I am going to be continuing this series for the rest of the year for all of those who are interested. This is a play-by-play breakdown of the Ohio State offense against Tulsa. If you missed last week’s analysis, you can find it here. This is borrowing the format used on MgoBlog, who's latest article can be found here. Tomorrow, I will be releasing the defensive analysis.
A couple of notes first. I know it’s a dead horse at this point, but that broadcast was rough. Also, because it was zoomed in so much, it was sometimes tough to tell exactly what was happening. Furthermore, the camera would be looking at people on the sidelines and wouldn’t cut to the play until after the ball was snapped. I apologize for any inaccuracies.
I think with much of the talk surrounding the quarterback and Henderson’s big day, we should start with the offense this week. For those of you who want to know how the defense did first, I would highly recommend Kyle Jones’ article on the subject, which is phenomenal and describes everything I saw (and much more) from a schematic standpoint. That article can be found here.
Now for the play-by-play. Feel free to skip it; it is just there to show my work. There is a long winded discussion about CJ Stroud immediately following it, just to warn you.
|Time||Yard Line||Down||Distance||O Formation||D Package||Front||High||Type||Box||Play||Player||Yards||Notes|
|1Q 15:00||OSU 25||1||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Stack||2||Run||5.5||Inside Zone||Henderson||9||The camera work was suspect all day. Jones (+1) and Ruckert (+1) create a hole with Olave (+0.5) sealing the corner. Henderson gets what he should on this play.|
|1Q 14:30||OSU 34||2||1||Gun 3W||2-4-5||Over||2||Run||7||Mid Zone||Henderson||-1||Ruckert (-1) gets to his spot late, so Henderson (-1) feels the need to cut back, though I think if he would have followed the blocking toward the boundary, something would have opened up.|
|1Q 14:05||OSU 33||3||2||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Over||1||Run||7||Outside Zone||Henderson||3||Offensive line initially blocks well, but Jones (-0.5) should work his way up to the second level. Henderson gets what is expected.|
|1Q 13:34||OSU 36||1||10||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Tite||3||Pass||5.5||Smash||Henderson||5||Stroud looks for Smith-Njigba on the Smash concept but Smith-Njigba gets beat by the turf (-1 turf). Stroud works his way to the checkdown and makes a good throw to Henderson (+1) who makes a routine catch and makes a man miss.|
|1Q 13:03||OSU 41||2||5||Ace Twin TE||3-3-5||Stack||1||Run||8||Inside Zone||Henderson||2||Henderson (+0.5) gets hit by an unblocked defender, but bounces off. Jones (-1) clears out the block initially, but lets him go late. The guy he was blocking ends up making the tackle.|
|1Q 12:26||OSU 42||3||3||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Over||1||Pass||5||Slants||Wilson||0||Stroud makes an inaccurate pass to Wilson, who can't come down with the spectacular catch.|
|1Q 5:36||OSU 27||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Pass||6.5||Comeback||Olave||0||Olave stumbles out of his break. Stroud throws a good throw to the space. Uncatchable. Turf -1|
|1Q 5:32||OSU 27||2||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Over||1||RPO||5.5||RPO Glance||Wilson||20||Stroud makes a good read and throws a good pass to Wilson who makes a routine catch and gains a bit after the catch. Honestly, the run would have been successful too, but this was a good read.|
|1Q 5:09||OSU 47||1||10||Gun Twin TE Unbalanced||3-3-5||Tite||0||Run||7.5||Power||Henderson||6||Johnson (+1) and Rossi (+1) make good blocks to give Henderson a hole.|
|1Q 4:45||UT 47||2||4||Ace Twin TE Unbalanced||3-3-5||Stack||1||Run||8||Inside Zone||Henderson||2||The offensive-line blocks down. I don't know if they didn't expect the safety to come down, or what. The unblocked defender makes the tackle. Jones (-0.5) blocks nobody, though this looked to be a whole line issue, as each blocker should have blocked the man to their right.|
|1Q 3:50||UT 45||3||2||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Tite||1||Run||6||Inside Zone||Henderson||3||Petit-Frere (+2) makes a huge hole on the left side, but Henderson can't get there. Jones (+1) is able to push his man downfield. Henderson (+1) is hit before the line to gain, but is able to fall forward to get the first down.|
|1Q 3:30||UT 42||1||10||Ace Twin TE Unbalanced||3-3-5||Tite||2||Pass||7.5||PA Divide||Olave||0||Olave gets a good route (route +) to get him open. Stroud throws an uncatchable inaccurate ball.|
|1Q 3:15||UT 42||2||10||Ace Twin TE||3-3-5||Stack||1||Run||7||Outside Zone||Henderson||7||Ruckert (+1) makes a nice block on the outside. Henderson (-1) probably should have bounced this one outside. Seven yards is fine, but he had more.|
|1Q 2:47||UT 35||3||3||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Run||6.5||Mid Zone||Henderson||3||Ruckert (+2) gets a pancake. Munford (-1) gets beat inside which forces a curback. Henderson (-2) loses a huge fumble, but Petit-Frere recovers.|
|1Q 2:30||UT 32||1||10||Gun Twin TE Unbalanced||3-3-5||Stack||1||RPO||8||RPO Comeback||Olave||0||Stroud makes the correct read after the linebacker bites on the run. He makes an inaccurate pass to Olave, who cannot get the uncatchable ball.|
|1Q 2:20||UT 32||2||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Over||1||Run||8.5||Mid Zone||Henderson||6||Petit-Frere (+2) clears a massive hole on the left side of the line. Rossi (+1) gets a big block in another hold. Henderson (+1) bounces off a defender who had gotten by Wypler (-0.5).|
|1Q 1:47||UT 25||3||3||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Field||0||Run||8||Mid Zone||Henderson||-1||Wypler (-2) whiffs on the NT, while Matthew Jones (-2) doesn't pick up the linebacker or the nose tackle.|
|End of Quarter|
|2Q 10:40||OSU 36||1||10||Pistol Twin TE||3-3-5||Over||0||Pass||8||PA Flood||Ruckert||16||Great play call and good time for the play-action. Play-calling +1. Stroud makes a good throw and Ruckert makes a routine catch.|
|2Q 10:20||UT 48||1||10||Ace 3W||3-3-5||Over||0||Pass||6||PA Comeback||Wilson||0||Stroud makes an okay pass to Wilson, who can't come down with the difficult catch.|
|2Q 10:11||UT 48||2||10||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Pass||7||Slot Cross||Wilson||13||Stroud makes an okay pass to Wilson, who makes the difficult catch. This would be routine, but the turf had other ideas (Turf -0.5). Protection +1.|
|2Q 9:53||UT 35||1||10||Ace 3W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Pass||7||Slot Cross||Smith-Njigba||18||Ruckert (-1) gets beat and maybe should have been called for holding.|
|2Q 9:25||UT 17||1||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Tite||0||Run||6||Mid Zone||Henderson||12||Dawand Jones (+1) and Wypler (+1) have nice combo blocks. This is what running with a light box can do. Every defender was accounted for. This drive was so well called. Play-calling +1.|
|2Q 8:50||UT 5||1||5||Ace Twin TE||3-4||Base||0||Run||9||Belly Zone||Henderson||5||Dawand Jones (+2) cleared the huge hole for Henderson. Touchdown.|
|2Q 6:48||OSU 37||1||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Tite||0||Run||5||Mid Zone||Henderson||8||Dawand Jones (+1.5) seals off the edge after a nice combo block. Rossi (+1) gets a pancake.|
|2Q 6:13||OSU 45||2||2||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Tite||0||Penalty||6||Stover||-5||Stover (-1) false start.|
|2Q 6:05||OSU 40||2||7||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Boundary||0||Pass||6.5||Smash||Wilson||7||Stroud throws a good pass to Wilson (+1) who makes a routine catch and fights for extra yards.|
|2Q 5:25||OSU 47||1||10||Pistol Twin TE||3-3-5||Under||1||Run||8.5||Inside Zone||Henderson||4||I think Dawand Jones (+1) gives Henderson some room. But the line seemed to all be collapsing toward the middle, and they don't seem to do that often.|
|2Q 4:55||UT 49||2||6||Pistol Twin TE||3-3-5||Stack||1||Pass||6||PA Divide||Stroud||Int||Not sure what this play actually was. Stroud makes a bad read and throws into double coverage. Ruckert can't come down with the spectacular catch. I get why he didn't throw to Henderson, as Henderson wasn't looking. He still needs to throw it to him anyway.|
|2Q 3:31||OSU 20||1||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Over||1||Run||6||Inside Zone||Teague||8||Matthew Jones (+1.5) and Rossi (+1) create a big hole for Teague (+1) who keeps his legs churning for an extra three yards.|
|2Q 3:00||OSU 28||2||2||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Run||7||Inside Zone||Teague||18||Matthew Jones (+1.5) has a great combo block, held up by Petit-Frere (+0.5) and Wypler (+1). Teague follows the blocking.|
|2Q 2:40||OSU 46||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Run||6||Mid Zone||Teague||4||Johnson (+1) gives Teague a hole, which he is able to cutback into.|
|2Q 2:19||OSU 50||2||6||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Stack||2||Pass||7||Swing Pass||Teague||7||I love this playcall. Teague is at his best when he is on the edge, which I know is not something you will hear much from anyone else, but he usually makes the first guy miss and has blazing speed once he gets a full head of steam. It doesn't happen here, but the guy has a track record. Good pass from Stroud for a routine catch from Teague.|
|2Q 1:59||UT 43||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Over||1||Pass||7||Comeback||Wilson||13||Stroud throws a good pass to Wilson who makes a routine catch.|
|2Q 1:39||UT 30||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Fox||Fox||Run||Fox||Mid Zone||Teague||3||Dawand Jones (+2) creates a huge hole, but Teague (-1) doesn't wait for it to develop and heads up field too early.|
|2Q 1:09||UT 27||2||7||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Over||1||Run||7||Outside Zone||Teague||0||Johnson (-1.5) misses a man that hits Teague immediately, though Teague (+1) is able to break the tackle and get back to the line of scrimmage.|
|2Q 0:59||UT 27||3||7||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Under||0||Pass||8||Levels||Olave||0||Stroud (+2) somehow evades a sack and throws a perfect pass to Olave, who drops a routine catch. Field Goal.|
|End of Half|
|3Q 13:58||OSU 28||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Tite||0||Pass||7||PA Flood||Wilson||0||Stroud makes an okay pass to Wilson who can't come down with the spectacular catch. Good play-call (+1).|
|3Q 13:52||OSU 28||2||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Run||7||Power||Henderson||5||Ruckert (+1) and Petit-Frere (+1) make good blocks to free up Henderson, who is hit by a linebacker.|
|3Q 13:28||OSU 32||3||5||Gun Twin TE||3-3-5||Under||1||Pass||6||Mesh||Scott||16||Another great play-call to go to the guy who just subbed in (play-calling +1). I love when Day does that: goes to the guy who seems least likely to get the ball. Stroud throws a good pass to Scott (+1) who makes a routine catch, and gets yards after the catch.|
|3Q 13:00||OSU 48||1||10||Fox||Fox||Fox||Fox||Run||6||Mid Zone||Henderson||4||Matthew Jones (+0.5) gets downfield for a block, though Wypler (-1) gets little push.|
|3Q 12:36||UT 48||2||6||Pistol Twin TE||3-3-5||Boundary||1||Run||7||Mid Zone||Henderson||48||Ruckert (+2) completely clears his man; Dawand Jones (+1) does the same. Wilson (+1.5) makes a key block. Finally, Henderson (+2.5) makes the most of the space with a nice juke and finishing the run strong for a touchdown.|
|3Q 9:25||OSU 11||1||10||Ace Twin TE||3-3-5||Boundary||2||Run||6.5||Inside Zone||Henderson||7||Henderson (+1) gets hit after a yard, but spins off the defender to pick up another 6.|
|3Q 9:07||OSU 18||2||3||Gun 4W Tight Trips Bunch||3-3-5||Under||1||Run||7.5||Inside Zone||Henderson||1||Ruckert (-2) can't get to his block quick enough, blowing up the play. Johnson (+2) had a pancake. Henderson (-2) fumbles.|
|3Q 8:48||OSU 19||3||2||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Run||6.5||Mid Zone||Teague||2||Teague makes it through the small hole provided by Matthew Jones (+0.5). Wypler (-1) gets thrown backwards.|
|3Q 8:30||OSU 21||1||10||Gun 3W Trips||3-3-5||Stack||2||RPO||6||RPO Screen||Flemming||7||Stroud throws a good pass to Flemming (+1) who makes a routine catch, doing well after the catch.|
|3Q 8:11||OSU 28||2||3||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Tite||0||Run||7||Belly Zone||Teague||6||This is the other way Teague makes sense. Belly/Inside Zone and Swing passes. Teague (+1) re-gaps nicely to pick up a couple extra yards.|
|3Q 7:54||OSU 34||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Pass||6||Verticals||Stroud||-7||Dawand Jones (-2) and Johnson (-2) whiff on their guys. Johnson goes inside and ignores the guy coming at him, while Jones watches two guys run past him. Protection -2.|
|3Q 7:15||OSU 26||2||17||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Under||0||Pass||7||Mesh||Stroud||0||Wypler (-2) snaps the ball before Stroud calls for it, and probably should have been called for an illegal snap. Stroud faces immediate pressure since the offensive linemen were not ready.|
|3Q 7:01||OSU 26||3||17||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Stack||2||Run||5.5||Mid Zone||Teague||4||Safe call to make it easy to punt.|
|3Q 4:00||OSU 11||1||10||Pistol Twin TE||3-3-5||Tite||1||Run||8||Power||Henderson||39||Dawand Jones (+1) with a nice combo block. Matthew Jones (+1) has a nice block as well. Rossi (+1.5) blows another guy up. Henderson doesn't get touched until he is fifteen yards downfield. Henderson (+1.5) does get about 36 yards extra with his speed, but does commit offensive facemask.|
|3Q 3:47||OSU 50||1||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Stack||2||Pass||6.5||PA Slot Cross||Smith-Njigba||0||Wypler (-1.5) (protection -1.5) doesn't give Stroud much time, and he is hit as he throws, leading to an uncatchable ball to Smith-Njigba.|
|3Q 3:33||OSU 45||2||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Field||1||Penalty||False Start||Wypler||-5||False Start Wypler (-1).|
|3Q 3:33||OSU 45||2||15||Gun 5W||3-3-5||Wide||3||Pass||5||Divide||Smith-Njigba||15||Dawand Jones (-1) gives up immediate pressure to Stroud (pressure -1) who stays in the pocket to deliver a good pass to Smith-Njigba, who makes a routine catch.|
|3Q 3:00||UT 40||1||10||Pistol Twin TE||3-3-5||Stack||1||Penalty||6||False Start||Matthew Jones||-5||False Start Matthew Jones (-1)|
|3Q 2:48||UT 45||1||15||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Field||1||Pass||7||Verticals||Stroud||FUM||Dawand Jones (-2) doesn't really block anyone. Stroud has no time. Fumble.|
|3Q 0:55||OSU 28||1||10||Ace Twin TE||3-3-5||Tite||0||Run||7||Inside Zone||Henderson||3||Wypler (+1) clears a decent hole for Henderson. Unblocked defender gets to him. No lineman got to the second level.|
|3Q 0:33||OSU 31||2||7||Ace Twin TE||3-3-5||Stack||2||Pass||6||PA Flood||Stover||16||Stroud makes a good throw to Stover (+1), who makes a routine catch and fights for a couple extra yards.|
|3Q 0:07||OSU 48||1||10||Pistol Twin TE||3-3-5||Under||0||Run||9||Split Zone||Henderson||52||Henderson (+3) is a created player. Matthew Jones (+1.5) has an excellent block downfield. Olave (+1) and Wilson (+1) with nice blocks.|
|End of Quarter|
|4Q 12:02||OSU 32||1||10||Ace 3W||3-3-5||Tite||1||Pass||7.5||PA Post||Johnson||-15||Might also be a divide route. Honestly looks like the Curls play from NCAA football. Stroud throws a good plass to Olave, who makes a routine catch, but the play is called back to due an offensive facemask by Johnson (-2).|
|4Q 11:55||OSU 17||1||25||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Boundary||2||Pass||4.5||Smash||Ruckert||14||Protection (+1) gives time for Stroud to work through his progressions, which he does wonderfully. He gets to his third read and throws a good pass to Ruckert, who makes a routine catch.|
|4Q 11:16||OSU 31||2||11||Gun 4W||3-3-5||Tite||1||Run||5||Mid Zone||Henderson||3||Wypler (+1.5) gets a pancake. Johnson (-2) blocks no one, even though there is an unblocked linebacker.|
|4Q 10:37||OSU 34||3||8||Gun 4W Trips||3-3-5||Stack||1||Pass||6||Mesh||Wilson||4||Good play call to get Wilson (-2) open. Stroud throws a good pass to Wilson who makes the routine catch. Instead of continuing to run, however, Wilson stops to make a move, when continuing at his current speed would have led to a first down. Punt.|
|4Q 6:49||OSU 35||1||10||Ace Twin TE||3-3-5||Tite||0||Run||8||Inside Zone||Henderson||31||Olave (+2) and Ruckert (+1) lets Henderson (+2) get outside, where he uses his speed to pick up many extra yards.|
|4Q 6:12||UT 34||1||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Stack||1||Run||7||Power||Teague||11||Matthew Jones (+1.5) gets a big block on the edge with Ruckert (+1) also making a nice block.|
|4Q 5:49||UT 23||1||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Over||1||7||5||Offsides|
|4Q 5:35||UT 18||1||5||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Stack||0||Run||8||Inside Zone||Teague||4||Dawand Jones (+1) makes a nice block to give Teague some space|
|4Q 4:57||UT 13||2||1||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Stack||0||Run||7||Inside Zone||Teague||0||Teague (-1) stuffed on short yardage. Ruckert (+0.5) blocks down, but there were unblocked defenders getting to Teague.|
|4Q 3:58||UT 13||3||1||I-Form Twin TE||Goal Line||Over||0||Run||10||Power||Teague||1||Teague (+1) gets hit a yard back in the backfield, but powers ahead for the first down. Rossi (-1) and Johnson (-1) both block unnecessary men instead of the unblocked defenders.|
|4Q 3:32||UT 12||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Under||0||Run||8||Belly Zone||Teague||0||Wypler (+1) pushes his man five yards downfield. Petit-Frere (-1) and Dawand Jones (-1.5) get pushed around up front.|
|4Q 3:12||UT 12||1||10||Pistol Twin TE||3-3-5||Tite||0||Pass||8||PA Slants||Wilson||12||Protection (+1) gives time for Stroud to throw a good pass to Wilson who makes a routine catch for a touchdown.|
|End of Game|
The main take away from the game seems to be about CJ Stroud. While I know people are excited about Henderson after his huge game, I have seen many writers and commentators actively call for Stroud to be replaced. Some are calling for Stroud to be benched in favor of McCord or Miller due to poor performance. Others are doing it a little more indirectly, saying that, if Stroud is injured, one of the other guys should have a chance. The big question that needs to be answered is: should CJ Stroud continue to be Ohio State’s quarterback? A warning: this will be a long discussion touching on a lot of different things.
Let's go to his passing chart.
|CJ Stroud||Perfect||Good||Scramble||Pressure||Okay||Batted Down||Throw Away||Inaccurate||Bad Read||RPOs||Zone Reads||Score||Notes|
|Oregon||9||26||1||2||5||0||0||8||3||5/5||0||76.6||He's the real deal. Will be a Heisman Finalist.|
|Tulsa||1||14||0||2||3||0||1||3||1||3/3||1/1||75.0||Score is misleading. Day decreased the degree of difficulty after some early misses. I may have missed some hand-offs on the RPO. May also need to add a weighted score.|
As that note mentions, the grade that is given to Stroud is unusually high, but it was a much easier gameplan to execute against Tulsa. As you can see, he had far fewer “perfect” throws against Tulsa than he had against Oregon. These perfect throws are just NFL level throws. So even though the amount of good things he did in proportion to the amount of bad things he did was about equal, it was mainly due to the decreased degree of difficulty in this game, and the easier throws that were created for him. For example, the rollouts in this game to Ruckert with 10:40 left in the second quarter and to Stover with 0:33 in the third quarter were easy, wide open throws off of PA Flood. The runs to the left opened up a rollout to the right. With this knowledge, the similar scores make sense. It should be easier to perform against worse defenses. Oregon is a better defense, and he performed better against them making tougher throws, so this game was a big step back.
Let’s talk about the good and the bad.
We can start with the bad first, as it is probably what comes to mind after watching him. Stroud was inaccurate to start the game, again. While I think a lot of people recall him being inaccurate the whole game, this is largely untrue. He tightened it up as the game went along, though much of this is likely due to the easier throws that were being made, as mentioned previously. There were also a number of Mesh calls done in the game, which was a staple of the offense for J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins, who both were somewhat limited with downfield accuracy. Still, the point stands, which is that Stroud missed open guys early on, and seems to overthrow guys at a high clip.
The bigger point, and this is, I think, the main reason why people want Stroud benched: the offense as a whole looks clunky and isn’t scoring like it should given the weapons that it has. The wide receivers are amazing, the running backs look great, the offensive line was supposed to be one of the best in the country, and the play-caller is a genius. So why doesn’t the offense run at the explosive clip that we expect? Logically, the biggest unknown seems to be the quarterback, who has only played a few games, is young, and is clearly nervous. Also, he looks hurt. He has to be the reason the team isn’t playing well. I won’t go too far in depth with this because I feel like it is primarily the default position at this point.
The good in the game has more to do with his development rather than his performance. Everyone has bad games. I certainly don’t think he played anywhere near his best game. I do think it is more important to see if he learned anything, or may be able to eliminate issues in the future.
The best thing I saw Stroud do in the game was in the second half, when he started to underthrow receivers. By now, I think most people have noticed that Stroud has a tendency to overthrow balls, especially on deep passes and hitches. Early on in the game, Stroud had two passes to Olave, and one pass to Wilson that were overthrown high. The Olave one in particular was tough, since he was wide open. He also made a bad read where he overthrew Jeremy Ruckert with 4:55 remaining in the first half. He was consistently high in the first half throwing downfield.
Something happened at halftime. I don’t know if it was a coach, or Stroud had a self-evaluation, but he started to throw the ball differently afterwards. I know this was similar to Minnesota, but that seemed to be a case of nerves. He didn’t change much of what he was doing. This time, there really did seem to be a conscious change in his approach. First, he throws a comeback to Garrett Wilson that’s short, which analysts have never pointed to as typical. Almost immediately after this, he throws a ball to Gee Scott without putting any velocity on the ball on a Mesh call. I know the ball was tipped, but when you watch Stroud throw, it’s pretty clear that he isn’t trying to put much on this ball. The most obvious example was when he threw a deep ball to an open Olave where he actually had to slow down to get. Stroud made an adjustment. He was overthrowing, and after the half, he started underthrowing.
When you look at the play-by-play, all of his inaccurate passes were in the first quarter, with the bad read to Ruckert coming in the second quarter. After that, he was pretty sharp. In fact, that was the last bad ball he threw in the day that wasn’t due to pressure. If he has truly learned how to underthrow guys when they are wide open, I think his accuracy issues will seemingly disappear overnight. It’s hard to tell after one game, but sometimes, failure helps speed up learning, as it makes your issues glaringly obvious. He didn’t make the adjustment in the Oregon game because he was throwing dimes all over the place. When he suddenly couldn’t make those passes, he had to face the fact that he would need to sacrifice some precision to start completing more passes. I know it is a weird concept that “too perfect” placement of passes can cause inaccuracy, but I will explain it in detail in a bit. I touched on it in my last analysis as well, but I will try to be more specific for this one.
To discuss more of his high misses, I think some of it is nerves, but I think a lot of it is where his preferred miss is, and the way he tries to make a perfect pass every time. In the Oregon game, he would always try to put a spot in the perfect place, so that, even if a player was perfectly covered, the ball would be in a spot that the wide receiver could get to, but the defender would not be able to. I compare this to a baseball pitcher trying to paint the corners against the worst hitter on the other team. I understand wanting to master your craft and be the best as possible, but it’s unnecessary, and it makes it more likely that he will walk the worst hitter, thereby eliminating his advantage. Stroud was so good against Oregon in the middle of the game, that by the end of the game, when he needed to hit a wide open Garrett Wilson, he tried to place it perfectly, because it had worked all game. When he missed, even though it was once, it had sullied a masterpiece.
I want to expand upon the idea of the preferred miss, so I will once again use a baseball analogy. Whenever I pitched as a younger man, I would often throw curveballs. While I would usually try to throw them in the zone, I had a preferred miss down and away. While I couldn’t mitigate misses entirely, I could usually have them miss out of the strike zone rather than up in the strike zone. That way, I wouldn’t give up extra base hits, and would live to fight another day if I missed. While this isn’t perfect, it definitely does work, as a thrower/pitcher can bias their miss to a specific direction, and you see this at work a lot with CJ Stroud. Because while there has been a lot of talk about his misses high and hard, have you noticed his misses on comeback routes? They aren’t actually high and hard. They are almost always low and outside. In this game, he throws a comeback route to Wilson for his first pass of the second half, and he misses low. In the Minnesota game, he missed low on two other comeback routes. He is biasing his misses on these comeback routes low, because if he misses, the defender won’t be able to get to it. Why does he miss long on deep passes? He probably realizes (correctly) that he has fast receivers who can outrun most defenders. If he overthrows them, the worst that happens is an incompletion, while an underthrow can result in an interception. Therefore, he will bias his deep passes toward overthrows. This doesn’t apply when guys are wide open, however. Overthrowing guys will result in incompletions, while underthrowing guys will result in long passes that aren’t touchdowns. The long pass to Olave that was called back was the first ball I saw him underthrow, which is an improvement. I do still think he throws some overthrows because of inexperience. He tries to throw many passes way too hard, like the early slant to Wilson or the early deep ball to Olave. Neither one of those required that much steam. Having said that, it seems to me like he is still learning (and genuinely improving at) exactly how to miss throws, which is a surprisingly important skill. Anyone who has played golf knows the value of a good miss.
So with all that being said, there still is the question: should Stroud continue to be the quarterback? Let’s start with a different, but related question: what would Stroud have to do to be an unquestioned starting quarterback? The common criticisms seem to be regarding his accuracy down the field, his lack of pulling the ball while running zone reads, and the improvement of the general cohesiveness of the offense.
I have already addressed the accuracy concern. In my opinion, this is the most important concern, and a genuinely good reason to question his ability. If he has learned his lesson against Tulsa, and is a little more willing to underthrow the ball when guys are wide open, we may see those concerns disappear. If he has not, there is a genuine problem here.
The second concern is that CJ Stroud doesn’t keep the ball during zone reads. The issue is that Stroud hasn’t been running any zone reads. I have charted every single play from the Oregon and Tulsa games. In the Oregon game, he didn’t run a single zone read. In the Tulsa game, he ran one zone read, and he correctly handed it off since the end didn’t crash. This is assuming that the zone read is only for reading an unblocked defender at the line. While the Buckeyes still run plenty of runs from the Shotgun, this does not designate a read option. There needs to be an unblocked defender being read for it to be a read option. The reason why the runs aren’t working as well as people would like is because Ohio State is dealing with the unblocked defender in different ways. They use the pre-snap RPO screens to the WRs sometimes when they notice a numbers imbalance. This was done a lot in the Oregon game, which I think was the correct move, as Oregon was loading up the box. This is meant to help equalize numbers. The fact remains though, that when they run, they don’t utilize the quarterback’s running ability, thus giving the defense an extra numbers advantage if that pre-snap screen isn’t attached. This is a decision, I assume, from Ryan Day. Stroud is probably their most athletic quarterback. If he isn’t getting zone reads, I doubt any of the quarterbacks would be getting zone reads. Fields honestly rarely used them. Until this changes, they will have to figure out another way to consistently gain a numbers advantage in the box.
Finally, the last concern is a general cohesiveness of the offense. This is a concern that Stroud alone won’t be able to satisfy, but he can certainly help with. It is hard to address that point without talking about the rest of the team, which I will do later.
All of this is to say that if Stroud fixes his accuracy, he basically secures his legitimacy of being the Ohio State starting quarterback. Additionally, I think he showed progress toward improving his accuracy, so I am still fairly optimistic.
I also think the coaches are optimistic at this point, as they added several new formations to the playbook this week for Stroud, including adding a couple of different Ace sets, as well as an I formation set with Mitch Rossi as the fullback. If they are focusing on expanding his command of the offense, they are likely pretty sure he is capable of mastering the basics, though this is mostly conjecture. The main takeaway is that the Buckeye offense added a couple layers of complexity this week.
I will stop dancing around the question. Should CJ Stroud still be the starter at Ohio State? I say yes, because the upside from a different starter is far too low to justify a massive change in the lineup and a potential massive change in team chemistry.
Why do I say that a change in quarterback has a limited upside? We have seen Stroud miss many balls downfield. Surely a quarterback who can hit those throws would be a huge upgrade, right?
Right, if he did everything else as well as Stroud. I have said this before, but Stroud actually processes things pretty quickly and gets through his progressions faster than Fields did at the same point in his career. A lot faster. With 11:55 left in the fourth, he gets to his third read Ruckert after coming off of the Smash concept with Wilson and Smith-Njigba. This is not a universal trait, as even someone as good as Justin Fields needed a lot of time starting to begin to process things quickly. He also has a strong internal clock that allows him to get outside the pocket instead of taking a bunch of sacks, which Fields was notorious for. Case in point: on the ball Olave dropped on the last offensive play of the first half, Stroud exited the pocket just in time, broke a tackle in the pocket, and fired a dart to Olave. He has a lot of strong traits. Also, even though he has been inaccurate at times, the only reason this is remotely frustrating is because he always seems to throw to the open guy, which means that he is consistently finding the open guy. Stroud’s deficiencies are obvious, while his strengths are more subtle.
I keep comparing Stroud to Fields, and while it may seem like I am bashing Fields, I am not. I think he is the best to come through Ohio State. So when I say that Stroud does some things even better, this is a good sign for Stroud.
I also say there’s limited upside because of his performance thus far relative to great players in the past and contemporaries. While he hasn’t been perfect, he has managed to throw for 9.5 Yards per attempt (YPA) this year. That means that every time Stroud drops back to pass, he is going to average throwing for 9.5 yards. To put this in perspective, I have listed some notable quarterbacks from the last few years to give you some context as to how good this number really is:
The list of quarterbacks are essentially divided up into three groups: Ohio State legendary seasons, elite quarterbacks/Heisman winners of the last decade, and notable contemporaries. I want to point out a few things. First, CJ Stroud, to this point in the season, even after the bad game against Tulsa, has a higher YPA than any quarterback that I could find at Ohio State. This doesn’t mean he is playing the best, some of it could be due to inferior competition. But as of right now, his production is right on track with some of the all-time greats at Ohio State. He needs to clean up the turnovers, though.
As for the Heisman winners, he isn’t quite there yet. Usually, to win a Heisman these days, you need a YPA above 10.0 to be considered as a pocket passer. While Stroud isn’t there yet, he isn’t that far off. This is why I talk about limited upside. How good does the quarterback need to be? If he is performing at this high of a level, it is hard to get much better. Not impossible, but hard. Is it really worth risking the team’s performance and chemistry, especially when a guy is doing this well statistically?
Finally, I threw in a couple contemporaries to further illustrate Stroud’s play this year, and add some context. Spencer Rattler, the potential top quarterback taken in the draft, and Stroud’s fellow Californians from the 2020 class, Bryce Young and D.J. Uiagalelei. Bryce Young has been solid (similar to Trevor Lawrence’s freshman season), Rattler has been barely competent, and Uiagalelei has not been good.
With further regards to upside, Ohio State is currently ranked #1 in offense for SP+, and #2 in offensive efficiency in SP+ behind Alabama. These are good spots to be. Some of the numbers seem to be saying that, with the amount of production Ohio State is having on offense, they project forward to being the best offense in the country. Some of the lack of scoring is a result of bad luck and untimely mistakes. Bad luck and untimely mistakes don’t consistently help teams, so it’s reasonable to assume that they will regress to the mean and start scoring more points.
I don’t think there’s much else to talk about with regards to Stroud. I think a reasonable person can want to see him benched, or can believe that benching him would be a mistake. As I have said, I don’t quite see the upside that others are seeing with a change, but I don’t dismiss it entirely, because I think the concerns of accuracy (and, consequently, efficiency) are valid, especially after the Tulsa game. Repeated games of this low level of efficiency will cause me to revisit this question. Since it was only one game though, and it is only the third game of the season, I think it is too early to worry. I think this week will provide some more answers. There should be plenty of wide open receivers for Stroud to overthrow/hit.
The other big event this week was the dominance of the running attack, led by Henderson. The running chart is posted below.
|Nicholas Petit-Frere||5.5||1||4.5||Solid, but not dominant. Not as many cutbacks as against Oregon.|
|Thayer Munford||0||1||-1||Significant loss, Matthew Jones needs to step up.|
|Luke Wypler||5.5||9||-3.5||Really awful for the first half of the game. Offense started improving as soon as he did.|
|Paris Johnson Jr.||4||8.5||-4.5||Another rough game. Makes it tough to run to the right side against any type of resistance.|
|Dawand Jones||12||8.5||3.5||Inconsistent, but showed a lot of promise in the run game. Still blocks nobody way too often.|
|Matthew Jones||8||3||5||Best offensive lineman all day. Well deserved champion filling in on short notice.|
|Total||35||31||4||Pretty mediocre day. The right side of the line is pretty leaky. Single biggest problem on offense right now.|
|CJ Stroud||2||0||2||Escaped an early sack impressively. Coaches are not using him in the run game.|
|Treyveon Henderson||13.5||6||7.5||Treyveon Henderson is a created player in NCAA 14. Fumbles keep him from an absurd score.|
|Master Teague||4||2||2||Solid option. Teague isn't a gamebreaker, but is just fine spelling the running back.|
|Total||19.5||8||11.5||Huge bright spot for the offense, and something to build off of.|
|Chris Olave||3.5||0||3.5||Made some great blocks on the edge. Contributed a lot, even without getting the ball.|
|Garrett Wilson||3.5||2||1.5||Made some good blocks, but he missed a third down conversion by slowing down after getting a pass on a shallow cross.|
|Jaxon Smith-Njiba||0||0||0||Didn't see too much in the run game.|
|Julian Flemming||0||0||0||Limited Action|
|Jeremy Ruckert||9.5||4||5.5||Much better blocking day than with Oregon. Tough to tell if that's actual improvement or Tulsa.|
|Cade Stover||1||1||0||I think he has potential in this spot, but still needs time to develop. Rarely used as lead blocker.|
|Mitch Rossi||5.5||1||4.5||Very impressive|
|Gee Scott Jr.||1||0||1||Excited for his development.|
|Total||24||8||16||Rossi Looks good.|
|Protection||3||4.5||-1.5||Ouch. I definitely missed some, but this is still not good either way against Tulsa.|
|Play Calling||3||0||3||Just fine. Definitely not opening up the playbook. Some execution is preventing this from being higher.|
First, let’s talk about the obvious; Treyveon Henderson is insane. I wrote “Treyveon Henderson is a created player in NCAA 14,” because of some of his absurd runs. The first long touchdown run was perhaps his most impressive. Though good blocking allowed him to get outside, the subtle juke move while maintaining his speed, followed by a strong finish at the goal line was one of the more impressive runs I have seen in a while. That was the type of run that no other running back on the roster could have made, and I think only a select few across the country could have.
He wasn’t perfect; the two fumbles could have been disastrous in a game that close. Ball security has benched many a talented runner. Early in the game, I thought he was also a little impatient with waiting for his blocks to develop. For example, with 3:15 to go in the first quarter, he cut up field as soon as he could instead of continuing to bounce it further outside, where the linemen were successfully blocking. It probably lost him yardage. Later in the game though, this was not a problem. I think starting and playing a full game allowed him to get comfortable and become more patient with the blocking. With 4:00 to go in the third, Henderson bounces the ball outside after getting the blocking necessary to get to the corner. After that, with his elite speed, he gained an extra 36 yards on a 39 yard run. He started to utilize his talents much better. Though sometimes I think he can try to hit the homerun at the wrong time (as he did in the Oregon game), he is unbelievable when he stays patient. Unreal game.
Teague did just fine. I think he works well as a running back to spell the starter. I also think that he is kind of an unusual back who should only be asked to do certain things. My favorite play call for him is actually a swing pass, which they did with 2:19 remaining in the second quarter. While in this game he merely got the first down, I can’t count how many times over the past two years where Teague has gotten the ball on the edge, and the first player has no chance to tackle him. He’s big for a running back, and he genuinely has excellent top end speed. That’s a lot of momentum for any defender to stop. I know it’s not how most people envision him functioning in an offense, but I think it is where his value is highest. Also, I would rather see him be a checkdown in passing situations, as he is not the pass protector that Williams or Henderson is, but is dangerous when he gets in space.
Speaking of Williams, there has been a lot of discussion about why he didn’t play on Saturday. I won’t speculate too much, so I will just go on what Ryan Day said in his press conference. Williams didn’t play because he missed practice due to illness. While some people might think this is too harsh, I get why they did it. You have to maintain a strong culture. If you have instances of starters skipping practice for anything, even if it is for a good reason, then others will attempt to take advantage as well. Making a zero tolerance policy for skipping practice enforces the idea that practice is mandatory. While this may seem like a no-brainer, I have seen teams where this is not the case. This policy isn’t Ohio State specific, either; I would think it is fairly common. I don’t blame them, and I don’t expect this to happen again.
The offensive line was, uh, not quite as good in the running game. Matthew Jones came in and did great. Nicholas Petit-Frere was solid as always. The other three were less reliable. Dawand had his moments. He still blocks nobody far too often for my taste (3Q 7:54 and 3Q 2:48), but he is starting to assert his dominance in the run game, which I hope continues. He helped Henderson and Teague out a lot today. For Teague, he opened up a huge hole with 1:39 to go in the second quarter, but Teague headed up field too early. For Henderson, he was the biggest reason Henderson scored on his first five yard touchdown with 8:50 left in the second quarter. He might be the most frustrating offensive lineman to watch, because he looks great at some points and horrible at others.
Wypler and Johnson struggled, unfortunately. Wypler at least improved as the game went on, and his performance is directly correlated with the offensive production. When he struggled, the whole offense struggled. When he succeeded, they did great. He needs to perform at a higher level for this offense to function. Johnson has really had a hard time over the past couple of games. If Matthew Jones continues to play at a high level, I think it will be hard to take him of the field, but Thayer Munford is probably your best lineman at this point. Johnson might be the odd man out, though it is too early to tell. It’s nice to know that Matthew Jones may have given the Buckeyes a few options going forward. Johnson is also tremendously talented, and sometimes it takes a second for the light to come on. Let’s hope that this is the case.
Finally, the wide receivers didn’t get a ton of action, so the discussion will be relatively short. Here’s the chart:
|Chris Olave||0/3||0/1||Still contributed as a blocker. He was open multiple times. Just didn't have the luck.|
|Garrett Wilson||0/2||1/2||5/5||Very difficult to cover still. Would like to see a little better after the catch.|
|Jaxon Smith-Njigba||0/1||2/2||Lots of two TE sets got him less playing time.|
|Julian Flemming||1/1||Good to see him getting reps in two straight competitive games.|
|Jeremy Ruckert||0/1||2/2||It's not a lot, but it's more than Ohio State usually throws to the tight end.|
|Cade Stover||1/1||Nice catch and run|
|Treveyon Henderson||1/1||Honestly provides a lot in the pass protection game as well as being the checkdown.|
|Gee Scott Jr.||1/1||First Catch.|
First and foremost, Olave made some really key blocks in the running game to spring Henderson a few different times. This is one of those games where even though Olave didn’t catch anything, he still managed to contribute in a significant way to the team’s success. While I know that some people have questioned the culture at Ohio State with everything that’s been going on, Olave’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by me, and I am sure they didn’t go unnoticed by the running backs either. It’s extremely refreshing when your captain does the dirty work, even when they are a super star. I was especially impressed with his block on Henderson’s 31 yard run with 6:49 left in the fourth quarter, where he and Ruckert sealed off the edge, on inside zone, allowing Henderson to bounce it all the way to the outside for a huge gain.
Mitch Rossi is also a wonderful throwback, and probably the best blocker of the “tight ends,” even though Rossi is clearly a fullback. I like seeing him out there, and I think he helps the run game out significantly when he makes an appearance.
Defensive analysis will be posted tomorrow. Go Bucks.