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Breaking down Ohio State film

BY CODY GOODWIN | OCTOBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Urban Meyer’s record as the Buckeye head coach remained unblemished after Ohio State left Northwestern’s Ryan Field with a 40-30 victory last weekend. It wasn’t the prettiest game Ohio State has played during its 18-straight victories under Meyer, but it was enough to get the job done.

But there were a few takeaways from the contest — especially after reviewing the game film. The Wildcats had a few moments where they contained Braxton Miller almost perfectly. The Northwestern passing attack seemingly exerted its will on the Ohio State secondary — the only unit that might be considered a weakness on the Buckeye football team.

Iowa will have had two full weeks to prepare for the Big Ten’s powerhouse by the time the two teams take the field on Oct. 19 at Ohio Stadium. Both Greg Davis and Phil Parker were adamant on Tuesday that the Buckeyes were their sole focus for that duration.

The Daily Iowan football staff also took time to look at some film, and saw a few of the successes Northwestern had against Ohio State on Oct. 5.

Containing Braxton Miller

The best way to beat Miller might just be to confuse or worry him. Or both. Northwestern used this tactic early in the game to collect its only sack of the contest.

At the 5:21 mark in the first quarter, Ohio State fielded a five-receiver shotgun set. Northwestern countered by putting six guys in the box. Miller saw that the six potential pass rushers outnumbered his five linemen, so he moved one of his receivers toward the line for help.

But when Miller called for the snap, just three Wildcats charged forward while the other three dropped back into coverage. They played more as spies and in a sort of zone coverage, but it helped take away Miller’s check-down receivers.

The pressure from the three down-linemen forced Miller to his left. The pocket collapsed, causing Miller to scramble, which caused those in zone coverage near the line to crash the broken pocket and collect the sack outside the left hash mark. Ohio State was forced to punt.

Iowa has the talent at linebacker to make this possible — Anthony Hitchens has a nose for finding the ball carrier; Christian Kirksey has the athleticism to hang with check-down targets; and James Morris often spends time explaining football schemes to members of the media — but what also needs to happen is stout coverage from the secondary.

Without that, Miller might just shred the Iowa defensive backs for many, many yards — maybe even a touchdown, if Iowa isn’t careful.

Quick decision-making

Fast-forward to the second quarter, at the 7:29 mark. Northwestern’s offense opened with a four-receiver shotgun set, with speedy tailback Venric Mark in the backfield with Trevor Siemian.

Siemian moved Mark to the right side of the formation, out toward the slot. Ohio State responded by packing the box with six pass rushers to Northwestern’s five-man blocking crew. Upon the snap, each lineman picked up a rusher — except for one Ohio State linebacker, who slipped through the line untouched.

Siemian saw it all occur and quickly made the decision to hit Mark, who ran a 5-yard hitch route. A missed tackle and a stiff-arm allowed Mark to scamper downfield for 41 yards, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Siemian’s ability to read the defense and react swiftly.

Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock has proven that he can make quick, smart decisions. Against Michigan State, during the pitch-and-catch touchdown to Damon Bullock, Rudock read a corner blitz and got his running back the ball when he was matched up with a linebacker in the open field.

Good read, quick throw, easy touchdown.

A lot more will have to go right if Iowa is to give Ohio State a scare in a week. But containing Miller and making quick, smart decisions in the passing game — against the Ohio State secondary, which ranks 7th in the Big Ten — can only aid its cause.


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