What Really Happened Against MSU

I hesitated before cranking out the recap this week. I wanted to avoid the cookie-cutter analysis of “offense bad.”

You cannot understand why the OSU offense had such a hard time until you understand what is going on under the hood. To that end, a Fickell statement in the postgame press conference tells you all you need to know:

“I think maybe he [Braxton Miller] didn’t see the field real well… So we thought our best option was to go with a guy [Bauserman] that probably could… throw the football a little bit better in some of the formations or spreads that we needed to get into.”

I don’t quote that as proof that OSU has a troublesome quarterback problem. That’s too obvious. But read between the lines: “…in some of the formations or spreads that we needed to get into.”

In plain English, this means that the coaching staff decided to make adjustments, and that Braxton had little or no experience with the formations they would be using. Hence, Bauserman was sent in – not to “ignite a spark” or any other intangible fluff you may have heard, but only because Baus had practice experience running certain formations.

In hindsight, this is painfully obvious. Miller has been given a very limited playbook. What else could we expect? I’m certain Braxton is learning new formations and plays every week, but so far, he’s only got a pamphelet’s worth of OSU offense down.

Dantonio had film on Braxton and knew precisely what the young QB’s limitations were. He knew Miller had been given only a handful of plays (we’ll say 10 to be generous), and that none of them included constraint play checkoffs (quick tosses to the open slot receiver, bubble screens, counters, etc.). He gambled and brought a series of twists and stunts that left OSU’s offensive line shorthanded and Braxton without the experience to dump off to the slot. MSU brought an extra blitzer on 30 of OSU’s 60+ snaps.

Again, everyone screaming “more screens! more draws!! more formations!!” needs to understand a couple of things… these are not yet components of our peach-fuzzed young QB’s repertoire.

HOWEVER, they are components of Joe Bauserman’s experience — at least his academic one, anyway. Where he lacks in accuracy and athleticism, he at least makes up for in the experience of being in the program for over five years and knowing the entire playbook.

Therefore, the coaching staff had Bauserman enter the game at the beginning of the 4th quarter. And then the following happened:

Bauserman entered the game on OSU’s 10th drive. The offense sputtered for a couple of drives but improved rapidly. Almost immediately, Bauserman began involving the RBs and constraint tosses to the slot and TEs. He completed only a few of them — this is Bauserman, after all — but the new scheme was enough to get MSU to stop sending in an unblocked blitzer every other down. As we all know, it culminated with the TD score with 10 seconds left.

Now I am not saying that Bauserman is a better QB than Miller, nor suggesting he earn his starting position back. I am showing this to prove two things:

  • The coaching adjustments worked
  • The coaching adjustments came too late

And that’s why this loss should be chalked up as a coaching failure. While the issues with experience and talent depth are obvious, they are justified and explainable: Miller’s only been playing OSU football for a month now, OSU is missing talent and depth at WR, many starters are suspended… etc., etc. Yes, the execution needs to improve, obviously.

What isn’t justified and explainable is the lack of offensive coaching professionalism that is being shown time and time again.

It is clear that, for MSU at least, the loss was primarily due to a failure to make adjustments earlier. Had Bauserman started the second half, instead of the 4th quarter, perhaps OSU might have eked out a victory.

Or perhaps, had Bollman or Siciliano actually prepared Miller with some misdirection or constraint plays for the game, they wouldn’t have needed to switch to Bauserman and the entire situation would have been rendered irrelevant.

In short: the coaches didn’t prepare well, and they didn’t adjust in time.

Just say NO to Walrusball.


  1. I am starting to come around to the theory about bad coaching….. as long as players are also mentioned for failure to perform. Enough blame to go around for sure.

  2. Jay Roubini says

    SYR questions~1. regarding the MSU blame game: at halftime is it bad coaching to bench your best performing RB when he complains about…your bad coaching?

    2. could “J” be that TP lovin’ Johnny Utah ?

    sMonkey~ Bollman’s offensive scheming can’t hide behind NFL talent this year, still this game was winable as you decribe, closer than I could have imagined.

  3. I havent heard that rumor Jay….

    I still believe that players make the plays or they dont. Right now we have too many not making the plays and coaches arent helping by calling the plays they are calling.

    Bottom line for me is there has just been too much to overcome mentally and physically this year. It doesn’t feel right to blame the players who can play and the coaches who can coach. It just doesn’t feel right to me to do that.

  4. I still love me some TP lol…..

    What is worse is I can’t help feeling vindicated that TP was a great QB and that he deserved more recognitions while he was here.

    For the past 3 years all I heard from people was anyone could QB OSU to 10 wins and a B1G title. Any coach could win as much as Tressel did with the talent he has.

    What we have learned so far is both those statements are blatantly untrue. 😉

  5. spit and tears says

    The “Walrusball” link almost has it right–instead of being the answer to Greg Robinson, I think Bollman is 2011’s version of 2010’s Greg Davis and Mac McWhorter rolled into one… Texas fans can sympathize with what you’re going through (albeit for different reasons). Good luck, fellas…

  6. Jay Roubini says

    @SYR ~ “anyone could QB OSU to 10 wins” that’s complete nonsense of course, the “anyone could win as much as Tressel did” you can’t deny that’s a more complex argument, obviously JT had great qualities as a head coach but his offenses consistently ranked very low nationally even when blessed with great talent. QB’s like Smith playing with a roster of NFL talent and a freakishly gifted TP hid a lot of offensive deficiency. I’d tend to think JT would be struggling also with this team. One thing reasuring is Marcus Rush, Worthy, Cunningham (the stars of the MSU game) all wanted to play for OSU, maybe the next staff will find a way to keep that talent at home.

  7. Wait….. What?

    First you say OSU has a roster full of NFL talent and then you say the next coach needs to learn to keep talent playing for OSU.

    That is the kind of talking out both sides of a mouth that drives me nuts about cfb fans 🙂

    I know people love to bash OSU offense under JT but the truth is his teams were always in the top 20 producing offenses every year. All people tend to remember is when in big games and he would go into tressel ball mode making the offense seem poorer then it ever really was.

    If JT was coach this year then he would have turned in those players last year and all of them would be back and playing fully this year so the team would have been tons better 🙂

  8. Kade=Johnny Utah

    And this offense desperately misses Pryor.

  9. Jay Roubini says

    2001: #65 out of 115 teams
    2002: #70 out of 117 teams
    2003: #93 out of 117 teams
    2004: #98 out of 117 teams
    2007: #62 out of 119 teams
    2008: #76 out of 119 teams
    2009: #68 out of 120 teams

    We’ve been in the bottom half nationally in total offense in 7 of the last 10 years. Fact is we’ve had ridiculously bad offenses masked by a certain amount of true NFL talent that made even Bollman look competent until… well your pain is evident. Fickell had a chance to man up, take command of this offensive mess, get the help needed but the ship is sinking fast now into a Bizarro World where a sportin’Monkey can draw a target on a coach. peace brother we’ll get thru it.

  10. Fickell and Bollman will be gone.

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