The improbable and unthinkable happened in Happy Valley last Saturday night and it happened for a various amount of reasons — all of which are key ingredients to pulling off a major upset:
- Scoring on special teams: Game-winning blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and a blocked punt, leading to points.
- Getting to the quarterback: We’ll get to this.
- Hitting on big plays: Only four Penn State receivers caught passes, but they each had a long reception of over 20 yards. Saquon Barkley was held for under 100-yards on the ground, but he had a long rush of 37-yards.
If we were to go back through Ohio State’s losses under Urban Meyer, the offense has been the issue in just about all of them — besides the Orange Bowl versus Clemson. When they find themselves in a dog fight, the offensive line is typically getting abused and/or they lean on the quarterback too much and get away from what got them there in the first place.
We can go back to the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game, where they went away from Carlos Hyde and only trusted Braxton Miller with the ball in his hands — even in short yardage. Then there was the 2014 loss to Virginia Tech, where Bud Foster surprised the Ohio State coaching staff with the Bear Front, which he used in the past. The Buckeyes surrendered 15 pressures and eight sacks against the Hokies that night. Then last year’s loss against Michigan State, where the best running back in the country touched the ball 12 total times on the day, compared to the quarterback running the ball 15 times. Then last Saturday night, where one of the most electrifying players in the country had two carries, after having 12 carries and 18 total touches the prior week (we’ll get to the offensive line in a bit). The games that they lose are due to coaching and the lack of putting players in the correct position to win the game.
Sure, if you start at Ohio State, you should win your one-on-one battles against inferior opponents. But the lack of in-game adjustments and the constant overcompensation from the prior week’s game plan is just plain strange.
This was written in last week’s breakdown of the Wisconsin game:
If we were to go back to last week’s breakdown, we mentioned that Ed Warinner needs to figure out how to get the ball into Curtis Samuel’s hands more often. This week was quite the opposite. It was nice to see Samuel touch the ball 18 times, but he needs to figure out how to balance the carries between Samuel and Weber. At the half, Samuel had 11 touches, while Weber had four and Wilson had zero. It’s almost like they tend to overcompensate the following game to fix last week’s issues. It shouldn’t surprise us if Weber gets the majority of the touches in the first half of next week’s game.
So what did Ed Warinner do after Samuel touched the ball ‘too much?’ He responded by handing the ball off to Mike Weber 21 times, while Samuel carried the ball twice — one of which he scored on a 74-yard run. We should be all-for Weber hammering the defense, but newsflash: Penn State does not have the same caliber of athlete that Ohio State possesses in Curtis Samuel. In fact, Samuel’s first touch of the game occurred on a reception at the 9:21 mark of the 2nd Quarter. What has happened to the diversity that this team showed against Oklahoma? They are unstoppable when the ball is being spread around. Inexcusable playcalling.
Onto the Penn State review:
J.T. Barrett’s Passing Chart vs Penn State
|Designed Runs||Dropbacks||Completions||Incompletions||Total TD||Scrambles||Overthrows||Throwaways|
|Pressured||Sacked||Hit||Pass Break-Up||Batted at LOS||Drops||Turnovers||Defensive PI|
There are major question marks regarding this chart. The first thing that stands out is the 51 times that J.T. Barrett dropped back. The game was being played in a crazy, wet environment, the Buckeyes led by 12-plus points at two different instances in the game, the line could not block and Penn State never led until there was 4:27 left in the ball game. Why is Barrett throwing the ball 43 times when they have never once been a passing team, especially on the road and against an inferior opponent?
To make matter worse, the offensive line could not pass protect — especially Isaiah Prince. Out of Barrett’s 51 dropbacks, he was pressured a whopping 26 times, hit seven times and sacked six times. Price himself accounted for 19 pressures, four hits and three sacks. If there is one weak link on the offensive line during a game, wouldn’t it be helpful to keep a tight end in on his side to help — since Penn State constantly brought a linebacker off the edge — or call a screen or a draw to that side? The pressure numbers would be even greater if Barrett didn’t pull multiple Houdini acts to avoid a sack.
Barrett gained 20-plus yards on this play, somehow:
This just can’t happen:
If an individual player is allowing such gaudy pressure numbers, the staff needs to find a way to help him — especially if they do not trust a backup player in that spot. Instead, they dropped Barrett back over-and-over again and ultimately left him out to dry — in a game where they led for 90-percent of the time.
Barrett’s passing numbers did not look great, but he played on of his better games under the terrible circumstances that he was given. He kept calm in the pocket while avoiding rushers and constantly kept his eyes downfield, looking to make a play. The receivers — sans Samuel and Noah Brown — have all regressed since the Oklahoma game and can no longer get open. They aren’t facing Thorpe Award candidates and should be winning these one-on-one battles.
Overall, J.T. Barrett battled the entire game, in a game where he shouldn’t have even been asked to battle. Once again, the staff over-thought the game plan and it resulted in a Buckeye loss. Unlike last season, they can luckily (hopefully) bail themselves out by winning out and making the playoff. But if history tells us anything, expect a lot of Curtis Samuel next week against Northwestern.