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The Ohio State offense exploited Oklahoma’s weaknesses on defense

The Buckeyes dominated the perimeter.

If we go back to last week, we saw the Ohio State offense take a major step-back from their Week 1 performance. Against Bowling Green, we saw the offense spread the ball around to a multitude of playmakers on the perimeter and in the backfield. Then the following week against Tulsa, the offense went back to the vanilla disaster that we had to endure throughout the 2015 season.

Buckeye fans tried to give them the benefit of the doubt because of the weather, but their performance really worried fans that they would bring that boring playbook to Norman, Oklahoma.

45 points and 433 total yards later, the Buckeye offense was back.

Here’s the film review:

J.T. Barrett

Designed runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions Total TD Scrambles Overthrows Throwaways
12 24 14 6 4 3 2 0
Pressured Sacked Hit Pass break-up Batted at LOS Drops Turnovers Defensive PI
6 1 2 1 0 0 0 0
  • 12 designed runs is usually way too much for this offense, and anything over 11 typically results in a loss. But against Oklahoma, these designed runs were perfectly executed and attacked the Sooners’ defensive weakness — which we’ll touch on later.
  • Barrett looked like a man possessed and left it all out on the field. Here's an example of just that, when he decided to run over Oklahoma's strong safety to move-the-chains:
  • Out of Barrett’s 24 dropbacks, he was only pressured on six. The offensive line — especially up the middle, where Oklahoma is tough — did an excellent job of keeping Barrett upright. He was only sacked once and hit twice while he threw.
  • There were two instances where Barrett looked like the 2014 J.T. Barrett — in regards to his calmness and presence in the pocket.
  • The passing yardage does not fly off the page (14-of-20, 152 yards), but his passing was extremely efficient. Barrett didn’t force the ball into tight windows or into double coverage in the middle of the field. Instead, he took what the defense gave him, by checking down in the flats, or exploiting Oklahoma’s poor cornerbacks outside of the numbers.

***

When looking at the main weaknesses of the Oklahoma defense that the Houston offense exploited, it was obvious that the Ohio State coaching staff saw similar holes:

The Oklahoma secondary had difficulty covering Houston’s big wide-outs:

When watching the Oklahoma-Houston game, it was obvious that Tom Herman wanted to take advantage of Houston’s big receivers against the smaller Oklahoma cornerbacks. On numerous occasions, Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. threw up back-shoulder fades and vertical routes, and let his bigger wideouts go up and get the football.

From the preview: "From an Ohio State standpoint, it looks like Barrett should target Noah Brown and Marcus Baugh vertically. Both are big, athletic targets who can go up and make plays. Oklahoma’s secondary really lacks a true ball-hawk, as they only defended one of Greg Ward Jr.’s 40 pass attempts."

Fast forward to Saturday, and the Buckeyes did just that. Barrett connected with Brown five times and the big wideout came down with four of them in the end zone. One of the four touchdowns was on a comeback route, but the other three came on jump balls, where Brown just had his way with the Sooner cornerbacks.

This was the first Barrett-Brown endzone connection, where the staff was comfortable enough taking advantage of single coverage on the outside, rather than running it inside the 5-yard line on 3rd-and-1. Barrett threw it at Brown's back-shoulder, and only to a place where Brown could catch it.

Major, major mismatch here:

After executing the back-shoulder fade a couple of times, Brown ran a killer comeback route in the endzone -- leaving the cornerback with his back turned and 5-yards off the receiver.

What a route:

The Oklahoma secondary misses a ton of tackles and cannot get off blocks:

When watching Houston play Oklahoma, it was obvious that Oklahoma's strength was their interior defensive line and inside linebackers.

It was clear from the first series of the game, that the Buckeyes wanted to attack the perimeter with Samuel, Barrett and Weber. They peppered the Sooners' soft edge with outside zone plays, speed options, sweeps and in the flats in the passing game. Ed Warinner and Tim Beck really exploited the under-coached and not-so-talented Sooner secondary. They basically took their playbook from the 2014 Sugar Bowl vs Alabama, and replicated it.

On the majority of Samuel, Barrett or Weber’s carries on the perimeter, the secondary just could not get off their blocks and were running in space for a good chunk of yardage. For a team that is very strong and big up the middle, they are extremely weak on the outside.

In the prior two seasons on 3rd or 4th-and-short, the Buckeyes would typically dial-up a designed QB run up the A or B gap, or run inside zone. They had a good success rate, but as you can see here, they were so comfortable with their gameplan that they were confident running outside the tackles on 4th-and-1. As one can see, the cornerbacks have zero ability to get off blocks and Terry McLaurin had his man blocked 15-yards downfield.

The Buckeyes continued to take advantage of their strengths, versus Oklahoma's weakness on the edge. Barrett did a great job here of holding the ball at the mesh-point, freezing the defense just enough, before giving the ball to Samuel on a sweep. Once Samuel got to the second level, it was game over for the would-be-tackler.

This was a complete effort from the coaching staff to dissect the weakness of the defense, put the players in the correct position to make plays and then the players to execute the gameplan.