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.