Defensively Speaking: A Passing Grade

Western Kentucky’s formidable passing attack was supposed to pose a real challenge to the Buckeye defense on Saturday. However, Jim Knowles’ group stepped up and played a great game. Let’s take a deeper look at what Ohio State did schematically.

As always, Jim Knowles called for a fair amount of Cover 1 Rat in coverage. See an example below:

In the above clip, Steele Chambers was in man coverage on the running back and he had the freedom to “green dog” (meaning he was free to rush the quarterback if the running back stayed in to pass block).

While Cover 1 Rat was still the most commonly used coverage on Saturday, I think Knowles showed more variety with his coverage calls than he has in any previous game during his Ohio State tenure. Specifically, Knowles used a fair amount of quarters coverage. Below, for example Knowles appeared to call for standard Cover 4:

Knowles also used bracket coverage a few times throughout the game, which is another quarters coverage concept:

Furthermore, Knowles used Cover 6 at one point. Cover 6 may also be referred to as quarter-quarter-half coverage, because one side of the field is playing quarters while the other side of the field is playing Cover 2. In the following clip, Ohio State is playing quarters to the field and Cover 2 to the boundary:

In addition to using quarters coverage concepts multiple times throughout the day, Knowles also used an old Nick Saban staple – Match-3 coverage – a couple times. See an example below:

In the above clip, note how the boundary safety (Lathan Ransom) starts as a high safety before spinning down to the curl-flat zone at the snap. This differs from Knowles’ typical 3-buzz call where Ransom spins down to the hook zone at the snap (while Chambers takes the curl-flat zone).

In addition to being more creative with coverage calls, Knowles was also once again more creative with his pressure calls. Below, he called for a pressure that sent the boundary safety through the B-gap, which blew up Western Kentucky’s split zone play:

While most of Knowles’ pressure calls were paired with man coverage, he did call for one zone pressure on Saturday – a 5-man pressure with 2-roll coverage out of a tite front (below):

A 2-roll pressure is a pressure scheme that uses Cover 2 behind the coverage, but one of the deep half defenders will be a cornerback. The defense will show Cover 3 pre-snap before “rolling” to Cover 2. See a diagram of a 2-roll pressure from Georgia’s playbook below:

Against the run, Ohio State was solid overall but had some occasional issues throughout the day. Below, Western Kentucky ran Q-power and a huge hole opened up; I think the issue was Ty Hamilton not fighting over the center’s down block:

Below, Western Kentucky runs power again. This time, Knowles called for a pinch stunt (meaning every defensive lineman will shoot to the next gap inside to plug both A-gaps and both B-gaps), and the coverage call was Tampa-2. Tommy Eichenberg was (naturally) concerned with getting enough depth as the pole runner in Tampa-2 and, as a result, he was a little late reacting to the run and Western Kentucky picked up a nice gain.

However, the run defense was not bad by any means. Below, Western Kentucky again runs power, but Tyleik Williams does a great job fighting over top of the right tackle’s down block to make the play:

And in the following clip, Western Kentucky runs pin-pull, but Mike Hall fights over top of the right guard’s down block which forced the ballcarrier to run right into Eichenberg:

Despite some occasional issues against the run, Ohio State’s defense has looked pretty strong through the first three games. However, the matchup against Notre Dame will definitely give us a real idea of just how good the defense is.

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