Ohio State football: Charting the offense, Michigan State

Denicos Allen stops Braxton Miller on a huge fourth down play in the 4th Quarter - Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Here is our weekly look at the snaps played by Buckeye skill position players, while analyzing the ways in which they were utilized. We also take a look at the two most controversial and scrutinized play calls of the Big Ten Championship Game.

The Ohio State offense ran nine plays in the First Quarter, 19 plays in the Second Quarter, 21 plays in the Third Quarter and 12 plays in the Fourth Quarter for a total of 61 snaps for the game. The Buckeyes' went 1-10 on 3rd down efficiency and 0-2 on 4th down, both unusual for the Ohio State offense.

Quarterback Number of plays
Braxton Miller 61
  • Braxton Miller continued his three game passing slump, completing eight out of 21 pass attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown. After showing great improvement in the middle of the year, Miller's accuracy has dipped since the start of the Illinois game, going 38/82 passing (46%).
  • Although Miller missed the majority of his intermediate throws, his wide receivers had trouble running intermediate routes and gaining separation on defensive backs. Miller has said that he will probably be coming back to school and hopefully he will spend another summer with QB Guru George Whitfield.
  • Miller was his typical self rushing the ball, making defenders miss and extending plays for huge gains. I disagree with the play-calling though as they went Miller-happy on the perimeter too much (which I will talk about later) and it became obvious to the Michigan State defense.
Running Backs Number of plays
Carlos Hyde 56
Dontre Wilson 3
Jordan Hall 3
  • Out of Carlos Hyde's 56 snaps, he carried the ball only 18 times, his lowest total in a competitive game since his 17 carries versus Wisconsin.
  • Hyde lined up in the Pistol Formation nine times and lined up at receiver a season-high six times.
  • My biggest question is, why did Coach Herman go away from what got the Buckeyes 24 straight wins? They have had success using their power running game between the tackles with Hyde for the past two seasons and they had success during this game. Why go against your "bread and butter" plays in the biggest game of the season? Meyer constantly calls his offensive line the best in the country, so were they that afraid of the Spartan front seven?
  • After taking the lead late in the 3rd Quarter, Hyde ran the ball four times, Miller ran the ball six times and passed the ball seven times. In past big games when they got the lead, didn't Coach Herman feed Hyde to bleed out the clock and gain first downs?
  • As I talked about before the game, Michigan State was susceptible up the middle and that is where Hyde did most of his damage in the 3rd Quarter, when the Buckeyes dominated the game.
Screenshot_120913_012536_pm_medium
Here is an example of the Buckeyes' offensive line getting to the second level on the MSU linebackers. They came out of halftime looking to run the ball between the tackles and had success in doing so.
10_yd_medium

With the offensive line staying on their blocks and getting on the MSU linebackers, Hyde read his blocks and got ten yards on the carry.

Screenshot_120913_014736_pm_medium

Two plays later, Hyde came out and Jordan Hall came into the game. Lined up in the Pistol Formation, the offense continued to dominate the Spartan front seven.

Screenshot_120913_014913_pm_medium

Once again, the line opened up a huge hole and got a lineman downfield on Max Bullough. Hall gained huge yardage on the play and the Buckeyes eventually took the lead. This would be the last drive that Coach Herman would rely on his running game, even though they gashed the Spartan defense down the field.

  • Overall, the coaching staff did not put the team in the best position to win on Saturday, due to the lack of trust in the offensive line to win the majority of their battles with the Spartan front seven and also the continued obsession with attacking the perimeter.
Wide Receivers Number of plays
Devin Smith 57
Corey Brown 52
Evan Spencer 46
Chris Fields 25

  • The passing game as a whole was not very good, a lot of balls weren't accurately thrown and the receivers could not gain separation on the Spartan defensive backs, especially on future first rounder Darqueze Dennard.
  • The Spartans' expected the deep ball and were not fooled by play-action, Corey Brown got behind a defensive back once but the ball was underthrown, resulting in an incomplete pass.
  • The Buckeye wideouts did a great job blocking on the perimeter though, extending plays downfield.
  • Brown played 52 snaps on his injured leg (stress fracture) and really showed his toughness by playing the past few games while injured. Now we know why his snaps were limited in the past few games (excluding Michigan) and why Hall was returning punts at times.
  • Evan Spencer needs to hold onto this 3rd down ball, which would have resulted in a first down in the 4th Quarter:
Evan_spencer_medium

Tight Ends Number of plays
Jeff Heuerman 60
Nick Vannett 2
  • After showing the two tight end set five times versus Michigan, they only ran it once against Michigan State. They used it in short yardage and goal line situations throughout the season but we did not see that on Saturday.
  • Heuerman had the big reception to set up the field goal late in the 2nd Quarter but did not catch another ball. The lack of an effective play-action limited Heuerman to make plays in the seam.

Film Breakdown

6:18 4th Quarter
3rd & 3 at the MSU 40-yardline
11 personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB)

3rd_down_medium

During the season when the Buckeyes came out in 11 personnel with Hyde spread out wide left, they ran a designed QB run (see the Michigan game). Michigan State knew this and they did not respect Devin Smith in the left slot or the bunched receivers up top. With the very close splits up top, it showed that they were most likely running the ball and the Spartan defense did not even respect a slant from the slot position.

If Coach Herman and Coach Meyer knew that they were going to go for it on 4th down if they did not convert on 3rd down, why wouldn't they run the ball with Hyde on 3rd down since he was carving up the defense the entire 3rd Quarter? Miller did gain two yards on the play but I would have taken my chances with Hyde on 3rd down to get the pivotal first down. Hyde needed the ball in his hands at least once on these two plays.

5:46 4th Quarter
4th & 1 at the MSU 38-yardline
11 personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB)

4th_down_medium
Coming out of a timeout, Coach Herman called a QB sweep to the boundary, something they did not do much during the season as they typically called it to the field side.
Screenshot_120913_030722_pm_medium
Heuerman tried to seal Denicos Allen on the edge, which would have gotten Miller the first down on the play with Hyde as the lead blocker.
Screenshot_120913_030824_pm_medium
Allen made a great play by getting off Heuerman's block and hit Miller in the backfield for the key 4th down stop.
Screenshot_120913_031342_pm_medium
Hyde cuts the safety on the play while Spencer takes care of the Spartan cornerback, if Heuerman could have stuck on his block for another second or two, Miller would have converted the first down.

Alas, what could have been.
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