Seeing the game again reinforced my feeling the defense actually did not play that badly against the Blazers.
I am also willing to go along with co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers’ contention Monday that the tackling is not quite as bad as it has been made out (myself included). There were a couple of misses inside the tackle box, but most of them were in space where good athletes are going to make people miss at times. The Buckeyes did a good job of rallying to the ball to prevent plays from getting even bigger after someone slipped free. That said, technique can certainly use some tweaking. A lot of the missed tackles last week involved guys who need to lower their aiming point when possible. Not everything is going to be a form tackle, but trying to wrap a guy up around his shoulders is a good way to start down the road to failure.
As discussed after the game, altering the front by aligning it with the strength of the offense’s formation paid dividends by putting Johnathan Hankins in better position to blow up running plays. UAB for some reason thought single-blocking Hankins a majority of the time would be a good idea, and he took advantage quite frequently.
UAB brought a good plan into the game and learned from UCF’s mistake of forsaking the run too early. They kept a good mix throughout and were able to move the ball consistently – probably better than their personnel should have allowed for. They managed to string together drives by executing pretty well a short passing game, and spreading Ohio State out (which wasn’t really expected by the OSU coaching staff) gave them some room to run, but credit the Buckeyes for continually stiffening when they had to as the Blazers neared scoring range. The bottom line is Ohio State’s defense allowed no touchdowns, and UAB only got inside the red zone one time despite running 80 plays and picking up over 400 yards.
As I wrote earlier, I think the knee-jerk reaction was a little unnecessarily harsh on the Silver Bullets, but they will have to tighten up some things to keep a Michigan State offense that hasn’t been very good so far this season from getting healthy at the wrong time. Spread offenses are going to get cheap yards if they execute, but there is always a point the rubber meets the road.
Also of note:
- I thought both of Christian Bryant’s personal fouls were iffy at best, and he continues to tighten up his play and improve. He could be a real stud if he keeps coming along.
- Etienne Sabino had a good day playing in space, getting to the perimeter and helping clean up edge runs and bubble screens.
- Doran Grant seemed to do a good job of playing within himself and the defense and was rewarded with a big day. It will be interesting to see who starts at corner if Bradley Roby is able to return this weekend.
- The nickel defense would benefit from a return of C.J. Barnett to health because Orhian Johnson seems to be the best Star they have now. Corey Brown looked to get lost in coverage on one of the big pass plays and he was cut down too often on the bubble screens the Blazers ran. He did have a nice open-field tackle to prevent a third down conversion, though.
- Really all of the starters looked good on the defensive line. Garrett Goebel is quietly having an excellent year while the two ends remain consistent contributors despite battling their own health issues.
As for the offense, getting behind the chains was the No. 1 problem this unit faced. They went deep and failed because of a missed block on the first play of the game and never recovered that drive. What looked like a missed assignment and then what was definitely a dropped pass on a third-and-short killed the second possession. The third series had a false start push them back on a third down. Etc., etc., etc.
Whenever they found themselves in passing situations, UAB simply played coverage and dared Miller to find someone open and for that guy to make people miss. The former happened several times, but the latter not so much. That is why it was a sound strategy for the Blazers.
Throughout the game, I thought Miller did a good job of taking what was given to him in the pass and the run. It’s hard to know how many were pre-determined gives (if any), but he appeared to read the zone-read play pretty well for the most part, and he checked down to open receivers frequently. He looks pretty comfortable in regards to ball control passing as long as he keeps his mechanics together. The deep and intermediate passing game appears to need more work, though. The numbers weren’t bad but they look much better if Devin Smith catches that third down pass I already mentioned and a deep ball in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
On the fourth OSU offensive series, they looked to check into some runs to take advantage of two deep safeties and that worked to get them going. Jordan Hall looked more confident and natural with the ball and made extra yards with his agility on more than one occasion.
Very interesting seeing them mix in some under-center power sets with Rod Smith. He is a load when he gets going, but he still looks raw. He had a solid cameo that could have been better if he waited for the power (Dave!) play to develop in one instance and would have had another touchdown if he picked his feet up instead of tripping over a blocker inside the 5. Offensive line/co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said they felt if they moved into that tight set it would cut down on UAB’s ability to blitz them, and it is something that feels familiar for the line even though the blocking isn’t much different for from when they run out of the spread.
Bottom line is the offense remains a work in progress as they both learn to execute it and learn what works with their various personnel while also dealing with coaches on the other side that have their own various ideas of how to stop it.
Meyer’s choice to highlight four drives that he described as “graduate-level football” were pretty interesting just in the way he is looking at the team as a whole. From what I could, tell one of the plays he was talking about involved Miller looking deep to keep the cover-2 safety deep before hitting Corey Brown for a diving catch near the sideline during one of the touchdown drives in the second half. The other came when Reid Fragel came off of his first block on Miller’s first touchdown run and sealed off another defender down the field.