It's finally Ohio State week.
Before we move forward to this week's game though, let's take a look back at UM's tough 36-24 loss to the Buckeyes last year.
In this article we take a look at the offensive short comings from Miami in the 2010 game, how the UM defense matched up, and why this year's game will be much different just from a personnel standpoint.
Read on for an in-depth breakdown.
Any look back at the 2010 Ohio State game has to start with quarterback Jacory Harris, who took a lot of criticism for his performance in last year's 36-24 loss to Ohio State--and in a lot of cases rightfully so.
Harris had one of his toughest games at Ohio State last season, tying his career high for interceptions with four on the day. Harris finished the game going 22-of-39 for 232 yards and one touchdown to go along with those interceptions.
All four of the interceptions proved costly as three of the four picks came in Miami's own territory and the fourth interception came on a potential UM scoring drive and was returned deep in the Hurricanes' side of the field.
The Buckeyes had an average starting field position at Miami's 21-yard line off those turnovers and scored 20 points on those drives. In the end, those types of chances given to an opponent would be hard for any team to overcome.
WR Travis Benjamin will have to execute better than he did last year. Here’s a close look at each of his interceptions and what went wrong.
Situation: 1st Quarter, 8:50, 3rd-and-9, UM 22-yard line
Score: Miami 0, Ohio State 0
The Breakdown: The shotgun play had four wide receivers, two split to each side, with a running back (Damien Berry) lined up to Harris’ right. OSU countered with three down lineman and stood up another (Nathan Williams) along with two linebackers and five defensive backs.
As soon as the ball was snapped, Williams, who was lined up against Leonard Hankerson in the slot to the left, immediately dropped back into zone coverage. He released off Hankerson, who ran a 10-yard curl route, which was picked up by safety C.J. Barnett. Harris locked in to his go-to receiver despite tight coverage by Barnett who wrapped his hand right in front of Hankerson and deflected the pass, which bounced right into the hands of Williams.
Harris tried to thread a ball into tight coverage, which was probably a bad idea, but it was a great play by Barnett and a great heads-up play by Williams.
Situation: 2nd Quarter, 6:56, 1st-and-10, UM 21-yard line
Score: Miami 10, Ohio State 13
The Breakdown: This play was at the center of plenty of criticism as Harris was not on the same page as wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who was run blocking on the play, but let’s take a look at why.
UM came out in trips left with a designed lead run, however Harris read the play as a key read thus becoming a hot route. The play was called as a run up the middle for Damien Berry. However, because of the way OSU lined up, particularly with the cornerback (Chimidi Chekwa) playing 7 yards off of Benjamin, who was alone on the right, Benjamin was expected to read the cornerback and run a hot route, which would have been a slant pattern.
With this key read, there is no visible audible on the play or signal. It was supposed to be understood between Harris and Benjamin. The rest of the players are expected to remain in the original play called, which did happen as the other receivers (Leonard Hankerson and Aldarius Johnson) also went out to run block. Berry opened his hands to take the hand-off expecting to run and RG Brandon Washington down-blocked to open a hole for Berry.
While Benjamin did not make the same key read as Harris, it was evident he was not running a route as Harris was locked in on him from the moment of the snap even pump-faking as he noticed Benjamin had his back to him. However, Harris had plenty of time in the pocket and should have just thrown the ball away or to his feet or even taking a sack instead of throwing the ball in Benjamin’s way.
Situation: 2nd Quarter, 0:57, 1st-and-10, UM 33-yard line
Score: Miami 17, Ohio State 23
The Breakdown: With the UM offense sputtering at this point it seemed like running the clock out in the first half and going into the break only down six appeared like the best choice.
But Randy Shannon, with one timeout left, decided to come out and try to put together a drive before the break. The decision clearly backfired.
The play was a trips left shotgun pass with OSU countering with three defensive linemen similar to the first interception. And like the first pick, OSU dropped a stand-up defensive lineman, this time Soloman Thomas, into zone coverage. Harris saw Thomas, who was in the line of sight of Travis Benjamin on the play, but threw it just past his outstretched arms towards Benjamin on the sideline. Thomas’ hands clearly distracted Benjamin, who bobbled the pass and was scooped up by Chekwa for his second pick of the day.
Situation: 3rd Quarter, 11:27, 3rd-and-Goal, OSU 9-yard line
Score: Miami 17, Ohio State 26
The Breakdown: UM came out in a 4-wide receiver set with Harris in the shotgun while OSU once again showed three down lineman, this time it was Cameron Heyward’s turn to make a play. Harris elected to throw to Damien Berry coming out of the backfield running an angle route towards the middle of the field. However, Heyward stepped right in front of Berry for the pick and returned it 80 yards.
Berry said he didn’t see Heyward and Harris said he just led Berry too much, both of which took the blame for the pivotal play. Even if Heyward wasn’t there, the pass looked too far away from Berry to catch.
Final Analysis: There is one common theme for all four of Harris' interceptions--each one came against zone coverage. Ohio State's defense ran a variety of zone blitzes and zone coverages throughout the game and those looks clearly confused Harris and his receivers. With last year's defensive coordinator, Luke Fickel, now the head coach at Ohio State, I would expect some similar looks on Saturday. After watching last year's film against Ohio State, the UM coaching staff will surely put in some zone busting routes and looks for Harris to throw to.
The UM passing game not only turned the ball over far too much against Ohio State, they also missed some critical chances to make big plays and gain some momentum. In the second quarter, Harris misfired on two passes, which would have been touchdowns, and could have made a big impact in the game.
RT Brandon Washington and the offensive line will look to play a key role this Saturday. With 13:15 left and UM ahead 7-3, Miami had the ball on the OSU 34-yard line. On third down, Travis Benjamin lined up out wide and beat OSU’s top cornerback Chimidi Chekwa, who zeroed in on Harris’ pump fake. Meanwhile, Benjamin blew by Chekwa, but Harris’ pass was a second too late allowing Chekwa to close the gap resulting in an incomplete pass in the end zone.
A better pass likely would have resulted in a touchdown, which would have given UM a 14-3 edge as well as momentum on the road. Instead they settled for a 51-yard field goal.
Then, with 5:05 left and OSU leading 20-10, Leonard Hankerson broke free off the line of scrimmage, again against Chekwa. UM lined up on the OSU 28 and Hankerson immediately got Chekwa off-balanced as he went to jam him. Hankerson, then ran up-field faked inside, got Chekwa trailing him, and bounced his route outside into the end zone, but the pass was overthrown. Miami missed a 46-yard field on that drive.
Oddly enough, both plays were passes to the right, which Harris was noticeably different than his passes to the left (6-for-15 compared to 10-for-13) throughout the day.
A Look at Miami's Defense
Considering the fact that Ohio State was given such good field position from all of Miami's turnovers, the UM defense held up well for most of the game. That being said, Miami's defense struggled with covering the big passing play and containing Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor on the ground.
Pryor was an inefficient 12-of-27 against Miami, but he did throw for 233 yards (an average of 19 yards per completion) with one touchdown. Pryor completed three passes greater than 25 yards on three separate drives and those plays were a part of drives that accounted for 13 points for the Buckeyes. Those three drives averaged a starting spot on Ohio State's own 40-yard line.
On those drives, Miami's decent starting field position quickly got flipped on a big play by Ohio State.
The defensive gameplan for Miami was to stop the run and make Pryor win the game with his arm. The problem with that plan was that Pryor's ability to be a dual-threat and pick up yards on the ground gave the UM defense fits. Pryor finished the game with 20 rushes for 113 yards and one touchdown.
Pryor kept the chains moving with his feet, picking up eight first downs with his rushing ability and that was enough to keep the UM defense off balance. Pryor may not have hurt Miami too bad with his arm, but his ability to pick up yards on the ground and hit a few big pass plays kept the UM defense always guessing.
Why This Year Is Different...
...Last year the Miami offense was a pass happy team that figured their strength was Harris and the bevy of returning receivers he had at his disposal. It wasn't until a few games later when Miami realized their best offensive attack was running the ball behind a big and talented offensive line. This year you can count on Miami pounding the run with Lamar Miller and putting Harris in position to make easy throws.
...Limiting the turnovers will be a focus. The number one objective for the UM offense will be protecting the football. Last year's four interception game is still in the minds of all the Hurricanes players and they know if they are going to win the game on Saturday the turnover battle will have to be in UM's favor. Ohio State is a team that doesn't make many mistakes. Miami can't give them easy scoring opportunities like they did last year.
...Ohio State has lost some key players that had a big impact in last year's game. Players like WR Devier Posey, LT Mike Adams, RB Dan Herron, and DE Solomon Thomas are all out for the game while starters in CB Travis Howard, CB Corey Brown, and RB Jordan Hall have been suspended in Ohio States first two games and have not bee re-instated yet by the OSU program. These are all players that would be starters and are guys that are tough to replace.
...Easily the biggest difference in this year's game is the absence of Pryor. As discussed above, Pryor was the most impactful player Ohio State had on last year's team and this year they don't have anybody close to his level at any of the offensive positions. The way Pryor could extend passing plays with his legs and then take off and run for yards when needed was something no defense could gameplan for. The absence of Pryor will make a big difference in this year's matchup and this can't be stated enough.
...With many of their key offensive players suspended for the game, Ohio State will depend heavily on TE Jake Stoneburner, who has caught eight passes for 93 yards and one touchdown. Stoneburner is one of the top tight ends in the country and is a player that Ohio State lines up all over the field to create mismatches in the passing game. At 6-feet-5 and 245 pounds, Stoneburner is a big target that runs very well. He is a player the Miami defense will need to track. OSU starting quarterback Joe Bauserman has thrown all four of his touchdown passes to Stoneburner.
Im hoping this game is a complete turnaround.....last yr was sad to watch and we still coulda won