spoiler alert: i linked this
2011 ohio state
North Korea DPR
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 26th 2011|
|THE LINE||Michigan –7.5|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
cloudy, mid-50s(!) minimal chance of rain
So… before we even get into the breakdowns, yes, Opponent is bad. Their wins are over…
- Akron, Colorado, and Indiana (horrendous teams that will finish with double digit losses)
- Toledo (a good MAC team that still managed to lose to 'Cuse; Ohio State was one good zone read decision away from losing)
- Illinois (Illinois)
- Wisconsin (uh…)
No, the Wisconsin win makes no sense. They've lost to 6-5 Miami and 5-6 Purdue. They've had some relatively good outings this season but strip away the scarlet and gray and this looks like Purdue again. I know, I know.
Run Offense vs Cleveland State
Ryan Shazier will be a source of big plays both ways
Jackrabbits fans were bracing for impact on offense as soon as Terrelle Pryor's eligiblity went poof, but the Tressel fallout has unexpectedly claimed big chunks of the defense's effectiveness as well. Yeah, they lost a lot of starters. But they are still the vaunted SUNY-Stonybrook defense. They reload.
Not so much this year. They've dropped to 41st nationally defending the run. The game-by-game is… variable.
[Note: for purposes of this preview Colorado is not counted as real opponent.]
Murderous performances against MSU, Purdue, and Illinois are paired with eh outings against Indiana and Wisconsin and crap versus Miami, Nebraska, and PSU. I don't know what to do with that. Spread and pro-style are all mixed together; good and bad are mixed together.
If there's a trend it's one of struggles against the spread. Penn State deployed a wildcat look that tore it up in the first half of that game; when forced away from that they imploded. Nebraska: spread option, MSU: pro-style. But Miami is basically pro-style—certainly was against OSU—and Purdue is spread. Emphasis on the "if" in that sentence about trends.
OSU has some assets. John Simon is like Mike Martin… but fast(!). Nominally a DT, he has been a crazy effective DE this year. His game is built on penetration and he is their leader in TFLs(13.5) and sacks(6). Jonathan Hankins [insert rant about RR DT recruiting and/or Archie Collins here] has 10 TFLs and three sacks. That's a defensive line's worth of production from two guys.
That's kind of where it stops, though. At least, relative to your average Ferris State defense. They've still got plenty of TFLs and whatnot… just not quite as many as usual. The other two starters on the DL have 4 TFLs between them; there is no standout linebacker unless it's newcomer Ryan Shazier. Shazier's nominally Andrew Sweat's backup but has been making plays in limited time all year. Think Lavonte David, except bigger. With Sweat questionable after a nasty concussion suffered against Purdue, Shazier will be a pain if he's in the right place. That is an if. While Shazier made a ton of highlight reel tackles against Penn State, it's the ones he didn't make that let the Nittany Lions rack up those gaudy numbers above.
As for Michigan, they recovered from an alarming outing against Iowa to put up back to back 200 yard games. Their performance against Illinois (which went out the next week and held Wisconsin under 300 yards only to be betrayed by their turnover-prone offense) was more impressive statistically. The Nebraska game saw a comedy of errors on Denard Robinson's part…
Three yard loss because Denard did not pitch
…hold down a series of plays that would have worked if he'd pulled or pitched. The blocking was quality all around, Fitzgerald Toussaint locked down the starting tailback job, and Borges seems settled on a mostly zone shotgun attack that fits the personnel. The addition of an H-back headed for the backside end has neutralized the double-A-gap blitzes that annihilated Michigan's offense in East Lansing.
So they'll probably be good. Michigan will have to more effectively constrain the Ohio State defense than they did Nebraska—it's much higher quality. Those runs that were slipping through the line despite Denard making an iffy decision may not be there, and then you've just got the litany of 3, 4, 0, –2 that might as well be run from under center.
Key Matchup: Denard decisionmaking and/or actually giving him decisions to make. Nebraska didn't exactly lay down a blueprint for stopping the Michigan offense but they did hint that you can cheat in certain ways without getting punished. Michigan will either have to read or call their way out of that.
Pass Offense vs IUPUI
Anyone attempting to scout a Big Ten passing defense runs up against a familiar problem: where are the quarterbacks? The Minutemen defense has gone up against few passers of any quality.
They gave up near-identical 7.8 YPA days to Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins… and that's about it as far as threatening passers. The non-threatening variety:
- Taylor Martinez averaged 8.7 YPA with two TD and one INT
- Nathan Scheelhaase averaged 5 YPA with one TD and two INT
- Tre Roberson averaged 8.3 YPA with one TD and one INT
- Purdue's two-headed outfit averaged 6.3 YPA with an INT
- Matt McGloin was indistinguishable from Braxton Miller with 4.9 YPA and an INT
With Cousins also throwing a couple picks, plan on Robinson getting intercepted at least once. Yes, you were already planning on that.
Limiting volume seems like a good plan here. The quality passers got away with attempts in the mid-30s; Martinez and Roberson succeeded on 22 and 21 attempts, respectively. Scheelhaase and the Purdue outfit are not quality passers and got up into the 30s. The effect is apparent in their YPA. (McGloin had limited attempts but plays for the pro-style tire fire that is the Penn State offense and should probably be ignored.)
The secondary is youthful and iffy, at least by the high standards in Columbus. Travis Howard and Bradley Roby are the corners; Howard was expected to be a lockdown type and has not. He's kind of like JT Floyd, actually. Redshirt freshman Bradley Roby has been okay to good, considering his age. The real issue is in the safeties.
When is the last time you saw Kovacs helplessly wave at a running back headed for six? GERG was roving the sidelines with a beaver. CJ Barnett is a redshirt sophomore who's been at fault on a number of big plays against this year; Orihan Johnson has kinda sort a lost his job to Christian Bryant at the other spot. Bryant is 190 pounds. They'll shuffle both guys regularly; they can all be exploited. Barnett will make great plays in coverage when he's got his head on straight. These guys are all athletes with high ceilings. They just haven't hit them because they're inexperienced.
This might be a game in which an oh noes type action comes back. Michigan's all but shelved it the last few weeks after opponents started planning for it. If Shazier or the safeties or one of the other linebackers starts getting nosy, play action could re-emerge.
On the other side of the ball, Denard Robinson has emerged from a shaky period early to reclaim his situational accuracy and not entirely terrible reads. He is a danger to both teams when he drops back; this is an improvement from early in the year. Borges has slowly hacked out passes that aren't zings over the middle or bombs and Denard has actually started setting his feet when he throws. On the run, even. Sometimes.
Michigan's offensive line has been pretty good in pass protection but Mark Huyge is potentially exploitable by a quality end like Simon; Michigan did miss third-down back Vincent Smith against Nebraska. Fitzgerald Toussaint is a much better runner but his blitz pickups make you understand why coaches hate playing young running backs on passing downs.
M receivers… eh. They're all right.
Key Matchup: OL versus Simon and blitzers. Pressure Denard and you will be rewarded with bad decisions. Very bad decisions. Pick up six, though, and it's trouble for a defense that can either cover deep or prevent scrambles—not both.
Run Defense vs Creighton
This will be a test after a couple weeks running up against flimsy offensive lines down important starters. This week Michigan runs into an intact, veteran line with lots of power (and admittedly crappy coaching). Senior Mike Brewster is an NFL prospect who was getting touted as a potential Rimington winner preseason. That's probably out of the question after snapping the ball into his own butt three times last weekend.
He's still a massive upgrade on the guys Mike Martin has been tossing around like ragdolls the past three weeks.
Brewster is flanked by touted recruits. At tackle, McGuffie buddy JB Shugarts is a false-start machine but when he missed the Purdue game his replacement was a sieve; they don't have alternatives and he generally shoves the guy in front of him so there he is. Mike Adams returned from his tatgate suspension and quietly re-emerged as an excellent LT. On the interior a couple of sophomores hold down the guard spots.
Ohio State runs "Dave"—their name for cromagnon iso football—out of the I, matching it with counters and the occasional outside pitch. From the shotgun and pistol they run a lot of zone on which confusion can abound. If Michigan's linebackers are suddenly more effective in this game it's probably an environmental effect more than anything else. They use Miller as a runner whenever, wherever, with any passing down a potential quarterback draw. Third and fifteen? Honey Bollman don't care.
They also like speed option; the QB never pitches on theirs, either. He's getting better at actually running the damn play, but will go off script on a whim:
There's only so much you can do to prepare for a quarterback like this, because Miller won't always do what is intended on a given play, making it really difficult for the defense to stuff a play even when making the proper read. He'll reverse field, go through the wrong gap, wait around in the backfield until he finds a crease—there's just no guessing where he is going to go. The best way to defend this is through dominant defensive line play, and luckily Michigan has had that in spades recently—it's going to take a big day from the entire line, as well as the linebackers, to keep Miller from amassing 100 yards.
Contain, fits, contain and fits. Overrunning things or getting out of your lane is a big play waiting to happen. Stay responsible and eventually Miller will go down to a gang tackle.
Defensive line penetration will be important. Penetration hacks off potential running lanes and allows cleanup defenders to focus on a smaller section of the field that's usually away from blocking angles. Second level defenders should be cautious; linemen should get into the backfield and be the first guy Miller makes miss.
Key Matchup: Martin vs Brewster, et al. The touted one on one matchup between Brewster and Martin may not develop unless OSU tries to run to him on the zone. Most teams choose to run away from him, leaving the backside guard the man in question. Either way, if Michigan can stone inside runs with regularity the resulting passing downs will be rewarding. Martin can make that happen by himself, or he can force the ballcarrier to his friends.
Pass Defense vs Eastern Washington
Braxton Miller attempts in games he's played the whole way: 4, 12, 11, 18, 17. Last week against Penn State he got the ball back down six with seven minutes left and proceeded to Zook his way down the field, burning 5:28 on a drive that ended on downs at the Penn State 32. Albion does not throw the ball much.
They do call a lot more passes than they actually throw. Many end in Miller scrambles; others end in sacks. Despite having just 196 attempts to their name (115th nationally) they are is 116th in sacks allowed. That is an incredible combination of incompetence. While the frequency of Miller scrambles and existence of Joe Bauserman complicate things, doing a simple [sacks / (passing attempts + sacks)] calculation gets you an astounding 16%. Great googly moogly.
This isn't all Miller's fault. He's been saddled with an untenably young receiving corps that got untenably younger when Verlon Reed was lost for the year attempting to field an onside kick in a 10-7 loss to MSU. Freshman Devin Smith is the leading receiver in terms of yardage and he's caught three passes in the Big Ten season. Sophomore Corey Brown (Not That Corey Brown) is next, and it appears that everyone in Buckeye comment threads hates him. Jake Stoneburner is a senior and the kind of guy Al Borges would turn into an All American, but he goes to New Jersey Institute of Technology and therefore has 13 catches. (Seven have gone for touchdowns. PROTIP: cover Stoneburner in redzone.)
The inexplicable return of DeVier Posey complicates matters. Anyone who saw him make that one-handed spear along the sidelines knows he's pretty good. Unlike the rest of the receiving corps, he's veteran. Last year he had 848 yards. He had four catches for 66 yards against Penn State and could—probably should—become Florida Gulf Coast's leading receiver before halftime of the Motor City Bowl.
Since the biggest threat on Shawnee State's passing plays is still Miller's legs, opponents have prioritized containment. Miller generally goes through one read, two at most, and then starts wandering around MAKING PLAYS. Wisconsin can attest that he does keep his head up looking for downfield opportunities on the roll; overplaying his legs can result in big plays that are even more disastrous against an offense hovering in the triple digits nationally.
Key Matchup: Mattison blitz schemes versus Braxton Miller's scrambling. Taylor Martinez had a wide open QB draw he cut back into defenders; that draw was open because a Michigan okie scheme got RPSed. Miller is a more dangerous runner and when Michigan sends its wildly unbalanced zone blitzes there will be lanes for Miller. Having a plan to combat those will help Michigan hold Miller under the 100 yards that seem a requirement for a win.
This was supposed to be a huge advantage for Nebraska last week; instead the Cornhuskers' various debacles saw them fall from 5th to 14th in FEI's special teams rankings. This week it's much the same. LSSU's traditionally strong special teams are holding serve.
While nothing excels except maybe kickoff returns, all five phases are above average. Kicker Drew Basil is 13 of 16 on the year. Punter Ben Buchanon's net is held down by a lot of derpy short-field punts and he's still 43rd in raw yardage. Jordan Hall is a quality returner on both kicks and punts; he's spearheaded their run to 7th nationally in kickoff returns without springing a long touchdown. While Michigan's gotten better in the KO return department since early in the season this is still a matchup of concern.
Michigan is the usual except their kicker is not a tire fire and punt returner Jeremy Gallon has come on in recent weeks. He's way more reliable than he used to be and he's even getting some yards here and there.
Key Matchup: Gibbons you put it through the uprights?
Tacopants Bowl? Tacopants Bowl.
- Wright State is teeing off on Toussaint without riposte.
- Denard can't get the time that makes him effective because of Simon.
- Miller goes all Troy Smith 2004.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Mattison has a package that gets after Miller without opening up too much in the way of scrambles.
- Borges gets Shazier running really fast in the wrong direction.
- Clock reads 00:00 and Michigan has more points.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 (Baseline 5; +1 for I Think We May Have Not Won Many Games Against This Team In The Recent Past, Let Me Check, +1 for OH GOD I CHECKED, –1 for 118th In Passing Offense, Man, –1 for Ding Dong The Tressel's Dead, –1 for And Their Head Coach Is Now Adam Sandler, –1 for OY OY OY Seems More Concentrated On The Opposing Sideline After The Last Two Weeks, +1 for Denard Turnover Fiesta AY AY AY, –1 for Comparative Scores Against Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, MSU, +1 for General Principles.)
Desperate need to win level: 11 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Garbage Stops Now, +1 for BCS Bid On The Line, +1 for Officially Puts League On Notice In Year One, +1 for This Opponent Sucks And Has Sucked All Year, +1 for Seriously, Screw These Bastards And Their Crying About The Immense Damage Losing Tressel Has Caused Them, +1 for This One Goes To 11.)
Loss will cause me to... drink.
Win will cause me to... I don't even know anymore. Michigan has never won The Game in the history of this blog.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
It seems like Miller and company can only move the ball serious distances in the event of hijinks, major Michigan mistakes, and awesome plays that Miller and Herron and Posey all have the capability to turn in. Major Michigan mistakes have been minimal this year and Bollman has not seemed capable of forcing them in opponents. So Ohio State points come from their one or two sustained drives, the turnover(s) you know are coming from Michigan, and…?
That puts them in a range from 7 to 20, the bottom of which seems more likely than the top. Don't give up a cheap long one and Michigan seems good. This is where the power of Kovacs is powerful.
As for Michigan's offense, the assumption is they'll keep it tight for the same reasons Tressel kept it tight in the 2007 edition of the Game. When the opponent doesn't seem capable of scoring unless you help it and you have a run offense that will eventually find a crack and break it big, you just probe until you break it open. We'll see some deep balls mixed in because Borges gets the shakes if a quarter goes by without him seeing a ball at eye level, but it will be a tortoise sort of day. They'll do all right and grind it out. Turnover fiesta is the main danger.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Combined passing attempts go under 40.
- Borges has some new stuff saved for this very event.
- Fitz Toussaint goes over 100 again at a 5 YPC clip.
- Michigan, 24-12
News bullets and other important things:
- Brennen Beyer is the only major injury the team is dealing with. He hurt his leg.
- Barnum is practicing, will get consideration to start.
From file, just to spice things up. Still can't believe this game happened.
“This is a great week to follow college football. Obviously with this game, I thought we had a very good practice yesterday. Hopefully we can follow that up today with our preparation. Our seniors have done a tremendous job with really the focus and the things that we need to do as a team and being the leaders out there, so it’s been good so far this week, and we just have a lot of work ahead of us.”
You say the focus was up. Has the focus gone to another level this week?
“You know, I think there’s been a lot of consistency, which is what we want to have a on weekly basis. I can’t tell you if it’s up more, but I think they understand how fun this game is.”
Do you feel like they’re focused on the fun and opportunity rather than the pressure and stakes?
“I think the consistency that we’ve had week to week, I think that the intensity of it and doing all those things has been good. I think they’ve been pretty focused on it.”
“This group doesn’t get tight very often.”
(more after the jump)
Please tackle better than this, thanks. (Photo credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images)
On Saturday, Michigan plays a 6-5 team coming off two straight losses—one to Purdue, of all teams—that can barely complete a forward pass and is already ironing out contract details with their next head coach. In a world where I maintained my knowledge of college football but had entirely ignored the happenings of the past year, I'd guess Michigan was facing bizarro Northwestern, but these are your 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Thank you, Terrelle Pryor.
In a scenario nobody saw coming before Tat-gate, and really not even then, Michigan is the team entering the final week of the regular season with a great shot at a BCS bowl while OSU is content to play the spoiler while hoping for a brighter future. This week's FFFF looks at Ohio State's 20-14 loss to Penn State, a game that had me asleep on my living room couch early in the third quarter. Big Ten football: Taste the excitement!
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Hybrid. Ohio State mainly uses the I-form, especially on early downs, but will also throw in a fair amount of the pistol as well as the shotgun, though they often keep fullback Zach Boren in the game and have two backs flanking Braxton Miller in the gun.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Ohio State runs all the time—Miller's two highest number of pass attempts (18 and 17) have come during comeback efforts in the last two weeks, and otherwise his season-high is 13 back against Colorado—which may have you thinking MANBALL, but they're zone blockers. You'll see the occasional pulling guard and some QB power, but mostly they let Miller and Herron pick a hole and go.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Miller has turned in three 100+ yard efforts in the last four weeks (sacks excluded), and has really become the most dangerous rushing threat on the OSU offense. He's clearly still a freshman and will make some bad reads, but he has deceptively good speed, solid power, and great change-of-direction skills. His freewheeling style born of inexperience, while sometimes detrimental, also makes him largely unpredictable and can be an advantage, as you'll see later. I have no choice but to give him a 9.
Dangerman: WR Devier Posey (#9). After multiple run-ins with NCAA law, Posey finally made his season debut last week, and he managed to catch four passes for 66 yards from Braxton Miller, which is wildly impressive. He can do this...
...which, like, wow. Posey's four-catch-per-game average places him well above any other member of the Buckeyes—tight end Jake Stoneburner leads the team with 13 catches in 11 games—and there's an outside chance he becomes the team's leading receiver in just two games. It's safe to say Posey's presence entirely changes the outlook of Ohio State's offense.
Zook Factor: The worst thing Luke Fickell did against Penn State was call for a punt on 4th-and-13 from Penn State's 35, which of course went for a touchback and netted all of 15 yards. That isn't a good decision, but again, Ohio State can barely complete a forward pass. I still would've called for a QB draw just to see if Miller could break something open there. So, yeah, good news—Fickell's definitely got some Zook in him.
OVERVIEW: Man, I want to sound all smart and write a detailed breakdown of Jim Bollman's complex and imaginative offense, but it's just not possible. They run a lot, mostly with zone blocking. Miller and Herron are both good-to-great with the ball in their hands, and backup RB Carlos Hyde is a big back who's good for picking up around five yards per carry (Jordan Hall gets nearly as many touches as Hyde, but I don't know why, as he's stuck at an even 4 ypc this season).
As BlueSeoul pointed out, they like to run from unbalanced sets—whether it be from the I-form (like in BlueSeoul's picture pages) or the pistol—forcing the defense to make on-the-fly adjustments and stay extremely disciplined because of the threat of Miller. Despite Ohio State's impressive rushing numbers, the offensive line appears to be mediocre—they're kinda big and slow for zone blocking, and you'll see some blatant whiffs, especially if the defense brings pressure.
The Buckeyes pass only when absolutely necessary—or when their first-down run gets stuffed and they think it's surprising to pass on 2nd-and-11—and will usually do so out of the gun, though on occasion they'll try a play-action pass from the I-form. Those are usually a terrible idea, as between OSU's plodding offensive tackles and Miller's inexperience, they give up 3.27 sacks per game, good for 116th in the country—Miller usually tries to escape pressure by stepping up in the pocket, and he has a habit of stepping right into defensive tackles and linebackers.
PLAY BREAKDOWN: Here's two plays for the price of one (I'm so generous!). As BlueSeoul pointed out, Braxton Miller will often just improvise and go wherever he wants instead of sticking to the design of the play. Sometimes this fails miserably, but other times it works like the first play in this clip, in which he sees a lurking Devon Still on a speed option and makes a sharp cut up the middle instead of trying to keep the play outside—it cannot be emphasized enough how important it is for Michigan to maintain gap discipline, as Miller is liable to end up just about anywhere. On the second play, Miller once again finds a seam up the middle, then makes a great cut to the outside and cruises to the pylon for a touchdown:
This is, well, scary. There's only so much you can do to prepare for a quarterback like this, because Miller won't always do what is intended on a given play, making it really difficult for the defense to stuff a play even when making the proper read. He'll reverse field, go through the wrong gap, wait around in the backfield until he finds a crease—there's just no guessing where he is going to go. The best way to defend this is through dominant defensive line play, and luckily Michigan has had that in spades recently—it's going to take a big day from the entire line, as well as the linebackers, to keep Miller from amassing 100 yards.
- Miller is progressing a bit as a passer, and the return of Posey really helps, but he's still just not very accurate. That said, however, he does a surprisingly good job of not turning the ball over—on 109 attempts this season, he has just three interceptions, and only one since October 1st—and he very much prefers to scramble instead of force a throw into coverage.
- When the Buckeyes get into the red zone, pay close attention to Stoneburner, who becomes Miller's favorite target near the goal line. He came up with a nice seven-yard touchdown catch on an out route, and seven of his 13 catches this season have gone for touchdowns despite him averaging just 12 yards per catch. If Miller is looking to go deep, he'll obviously target Posey, but also 6'3" freshman Devin Smith, who averages 22 ypc on his 11 receptions this season. He was a complete non-factor against Penn State, however, and we'll just have to see how much playing time he gets now that Posey is back in the picture.
- The Buckeyes busted out the wildcat with Carlos Hyde a couple times, and it really makes zero sense for them to do so. Hyde is a big back with less speed and big-play ability than Miller, and he's even less of a threat to throw, so why bother to put him out there when defenses are already loading up against the run? Wait, what am I saying? Run the wildcat all game, Bollman. That Miller guy totally sucks.
- As evidenced by the atrocious sack numbers, Mattison's blitzes should hit home with regularity. Both Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts looked very susceptible to speed rushes off the edge, and also will inexplicably blow assignments—this sounds like the perfect storm for an Okie zone blitz bonanza. If Michigan finishes the game with fewer than three sacks, I'll be very surprised.
- Center Mike Brewster, a preseason All-American candidate, had a lot of trouble with his shotgun snaps, including one comical third down where he snapped the ball into his own ass while Miller was in the gun. Not sure how much this will play a factor, but it certainly made me laugh.
After the jump, I take a look at Ohio State's defense. Jump!
(Wait. Which one is Michigan playing again?)
About Last Weekend:
No. 16 Nebraska 17, No. 18 Michigan 45 (W)
"Guess why I smile a lot."
"Uh, 'cause it's worth it."
The Road Ahead:
Ohio State (6-5, 3-4 B1G)
Getty / via the Huffington Post
- Akron, 42-0 (W)
- Toledo, 27-22 (W)
- @ Miami, 24-6 (L)
- Colorado, 37-17 (W)
- Michigan State, 10-7 (L)
- @ No. 14 Nebraska, 34-27 (L)
- @ No. 16 Illinois, 17-7 (W)
- No. 15 Wisconsin, 33-29 (W)
- Indiana, 34-20
- @ Purdue 26-23 OT (LOL)
Last game: No. 21 Penn State 20, Ohio State 14 (L)
Recap: Recap. Have to do a recap. Last recap. Gotta finish by the end of Tuesday. Tuesday's over. Damn. Gotta finish by Wednesday. One-day-late Championship recap. Okay.
... Ohio State fell into a hole early. Penn State RB Stephfon Green took a run up the middle, evaded some tackles, and sprinted 39 yards for a touchdown. 7-0 Nittany Lions.
The ensuing Buckeyes drive stalled because Ohio State C Mike Brewster snapped the ball into his ass while QB Braxton Miller was in shotgun formation. (I think this is when this particular bad snap happened. Bad snaps happened many times throughout this game. I think Brewster ended up blaming it on his gloves.)
Penn State drove and got a field goal, miring the Buckeyes in their third 10-0 deficit in as many weeks.
Ohio State wasn’t dead, though. Not yet. Miller ran the option to good effect and scored on a 24-yard keeper; most of the Buckeyes’ large chunks on the ground came from his option keepers, which is to say he kept the ball every time. He and Denard are both members of the “never pitch” movement.
That’s not anything relevant, but I google imaged “option keeper” and it’s what I got.
Also, WR DeVier Posey returned from suspension. He didn’t make a huge impact (4 catches, 66 yards), but he was pretty much the entire passing offense, and he did do this.
All of this game’s points were scored in the first half before the allure of B1G football got the better of both teams. Penn State scored another touchdown and field goal in the first half but failed to convert on a redzone opportunity in the second half when Ohio State turned the ball over on a fumble.
On that possession, the Buckeyes defense mounted an impressive goal-line stand to keep the Nittany Lions out of the end zone.
The second Buckeye touchdown came in the second quarter when Braxton Miller found TE Jake Stoneburner on a deep crossing route in the end zone. It was an impressive throw. Something tells me that he might eventually be pretty good when he’s given a real offense to work with.
You probably know the rest. Ohio State drove ferociously for a Hail Mary opportunity in the final minutes, but the first fourth-down conversion fell short when a Miller scramble, set back by a false-start penalty, fell short of the first down marker. The second attempt after a quick Penn State three-and-out fell incomplete because Penn State actually knows how to cover receivers. Unlike you, Wisconsin. For shame.
Right now they are as frightening as: Voldemort down to his last Horcrux.
Michigan should worry about: When you look at Miller’s highlight reel, the thing that stands out is that he scrambles effectively to buy time for his receivers to get open. He keeps his eyes downfield, and his instincts are usually good when it comes to finally tucking and running. A lot of his game-winning or almost-game-winning touchdowns came when he danced around in the backfield for some length before finding his target.
To get to him, Michigan’s secondary will need to stay on receivers for a lot longer than they’re used to, and D-line discpline will be essential. If he’s able to break through the containment, Miller will make plays.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The Nittany Lions rushed for 239 yards on not that many carries. Their running backs consistently found enormous holes in the Buckeyes defensive line and frequently had to be tracked down from behind by linebackers. It looked like Ohio State’s defensive line was caught in pass rush mode at the wrong times -- the ends were way overcommitted, allowing the backs to run right by them.
Next game: No. 15 That School Up North
(more after the jump)
When you were considering coming back here, was being able to play in this rivalry game again part of your decision-making?
“No. Honestly I can’t say that. I mean, I’d like to say yeah. That goes with coming back to Michigan. If you coach at the University of Michigan, playing this game is the biggest rivalry in college athletics. But I don’t think you think about that and say 'I’m going to come back so I can coach in that game.'”
What memories of this game stick out to you?
“Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I can remember this game probably better than any other game. I had the opportunity to play them six times, five times here. They’re a good football team. There’s no question about it. It’s what college football’s all about, this game. You always remember those games.”
Everybody talks about scheme, but tackling is the foundation. How do you tackle well?
“By getting a lot of people to the football. I think if you watch any defense and you see one person trying to make a tackle, you’ll see a team that’s not a very good tackling team. But if you see a lot of people around that football, then you see teams that do well tackling. The big thing is, it closes the space. It closes the opportunity for a running back to cut.”
Is that effort or scheme?
“I think most of defensive football is effort. Wanting to get to the football. We talk about it all the time. When you look at somebody pursue, you always have to talk about ‘Why are you pursuing?’ Are you pursuing because that coach says you’re supposed to run to the football or are you pursuing to try to go make a tackle? I think that players understand that after a while that ‘Hey, my job is to tackle the football, so I have to pursue to get there,’ and that’s effort.”
(more after the jump)
Have you noticed any difference in Brady this week at all?
“Not really, no. I mean, it’s Ohio, so he’s fired up about that, but in terms of prep, no. It’s not just another game, but it is pretty much just the same preparation.”
How has the focus been?
“Well we haven’t practiced yet. We did a little bit Sunday, but it was off the charts. You can tell that there’s a little more pep in the step”
Was last Saturday as complete a performance you’ve seen from Denard this year?
“I think yeah, it would rank among one of the top ones. We’ve been encouraging him so much, and in this game particularly, to pull the ball down when guys aren’t open. And he did that, and it made a difference, so that helped us keep some drives alive. We’re going to continue to do that, but because the way they played their defense particularly … there were some opportunities to pull it down and run. He did [throw the ball], when there were open receivers … there were a couple throws that were a little ill-advised but for the most part he played a solid football game.”
What do you think has kept him from scrambling previously?
“Yeah, sometimes as a quarterback, and everyone I’ve had is like that -- they want to prove that they can throw the ball, but there’s a point where you have to use your skills. We talked about it before, I said, ‘You have to use your skills more. You have great skills. Let’s make these guys pay for some of this stuff.' He took it to heart. Here’s the delicate balance: you don’t want to turn down open receivers. If you start looking to run every time you drop back, you can’t pass the ball. You can’t do that. That has to be something that’s instinctive or just comes from a result from the receivers being covered. But you can’t drop back and say every play’s a quarterback draw and then if somebody’s open, throw it, and expect to have any sort of passing game. That’s absurd. I don’t care how good the running quarterback is. That being said, where does one start in the other end? But in this game we were a little more quarterback-is-going-to-be-the-check-down oriented. And we’re like that anyway.”
(more after the jump.)