Shotgun formation misfired on short-yardage play

Tim May

If a power spread shotgun team such as Ohio State has an Achilles heel, it is fourth-and-short when a quarterback sneak would seem to be the best option, and with the quarterback lining up under center.

Ohio State faced one of those situations on Saturday night at Penn State early in the fourth quarter when it desperately needed a first down to keep a drive going. Who knew at that point that the Buckeyes would find a way later on to score two touchdowns — passes from Dwayne Haskins Jr. to Binjimen Victor and K.J. Hill — to pull off one of the great comeback wins in program history?

But on that fourth-and-1, they deployed as usual with Haskins deep in the backfield, backed by a running back, with tight end Rashod Berry back there, too, to provide lead blocking support. Haskins’ attempted keeper was stuffed when the Penn State defense, afforded a half-second head start because of the deep snap, gained penetration.

So why not put the 6-foot-4 Haskins under center at least for that situation?

“A lot of different reasons,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said Monday. “You see teams a lot that are operating 99.999 (percent) out of the shotgun, and they go (under) center, and they drop the ball, just because you don’t do it” enough to groove it.

When asked why the Buckeyes don’t incorporate it, or at least practice it more, based on it seeming to be more effective, Meyer smiled and said, “Duly noted. Thank you.”

Haskins, Young earn league honors

Haskins was named the Big Ten offensive player of the week, primarily for his efforts in the second half of the 27-26 win at Penn State. Defensive end Chase Young was named the league’s defensive co-player of the week, spurred no doubt by his tackle on what turned out to be the Nittany Lions’ final offensive play.

Young crashed the line along with several teammates to nail running back Miles Sanders for a 2-yard loss as Penn State attempted to run on fourth-and-5 from the OSU 43 with 1:16 to play. That wrapped up a night for Young in which he also had two sacks among his six overall tackle participations. He shared the award with Michigan’s Chase Winovich.

Haskins benefited greatly when OSU went to more of a wide-screen game from late in the first half onward. He wound up completing 22 of 39 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception, on a pass that bounced off the hands of Berry.

Haskins, a third-year sophomore, leads the Big Ten in passing yards (292.8 average), TD passes (19) and passing efficiency (188.8 rating), well ahead of second place in all three categories.

No time to argue

OSU safety Isaiah Pryor must sit out the first half of Saturday’s game against Indiana after being called for targeting on a play in the fourth quarter at Penn State. The call, though backed up by the Big Ten replay official in the press box, appeared to be questionable. Though Meyer said OSU sent in a report on it to the league, he didn’t spend time second-guessing it Monday.

“First of all, you can’t appeal it. I didn’t know that,” he said. “Do I agree with it? I don’t have time to argue with it. The call was made.” He added that he and his coaches stress safety first. “We’re all-in here. There’s no intent.”


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