When asked what opposing teams have done to try to stop quarterback Braxton Miller this year, Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman answered: “I’ve seen defenses in the last three weeks that I never dreamt of in my mind to try and stop the QB from trying to run the football.”
He certainly hasn’t seen it on film. The Buckeyes scouting reports have been admittedly off this season owing to the fact that opponents have spent so much of their offseason creating unique wrinkles for the Scarlet and Gray.
Saying they had watched two years worth of Cal Bears film, for instance, Herman noted, “Throughout the entire first half, they came out and showed us something different…and then come out in the second half, and get something a little bit different even than what we’d seen in the first half and what we have prepared for throughout the course of the week.”
“Not one snap is what they showed the previous year or the previous two games,” head coach Urban Meyer agreed. “We worked all day for three straight days on a certain defense, because that’s what they’d shown, and we didn’t get it.”
And it hasn’t just been Cal. Buckeye football players Zach Boren and Jeff Heuerman both said what they’ve seen in film study hasn’t translated into what they’ve seen on the field all season.
In fact, they were emphatic about it.
“In the past three years, you’d go out for a game and know exactly what that defense is going to run,” Boren told 97.1 The Fan, “and I’d say all three games [this year] the defense played something totally different than what we thought they were going to play.”
As you might expect, then, the first quarter has been when OSU struggles most. They have scored a combined 20 points in the first 15 minutes of their games. That’s 18 fewer points than in the 2nd quarter, 8 fewer points than the third and 16 fewer points than the fourth.
Interestingly, the same problem does not seem to be plaguing the Buckeye defense. “We know what their go-to plays were, who their go-to guys were,” defensive back Christian Bryant said of Cal.
So what this appears to be, is college football teams trying to find a way to stump the new Urban Meyer offense, which takes the power spread he used at Florida and marries it with Herman’s up-tempo style.
“That’s all part of being Ohio State,” Heuerman argues. “They’ve got to come up with something unique to try to beat you.”
Is it possible the Buckeyes will be taken by surprise again this week? UAB played a top ten South Carolina squad last week, and they only trailed 14-6 until 1:37 remained in the first half, so it’s unlikely they kept anything in reserve.
Plus, even though UAB has already had a bye-week, coach Meyer believes we’re reaching the time of year when game film tends to be a bit more revealing. “You can’t change defenses in the middle of the year, normally.”
Whatever the case, Heuerman is optimistic. “As long as you go out there and execute, it doesn’t matter what they do,” he said. “We have an answer for everything. That’s key.”
UPDATE: Urban Meyer on his call-in show on 97.1 The Fan today said OSU had 20 run plays installed for the Cal game that they never got to use, because they wouldn’t have worked against the defense the Bears actually ran.