Ohio State Staves off UCF 31-16

Written September 8th, 2012 by Eric

That could have been a lot prettier.

The Buckeyes played host to George O’Leary’s UCF Knights today in the Horseshoe. Despite Braxton Miller’s impressive performance, the Knights kept fighting their way back into the game only to fall 31-16. Turnovers and big plays were the difference in the game as the Buckeyes scored 14 points off the Knights’ miscues.

Things weren’t as easy as last week, which is a big credit to O’Leary for preparing his kids to play. The UCF running game found lots of space to move the football, and it was well balanced by the passing game. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, focused on their running game for the most part, throwing on only about one third of the total possessions. In particular, Braxton Miller ran for 27 carries, a week after Urban Meyer was quoted as saying that 17 carries were too many.

Like Tim put together for us last week, here are the positives and negatives to take away from this game.

Positives:

1. Special Teams Play. The Buckeyes did a great job getting down the field on kickoff coverage and held UCF inside the 25 on several occasions. Add to that a blocked extra point late in the third quarter by the OSU defense and you have a very solid day in the kicking game. The Buckeyes are clearly making special teams an important part of their play again.

2. Playcalling. The offense generally did a good job of selecting plays. As I mentioned above, Braxton Miller ran a few too many times which may need to be changed in the future. Critically, though, the offense moved the ball competently all day, with few exceptions. The UCF defense usually seemed to struggle when trying to sort out exactly what the Buckeyes were doing, which is definitely a good sign.

3. Downfield Blocking. Repeatedly the Buckeyes were able to break longer plays simply because the receivers were doing a good job getting a hat on a defender. This is a big improvement over last season when the receivers either had trouble engaging, or simply didn’t engage the block.

4. Braxton’s decision making. Braxton Miller ended up throwing pretty well on the day, going 18-24 for 155 yards and a touchdown. He made one boneheaded throw for a pick where he failed to set his feet properly, but otherwise he did very well picking his receivers – even going 7/7 passing to start the game. Add to that the success the Buckeyes had on the ground, mostly due to Miller’s running game, and you have a pretty strong case for Miller’s decision making.

5. Defensive secondary turnover game. The secondary picked up two interceptions off the tip drill today helped dig the Buckeyes out of a bad situation. They then picked up a third interception by Orhian Johnson inside the 10 yardline with UCF threatening to score. The defense is playing very opportunistic football right now and it’s making a big difference in how this team looks as a whole.

Negatives:

1. Offense still not able to handle 4th and short. The Buckeyes need to punch it across from 1 yard every single time. They failed on 4th and 1 from their side of the 50 in a play that was inexcusably slow developing and weak. Urban Meyer will clearly not be happy with the fact that his team failed yet again this week in this area. Thankfully, a second attempt in similar field position was much more successful, punching Carlos Hyde up the middle for a five yard game.

2. Slow defensive adjustments. UCF attacked first with the pass and found limited success on their first drive. Their second drive, featuring their running game much more, was substantially more successful. That continued through much of the game until they began to find passes down the side of the field (more on that later).

3. Linebackers in coverage. Shazier dropped his coverage in 3rd and goal to give UCF their first touchdown. The middle of the defense was generally soft in the passing game, giving up five to ten yards consistently. That’s something that will have to be fixed – preferably sooner rather than later.

4. Braxton Miller’s decision making. Don’t get confused, while his decision making is solid in some ways, it’s weak in others. His zone reads still need serious work. He missed a play handing off that would have gained 5, but instead saw Miller get tackled at the line. On the next play, he missed another where he should have hung on for yardage rather than hand it off only to get stopped at the line. He’ll get it sorted out eventually, but for now it’s a work in progress.

5. Corner coverage deep down the sideline. Yet again we saw confusion in the secondary on deep passes – this time down the right side rather than the left. Bradley Roby was at fault for one, misreading the pass and going after the short man with his man going long down the sideline. The Buckeyes later gave up another that had three defenders floating underneath the pass completely confused. Expect this to be a problem all season long.

One way or another, this season is going to be a wild ride. There’s still a lot of youth on this team, and it’s clear the coaches are still trying to get the concepts into the kids’ heads.

The Buckeyes next face the California Golden Bears in the Horseshoe. You’ll be able to see that game on ABC at Noon EST.

12 Comments

  1. JimNo Gravatar
    September 8th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I don’t think this was a step forward from last week. That disappoints me.

    The offense looked confused and out of sync but was saved by Braxton.

    The defense looked vulnerable in the secondary and the d-line didn’t get much pressure on the QB. One or the other will have to improve big time before the team faces the better teams on the schedule.

    Perhaps UCF was better than I gave them credit for, but that remains to be seen.

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    EricNo Gravatar
    September 8th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Yup, we’ll have to see what they look like down the line. However, I agree that I didn’t see a big improvement from last week.

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  2. Buckeye WagsNo Gravatar
    September 8th, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    1. Miller is asked to do do much running.
    2. Offensive miscues with handoffs and backs going the wrong way.
    3.Running Back depth is now a problem.
    4. Very little verticle stretch in passing game
    5. Linebacker play is weak. Rarely heard Shazier or Sabino making plays. Is Curtis Grant still on scholarship. Never heard Grants name ONCE.
    6. Too many breakdowns and blown coverages in the secondary.
    7. With all the D-line talent there was never much pressure on the QB.
    8. Very few sacks and if there were blitzes they were ineffective.
    9.Defensive play calling was not as aggressive as it should be.
    10. Defensive adjustments were slow.
    11. Too many penalties.

    I am starting to doubt Fickell,s stewardship both as coordinator and linebacker coach. Ditto Vrabel.

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  3. Gary Russell IINo Gravatar
    September 8th, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Although it wasn’t a step forward I don’t believe it was a step backward. Urban said it himself….this team isn’t where he thought they would be two games in. He acknowledged that so I know he will be working on it.

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  4. BhopNo Gravatar
    September 8th, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I wouldn’t start to get the fire Vrabel and Fickel signs out just yet. The guys are the ones out there playing and coaches were trying to put them in the best position to win. There towards the end Meyer was on Vrabel for playing drop with the DE’s as well as a 3 to 4 man rush as opposed to blitzing. You could tell that’s why he motioned with his hand to get em up to the line and go after the QB. He had all day to throw…IMHO (besides a few hurries). OSU’s defensive guys are afraid to make the big play mistake. They’ll get batter just like some injured guys that we need (Hyde and Hall being out wasn’t good). The DBs looked better so there’s always room for improvement and look at it like this…it’s still early.
    Only game two…but Braxton can’t be utilized so much if he’s going to stay healthy. That’s something I do question…which has nothing to do with our Def. coordinators.

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  5. BhopNo Gravatar
    September 8th, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    @ Jim:
    UCF isn’t that bad…but they’re not that good either. They’ll be over .500 this year but it won’t matter anyhow (just like us). I’d agree, this wasn’t a step forward…it gives the coaches a lot to prepare for and only two real days of practice to implement it (Tue. and Wed). I can see another sluggish game next week with misques if they can’t get Miller to understand plays better bc that wasn’t the RB’s fault the majority of the time besides when they tripped over each other’s feet. I think this team has GREAT potential…I just wonder if they’re going to achieve it this year…or next???

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    ryanNo Gravatar
    September 9th, 2012 at 10:39 am

    UCF will be better than a .500 team. They will likely win C.USA or get close to it. I see two more losses on their schedule….Missouri and Southern Miss.
    The buckeye offense I am fine with, and I believe that can be effective against more talented defense. Keeping the guys healthy will help, and Braxton can keep us out of trouble. They will go downfield when they need to, but right now running the ball for big plays and stretching horizontally with passes in the flats keeps the defense honest. Remember, that was exactly how Meyer beat us back in 2006, passes in the flats. If the opposing corners start to play closer to the line, then go deep. Meyer knows what he’s doing.
    The defense was scary. A really weak secondary, which I was not surprised about, but I was hoping to see better. They DBs just have to stay on their man. Too many times I saw a receiver all alone, and two DBs and a safety all standing within a 10 yard circle, and no wide outs around. They have the talent, but it appears they aren’t as football smart reading the play as I would like.
    The defensive line I and LBs were weak, but I think that’s a good thing right now. Coming out of camp our front 7 was awesome, but now they are proved otherwise. Keeps them working hard in these first 4 games. I believe they will play to whatever level is required of them when the time comes. They are smart and talented.

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  6. EricNo Gravatar
    September 8th, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    I’m certainly not ready to write off Vrable and Fickell. Not even close. The Curtis Grant isn’t exactly playing up to his expectations, and the secondary is a little confused at the moment. I’m happy to give ‘em a season to work out the kinks and get the guys to clue in to what they’re supposed to be doing.

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  7. ryanNo Gravatar
    September 9th, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Oh, and what happened to the Big Ten this weekend? I feel like we just dropped a few notches below the Big 12 to ACC level sucking.
    Penn State missed 4 field goals and an extra point to lose by 1 to UVa. How do they miss 4 field goals!? Penn State should NEVER lose to UVa!!! NEVER!!
    Why is Iowa losing to Iowa State again? That’s a rivalry specifically designed to make big ten fans feel warm and fuzzy.
    Michigan struggles against Air Force.
    Nebraska gets upset by a bad UCLA team. Rice may have given them a bigger struggle, haha.
    Wisconsin gets upset by a mediocre Oregon State team.
    Illinois lost to Arizona State.
    Those things are NOT supposed to happen!
    None of them are supposed to happen!
    On a good note, Purdue put up a good fight against a good Notre Dame team, and I’m proud of them for that.
    Speaking of things that aren’t supposed to happen, the battle of the smart schools, Northwestern comes from behind to beat Vandy. What a surprise…great job Northwestern. Haha, SEC, our smart school is better than yours! I feel good because Northwestern actually did a better job beating Vandy than the highly (over)rated South Carolina.

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    September 9th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Sure did… but not as much as the “former big12 teams”- Mizzou, Nebraska, Colorado, aTm all lost. Yeek.

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  8. EricNo Gravatar
    September 9th, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I also want to point out something that took me until now to realize.

    We’re sitting around complaining about the Buckeye Defense instead of the offense. Who would have thought we’d be here so quickly this offseason?

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  9. charlesNo Gravatar
    September 9th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    i won’t lie…i have wondered for a while how long fickell would be employed by meyer. was he kept on staff to appease his supporters (EVERYBODY felt sorry for the guy last year) who were loyalists and wanted him retained? it would’ve been really bad for PR if meyer had sent him packing immediately. it will be interesting to see how fickell (and vrabel) progresses over the season. personally, i don’t think urbs is the type to do a lot of favors. if the defensive issues continue, they may be shopping for another job, and sooner rather than later.

    and, yes, the B1G has stunk it up so far. other than us and MSU, the only undefeated teams are indiana, northwestern, and minnesota. not exactly a who’s who of powerhouse football programs. what are we going to say? we can’t even use the “Well, every year the Big Ten teams just beat each other up” excuse. conference play hasn’t even started yet. not good.

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