In Ohio State's 28-14 win over Minnesota this past Saturday, the Silver Bullets were dominant. Okay, the two fourth quarter Golden Gopher touchdowns were a pretty big buzz kill, but throw out those two drives and you get 12 total Minnesota possessions where Minnesota scored a total of 0 points, and didn't even really come that close.
The major reason for this domination was Ohio State completely shutting down Minnesota's run game. Minnesota running back Shannon Brown could not etch his name into the sacred list of "Shannon Browns who have crushed Ohio State" as Brown rushed for a miserable 27 yards on 11 carries.This actually isn't so bad after considering the rest of the Golden Gophers contributed only six additional yards rushing on a combined 15 carries. When you're a run first team like Minnesota, that level of inefficiency makes running your offense nearly impossible.
With all three levels of the Buckeyes defense playing great, it was definitely a team effort to shut down this (admittedly not very scary) Minnesota offense. But which plays and players really stood out?
Vonn Bell is really good at football
I understand that Urban Meyer's offense isn't always statistically tight end friendly regardless of how talented the tight end may be. But if Urban doesn't get Nick Vannett more involved fast, this could lead to serious locker room issues for the Buckeyes.
Just imagine the situation. Tuesday practice. 3rd and long. Cardale is in for J.T. and looking to make a play. Four verticals is the play, which means Vannett will be running straight down the seam with Vonn Bell looming in the secondary ready to make a play. Cardale drops back to pass, steps up in the pocket and delivers a strike to Vannett for 20 yards and a big (fake) first down. Upon catching the pass, Vannett flips the ball and does an exaggerated first down motion (we'll even say he did this) to the annoyance of Bell. Then it happens. Angry from assuming Tyvis Powell made the wrong check on purpose to allow his roommate/son Cardale to complete the pass, Bell takes his anger out on Vannett and explains, "Good play Nick, only two more touchdowns to catch me."
When defensive players have more touchdowns or catches than offensive players, it leads to embarrassment for the offensive player, and ultimate bragging rights for the defensive player. Remember how unbearable and annoying Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell used to be? After calling out Patriots safety Rodney Harrison (Mitchell told him "I got something for you Harrison when I meet you too.") the box score ironically indicated that Harrison had more catches than Mitchell thanks to his two interceptions, leading to a postgame interview in which Harrison exclaimed, "I had more catches than Freddie Mitchell!"
Now back to the discussion at hand: why Vonn Bell is so good at football.
It's third and six, which means exotic blitz time for the Buckeyes defense. With the play being a five man rush, this leaves Bell, Damon Webb (#3 now!), Gareon Conley, and Eli Apple in man to man coverage, with Tyvis Powell playing center field and providing help over the top for anybody and everybody. Typically it's Bell who plays the center field/free safety role, but part of what makes Ohio State's secondary so good is the versatility their safeties have in exchanging roles at a moment's notice.
The blitz works to perfection, as linebacker Joshua Perry gets a free shot (which he more than takes advantage of) at Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner. As a side note, linebacker Raekwon McMillan (#5) is directly behind Perry also unblocked, and there are three Minnesota offensive lineman on the left side blocking absolutely nobody. I think it's safe to say that Luke Fickell and Chris Ash dialed up a doozy of a blitz here.
Bell sits on this trail route, and after the game explained his thought process on this play:
"They ran that play earlier. They knew we were in man so they were going to try and pick me," Bell said. "Being that No. 1 is their guy, they wanted to get the ball to him. I took a picture in my head, I said they were going to run that play again, I jumped in front of him and made the play."
Here we pinpoint the moment that Bell jumped in front of the wide receiver to make the play, as the second Leidner cocks his arm back to throw, Bell plants his foot in the ground and takes off to beat the receiver to the spot of the throw.
Bell made the play, and after breaking two tackles (including a filthy juke on #82 shown above) dove into the end-zone to complete his first pick six as a Buckeye, and to mark his second occasion as an occupant of #zone6 this season.
Here's Bell (I assume) calling out Vannett on national television, pointing out his superior two touchdowns on the season. Or he's doing some cool hand sign that I am unaware of. Perhaps more importantly, was Bell stunting the ODB haircut before or after Beckham?! This question is crucial to Ohio State's success this season, and any information on the matter would be much appreciated.
Adolphus Washington is an athlete
Ohio State's entire defensive line is full of ridiculous athletes. Sam Hubbard was initially a Notre Dame Lacrosse commit in high school before coming to his senses. Joey Bosa is Joey Bosa. Adolphus Washington? Meet your 2012 Gatorade Ohio player of the year in basketball!
Washington is Ohio State's three-technique (which means he typically lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard) on the defensive line, which is what Michael Bennett played last year for the Silver Bullets. Aside from a Darron Lee blitz off the edge, this is a fairly normal play from a schematic standpoint. Washington's responsibility is to penetrate and make a play.
If you simply paused the play here you might think Minnesota was reading Washington on the play. That is until you notice the guard who Washington swam by almost immediately is now running backwards in an attempt to make up for his mistake (spoiler alert: he doesn't make up for his mistake). Seeing as how the Leidner isn't a modern day Randall Cunningham by any stretch of the imagination, it's safe to assume this play was simply a case of Washington being a beast, and not Leidner making the incorrect read.
You may have noticed in the previous screen shot that the Golden Gophers were attempting to block Ohio State's Tyquan Lewis (whose big day was predicted by Land-Grant's personal Nostradamus Chuck McKeever) with a tight end. To say this did not work would be an understatement, as Lewis joined Washington's meeting with the Minnesota running back four yards behind the line of scrimmage. Unlike Washington's victim, the Minnesota tight end decided to simply move on from missing his block against Lewis. This is an interesting strategy considering the whole play basically revolved around #86 providing a lane for his running back to run through, but regardless: great pursuit and block shedding from two of Ohio State's typically less heralded defensive studs.
That dude Joey Bosa is still pretty good, too
One of Ohio State's two Lombardi semifinalists, Bosa was his usual dominant self last Saturday, despite being robbed of extending his sack streak to four games, thanks to more shenanigans from Leidner.
This play starts off like most plays do for Bosa: with a double team. Ohio State is not blitzing on this play, relying on their four defensive lineman to get pressure.
After the Minnesota tight end completes his chip on Bosa, Bosa is left isolated on Minnesota's right tackle, which immediately goes horribly wrong. Bosa has contain on this play, meaning his decision to rip inside came with the risk that Leidner could scramble to open grass to his right, but Bosa bails himself out by getting to Leidner before he could decide to run.
Leidner is all set to throw to the receiver he has been staring down the entire play, but he thinks better of it upon noticing that his two receivers (on the short side of the field) are quickly running out of real estate, and that there are also more Buckeyes than Golden Gophers in his passing window. For these reasons, Leidner decided to pump fake (shown above), which at least gets the attention of Washington momentarily. One Buckeye who did not fall for Leidner's pump fake is Bosa, and as we've learned this season: pump fakes which give Buckeye defensive linemen more time to get to the quarterback typically do not end well for the opposition.
This is where Leidner robs Bosa of a sack, as he literally drops the ball on his own before Bosa can personally drive him straight into
hell the turf. A mad rush for the ball ensues, with Minnesota winding up on top in the end.
Ohio State's defense was not perfect on Saturday. However, they were pretty much perfect up until the fourth quarter, and when you are up 21-0 and positioned in a defense designed to not give up any big plays, it's reasonable (but not acceptable) to give up two fourth quarter touchdowns. While Illinois does not offer an offense known for striking fear into the hearts of their opponents, the Silver Bullets can still not afford an entire game with their sometimes present lackadaisical attitude. Luckily (as far as I know) there is not a current quarterback on the Illinois roster who is known by "Juice" in any way shape or form, which is a great start for any game against the Fighting Illini.