Friday, July 14, 2006

Four Plays, Part II: the Reverse | by Jay

In Part I of our Fiesta Bowl defensive redux, we looked at the first quarter bomb to Teddy Ginn that evened the score 7-7. Following that touchdown, ND stalled out on a drive and punted; Ohio State took over but Troy Smith was sacked by Mays and fumbled the ball in OSU territory. ND recovered it on the 14. But the Irish couldn't punch it in the end zone, and ended up failing to convert on a 4th-and-2 from the OSU 6, as A.J. Hawk sacked Quinn. The Buckeyes' next drive looked like this:

O 1-10 O14   OHIO STATE drive start at 01:32 (1st).
O 1-10 O14 Pittman, A rush for 8 yards to the OSU22 (NDUKWE;ZBIKOWSKI).
O 2-2 O22 Pittman, A rush for 3 yards to the OSU25, 1ST DOWN OSU (LANDRI).
O 1-10 O25 PENALTY OSU personal foul (Sims, Rob) 12 yards to the OSU13.
O 1-22 O13 1st and 10.
O 1-10 O13 Pittman, A rush for 1 yard to the OSU14 (TALLEY).
O 2-9 O14 Start of 2nd quarter, clock 15:00.
O 2-9 O14 Smith, Troy pass incomplete to Holmes, S.
O 3-9 O14 Smith, Troy pass complete to Ginn, Jr., Ted for 18 yards
to the OSU32, 1ST DOWN OSU, out-of-bounds (ZBIKOWSKI).
So the Buckeyes have just converted 3rd and 9 on a marvelous play by Troy Smith and Ted Ginn: Smith was flushed from the pocket and rolled right, while Ginn improvised a route to get open. Smith hit him on a beautiful running pass for a first down. (Converted a third and long, and followed it up with a big scoring play...sound familiar?) It's now first down Buckeyes on the OSU 32.

OSU comes out with 3 wide, 1 back. Holmes (4) split left, Ginn (7) slot right, Gonzalez (11) split right.

The Irish do a pre-snap defensive shift here: Wooden (22) drops, Crum (40) moves wide, Ndukwe (18) shifts to the middle, Hoyte (39) steps inside, and Zibby (9) comes up across from Ginn.
Here's Ndukwe cutting across to the right hash mark, as Hoyte settles into position between Abiamiri and Landri.

We're in our base package here, with 3 linebackers and 4 DBs. At DL, Talley is shaded outside the left tackle.
And here's the post-shift read just before the snap. With Crum on the wide side and Wooden playing so far off, it's a good bet we're in zone on that side of the field. Wooden has deep coverage on Holmes and Crum has the flat for hooks/curls. Zibby is up on Ginn, Richardson on Gonzalez.

Snap, option right, Hoyte and Zibby crash the line. Zibby is clearly blitzing; from the video replay, it looks like Hoyte might have been blitzing as well, but it's tough to tell if it's a blitz or just a read and react.
Smith pitches to Ginn on the reverse. Note Crum and Mays moving to the middle.

OSU lets Talley go unblocked as the left tackle Datish (#50) slips out to block inside, but there's nobody to block as Mays is still in pursuit. Datish releases downfield to block for Ginn.
Good view of how the misdirection works; everybody is moving right as Smith pitches it.

And the reverse ties up 7 defenders (6 in view plus Crum) moving the other way.
Along with Datish, the Buckeyes also pull left guard Rob Sims (#77) to lead block on the reverse. Talley, unblocked, takes a sharp angle right at Ginn, but Ginn simply sprints past him and turns the corner.

Holmes cracks back on Crum just as he turns to pursue.

Frame by frame on Holmes' devastating block.
The pulling Sims gets out in front and engulfs Wooden (he's the inkblot of blue you can barely see behind the wall of white).
With all the backside help blocked out, Ginn turns on the jets.
Downfield, Ndukwe and Richardson will recover and get in front of Ginn, but with a sharp in-and-out cut, Ginn sets up a final block and makes it into the endzone.

TD Buckeyes.
Nice day so far, eh?

And here's the video of the play (thanks to Nevin for pulling the clips for us for this series).

The first question I had was about the option. The Buckeyes had run one option to this point in the game (a Smith keeper for only a couple of yards), but how often did OSU use it over the course of the season? Is the option something we would have prepared for? And did OSU ever run a reverse out of the option? Buckeye Commentary fills us in:
Ohio State did run the option quite a bit last year - so much so I'd call it a staple play in our repertoire. The offensive staff would vary it by having Troy run the option to a pass. The pass would either look for someone deep or hit a TE or WR dragging across the middle the opposite way. Usually very effective.

We rarely ran Ginn on a reverse off the option. I believe we may have done it v. MSU in 2004 - but I'm not positive. When Ginn was given a given a rushing play from scrimmage it was usually an end-around. Troy would fake to the running back and as the running back carried out the fake, Ginn would loop around for the hand off. Not really a reverse since the ball never traveled in two directions.

What we saw in the Fiesta Bowl was a little out of the norm since it was a true reverse and it came from the option.
So this was a nice surprise that Tressel pulled from his bag of tricks, a call that exploited our aggressiveness -- especially after giving up another frustrating third down conversion.

On the first touchdown, we didn't blitz, and got burnt. This time, we did blitz...and you see what happened. On this play we have one, perhaps two players blitzing and yet the reverse takes them right out of the action. Our backside help bites hard on the fake and doesn't recover in time. With the play moving away from him, our weak side defensive end becomes the "trail" man, whose job it is to stay home, look for potential ballcarriers and stop the reverse; unfortunately Talley isn't quite deft enough to make a play on the fleet-footed Ginn. This isn't entirely Talley's fault; after all, Ginn is one of the fastest guys in football. But he could have taken a better angle, and forced Ginn to hold up or take an inside turn before heading downfield. Perhaps that extra delay would have meant the difference between a touchdown and simply a long run.

Everything lined up for the Buckeyes on this play: a surprise call, perfect execution of the fake, exemplary blocking downfield, and the speedy Ginn all combined to trigger an explosive 68-yard touchdown run. I think this play points up how intent our guys were in stopping the run all year long, with our hard-nosed linebackers and safeties constantly flowing to the ball. Unfortunately, this aggressiveness also made our defense especially susceptible to chicanery and misdirection...something we'll have to curb if we want to compete at a high level this season.