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Ohio State football: Breaking down the offense vs. Penn State

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The offense was up and down in Happy Valley, let's take a look at the film to see what went wrong and what went right for the Buckeyes.

Justin K. Aller

J.T. Barrett

Designed runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions TD passes Scrambles Overthrow Underthrow Throwaway
13 29 12 7 1 4 0 1 1
Pressures Sacked Hit during throw Pass break-up Batted at LOS Drops Intercepted TD run Defensive PI
5 3 2 2 1 1 2 2 0
  • Dating back to last year's Big Ten Championship Game vs. Michigan State, it seems as though Coach Herman likes to run a lot of quarterback designed runs in big games. Last week vs. Rutgers, Barrett only had three designed runs the entire game. But Herman called his number nine times in the first half vs. Penn State. This is something that I do not like, especially with the recent development of Barrett's throwing ability.
  • At halftime, Coach Meyer mentioned his disappointment with how conservative the playcalling was in the first half. The Buckeyes ran the ball 28 times compared to only throwing nine passes.
  • Barrett's decisions in the zone read game continue to be excellent.
  • As noted on the broadcast, Barrett's interception was his first in 111 passes.
  • On the pick-six, Penn State ran a zone blitz, dropping the two interior defensive tackles while bringing the linebackers on just a four man rush. Barrett thought it was an all-out blitz and went to hit Michael Thomas, his hot read, on a slant but he did not see the defensive lineman drop right into that zone while having pressure in his face. Also, seeing Thomas' defender fall down could have made Barrett think that Thomas was wide open. Although it was a very poor decision by Barrett, it was a great play call and athletic play by the defensive lineman.

  • Bringing in Cardale Jones on 3rd-and-1 was an example of overthinking and getting away from what got you there. I do not mind using Wildcat type formations as a change of pace, but using four different quarterbacks on one drive is another example of overthinking it.
  • Barrett missed a wide-open Devin Smith on a go-route. His lack of arm strength on deep balls has really hurt the offense a couple of times this season.
  • His second interception was just a bad decision, he did not read the defense properly and just did not see the linebacker dropping deep middle. He threw it into triple coverage.
  • With 5:17 remaining in the game with the ball at the Buckeye 49-yardline, they have to put the game away there. Instead, they went three-and-out and only took two minutes off of the clock.
  • Barrett sprained his MCL in the 2nd quarter, which is why there was only one designed quarterback run in the second half.
  • In overtime, Barrett put on a zone read clinic. His decision making and patience at the mesh point are as good as it gets.
1. 2nd-and-7 at Penn State 22-yardline

2. 1st-and-goal at Penn State 5-yardline


Running Backs

  • His numbers may not have jumped off of the stat sheet but Rod Smith will be missed in short yardage situations and in pass protection on third downs. This means more carries for Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and possibly Warren Ball. Elliott is a powerful blocker, so we will most likely see him in pass protection.
  • Elliott continues to run hard in-between the tackles and he continues to improve every week. He is not Carlos Hyde in-between the tackles, but he has showed great strength and vision when running inside.

Wide Receivers

  • Dontre Wilson had 18 snaps in the first half compared to Jalin Marshall's 12. Wilson finished with 34 snaps to Marshall's 21 snaps.
  • Ohio State got away from using Wilson and Marshall in jet motion to hold the defensive ends and outside linebackers, which is something that has been working recently.
  • Marshall struggled with punt returns, making questionable decisions on almost every punt return. I would not be surprised to see Wilson back there next week.
  • After making a huge impact the last couple of games, the wide receivers did not make an impact in the passing game on Saturday. They have proven that they can make separation and plays but they were not given the opportunity to do so against the Nittany Lions.
  • Although they did not make an impact in the passing game, the wide receiver unit once again put on a blocking clinic on rushing plays.
  • There has to be better options on 3rd-and-6 than a designed run on a direct snap.

Tight Ends

  • During the week, Coach Meyer talked about using 12 personnel grouping (2 TE, 2 WR, 1 RB) due to the emergence of Nick Vannett. The Buckeyes used double tights early and often in this game.
  • With the continuance of troubles in short yardage situations, it was refreshing to see them call play-action from the 1-yardline for the easy touchdown pass to Jeff Heuerman. Defenses have been stacking the box and expecting run against the Buckeyes all season in that situation, so it was a great call from Coach Herman.
  • I would have liked to see more play-action inside the 30-yardline, targeting the tight ends in the middle of the field.

Offensive Line

  • The offensive line has struggled in short yardage situations all season, and it was an even bigger problem in Happy Valley. They are not getting a good push upfront, giving the ball carrier little chance to gain yardage.
  • Playing in their first true road test of the season, the crowd effected the line in the first half, causing a couple of false starts.
  • I thought they played well in the first half but lost some 1-on-1 battles in the second half in pass protection.
  • The middle of the offensive line got a good push in the running game (excluding short yardage) for the majority of the game.
  • Coach Meyer was really down on the offensive line, which could have been a reason for the lack of drop back passes.

Defensive Tidbits

  • The defense was excellent until the final drive of the 4th quarter; they brought pressure on Christian Hackenberg and bottled up the running game for the first 57 minutes.
  • Darron Lee continues to time his blitzes perfectly and they exploited the poor offensive line/running backs in pass protection.
  • As expected, the defensive line dominated, both against the run and the pass. The front seven allowed 16 total yards of rushing and pressured Hackenberg throughout the night. Joey Bosa was a monster.
  • Michael Bennett has gotten off to a slow start this season. I am not sure if he is bringing his best effort on every down, but after a breakout season last year, he has fallen off a bit.
  • The defensive backs are improving every week and are becoming ball hawks, forcing turnovers every game.