Michigan State Week Mic Check: Ryan Day's Offense Dominating In The Red Zone

By Chris Lauderback on October 5, 2022 at 3:05 pm
Ryan Day dialing up something that probably worked.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day's program, like many others, has become accustomed to stomping out Rutgers. 

That said, Day's offensive juggernaut hasn't always been elite when it comes to putting up points in the red zone, and particularly in scoring touchdowns after reaching the opponent's 25-yard line. 

Last Saturday against the Scarlet Knights however, the Buckeyes scored five touchdowns in five red zone visits, keeping up its stellar pace through the season's first five games. 

During yesterday's media session to preview this Saturday's matchup in East Lansing against Michigan State, Day talked a little bit about what goes into red zone preparation during a typical game week. 

It's a lot of work on Wednesdays.. It's very stressful from then until we get onto the field.. Making decision on third down, goal line, in the red zone.. There are sometimes heated discussion (because) we know HOW important red zone is.. Keep having those discussions all the way up until game time.– Ohio State head coach Ryan Day

While the Buckeyes were ultimately as productive as a team can be in the red zone last weekend, it was a bit wild to see them run an astonishing 18 plays - nine runs, nine passes - inside the 10-yard line versus the Scarlet Knights. I'm sure that was maddening for the staff on some level but again, the end result was five touchdowns in five trips. 

Through five games, Ohio State's red zone offense leads the nation in scoring, recording points in all 25 trips. Even more impressive, Day's bomb squad has scored touchdowns on 23 of those 25, giving it a 92% touchdown rate, also tops in the nation. 

2022 25 23/2 100.0% 1 92.0% 1
2021 59 38/16 91.5% 12 64.4% 45
2020 44 28/6 77.3% 100 63.6% 57
2019 75 59/8 89.3% 30 78.7% 4
2018 70 43/11 77.1% 116 61.4% 66
2017 68 45/16 89.7% 23 66.2% 36 

Of the two trips resulting in field goals, one came after an illegal formation penalty pushed a 1st-and-Goal at the Arkansas State 8-yard line to the 13. From there, a Miyan Williams run gained back seven yards before C.J. Stroud tossed incompletions on second and third down before Noah Ruggles converted a 24-yard chip shot. 

The other imperfect drive came after Ohio State had already built a 28-7 cushion against Wisconsin. Set up with 1st-and-Goal from the 15, Stroud and Cade Stover couldn't connect on first down before TreVeyon Henderson runs of five and three yards paved the way for another Ruggles field goal, this one from 25 yards out. 

On the other 23 trips resulting in touchdowns, Day has been an equal opportunity killer with Ohio State logging 12 through the air and 11 via the ground game. 

Interestingly, as elite of a playcaller as Day is almost universally accepted to be (count me in that camp), Ohio State's offense has endured its share of ups and downs inside the red zone since the former co-offensive coordinator and current head coach arrived in Columbus ahead of the 2017 season. 

In 2020, his second season as head coach, Ohio State slotted No. 100 in red zone scoring percentage (77.3%). In 2018, while Urban Meyer was still at the helm and Day was influencing the offense, the Buckeyes ranked No. 116 in red zone scoring. That said, beyond this year's incredible success-to-date, last year's squad ranked No. 12 in red zone scoring and his first team as head coach, 2019, saw the Buckeyes rank No. 30. 

Ohio State hasn't seen the same low floor when it comes to red zone touchdown rate although four of its offenses have ranked outside the top-30 with a range of 36 to 66 since Day joined the program. On the top end, beyond this year's current No. 1 ranking, Day's 2019 offense finished No. 4 in the country scoring touchdowns 78.7% of the time it entered the red zone. 

It will be interesting to watch how the 2022 offense's ability to convert red zone trips into touchdowns holds up as the competition increases down the stretch but the fact this year's unit feels so much more balanced could be a key ingredient to consistently posting six instead of settling for three. 

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