The game plan was clear: go fast and go explosive. Make no mistake, Meyer and Warinner saw this as a scrimmage to address the most surprising issue facing the Ohio State offense over the last two weeks -- the total lack of explosive plays. If you include two 24-yard passes (which technically don't make the arbitrary 25-yard explosive passing play limit), then the Buckeyes have had just three in the last two games against Hawaii and Northern Illinois.
So that's why we saw a few things we haven't seen in a while pop up against the Broncos: the deep ball, play action passing, counter trey rushes, and the use of tempo. It wasn't always smooth, but it's encouraging to at least see these seemingly forgotten offensive tools in action.
Note: Rushing success rate and opportunity rate totals below are for Elliott -- quarterback rushing efficiency is discussed separately.
|3rd down %
|Rush opp rate
|Cardale pass success
The offense improved almost everything from a week ago: third-down conversion percentage, number of explosive plays, number of three-and-outs, the creation of scoring opportunities, and the passing success rate.
The most critical was in the number of explosive plays. After recording just a single explosive pass against Northern Illinois, the Buckeyes seemed dead set on connecting on a few deep balls and breaking a few explosive runs against the Broncos (they were successful on 8, or 11%). Part of that was the Buckeyes game plan to be sure, but part of that also has to be the Broncos' explosive play defense, which was 90th in IsoPPP overall entering the game.
There were still some issues, however. While Ohio State improved how many scoring opportunities they created from last week (up 22%), they nonetheless stalled on several opportunities and didn't finish drives as efficiently as they started them. Ohio State averaged 4.43 points per scoring opportunity thanks to two interceptions on under thrown balls (and Cardale had multiple under thrown balls besides his lone turnover once they were within scoring range).
Overall, the Buckeyes just had weird stalled drives as opposed to three-and-outs (only recording one wasted drive to five last week). The issues began on first and second down. On five drives where the Buckeyes punted or otherwise stalled (like the missed opportunity to end the first half thanks to the intentional grounding call), the Buckeyes totaled just five yards on every first and second down. That's ten plays that netted just five total yards.
Those poor totals on first and second down tie back to the final issue with the Ohio State offense: inefficiency. The rushing success rate and opportunity rate are consistent at least with the rest of the season, with roughly mid-50s efficiency. This is slightly lower than last season.
However, Cardale improved his passing success rate from last week, but it's still not quite up to the level it needs to be thanks to a number of incomplete passes. Further, the quarterback run game was fairly inefficient. Cardale ran with a 44% success rate and Braxton had two efficient carries out of four from the wildcat. Braxton wasn't responsible for a single explosive play, which was odd as Ohio State struggled to connect with maybe the most electric player on the team. The wildcat experiment with Braxton is fairly strange -- it hasn't created a single explosive play since Braxton's spin move against Virginia Tech, and it is fairly predictable.
Once again, the defense was fairly efficient even though it allowed several first-half long drives and explosive plays (which were mitigated due to penalties and poor special teams play). Ohio State forced five three-and-outs and forced two first-half field goals which were both blocked.
The Broncos moved the ball surprisingly easily in the first half, but were stopped by a combination of self-inflicted penalties and the Ohio State defense near the red zone. Ohio State allowed a 48% rushing success rate and a 30% passing success rate. The defense tightened up more more in the second half, drastically improving their success rate and stopping Broncos complete passes for very short gains. The Broncos opened the second half with a long touchdown drive then had four straight punts to end their drives.