Inside the Box: Ohio State Relies on Defense to Win and Ugly Game in East Lansing

By Jake Anderson on November 12, 2018 at 2:25 pm
Chase Young, Malik Harrison, and Tuf Borland eye their prey.

Ugly wins count too.

The Buckeyes earned a much-needed 26-6 win over ranked Michigan State to make Urban Meyer 5-2 against the Spartans in his tenure with Ohio State. The Bucks still trail Michigan in the division but season-long issues are finally being solved. 

In today's Inside the Box, we will look over Ohio State's inverted offense, the triumphant return of the Silver Bullets, Drue Chrisman's Heisman campaign, and how the turnover margin pushed the Buckeyes to victory despite their inefficiencies in the red zone. 

The Inversion of the Buckeye Offense

Ohio State’s declining ability through the air coming right as the backfield returns to form is the perfect representation of the 2018 Buckeyes.

First, the good news: Mike Weber had 104 yards against the Spartans, his second time over the century mark this year. His outside running provided the Bucks with some much-needed offense, hitting runs of 11, 13, and 18 yards.

Now, the bad news: Haskins’ decline is real. His atrocious footwork affects the entire offense. His dreadful 5.8 yards per pass attempt on Saturday was by far his worst mark of the season. If that is not enough, his quarterback and passer rating are also on the decline.

Haskins' Quarterback Rating and Raw QBR are dropping

At least Michigan State is known for its outstanding passing defense, truly recognized as one of the best in the nation. The team comes in at No. 97 nationally in passing yards allowed – which is at least in the top 100.

I am kidding of course, but maybe it is time to start feeling concerned about a record-breaking quarterback who is forgetting how to set his feet. Two of Haskins' three touchdown passes in the past two games, his worst two-game stretch of the season by the way, have come via Parris Campbell on the jet sweep. If that is the only way to score "through the air", Ohio State has more issues than we thought. 

Are the Silver Bullets back or does Sparty just suck at Offense?

For the 1,423,394th time this year, Buckeye fans are left with more questions than answers after a game. Today, the season-long issue of the defense is still left somewhat unanswered.

While we still have questions about the defense, there is one undeniable factoid that can be pulled from the past two weeks: they have improved. Looking back, the Silver Bullets have been allowing opponents to gain more yards than they averaged all year.

Ohio State's defense is allowing fewer yards than the teams' average.

Following the loss to Purdue and the subsequent bye week, Ohio State’s defense has been holding teams to an average of 55 yards below its average. A difference of +11.5 yards per game over the team’s average to -55.2 yards per game is a huge jump in the right direction.

The improvement can be attributed to a change in Schiano’s scheme but the simplest answer is the insertion of Brendon White. White’s 18 tackles in the last two games leads the team and filled a huge hole at safety.

Michigan State’s quarterback carousel on Saturday might have been embarrassing, but there is no doubt that Ohio State was responsible for Michigan State’s struggles.  

Special Teams Wins Games

Can a punter win a Heisman? Wait, nevermind, he cannot even win Special Teams Player of the Week.

Yeah, that makes sense. It is not like Drue Chrisman hit six punts inside the twenty, five inside the ten, and four inside the five. The effort put Chrisman at No. 3 in the nation in punts inside the twenty with 24. He also has zero touchbacks, a testament to both him and his gunners. The specialist’s performance also tied him for eighth in the country for net yards per punt.

The ugly game was mostly a field position battle which, thanks to Chrisman, was easily won by the Buckeyes. The average Ohio State drive started on their own 42, much better than Michigan State’s average start on their own 20.

On a final note: why did Michigan State snap the ball out of the end zone? Dantonio was complimented for the decision, but was it the right move? Ohio State had scored on just one of 12 drives leading up to that moment and the Spartan defense was playing well. Giving up three free points and giving the ball back to Ohio State with similar field position to what they would have had makes this a bad decision by Dantonio.

Turnovers Made the Difference and Red Zone Scaries are Back

The two teams played to a stalemate for most of the game and in the end, turnovers were the difference. Ohio State scored 17 points off of three turnovers (19 on four if you add the stupid safety) and took advantage of its Michigan State’s mistakes. The +2 turnover margin extends the scarlet and gray’s national ranking to No. 19.

Back on offense, the red zone conversion was still less than stellar. Two touchdowns, a field goal, and a turnover is not a good rate. At the very least, Tate Martell will be exciting to watch; his dynamic play-style could give Ohio State a ton of options. Martell in the lineup adds that second runner in the backfield and will force team’s to respect the quarterback.

Last year, J.T. Barrett accounted for about a quarter of Ohio State’s 3,459 rushing yards. Needless to say, Haskins is accounting for much less than that. Martell gives the Buckeyes another wrinkle that will force teams to adjust and allows Meyer to run his patented zone read on third and short.

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