You know the numbers.
396 passing yards and six touchdowns from Dwayne Haskins. All of that against the nation’s previously No. 1 pass defense. On the other side of the ball, three sacks, as well as numerous other pressures. 5.5 yards a throw from Shea Patterson.
All that carnage led to the most important stat: 62-39 Buckeyes.
The following Film Focus is an autopsy of Michigan’s carcass after its trip to Columbus. Here are the main reasons for the historic rout.
Brandon Watson versus faster receivers
Freshman receiver Chris Olave entered Saturday as the ninth-leading receiver for OSU. Naturally, he proceeded to torch senior corner Brandon Watson in the first half.
Olave’s first score set a tone overall for crossing routes against Don Brown’s press-man coverage.
Only @TBDBITL could script a better start for @OhioStateFB.@chrisolave_ picked a good time for his first career TD: pic.twitter.com/Mz0PmOKXi4— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 24, 2018
This is a mesh route, where two receivers run off defenders to clear room for a crossing route. Watson lacks the foot speed to track Olave across the entire field, but it doesn’t help that he has to sift through traffic to stick with his man.
Watson, who excels at jamming receivers at the line, couldn’t stay in front of Olave again on the second score.
To try to compensate, he started grabbing jersey, giving OSU easy penalty yardage.
Watson had been rock solid entering the Horseshoe, but no other offense this year presented as much perimeter athleticism as Ohio State’s. Needless to say, the senior got exposed.
Crossing routes and the wrinkle
Haskins’ biggest chunks through the air were either on crossing routes or on a wrinkle I’ll name a cross-out.
In the first half, it got K.J. Hill free on press coverage from...Watson. Unlike before, this is just Hill flat-out beating him on a sprint after a little shimmy.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Day threw a curveball with a route that set up a cross over the middle, only for the receiver to plant and pivot outside. Earlier in the same drive, Terry McLaurin executes this, and bulls over Devin Gil for good measure.
Teams such as Michigan State and Penn State limited these options with zone looks ranging from quarters to Cover 2. Don Brown has used zone as a changeup before, specifically on David Long’s interception last year against the Nittany Lions.
It’s not drilled enough to be a base look, however. The zone he switched to in the second half was more of a hybrid between man coverage with linebackers dropping into middle zones. This led to Parris Campbell one-on-one with Bush.
In the avalanche after the blocked punt, Hill nearly scored on another cross-out.
The various crosses and meshes screwed with assignments and sprung elite athletes into the open field.
Absolutely no pressure on Haskins
The numbers tell enough of the story here. Zero sacks and zero quarterback hurries.
It’s worth wondering if Rashan Gary’s hip or Chase Winovich’s shoulder hindered them, but outside of a short period of time early in the third quarter, nobody sniffed Haskins.
With the constant assault over the middle on short and intermediate routes, blitzing only would’ve turned large gains into scores.
Pressure is the only thing that get Haskins off schedule — Pro Football Focus agrees. Michigan State did this only a few weeks ago.
RT Prince is beaten immediately, and Haskins sails an open 3rd down pass due to the quick pressure. pic.twitter.com/NOXBVjItPX— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) November 10, 2018
Same against Penn State mid-season.
Haskins was REALLY shook by the pressure in this game. Started rushing his decision-making process and his release. Does a nice job here of sensing the edge pressure and climbing the pocket, but then he tries to speed up his arm unnecessarily and throws a duck pic.twitter.com/Gzby4Tt41j— Fed Scivittaro (@MeshPointScout) October 4, 2018
Without any of this, the secondary didn’t have a chance in man-to-man.
Michigan’s own pass protection woes
This occurred on the game’s second play.
#OhioState LB Malik Harrison with a sack of Shea Patterson on 2nd down. pic.twitter.com/kjJN3B6nbk— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) November 24, 2018
With only five blockers for six rushers, Malik Harrison got a free run at Shea Patterson. It set the tone for three sacks and several other pressures.
Gentry starts to break free over the middle, but Patterson waits too long to fire off the throw. This play epitomizes the difference in approaches. Michigan waited for an opportunity, while Ohio State seized its own.
The long-feared issue of this offense was the play of the two tackles. Jon Runyan looked serviceable ever since the Notre Dame loss, while Juwann-Bushell Beatty acquitted himself well enough in pass protection.
With Andrew Stueber replacing Bushell-Beatty last Saturday, the idea of future star Chase Young abusing the redshirt freshman caused nightmares.
On the Patterson interception in the third quarter, both he and Runyan failed to contain their assignments. Runyan’s forced the scramble, but Stueber’s tipped the ball for the pick.
Épouvantable interception de QB Shea Patterson et les Buckeyes frappent immédiatement par un TD au sol de RB Mike Weber ! Boom ! Les Wolverines prennent l'eau !— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) November 24, 2018
Ohio State 41, Michigan 19#TheGame #RivalryWeek pic.twitter.com/Aru2G7ETl5
The problem wasn’t limited to the tackles, though. Mike Onwenu lost focus to let Robert Landers notch a coverage sack.
With Michigan trying to throw itself back into the game, Ohio State ratcheted up the pressure. Nearly the entire left side of the line whiffs on their assignments here.
Lastly, the constant assault on the pocket threw off Patterson’s timing. Here, he has to dump off a crossing route to Nick Eubanks due to a blitz. With the extra second, he would’ve had Sean McKeon wide-open over the middle for the first down.
While Patterson was merely average in Columbus, his protection sped up his reads to the point where his decisions and accuracy suffered.
Patterson accuracy, Gentry drops
A series of Gentry drops came at critical junctures.
The first is a dime from Patterson that would have put the Wolverines up 10-7 early. The second two wasted opportunities to score in the second half.
On the second drop, you see how Patterson wasn't making things easy for his targets. He short-armed several other passes to the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Eubanks.
Overall, his numbers looked fine: 20-of-34 for 187 yards and three touchdowns. With a handful more completions, Michigan is talking about losing a shootout rather than a rout.
There are other minor issues. Early on, Michigan ran into loaded fronts with not enough blockers. Ben Bredeson and Cesar Ruiz, in particular, struggled with locating linebackers on the second level.
However, the ground game managed 161 yards at four a pop. You take those stats on most days.
There’s grumbling about play-calling, but consider this mindset: Jim Harbaugh thought his No. 1 ranked defense could contain Haskins into an average day. With 19 points through two and a half quarters, he’s thinking that the offense was on pace for 27 to 31 points.
On most days, that’s enough with Brown’s side of the ball. As Ian Boyd pointed out, though, this was more a Big 12 game than a typical Big Ten one.
That means Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton’s offense needed perfect execution to stay within reach. Even in previous blowouts, the unit never accomplished perfection. Remember when the offense scrapped together 14 points by halftime against Penn State, or just seven in East Lansing?
The basic takeaway from “The Game” is both Harbaugh’s offense and Brown’s defense need more tools in the bag. The offense has to add more passing spread elements — or continue to build on the RPO concepts from earlier this year. The defense can stick with the press against most teams, but needs to throw in various zone looks for hyper-athletic teams such as OSU.
After last Saturday, can you imagine Oklahoma, or even Washington State against this look?
As Billy Beane says in Moneyball, “Adapt or die.”