Understanding Urban: Play of the Game (Indiana)
By Ken Pryor
(Editor’s Note: Ken Pryor is an offensive coordinator who works with the wide receivers at North Point High School in Waldorf, Md. He has been a long-time contributor to The-Ozone, and has been asked to help us better understand Ohio State’s new offense since Urban Meyer was hired back in November.)
The play of the game this week goes to a play that essentially won the game for the Buckeyes.
Devin Smith’s 46-yard catch and run for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter ultimately finished the scoring for the Buckeyes, but at the time it sort of came off like more of an icing on the cake score.
Ohio State went up 52-34 on that play, but two late Indiana touchdowns rendered the Smith score as absolutely necessary just to escape Bloomington with a win. Say what you will about Smith, the kid has some kind of knack for the gi-normous play.
Last year’s game winner vs. Wisconsin set the tone for Smith’s heroics this season, which opened with the one-handed TD catch that still may be awarded play of the year. He followed that a couple weeks later with the score tied at the 4:20 mark of the fourth quarter with a 72 yard game winner against California.
Fast forward to East Lansing, when he caught what would turn out to be the game-winning 63 yard TD pass from Miller in a 17-16 nail-biter. That brings us to his catch and run this past Saturday against Indiana.
When we look at the play, we see Ohio State in a true spread formation with five wide receivers. Miller scans the field from left to right, where he can see Evan Spencer, Mike Thomas and Chris Fields in a trips set to his left with Corey Brown and Devin Smith to his right in a twins set.
Indiana appears to be in a Cover 4 scheme, where the corners and two safeties are dividing the field in deep quarters zone coverage. Corners will cover anything deep from hash to sidelines on their respective sides, while the safeties will split the middle of the field in deep halves between them.
Much has been made of Miller’s inadequacy at reading the defense, but in this instance he makes the exact right read. Many young quarterbacks who find themselves in the process of learning to read defensive coverages are often taught to simply read one half of the field. This method simplifies things for him. Miller receives the snap and almost pays no attention to the left side of the field, where the trips receivers appear to be running vertical routes that will occupy the defenders on that side of the field, clearing space for the playside receivers.
The playside receivers (Brown and Smith) run five and ten yard crossing routes respectively. One linebacker goes with Brown on the shallow cross, while the corner funnels Smith to the inside where no one is home to defend his ten yard crossing pattern.
The protection on the play is outstanding, as IU rushed only four, and Miller stood in and delivered a laser to Smith in the void area of the field where Smith did the rest of the work.
Upon catching the pass, Smith runs forward for a couple yards then stops on a dime and reverses his field back to the outside, somehow escaping what should have been three tacklers. Now that he has the IU DBs in what I call “Oh s**t mode,” he uses the gift God gave him…speed.
He used that speed to escape the ankle grab of one defender, the ankle tackle of a second defender, the ankle grasp of a third defender and then he simply outruns a fourth to the end zone.
This was the Ohio State play of the game.
OHIO STATE OFFENSIVE GRADE: A-
The Ohio State offense amassed some serious yardage Saturday night vs. Indiana, but is anyone really surprised? Indiana’s defense allows 540 yards a week, and the Buckeyes made sure IU stayed on course with their own 580-yard performance.
I like the balance that was displayed, as several players got in on the act with significant individual contributions. Miller was 13/24 for 211 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. His paltry percentage is a little deceiving, because Miller easily could have had four more completions and two more TDs if not for his receivers dropping balls all over God’s green earth.
Smith alone had two drops that would have almost surely been scores and certainly would have added to that completion and yardage totals on Miller’s ledger. As it were, Smith caught only two passes, but both of those were touchdowns of the big play variety. I like Smith but his concentration and focus are his glaring weakness in his game. The kid has All-American written all over him, but his production will render him nothing more than all-conference at this rate.
Corey Brown proves more and more reliable each week as the possession/go-to receiver. His 6 receptions for 51 yards may seem ho-hum, but little becomes much in a game where every first down was necessary to keep drives alive. Brown is becoming a crucial asset in the Ohio State offense.
The Ohio State run game was also potent at Indiana. Carlos Hyde is underrated as a running back in my opinion. He may not be Eddie George or Maurice Clarett, but he can be an Antonio Pittman to Braxton Miller’s Troy Smith. Hyde’s 22 carries for 156 yards against IU averages out at eye-popping 7.1 YARDS PER CARRY.
Ohio State fans are waiting on Jordan Hall to return, but they have a kid in Hyde averaging 5.5 yards per outing in the past three games. He is a “step up in your mouth” blocker, he runs hard wears down the defense, and he doesn’t turn the ball over.
Hyde is an excellent complement to Miller in the backfield. Miller’s speed, elusiveness and agility keeps defenders running all over the field in chase mode, and by the third quarter, defenders are worn down by chasing Miller in conjunction with the pounding from Hyde. Miller shredded Indiana’s defense on the ground with 23 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Ohio State’s offense graded out quite high all things considered. They put nearly 600 yards of offense on the docket, attained 28 first downs (7-14 on third down) and had only one turnover. Of course none of these numbers would be so were it not for the offensive line play. The improvement up front has been stark in contrast to the past several years. Enough cannot be said about Linsley, Norwell, Hall, Fragel and Mewhort.
OHIO STATE DEFENSIVE GRADE: F
Ohio State’s defense continues to be unable to solve the riddle that is spread offenses with quick passing schemes. They also seem to remain dogged by the riddle that is TACKLING. While the tackling has gotten better over recent weeks, the Buckeyes defensive EFFORT from play to play is not 100% from every player. There are many instances where it appears one or more players are assuming another player is going to make the tackle so they don’t really bother.
Anytime your offense scores 52 points and you need all 52 of them to win, something is terribly wrong on the defensive side. The Hoosiers posted 481 total yards (129 on the ground, 352 by air) and dropped a 49-spot on the scoreboard. Those 49 points represent a new school record for IU for points scored against Ohio State. They scored 41 in 1988 in that lopsided victory.
Yet here are the Ohio State Buckeyes sitting at 7-0 with a bullet. They could very well march into THE Game with an unblemished record. I don’t see them losing to Purdue, the Boilers just don’t have anything. Penn State runs the kind of offense that plays right into OSU’s defensive wheelhouse, as they don’t have the kids to run a spread scheme, and Illinois is just downright terrible.
Whatever the problems are, the Ohio State coaching staff will be working overtime to get it fixed and that probably will include some extra miles on the recruiting trail. The defense graded out with a big fat red F in my book. Their feelings can’t possibly be hurt by my grade as much as mine are from having to watch them.
OHIO STATE SPECIAL TEAMS GRADE: C-
Up and down performance for Ohio State in this category. Drew Basil missed what should have been an easy FG, the Buckeyes allowed a punt to be blocked which resulted in a touchdown for Indiana and they allowed IU to recover an onside kick which lead to a late touchdown which put the game in serious jeopardy.
But it does appear the Buckeyes at least found a punt returner in Corey Brown. He looks more sure of himself than Devin Smith ever appeared. Rod Smith returning kickoffs looks like a smart move as well. The Buckeyes also blocked a punt of their own when Travis Howard knifed in to get his hands on the ball, which was promptly scooped up by one Brad Roby (there’s that man again) and returned for a score.
As it stands, I’m not sure what to make of this team and the specials unit is right on par with this sentiment. I give the unit a C- for this performance. The only reason they avoid a D grade or worse is because Ohio State won the game.