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Michigan - Offensive Play-by-Play Analysis

+39 HS
saltybuck61's picture
December 1, 2021 at 4:16pm

I started watching Ohio State football as a small boy in 2004. I am a married man who’s watched football since my youth, and this is the first time I’ve experienced a loss to Michigan where it mattered. The first time I saw The Game, I said to my dad, “Ohio State probably wins all of these! They’re so good!” He responded, “They usually lose against Michigan,” to which I was incredulous. I couldn’t believe that Michigan was a threat to Ohio State at any point.

I’ve read all the stories. I’ve talked to my dad about the Cooper years. I could tell you how good the 1995 and 1997 teams were. I can tell you about the madness of starting Stanley Jackson while rotating in Joe Germaine. I can discuss Antoine Winfield’s place in the pantheon of the greatest corners in Ohio State history, especially against the run. I watched footage of Chris Spielman and Archie Griffin. I knew about the 1968 Super Sophomores, and the upset the year after in 1969.

But until Saturday, I didn’t truly understand the hatred of Michigan.

Jim Harbaugh throwing shade at Ryan Day. Josh Gattis talking about the lack of toughness (even though he was right). The arrogance. The smugness. I grew up in Michigan, so I assumed I had seen the worst of it. I was wrong.

This loss to Michigan was the worst score-wise since 1993, and the first devastating loss since the 2003 season. The best offense in the country couldn’t score 30 points for the fourth time this season. Why couldn’t Ohio State keep up with Michigan?

Let’s take another look at this game play-by-play:

Offensive Play-by-Play vs. Michigan
Time Yard Line Down Distance O Formation D Package Front High Type Box Play Player Yards Notes
First Quarter                          
10:12 O4 1 10 Gun HX Stack 2-4-5 Base 1 Run 7 Fumbled Snap Wypler -1 Wypler (-2) snaps the ball while Stroud is making a call.
9:44 O5 2 9 Gun Y Flex Bunch Tight 3-3-5 Tite Show Blitz 1 Pass 6 Curl Wilson 0 Nobody is there to pick up the blitz. Stroud gets rid of the ball quickly, but throws an okay ball to Wilson, who can't come down with the ball. Play-calling -1 for not having a quicker relief for the blitz.
9:39 O5 3 9 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 6.5 Fade Wilson 0 Stroud (-2) throws an inaccurate pass to Wilson, resulting in a punt.
8:44 O22 1 10 Pistol Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 1 RPO 7 RPO Mid Zone Henderson 2 Stroud (-1) does not make the correct read and hands it off to Henderson.
8:23 O24 2 8 Gun 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 7 Mills Smith-Njigba 11 Stroud (+2) throws a perfect pass to Smith-Njigba (+1), who makes a difficult catch.
7:58 O34 1 10 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Curls Olave 9 Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Olave (+1), who makes a difficult catch.
7:41 O43 2 1 Gun Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6 Counter Trey Henderson 1 Play-calling (+0.5) for the tempo. Ruckert (-0.5) can't hold on to the block so Henderson only gets a yard.
7:13 O44 1 10 Pistol 3W Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6.5 Outside Zone Henderson 6 Johnson (+2) gets a knockdown. Dawand Jones could have stayed on Hutchinson for another half second, but it's fine to move to the second level.
6:49 M49 2 4 Pistol Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6 Outside Zone Hendeson 28 Dawand Jones (+1.5) has a great block on the edge, Ruckert (+1) has another good block, and Henderson (+1) is able to break a tackle to get to the second level. Play-calling +1.5 for running the play when Michigan isn't set.
6:15 M21 1 10 Pistol 3W Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 1 Run 7 Split Inside Zone Williams 9 Johnson (+1) has another nice block on the edge. Williams (+1) does well to break a tackle at the line, and power forward for extra.
5:48 M12 2 1 Gun Trips 2-4-5 Base 3 Run 6 Mid Zone Williams 7 Johnson (+1.5) has a great block on the backside and Williams gets some room.
5:07 M5 1 5 Gun Trips 2-4-5 Base 0 Run 8 Mid Zone Williams 2 Williams follows his blocks for a couple of yards. Wypler (+0.5) does well here.
4:33 M3 2 3 Gun Twin TE Wing F 3-4 Over/Boundary 0 Pass 9 Dragon Olave 0 Stroud (-1) throws an okay pass to Olave, who can't make the difficult catch. Olave (-0.5) should have made the catch, but the route was excellent. Play-calling +1 as Olave was put in a good position.
4:17 M3 3 3 Gun 2-4-5 Show Blitz 0 Penalty 9 False Start Smiith-Njigba -5 Smith-Njigba (-2).
4:17 M8 3 8 Gun Trips 2-4-5 Base 0 Pass 8 Slant Rubs Stroud -5 Petit-Frere (-1.5) and Dawand Jones (-1.5) are beat by both of the ends. Protection -3. Field Goals.
Second Quarter                          
14:58 O18 1 10 Ace 3W Wing TE 3-3-5 Over/Field 1 Run 7 Outside Zone Henderson 2 Dawand Jones (+1) has a good block on the edge. The deep safety plays the run really aggresively here to make a short stop. Wypler (-1) doesn't make his way up to the second level to make the stop. Play-calling -1 for the aggressive safety. That should open up play-action.
14:22 O21 2 7 Gun Y Flex HB Wide Tight Bunch 3-3-5 Tite Show Blitz 1 Penalty 7 False Start Dawand Jones -5 Dawand Jones (-1).
14:10 O16 2 12 Gun Y Flex Wide 2-4-5 Field 2 Pass 6 Curl Flat Smith-Njigba 8 Stroud (+1) sees the blitz and throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba (+1), who makes a routine catch before making a man miss. 
13:41 O24 3 4 Gun 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Slants Checkdown Henderson 25 Stroud (+1) does a great job to get the ball to Henderson when he sees that Michigan is not lined up. He makes a good throw to Henderson (+1), who makes a routine catch before running for a chunk. Ruckert (+1.5) makes an excellent block to spring Henderson. Play-calling +1 to exploit Michigan's inability to get lined up.
13:34 O49 1 10 Gun Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 PA Improvisation Smith-Njigba 0 Petit-Frere (-2) gets beat right away by Hutchinson. Stroud (+2) saves this play by rolling out and throwing a good pass to Smith-Njigba (-0.5), who can't make a difficult grab. I was thinking about dinging Stroud for not making a better throw, but he is rolling to his left and throwing back toward the middle of the field a bit. This is a tough throw and he gives Smith-Njigba a great shot at it. Protection -2.
13:09 O50 2 10 Gun 2-4-5 Base 1 Run 7 HB Draw Williams 0 Wypler (-2) allows the blitzer to run through the line unimpeded. Play-calling +1, as Williams had space if Wypler made the block.
12:26 O50 3 9 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 6.5 Smash Olave 0 Stroud (-1) makes the correct read in throwing to a wide open Olave, but the ball is batted down. Protection +1 is actually pretty good. Williams (+1) picks up the blitz nicely.
10:51 O44 1 10 Gun HZ Stack 2-4-5 Base 1 RPO 7 RPO Alert Screen Wilson 10 Stroud (+0.5) makes a good read to get the ball out to Wilson (+1), who makes a man miss before getting the first down. Play-call +0.5.
10:14 M46 1 10 Gun Twin TE Pair Wing F 3-4 Tite 1 Run 7.5 Split Mid Zone Henderson -2 Henderson (-2) triees to bounce this outside instead of cut back. The blocking was good on the backside, and he runs right into a linebacker. Some of this isn't his fault, as Ruckert (-1) can't hold up his block at the end of the line.
9:32 M48 2 12 Gun Y Flex HB Wide 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 7 Slant Smith-Njigba 23 Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba (+2), who makes a routine catch before running free. Play-calling +2 to isolate JSN on a defensive end in man-coverage.
9:16 M25 1 10 FOX Not set Not set 1 Pass 6 Fade Wilson 25 Stroud (+2.5) throws a perfect pass to Wilson (+2.5), who makes a spectacular catch for a touchdown. Play-calling +1 for doing this with tempo, which Michigan never figured out in this game.
3:51 O25 1 10 Gun Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 HB Slip Screen Henderson 14 Stroud dumps it off to Henderson, who gets the first down. Wypler (+0.5) with a decent block. Play-calling +2  as Henderson had a bunch of green grass with two blockers. He likely could have gotten much more, but was not patient enough.
3:32 O39 1 10 Gun 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6 HB Pitch Henderson 3 Henderson gets the pitch and runs it outside for a short gain. He's upset about something, but I don't know what. Everyone largely does their job, and that's it on this play.
3:06 O42 2 7 Gun 3-3-5 Tite 1 Pass 7 Improvisation Olave 2 Matthew Jones (-2) doesn't pick up the blitzer, and somehow Wypler (+1) is able to prevent him coming free immediately. Stroud (+0.5) is forced to exit the pocket, where he throws a good pass to Olave, who makes a routine catch.
2:33 O44 3 5 Gun Y Flex 3-3-5 Tite 1 Pass 6.5 Ohio Smith-Njigba 9 Stroud (+1) reads that Smith-Njigba (+1) will be lined up on a defensive end, and throws a good pass. JSN makes a routine catch after a great route. Play-calling +1 for creating this matchup.
2:02 M48 1 10 Gun HX Stack 2-4-5 Base 2 RPO 7 RPO Slant Wilson 10 Stroud (+1.5) makes a good read, throwing a good pass to Wilson, who makes a routine catch.
1:36 M39 2 1 Gun 2-4-5 Base 1 Penalty 6 False Start Wypler -5 Wypler (-3) doesn't hear the snap, and the rest of the line moves. Play-calling +2, as Michigan was not close to being set.
1:27 M44 2 6 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 6.5 Quick Slants Wilson 0 Dawand Jones (-1.5) gets beat immediately, and Stroud has to throw the ball quickly. Stroud (-0.5) finds Wilson, but makes an okay throw, and Wilson can't come down with the difficult catch.
1:20 M44 3 6 Gun Y Flex HB Wide 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Spacing Olave 9 Stroud (+1) gets to his second read, and makes a good throw to Olave , who makes a routine catch. Play-calling +1 for catching Michigan in zone.
1:06 M35 1 10 Gun Offset 3-3-5 Tite 2 Pass 6 Y Cross Variation Smith-Njigba 15 Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba (+1), who makes a difficult catch, as Stroud threw it away from the safety.
0:45 M20 1 10 Gun 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Fade Wilson 0 Henderson (-2) does nothing on the blitz, and allows Stroud to get hit. Stroud is pressured, and so the ball flutters after he gets hit. The ball is uncatchable for Wilson. This is probably pass interfefence if the safety was not there to nearly intercept it. Alas. Protection -2.
0:39 M20 2 10 Gun Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6.5 Direct Snap Fake Toss Henderson 3 Matthew Jones (+1) gets a knockdown, but those are often called for holding. The safety, once again was playing hard on run action. Lots of plays so far, but only one play-action.
0:32 M17 3 7 Gun Y Flex Wide 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 5 Quick Slants Smith-Njigba 4 Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba, who makes a routine catch, but can't break the tackle on the safety. Field Goal.
Third Quarter                          
15:00 O25 1 10 Gun Trips 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6.5 Duo Henderson 5 Johnson (+0.5) makes a nice combo block. Wypler (+0.5) has another good block.
14:37 O30 2 5 Pistol 3W Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6 Mid Zone Henderson 3 Ruckert (-0.5) can't hold the block long enough.
14:10 O33 3 2 Ace 3W Wing TE 3-3-5 Tite 1 Run 7 Mid Zone Henderson -2 Wypler (-2) whiffs on the linebacker, causing a tackle for loss. Play-calling -1, as Michigan was ready for tempo for the first (and maybe only) time all day. Punt.
11:50 O25 1 10 Gun Y Flex Wide 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6.5 Curl Flats Ruckert -10 Petit-Frere (-2) has an obvious hold here. Stroud delivers a good pass to Ruckert, who makes a routine catch.
11:29 O15 1 20 Pistol 3W Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 5.5 Split Mid Zone Henderson 11 Dawand Jones (+0.5) and Johnson (+0.5) have solid blocks, and Henderson (+1) makes the correct decision to bounce this outside.
11:04 O26 2 9 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Dagger Wilson 16 Petit-Frere (-2) blocks nothing and Henderson (+1) does a nice job of picking up Hutchinson. Stroud (+1) stands in the pocket and delivers a good throw to Wilson (+1.5), who makes a routine catch and runs for the first down. Play-calling +1.5 for for giving Stroud a little extra protection for Hutchinson. Protection -1.
10:40 O42 1 10 Gun 2-4-5 Base 2 RPO 6 RPO Peek Slant Wilson 5 Stroud (+1) makes the correct decision to throw and makes a good pass to Wilson, who makes a routine catch.
10:07 O47 2 5 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Penalty 6 False Start Stroud -5 Stroud (-1) snaps the ball before everyone is set. Two bad penalties on this drive already.
9:45 O42 2 10 Pistol 3W HZ Stack 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6 Mid Zone Henderson 1 Henderson (-1) decides to head inside instead of push it to the outside, where he could likely outrun Ojabo. The offensive line didn't let anyone through, but also didn't get much push.
9:07 O43 3 9 Gun Y Flex 3-3-5 Tite 2 Pass 6 Spacing Stroud -4 Wypler (-2) doesn't pick up the blitzer up the middle, but Henderson (+1.5) does a nice job of picking up the block. Stroud (-1) runs out of the pocket a little early, but Petit-Frere(-1) and Dawand Jones (-1) did not do a great job of blocking off the edge. Punt. Play-calling -1, as Ohio State is expecting zone, and Michigan runs man. Protection -1.5
5:45 O18 1 10 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 PA Comeback Olave 12 Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Olave (+0.5), who makes a routine catch. Play-calling +1 for recognizing the aggressive defenders against the run. Protection +1.
5:18 O30 1 10 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Double Dig Olave 0 Stroud (-1) throws an okay pass to Olave (-1), who can't make the difficult catch. 
5:13 O30 2 10 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 7 Spacing Smith-Njigba 7 Wypler (-1.5) barely holds up the linebacker, and Stroud (+1) is able to make a good throw to Smith-Njigba (+2), who makes a difficult catch. Protection -1.5.
4:45 O37 3 3 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 7 Flood Smith-Njigba 11 Stroud (+1) throws to Smith-Njigba (+1.5), who picks up the first down a a few extra.
4:18 O48 1 10 Gun Y Flex Wide HX Stack 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Checkdown Williams 6 Dawand Jones (-1) allows some pressure, with Munford (-1) allowing even more. Stroud (+1) does well to throw a good pass to Williams (+1), who makes a routine catch before getting some extra yardage. Protection -2.
3:43 M46 2 4 Gun HX Stack 2-4-5 Base 1 Penalty 7 False Start Dawand Jones -5 Dawand Jones (-1)
3:22 O49 2 9 Pistol 3W Trips 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6 Duo Williams 4 Very little push on the offensive line, but Williams (+0.5) makes the most of what they do give.
2:53 M47 3 5 Gun Y Flex Wide HB Wide 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 6 Spacing Wilson 9 Stroud (+1) makes a good throw to Wilson (+1), who makes a routine catch before dragging the defender for extra yardage.
2:18 M38 1 10 Gun HX Stack 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 PA Verticals Stroud -5 Petit-Frere (-2) beat immediately by Hutchinson. Play-calling -1 for not providing any help for the left tackle and still running a play-action. Protection -2.
1:45 M43 2 15 Gun HX Stack 2-4-5 Base 2 RPO 6 RPO Alert Wide Zone Williams -4 Stroud (-1) makes the wrong decision to hand-off here, if it is a decision. Wilson would have picked up good yardage. Wypler (-2) passes up a defensive tackle to block nobody, and Dawand Jones (-1) can't block the edge defender.
1:10 M47 3 19 Gun Y Flex Trips 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 7 Slot Scross Smith-Njigba 26 Stroud (+2.5) throws a good pass on the run after escaping pressure and Smith-Njigba (+3.5) makes a spectacular catch. Dawand Jones (-1.5) once again allows pressure. Protection -1.5.
0:41 M21 1 10 Gun Z Mtn 2-4-5 Base 3 Pass 6 PA Spot Olave 5 Stroud (+0.5) makes a good throw, and Olave (+0.5) makes a routine catch. 
0:11 M16 2 6 Gun 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Improvisation Stroud 0 Wypler (-3) sends a ground ball back toward Stroud (+2), who manages to pick the ball up, roll out, and throw it toward Williams. The ball was uncatchable due to pressure, but it was still a good play by Stroud.
0:03 M16 3 6 Gun Y Flex 2-3-6 Show Blitz 2 Run 5 Inside Zone Williams 2 Michigan sends an eight man blitz, and Ohio State had no shot at getting much. Williams (+1.5) did well just to get two yards. Play-calling -2.
Fourth Quarter                          
15:00 M15 4 4 Gun Y Flex Trips 2-3-6 Show Blitz 0 Pass 7.5 Slant Smith-Njigba 10 Petit-Frere (-1) gets pushed back by Hutchinson. Stroud (+1), throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba (+1.5), who makes a routine catch for the first down. Play-call +0.5, as JSN had inside leverage on the nickel.
14:49 M5 1 5 Gun Wing TE Not set Not set 0 Pass 8 Curl Flat Ruckert 0 Play-calling +1 as Michigan is not set. Stroud (-2) throws an inaccurate pass to a wide open Ruckert, and the ball is uncatchable. 
14:45 M4 2 5 Gun Trips 2-4-5 Base 0 Run 9 Inside Zone Henderson 4 Matthew Jones (+1) has a nice block on the inside, which allows Henderson to get near the goal line. Play-calling +0.5, as Michigan is looking for a pass.
14:17 M1 3 1 Goal Line Goal Line Goal Line 0 Run 11 Zone Insert Henderson 1 Rossi (+1) has a strong block in the hole and Henderson just has to get to that spot to get the touchdown. 
9:14 O25 1 10 Ace 3W Wing TE Jet Mtn 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Split Flow Throwback Henderson -2 I think this is the play design. Like a throwback screen. Henderson makes a routine catch, but can't get anything afterwards. This didn't surprise anyone. Play-calling -2.
8:52 O23 2 12 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6.5 Streak Olave 39 Stroud (+3) throws a perfect pass to Olave (+3), who makes a difficult grab over the corners head.
8:29 M38 1 10 Pistol Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Run 6 Split Zone Henderson 4 Dawand Jones (+1) and Johnson (+1) create a hole for Henderson (-1), but he can't break away from a shoestring tackle. 
7:48 M34 2 6 Gun Y Flex HB Wide 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Slants Smith-Njigba 5 Stroud throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba, who makes a difficult catch over the middle.
7:24 M29 3 1 Gun 2-4-5 Base 1 Run 7 Tight Zone Henderson 2 Henderson gets a good block from Johnson (+1).
7:12 M27 1 10 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6.5 Deep Curls Olave 0 Stroud (-1) thinks that this is a deep vertical route, and Olave breaks it off. That might have been a vertical stem route
7:06 M27 2 10 Gun HZ Stack 2-4-5 Base 2 RPO 6 RPO Inside Zone Stroud -4 I think that this is just a zone play, as there isn't an unblocked defender, and Olave just runs a streak. Stroud makes the correct decision to hand it off and not throw the screen, but the ball is fumbled. I don't know to blame this on Stroud or Henderson. Stroud (-1) and Henderson (-1).
6:48 M31 3 14 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 3 Pass 6 Swing Pass Henderson 7 Stroud throws it out to Henderson, who gets a modest gain. This was to set up a manageable fourth down, which I think was the right call. Play-calling +1.
5:52 M24 4 7 Gun Y Flex Trips 2-4-5 Base 2 Timeout         Timeout Michigan.
5:50 M24 4 7 Gun Y Flex Trips 2-4-5 Base 1 Pass 7 Curl Wilson 8 Stroud (+2) throws a perfect pass to Wilson (+2), who makes a difficult catch while being interferred with.
5:34 M15 1 10 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Dagger Wilson 0 Munford (-1) gets beat inside, and Stroud (-1) throws an inaccurate pass and the ball is uncatchable to Wilson. Stroud was pressured, but he needs to step into his throw here.
5:27 M15 2 10 Gun Wing TE 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Scramble Stroud -10 Matthew Jones (-2) gets beat immediately. Petit-Frere (+1) gets called for holding, but I think that Ojabo slipped. Stroud (+2) has a great run for a touchdown that is called back, which is a bummer.
5:17 M25 2 20 Gun Y Flex H Wide 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Hitch Wilson 0 Stroud throws a good pass to Wilson (-0.5), who can't make the difficult catch due to the coverage. 
5:12 M25 3 20 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 5 Fade Wilson 15 Stroud (+1.5) makes a good throw to Wilson (+1.5), who makes a difficult catch.
4:52 M10 4 5 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Not set 1 Pass 7 Swing Pass Henderson 10 Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Henderson (+1), who has the speed to get to the end zone. Play-calling +1.
2:17 O25 1 10 Gun Y Flex 2-3-6 Base 2 Pass 6 Slant Olave 0 Stroud (-1) throws an inaccurate pass to Olave, who can't get the uncatchable ball. Petit-Frere (-1) can't stop Hutchinson. Protection -1.
2:12 O25 2 10 Gun 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Fade Wilson 16 Stroud (+2) throws a good pass to Wilson (+1.5), who makes a routine catch.
1:50 O41 1 10 Gun 2-4-5 Show Blitz 1 Pass 7 Shallow Cross Wilson 5 Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Wilson, who makes a routine catch. 
1:25 O46 2 5 Gun Y Flex 2-4-5 Base 2 Pass 6 Fade Olave 0 Stroud throws a good pass to Olave, but he can't make the difficult catch off of tight coverage.
1:19 O46 3 5 Gun 2-4-5 Show Blitz 1 Pass 7 Spacing Stroud 0 Munford (-2) and Petit-Frere (-2) both get beat, with NPF getting beat on a stunt. Protection -4.
1:05 O33 4 18 Gun 4W 2-4-5 Show Blitz 5 Pass 5 Improvisation Olave 14 Munford (-2) gets beat immediately off the edge. Stroud gets out of a sack, and makes a good throw to Olave who makes  a difficult catch, but it doesn't matter. End of game.
End of Game                          

Why couldn’t Ohio State keep up with Michigan? The performance of the offensive line was uniquely horrible. They couldn’t run block against a light box. They couldn’t pass block against four rushers. They’ve had bad performances before against Penn State and Nebraska. In those games, though, their pass blocking was fine. Before this matchup, the offensive line seemed to be an elite pass-blocking unit who couldn’t run-block against the better lines. In this game, they were terrible in both respects.

There’s been that table that’s been going around pointing out the Ohio State offense’s tendencies throughout the game. It was featured in Tuesday's Skull Session. Here is the table for those curious:

Ohio State Run by Formation
QB Postion Count Run Percentage
Gun 37 5 14%
Pistol 9 9 100%
Dot 1 1 100%

This chart proves a good point, but I feel it’s misleading. Yes, the Pistol and Ace formations are far more run heavy than Shotgun. This should not surprise anyone. The major issue with the table is that it only points out the formations and their eventual result, not considering RPOs that were attached to the plays. On several occasions, RPOs were called, but the correct read was to hand it off on a run. Why was a handoff always the correct read? Michigan was almost always lining up in a 2-4-5, with two down linemen and four linebackers, though the outside linebackers were just defensive ends. This is a six-man box. While you can bring down safeties or keep the nickel in tight, Michigan was not afraid to leave the box very light. Interestingly, Ohio State has run well against traditional seven-man boxes but has struggled at times with six-man boxes. Oregon also ran a 2-4-5 quite a bit, and Penn State ran with a six-man box specifically for the Ohio State game.

RPOs aren’t the only constraint that Day uses out of these formations. He also turns to play-action passes from these run heavy formations to create big plays. While I don’t think they have straight drop backs from these formations, they run play-actions with regularity. Why weren’t any play-action passes called from these formations? They tried to run a couple of play-action passes from the shotgun, but every time they did, Stroud was running for his life or hit immediately. Since a play-action was basically a free play for the defense, and the defense was creating a light box to stop the passing attack, runs from these formations were the only sensible option.

No, I don’t think the play calls from these were that bad given the constraints. What was far more frustrating was the numbers advantage that Ohio State had in the box while they were on offense.

Urban Meyer’s whole philosophy is a spread based attack that is predicated on evening up numbers in the run game. The reason why he likes using the quarterback in the run game is because it provides another blocker in the box. So, if he is facing a 7-man box with five linemen and a tight end, a typical gap running call will have six blockers for seven defenders. That means that one defender will be unblocked and will have a free hit on the running back. Running the quarterback allows you to do a couple of different things. You can run Power with your QB, using your running back as an additional blocker (seven blockers for seven defenders), or you can read the unblocked defender (six blockers for six defenders not being read). Either way, you now have a blocker for each defender who will be involved in the run. As long as everyone does their job, the ball-carrier should pick up a good chunk on the ground.

In this game, Michigan dared Ohio State to run on them. When Ohio State had their base set with five offensive linemen and a tight end (six blockers), Michigan countered by putting six defenders in the box. The numbers are already evened up. As long as everyone took care of their blocks, Ohio State should have been able to run all over Michigan. Yet, Ohio State couldn’t run the ball at all. Coaches have spent thousands of hours scheming up ways to get into this position, and Michigan just gifted it to Ohio State, and Ohio State could do nothing. How was this even possible?

The offensive line was atrocious. It’s hard for me to put into words, because it really did hurt everything that the Buckeyes liked to do on offense. Thankfully, I have a table for that:

Offensive Chart vs. Michigan
Player + - Total Percentage Notes
offensive line          
Nicholas petit-frere 1 14.5 -13.5 6.5% May not be as bad as the Penn State game, but I don't know if it matters. Disastrous. Needs to come back another year with a new offensive line coach if he wants to get that first round grade again.
thayer munford 0 6 -6 0.0% Maybe the worst game of his career.
luke wypler 2.5 18.5 -16 11.9% Self-desctructed.
Paris johnson jr. 7.5 0 7.5 100.0% He was great! It didn't matter!
Dawand jones 4 9.5 -5.5 29.6% Struggled until he got injured.
matthew jones 2 4 -2 33.3% Came in late and was adequate I guess.
total 17 52.5 -35.5 24.5% This offensive line has plenty of talent, but they really struggled in pass-blocking as well as run-blocking. This is directly on Greg Studrawa. A change is probably needed.
cj stroud 40.5 14.5 26 73.6% Was a little rattled early, but he rallied and was playing well by the end.
miyan williams 5 0 5 100.0% The line gave him nothing, and he still made plays. He should start if the offense wants to see more balance.
treveyon henderson 6.5 7 -0.5 48.1% Still lacks vision, but he did pick up some blitzes. He saved Stroud's life multiple times. The best pass blocker and receiver among running backs on the team.
total 52 21.5 30.5 70.7% Running backs were decent. Stroud was quite good. 
chris olave 5 1.5 3.5 76.9% Played well as always. Had a couple of tough drops on difficult throws. 
garrett wilson 11 0.5 10.5 95.7% Made several excellent catches including the first touchdown.
jaxon smith-njigba 14.5 2.5 12 85.3% Had a bad false start penalty that likely cost the team four points but was exceptional otherwise.
julian fleming 0 0 0 0.0% I don't chart special teams.
jeremy ruckert 2.5 2 0.5 55.6% Surprisingly okay. He held up better than I expected to on re-watch.
cade stover 0 0 0 0.0% Got snaps at linebacker, but did not do much in this game.
Mitch Rossi 1 0 1 100.0% Had a nice lead block on a short yardage play.
Marvin harrison jr. 0 0 0 0.0% Uncharted
total 34 6.5 27.5 84.0% They played great. The receivers kept Ohio State in the game.
protection 2 21.5 -19.5   By a huge margin, the worst they've done all year.
play calling 20.5 10 10.5   Day was severely limited by the offensive line, who could neither run or pass block. The gameplan was surprisingly good all things considered.

I know Ohio State doesn’t give champions for losses. Since I graded it anyway, the guys I would have  graded champions were Paris Johnson Jr, Miyan Williams, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Garrett Wilson. I would have been fine if Olave and Stroud were also named champions, as they nearly missed.

One of the biggest issues is that only one of the starters on the offensive line was champion quality, and even he was quite the outlier. Most position groups performed well, but the offensive line as a whole struggled. I was initially willing to give them a pass after PSU and Nebraska because Henderson’s lack of vision and patience was a part of the problem, and the return of Miyan Williams made them look a whole lot better. Even in those games, the pass protection was solid. This was nothing short of a complete collapse on the level of the 2016 Ohio State offense against Clemson, just concentrated in a single unit. Whenever everyone on an incredibly talented line plays this poorly, it isn’t worth pointing them out individually. Yes, Johnson showed up and Wypler had the worst game I’ve ever charted, but those data points are trivial compared to the performance of the entire line.

Greg Studrawa is a coach who I have really struggled to accurately evaluate in the past. After 2018, I wanted him fired for underachieving in 2016 and 2018. Both of those lines were not particularly great, though they were better pass blocking lines than run blocking lines. In 2019 and 2020, I was impressed with the performance of the line. I thought that maybe he just needed the requisite talent to have elite lines. While it wasn’t as impressive as Ed Warinner turning a bunch of three-star linemen into All-Americans, it was still plenty good enough.

After 2021 though, I no longer think he’s that great of an offensive line coach. Having quarterbacks that can run have masked the deficiencies in his lines in the past, and now that the team is moving toward a system without quarterback runs, I don’t think he is going to produce great offensive lines. Is he is bad as Bill Davis? Absolutely not. Is he as good as Brian Hartline? Not even close. This is part of the problem. It’s hard to want a change when the replacement could be a significant step down, but I think Day needs to take a chance here. Even Studrawa’s best lines weren’t as dominating as the Warinner lines from 2013-2014. The 2012 offensive line was a mess at the beginning of the season, but they were excellent by the end of it. Coaching matters, and if Day wants an elite offensive line, he will need to hire an elite offensive line coach. That’s not Studrawa.

The running backs were just fine, even though they were given very little to work with. At this point, it’s clear that Miyan Williams needs to be utilized more. If it were me, I would be putting Williams in the run heavy packages, and Henderson in the shotgun packages. Henderson has expressed wanting to go to Ohio State to be apart of a tandem running the football. This utilizes Williams’ strength as the better runner of the football between the two, and it utilizes Henderson’s strength as the better blocker and receiver of the two, with the added bonus of his big play ability. They can still run from the shotgun, obviously, but as more of a change up.

As exciting as Henderson is, I don’t think his vision is good enough to warrant too many carries over Williams at this point in his career. The already weak offensive line struggled more when Henderson was in, because when they opened up a gap right where he was aiming, he was liable to miss it.  I am certainly not the only person to make this comparison, but he gives me Trent Richardson flashbacks at times. The last month has brought me from really excited about his talent to a feeling that he isn’t ready yet. The freshman wall is nothing new though, and it hits everyone.

Another player that was playing in his first Michigan game was C.J. Stroud, and he played admirably given the circumstances.

CJ Stroud vs. Michigan
CJ Stroud Perfect Good Scramble Pressure Okay Batted Down Throw Away Inaccurate Bad Read RPO Read Option Percentage Grade Notes
Michigan 4 30 1 2 4 1   5   4/6   85.4% 73.6% He played really well, all things considered. He was a little rusty to start, but ended up finishing strong. He kept them in the game.

Stroud started off slow on his first drive but passed well after a tough beginning of the game. I think most of the new guys were shell-shocked going into their first hostile road environment. He did tend to throw off his back foot when he was being pressured, which was a problem earlier in the game when he was inaccurate. One of the biggest things he could do to improve would be to sharpen those mechanics up, as he can make every throw.

He made a number of excellent throws, from the pass to Wilson for a touchdown, to the one to Olave late in the game. I thought he was ready for this game. It’s not easy to throw for nearly 400 yards in the snow, but he managed. Even 8.0 YPA is about what I would have expected in good weather given the success of Michigan’s pass defense this year, so to see him do this in bad weather was nothing short of impressive.

Though I don’t think anyone cares much anymore, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him win the Heisman, given Bryce Young’s performance against Auburn and his upcoming game against Georgia. If he looks bad against Georgia, I could see Stroud winning it. Aidan Hutchinson from Michigan would also be a good choice, but I don’t think they will give it to a defensive lineman. If the choice is between him, Stroud, and Young though…maybe?

As I’ve said all year though, the biggest reason for Stroud’s success is his wide receivers. Here is their chart:

Receiver's Chart vs. Michigan
Player Uncatchable Spectacular Difficult Routine Notes
chris olave 3   3/6 4/4 He was covered all game. Made a few difficult catches while covered.
garrett wilson 4 1/1 2/4 7/7 The first touchdown of the game was sublime.
jaxon smith-njigba   1/1 4/5 6/6 Excellent once again. He needed to be great, and he was.
julian fleming         Uncharted
jeremy ruckert 1     1/1 Should probably have gotten a touchdown, but the pass wasn't there.
cade stover         Uncharted
miyan williams       1/1 Made a catch on a checkdown.
treveyon henderson       5/5 This is why he is starting. He's a better fit for the passing game.
total 8 2/2 9/15 24/24 They were great. They gave what was expected.

They kept Ohio State in the game. Any time there was a spectacular catch to be made, they made it. All three of them had drops in this game that they usually catch. It wasn’t perfect. Still, they bailed out the Ohio State offense on several fourth downs and multiple third and longs. It’s disappointing that Wilson and Olave are going out this way, but they all played well. Olave is going to want the touchdown back, obviously, but he was outstanding. Congrats to those two guys for incredible college careers.

What should we worry about for next year? The general preparedness of the team. This is the only game that matters every season. Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer showed two different, and valid, ways of approaching this game: either devote an enormous amount of time to preparing for this game alone (Tressel), or make this game the singular emotional focus of the season, and a game you cannot lose (Meyer). Day needs to learn one of those lessons. While I think the Tressel approach better fits his personality, he needs to figure it out. Ohio State looked like they treated this game like all of the others, which is how teams lose in this rivalry (see Cooper, John and Harbaugh, Jim for recent examples). It's the only game in my lifetime that I can remember looking like that. If he can't adjust to what this rivalry entails, it's going to be a long tenure.

On a similar note, the behavior of the team leading up to the game and during the game seemed off. Seeing Tyleik Williams post a video of stomping on a Michigan jersey was one of those moments that felt different. That didn’t happen much over the past twenty years. Maybe I didn’t pay as much attention, but it took me back to Urban’s speech about this game regarding the respect that you need to win. This year, Ohio State didn’t respect the rivalry as much as Michigan did, and they lost for it. I also wouldn’t mind seeing the players stick up for Cam Brown, or start fighting back in some fashion. Their reaction was weird. It was like they were more upset at Brown than the Michigan receiver. I want to see a Marcus Hall again. Stick up for your teammates and give a shit. Yes, I know this is feelingsball. It’s also correct.

What should we not worry about for next year? The offensive efficacy as a whole. This offense is still the best in the country by a decent margin (offense is down across the country this year). A better performance out of the offensive line would put them on the same level as the last two national champions. It might be a single position coach that is the missing piece.

What should we be excited about for next year? The returning production for next year and the young talent waiting in the wings. Even if Stroud doesn’t win the Heisman, you have a Heisman finalist at QB, a pair of dynamic running backs, at least four outstanding wide receivers, and an offensive line that was heavily recruited. This team still has the pieces. The entire fate of the offense rests on what happens with the offensive line. If I am Ryan Day, I take a chance on a new guy. I could keep Coach Studrawa and gamble on having a lockdown defense and settle for a great offense, or I could gamble on a new offensive line coach and potentially have unstoppable offense. I would take a chance on a new guy. Let’s see if the offense can reach new heights.

Please feel free to let me know if I missed anything or if you have questions. I plan on sending out the defensive one tomorrow, and potentially will do a full-season recap afterwards. Otherwise, I will wait for the bowl games.


Offense vs. Oregon / Defense vs. Oregon

Offense vs. Tulsa / Defense vs. Tulsa

Offense vs. Akron / Defense vs. Akron

Offense vs. Rutgers / Defense vs. Rutgers

Offense vs. Maryland / Defense vs. Maryland

Mid-Season Review

Offense vs. Indiana / Defense vs. Indiana

Offense vs. Penn State Defense vs. Penn State

Offense vs. Nebraska Defense vs. Nebraska

Offense vs. Purdue / Defense vs. Purdue

Offense vs. Michigan State / Defense vs. Michigan State

This series has been inspired by the Upon Further Review series at MGoBlog. If you are hungry for even more pain, they will have a review of this game later this week.

This is a forum post from a site member. It does not represent the views of Eleven Warriors unless otherwise noted.

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