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Film Session: How to Beat the Ohio State Buckeyes

So you're saying there's a chance...

Juice and company ran the ball against them, and this team can too
Juice and company ran the ball against them, and this team can too
David Maxwell/Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes have shown plenty of loose ends this season, as they've had 2 close calls with the Northern Illinois Huskies and the Indiana Hoosiers.  While both of those teams are almost polar opposites of the Illini, we wanted to highlight the Minnesota Golden Gophers and their ability to keep the game close last Saturday.

How did they do it you ask?  Well, let's show you...

First, let's take a look at what Ohio State does well.  Enter the Read-Option.

You'll see we've added numbers to each of the players in the defensive box.  Minnesota has 7 players stacked inside with 4 linemen and 3 linebackers.  The Buckeyes have lined up with 5 linemen and a tight end (81 on the right) off the line of scrimmage.  Cardale Jones is in the shotgun and Ezekiel Elliott is lined up off his right hip.

In this panel, you'll see that the ball has been snapped and Cardale Jones is in his "read" of the defense.  The green dots show where his read is, as he's looking at the Minnesota defender in open space.  If Jones decides to pull the ball back and run, he will have to get around defender #5 (who hasn't moved) with the help of a block from his sweeping receiver (shown by the straight blue line) and his left guard (shown by the curved blue line).  It's the riskier of the two plays, so Jones will give the ball to Ezekiel Elliott.

Once he reaches the line of scrimmage, Elliott reads the un-blocked defender (#6) and sees his offensive line has created a gap to his left between defenders 3 and 4.  The ability to read the play will allow Elliott to use his ability to burst through that gap and pick up 7 to 8 yards.  Running plays like this are the reason why Ohio State is the 12th best rushing offense in college football.  How can Illinois prevent the Buckeyes from running wild on Saturday?


Same formation...just flipped around:

You'll see Minnesota has the same setup on defense with 7 players in the box (4 linemen and 3 linebackers).  After Ohio State snaps the ball, you'll notice that the #1 defender does not rush the quarterback.  Instead, he stands up and reads what Cardale Jones is going to do (this is called a QB spy).  Another factor of this play is that Jones is not reading the #5 defender this time, but the #7 defender in the middle of the defense.  Since the #7 defender is rushing towards the gap in the offensive line, Jones will pull the ball away from Elliott.

Since Jones has pulled the ball away from Elliott, Minnesota has entered a "full spy" of Cardale Jones in case he decides to take off and run (defenders 1, 5, 6, 7).  This containment from the Gopher D means Jones has no option but to throw the ball.  The result of this play ends up being a tipped pass at the line by defender #1 and the ball is NEARLY intercepted by Minnesota.  If Illinois is going to be successful on defense, they need to mimic this style of play.

Here's another look at that last panel:

~ But what about the Illinois offense?  What can they do to beat Ohio State? ~

Glad you that we have Josh Ferguson back, let's see how the Illini can set him up to make some plays:

One thing that Illinois did REALLY well against Purdue last Saturday was establish the run game at the line of scrimmage.  Keep an eye on big number 69 Ted Karras...we've circled him in yellow to help keep track of him.

TEDDY'S ON THE MOVE!!!  But seriously, it's a beautiful thing to see one of your leading lineman shifting towards the developing hole in the line, and he's going to get some help from Nathan Echard protecting Ferguson as he hits the hole (and he hasn't even touched the ball yet).

TEDDY'S STILL GOING!!!  And Echard is going to prevent any Purdue defenders from reaching Ferguson at the line of scrimmage.  The two green lines show where the biggest gap will open up, and where Josh will ultimately be running.

Echard blocks the left edge while Joe Spencer and Chris Boles do a great job securing the edge on the right side of the play.  This gives Ferguson not one, BUT TWO running lanes.  He can either follow Teddy Karras to the left, or (being the dynamic runner that he is) cut to the right and be isolated with a Purdue defender.  Ferguson will ultimately cut right, and run for 20+ yards.

~ But what if Josh Ferguson isn't in the game and Ke'Shawn Vaughn is running? ~

Same rules apply...and yes, we'll still circle Ted Karras to show you he still pulls the same move.

Vaughn would break through the line, and take it 78 yards for a touchdown.  Run the ball this well with your offensive line leading the way, and Wes Lunt will be able to air the ball out successfully.  GO ILLINI!!!