Film Study Flashback: Eddie George's 314-Yard Game

By Kyle Jones on June 19, 2014 at 3:00p
30 Comments

While not scouting the rest of the field in advance of the US Men's National Team's inevitable run to take home the World Cup recently, I've found myself getting lost in the mass of old Ohio State games uploaded to youtube. For those that haven't checked them out, I recommend doing so outside work hours as your productivity will grind to a screeching halt.

The list of great games is nearly endless, featuring classic Rose Bowls, rivalry games, and record setting performances that had gone unseen by generations. Undoubtedly, one of the great things about College Football are the legends that get created and passed down within each fan base. Within the great state of Ohio, few are bigger than the man who immortalized the number 27.

The star of one of the finest collections of talent ever assembled in Columbus, Eddie George was the workhorse and centerpiece of a team that went 11-1 in the regular season, winning the Heisman Trophy along the way.

While this record-breaking season is often represented by his 61 yard run against Notre Dame, immortalized in various photos and signs throughout the campus, his greatest performance came November 11, 1995 in the Horseshoe against the University of Illinois. Facing a defense featuring All-Americans Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice, George rumbled for 314 yards on 36 carries, shattering the previous single game school record by 40 yards.

For those of us old enough to remember this game, we probably remember exactly where we were that day. While I recalled the images of Eddie out-running Illini defenders and that mauling offensive line, I hadn't watched the clips in depth until this past weekend.

This game is now 19 years old, and strategies on both sides of the ball have advanced greatly in that time. But what struck me was the simplicity with which that offense was so effective. 

Eddie George carried the ball 36 times that day, yet did so while basically running only 4 plays. The offense was without their second best weapon that day, wide receiver Terry Glenn, who often acted as the deep threat in the passing game to keep defensive backs out of the running game. 

How were they so effective? The easy answer is talent. As the old saying goes, "Jimmys and Joes beat Xs and Os," and the Buckeyes were running behind a line anchored by one of the best blockers in the history of the game. But as Ross and I have discussed on this site many times, the constraint theory of offense once again shined through on this day. The Buckeyes used complimentary concepts over and over to keep the Illini from over-playing any specific play, staying unpredictable while still only running a handful of calls. 


I-Formation

For many years, the I-formation was the definition of Buckeye football. Lining a big running back behind an even bigger Fullback, who hit defenses square in the mouth. 

While the Buckeyes did run the "Lead-Iso" play a few times this day, it wasn't really that effective. So, offensive coordinator Walt Harris called on two other concepts that took advantage of fullback Nicky Sualua's talents.

OSU Lead Toss

Few plays were more effective that year than the lead toss (this was the same play that sprung George for that famous run against Notre Dame). The basic concept of the play is very similar to that of the "Power" play run roughly 4,000 times by the Tressel era Buckeyes, and still seen often today. The Fullback kicks out the first defender that comes upfield, and the frontside guard pulls and leads the back through the hole.

OSU Lead Toss 2

The biggest difference between the lead toss and power though, comes at the aiming point of the play. In Power, the running back aims for the outside hip of the tackle, whereas on the toss, the back is looking to get further outside. Pulling a guard from the backside wouldn't allow enough time to get him in front of the ball carrier, so they must get that extra blocker from the frontside of the formation.

The easiest way to stop the lead toss is to get edge rushers upfield quickly, and have more defenders at that point of attack. Additionally, the Buckeyes often threw from the I formation quite a bit, so defensive ends like the aforementioned Rice were doing everything they could to get upfield and outside their defenders.

That's where the lead draw came into play. One of the oldest plays in football, the lead draw tricks defenses into appearing that it's a pass play, allowing defenses to come upfield and take themselves out of a run play before it's even truly begun.

OSU Lead Draw

Linebackers are taught to read the blocking patterns of the offensive linemen in front of them:

  • If they step towards you, it's a run
  • If they pull, follow them because the ball will follow
  • If they step backwards, they're pass blocking

The Lead Draw breaks the third rule, as the entire offense appears to be creating a pocket for the quarterback to throw. Yet just as the QB makes his drop, he hands the ball off to his running back, who also happens to have a lead blocker right in front of him.

OSU Lead Draw 2

The runner must have great vision to execute the play properly, as the line will use the defenses aggression against them, and the same hole will not open twice. The rules for the back are very similar to today's zone schemes, where the runner must have patience before making a cut upfield once a hole opens.


Ace Wing Formation

While the Buckeyes of this era were often defined by the I, they ran the ball from the "Ace" or single-back formation quite frequently. By stacking up star tight end Rickey Dudley behind a second tight end to the same side, the Buckeyes now had an advantage to one side, as they created a numbers mismatch. What they ran in this situation though might not look like anything special now, but was certainly novel at the time.

OSU Outside Zone

At the same time Eddie George was carving up defenses on the collegiate level, a rookie in Denver was doing the same to defenders in the NFL. Terrell Davis was the first in a long line of running backs to benefit from Mike Shanahan and Alex Gibbs' zone blocking schemes, which changed the way offenses run the football. 

Until the "stretch" came along, the best way to run the ball outside was to run a toss sweep like the one above, pulling linemen and declaring your intentions along the way. The stretch changed things for defenses though, as runners were looking to cutback against defenders that were too aggressive and overran the play.

On this, Eddie's most famous run that day, center Juan Porter actually misses his block. But the strength and talent of #27 allowed him to break the tackle before going untouched the rest of the way. While allowing a defender to come virtually unblocked into the backfield is never a good thing, it slowed down George just enough to allow the rest of the Illini defense to overrun the play, creating a natural cutback lane. 

OSU TE Crunch

In order to keep the defense from overloading the strong side of the formation, Harris often brought Dudley back across the formation to as a lead blocker. This concept should look familiar, as Urban Meyer's squad often uses the same principle with tight end Jeff Heuerman.

To the linebackers, the Buckeye offensive line appeared to be blocking towards the strength of the formation, as they would in stretch. However, instead of trying to eventually create a hole outside, they were simply creating a wall of blockers to the backside of the formation, with Orlando Pace as the cornerstone. 

OSU TE Crunch 2

Yet it appears that the Buckeyes have left Illini star Simeon Rice unblocked. While his eyes are squarely on George in the backfield, Rice is met by Dudley, who has the momentum and leverage to kick out the end and create a hole for his star running back.


Watching the way Eddie George and the 1995 Buckeyes run all over Illinois that day reminded me of a recent quote from Eagles coach Chip Kelly:

Trends go one way and the other. I said this a long time ago, if you weren't in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne when they invented this game, you stole it from somebody else. Any coach is going to learn from other people and see how they can implement it in their system. Anything you do has to be personnel driven. You have to adapt to the personnel you have. There's a lot of great offenses out there, but does it fit with the personnel you have. The key is making sure what you're doing is giving your people a chance to be successful.

While some of us wish the Buckeyes would return to the days of "smashmouth" football with big powerful fullbacks, the current version of Ohio State football isn't all that different. While the current iteration has more window dressing in the form of shotgun formations, option handoffs, and multiple receivers in place of a fullback, the basic philosophies are still very similar. 

But Eddie George and the '95 Buckeyes aren't legends because of great play-calling. Schemes are a means to an end, and should be based entirely around who is running them. Walt Harris did a great job putting this team in a position to succeed, which more than often, they did.

30 Comments

Comments

kgratz's picture

those jerseys make me feel some type of way 

How Firm Thy Friendship

+7 HS
sigzeta's picture

ahhh, the good ole days.  simplistic offenses, smash mouth running.  I loved it.  great piece.

I also loved the horse and buggy.  I wish they would get rid of these new fangled horseless carriages and return to simpler times.

+4 HS
Buckeye Knight's picture

That's grown ass man football right there.

+4 HS
NorthernOhioBuckeye's picture

And it was played by some serious grown ass men, namely Pace and George. That was such a great team. DAMN MSU!

Edit: Wrong year. DAMN TSUN!

yrro's picture

That was my first game at Ohio Stadium. It was so cold. Freezing rain most of the game.

I was young enough and clueless enough to not realize how big of a deal Eddie's day was, other than being happy we were winning.

+1 HS
SilverBullet-98's picture

We have something in common, it was my first Buckeye came ever as well!!

Must have been some alumni who didn't want to bear that weather. And it was cold and my legs barely made it back to my car,lol.

What a experience, I remember being in awe of the band intro to the stadium, didn;t know they did that and as it began to sleet and the wind picked up the stadium became louder.The fans was like "Bring it on, We're ready for anything!!"

That was just a pure example of OHIO FOOTBALL. Deal with the weather, Deal with the running, Deal with the Pain, cause we are gonna run it down your dam throat all day til you can't get up anymore. 

What a great first game to witness. I was about 24 yrs old.

"The Past Builds the Future"

Buckeye Knight's picture

He was so much fun to watch!

 

I like how the guys Orlando Pace blocks are either on their butts or 10 yards down field most of the game.  And Rice was an All-American.

Hovenaut's picture

I could not understand how in the world Illinois beat OSU six out of seven times from '88 to '94.

The Buckeyes (and #27) sure made up for that in '95...man I miss that I-formation sometimes.
 

SilverBullet-98's picture

Lou Tepper had some great defenses and always upset teams. He came damn close to ending Penn St. 94' National Championship , undefeated season. They was like Wisconsin is now back then.

"The Past Builds the Future"

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

I think John Mackovic was HC at Illinois in the late 80's, he had a couple of those wins as well.

Just hated the fact Ohio State had slipped during that time, the games against the Illini were frustrating.

Cooper (with #27) finally got them over the hump...shame they couldn't do the same against M...igan.

+1 HS
kalabuckzoo's picture

Two things from those highlights...

1. Orlando Pace

2. What is going on at 10:36 in that video?

AndyVance's picture

"They don't have a great punting game," said color analyst Dick Vermeil... That was clearly many years prior to the Tressel era :)

+3 HS
Fugelere's picture

Love this breakdown.  

Some of these plays and others like them still live on.  If you watch the 49ers under Harbaugh you'll see some of the same  and/or very similar concepts. 

NitroBuck's picture

Cool breakdown.  I remember freezing my ass off in the South Stands for this one.  The wind was terrible (sleet blowing sideways burning any exposed flesh), so I knew going in that the passing game would largely be grounded.  I recall thinking the key match up would be Orlando Pace on Simeon Rice.  Then on an early possession, I saw Rickey Dudley handle Rice easily, kicking him to the outside. Meanwhile, Pace moved the entire D-line over to the Center's spot and Sualua crushed the ILB while leading Eddie into a hole big enough for a semi.  George ran untouched until the safeties got him...15 yards later.  Illinois had the #10 D in the nation, but I knew right then that we owned 'em.

Orlando's pancake blocks were cause for celebration back then.  I remember shouting down to Simeon Rice as the Illini left the field for half time:  "Hey Rice!  I'd ask you about the pancakes, but hell, you can't get past Dudley!".  He shot me the dirtiest look I ever saw.  So I followed up with "You can't even handle a friggin' basketball player!".

As miserably cold as that evening was, one of my warmest Buckeye memories was George being carried off the field with the entire stadium chanting ED-DIE! ED-DIE! ED-DIE!  And the chant continued all the way to the VC.  Great day to be a Buckeye!

Ferio.  Tego.

+1 HS
RenegadeBuckeye's picture

I was at that game. It was my second senior year at tOSU...good times. 

Baroclinicity's picture

A both great and terrible day for me.  It was an awesome game to be at, and I returned to my house on W. Norwich after the game to find out my grandmother had unexpectedly passed.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

theopulas's picture

SORRY BRO....

Theopulas

+1 HS
jmoore3309's picture

I was in South Stands too.  I know the weather was cold and wet that day, but I don't remember being cold.  Maybe it was the warm glow ok kicking the Illini's ass.  That game finally closed the book on their little run of success against us.  

Go Bucks!

ScarletGray43157's picture

I was in 12C.  One of those games you never forget.  Number 27 was as good as anyone who ever wore the S&G.  

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

theopulas's picture

O.Pace at this time was the best offensive linemen in the history of college football....

Theopulas

northwoods buckeye's picture

Still is. Biggest Heisman snub ever.

Conan! What is best in life?

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

+2 HS
Denster's picture

If someone complains about the current "style of offense" I swear to God I'll bring down the Internet and everyone connected to one of it's tubes. Seriously, you're either a.) way to fucking old or b.) have been subjected to too much matt millen or gary danielson. In the first case, you're excused. It's nature. Just make sure you admit yourself to an accredited retirement facility. In the other case, I also can't blame you for this. There aren't a lot of options. At least Craig James is gone. Try to educate yourself. You can be saved.

"It's a double-barreled pistol that fires hard work and victory..."

Groveport Heisman's picture

Weird thing is Hyde could have put up a 450-500 yard game last year if given the opportunity. Eddie was the best and I'll love him forever but I think if Hyde didnt have the suspension and didnt get called off in the second half he could have had a 2,300 yard season and  maybe won a Heisman. Hopefully they dont let old crab legs win a 2nd one.

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

+1 HS
northwoods buckeye's picture

Crab legs aren't the thing on his (growing) rap sheet that concerns me.

Conan! What is best in life?

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

For those of us old enough to remember this game, we probably remember exactly where we were that day. 

 

Sure do, because those were probably the best seats I ever had at the Shoe: a few rows beneath the old press box. I knew what the school record was for rushing yards because it hadn't been set too many years before. After Eddie busted that long TD run, I remember telling my father that he was going to want to save the program from this one.

That '95 offense was insanely talented. How a team with a Heisman Trophy winner, two high draft picks catching the ball, and the best offensive lineman of his generation lost to a Michigan team that was starting a backup quarterback is still unbelievable 19 years later.

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

acBuckeye's picture

 Eddie George was the workhorse and centerpiece of a team that went 11-1 in the regular season

And damn that one loss was soul-crushing. I admit, it's difficult for me to appreciate everything this '95 team did that season b/c the pain from losing to TTUN overshadowed all of it. Same for the '96 team, although the epic Rose Bowl win sweetened that sour taste into the off-season quite a bit.

SilverBullet-98's picture

Still can't believe this team lost to Tennessee in the 96' Citrus Bowl.

The Vols had 2 nice DT's (#50,Bill Duff) was one of them,that caused just enough trouble to slow down running game and had two great RB's themselves. Travis Henry and Jay Graham plus Jamal Lewis or Travis Stephens waiting in the wings. All 4 drafted and played in NFL. Along with WR Peerless Price, MLB Shuan Ellis,and Al Wilson,All also a not that well known of a young Peyton Manning. lol

 

"The Past Builds the Future"

+1 HS
NitroBuck's picture

Tennessee did have a very talented team in '95, but I think we had a speed advantage.  Unfortunately, the monsoon mud pit of a field negated that speed advantage, so it boiled down to a grinding battle in the trenches.  The Vols had an ace in the hole.  At half time, they switched to longer cleats which the NCAA bans during the regular season (but are allowed in bowl games).  Smart, but not very sporting in my opinion.  Needless to say, guys that Orlando and the rest of OSU's O-Line were able to push around in the first half were immovable in the second half.

Ferio.  Tego.

+2 HS
ISURVIVEDCOOPER's picture

Thank you Kyle.

This coming week is my birthday.  This day that Eddie ran for 314 is my favorite Buckeye moment that I witnessed in person.  You are a true gentleman.

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

Davep160's picture

I watched Orlando Pace instead of Eddie in the Illinois video.   Damn that man was BAD ASS.