balance of each. IMO, they went too far away from what was working (feeding Hyde) regardless of MSU's adjustments. - A B1G Football X's and O's site. @SpaceCoyoteBDS

BuckeyeAtHeart22's picture

I know it sounds ridiculous, and despite your thorough and well thought out response, I still think 90% of our offensive plays could have been the read option.  Hyde would play 4 plays in a row, and then sub out for 2 plays with Hall receiving most of the secondary reps and then either Wilson or Dunn getting the tertiary looks.  Wilson is not physically built, per se, to run the read option but it would be cool to have 2 wiggling speedsters with nitrous powered cleats in the same backfield.  We could have had 400 rushing yards and used more clock.  GOD DAMMIT lol
And the incessant deep throws were irritating to say the least.  They were not goddamn working, obviously, and yet the coaches seemed to be the only ones to not see that.  That Philly Brown TD was pure athleticism on his part- I was certain it was an overthrow.

Toilrt Paper's picture

Less than 50% were read options. Most of Hyde's carries were direct hand offs at the A Gaps.

BuckeyeAtHeart22's picture

Right that's what actually happened.  What I wrote above was a hypothetical gameplan that would have resulted in victory.

Indy_Buck87's picture

As much as we all hate "DAVE", that play was money for 2 yards.  The play they called would have worked if blocked properly.  Problem is that play was called before and it was not working.  MSU blew it up a few other times. What was working was Hyde running over people, stiffing arming and driving the pile at will all night between the tackles for 5-6 yards a pop.  I personally would have given Hyde the ball and kept giving it to him until they stopped him.  I was at the game and was yelling along with most of the rest of section 420 "give Hyde the fucking ball". Herman should have that put on his tombstone when the day comes.  In another note to the future when you have one of the best running backs in college football and a massive senior laden O-line that is dominating the line of scrimmage DO NOT remove said running back and line him up as a wideout and then try a fake snap play on 3 and 1.  That is grounds for a double nut punch and a chair over the head.  Ok I have vented. Thank you and have a good night.  

I know of only two things that are infinite, space and human stupidity.....and I'm not sure about space". Albert Einstein.