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Film Preview: Ohio State will look to bounce back against struggling Tulsa

Tulsa is plays an aggressive defensive style and relies on a balanced offensive attack that will provide a nice test for the new wrinkles in the Buckeyes’ defense.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The sun rose in Columbus on Sunday and we’re here to see what is next for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Looking over the schedule the next game is against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and they will have upset on their minds. In my film review of the game against Oregon we talked about a lot of the different schematic issues that need to be fixed, in this film preview, we’re going to look at Tulsa’s games against Oklahoma State and UC Davis to get a picture of who the Bucks are playing and how they can improve upon their mistakes from the previous week.

Tulsa has struggled to get anything going, or find any semblance of an identity on offense. In their first game against FCS UC Davis, they had an effective run game, but unfortunately it was spoiled by first year starter at quarterback Davis Brin’s two interceptions. Their best and most productive player on the offensive side, Shamari Brooks, is coming off of an injury and still getting back into the flow of things.

Their head coach David Montgomery comes from the Art Briles coaching tree, so that has its positives and its negatives. Relying heavily on RPOs, quick passes, zone runs and isolation run plays, there should be a lot of opportunities for Ohio State’s defense to see a variety looks and have a chance to really test whatever new schemes they are throwing out there this week.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tulsa has actually done a pretty decent job, given that they lost Zaven Collins — arguably their most talented defensive player in school history — to the NFL Draft following last season.

Led by defensive coordinator Joseph Gillespie, the team has utilized a 3-3-5 in his tenure over the last three years and have been one of the better defensive units in the country. Where Ohio State’s defense won’t have the greatest challenge, Day and staff will have to come prepared for this one. They only gave up two touchdowns in Week 1 and were able to hold UC Davis to four field goals. They’ve only been able to force one turnover, but they are a decent third down defensive unit.

The Buckeyes will have a lot to prove, and although Tulsa is not off to a hot start, they’re a well-coached football team and will provide Ohio State with a solid building block after their first regular season loss under Day.

Ohio State’s offense will look to take advantage of the challenges that Tulsa’s defensive scheme provides, and the OSU defense will have a great opportunity to bounce back against an offense that is struggling to find the end zone.

Tulsa’s Offense

David Montgomery has established a strong reputation for the balanced attacks that he has employed at Tulsa, and he has been able to make his own identity away from the offense he helped dial up at Baylor.

The first aspect of Montgomery’s offense that differs is his dedication to the run game. The first clip below comes from their game against UC Davis. The play is a basic outside zone and this is a play that has given the Buckeyes trouble through two weeks.

Shamari Brooks gets the hand off on this play, when looking at the defense, the UC Davis linebackers over pursue to the outside read, allowing the OL to get up field and open a cut back for Brooks. There are plenty of options for Brooks to take, and Tulsa ends up getting a nice gain.

For the Buckeyes, this is a play that they struggled to defend against Minnesota. As a primary scheme in Tulsa’s offense, the OSU defense will have ample opportunity to prove what they’ve been focusing on this week; presumably, being able to read keys, react, and make the plays.

In the passing game, Tulsa relies on basic Air Raid and spread passing concepts. This is nothing that Ohio State has not seen before and, if the Buckeyes do run their man-to-man scheme like they have in the first two games, this could be troubling. Tulsa does not have the talent to make the Buckeyes pay, but I feel like I’ve said that before.

This next set of clips will look familiar to what the Buckeyes saw when they took on Minnesota two weeks ago. Tulsa utilizes a ton of RPO concepts and they love to take shots downfield.

In the play below, they use a double-out fade concept from a stacked trips formation. This is something that Ohio State can really learn from with man-coverage responsibility.

The stacked receivers are covered perfectly, the press player takes the outside route leaving an easy match up for the off-player to take the other receiver going either inside or out. This play turns into a touchdown, because they played their coverage responsibility. The throw was late and outside which is always bad, and it was turned into points.

Overall, Tulsa provides an opportunity for the Buckeye DBs to focus on their responsibilities, because outside of the different ways that they line up, they have similarities to both Oregon and Minnesota in the fact that they rely on their well-established bread and butter.

If the Buckeyes can’t slow this offense down, the fire alarms going off onTwitter will turn into a nuclear launch warning.

Tulsa’s Defense

Defensively, Tulsa has been much better and much more disciplined than their offensive counterparts. However, they haven’t played an offense of Ohio State’s caliber and yet they have still struggled in the yardage aspect with both opponents gaining over 400 yards against them. The one positive for the Golden Hurricane is that they have limited points scored, especially on extended drives.

Joseph Gillespie is an awesome story going from a high school head coach to D-1 coordinator, but he will have his toughest challenge of the season. Tulsa runs a lot of man coverage and one-high safety looks. They like to blitz and do a lot of stunts along the DL, but let’s start by looking at the run game.

In the below play, Oklahoma State runs a stretch concept, which Ohio State doesn’t really utilize, but it is a great example of how Tulsa flows with the run.

The linebackers scrape very close to the line of scrimmage and you can see the Sam (strong side) linebacker overcommit to the outside, leaving a huge cutback lane. Luckily the other linebacker flowed well or this could have been a huge gain for the Great Plains OSU.

For Ohio State to take advantage of this in the run game, some split zone and counter looks could really play on this over pursuit. If the Buckeyes commit to some bootleg action away from outside run action they could get Stroud and the receivers going early.

In the passing game, Tulsa relies a lot on man-to-man coverage with a one-high safety look, they sometimes mix in cover-3 and other combo coverages, but through the first two games, it was primarily cover-one. The Buckeyes will need to use a lot of their man beaters and challenge Tulsa early with some long developing pass plays.

In the example below we can see Tulsa’s alignment versus trips. Tulsa gives their coverage away with alignment and the DBs playing at different levels is a dead giveaway for man coverage.

They also bring pressure here, which is a huge reason that they rely on man coverage as often as they do. The play UC Davis is running is curls across the board and none of them get open. Ohio State will need to use more complexity to take advantage of this, because Tulsa is well coached enough to foresee such simple routes.

The defense has been the strength for Tulsa in 2021, and, despite the yardage totals, they have performed well on key downs. Ohio State should be able to dominate in the trenches, and if they can provide Stroud with solid pass protection, the Buckeyes can utilize some of their longer developing play-action and route concepts. Tulsa has given up big plays outside in man coverage, but they do make their opponents earn it.

Ohio State’s Game Plan

For the Buckeyes to be successful this week, dominating the line of scrimmage is the thing to start with on both sides of the ball. If the offensive line can dominate in the run game early, Stroud and the receivers should be able to take advantage of Tulsa’s aggressive defensive scheme. There is a lot of boom or bust to the Golden Hurricane’s defensive game plan, and that is recipe for an opposing offense to set up big plays.

On defense, penetration up front and disciplined linebacker play will be how Ohio State can slow down Tulsa offensively. They will not give up on running the football and given the last couple of Ohio State games, they definitely shouldn’t, as a big play is bound to happen.

In the passing game, Tulsa’s receivers have struggled to get separation and the quarterback play has struggled because of that. Since OSU has had somewhat surprisingly strong secondary play this year, this is advantage Buckeyes.

For this game to be successful for OSU, they will need to limit mistakes on both sides and play an extremely clean, mistake-free football game. Day and the staff have a lot to prove and Tulsa is not a bad place to start. A balanced attack and a simple defensive game plan will go a long way for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes have a huge opportunity to win big and get some confidence going moving forward.