Beyond the Hashes: Cal

By Chad Peltier on September 16, 2012 at 10:00 am

I've sifted through the numbers against Cal and come to two not-so-surprising conclusions: 

1. The offense is FAR better off than it used to be, with Braxton and the wide receivers showing statistically significant signs of improvement.

Smith blew up the Cal secondaryDevin "Clutch Play" Smith 

2. Howev-*FLAG ON THE PLAY, roughing the passer on number 54*-er, the statistics also indicate that the team is inconsistent, with too many three and outs and missed assig-*FLAG ON THE PLAY, offsides on number 92*-nments by an offense still learning the scheme.

Further, the defense is also undisciplined, as shown by "FALSE START, number 77 on the offense" poor tackling, poor angles in the open field, and coverage breakdowns.

Oh yeah, and both sides of the ball could hardly string two plays together without a penalty in the second half. Both the offense and defense will need to sort these issues out quickly before Michigan State.


If you're like me, that miserable third quarter probably made you curse the new offense, curse the AIRBHG for hurting Carlos Hyde, and wonder where Braxton's improved footwork went.

However, looking back through the numbers actually makes the game not look that bad:  

Team offense
1D 3D% 4D% Yards Passing Rushing Turnovers peNAlties quickstrike sacks
14(66) 33% - 412  (454,1361) 249 (216,648) 163 (238,713) 1 (4) 11-101 (24-200) .555 - (5)

While we're still working with an extremely small sample size of games (and the first two games weren't against BCS conference opponents), the total offensive output is extremely comparable to the past two games.

The fightin' Braxtons managed 412 total yards against Cal, compared to 411 yards against UCF. It's clear that Cal's defensive line isn't as big or talented as some of our future opponents', but it's certainly encouraging that we didn't allow a single sack on the day. 

What stands out to me is that while our total yards is comparable to previous efforts this year, the offense ran about 15 less plays than in the first two games. The offense managed 412 total yards and a quick strike score of .555 largely due to big pass plays (thanks Devin Smith and Stoney). 

For comparison, last week's quick strike was just .413, reinforcing what many observed while watching the game - it was feast or (third quarter) famine for the Ohio State offense. 

While there are certainly reasons to be concerned about the offense - where did the inside running game go? - the offensive production was still good outside of the third quarter. Braxton and company managed to produce big plays when needed, for the most part. 

The Clock. 

  Time of Possession # of plays
vs. Cal 24:50 63
Season 29:40 223 (74.3)
Last Season 30:40 (avg)  62 (avg) 

As noted in the offense section above, Cal won the time of possession battle quite easily. Generally I think that announcers make a bigger deal of the time of possession battle than is really necessary, but it seems fairly representative of the OSU offensive performance this week: quick, explosive drives (which is reflected by the high quick strike score), followed by more three and outs (6) than we'd probably prefer. 

The coaches maintained a very fast pace offense (that Spielman picked up on), but simply were not able to get the Cal offense off the field or keep the Ohio State offense on the field during the third quarter. 


Well you wanted sacks and TFLs, and you got them this week. Hope you're happy.

team defense
Opp 1D Opp yards opp pass opp rush turnovers opp top TFL sacks INT 3 & outs opp rbsr quick sand
22 (50) 512 (392,1176) 288 (283,850) 224 (109,326) 1 (7) 35:10 9(13) 6(9) 1(6) 2 (9) 32% .354

Fickell (and probably Meyer too) dialed up a much more aggressive defensive game plan this week, with multiple blitzes (Shazier said post-game that he was the designated blitzer) that resulted in a 200% increase in sacks, and a little bit more than that in tackles for loss.

Further, those six sacks all came from different players; in fact, nine different players on the team have recorded a sack this year, and none of them have repeated. This speaks to both the team's high depth at defensive line as well as its inconsistency. 

Words cannot describe how much Bryant loved this hitBryant turned in one of his better performances against Cal

However, the defense continued a trend from previous weeks of giving up big plays due to blown assignments in the secondary, poor angles in the open field, and bad tackling.

Somewhat worrisome is that opposing offenses are finding a rough blueprint for going against our formidable defensive line, which looks something like pass-pass-rollout, pass-outside edge, run-pass-pass. Last week the run-first UCF offense had an uncharacteristically high number of pass attempts, while Cal attempted 38 passes yesterday.

The three-step and rollout passing game have really put pressure on the secondary.

Cal's rushing game was largely held in check, with only 32% efficiency compared to 37% by UCF (the best comparison so far), but the defense again let running backs get to the edge because of poor tackling at or near the line of scrimmage. 

Player analysis 

Braxton Miller. Braxton actually turned in a great performance through the air, maybe because of Cal's unique press-coverage defense (though it did switch to a traditional 4-3 look throughout the game). 

QB Basic Stats
  att/comp comp % yards td  int rating
Miller (season) 16/30 (48/78) 58.3 (61.5) 249 (611) 4 (7) 1 (2) 160.39 (151.83)

While he went 1-7 at one point in the third quarter, throwing an interception and displaying poor footwork, he nonetheless threw 4 touchdown passes and had his season high through three games. Furthermore, Miller was the victim of some bad drops by his wide receivers, including two by Devin Smith. 

QB throw chart
  into coverage uncatchable throw away difficult catchable dead on
Miller  1 (5)  1 (7) 3 (4) 5 (12) 10 (28)  10 (24)

I'm encouraged by Braxton's decision making for the most part, particularly with his decision to throw the ball away three times. He still made the wrong read and forced the ball on his duck of an interception, but it's clear that he has the potential and just needs consistency. 

Furthermore, Braxton throws far more "catchable" and "dead on" passes than "uncatchable" or "into coverage" ones. Braxton definitely had a mixed game against Cal, but his passes to Stoney and Devin Smith were Meyer-certified "grown man" plays. 

Running Backs. I was very surprised to see Hall run the ball as much as he did. Dunn not see the field at all, and Braxton received so few carries. 

  att yards ypc rbsr explosive plays ypc - ex plays ex play potential
Hyde - (24) (109) - (4.54) -  (57%) - (16) (4.0) - (1/23)
Miller 12 (56) 75 (377) 6.25 (6.73) 64% (61%) 17,33,22,65,37,24,55 1.8 1/12 (7/56)
Dunn - (12) - (60) - (5.0) - (82%) (5.0) -
Boren  - - - - (56%) - (2.9) -
R. Smith - (6) - (26) - (4.33) - (67%) - (4.3) -
C. Brown 1 (3) 5 (38) 5.0 (12.67) 100% (100%) - (19)  5.0 - (1/3)
Hall 17 (17) 87 (87) 5.1 53% (53%) - (-) 5.1  - (1/2)

Particularly illustrative is Braxton's YPC with explosive plays removed - ouch. It's clear that Braxton is the best runner on the team, and only 12 carries had a noticeable affect on the rushing offense's total production.

I look for Braxton to get a few more called runs in future games, as the offense didn't run nearly as many plays as the previous two games as well. And the offense does need him to run - I mean, good Lord, that 55-yard run. Wow

Hall was effective, if not the playmaker that we thought (prayed) he'd be on his return. He showed an ability to run between the tackles and on the edge, and I look for him to improve with more time and with more trust in his foot. 

Wide Receivers. The wide receivers also were a mixed bag this week, with big catches by Stoney and Devin Smith, but a string of drops that had to remind you of last year. 

wide receiver catch rate
  yards catch rate +/-
Spencer 10 (70) 1/2 (5/9)  
D. Smith  145 (233) 5/8 (13/20) -. +
Stoneburner 44 (92) 3/4 (7/10) +
C. Brown 31 (166) 3/5 (16/21) +,-
Boren 4 (35) 1/2 (4/6)  
Heuerman 9 (18) 1/1 (2/2)  
Hyde - (2) - (1/1)  
Reed - (13) - (1/1)  
Vannett 6 (18) 2/3 (4/5) +

Devin Smith and Philly Brown seem to be alternating as playmaker of the game each week. Both need to improve in their consistency, as they each dropped passes that I graded as "catchable" from Braxton. However, Meyer has to be happy with at least these two guys getting some big plays in. 

A frequent topic of discussion has been how to correctly utilize Stoneburner. We saw a bit of an improvement yesterday, with the 4-verticals to the tight end being a common big-play for Aaron Hernandez at Florida. Stoney killed it in the red zone multiple times for Braxton. Who else loved that Tebow jump pass for a touchdown? 

Finally, Braxton continued to favor Brown and Smith, but distributed the ball nicely to many receivers, including running backs, fullbacks, and tight ends. We should all be thankful for that. 

Defense. The defense was also a mixed bag, with some excellent plays and sacks, but also some really poor tackling and angles in the secondary. Helmet stickers this week go to: Christian Bryant, Shazier, Hankins, Roby, and Goebel.

Fickell dialed up a more aggressive game plan, and it showed with much better stats for the front 7. Shazier led the way with ten tackles, 2 TFLs, and a sack. Those numbers don't include several missed tackles and bad angles, but you can't deny those numbers.

Finally, I commend Goebel, Hankins, and Simon for turning in gritty, playmaking performances this week. Simon reportedly almost didn't play because of an unknown shoulder injury, so he deserves all the credit in the world for turning in the performance he did. 

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