An offensive clinic was put on Saturday when the Ohio State Buckeyes derailed any plans of a Purdue upset in Columbus, winning 59-31. The last few weeks as a collective we have wondered what the issues were for the offense, and why they were unable to attack the way we had become accustomed to seeing. Ryan Day opened up his full bag of tricks, and despite Purdue having an experienced, tough group – especially in the front-seven – Ohio State was able to do whatever they wanted against Purdue. The additions of receiver motion, bunched formations, and the OL blocking at a higher level allowed for a full display of the offensive arsenal.
The story shifts on the defensive side, but I will note that Purdue is the best offensive team Ohio State has faced all year. With a little mix of a quick passing game and some simple concepts, Purdue threw the ball 52 times and Ohio State only generated one pressure per Pro Football Focus. This is not ideal, but when we look deeper into what Purdue did to combat Ohio State’s pass rush, the picture is more clear. Purdue used a lot of quick and subtle pocket movements to keep Aidan O’Connell clean.
In the second half, Ohio State rushed three for the majority of it, and when you’re playing an experienced quarterback, they will be able to put up numbers. Without All-22 views there isn’t much to look at from a coverage standpoint, but we will look at two plays that went poorly to highlight the two biggest issues in coverage.
Overall, this is the exact performance you wanted to see from Ohio State heading into the next two weeks. As Ryan Day said at the Skull Session, the Buckeyes have an even greater edge to them heading into November.
The Ohio State offense was back in full force on Saturday. The way the Buckeyes played made it seem like Ryan Day was saving some serious tricks for November. The complaints of the last couple of weeks were addressed, and the performances of each position group from the offensive line to the running backs were much more effective. C.J. Stroud was on target on almost every throw and the receivers picked apart the man coverage. For this to all happen, Ohio State added a couple of minor wrinkles that changed the entire outlook of the offense to the point Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said, “We were lucky to hold them to 59.”
We’re going to look at how motioning receivers opened up both the run and passing games for the Buckeyes, because it seemed like every time a player motioned, something good happened.
Ohio State has mixed in a couple of jet sweeps this year, but the first time the Buckeyes utilized the concept against Purdue it worked extremely well. Before we get into the play, jet motions can add the third dimension to the run game that the defense has to account for. By doing this, any time Ohio State motions players on the opposing defense need respond to the motion no matter what.
In the first play, the Buckeyes run a traditional jet sweep. Purdue aligns with a player directly over Jeremy Ruckert, and Purdue’s defensive end George Karlaftis aligns in the C-gap outside the tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere. Jet Sweeps are blocked like a “Stretch” run, with everybody “reach” blocking, but what makes this play interesting is they leave Karlaftis unaccounted for. By doing this, it allows for Petit-Frere to get up to the second level and Ruckert to get outside of the walked down linebacker.
Treveyon Henderson’s lead block that takes out one defender and Chris Olave’s block allow this play to spring for the long touchdown. The beauty of this play is it’s simple, but it changes how the defense views motion.
The next two plays show how a motion early in the game can lead to a play design coming back late in the game. Of the two, the first play happened in the first quarter inside the 10-yard line, and that is an area that Ohio State struggled in the last couple of games.
Ohio State sticks to one of their bread and butter plays with an inside zone run, but the added wrinkle of motion changes the look of the defense. The Buckeyes are in 13-personnel, which means there is one running back and three tight ends. This has been a standard goal line look under Day to get bigger bodies on the field for short yardage, but the one thing Ohio State has not utilized of late is motion.
Olave is the lone receiver on the field and everyone in the country knows how dangerous he is. Stroud signals for him to come across in motion before Purdue is set. This leads to a lot of confusion with Purdue’s alignment, and you can see all of Purdue’s players moving around. Olave takes the attention of at least half the defense, leading to the defenders reacting late. This allows the offensive line to get leverage and create enough of a push to get Henderson the space to score a touchdown.
The next play builds off what Ohio State did on the Henderson touchdown. Ohio State is once again inside the 10-yard line looking to score. They align in 12-personnel this time bringing an extra receiver on the field. Olave motions across the formation. This is where watching film comes in handy. Purdue passes receivers off when they cross the formation. In the first look we see Olave getting passed off, giving Ohio State confirmation that they do this because of the previous trip to the redzone.
Olave motions across, Purdue passes him, but then Olave motions hard back across. They slip Ruckert out to the second level, creating a little bit of a soft pick of the defender responsible for Olave. Olave gets out into the flat and the unblocked Purdue defensive end has no time to interfere with Stroud ,leading to an easy throw to Olave who does the rest.
Ohio State got a similar look earlier and had a play call ready for a second scenario in the same situation. This is what elite offenses do, and it was a pleasant turnaround from previous weeks.
Purdue took the death by a thousand cuts approach against Ohio State, and in the second half the Buckeyes really did not do much to try to combat it. A lot of individuals are hung up on PFF’s one pressure grade, but when a team is built on the quick pass and the Buckeyes only rush three, my question becomes: what did you expect? We can get nitpicky and look at the lack of pressure, but Purdue has rarely ever given up a ton of sacks under Brohm.
When a team sits back and makes the opponent take 10-15 plays to score, that is accomplishing what Ohio State was trying to do in the second half — eating clock. The lead could have been surmountable, but Ohio State’s offense put Matt Barnes in a place as a play caller where he did not have to show any of his tricks. That being said, there are a couple things we need to highlight.
The one play that will need to be looked at the most is the long touchdown that went over Bryson Shaw’s head. There are a few reasons this happened, but zero reasons on why this should have happened.
Purdue lines up in an offset stacked receiver look to the field side. Ohio State aligns with three defenders over the two, but this is an obvious quarters look pre-snap. The Buckeyes’ safeties line up with very little depth, both eight yards from the line of scrimmage. This gives little to no margin for error for Bryson Shaw to the field side.
Purdue runs a play-action pass with a hard fake. This sucks Shaw up towards the line of scrimmage, which he is not supposed to do. As the deep quarter defender, his first step should be back. Once he realizes it is a pass, his eyes should immediately shift to the receivers who run a switch concept. Once Shaw is drawn to the line of scrimmage with the run fake, this should become a man recovery where he “wrong turns” — turns his left shoulder around — to immediately find the receiver.
He keeps his eyes in the backfield, which allows an easy throw for O’Connell over the top and he is not able to recover. Lathan Ransom also should have impeded the progress of the receiver on his way out to the flats. Once again, the combination of No. 17 and No. 12 leads to a big play for the opponent.
On both “Buck Off” and the “Instant Recap” podcasts, my co-host Jordan and I discuss the fact that other teams have good players and pay their coaches a lot of money too. This next play is a prime example of that.
Purdue just threw an incompletion and used tempo to align quickly. Earlier in this article, I said that Ohio State was able to scheme up a touchdown due to what they saw on film with Purdue’s checks. Well in this case, Purdue took advantage of that against the Buckeyes.
Purdue lines up in trips to the boundary and does a quick shift of the running back out, making the formation quads to the boundary. By doing this, Ohio State has three defenders each in a zone responsibility who need to account for four players. Purdue runs a bubble to the running back, which sucks up Denzel Burke. The next concept is a verts switch concept, with the two outside defenders both attacking inside, making the two safeties commit to them. This opens up the late slot fade route, leading to him being wide open with no one in front of him.
This confusion created by the quick formation shift and quick snap did not allow any time for Ohio State to make any changes defensively, leading to the mismatch to that side of the field. This play was well-designed and attacked Ohio State’s defensive tendencies, which a lot of teams struggle to do.
The Buckeyes had a great outing despite what some of the fanbase may tell you. Once again the defense was plagued by a few mistakes, but overall they played a sound game. The offense found their identity and fully exposed Purdue’s man-heavy scheme, leading to an extremely high scoring output. If Ohio State’s offense can play at this level moving forward against the remaining teams on its schedule, this team can win a national title.
Before you people who are worried about the defense come after me, the Buckeyes played arguably the best offense they are going to face all year. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm schemes better than most coaches, and was able to design some scores. Ohio State’s second half defense was almost nonexistent, but that was in large part due to the play calling. The mistakes were the problem, but once again a couple of those big plays were just well-designed with a little bit of that Purdue chaos. Overall, limiting Purdue to 31 points shouldn’t be seen as an accomplishment, but from where the Buckeyes were in Week 3 to now, this game looked a lot different.
Now the task ahead is a whole different challenge, and we will finally see if the run defense has truly improved. Michigan State brings in the most talented player the Buckeyes will face in the B1G, and if they can slow him down I might go out on a limb and say the defense is good. We know the offense will need to win the game, though.