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Rutgers - Defensive Play by Play Analysis

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saltybuck61's picture
October 7, 2021 at 6:40pm

This is the defensive play-by-play analysis for the Rutgers game. This series is borrowing a format used at MGoBlog, the latest of which is located here. Last week’s defensive analysis is located here.

The defense has been the biggest concern of the team thus far. While the offense is now rated as the best in the country according to SP+, the defense still has some work to do. So far though, early returns on the Matt Barnes experiment seem to be promising. Coming into this game, the major questions were of consistency. Sure, the performance against Akron was impressive, but that doesn’t tell us much. Was the performance against Akron a fluke? Also, will the defense continue to change and evolve as the season goes on?

Before the play-by-play chart, I just wanted to mention a quick change for the rest of the series on defense. I am going to be classifying the Bullet position as a defensive back, as it has essentially become just a classic strong safety, where the cover safety has essentially evolved into a nickleback.

Here is the play-by-play chart for the defense:

Play-by-Play Analysis vs Rutgers
Time Yard LIne Down Distance O Formation D Package Front High Type Rush Play Player Yards Notes
First Quarter                          
14:55 RU 13 1 10 Gun 4W Trips Bunch 4-2-5 Field 2 Pass 4 Fake Screen Streak Bank 15 Banks (-1) called for pass interference. I thought it was a little touchy. Coverage -1
14:50 RU 28 1 10 Gun 3W Y Flex 4-2-5 Over 2 Read Option   Inverted Veer Tuimoloau 6 Tuimoloau forces the play inside, where Simon (+0.5) and Jackson (+0.5) get a tackle after a decent gain. 
14:28 RU 34 2 4 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 Under 2 Read Option   Inverted Veer Harrison 1 Harrison (+1) read, forces give outside. Banks (+0.5) and Martinez (+0.5) forces a cutback inside, where Harrison gets a stop.
13:56 RU 35 3 3 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Pass 4 PA RB Flat Shaw 11 Good time to call the play-action, as the linebackers get sucked inside, especially Simon (-1). Shaw (+0.5) makes a decent tackle to limit the damage. Tackling +0.5. Play-calling -1.
13:27 RU 46 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 2 Read Option   Split Zone Read Simon 2 Tuimoloau (+1) is read, forcing the run inside. Simon (+1) makes a good tackle inside. Tackling +1.
13:18 RU 48 2 8 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Pass 4 Streak Burke 0 Burke (+1) gives no room for a throw, which is off target anyway. Coverage +1.
12:53 RU 48 3 8 Gun 3W Y Flex 4-2-5 Under 2 Pass 4 HB Screen Burke 0 Looks like Cover 6 on the third down. OSU not fooled by the screen. Burke (+1) and Mitchell are right there, if the catch was made. Coverage +1.5.
12:48 RU 48 4 8 Punt Formation 4-2-5 Punt Safe Wide 2 Pass 4 Fake Punt Slant Martinez 0 Simon (+1) and Martinez (+1.5) are there to break up the pass. Martinez dropped the pick six. Turnover on Downs.
12:06 RU 10 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 Over 2 Run   Buck Sweep Mitchell 0 Harrison (+1) does a great job keeping contain. Mitchell (+1) comes down hard to make the tackle.
11:44 RU 10 2 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Pass 4 Slants Burke INT TD Great call to go to Cover-2 against a man beater. Martinez (+1.5) jumps in front of the route, while Burke (+2) stays over the top of the route, catching a pick, and running it back. Coverage +2. Play-calling +1.
11:33 RU 25 1 10 Gun 3W Y Flex 4-2-5 Under 2 Pass 4 Bubble Screen Hickman 3 Hickman (+1) comes down hard after Banks (+0.5) does a nice job of forcing the receiver inside.
11:14 RU 28 2 7 Gun 3W Trips Tight 4-2-5 Under 1 Pass 4 Split Flow Williamson 2 Williamson (+1.5) makes a great tackle in space. He might be the best tackler in space on the team. Tackling +1.5. 
10:44 RU 30 3 5 Pistol 3W 4-2-5 4-3 Over 1 Pass 6 PA H-Back Screen Hamilton 0 Rutgers called the perfect time for a screen, as OSU was blitzing heavy, but Vedral misses the throw. Hamilton the closest to the running back. Play-calling -1. Punt.
5:45 RU 25 1 10 Gun 4W Trips Bunch 4-2-5 Boundary 1 Read Option   Zone Read Williamson 3 Williamson (+1) seals the edge and makes a nice play to stop the run, with Eichenberg (+0.5) helping to clean up. Jean-Baptiste being read and forces a keep. DE's are well-coached on these. Tackling +1.
5:22 RU 27 2 8 Pistol Twin TE 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 PA Flood Burke 0 Vincent (+1) gets pressure and forces a quick throw. Burke (+1) has good coverage. Coverage +1. Pressure +1.
5:09 RU 27 3 8 Gun 3W Y Flex 4-2-5 2-4-5 Under 2 Pass 2 Spacing Eichenberg 7 Dropping 9 here, which may have been an accident. Either way, the coverage is good, and Vedral decides to run, where Eichenberg (+0.5) is the first to make contact and makes a good tackle. Tackling +0.5. Coverage +1. Play-calling +1. Punt.
2:34 RU 25 1 10 Gun 3W Tight 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 5 PA Slant Hickman 75 Hickman (-2) attacks this like it is a shallow cross, but it is a slant. A little too aggressive. Supposedly Barnes said that this was his fault, so I will agree for now. Play-calling -1. Coverage -1. Touchdown.
Second Quarter                          
12:25 RU 19 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Pass 4 Mesh Mitchell 0 Tuimoloau (+0.5) gets decent push that forces a throw to a receiver covered by Mitchell (+1). Coverage +1.
12:19 RU 19 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Pass 4 Swing Pass Simon 5 Simon (+0.5) gets off his block quickly and makes a tackle to limit yardage.
11:52 RU 24 3 5 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 HB Flat Burke 6 Burke (-0.5) has underneath coverage, but hesitates to come down. This is probably just a lack of playing Cover-2. Coverage -0.5.
11:25 RU 30 1 10 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 Under 2 Read Option   End Around Inverted Veer Tuimoloau 7 Tuimoloau gets read on the play, and forces the give outside. Hickman (+0.5) makes a nice open field tackle. Tackling +0.5. Play-calling -1.
11:02 RU 37 2 3 Pistol Twin TE 4-2-5 Under 2 RPO   RPO Screen Hickman 4 Hickman (+0.5) comes down hard on the screen pass. Banks gets a good push as well. Tackling +0.5.
10:42 RU 41 1 10 Gun 3W Tight 4-2-5 Over 2 Run   End Around Hickman 3 Mitchell (+0.5) and Hickman (+0.5) are there immediately on the tackle. I can't tell if Banks purposefully went inside, or if he was supposed to keep contain. Nonetheless, the run was limited.
10:04 RU 44 2 7 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Read Option   Zone Read Simon 4 Cormontae Hamilton (+0.5) is read on this play. Simon (+0.5) makes a nice tackle in the hole. Cormontae Hamilton also gets back into the play. Tackling +0.5.
9:34 RU 48 3 3 Pistol Twin TE 4-2-5 4-4 Stack 1 RPO   RPO Flat Hickman 1 Hickman (+1.5) is read on this play. Mitchell (+0.5) stays on the QB, forcing him to throw to the TE. Hickman forces a bad read and makes a tackle to force fourth down.
8:59 RU 49 4 2 Gun 3W 4-2-5 4-3 Over 1 Run   QB Counter Jackson 1 Jackson (+2) stops the QB immediately after hitting him. He makes this stop almost by himself. Turnover on downs.
6:21 RU 15 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Pass 4 HB Flat Williamson 0 Williamson (+2) recognizes this play immediately from the last drive, which they got a first down on. He blows up the play immediately. Sheesh. Coverage +2. 
6:16 RU 15 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 4-3 Field 1 Pass 4 Swing Pass Mitchell 7 Mitchell (-1.5) has Pacheco in the backfield, but he misses a tackle. Hickman pushes him out. Tackling +1.5.
5:41 RU 22 3 3 Gun 3W Trips Bunch 4-2-5 2-4-5 Boundary 2 Pass 5 Spacing Simon -2 Simon (+0.5) gets pressure and forces Vedral to step up in the pocket, where Jean-Baptiste (+1) and Sawyer (+1) combine for the sack. Sawyer gets good coverage too. Pressure +2. Coverage +1. Punt.
3:18 RU 19 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Pass 4 Mills Ransom 0 No pressure. Ransom (+1) has good coverage downfield, with Hickman (+0.5) and Chambers (+0.5) in position. Coverage +1.5. Pressure -1.
3:12 RU 19 2 19 Gun 3W 4-2-5 4-3 Over 1 Pass 4 Checkdown Jean-Baptiste -9 Jean-Baptiste (+2) pushes back the tackle trying to get out to the running back. He blows up the screen as soon as the running back catches the ball. Vincent (+1) gets a good bull rush. Coverage +2. Pressure +1. 
2:43 RU 10 3 19 Gun 4W 3-2-6 Base 2 Pass 3 Verticals Scramble Hickman 4 Vincent (+1) and Harrison (+1) get good pressure, forcing Vedral to scramble for a short gain, tackled by Hickman (+0.5). Pressure +2. Punt.
Third Quarter                          
10:15 RU 22 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 RPO   RPO Screen Martinez 5 Martinez (+0.5) gets out quickly to stop the RPO Screen for a modest gain, though he was caught inside a little. Tackling +0.5.
9:53 RU 27 2 5 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 RPO   RPO Screen Martinez 7 Martinez (-0.5) does not expect the same read twice, and gets sucked up even more by the run. Coverage -0.5.
9:31 RU 34 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Ohio Shaw 6 Martinez (-1) again doesn't get over to his zone, but Shaw (+1.5) makes an aggressive play from the deep safety position to limit the damage. Coverage -1.
9:12 RU 41 2 3 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Read Option   Inverted Veer Tuimoloau 2 Tuimoloau (+1) is read, but he manages to make the tackle anyway after the QB keeps.
8:42 RU 43 3 1 Gun Split Back 4-2-5 4-3 Under 2 Run   Power Garrett 1 Garrett (+1.5) and Mitchell (+0.5) combine to make the stop, forcing fourth down.
8:18 RU 43 4 1 Gun Split Back 4-2-5 4-4 Over 1 Read Option   Zone Read Harrison 1 Harrison is read, as he tries to stuff the middle. Vedral pulls, but Jackson (+1.5) nearly blows it up in the backfield. Barely converts.
7:50 RU 44 1 10 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 QB Draw Martinez 12 Martinez (+0.5) gets an open field tackle. Tackling +0.5. Play-calling -1. All of the defensive linemen got a little excited since they rarely get to rush the QB. 
7:18 OSU 44 1 10 Pistol Twin TE 4-2-5 Under 1 Read Option   Zone Read Simon 9 Martinez is flying down on the corner blitz, but can't get to the running back. Mitchell (-1) needs to get to that gap sooner. 
6:52 OSU 35 2 1 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 4-3 Under 2 Read Option   Inverted Veer Hickman 4 Harrison forces the give outside. Banks (-0.5) doesn't keep contain. Shaw (-1) can't make the tackle. Tackling -1. Hickman (+0.5) gets there quickly.
6:30 OSU 31 1 10 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 Over 1 Read Option   Zone Read Simon 1 Simon (+1) and Mitchell (+1) blow this play up. Play-calling +1.
5:52 OSU 30 2 9 Gun 3W 4-2-5 4-3 Under 2 Read Option   Inverted Veer Martinez 2 Jean-Baptiste forces a handoff. Martinez (+1) does a great job to get off of a block, while Hickman (+1) cleans up behind him. Big stop. Martinez keeps creeping closer to the box to help on these options.
5:21 OSU 27 3 6 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 4-3 Under Read Option   Inverted Veer Hickman 0 Jean-Baptiste forces a handoff. Martinez (+1) does a great job to get off of a block, while Hickman (+1) cleans up behind him. Big stop. Martinez keeps creeping closer to the box to help on these options.
4:31 OSU 27 4 6 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Verticals Eichenberg INT Pressure gets to the QB immediately from Harrison (+2). The ball flutters up in the air where Eichenberg (+2) is in the right position to grab it. Pressure +2. Coverage +2. Play-calling -1, as Rutgers would have had a man open down the seam.
1:05 RU 22 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Jailbreak Screen Eichenberg 1 Eichenberg (+1.5) closes on the receiver quickly, getting a fast stop. Tackling +1.5.
0:38 RU 23 2 9 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Spacing Chambers 4 Chambers (+0.5) with good coverage and makes an immediate tackle. Coverage +0.5
0:15 RU 27 3 5 Gun 3W Y Flex 4-2-5 3-3-5 Tite 2 Pass 5 Verticalsish Ransom 23 Pressure -1.5. Ransom (-1) on the coverage. Coverage (-1). Marcus Williamson ripping at the ball while tackling.
Fourth Quarter                          
15:00 RU 50 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 4-3 Under 2 Pass 5 Verticals Watts INT Tyleik Williams (+2) and Kourt Williams (+1) combine to force a poor throw to Watts (+2) who makes the pick. Coverage +2. Pressure +2. Play-calling +2. Interception. Williams at 1-tech here.
12:46 RU 30 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 4-3 Under 2 RPO   RPO Screen Hooker 6 Hooker (+0.5) makes a good tackle. Tackling +1. 
12:18 RU 36 2 4 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Read Option   Down G Tuimoloau -3 Tuimoloau (+1.5) forces the play outside, but the QB makes the wrong read, so JTT gets a TFL. Craig Young is being used as a slot corner/cover safety.
11:54 RU 33 3 7 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 1 Pass 5 Ohio K. Williams 13 Tyleik Williams (+1) gets pressure. Kourt Williams (-0.5) doesn't get to his zone in time. Play-calling -1. Pressure +1. Coverage -0.5. Quick passes are helpful against the blitz. 
11:15 RU 46 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Hitch Watts 6 Kacherski (+0.5) has decent coverage, but Watts is the one that gets the tackle. Tackling -0.5.
10:39 OSU 48 2 4 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Read Option   Split Zone Read Batsch 11 Sawyer (-1) read, but doesn't squeeze down. Kacherski (-1) gets caught inside. Watts and Batsch on the tackle. 
10:17 OSU 37 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 RPO   RPO Screen Young 7 Young (-1) and Batsch (+0.5) make the tackle. Young has to get over sooner.
9:45 OSU 29 2 2 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Under 2 Pass 4 Fake Screen Streak McKenzie 3 Buckeyes get good coverage on streak, so they throw the screen pass. McKenzie (+2) gets all the way over from the DT spot and forces a fumble for a meager gain of three yards.
9:13 OSU 26 1 10 Gun 3W Trips Unbalanced 4-2-5 Under 2 RPO   RPO Screen Sawyer 0 Sawyer (+2) gets a deflection at the line to prevent the screen from occuring.
9:05 OSU 26 2 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Boundary 2 Run   QB Draw Batsch 1 Batsch (+1.5) makes a nice stop in the hole, while Young (+0.5) keeps contain.
8:42 OSU 25 3 9 Gun 3W 4-2-5 4-3 Over 2 Pass 4 Checkdown Kacherski 8 Kacherski (-1) misses the tackle in open space, but it takes another three defenders to make the tackle. Tackling -1.5
7:58 OSU 17 4 1 Ace Twin TE Tight 4-2-5 4-3 Boundary 2 Run   QB Sneak None 5 Ohio State not set for sneak, and gets a penalty for illegal substitution. 
7:53 OSU 12 1 10 Gun 3W Trips 4-2-5 4-3 Over 1 Pass 4 Screen Carrico 12 Hooker (-0.5) gets caught oustside, Carrico (-1) can't make the tackle. Cormontae Hamilton has a nice effort, but can't make the tackle either. Tackling -1.5.
6:13 RU 27 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 1 Pass 4 Screen Young 3 The Fake Screen doesn't work again. Young (+0.5) makes a tackle in bounds. Coverage +0.5
5:53 RU 30 2 7 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Smash Kacherski 9 Kacherski (-1) can't make the tackle on the receiver he is covering. Hancock (+0.5) cleans up. Coverage -1.
5:33 RU 39 1 10 Gun 3W 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Uh T. Williams -12 Tyleik Williams (+2) just murdered a man. My goodness. Pressure +2
4:52 RU 26 2 22 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Over 2 Run   QB Draw K. Williams 11 Kourt Williams (+0.5) makes a decent open field tackle. Tackling +0.5
4:37 RU 38 3 11 Gun 4W Trips 4-2-5 Over 2 Pass 4 Checkdown Kacherski 10 Kacherski (+1) is all over the running back and makes the tackle. Coverage +1.
3:53 RU 49 4 1 Gun Split Back 4-2-5 4-3 Over 1 Run   Split Zone Young 4 Execution was fine. Good play call by Rutgers. Play-callling -1.
3:32 OSU 48 1 10 Gun 4W 4-2-5 Field 2 Pass 4 Screen McCall 0 McCall (+2) blows up the screen. 
3:07 OSU 46 2 8 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 4-3 Under 2 Read Option   End Around Inverted Veer Hancock 5 Hancock (+1) makes a nice play after Sawyer forces the give.
2:33 OSU 40 3 3 Gun Twin TE 4-2-5 Over 2 Read Option   Split Zone Read Sawyer 2 Sawyer (+1.5) was the read man, but forced the give and made the tackle anyway. Athletic.
1:56 OSU 38 4 1 Goal Line Goal LIne Goal LIne 1 Run   Sneak Kacherski 0 Kacherski (+1) was the one who made the hit.
End of Game.                          

That looked pretty smothering, but Rutgers has a horrid offense, maybe even the worst the Buckeyes have seen so far. The results from this game may not carry over into the future. The defensive alignments were probably the most interesting result from this game. Kyle Jones pointed out this change in the film study this week, but it is worth repeating that this is a massive structural departure from what was going on three weeks ago. Last week, they split between 1-high safety and 2-high safeties about 50% of the time. Against Oregon, it was over 90% single high. Against Rutgers, 15 snaps had a single high safety, while 56 snaps had 2-high safeties. This is an entirely different defense. With this change has come a lot more Cover-2, Cover-4, and Cover-6. While I haven’t been in the camp of needing to see a new defensive scheme, as, when executed, the previous scheme worked fine, I do like the versatility of being able to run both. Additionally, it is really nice to know that Ryan Day is willing to make a necessary adjustment mid-season, even if it is nearly impossible. I know that there was lots of talk about Day being unwilling to change his philosophy to a 2-high safety base defense, but it seems as if that has happened in the last month. It is good to see Day willing to make necessary adjustments, and it is great to see Barnes doing well in his new role.

I know I just mentioned that Ohio State’s defensive success against Rutgers should be taken with a liberal application of salt, but there is a stat that seems to suggest that Ohio State’s improvements on defense are real. At least, so far. College Football Nerds on Youtube has a great stat that they use for their computer model, which is Percentage of Opponents Average Allowed with regards to yards per carry (YPC) and yards per attempt (YPA). It is a way of adjusting your defensive performance to your competition level. If you are playing a bunch of great offenses, your cumulative, or even per game defensive stats aren’t going to look as good as they might otherwise look if you were playing a bunch of cupcakes. By comparing your defensive performance to how the other teams’ offenses usually perform, you can have an estimate of what you are expected to give up against any given opponent.

Here’s an example: suppose your Team A allows 95% of opponent averages on the ground, and 105% of opponent averages through the air on defense. They are playing Team B this week. Team B averages 4.5 YPC and 8.0 YPA on offense. In this scenario, we would expect Team B to get a little less than what they usually average, with 4.5*0.95 = 4.28 YPC and 8.0*1.05 = 8.4 YPA. This means that Team A has a better than average run defense, and a worse than average pass defense.

So here is where it gets interesting: Ohio State currently allows 92% of opponent YPC, and 87% of opponent YPA, meaning that Ohio State’s defense, even including the Oregon and Minnesota games, have played better than average this year. The Oregon game was especially rough, with 88% of their average YPA allowed (pretty good), and 140% of their average YPC allowed (apocalyptically bad).82%

For some context, here are some other defenses from past and present to compare it to:

% of Opponent Averages Allowed
Team % of YPC Allowed % of YPA Allowed
Average p5 defense 95% 95%
elite p5 defense 63% 73%
2021 ohio state (total) 92% 87%
2021 Penn State 85% 84%
2021 Alabama 82% 86%
2020 Ohio State 85% 106%
2019 lsu 78% 87%
2019 ohio state 67% 74%
2021 ohio state (barnes) 74% 82%

Why did I include these particular teams? First, because this year’s Penn State and Alabama teams are considered to be great defenses, though not elite, and they are fairly comparable to Ohio State this year, even with the Oregon loss. I also included last year’s Ohio State team to show that, so far, Ohio State has been much better on defense than they were last year, which might surprise some. 2019 LSU was included to show what I think should be the goal for this team by the end of the year. With arguably the best offense in the country right now, Ohio State can win a national championship with a very good, but not elite defense. I also included 2019 Ohio State to have an elite defense to compare it to. The obvious takeaway? The improvement of the defense since Matt Barnes took over is shocking, and something that I didn’t think was possible.

For now though, I want to pump the breaks a little on the excitement from this game. According to the above stat, Rutgers might have been their worst performance since Barnes took over, as Rutgers got 92% of their YPC and 100% of their YPA against Ohio State. Now, there are a couple of reasons for this despite the good performance. First, Rutgers is horrible offensively, so even if you shut them down, it is hard to make them do much worse than they usually do. Second, the 75 yard touchdown reception really skews the YPA total. Third, most of the bigger issues showed up in garbage time, which is a genuine concern in my opinion, because it shows that Ohio State does not have great depth right now, especially at linebacker, meaning an injury would be catastrophic for their season. We also don’t know if they will perform against the best teams on their schedule.

With all of that being said, early returns are excellent for the new defensive changes. Here is the chart:

Running Chart vs Rutgers
Player + - Total Notes
defensive line        
zach harrison 5 0 5 Really good against the run. Hard to get pressure against option teams.
Tyreke smith 0 0 0 DNP
Haskell Garrett 1.5 0 1.5 Made a really nice play. Reads went away from him.
Antwuan Jackson 4 0 4 Really nice game; made a couple of impact plays.
Taron Vincent 3 0 3 Solid game, got pressure a couple of times. 
Javonte Jean-baptiste 3 0 3 Made a ridiculous play on a screen pass in Rutgers territory.
j.t. tuimoloau 4 0 4 Read often. Rarely makes mistakes.
jack sawyer 4.5 1 3.5 Starting to live up to his reputation. Freak athlete.
tyleik williams 5 0 5 Why is he only playing in the fourth quarter? He has been playing like the best lineman on the team besides Garrett.
cormontae hamilton 0.5 0 0.5 He is always playing hard. Seems like he's always around the ball.
jacolbe cowan 0 0 0 No charted plays
Jerron Cage 0 0 0 No charted plays
darrion henry-young 0 0 0 DNP
Michael Hall 0 0 0 DNP
Jaden McKenzie 2 0 2 Another young DT who has impressed me in limited action.
Total 32.5 1 31.5 Huge day from the defensive line against an option team. They have been ridiculously good against the run since Oregon, though the competition is a big caveat.
Teradja Mitchell 4.5 2.5 2 Made some nice plays. Still doesn't always get to his zones.
Cody Simon 5 1 4 Definitely a play-maker. This game he made fewer mistakes. 
Tommy Eichenberg 4.5 0 4.5 Biggest beneficiary of staff change.
Dallas Gant 0 0 0 DNP
Palaie Gaoteote 0 0 0 DNP
Steele Chambers 1 0 1 Tightening up the rotation. Still played well in limited action.
K'vaughan pope 0 0 0 DNP
Cade Kacherski 2.5 3 -0.5 Struggled a little bit late, especially on the touchdown drive.
Reid Carrico 0 1 -1 Only played a couple snaps.
Ryan Batsch 2 0 2 Nice stop and a couple of solid tackles.
Total 19.5 7.5 12 Good, considering RPO/read option teams put linebackers in difficult positions. Still, Rutgers does not have a good offense.
Cameron Brown 0 0 0 No charted plays
Denzel Burke 5 0.5 4.5 No one has figured out he's good yet. Every team keeps trying to test him.
Lathan Ransom 1 1 0 Very quiet, which is fine for a deep safety.
Bryson Shaw 2 1 1 Made a nice, aggressive play when Martinez failed to get to his zone. 
Marcus Williamson 4.5 0 4.5 Really good. Perfect game for him to be playing in.
Sevyn Banks 1 1.5 -0.5 Didn't test him downfield; this was mostly run game.
Lejond cavazos 0 0 0 No charted plays
Ryan Watts 2 0 2 Good to see the interception, and to see him playing more again.
Cameron martinez 6.5 1.5 5 Even though he dropped the pick-six, I still think this might have been his best game yet.
jk johnson 0 0 0 DNP
Marcus Hooker 0.5 0.5 0 Typical deep safety numbers. Played fine.
Jantzen Dunn 0 0 0 No charted plays.
Demario McCall 2 0 2 Blew up a screen.
Jordan Hancock 1.5 0 1.5 Looked pretty decent out there, though mostly against the run.
Ronnie Hickman 6.5 2 4.5 Played better than anyone, except for the long touchdown pass.
Craig Young 1 1 0 Very curious to see his move to cover safety. I assume this is because of Kourt Williams. Feels like he should be at linebacker.
Kourt williams 1.5 0.5 1 Athleticism is excellent. Always going fast.
Total 24.5 6 18.5 Better than I first thought on initial watch.
Pressure 13 2.5 10.5 Hard to get pressure against a team that runs this many options and screens, but the offense was not good.
Coverage 20 6.5 13.5 Pretty decent coverage, but it still needs to improve.
Tackling 12.5 4.5 8 Outstanding early; backups struggled a little bit. Seems like it takes time.
Play Calling 5 8 -3 Was not as much disguising as in the past, though Rutgers didn't take advantage. 

The numbers are really good. While I have continually talked about Rutgers’ deficiencies on offense, I do think there was one thing about Rutgers that was a genuine test, and that is their option-based offensive scheme. Oregon ripped through Ohio State by consistently putting their linebackers in conflict. They threw screen after screen while running options on the ground. Oregon really never threw deep, and when they did, Ohio State covered it fine. This game had the potential to expose Ohio State’s new look defense, particularly the linebackers, and it never happened. Ohio State looked as good as they’ve looked the past couple of weeks. The linebackers didn’t look confused. The defensive linemen were constantly making plays on reads. They looked like a functional defense.

The defensive line was nearly perfect. While they didn’t get many sacks, Rutgers rarely threw the ball across the line of scrimmage. In the same way that we shouldn’t expect sacks against the service academies, we shouldn’t expect sacks against Rutgers/Oregon. All of their success was against the run. It is really hard to pick out standouts though. As you can see, no player had more than 5 positive points on the defensive line, which is rare. Jean-Baptiste made a spectacular play against a screen with 3:12 left in the second quarter. Tuimoloau made a great play with 9:12 in the third quarter, being the defender read on a zone read, and still managing to tackle the running back. Jackson had a great game, making a huge stop on fourth down seemingly all by himself with 8:59 remaining in the second quarter, and then nearly making another fourth down stop all on his own with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter, this time with inches to go. He was unbelievably disruptive. This group is hard to talk about though since they were all great. All of them were sound against the run, and there wasn’t really any passing situations to highlight, except for the two interceptions forced by Harrison with 4:31 in the third and Tyleik Williams on the first play of the fourth. This was an outstanding performance by everyone. It is worth pointing out that Williams got snaps at 1-tech for a bit, which I would like to see more going forward. It is also frustrating only seeing him in the fourth, as he has played well enough to be a starter, and even well enough for PFF to rate him as Ohio State’s best player on defense.

The linebackers did decent, but they still aren’t starring. Cody Simon had his best game yet in my opinion. He made a couple of nice plays, and rarely looked out of place in coverage. He needs to continue to play like this for the defense to have success. He also needs to stay healthy. The other linebacker that is worth highlighting is Tommy Eichenberg, who has benefitted more from the defensive staff change than any other individual player. For the second week in a row, I didn’t see a big mistake from him, and he even got an interception. His tackle on the screen with 1:05 left in the third quarter was a thing of beauty. With Simon getting dinged up as much as he has been, Eichenberg needs to continue playing at this level for the team to have future success.

The defensive backs also did well, even with the coverage changing more toward Cover-2. Will that be a permanent change? I have no idea. Burke is still playing really well, but teams keep throwing at him. I don’t have to remind anyone about his pick six, but it was excellent coverage over top, with Cameron Martinez sitting in a zone underneath. Denzel Burke’s been the team’s best corner, and has been so fun to watch. Brown and Banks didn’t do much today, which was just fine. Rutgers didn’t test either of them at all.

Ransom and Shaw don’t score a ton of points with this scoring, which is honestly fine, especially against a team who is rarely passing deep. Shaw is playing better; with 9:31 in the third, I thought he made a great play to get to the sideline and push out the Rutgers receiver for a six yard game, even though Martinez was late getting to his zone. Other than that, a quiet day from the safeties is just fine for me.

The cover safety/nickleback spot is a tough one for me, as I think Williamson needs more time; he has been playing so well and is so good at tackling in the open field. With 6:21 in the second, Williamson recognizes a play as soon as the ball is snapped. The play design is the exact same as the series before, with 11:52 left in the second, where Rutgers got a first down on a HB flat. Williamson sees the play happening again, and aggressively blows up the play immediately for no gain. He has been so good.

Martinez played maybe his best game as a Buckeye though, so I don’t know how you take him off the field either. I already mentioned his coverage on the pick six from Burke, and he almost had a pick six himself on the fake punt. I was impressed also with his ability to help out against the run though, particularly with the Inverted Veer call with 5:21 in the third quarter. He combined with Hickman to make the tackle at the line of scrimmage, and was around the box all day. I expected his willingness to tackle to be his biggest weakness, which is why I think Williamson would work in this spot too, but if Martinez can continue to defend against the run like this, it is hard to take him out of coverage. PFF seems to agree, as they rate these two as the highest rated members of the back 7.

Ronnie Hickman though, isn’t far behind, and I think he is probably the MVP of the secondary right now. He is around every play, and is getting work as a deep boundary safety now too. If it weren’t for the long touchdown pass, he would have had the best game of anyone. With 9:34 in the second quarter, he made an excellent play on third and three to force a punt. Even though he is being read by the QB, he has great coverage on a TE in the flat, and tackles him behind the line to gain. He is just a really good football player right now.

Next week will certainly be a bigger test for this defense. Maryland has a way better offense than Rutgers with a far more dynamic quarterback and talented wide receivers. So far, Ohio State’s coaches have adjusted, but this game will tell us a lot about the rest of the year.

I am going to say something a little ridiculous, but stick with me. IF the defense is for real, and that is a colossal IF, then Ohio State can accomplish all of their goals. Usually, after 4-5 games, I know which teams have a shot at the National Championship and which ones don’t. I thought the 2014, 2017, and 2019 Ohio State teams could have won it all (the 2017 Iowa game is still the weirdest game I have ever seen). Every other team had no shot due to either not having a good enough defense or not having a good enough offense. This defense right now is playing at a high level, and if the Oregon game would not have happened, I would call them great, but not elite. Even still, that is all it takes most of the time. This weekend should tell us a lot. If they shut down Maryland, it could get wild this year. They still have a long way to go, but the coaches have been doing well so far.

I am not worried about that though. Cumulative stats will be posted next week when we are half way through the season. Go Bucks.

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