Beyond the Hashes: UAB

By Chad Peltier on September 24, 2012 at 11:10 am

While it certainly wasn't the blowout that many of us expected, the Buckeyes nevertheless turned in a very efficient day on the ground and managed to epitomize the "bend but don't break" defense. 

The only problem is that many believe that the defense shouldn't be bending at all against the likes of UAB. 

Brax made it look easyBraxton didn't run much, but was deadly when he did 


While the pass game is certainly developing as Braxton continues to turn in efficient performances (though maybe not fear-inducing), the run game is certainly the strength of this team - as we'll see more in depth later, the running backs all turned in very efficient performances against UAB (as we'd hope).

However, Braxton ran far less against UAB than in his first three games. We've only played through the non-conference schedule so far, and it's clear that Braxton has played more "caged up" in the past two games as far as scrambling during called pass plays.

Team Offense
1d 3D% 4d% yards passing rushing turnovers penalties quickstrike sacks
20 (21.5) 33% - 347 (427,1708) 143 (198,791) 204 (229,917) 0 (1,4) 7-60 (31-260) .509 2 (7)

It's possible that Braxton will be set loose to run (especially against Michigan State and Nebraska), and who knows if Urban's offensive strategy will remain constant during conference play - it's simply unclear whether current passing trends (run-pass balance, ~25 attempts per game, slightly under 200 yards) will continue.

If I had to guess, I think the staff leaned on Hall and limited Braxton's carries again not only to preserve Braxton for Big Ten play, but to also give Hall confidence in his foot. You can certainly expect Braxton to carry the ball more frequently in big games against Michigan State and Nebraska.

Finally, it's interesting that the quickstrike score is so high (.509) but the Buckeyes were only able to put up 29 points against UAB. Basil isn't getting very much work in the first year of the Meyer and Herman offense - there's been a lot of boom or bust, with the offense either going three and out (limiting our TOP) or scoring touchdowns.

The Clock. Saturday marked the lowest number of plays this year, even lower than last year's average. 

  Time Of possession # of plays
vs. UAB 26:05 57 
Season 28:54 280 (70)
Last Season 30:40 (avg) 62 (avg)

UAB really controlled the clock well, moving down the field and eating clock, if settling for field goals. It certainly didn't help that the offense had a few bad 3-and-outs that limited our time of possession. 

So far this year opponents are winning the overall TOP. 


Now that we've finished the non-conference schedule against powerhouses like Miami of Ohio, UCF, and UAB, we can make a few comparisons and assessments about this year's Silver Bullets.

Team Defense
opp 1d opp yards opp pass opp rush turnovers opp top tfl sacks int 3 & outs opp rbsr quicksand
22(72) 403 (395,1579) 259 (277,1109..) 144  (118,470) 2 (9) 33:55 2 (16) 1 (10) 1 (7) 1 (10) 44% .188

This game can be summarized in two stats: There was only one 3-and-out for the UAB offense, but the defense managed a .188 quicksand score - second lowest on the season so far next to Miami.

This means, in announcer-speak, that while the defense never really "broke", it certainly bent frequently against the 84th ranked total offense. The Silver Bullets regularly let the UAB offense use quick screens and quarterback scrambles to soak off clock time and drive down the field, only to hold them to field goals. 

Doran with a huge dayAt least the future looks good with Doran and Roby at corner

The opposing team pass average is terrible - we've regularly turned opposing quarterbacks into superstars averaging 277 yards per game. The pass defense reflects that, ranked 107th in the country.

While pursuit on screens improved during the second half, it's clear that opposing offensive coordinators are using the same strategy: quick screens, bootleg passes underneath our secondary, and outside runs.

On the other hand, the rush defense is far better after four - 34th in country. However, UAB put up the highest opposing running back success rate, with 44% of their runs categorized as "efficient".

Player Analysis

Braxton Miller. Saturday was a slightly below average passing day for Braxton: His completion percentage was almost exactly the same (60%) as season average, he had slightly less passing yards (149 compared to an average of 143), and he had five less attempts than his average after four games (25).

QB Stats
  Comp/att % yards td int rating
Miller  12/20 (60/98) 60% (61%) 143 (189, 754) - (7) - (2) 120.1 (145.3)

Though this wasn't Braxton's best day throwing the ball - eight poor throws compared to eleven "catchable" or "dead on" throws - and there weren't any truly huge plays, the passing game was still fairly efficient.

Throw Chart
  into coverage uncatchable throw away difficult catchable dead on
Miller  1(6) 2(9) - (4) 5(17) 6(34) 5(29)

What's not readily apparent from the numbers alone is that Braxton seems to get into streaks - I know, I know there's no such thing as the "hot hand" statistically – but Braxton (and the entire offense) seems to really get on a roll periodically. However, when Braxton throws crisp, accurate balls (usually on roll outs, play action, and scrambles), the offense looks positively unstoppable. As one of the game commentators pointed out, Braxton is usually on top of his game after a few successful runs. 

What's best about watching Braxton is that I never have the same degree of fear every time he goes back to pass like I did when, um, some past quarterbacks did. Even when the passing game isn't lighting defenses up, it is still efficient, and Braxton rarely turns the ball over or forces throws. 

Also interesting is that Braxton has the authority to call audibles now, as he seemed to do several times during the game. It's clear that he is maturing as a passer even if he's not averaging 300 yards a game yet. Braxton is 89th in the country in passing yards.


  Att yards ypc rbsr ex plays ypc-ex plays
Hyde - (24) (109) -(4.54) - (57%) - (16) (4.0)
Miller 9(67) 77(454) 8.56 (8.11) 78%(63%) 19,17 (17,33,22, 65,37,24,55,19,17) 5.86 (3.53)
Dunn -(12) -(60) (5.0) - (82%)   (5.0)
Boren 2(11) 7(33) 3.5(3.3) 100%(64%) 3.5(3.3)
R. Smith 6(12) 24(50) 4.0(4.17) 83%(75%) - 4.0(4.17)
C. Brown 1(4) 4(42) 4.0 (10.5) 100%(100%) (19) 4.0(7.67)
Hall 17(34) 105(192) 6.2(5.65) 88%(71%) (15) 6.2(5.36)

The rushing game was amazingly efficient: Braxton had the lowest running back efficiency score, with “just” 78% of his carries being efficient. Both primary running backs, Hall and Smith, were over 80% efficient on the day - and neither of Hall’s inefficiency runs were his fault.

Hall was great for getting every yard possible, falling forward, hitting the hole hard, and making one cut then going. In fact, Hall’s first inefficient rushing attempt of the game was during the third quarter when Braxton had a slow and incorrect read on third down. Further, his second and last inefficient carry of the game was a seven-yard gain on 2nd-17 - it simply didn’t pick up 60% of the yards for a first down. Extremely impressive, efficient game for Hall.

Braxton remains the team's best breakaway threat even with Hall back in the lineup (though Braxton's explosive plays were much shorter this game), so it was a bit strange that Braxton’s first carry didn’t come until 9 minutes left in the second quarter (and it was for 14).

While Hall displayed some of the moves that had Meyer raving during the spring and summer, Braxton showed why he is the best ball carrier on the team during plays like his first touchdown run: patience to wait for Boren’s block, the spin move, then the acceleration and dive into the end zone with arm extended. Beautiful.

Then in the 4th quarter, Braxton showed patience waiting for the block by Hall, then accelerated to the sideline before a spin move at the end. Braxton is now tied for 16th in the country in rushing...with Denard Robinson. Ugh. Braxton is also 25th in total offense. 

Finally, as a quick note: Braxton's rushing attempts are slightly different than the box score - this is because I'm interested purely in rushing ability here and not sacks, which are noted above. I removed Braxton's two sacks (one of which was a weird bump from Linsley getting beat) and added 13 yards back to Braxton's yards - his official season rushing yards total is only 441. 

Wide Receivers. While I expected a carpetbombing of the UAB secondary, the timing in the passing game actually looked a little off, resulting in lower than average numbers against a much lower than average defense.

  yards catch rate +/-
Spencer - (70) - (5/9)  
D. Smith 39 (272) 4/6 (17/26)
Stoneburner - (92) - (7/10)  
C. Brown 67 (233) 4/6 (20/27) +
Boren - (35) 0/1 (4/6)  
Heuerman 10 (28) 1/1 (3/3)  
Hyde - (2) - (1/1)  
Reed - (13) - (1/1)  
Vannett - (18) - (4/5)  
Hall 21 (21) 2/2 (2/2)   
M. Thomas 6 (6) 1/1 (1/1)  

It was a fairly common day for the wide receiver corps in most respects - Devin Smith and Corey Brown were targeted most frequently, catching two thirds of their passes - except for the fact that Braxton didn't seem to spread the ball around as much. While seven players caught a pass against Cal, only five did against UAB. 

While that's not necessarily worrisome as long as the receivers have good catch rates (and Heuerman, Hall, and Michael Thomas all made the most of their targets), I was surprised to not see Stoney snag a reception at any point during the game. 

I loved the quick screen to Hall - which was extremely similar to the numerous plays that UAB ran successfully against the OSU defense throughout the game - during the touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Though we only saw two of these quick screen passes to Hall, they were both successful, allowing Hall to showcase his cut-and-go open field running style.

Finally, a shoutout to Mr. Michael Thomas, who recorded his first reception as a Buckeye after leading the way during the spring game. It's clear that Thomas has talent, but he needs to put it to use on Saturdays in order to avoid the Honorary Bam Childress/T. Wash In-Season (lack of) Performance Award.

Defense. The helmet stickers this week are fairly obvious: 

Doran Grant, everybody. Wow. The stat line speaks for itself: 7 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TFL, 1 sack, and 1 interception. Is it possible Grant pushes another member of the secondary for starting time? 

Hankins absolutely killed it this week, with ten tackles and .5 a TFL. Hankins even notably pancaked his blocker on 2nd and nine in the first quarter. It's very uncommon for interior defensive linemen to end the game with as many tackles as Hankins has had the past two games, proving why he's a likely first rounder. 

While the linebackers as a unit have been disappointing, Sabino and Shazier have at least been racking up the tackles, leading the way with 11 and 13 tackles respectively. Sabino also had two nice pass break-ups - one on a big hit and the other on a swat. The MLB spot continues to be the weakest spot on the defense (though Corey Brown did record 6 tackles from the STAR position).

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