Film Study: Fourth Down & Short for the Big Ten Title

By Kyle Jones on June 12, 2014 at 3:00p

When coaches find themselves in tense situations late in a game, they often themselves one of the following questions:

  1. Who is your best player?
  2. What is your best play?

In many cases, the answer to #1 almost always involves the answer of #2. When the New England Patriots famously went for it (and failed) on a 4th down against their rivals in Indianapolis, the hot takes that followed tended to focus more on the decision to go for it more than the fact that Tom Brady's pass to Wes Welker fell incomplete. Brady was their best player, Welker his best receiver.

But what about when the best player on your team isn't involved in your best play?

On the same filed in which Brady, Welker, and the Patriots fell short, Urban Meyer faced this dilemma during the waning moments of the 2013 Big Ten Championship game. Riding a 24 game winning streak and looking a spot in the BCS National Championship straight in the eye, the Buckeyes faced a critical fourth down as they trailed by three points late in the fourth quarter.

What happened next has caused Ohio State fans to keep looking back, often criticizing the decision to give the ball to Braxton Miller instead of Carlos Hyde in that critical situation. Much of the criticism stemmed from the viewpoint that the Buckeyes' best play, the Inside Zone, featured Hyde. After so many successful Inside Zone runs over the previous two seasons, many Ohio State fans began to believe that Hyde had taken the mantle as the team's best (or at least, most effective) player.

So if that was truly the case, then why wasn't Inside Zone called on that critical fourth down? Because it would've been the wrong call.

Trouble Inside

Knowing the Buckeyes would lean heavily on this play, the Michigan State defensive coaching staff prepared a game plan designed to consistently bring more defenders than the Ohio State offense could block.

Before the ball is snapped on every play, the defense has an automatic numbers advantage, given that the offense can only have 10 blockers for the man with the ball, while the defense has 11 men trying to tackle him. However, modern offenses have countered by forcing defenses to play at least one or two safeties deep enough to help cover receivers downfield. 

The Spartans weren't going to play that game, however. Although they lined up in what appeared to be a Cover 4 defensive look, they effectively played the Buckeye wide receivers in man-to-man coverage all night, leaving all-conference safety Isaiah Lewis to constantly help stop the inside run. On this, the first time Inside Zone was called that night, the Spartans had seven defenders to defend the 5 Buckeye lineman as well Hyde and Miller, the two potential ball carriers.

OSU MSU Inside Zone

At the first sign of a run, Lewis immediately crashed down towards the line to help, as he would often that evening on his way to recording a game high 13 tackles. 

This wasn't the first time Meyer and the Buckeyes had seen this from an opponent, however. Using the constraint theory of offense, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman began looking for ways to exploit the ways in which the defense has begun cheating, in an effort to get a more balanced look the next time they ran Inside Zone.

As Ross has done a great job of breaking down in the past, Meyer and Herman like to package the inside zone with a quick passing play, which initially drew strong results against the Spartans.

OSU Inside Zone package 1

Immediately after taking the snap, Miller looks to see if the MSU defender respects the short route from slot receiver Philly Brown.

OSU IZ package 2

Since the slot defender immediately crashes down on the potential run, Miller keeps the ball and looks to throw. The result is a wide open Brown, and a 10 yard gain.

OSU IZ package 3

Another way the Buckeyes attempted to gain an advantage with the Inside Zone was by adding a "wham" block from the tight end. The wham acts like a pulling linemen, kicking out an otherwise unblocked defensive end.

OSU IZ Wham 1

Although Heuerman successfully executed the wham block, the Spartans still had a numbers advantage, as outside linebacker Taiwan Jones (#34) immediately ran into the box at the first sign of a run.

OSU IZ wham 2

Additionally, the Spartans began slanting their defensive linemen away from the strength of the formation, often causing a double team from Buckeye blockers, and keeping the linebackers behind them unblocked, as was the case here with #40, Max Bullough.

OSU IZ wham 3

By this point, the Spartans had made it clear that they would do whatever necessary to take away Hyde and the Inside Zone. The Spartans had a numerical advantage of usually more than one defender every single time the Buckeyes attempted to run it. In fact, an 18 yard scamper in which Isaiah Lewis was tripped by the Umpire on his way to making a tackle was easily Hyde's longest run of the night.

The Spartans had put the burden on the Ohio State receiving corps, forcing them to win their one-on-one battles. However, only Philly Brown's 5 catches (many of which came on the packaged plays described above) were the only consistent threat. Devin Smith, Jeff Heuerman, and Carlos Hyde each had one catch, giving the Buckeyes a season low 101 yards through the air.

Take It Outside

The Buckeyes had to find a way to gain back the numerical advantage. By making Miller the designed ball-carrier, the Buckeyes immediately tilted the scales back in the right direction. The counter trey had been a staple of the OSU running game all year, and remained effective on this evening.

Yet the most effective play of the night was a much less used concept seen from the Buckeyes, the outside lead zone.


By stretching the defense laterally and turning Carlos Hyde into a lead blocker, the Buckeyes could gain an advantage to one side of the field.


With Miller's exceptional speed, the play becomes a foot race between he and the defensive lineman, a battle he'll win every time. Outside Zone  proved effective throughout the entire night, resulting in both of Miller's rushing touchdowns and many of his game high 142 rushing yards.

4th and Short

All this background sets us up for that critical series in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes find themselves down 27-24 and have the momentum coming off a partially blocked punt by Ryan Shazier, and have taken over inside Michigan State territory.

On second down, the Buckeyes ran the Inside Zone with Hyde so many fans had been waiting for. But before the ball was even snapped, the Buckeyes were at a disadvantage.


The Spartans had seven defenders near the line of scrimmage waiting for Hyde, with both safeties nearby, a familiar story at this point.


Once again, the Spartans slanted their linemen, causing OSU Center #71, Cory Linsley, to have to help on the nose tackle instead of blocking a linebacker. The result was right guard #65 Pat Elflein having to choose which defender to take on.


Elflein chose to block Bullough, leaving linebacker Denicos Allen untouched to make the tackle. This was not Elflein's fault, as he can't be counted on to make both blocks, nor is it Linsley's, who was following his rules on the play. The Buckeyes were simply in a no-win execution if both teams executed properly, which is exactly what happened.

The Buckeyes now found themselves on third down, and with the passing game proving ineffective, the Buckeyes went to the plays that actually had been working.

OSU Counter Trey 1

While the Spartans had seven defenders near the line, the Buckeyes would look to gain an advantage to one side by pulling left guard #78 Andrew Norwell and tight end Jeff Heuerman back to the right. 

OSU Counter Trey 2

The Spartans' numerical advantage was gone, as the Buckeyes had enough blockers to take on all the defenders. All Miller needed was for each of his teammates to block their man, and there wouldn't be a soul to touch him.

OSU Counter Trey 3

Unfortunately, Heuerman couldn't complete his block on the play, and the Buckeyes now faced fourth down. At this point, the Buckeyes pulled out their last, and most effective play in the bag, the outside lead zone.


Given that the OSU blockers would move laterally, making the backside defenders useless, the Buckeyes would've had a big numbers advantage for Miller, especially given that he only needed a couple yards.


At this point, we all know the outcome.

4th and 3

Coaches spend hours and hours looking to gain an advantage over their opponents. The Spartans found one by playing man-to-man outside and leaving their safeties and all three linebackers to help stop the run. But the Buckeyes found an advantage as the game went on, with designed runs for Miller.

There is no question that the Buckeyes had a better chance of converting with the outside zone to miller, than by running Hyde inside. Meyer had to give his players a chance to succeed, which they had on both third and fourth down. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes didn't execute perfectly, and critical blocks were missed. 

It's easy to blame coaches in these situations. They're the ones in charge, and get paid handsomely to do so. But they aren't the ones on the field. All they can do is put their players in the best position to succeed, which I believe they did on that night in Indianapolis.


Comments Show All Comments

HouseHarleyBuilt's picture

Re-living the heartbreak.

Treat every opponent as if they are capable of beating you, because guess what? They are.

+5 HS
onewiseburdman's picture

The point is that if the correct play had been called...  It wasn't they shut down the inside lanes for Hyde but the outside was still exploitable.  If Hyde would have had the ball first down.  execution wasn't the issue, the wrong player was called on, they should have know double coverage on miller.  But on a side note since hyde was el guapo...  miller currently has 666 carrier passing attempts, i know im new here but i would like to nominate the name el diablo!

Do you smell what the burdman is cooking?

andretolstoy's picture

Some of you guys have a life in politics. Spin on this was bound to happen.

We can't have people thinking Meyer made a bad call...


-11 HS
Killer nuts's picture

I'd say he made a pretty convincing argument. The downfall of the play was execution, not the call itself

+8 HS
andretolstoy's picture

Ok. But everyone else in the thread makes an even more compelling argument. And this was still spin. Down vote me bro.

Killer nuts's picture

For the record I did not down vote you. Perhaps the point is that you can make an argument for either play. One based on previous yards per carry and the other based on numbers advantage. I'm sure if we had run Carlos and he had gotten stopped then this article would be written with the spin that the high percentage call would've been to run Braxton wide and we'd all be mad that the coaches made the wrong call. Nothing can change the result but the truth is if it works it's a great call and if it fails it's a bad one. It all pends on execution 

+1 HS
andretolstoy's picture

No worries. Sometimes, on this blog, down votes are a gift.

-2 HS
andretolstoy's picture

11 down votes! Can't say I didn't earn these.

-1 HS
GoBucks713's picture

With an attitude like that, you'll never make it to the Premium Lounge

-The Aristocrats!

+4 HS
AndyVance's picture

First rule of downvotes...

+2 HS
GoBucks713's picture

I always thought the first rule of downvotes was to not talk about downvotes.

-The Aristocrats!

+1 HS
andretolstoy's picture

hey, hey, hey, -- only two guys to a fight gentlemen...

Mark's picture

I can't agree.  I'd take Hyde up the middle any day.  I was at the game screaming for it.  It worked all year long.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

+14 HS
Crumb's picture

I'm with you Mark, only people that stopped El Guapo in 2013 were the Buckeyes themselves.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+11 HS
Tim's picture

I agree.  Outside runs get blown up for losses more than inside runs, and Miller would have had to run a total of about 10 yards because of the shotgun and lateral part of the run.

+9 HS
Mark's picture

I played OG in high school...and I would've been insulted if the coach didn't run our stud RB up the gut to get the 1st down.  I have to think the line & Hyde were begging for it.

+10 HS

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

+9 HS
Hovenaut's picture

"Face your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, prepare for the future without fear."

Author unknown

+11 HS
niblick's picture

in no universe was not giving the ball the #34 the right call.  you can analyze that shit till you turn 1000 yrs old and post 1000 different pics of defensive formations and show tendencies till your eyeballs pop out.

SIX POINT SIX YARDS PER CARRY for Hyde that day.  End of discussion, end of argument.  He should have been handed the ball on 3rd and 2 and he damn sure should have been handed the ball on 4th and 1.  I love your writing Kyle, but pump that sunshine up someone else's pooper.

+25 HS
andretolstoy's picture

The play that was called would have been my third option. I would have considered a pass before it.

+5 HS
2morrow's picture

ABSOLUTLETY RIGHT! Everyone forgets about third down - 2 chances to gain 2 yards and Hyde doesn't touch the ball - one of the coaches needed to walk home from Indy after that. Can't imagine not giving Hyde the ball!

+10 HS
BuckeyeJ's picture

One thing i have screamed all year was::Our passing attack. Recievers could never break free/Brax reads-----Hyde all day IMO

+5 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Indeed!  the 101 yrds receiving allowed the safteys to cheat up, everyone knew we were gonna run it... if there was any passing game to speak of the safeties wouldn't have been able to cheat up.

theopulas's picture

enough said.......can't explain that away....


+1 HS
Go1Bucks's picture


Wrong call, every parallel 'Verse!

Go Bucks!

Zimmy07's picture

Why does OSU not attack single coverage on our WR's?  A great WR is impossible to cover with one man.

+2 HS
jbcuky's picture

I think you answered your own question.

+17 HS
OSUpawn's picture

Head on the wrong side......

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

osu407's picture

Does anyone know if there is a reason we ran to the right on that play when on the right hash?  Meyer's philosophy is playmakers in space so why run to the side with less space?  This isn't meant to be a criticism, just an honest question.

+5 HS
Kyle Jones's picture

With the twin receivers to the wide side, OSU knew Sparty would put two guys out there. By using the width to their advantage, it started those defenders even further from the ball. You can see Taiwan Jones shaded that way before the snap as well, so it helped with the numbers advantage.

NH-IO's picture

This makes sense in some circumstances, but when all you need is a yard and a half, you don't need to get those back side defenders that far away.  And running to the short side takes away any option for Braxton to maneuver.  

+9 HS
OfficerRabbit's picture

NH-IO nailed it. My first choice would have been Hyde up the middle. There is a reason we have 230lb back in our stable, and I cant think of a more deserving scenario to use him than that play. My second choice, run Braxton to the wide side of the field, not the short. At least going wide, he has more opportunities to juke, stutter step, cut back, etc. Going to the short side made it exactly what it was, flawed unless everyone blocked perfectly. The TE got blown up and the rest is history.

FWIW, I feel like we as fans have convinced ourselves that had we converted that 4th down, we would have won the game. There was still quite a bit of football to be played, who knows what would have happened with a fresh set of downs there.



+3 HS
bedheadjc's picture

How many negative yardage runs did Hyde have that game? And how many were for less than two yards?


+13 HS
Zimmy07's picture

Hyde runs:

1&10: 6 yds (1st possession) 0-3

2&4: 2 yds (1st possession - ends in 47 yd punt) 0-3

1&10: 5 yds (2nd possession)

2&5: 9 yds (2nd possession - ends in 48 yd punt) 0-3

1&10: 2 yds (3rd possession - ends in 49 yd punt) 0-10

1&10: 2 yds (4th possession) 0-17

1&10: 3 yds (4th possession - ends in 20yds TD pass to Brown). 7-17

(5th possession - ends in 32 yd punt) 7-17

3&1: 8 yds (6th possession - ends in 28 yds FG as time expires). 10-17

2&10: 18 yds (7th possession) 10-17

1&5: 6 yds (7th possession)

1&10: 3 yds (7th possession - ends in 8 yd TD run by Miller). 17-17

1&10: 11 yds (8th possession - ends in 33 yd punt) 17-17

1&10: 10 yds (9th possession)

1&10: 8 yds (9th possession - ends in 6 yds TD run by Miller). 24-17

2&7: 12 yds (10th possession) 24-20

2&10: 6 yds (10th possession - ends in 48 yds punt) 24-20 - end 3rd quarter

2&10: 4 yds (11th possession - ends in 45 yd punt) 24-27

2&6: 3 yds (12th possession - ends on turnover on downs) 24-27

(13th possession - ends on turnover on downs) 24-34.


+17 HS
Kyle Jones's picture

To be fair, Braxton had a higher average per carry that night, with 6.8 vs Hyde's 6.6.

It's not as if Braxton was ineffective when running the ball...

bedheadjc's picture

I'm not concerned with the averages. I'm concerned with positive yardage on every play; specifically the two yards needed there at the end of the game. Excluding sacks Miller had at least four runs of 1yd or less.

EDIT. Sorry if that was haughty. And yes, Miller had some awesome runs. We just needed to trust the O line and our Hydedozer, instead of MENSA'ing it.

+11 HS
unknownmusketeer's picture

This moment in the game seemed to be one of those, "Open Your Heart" times that Coach Meyer spoke about. I couldn't find the gif, but I am sure someone much better at googling will be able to find it.

+1 HS
2morrow's picture

Braxtons carries were padded by a 48 and 21 yard carry in the 2nd quarter. I just went back and looked at the stats and it looks like it was really Braxton they had figured out - not Hyde. He ended the third quarter for a rush for 0 yardage and then started the 4th quarter up until the missed 4th down with rushes of 4, 0, 4, 1, and 1 -meanwhile, the stats show Hyde gaining strength and YPC as the game wore on.

+11 HS
BuckWylde's picture

Wow Kyle, you actually used the .2 ypc. difference!  Ok, let's try this . . . do you think Brax compares as a power, yards after contact runner for a forth down situation in a championship game? IMO Urban made a bad call on 2 counts:                                  1) He was quoted numerous times declaring our "Hogs" to be the best O-line in the country, but in the clutch it was like                    " . . . mmmm-maybe not so much.                                                                                                                                                                

 2) It's widely accepted coaching wisdom to go north/south rather than east/west in short yardage.

 Please forgive any perceived blasphemy, but I have yet to see anything remotely similar to the offensive scheme or the play-calling that I saw when  Meyer's Florida squad dismantled Troy Smith and company. So if I seem to be a bit lacking in hero worship it's because I am. For my money both Urbs and Herman are on probation until on-field performance says otherwise. 

All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions. -Adlai Stevenson, governor, US ambassador

+13 HS
GH_Lindsey's picture

Saying Braxton had a higher average tells very little of story tho.

Everyone on this site has seen enough of Braxton to know he is often a feast-or-famine player who either gets TFL'd, gets 5 to 15 yards or breaks a huge one. Compare that with Hyde who was effectively never tackled for loss the entire season. When you need to get 1 or 2 yards (to go the the national championship game!), why go to your big play guy instead of your bruiser back who is 100% certain to at least get you past the line of scrimmage and 95% certain to get you 2 yards?

+5 HS
OSUmuFAN's picture

This is exactly what i wanted to see to confirm my opinion.  Even though they were planning for and trying to stop Hyde as was beautifully laid out in this article, Hyde was still effective despite them bringing extra numbers.  He never once lost yardage, never even had a run under 2 yards.  On the play diagrammed above showing MSU's perfect defense to stop Hyde, he still went for a 3 yard gain(enough for a First down).  Don't get me wrong, I still think Meyer is a tremendous coach and the best possible coach for OSU, but I think the wrong call was made on this play.  

+1 HS
Mr Soul's picture

The thing about Hyde up the middle is YACs.  He would not have been touched until the line of scrimmage and would not have been stopped short of the 1st down.  If it took a 2nd/3rd/4th effort, he have given it.  I think the question comes down to "make them miss" or "make them pay".  I'd have made them pay.

Keep the change, ya filthy animal!

+12 HS
OhioT's picture

I agree, even on that second down play when "The Buckeyes were simply in a no-win execution if both teams executed properly, which is exactly what happened" - what was the end result? 3 yard gain by El Guapo, and then he doesn't touch the ball for the next 2 plays??

Dad, what's a "Loss"?
I don't know son, we're Buckeye fans.

+3 HS
buckguyfan1's picture

I threw up a little bit reading that.

+6 HS
buckskin's picture

Yep, if our TE holds his block for another second, it's a first down. Problem with plays like these is we as fans can be fickle; if the call works then it was a great call. If it doesn't then it was a horrible call and everybody and everything is second guessed. Learn from it and let's move on.

+3 HS
ralEbuckI's picture

But this isn't a case of second guessing or hindsight (which other people have posted.). For both plays, prior to the snap, everyone at the bar I was at was screaming for Hyde. 

But you are right about moving on so hopefully there won't be any more articles on it either. 

+5 HS
Zimmy07's picture

Crap.  I think if Miller would have cut it back behind Heuerman & Lindsay he would have scored.  I didn't notice that until just now.

+1 HS
LouBuck35's picture

I see that too, and even if Braxton did see it, he may have been too pot committed at that point.  By the time that alley really opens up, Braxton is trying to turn on the jets to get around the corner due to the DE shedding the block.  I can only assume he's thinking he has a better chance of getting the first down near the sideline then attempting to stop on a dime and cut back against a swarming defense on 4th down.  In the Stages of Grief, I think I have finally crossed into "Acceptance" on this play.  Ready to move forward to an new season.

I want a fall Saturday in Ohio Stadium..

+2 HS
BTBuckeye's picture

I was at the game and haven't re-watched, but from my seat...I hand that ball off to Carlos Hyde or run a jet sweep w/ Wilson

+3 HS
aphill89's picture

this is just making me depressed...

"The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win." - Wayne Woodrow Hayes 

+3 HS
NH-IO's picture

One of the reasons Tressel was so successful was that, when he faced a situation like this one, he had a call that likely involved both 1. and 2. above, but was NOT 2.  In other words he always had something he had not shown all season, perhaps a brand new play or one that was a derivation of his best play, but with a different option.  Dantonio learned this from Tressel as well and showed it on the play where they threw to the TE wide open on the back side for the score.  I think the issue here is that Meyer showed an over-reliance on his basic principal of utilizing the QB to present a numbers mismatch for the defense.  Often you can find success simply by going away from your tendencies on occasion.

+13 HS
daveyt11's picture

Nice point...Maurice Hall option run 2002 Michigan comes to mind

+1 HS
acBuckeye's picture

Long pass from Troy to Ginn for a TD in the epic 2006 game where Teddy lined up at TE in a jumbo formation was one of the best plays I've ever seen in my life. Only time Tress ever ran that play.

+3 HS
rock flag and eagle's picture

NH, your observation that Meyer demonstrated an over-reliance on QB running/numbers mismatch is especially apparent in tight games.  When the game is tight, he tends to shy away from other effective choices and double-down on the QB run.  This past season, in games decided by fewer than 10 pts (tighter games), Miller ran an average of 18.6 rushes/game.  In all other games, Miller averaged 10.3 rushes/game.  Miller rushed 80% more often when games were tight.  Opposing defensive coordinators likely prepare for this.

Often you can find success simply by going away from your tendencies on occasion.

I completely agree, especially since Meyer's "tendencies" in tight games are so pronounced.

+6 HS
2morrow's picture

If he had given the ball to Hyde on third down, the 4th down call would have probably been irrelevant. If I recall correctly, Hyde was  averaging nearly 7 yards a carry during this game and even Jordan Hall broke off a big run or two up the middle. The Buckeye offensive line was dominating the line of scrimmage no matter what MSU was doing. I was screaming at the TV on third down to give Hyde the ball, and I believe he was on the SIDELINES! Then on 4th down I started screaming at the TV when I realized BM was running wide. I am a diehard Buckeye fan and I'm sorry but that was plain and simple a bad call (twice).

+7 HS
BroJim's picture

This was not a comfortable read.

I season my simple food with hunger

+2 HS
Kingbuck12's picture

Whats done is done. Live and let die. I hate thinking about that game and last year not being able to beat Notre Dame like a drum in the championship game. Its a new year. 


+2 HS

Eh, I've moved on. Not going to blame anyone for anything. MSU made the play. This scenario is going to happen again. All the marbles down on one play. No doubt in my mind. Let's all hope with everything we have that lessons were learned and lady luck is on our side the next time.

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

+2 HS
acBuckeye's picture

That play didn't require luck. It required going with the higher percentage play, which wasn't what was called.

+3 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

Now I'm in a pissy mood.  Thanks, Kyle.  :)

+4 HS
tussey's picture

It seems a lot of people are complaining about this article, but thanks Kyle for writing and taking the time to dissect what the coaches were probably seeing throughout the game.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  While I would still probably take my chances with Hyde up the middle, you helped me understand the logic that they were going with down the stretch.  That play you highlighted were both teams executed perfectly is probably what sealed the deal for not running inside zone on the 4th and 1.  

+10 HS
Kyle Jones's picture

Thanks. I understand the desire to give it to Hyde from an emotional standpoint: Good OL + Good RB = more than 2 yards

But they tried to do that 2 plays before and were lucky to get 3 yards. MSU was looking for that play, and knew how to stop it. You have to try and give your players the best chance to succeed.

bedheadjc's picture

Getting 3 yards is MSU stopping it? They had not stopped Hyde on any play for less than 2yds. He could have "failed" by your standard and would have gained the needed yardage.

This has nothing to do with emotions. You give the rock to your hot hand; you don't try to overthink it.

Let's run wide, to the boundry (yes, I understand the numerical advantage), and bet that our TE will make THE key block to free up our admittedly awesome running QB whose last five rushes had frequently been for no gain.

OR Good OL +GREAT RB=2yds.


And thank you for writing this. It did help with understanding the coaches intentions. AND started a hell of a good back and forth discussion.

+9 HS
BuckeyeVet's picture

I think after that play, the message for Meyer and staff has been reinforced:   E + R = O

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx

"The recipient of Oyster's ONLY down vote".

+3 HS
bafiesta's picture

One more thing to consider about that play.  The object is to maximize our scoring potential on that drive, not maximize our first down potential on that play.  

Hyde up the gut probably has a better chance at a first down, but likely to gain no more than 5 yards. That would leave us down 3 on the MSU 35 yard line.  Still not even in field goal range.  Tough yards to gain from there as they would have no fear of a deep ball and would have 9 players in the box on every play.  We could have easily made the first down but failed to score on the drive or perhaps gotten one more first down then settled for a field goal. 

Braxton on the outside has a better chance at a big play, perhaps a scamper down to the 20 yard line or even a touchdown.  

Finally, the defensive performance ultimately cost us the game.  Even if we scored a TD, MSU took the next possession for a TD.  

Winner Eleven Warriors 2014 Yahoo Sports College Bowl Pick'em

-1 HS
avail31678's picture

Sorry I hugely disagree.  There is NO scoring drive if you don't get the first down.  There's still 5:40 left in the game at this point, you have plenty of time to score.  You don't need to be in field goal range wit 5:40 left, you need to still have the ball though.

+13 HS
acBuckeye's picture

I agree that the defense is far more to blame than this (incorrect) play call, but I completely disagree with your thought process. Our O-line was starting to dominate the MSU front. There's little doubt in my mind that we would've continued marching on that drive had we picked up the first down. But I realize there were no guarantees.....

+1 HS
hodge's picture

The .gif says it better than anything else; the call was right, the execution was wrong.  If Heuerman even does a marginally better job on his block, Miller makes the first down without any incident (and probably a hell of a lot more).

Alas, these things happen.  If Ken Dorsey executed properly on third-and-goal, Miami would've pushed that '03 Fiesta Bowl into a third overtime.  

hodge's picture

Double posted, dammit.

+1 HS
Menexenus's picture

Thanks for this explanation, Kyle. It's definitely something I've been scratching my head about for months. Thanks for this insight.

Real fans stay for Carmen.

+2 HS
AlwayzABuckeye614's picture

not listening, not listening


+6 HS
Earle's picture

My problem is not with 4th and 2.  The film shows that if they block it they get the first down.  It's with 3rd and 3.  They run IZ on 2nd and 6 and pick up three (lucky or not, I think not).  Hyde had no runs of less than two yards and you're obviously in 4 down territory.  You have two plays to get three yards.  Numbers advantage or not, I'll take Hyde X2, given his track record in this game against this defense with whatever numbers advantage they've had all game long and not been able to hold Carlos to less than 3 yards in any two carries.

Now I'm just upset again.

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

+16 HS
d5k's picture

I have little problem with the individual play calls in a vacuum.  I think if you are making an argument against inside zone on 3rd and 4th and short you have to make an argument for throwing in a constraint play on 2nd and 6.  That is the time to catch them off balance imo.  Benching Dontre might have been counterproductive here.

+3 HS
CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

I don't think the Buckeyes made a bad play call on the fourth down. We just didn't execute. I still would have tried to get the ball to Hyde though.

+3 HS
hspbuy1's picture

I remember watching the game & thinking why not hand the ball to 34 on 3rd & 2,Let's Hyde 'em to death!  But it's easy being an armchair quarterback, I'm over it(I think). Revenge time in East Lansing!


+3 HS
OSUBias's picture

no problem with the playcall, we all know the execution was lacking. The MSU d was just better than the OSU o for 4 plays that, unfortunately for us, came at the worst possible time. It was a thin margin.

You know what wasn't a thin margin? How a Walrusball offense putting up 30+ on our defense!!! We lost this game because of a defense that made Connor Cooke look like Joe Montana, not because of one poorly executed play. Or because they could easily play defense with no safety help for the entire game without being worried about our WR's cutting off the top for an easy score. We got beat by a team that was better than us that day. Better prepared, better coached, better execution = the w.

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

+5 HS
d5k's picture

I won't ignore the solid analysis you did throughout this article like everyone else seems to be doing.  But on 3rd down you ignored the decision to remove the constraint (Hyde) from the backfield and go to a 4 wide, 1 TE look.  MSU continued to man up our receivers and everyone else was all over the Miller run.  We had a nice strategy to exploit the alignment I suppose.

I agree that you can't judge the process off of a single result especially when the overall process of the running game strategy was working throughout the night.  The passing game was the big disappointment of the night, not the running plays called for Miller.

+2 HS
BuckeyeLurker0509's picture

Absolutely atrocious playcall. Urban and Herman deserve to be raked across the coals for that. Sparty had no answer for Carlos Hyde and we pull some cute trick bullshit like that FROM SHOTGUN on 4th and short.


Almost as bad as Tress' obsession with field goals and field position vs SC in 08.

Florida State would have destroyed us though in the BCS title game, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. IDK...still makes me mad thinking about it 

-2 HS
fear_the_nut70's picture

No, just no.  I can't take it any more.

+3 HS
otrain2416's picture

In all honesty, as much as I love Braxton, Hyde was the best player on the field at the time and should have gotten the ball. I can literally count on one hand the whole season how many times he was stopped for no gain or a loss. I would have ran left behind the strength of our line and given the ball to Hyde.

In Braxton's defense Heuerman threw a sorry ass block on that play. He let the defender come to him instead of attacking, he lunged forward, did not attack the defenders outside shoulder to seal him, and made 0 attempt at driving his feet. I hate pointing fingers, but Heuerman was the reason that play failed. He gets an F- for that block. 

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

+6 HS
yrro's picture

Sorry, I'll take the argument it was a better play call if we were on our own 40. It had a better chance for an explosive gain.

In that field position, at that point in the game, you still take the IZ up the gut x2 and you do it from the hurry up.

And even if the 4th down call was defensible, the QB keeper the down before that even I could see coming from the top of the stands was not.

The defense failed us in our two losses. But in both games, they still put the offense in a position to win the game with time expiring, and our offense failed to take advantage of that chance. I think that's what hurts most - you expect the strength of your team to pull these things out.

+3 HS
teddyballgame's picture

the playcall doesn't bother me as much as the guy missing his block on the edge

+2 HS
MassiveAttack's picture

So much this!!!  If that guy blocks like he should on either 3rd down or 4th down, the Bucks convert a first down.  That doesn't give us a win, but we would not be talking about this play at all.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

+1 HS
woodcocklives@osu's picture

The "in defense of" tone of this piece, combined with the public shaming of a dissenting site commenter, could lead one to believe 11w enjoys the coziness of the access allowed to the fawning media with this staff ....I know.....its an asshole's opinion.

-3 HS
Hockey Buck's picture

When you couple 4th down with 3rd down, and even 2nd down, then yes.

+1 HS
buckeyepastor's picture

Sorry, Kyle.   You are correct in that the play was "there" and added up according to the numbers, I'll give you that.   With all of the stops they made on Braxton for little or no gain that night, on the 4th down play the numbers were there for OSU.  If Heuerman's man doesn't come off his block and blow it up, Hyde and others have cleared more than enough room for Braxton to get the first down.   

But I still think a give to Hyde is more likely to get us the yards we need.   I know that based on the numbers game, MSU has a 7-5 or 8-5 numbers advantage.   But at the point of attack, even if 2 or 3 are unblocked, it's unlikely that more than one at a time is getting a shot at him.   With 2 yards to gain and a safety or OLB coming up to make a play on El Guapo, I'll take the odds of Carlos pulling and dragging a guy for the necessary couple of yards.   One of his great strengths for OSU, something that had him almost never tackled for loss, was how he always fell forward, always kept his momentum and drive after contact.   2 yards amounted to 2-3 hard steps forward after contact.   I think Carlos would have definitely been swarmed by MSU on 4th and 2, but not until after he pushed for 3 hard fought yards.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

+2 HS
andretolstoy's picture

Hi Guys. Meyer and Herman made a bad call. They're still great coaches, I still want them as coaches, but they're human. I'd rather have an ounce of respect for myself and accept the truth than live life immersed in mythology. Semper Virilis, Semper Fidelis! Go Buckeyes!

+2 HS
SilverBullet-98's picture

I believe that it's in Urban's DNA to give it to the star QB over the star RB in moments like this.

Urban is a QB man. 

I don't know if we are able to sustain a clock eating drive and score anyways if we get the 1st.

. Our defense was spent from running a defense that was poorly coordinated and game planned. The back seven was gassed from having to correct from being out of position or gamblng their responsibilities all night. The tank was empty.

We have a defense that night, like we will this year, and the Buckeyes win the B1G Championship EASILY.... And maybe a Natty!!

"The Past Builds the Future"

andretolstoy's picture

I tend to agree. And from this point forward, let's hope he stays a QB man because we're not going to see the likes of Hyde back here for a long time. Good thing is that I think we'll see a strong O-line as long as Meyer is coach.

Knarcisi's picture

Do we seriously need to relive this?  Turn the page. 

+2 HS
OfficerRabbit's picture

The most ironic affirmation after that game came from Mike Valenti on the Valenti & Foster show (sports radio in SE Michigan). Valenti is an MSU grad who had repeatedly downplayed the Spartan defense (showing respect for our "O") in preparation for game, saying it was going to be their biggest test, blah blah. At some point during the following week, amidst all of the sounds and shouts of "Rose Bowl here we come!", he stated he would have run Hyde up the middle 10 out of 10 times.

Its really hard living in this state sometimes.



+3 HS
Mikefletcher24's picture

Give the ball to 34 and he will run over the unblocked defender.

+6 HS
OSUMAx3's picture

I don't need all the freaking film study to know that Hyde should have ran the ball!!! "If it works don't fix it!"

+4 HS
Young_Turk's picture

Great analysis and write-up Kyle.  This is a difficult topic for all.  Obviously a lot of passion and opinions about whether we should run Brax or Hyde.  Maybe a little lost in the shuffle is the third way.  Holy Buckeye!  We could have passed.  What I'm really trying to say is that the Spartan defense could over-load the run because by the end of last season, defenses were able to overload the run defense because we didn't make them defend the deep pass.  Wasn't Braxton's arm injured?  

I think I'm at the accept stage of grief.  I accept that Coach made the best decision, and that it was simply the last move on the chess-board available.  I really don't think running Hyde would have worked, as your analysis reveals.  



+1 HS
rekrul's picture

The first thing that struck me on this was on 3rd down Hauerman missed his block...  Then you go back to him with his block being the key to spring Brax to the edge?  I understand Hauerman is really good and I enjoy watching him play but I would be wary of going back to the guy the very next play being a huge cog for us to get the yardage needed.  Hauerman is a great TE but sometimes these kids can be tired, or maybe the pressure was getting to him a little, why not take some of it off and not run behind him the next play.

Out Work, Out Think, Out Play!!!

+5 HS
UrbanDreamz's picture

Ryan Hamby would have made the block....dude is clutch! 

"Twelve months ago on Jan. 9, my mom's birthday, I made the decision to come back. I had one goal in mind and that was to win a national championship."  ~Mike Doss

+2 HS
seafus26's picture

Hamby would make the block as long as it wasn't Tamba Hali. But Hamby wouldn't make the catch. Just kidding, I had to

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

blocko330's picture

They shoulda just went Holy Buckeye part II

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

- TruthTeller

rekrul's picture


Out Work, Out Think, Out Play!!!

+2 HS
moopdawg's picture

According to Coach Meyer, Braxton Miller is one of the most dynamic athletes he has ever coached, and Heuerman is one of the best tight ends he has ever coached.  So based on those 2 claims, Meyer's logic makes perfect sense in choosing that 4th down play.  However, I also think he said that Carlos Hyde was the best back in the country and that our offensive line was also the best in the country.  Man, how the hell did we go wrong?

+1 HS
shaggybuckeye's picture

I'm convinced with the way Hyde ran that game and in other games when they actually relied on him(Northwestern anyone?) that he could have gained those 2 yards if he were the only offensive player on the field...  In no way do I think that call was a good one. Was the play there for a first down? Sure if Huerman blocks on either 3rd of 4th down instead of the ole' he gave, but Given our o-line dominating the LOS and Hyde getting stronger as the games go on,how in the hell do you not give him a chance on 3rd OR 4th?

edit-> Great analysis though and I appreciate you laying out what the coaches might have been thinking that lead them to the decision they made.

+2 HS
seafus26's picture

The Buckeyes now found themselves on third down, and with the passing game proving ineffective, 

That is putting it nicely.  That was some of the pourest QB passing we have witnessed (2-12 for 14 yards in second half. 0-5 for zero yards in 4th and most critical quarter). So bad that the  final possession with MSU having a 10 point lead they could afford to play loose coverage and balls still continued to sail, go into the ground and surprised a receiver having to guess where ball will be then dropped a ball that did find its mark (first time since opening of half).  And it didn't get much better against a lesser opponent in the Orange Bowl. I have been critical of Herman's 4th down call. But after seeing the BTN re-air of this game I was appalled at Braxton's second half passing. Hyde or Brax on the ground were our only options, because passing was not even possible with balls flying anywhere but near the receiver, that half. The more time I have removed from that game, the more blame I take off Herman. We should be able to complete a 2 yard pass at will.


Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+2 HS
Findog5's picture

Our defense sucked. 

Raleigh Buckeye

+2 HS
D-Day0043's picture

My biggest problem with the play call was that they ran an outside run to the short side of the field. 

Sorry if someone else mentioned this above. Too many comments for me to read them all. ;-)

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+1 HS
nikolajz1's picture

Great coaches mess up sometimes. Heck Popovich, probably the best coach in all of sports, messed up the end of Game 6 by taking Duncan out and then Saban, arguably the 2nd best coach in sports, made the wrong call in trying a 60 yard field goal at the end of the Iron Bowl. 

BuckeyeDevil's picture

I have to agree with Findog5 to a certain extent. If we have any kind of defense that night we may not have been in that position to begin with. Plus, the first half was something I would rather not think about.

And really, if I single out this particular play it is kind of like pointing to a bogus call from a ref late in a basketball game and saying that cost my team the game when my team failed to execute on other occasions, missed bunnies, shot free throws poorly, etc. I am not saying that is what is being done here but my point is that the game was lost on a lot of different fronts. But that play sure does stick out in my mind as I couldn't believe the call when it happened. It just seemed predictable.  


razrback16's picture

Should never have been in this situation. Heartbreaking loss, but in truth, can't expect the offense to carry the team to victory every single week. At some point the defense has to help out and contribute. MSU was not a good offense and our defense just let them rack up yards like a pro team against a little league team. Fortunately we have a new DC now installing a far better system. I expect a different turnout this year when we play MSU.