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Breaking down Ohio State's film against Virginia Tech

The Buckeye offense looked unstoppable at times. See how they performed under a microscope.

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Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a slow second quarter, Ohio State's offense was plenty explosive, leading the way to a 42-24 victory at Virginia Tech, amid a staple of GIFs. How did Ohio State actually deploy all of their playmakers, and what could it tell us about what they may try to do for the future, or what they need to work on? Let's take a closer look at the tape.

Cardale Jones

Designed runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions TD passes Scrambles Overthrow Underthrow Throwaway
11 23 9 9 2 2 3 2 1
Pressured Sacked Hit during throw Pass break-up Batted at LOS Drops Intercepted TD run Defensive PI
7 0 3 0 2 2 1 1 2

  • The big stat here is that Ohio State quarterbacks were sacked zero times this game, compared to the seven that they suffered against the Hokies in 2014.
  • Per Pro Football Focus, Cardale Jones was 5-for-8 with two touchdowns and zero interceptions on passes thrown over 10-yards in the air. Last season, J.T. Barrett was 3-for-15, with zero touchdowns and three interceptions on passes thrown over 10-yards in the air.
  • Jones hit Parris Campbell in the hands on the first drive, but the redshirt freshman dropped a would-be touchdown. Jones stood in the pocket and took a big shot as he released a perfectly thrown ball on a post route.
  • Jones led a masterful first drive. Even though he was pressured on four of six dropbacks, he remained calm and took what the defense gave him. He showed off his arm strength on the touchdown pass to Samuel, as he threw roughly 45-yards accurately off of his back foot.
  • He had 11 designed runs, which were mostly on the speed option. With Jones at quarterback, the read option is non-existent and they relied upon the speed option, due to their success with in last year's game. When Ohio State ran the speed option, Virginia Tech made it a point to take away the running back with the outside linebacker and force Jones to keep the ball. It worked this year for Bud Foster.
  • One of Jones' best throws of the night came on a swing pass to Elliott at the end of the first quarter. The ball traveled from the left hashmark, to the numbers on the far side of the field. It was placed perfectly over the linebacker, where only the running back could make a play on the ball. Jones' displayed excellent touch on the completion.

  • Jones took a couple of hits which would have resulted in sacks, but his big, strong frame allowed him to absorb the hit and not go down.
  • On the tipped interception, he needs to make the safe play and throw the ball away, rather than forcing it into coverage.
  • Coach Warinner called a 3-man snag on Miller's touchdown reception. They ran it earlier in the game where Samuel was wide open in the flat. This time, two defenders jumped the flat, which left the intermediate route (Campbell) wide-open and Miller alone in single coverage on a corner route. Miller's speed will beat single coverage the majority of the time, especially with no safety help over-the-top.
  • Poor play-calling at the end of the third quarter where the Buckeyes were set-up with a 1st-and-5. Two poorly designed quarterback runs ended the drive.
  • Jones showed his ability to keep plays alive on the first play of the fourth quarter. He broke contain, rolled out and showed patience, allowing Johnnie Dixon to perform the "scramble drill," and get himself open for a big gain. Heads up play by both the signal caller and the young wideout.

Running backs/ H-backs

Snap counts:
Ezekiel Elliott Braxton Miller Curtis Samuel Warren Ball Bri'onte Dunn
46 27 22 3 1
  • Elliott had 13 touches on 46 snaps and only six touches in the first half on 24 of a possible 25 snaps. This is inexcusable and one can only hope that this is not the norm, Bear Front or not.
  • Miller played 66 percent (25/38) of the snaps through three quarters, then took a seat on the bench for the majority of the fourth quarter. Limiting the amount of hits he takes will be important for his long-term durability.
  • Elliott was able to catch the ball on both sides of the field, rather than one, due to his healthy wrist.
  • I believe this will be the only game where Elliott will be the featured punt returner. I fully expect Jalin Marshall to take his spot back versus Hawaii. Miller could challenge Marshall eventually.
  • Samuel's touchdown catch came on his first snap of the game, after subbing out Miller. He made a great adjustment on the ball and made a terrific diving catch for the first touchdown of the season.
  • NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah labeled Miller as "Percy Harvin 2.0!" He wasn't lying. He ran good routes for his first game as a H-back and showed excellent hands on his first reception, a shoelace grab on a Jones' bullet pass. It would have gone for six if Jones hit him in stride. The sky is the limit for Miller at his new position.
  • There is not much to breakdown with Miller's absurd 53-yard touchdown run other than his elite athleticism, good blocking on the perimeter and his creativity with the football in his hands. It was the focal point of this ESPN Sports Science piece.
  • I expect more creativity as we go forward, with some zone read and run-pass options, with Miller in the Wildcat formation. Outside of the 53-yard run, Miller only had nine yards on his other five carries.

Wide receivers

  • Michael Thomas' slant route on the first third down of the game was one of the money plays from last year's offense. He ran a crisp route on All-American Kendall Fuller that moved the chains. Look for Thomas to run this route a couple of times per game. He also beat Fuller on the same route in the fourth quarter, but the corner was called for pass interference on the play.
  • As noted above, Campbell dropped a perfectly thrown ball by Jones, which would have resulted in a touchdown. He ran a great post route against Cover 0, meaning there was no safety help over the top. Campbell would have caught that in stride and strolled into the end zone. The woes continued for Campbell, who added another drop that should have been called a fumble on a third down, he also committed a false start on the punt team. The wideout then redeemed himself by blowing up the punt returner, as a gunner, on the following play. Tough first game for the inexperienced receiver.
  • Including the two slant routes, Thomas abused Fuller throughout the night. He beat him on a go route which caused Fuller to panic and interfere with Thomas, resulting in a first down. Thomas then put the All-American on a "Zone 6," highlight tape, beating him for a touchdown with ease. He hit him with a terrifying stutter-and-go route which broke Twitter and Fuller's ankles. Thomas put himself on the national radar with his dominance over one of the best corners in the country.

Tight ends

  • Nick Vannett was once again solid in the run game and will be a safety valve on third down for the high-powered Buckeye offense.
  • It was nice to see Marcus Baugh see time in two-tight end sets. With the vast array of playmakers on the perimeter compared to the past, we may see less two-tight end sets, but they will most certainly use 12 personnel throughout each and every game. Baugh is a big, athletic body who will be a force as a blocker and as a pass catcher in the red zone.

Offensive line

  • The offensive line paved the way on the ground for 366 yards on 37 attempts. It was night-and-day compared to last season's Virginia Tech performance. The offense also set a school record with 10.2 yards-per-play on the night.
  • Center Jacoby Boren cannot hurt the team with a personal foul, especially on second-and-long. Luckily, the offense bailed him out, but it could have been a drive killer.
  • The entire offensive line and especially right guard Pat Elflein created a huge hole on Elliott's 80-yard touchdown run. Elflein was able to block two Hokies on the play, walling off the linebacker on the second level.
  • The whole left side of the line held on a Jones' touchdown run at the end of the first quarter, which was called back. If the Buckeyes went up 21-0, it most likely would have been the nail in the Hokie coffin.
  • There was a third down play in the second quarter where a Virginia Tech defensive end knocked down a pass intended to Samuel that could have gained huge yardage. Right tackle Chase Farris has to do a better job of getting the end's hands down or chopping him on the Jones' roll-out.

Defensive tidbits

  • Defensive coordinator Chris Ash gave Virginia Tech a taste of their own medicine, using the Bear defense on third down to apply pressure. It resulted in a sack the first time it was deployed.
  • Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Adolphus Washington, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes all had strong games for the defensive line. Next week they will add the most dominant defensive player in the country, Joey Bosa, to the group. I expect defensive line coach Larry Johnson to set a deep, athletic rotation along the defensive line from here-on-out.
  • This defense hits hard. They had a couple of big shots on quarterback Michael Brewer before Washington knocked him out of the game with a broken collarbone.
  • Washington had an excellent game and was Pro Football Focus' highest graded Buckeye.
  • Virginia Tech took advantage of Ohio State's aggressiveness on defense with a throwback screen to fullback Sam Rodgers. With Brewer rolling out to the right, Eli Apple and Tyvis Powell did not stay home, which allowed Rodgers to slip to an empty left side of the field.
  • The Hokies replicated this on their second touchdown, where they rolled Brewer to the right, while slipping their tight end to the vacant left side of the field on a delayed crossing route. You can bet that this will be fixed in the film room.
  • The Virginia Tech offense was reluctant to run plays to the field side, due to Darron Lee's presence. I counted only a few running plays towards his side. This is a good example of why they avoided Lee.
  • Powell showed excellent range and ball skills on his third quarter interception.