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Film Review: CJ Stroud’s success, a fullback touchdown, and a turnover hungry defense

Ryan Day called an excellent game giving Stroud his opportunities to succeed, and the defense showed how far its come in a short time

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Ohio State Buckeyes played a fantastic game on both sides of the ball against Rutgers, and in this week’s film review, we are going to look at how the Buckeyes were able to put together their most complete performance yet. For Ohio State, Ryan Day and the team have responded in every way imaginable since the game against Oregon, and schematically they continue to improve upon the bricks laid in previous weeks. Rutgers was just the unfortunate first foe in the way as the team begins to put it all together.

To start, CJ Stroud and the offense put on a near perfect display until the starters were pulled while giving the Buckeyes the most consistent attacking output yet. When the first six touchdowns are scored by six different players, there are a lot of aspects going right. Ohio State was able to run the ball at will with all four running backs who played, and every receiving target had an imprint on the game. This was the most well-designed plan of attack from Day since Ohio State beat Clemson. Offensively we’re going to see how Ryan Day dialed in his most effective passing attack thus far.

Defensively, the Buckeyes seem to have found their best 11. This has been huge in regards to the continuity on the field and the comfortability in assignments. As the rotating players have lessened, the Buckeyes have been able to play aggressive and fast to the ball. The mixing in of new coverages forced Rutgers QB Noah Vedral into his first 3 interceptions of the year. The pass rush didn’t get home all that much, but that’s not to say they did a bad job. We’re going to look at the three INTs to see what Ohio State has done to create these turnovers.

As we get into this film review, I’m just happy this one is going to be positive.

Stroud and the Passing Game

To get started, in the early goings of the season Ryan Day seemed to throw CJ Stroud into the fire. They utilized a lot of concepts for a far more experienced signal caller that didn’t really fit his skillset, and it seemed to put Stroud into some bad spots. We saw last week with the two backups Day do a phenomenal job of creating completions for his quarterbacks and allowing them to get into a rhythm early. This week, one of the main things I wanted to see was how Day brought Stroud along after his week of rest. What new concepts would we see?

Well there was a good mix, and it led to an extremely successful day through the air as we will talk about below.

After Henderson scored in two plays and the pick six, Ohio State got the ball back with a chance to put the game away early. Day added the true RPO into the game plan last week and it really is a friendly tool for the QB. In the play below, Jeremey Ruckert motions across which does two things: shows the coverage and shows the linebackers’ responsibilities. An RPO starts with numbers. If you have numbers pre-snap in the box, the run game is the best option. If you have a one-on-one match up with a receiver, that is the target. The reason we can tell this is an RPO and not a play action starts with the blocking on the line. It is a run blocking scheme.

Rutgers is in man-to-man, and the DB in front of Wilson bites on the run action leaving a lot of space for an easy throw. RPOs are a great addition as they allow the quarterback to have two easy choices when done correctly.


In the next series on offense, Stroud made some incredible throws, but the highlight of this drive came off what seemed to be one of his easiest throws of the day. When I talk about completions by design, this play below really shows what that looks like.

Ohio State utilized shallow crossers a ton during the Dwayne Haskins Jr. era. With Justin Fields, it really ended up becoming a safety valve against teams that relied heavily on man coverage. The last two weeks we have seen an increase in these play calls. In the play below, Ohio State runs a level concept. After the receivers clear out, Garrett Wilson is unaccounted for. This play against Rutgers’ soft zone with linebackers is successful because the linebacker for Rutgers (No. 8) goes up field and the DBs leave a ton of grass for Wilson.

Stroud just has to let Wilson clear the line and the rest is easy money for a score.


The last play in this section we’re going to take a look at is not because of scheme or anything we need to learn, but more so because it’s honestly a play that just hasn’t seemed to happen this year. With the confidence Stroud was able to build throughout the game, he made four absolutely incredible throws. This one was my favorite, which is why it makes the cut here.

The play below starts as a standard drop back from a doubles formation. The play breaks down almost immediately due to the pressure, but Stroud eludes the rush, then steps up in the pocket — something we have not seen much from him yet. He keeps his eyes downfield and delivers a strike to his playmaker and all-time great receiver Chris Olave, who does what he does best in scoring a touchdown. These are the plays that separate good QBs from great ones, and if he can consistently play at this level Ohio State’s offensive ceiling may reach all-time status.


Forcing Turnovers

Ohio State’s defense played its best game of the season against an efficient Scarlet Knights offense. Rutgers has shown an ability to move the ball, but has failed to capitalize when it does. Before the Akron game, though, Ohio State let everybody capitalize when they wanted to. This week, Ohio State did everything well, so I want to take a look at what made the turnovers for the Buckeyes possible.

The first forced turnover of the game was as easy as it gets for a cornerback. The zone scheme Ohio State was in was not challenged, and Vedral overthrew his receiver right to Denzel Burke.

Ohio State has been a one-high safety team under Day, and prior to the staff reshuffling we rarely ever saw Cover 2. On this play, Ohio State runs a straight Cover 2 look, bringing a four man rush and has the entire field covered. Rutgers seemed to be caught off guard, and Vedral sees Cam Martinez in the seam late. He tries to force it in to the small window, but the Buckeyes have the route covered. Using this coverage surprised me, it surprised Rutgers, and it was surprisingly effective, resulting in a touchdown as well as a huge turnover early in the game.

The first interception was forced by good coverage and a bad throw. The second INT the pass rush has an impact as Vedral’s arm is hit as he is throwing. Ohio State is once again in Cover 2, and this time they have the linebackers show blitz. The linebackers do not blitz, and the DL is able to provide a lot of pressure with a standard four-man pass rush. Vedral is looking to take a hole shot between the corner Sevyn Banks in the flat and the safety in the deep half. If he is able to this, it’s probably still picked off, but the DL made their presence felt.

Zach Harrison won’t get credited with any stats besides a QB pressure here, but his rush is what gets the ball popped up in the air. He beats the tackle and hits Vedral’s arm, and this is defensive synergy as Tommy Eichenberg is able to secure the INT.

The final interception is once again the defensive continuity fully coming together. The pass rush gets to the QB and the coverage is great. This leads to forcing turnovers regularly — which is what we saw.

Ohio State brings additional pressure with a Bullet blitz off the edge with Kourt Williams. By Williams disrupting the timing of the drop back, Vedral is forced to step up in the pocket. Tyleik Williams is able to get off his man, but knows he is not going to be able to get the sack. He uses one of Larry Johnson’s most basic techniques in matching the hand and disrupts Vedral’s throwing motion, leading to an under-thrown ball. Ohio State is once again in Cover 2, and Ryan Watts is one of the deep half safeties. The receiver gets his depth, but due to the pressure Watts has an easy INT.

The reason this week Ohio State went so zone heavy at times is because it alleviates the stress motions cause. Rutgers as a team was unable to create that desired confusion throughout the game that has killed the Buckeyes previously. This was great game planning by the staff, and great trust in the newly installed schemes.

Ohio State’s new schemes have paid immediate dividends in the turnover department, and even though there was only one sack recorded, the Buckeyes applied constant pressure creating some bad throws. This week, Ohio State’s rush was there to contain Vedral from expanding plays and to shrink the pocket to make him uncomfortable. Ohio State was successful in both cases, and this allowed the DBs to get comfortable in coverage.

The Buckeyes’ defense looked as connected as ever, and the play calling really showed how much continuity the unit has developed. This game is another building block, but overall Ohio State executed their plan to near perfection.


Bonus: Fullback Touchdown

Usually when the tight end scores we love to give them extra shine, but Ohio State did something even more spectacular than that. Mitch Rossi, the fullback for Ohio State, has done a lot of dirty work this year. When you have a chance to reward a player like Rossi, you have to take it. Ohio State drove all the way down the field, and after a sport review took away Master Teague’s touchdown, Ohio State was on the 1-yard line.

In the NFL, there is a play by the name of Spider-2 Y Banana, which was made famous by the viral clips of Jon Gruden’s QB Camps. Being on the 1-yard line, Ohio State fakes the run in an obvious run situation. Mitch Rossi sneaks out into the flats, and Cade Stover pulls the defenders towards the back of the end zone. Stroud has a lay up to Rossi and we get a spectacular reward for a player who more than deserves it, and now Ohio State can lay claim to being #FBU.


Final Thoughts

Ohio State excelled in the same facets as they did against Akron, and although historically the name across the field from them hasn’t carried much weight, this one was an impressive victory. Ryan Day and the coaching staff deserve a ton of credit this week as the Buckeyes went to Piscataway, NJ and took care of business. This film review was the first one where positivity was the entire theme, but this is exactly what we were hoping for in this game.

Ryan Day called an excellent game offensively and really unlocked some levels to Stroud we had yet to see. This was done through establishing the run game and putting Stroud in positions where he could easily have success. By utilizing QB-friendly concepts like the RPO and setting up the play-action, the Buckeyes had their most complete offensive day yet. Day had a plan, and it was easier to stick with the early 14-0 lead, but Ohio State then took over and dominated. Ohio State’s offense scored on all seven drives in which the starters were on the field, and that should bring a lot of confidence moving forward.

Defensively, there was nothing to complain about outside one big play. The Buckeyes kept their composure and the starters got out of the game only giving up seven points. For the defense, the success starts with simplicity, and as Ohio State has dialed back the checks, they have shown that they can play fast and make plays. The Buckeyes forced three turnovers and applied a lot of pressure on the QB. They were also extremely successful stopping the run outside of yardage gained in garbage time.

As long as Ohio State keeps this momentum, they should be riding high going into next week for the homecoming game against Maryland. For the Buckeyes it’s about continuing to build on what’s working and getting comfortable as the schemes continue to expand. All I know is they looked spectacular in Piscataway.