Michigan Co-Offensive Coordinator Matt Weiss Claims Wolverine Offense Used “Day One Training Camp Stuff” to Beat Buckeye Defense

By Chase Brown on December 1, 2022 at 12:54 pm
J.J. McCarthy

Michigan's offense repeatedly beat Ohio State's defense with big plays in the 118th edition of The Game.

The Wolverines scored five touchdowns of 40 yards or more on their way to a 45-point, 530-yard performance in a 45-23 win over the Buckeyes. It was Michigan's second straight win over Ohio State and the program's first victory in Columbus since 2000, which was also the last time the Buckeyes fell in back-to-back contests against their rival from Ann Arbor.

As Michigan prepares for its Big Ten Championship matchup with Purdue this weekend, co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss spoke about his team's success against Ohio State on Saturday. He said the Wolverines didn't have to use much of their game plan to beat the Buckeyes, even though the coaching staff had plenty prepared for a game they expected to last for all four quarters.

“We had a lot of great stuff ready to go,” Weiss said in a press conference on Wednesday. “We were ready for everything – overtime, a two-point shootout, whatever came up. As it turned out, the big plays made it so we didn't need to use a lot of the stuff we had saved up that was ready. A lot of the big plays we hit were with base, Day One training camp stuff.”

Weiss used Michigan's first touchdown of the afternoon – a 69-yard pass from quarterback J.J. McCarthy to wide receiver Cornelius Johnson – as an example of how the Wolverines' offense beat the Buckeyes' defense with what he later referred to as a “really basic” strategy.

“The first big play to CJ was a check by J.J., who is so smart and so well prepared that we were able to put the (responsibility of) checks on him while a lot of college teams look to the sideline,” Weiss said. “He correctly identified that (Ohio State was in) zero blitz, did the check we discussed and made a great play to drift away from the free rusher and throw a hitch, and CJ did the rest.”

The play to which Weiss is referring was broken down by Eleven Warriors football scheme contributor Kyle Jones in Wednesday's release of The Situational. Jones explained Ohio State's zero coverage, referred to as a “zero blitz” by Weiss, on the play and how Michigan capitalized on the Buckeyes' play call and lack of execution.

Johnson's touchdown was only one of the plays Michigan found significant success with on Saturday. Weiss said he believes the Wolverines' offense prospered on the big plays because the Buckeyes threw a lot of zero coverage at them in the contest, something no other opponent in their first 11 games tried against them.

“The way that they played us,” Weiss said, “no one had really tried to do that. Few teams came up and played with no depth to try and stop the run. That's not something that we had seen. The way that they played us created opportunities.”

Weiss also added that McCarthy's running ability was a factor that helped them overcome Ohio State, especially in the second half, and believes the sophomore quarterback's dual-threat nature could have opened up the big play for Michigan. McCarthy finished the game with 263 passing yards and three touchdown passes and added six carries for 27 yards and a score using his legs.

“It's definitely a weapon that we can go to at any time,” Weiss said. “Just the threat of it being able to come at any time forces teams to play you a little differently, which opens up more in the pass game and in the run game. It's something that we use when we feel like we need it. In the second half (against Ohio State), we felt like we needed it. ... It was great. It was productive. When J.J. runs through three guys on the sidelines, it fires up the team to see him do that, so in many ways, it was helpful for us.”

The Buckeyes entered The Game ranked No. 5 nationally in total defense and scoring defense, holding opponents to 283.4 yards and 16.9 points per contest. However, allowing explosive plays had been a problem for most of the season, especially early in the year.

After the game on Saturday, Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles called Michigan's explosive plays “disheartening,” as he believed the Buckeyes matched up well with the Wolverines aside from the few big plays that allowed the maize and blue to take control of the contest.

“I have to take the blame for that. I should. Just got to do a better job. The story of explosive plays, I thought we matched well,” Knowles said. “We matched through the course of the game, but too many explosives, and that’s disheartening for not just the defense but also the team and the fans. And I have to take responsibility for that.”

Weiss' final comments about Michigan's win over Ohio State were that he was proud of McCarthy and every player on the team for their efforts on Saturday, claiming the Wolverines were able to “seize the moment“ and win The Game against the Buckeyes, sending the program to its second Big Ten title game in as many years.

“It was an epic team win, and there's so much to take away from it,” Weiss said. “The way the guys played with joy. I mean, our guys had fun playing that game, not just in the fourth quarter when the game was over, but when the game was on the line. You look down on the sideline during a timeout or whatever. Guys are dancing up and down the sideline while (offensive lineman) Trevor Keegan is playing the air guitar to AC/DC. That's how it's supposed to be. Seize the moment.”

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