Ohio State relied on their power run game, and Williams’ performance is a testament to changing philosophy
Miyan Williams had a record performance on Saturday, scoring five rushing touchdowns as the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 49-10. This week the Buckeyes won differently than they have recently — on the ground behind the offensive, and with the legs of their running back.
The path the Buckeyes took to get to that record started with the infamous availability report, but when TreVeyon Henderson was announced out, the day became Miyan’s. With the weather being incredibly windy, the passing game was not near as sharp as it has been in recent weeks. This led to the perfect storm for a record day from the former three-star running back out of Winton Woods High School.
This record day should also represent a building block, and another step taken in building a power run-game Ohio State fans could be proud of. Too often last season the Buckeyes relied on a boom-or-bust big play passing offense. The ire from fans was common when the Buckeyes would need to run in an obvious situation, and time after time came up short. The offense did feel forced at times on Saturday, but the overall inclination to run the ball was a pleasant philosophical change of pace from Ryan Day as a play caller.
I know this was only Rutgers, but the commitment to the run against an overmatched opponent says a lot. This season, Day hasn’t been as pass-happy, and the Buckeyes showed they can win the old-fashioned way. Today, we’re going to look at the scheme and individual performance that went into the record day.
When a player scores five touchdowns, this is a major indication that said player did their job incredibly well. This also creates an opportunity to see how Ohio State approached scoring opportunities, allowing for a clear breakdown of how the strategy develops throughout the game.
In the first touchdown for Williams, Ohio State aligns in 41-personnel, which is funny because the fourth tight end is offensive tackle Josh Fryar, who wears the number 41 – or 32-personnel if you consider Mitch Rossi a fullback. In this case, Rossi is lined up directly in front of Williams. Gee Scott Jr. is lined up to the field side in a wingback alignment, with Fryar as the in-line tight end, and on the other side Cade Sover is lined up as an in-line tight end. The additions of consistently using heavy set formations in short yardage comes directly to scheme advantages and the trust in personnel.
The Buckeyes run their outside zone to the side with the in-line tight end. If you look at Rutgers’ defense, the Buckeyes do this to shift the strength of the defense. On the side with the wing set tight end and the field, Rutgers’ defense has six players compared to four towards the boundary. The Buckeyes have three to block the three players across the line, and Williams is responsible for winning the battle in the hole to get in the end zone.
Moving on to the next play, Ohio State is back in a goal line look early in the game. The Buckeyes just had a big run off of a jet-sweep by Marvin Harrison Jr. They try to pass the ball, and they run into some issues leading to second down. The Buckeyes align in the same exact heavy-personnel, and they run the same exact play. Williams follows the blocks and meets the defender in the hole with authority. This is the exact attitude offensive line coach Justin Frye said he wanted to bring to Columbus, and this play was a major example of that attitude taking over the game.
After the second score, the Buckeyes get into a goal-to-go situation from the 1-yard line for a third time. They change the formation up, having a receiver on the field, no Fryar as an extra tight end, and Mitch Rossi lining up as a wing instead of a fullback. Rutgers decided now was the time to adjust. They still align with the field side to the strength with even more defenders, instead of balancing to the alignment to the number of bodies. Ohio State still has four blockers for four defenders, and runs to the short side again for an easy score.
On the fourth touchdown, Ohio State is on their own 25-yard line after a fair catch on the kick return the previous play. The Buckeyes run a DUO Zone, which is a play where the offensive line pairs off into double teams. Then once one of the members of the double team locks in the block, the other separates up to the second level to block the linebacker. The offensive line executes this blocking scheme perfectly, and with an ill-advised blitz from Rutgers, Williams had nothing but green grass to run through, scoring his longest touchdown since the Minnesota game last year.
In the last touchdown play from Williams, the Buckeyes are in 12-personnel, with Williams and C.J. Stroud lined up in the shotgun. Rossi is the wing in this formation, and Stover is the in-line tight end on the same side as the back. The tight end alignment is important, as Williams can really only run to the right or straight ahead, meaning Rutgers has taken five defenders directly out of this play. With the numbers advantage, Williams just has to follow the blockers, and he does, scoring the touchdown.
This was an incredible display of using formations to gain leverage and numbers in the run game. The slight changes in alignment makes Rutgers start from scratch with their checks every alignment. Day takes advantage of Rutgers’ alignment, and he uses the weak side of the formation to run. With a back like Williams, if you have a numbers advantage he’ll gain yards, which is what we saw Saturday against Rutgers.
My best explanation for the fake punt
Special teams are an important and under-appreciated facet of the game of football, and Saturday was another example of that late in the afternoon. During the week, special teams groups will watch film and look for tendencies in how the opponent approaches every phase. Rutgers brings a lot of pressure, and Ohio State knows this.
After their first punt, they get full clarification how Rutgers is going to come after it. By overloading one side, the Rutgers special teams goal is to overwhelm the blockers to get a rusher free to block the punt. With this clarification, the Buckeyes have a check that if they see this look, the Buckeyes are going to block a certain way so Mirco can get the edge and the first down.
Ohio State has an Aussie punter, which means he is able to punt on the move, so this wouldn’t be a giveaway of doing something out of the ordinary. Ohio State lets the blitz get up the field, and they turn to wall the blitzers, giving Mirco a wide open running lane for the first down.
This play is just the special-teamers doing their job. This check was installed in practice early in the week because of Rutgers’ tendencies, and if they is going to try to bring eight rushers to block a punt late, that is not a sign of conceding. That gives the opposing unit full rights to attack back, and that’s what Ohio State did. The shot at the end was unnecessary, and Schiano’s outrage should have come from his players not doing their job correctly, not at Day for having his players prepared.
Looking at the run game showed us how Ohio State was confident in their ability to gain short yardage. This was an incredible metamorphosis from the team last year, and with Ryan Day as a play-caller. By Ohio State winning this way, opponents will need to account for the power running game, and this will make the entire offense better. Day is on his way to finding the balance that made his first two seasons so great, and as the Buckeyes continue to get there, they become more dangerous.
Miyan Williams had a historic day, tying the single game program touchdown record, and the offensive line as well as the other blockers deserve a ton of credit in making it happen. The Buckeyes showed a physical side they needed, given the weather and Rutgers trying to do everything to disrupt C.J. Stroud’s rhythm. Ohio State’s offense won a game definitively on the backs of physical football. This was not the case for the Buckeyes last year, and this bodes well for the team moving forward.
By finding this part of their identity now, Ohio State can continue building their dynamic, physical offense. Against Rutgers, the Buckeyes took another step in the right direction, finding success in short yardage situations and dominating the line of scrimmage. This performance led to a record day, and this should instill a lot of confidence in the run game moving forward.