Tulsa Week Mic Check: With Defensive Woes Well-Chronicled, Ryan Day Also Seeking Greater Efficiency From Offense

By Chris Lauderback on September 15, 2021 at 3:05 pm
Miyan Williams and C.J. Stroud
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State's defense gave up 408 yards and 31 points in a season-opening win at Minnesota and while the hope was things would be shored up in time for a matchup with Oregon, things didn't go as Ryan Day wished. 

Instead, the Ducks dominated Ohio State's defense, racking up 505 total yards and 35 points, on the way to a 7-point win despite entering as two-touchdown underdogs in the Shoe. 

The ugly showing by Kerry Coombs' defense was the hottest of topics in Day's presser yesterday and we've covered it from all angles

That said, another subject creating at least some level of angst among the fanbase is the struggles of Day's offense to score more than 28 points against Oregon despite driving up and down the field to the tune of 612 total yards. 

Here is Day's take on the his offense having trouble turning yardage into points:  

"When you look at the total yards of offense, over 600 yards against a very good defense (moving the ball) is not the issue..."

"But when you're not converting on 4th down, those count as turnovers and not finishing off drives is not good enough. We have to run the ball better and do a better job finishing off drives. That's just the bottom line." - ryan day

Clearly, Day wasn't thrilled with the 28 point yield from so many yards. 

He cited the fourth down issue, killer penalties - particularly a holding call on Thayer Munford at a very untimely juncture - and a running game that struggled to match expectations and production of seasons past. 

He was however complimentary of C.J. Stroud which, from my chair is totally warranted, but from the seats of many in the fanbase, you'd think Stroud was Joe Bauserman reincarnate. 

I get it, Stroud hasn't been perfect (through two career starts). He's had two costly picks and missed some open targets but he's completing 63% of his throws, his passing efficiency of 174 is just one point lower than Justin Fields' mark from last season, and he's had to deal with throwing his first collegiate passes in back-to-back games where the OSU defense has provided little margin for error and the running game's been spotty. 

Hell, four of the six possessions in the second half against Oregon (not including the two-play last gasp possession) saw the offense playing from down 14 points and he managed three touchdowns and moved Ohio State to Oregon's 8-yard line on another before turning it over on downs. 

2021 164.5 389.0 553.5 10/23 43% 2/5 40% 3/4 75% .549
2020 256.9 262.5 519.4 52/106 49% 5/9 56% 34/44 77% .575

So, how is the offense shaping up through two games with Stroud behind center in comparison to last year's offense that ranked No. 7 in both scoring and total yards per game? 

As you can see in the chart, a killer right now is the lack of balance. The running game averaging just 164 yards per game is problematic. But it is largely the result of Ohio State playing from behind for too many possessions through two games. During the four possessions noted above when OSU trailed by 14 points to Oregon, Day's offense threw it 24 times and ran it 10 times. It's hard to have balance when you're playing from behind especially in the second half. 

So yeah, the rushing yards per game metric is an issue but the 2021 offense is averaging 5.8 yards per carry through the small two-game sample while the 2020 offense averaged 6.0 per carry. 

It's also worth remembering that while everyone's excited about the retooled offensive line rocking four tackles across five spots, it means Dawand Jones is getting his first real taste of big time pressure to produce while veterans Nicholas Petit-Frere and Thayer Munford have seen some of their experience rendered less meaningful as they now play different positions. 

As Day lamented, finishing off drives was a big problem last Saturday and a key component to doing that is converting on third and fourth downs. Through two games, his 2021 offense is converting 43% of third downs compared to 49% last year and 40% of fourth downs compared to 56% last year. 

Ohio State converted 6-of-15 third downs versus Oregon (40%) but went 2-for-11 on 3rd-and-5+ yards to go including 0-for-4 on 3rd-and-9+ yards to go. 

Interestingly, after only attempting to convert nine fourth downs in across eight games in 2020, Day went for it five times versus Oregon. Again illustrating that playing from behind brings a different pressure and forces different, sometimes lower percentage, decisions. 

Roll it all up and Ohio State is averaging 36.5 points via .549 points per play through two games compared to 41.0 last year on .575 points per play. 

So yeah, room to improve but what Ohio State's offense really needs is for the defense to put out the dumpster fire. 

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