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Fulton Analysis: System-wide failure

Schematic shortcomings, failed preparation, poor execution, penalties, and mistakes added up to one of the worst Ohio State defensive performances in recent memory against Iowa.

The Hawkeyes, operating from their base 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 WR, 2 TE), pro-style system, mixed their lead zone run game on early downs with throws targeting their tight ends and running back Akrum Wadley, seeking to use motions and shifts to create advantageous matchups.

Although the Hawkeyes broke tendencies by throwing more on early downs – as could have been expected from a home underdog – Iowa’s play calling fit within their standard scheme. Yet the Buckeye defense seemed utterly unprepared for those offensive looks.

The Buckeyes’ problems started with being unable to slow the Hawkeye run game. In the first half, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano followed his plan from recent weeks, often slanting his defense front with a zone blitzer from the opposite edge, protected by a 3 deep, 3 under zone.

But slanting against spread teams – where a defense can better guess where the football is going based on halfback alignment – is different than against the I formation, where the offense can run to either side of the formation and can create an additional gap with a lead blocker.

Ohio State’s slanting did not result in defensive line penetration. It instead simply led to poor run fits, meaning how the linebackers fill their gaps behind the slants.

The defense would overflow to the football and the linebackers often did not fill properly, providing cutback lanes.

Ohio State defenders repeatedly seemed unsure who had what pursuit responsibilities, in particular who had contain.

And the Buckeyes also suffered from poor tackling. Granted, Wadley is a very good open field runner. But even normally sure tacklers such as Jordan Fuller failed to make the initial stop.

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