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Meyer, Tight Games and QB rushing

rock flag and eagle's picture
June 1, 2014 at 3:53pm
23 Comments

I decided to post this today because Michael Citro claimed that Urban Meyer “could have won both of them if the OC had remembered he had a goddam Sherman tank in the backfield. I can't bash a HC for trusting his hand-picked OC, even though he's a Mensa member who should have learned from the MSU loss.” He is of course referring to Carlos Hyde, Braxton Miller and the failed 4th quarter rush against Michigan State. 

Urban Meyer doesn’t get a pass on this call.

After the Michigan State game, Meyer was quoted "My call," said Meyer. "I wanted to put it in the hands of our best player."  If there was ever one line that summed up Meyer’s coaching from my point of view, that was it.

I’ve looked at some numbers for Meyer’s Florida teams with Tebow and his Ohio State teams.  There is clear evidence that when games are tight, Meyer leans heavily on his QB’s rushing ability.  It’s because he “wanted to put it in the hands of our best player.”  (No secret that he considered Tebow his best player at the time, and now Miller.)  One may argue that in tight situations, Meyer leans heavily on his QB rushing because it tends to be effective.  One could conversely argue that in tight situations, Meyer resorts to these measures as a safety blanket and that he gets predictable and when the games are tight.

Take a look at these numbers from 2007, 2008, 2009 Florida teams and 2012 and 2013 OSU teams.  I didn’t include 2010 because I doubt Meyer would have called Brantley his best player, and Brantley split too much time with Burton and Reed.  It would have been a hassle to sift through the data for that year.  I picked an arbitrary margin of victory (10 pts) to differentiate between tight games and less competitive games.  I thought two scores sounded reasonable.  These are the average number of rushes by Tebow/Miller in games decided by >10 or <10pts.

2007 Tebow

Game Decided by 10 pts or more: 14.1 rushes/game

Game Decided by 10 pts or less: 18.5 rushes/game

In tight games, Tebow rushed 4.4 more times per game

 

2008 Tebow  

Game Decided by 10 pts or more: 11.0 rushes/game

Game Decided by 10 pts or less: 18.0 rushes/game

In tight games, Tebow rushed 7 more times per game

 

2009 Tebow

Game Decided by 10 pts or more: 12.3 rushes/game

Game Decided by 10 pts or less: 21.2 rushes/game

In tight games, Tebow rushed 8.9 more times per game

 

2012 Miller

Game Decided by 10 pts or more: 19 rushes/game

Game Decided by 10 pts or less: 19.1 rushes/game

In tight games, Miller rushed .1 more times per game

 

2013 Miller

Game Decided by 10 pts or more: 10.3 rushes/game

Game Decided by 10 pts or less: 18.6 rushes/game

In tight games, Miller rushed 8.3 more times per game

 

Obviously, these stats aren’t situational, and they don’t demonstrate whether all of the QBs carries are coming early in the game or later in games.  I don’t have data to demonstrate that Meyer will always turn to his safety blanket in crucial 4th quarter calls.  That’s not the point.  Also, I’m not sure the 10 pt margin is the best way to define competitive games, because some games are far closer than they appear, and others aren’t nearly as competitive as the score indicates.  But, generally speaking, Meyer will ask his QBs to rush more and take more hits in tight games than in less competitive games.  This play calling habit makes his teams more predictable when their backs are against the wall.  It’s not surprising that Miller rushed 21 times in the MSU game, his second highest carries performance of the season (also not surprising that his most carries came against Wisconsin (22) which was also a tight game.)  The MSU game was called very much in an “Urban Meyer style” and he, not Tom Herman, made the predictable call to rush Miller.  It's on Meyer.

The Rill Dill's picture

I honestly don't care who it is ON-------just fix it.  Don't tell us how rough the waters are, just bring the damned ship in.

OSU069's picture

Very interesting. However, I think that usually the games have been close when the offense was not clicking when he coached at Florida. Thus, he decided to rely on Tebow. I think you will find this to be the case with other dual threat quarterbacks as well, not just ones coached by Meyer.

KBonay's picture

Everyone in that stadium & those watching game expected Hyde to get that carry. And if there was one D that could stop Hyde on a 4th & short, it was Sparty. Maybe the Brax call was supposed to surprise them. Unfortunately, they played the play perfect. Hindsight makes second guesses. 

+4 HS
Groveport Heisman's picture

Very true. Watched MSU stuff people on 3rd/4th and short all year. It wasnt just a yard it was closer to two. Easy to armchair it after the play didnt work but fact of it was our great TE wiffed on a block. He makes that block maybe we take the lead on that play.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

ralEbuckI's picture

I respect your thoughts but I disagree.  Sure they could stop him, but with his performances up to that point, even knowing it was coming, the odds were still in Hyde's favor if given the call.  Also I don't think this is really hindsight, my bet is practically everyone prior to that call would have second guessed giving it to Braxton over Carlos.  

But what's done is done, we never know what would have happened for sure if Hyde was given the chance, and all anyone can do is move forward and hopefully take something away from it.

KBonay's picture

But you say that like Brax isn't a capable runner. He's the B1G b2b player of the year. It's not like you are letting some slouch take a carry from an all star....

+1 HS
osupolo's picture

Also, having Braxton run the ball gave the Buckeyes an extra blocker in El Guapo was another mitigating factor in Urban making that call. Sounds logical in the call. Like they say hind sight is 20/20. Just wish they would have run Carlos more in the 4th, not necessarily on that call, just more in general. 

+2 HS
buckeyestu's picture

Defense usually wins the big games, and in the loss to Sparty, the Buckeyes defense sucked. If the defense had played much better, the game would not have came down to that play that failed. I hope this coming season the defense plays much much better. I blame the defense for the last two losses.

+2 HS
sivaDavis's picture

If we have a solid defense, we win that game. I don't care about the call or who got the ball. The MSU offense who only scored 7 points on offense against Purdue shouldn't have put up anywhere near 25-30 points on our defense.

 

I'm excited for the defense this year. Against Clemson it really seemed like they took a step forward. I know that sounds weird seeing how they scored 40 but the Clemson offense was the best offense we faced all season. Lost by 5 points, brutal loss but I feel a lot of players learned from that game. Add in Ash and making the coverage more simple, adding in more press coverage and having arguably the greatest defensive line in the country, there is no reason why the defense can't be a top 30-40 defense. I say that range because I feel our offense is going to score a lot and in a hurry so the D will be seeing upwards of 90 plays each game. Bound to give up a play or two and more chances for the other team to gain yardage and whatnot. 

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

Meyer makes the decisions and I am fine with it, good or bad. I'm grateful we don't have someone unqualified in that position.

 

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

MacG91's picture

So what's your point? To not use your best player when you need them most? I wouldn't say that's a flaw of Meyer because every sensible coach would go to their best player in tight situations. Why would you use them just as much or more in games when you are up by a lot and don't need too. Don't you want the ball in the hands of your QB at the end of games who also happens to be your best player? Run or pass, if my team is in a close game and I need a score, the ball will be in the hands of my QB, especially if he is my best player. 

Mac..yeah

Mortc15's picture

Thank you. It's quite obvious to me that a qb, especially in Meyers offense will run more in a close game. In a blowout, why would Braxton or Tebow continue to run the ball when you don't him too and risk a possible injury( which Brax already has enough of)?

The numbers from this post are expected, IMO, and mean that the coach keeps his qb out of harms way in games that aren't so close. 

Buck-I4Life

MacG91's picture

Also that play didn't work because the tight end missed his block. If it was executed it would of been a first down. If Huerman would of executed, this conversation wouldn't be happening. Hindsight is 20/20 my friend. 

Mac..yeah

+1 HS
RMichaelS's picture

couple of observations: it takes time to build a complete team.  UM's in his 3rd year here & is still building.  It is seldom true that a great new coach meshes with existing superbly talented players & voila! - a NC!  Most of the time, it really takes time.  We saw the 2012 team, & even then, knew we had problems on defense.  The better the opposition, the more glaring the defects, although I do remember a certain 11W analyst spotting the defensive identity issue halfway thru the 2012 season. His observations now have the flavor of the prophetic. I also remember such analysis ran counter to all the hype. One of my greatest fears is that we would, prematurely, find a way into a NC game unprepared to battle a great team.  Thankfully Michigan State kept that from happening. We got a great bowl game against a really good bowl opponent & we almost beat em!  Sparty won their bowl game! 

So now its year 3:  the hype machine is cranking! (although much less as June starts out)  Lots of really good players are being highlighted (deservedly so).  But there are, frankly obvious, questions that must be truly resolved:  Will the offensive line come together well enough to score in tough games?  Will Braxton's passing Accuracy and target choice improve to the point that he can strike in tight coverage?   Will we find a genuine plow horse for running back?  & that's just on offense!  Aside from a dependable D-line, the team has fundamental issues on defense, requiring conceptual re-tooling.  So we really are a long way from an NC caliber team at the present.  The team may build into one, but it's not there yet.  It takes time, and convincing wins against good teams, to get there.

RMichaelS's picture

couple of observations: it takes time to build a complete team.  UM's in his 3rd year here & is still building.  It is seldom true that a great new coach meshes with existing superbly talented players & voila! - a NC!  Most of the time, it really takes time.  We saw the 2012 team, & even then, knew we had problems on defense.  The better the opposition, the more glaring the defects, although I do remember a certain 11W analyst spotting the defensive identity issue halfway thru the 2012 season. His observations now have the flavor of the prophetic. I also remember such analysis ran counter to all the hype. One of my greatest fears is that we would, prematurely, find a way into a NC game unprepared to battle a great team.  Thankfully Michigan State kept that from happening. We got a great bowl game against a really good bowl opponent & we almost beat em!  Sparty won their bowl game! 

So now its year 3:  the hype machine is cranking! (although much less as June starts out)  Lots of really good players are being highlighted (deservedly so).  But there are, frankly obvious, questions that must be truly resolved:  Will the offensive line come together well enough to score in tough games?  Will Braxton's passing Accuracy and target choice improve to the point that he can strike in tight coverage?   Will we find a genuine plow horse for running back?  & that's just on offense!  Aside from a dependable D-line, the team has fundamental issues on defense, requiring conceptual re-tooling.  So we really are a long way from an NC caliber team at the present.  The team may build into one, but it's not there yet.  It takes time, and convincing wins against good teams, to get there.

RMichaelS's picture

couple of observations: it takes time to build a complete team.  UM's in his 3rd year here & is still building.  It is seldom true that a great new coach meshes with existing superbly talented players & voila! - a NC!  Most of the time, it really takes time.  We saw the 2012 team, & even then, knew we had problems on defense.  The better the opposition, the more glaring the defects, although I do remember a certain 11W analyst spotting the defensive identity issue halfway thru the 2012 season. His observations now have the flavor of the prophetic. I also remember such analysis ran counter to all the hype. One of my greatest fears is that we would, prematurely, find a way into a NC game unprepared to battle a great team.  Thankfully Michigan State kept that from happening. We got a great bowl game against a really good bowl opponent & we almost beat em!  Sparty won their bowl game! 

So now its year 3:  the hype machine is cranking! (although much less as June starts out)  Lots of really good players are being highlighted (deservedly so).  But there are, frankly obvious, questions that must be truly resolved:  Will the offensive line come together well enough to score in tough games?  Will Braxton's passing Accuracy and target choice improve to the point that he can strike in tight coverage?   Will we find a genuine plow horse for running back?  & that's just on offense!  Aside from a dependable D-line, the team has fundamental issues on defense, requiring conceptual re-tooling.  So we really are a long way from an NC caliber team at the present.  The team may build into one, but it's not there yet.  It takes time, and convincing wins against good teams, to get there.

RMichaelS's picture

Sorry about the duplication: still working out the controls for this hot rod

Groveport Heisman's picture

We can get there this year if we can build upon our oline gelling and our Defense learning while playing super aggressive. We will have to make big strides every game but the coaching jobs our coaches put together that first year was simply amazing. We have all the horses on O and D they just need the experience.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

Groveport Heisman's picture

Sorry I doubled after your triple. Site is lagging a bit and if you click that button twice without any patience it will make you pay.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

JohnnyKozmo's picture

I think the one important factor is the difference in plays that the QBs are taking in the close games versus the blowouts.  I know it's mentioned above, but obviously that will skew the numbers one way or the other.  Possibly looking at percentage of runs to how many total plays they were involved in.

 

Running the QB isn't a bad option in short yardage, because that gives you an extra blocker versus having a RB tote it.  It's easy to play Monday morning QB and say this or that, but in reality, the D sucked, and if Brax had picked it up, we would all be saying great call.  Hyde only had like 16 or 17 carries for the game, that's the more important stat.  Not the one he didn't get.  He should have been getting it all game.  

Johnny-Shane_Utah-Falco's picture

That play call will go down as the worst play call of Meyer's coaching career. Saw it happening before it happened.

It's a shame for Meyer & Herman, because about 90% of the season (sans the 1st half vs. Northwestern) --- their play calling was right on target. But, that one time in clutch mode when they needed to come through with some common sense/if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it call ... they clearly did some overthinking.

I'm confident he learned the lesson from that mistake, and it's back to being a dominant boss.

-1 HS
razrback16's picture

IMO, should not have been in that position in the MSU game. Defense does its job and the game isn't that close. JMO.