The Ohio State Buckeyes were dominant in their win over Michigan State, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Once again, the offense came out of the gate with an incredibly effective drive, highlighted by an efficient downfield passing attack. This set the tone against the overmatched secondary of Michigan State, and a defense that was unable to provide any real pressure to impact Stroud delivering the ball downfield.
Despite the headline-stealing passing attack, the backbone of this offense has been the emergence of a consistent running game. With Miyan Williams out, the opportunity arose for TreVeyon Henderson to remind the Ohio State faithful just the type of lead back he can be. The offensive line paved the way, Henderson found lanes efficiently, and finished runs with authority setting the tone for the game.
Both of those are made possible by the incredible play of the offensive line to this point of the season. There really isn’t much that can be said here that hasn’t been said already about the group that gave up one sack on Saturday. The offensive line creates so much confidence in both the running game and the long developing passing concepts Ryan Day loves to run.
This offensive synergy doesn’t come often, and with players in-and-out of the lineup, that is a testament to the Buckeyes’ offensive staff. Today, we’re going to look at how Ohio State is dominating on the offensive side of the ball, and how Michigan State provided a perfect canvas to showcase the levels this offense has developed.
Since going scoreless on their first offensive series against Notre Dame in the opener, Ohio State has scored on their first offensive possession every other game this season. This includes the matchup against Michigan State. The Buckeyes had a pair of negative plays, but overall the execution to start the game was clinical by the Ohio State offense. The Buckeyes got the ball rolling with a nice run to Emeka Egbuka, but the drive really started with offensive line and Henderson.
Ohio State is in a 11-personnel with Cade Stover aligned inline on the right side. They bring Egbuka in motion to be the split blocker coming across the formation. Ohio State’s offensive line eats up the initial push, but Michigan State’s defensive line does make the backfield a little messy. Henderson stays with the blocks and makes a cut into open grass, which is opened up by Luke Wypler’s block at the second level. Henderson rips off a big gain, and the Buckeyes are off.
In the next play, Ohio State brings Stover on a similar motion path as Egbuka on the previous play. Stroud catches the snap and fakes the wide zone action, a commonly run first down concept to the boundary side for Ohio State. Off of the motion, the Buckeyes run a flood concept to the field side. This means Marvin Harrison Jr. on the outside is running a clear out. Egbuka in the slot is running a deep out at 15-yards, and Stover is running a line route underneath the coverage.
Over the first few weeks, the Buckeyes have found Stover for an easy quick throw, but because of this Michigan State keys on Stover. This leaves a wide window throw for Stroud to the second level. The set up of using tendencies that are on film for opponents is what makes the first two plays special.
To finish the drive, Ohio State uses play-action again, this time selling a hard inside zone. They fake the inside zone, and run verticals with the receivers. The offensive line picks up the stunt well and holds up in protection, giving the receivers time to get down field. Egbuka’s route in the slot takes away the help safety, leaving Marvin Harrison Jr. in one-on-one coverage. Stroud is unable to step into the throw, but puts the ball in a place that only Harrison Jr. can make a play — which he does, scoring the touchdown.
Ohio State ran four plays greater than 15 yards on the first series, and this was just the beginning for a day where long explosive drives were the theme. The accuracy downfield passing on play-action was set up by the effectiveness of Henderson and the offensive line in the run game. Before Michigan State could blink they were down 7-0, and Ohio State took whatever they wanted offensively.
Motion and blocking opening up the offense
The use of motion has been a prevalent part of the Buckeyes’ offense under Ryan Day. For the Buckeyes, the beneficial nature of using motions shows up when they run and throw the ball. One of the most utilized motions is the fly sweep with the receiver. This motion has the receiver running across the formation underneath the quarterback.
In this play, Ohio State is using their split-zone concept again. In this scenario, the tight end comes across the formation to kick out the end. The kick out block opens up a huge lane to run through, but this play is made by the motion. Michigan State’s linebacker shifts outside the box to account for the motion. This subtle step out is the difference. He is late to fill and this allows Henderson to gain the step needed to make a nice gain.
In the next play, the Buckeyes were in a 4th-and-1 situation after being stuffed on 3rd-and-1. This play is an example of the newfound trust the Ohio State offense has in their offensive line, and the clip below will show why.
Ohio State is in 12-personnel with Stover as the inline tight end to the right and Mitch Rossi as a wingback to the left of the formation. Ohio State runs their outside zone to the wingback side. Michigan State’s defensive end steps inside, and this allows the Ohio State offensive line to wall in Michigan State’s entire box of defenders. Their initial push creates a huge running lane, and Henderson picks up the first down easily.
With the Buckeyes using motion and different personnel groupings, they have been able to create a dynamic running game in any situation on the field.
Now the motion in the passing game. This play-call below is set up by all of the previous success. To get this play started, Ohio State has Henderson lined up in the slot. They bring Henderson on an orbit motion, which draws a lot of attention from the Michigan State defense.
Stroud fakes a hand off to Henderson, which sucks up the entire second level of the defense and creates a lot of space in the middle of the field. You can also see in the bottom right part of the screen, the Michigan State safety steps down and follows Henderson outside. This gives Fleming a one-on-one matchup with inside leverage when he is running a post route. Fleming is able to win easily against the corner, and with no safety help Stroud just has to make the throw.
This not-so-subtle motion action creates a huge window throw, which leads to a touchdown.
Dynamic downfield passing
When the run game is going, the downfield passing capabilities of Ohio State’s offense are even more devastating. Ohio State has taken steps in this department almost every week. After arguably the worst week, the Buckeyes were fortunate to see Michigan State on the schedule.
In the first play we’re going to look at, Ohio State is in empty personnel. Michigan State shows pressure, Stroud knows the protection and understands where the pressure will likely be coming from. Pre-snap, the safety creeps back. Stroud identifies this and knows he has one-high, and with the pressure look he knows he probably has man coverage on the outside. They end up bringing five, attacking the right guard and the center with three rushers. A rusher gets free, and Stroud delivers a dime off the back foot outside to Harrison Jr.
This play is an example of what makes Stroud so special pre-snap.
On the next play, Ohio State runs a play-action of their new pin-and-pull technique. Donovan Jackson is at left guard, and he pulls across the formation into protection. This pull sells the run action hard because linebackers tend to key on guards for play recognition. One of the linebackers fills, and the other gets sucked in. Once again we see a wide open throw across the middle, with Stroud once again delivering a strike to Marvin Harrison Jr.
The protection here to me is the highlight of the play. This blocking scheme in pass-pro is a weapon and will test undisciplined linebacking groups.
The last play here is included because it would be a disservice to you, the reader, if this was not included. Ohio State snaps the ball, Stroud does a soft play fake into his drop, and Marvin Harrison Jr. is going deep. Stover gets bull rushed in front of Stroud, which takes away Stroud’s ability to step into the throw, but he gets the ball out there. Then Marvin Harrison Jr. does the spectacular.
Please, enjoy this.
Gee Scott Jr. gets rewarded
The last play I wanted to look at is the touchdown pass to Gee Scott Jr. In game with a ton of explosive plays, this one stood out to me for all the work that went into this play happening.
Scott Jr. made a tough transition from wide receiver to tight end. The dedication to transform his body to get onto the field here is not something many people would go through. After cutting his teeth as a second tight end brought into games to block mostly, he finally got his pay dirt.
Ohio State calls their usual out routes to the rollout side with the running back and Stover. They take most of the defenders, which allows Scott Jr. to come open at the end of the route. Stroud finds him and Scott Jr. gets what is hopefully the first of quite a few more touchdowns.
Look at the celebration of Scott Jr. and the excitement all his teammates have for him. An incredible moment, and the best part of the sport we all love is watching a play with meaning like this.
Ohio State took care of business against Michigan State on both sides of the ball, but the offense put together a truly special performance. The success the offense had in all phases of the game was exactly what this group needed heading into the bye week.
In the passing game, the receivers did their job and did it well. With the best triggerman in college football delivering the passes, the explosive plays were abundant against an overmatched Michigan State secondary. On the ground, the offensive line paved the way for a physically imposing day. The running lanes were wide, and the backs were playing with great feel, allowing them to create some big plays.
Overall, the Buckeyes could not have done much more in this game against Michigan State, especially on offense. Ryan Day and his staff put on a clinic, put the rest of the country on notice, and now have a week to get healthy. Iowa is next after the break, so we will get to see just how truly good this offense is.