A Rising Concern With Utah’s QB Run?

Ohio State fans have only had the better part of a day to look at the Rose Bowl opponent of Utah and the concerns are already starting.

Will Ohio State be motivated for this game? There is zero question how motivated that Utah will be but coming up short for a Big Ten Championship and shot at the CFP certainly weighs heavy on the No. 6 Buckeyes, right?

Will everyone play? Will this team shake off the rust? How will Ohio State handle a team that will do its best to mirror what the Michigan Wolverines did to Ohio State in the regular season finale?

Another concern that is being thrown around is the mobility of Utah’s quarterback, Cameron Rising. While nobody expects Utah to take the ball out of the hands of Tavion Thomas and TJ Pledger to run the ball, there are plenty of highlights of Rising running the ball for Utah, giving the Utes just on more player to defend from sideline-to-sideline.

It got us to thinking about how Ohio State fared this year against the quarterback run in general and do a deeper dive into Rising’s rushing numbers to see if he is as much of a threat as people are concerned about.

A rising talent?

Utah’s quarterback has not had to run a lot this season, only 63 attempts but that has been good for 407 net rushing yards and five scores.

Rising has only had to carry the ball 10 or more times in just one game, with exactly 10 carries against Oregon State. Part of the positive rushing numbers for Rising is the fact that he just does not take many sacks, a grand total of five on the year.

Few sacks mean few negative rushing plays once the totals are sack-adjusted.

Rising has made the most out of his rushing attempts on the season with seven games where the Utah signal caller has a YPC of 5.0 or better.

Over the 13-game season for Utah, there are only two games where Rising has had zero or negative rushing yardage. Rising came in as a back-up in the opener against Weber State and was credited with zero rushing attempts and had an average of zero yards. And then there was a Stanford game where Rising had three carries for a net gain of minus-one yards.

What should be noticed the most out of all of this is the fact that Rising just is not in a lot of situations where he is sacked and that is a problem for an Ohio State team that recorded zero sacks against Michigan and Purdue down the stretch over the course of the season.

Rising’s mobility allows him to step out of harm’s way and while he is a sub-63-percent passer, he has proven to be a game manager when need be and rely on a one-two punch in the rushing game to keep the chains moving to a Pac-12 title and a 12-1 record.

Buckeyes have kept QB runs in check

105 carries for 73 yards and just one touchdown.

That’s it.

Yes, that is sack adjusted, but teams have not had much success, nor have they really had a heavy dose of QB run against Ohio State throughout the season.

Akron and Nebraska led the way with 18 rushing attempts by quarterbacks this season. Oregon had the most rushing yardage for a QB with Anthony Brown’s 65 yards and Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez was the only quarterback to score a rushing touchdown with a one-yard plunge late in the 3rd quarter of Ohio State’s 26-17 win.

Ohio State has held opposing touchdowns to negative rushing yardage (sack-adjusted) in five of 12 games this season and to zero yards in two more games (Purdue did not have a QB run credited over the course of the game).

Of course, the question is asked if any team that Ohio State faced this year made a name for itself as a QB run team.

Oregon’s Anthony Brown had 142 carries on the year for 637 net rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Adrian Martinez had 133 carries for 525 yards and 13 rushing scores.

It would not be unfair to say that both of those teams rely on the QB run more than say Minnesota with its six net rushing yards for Tanner Morgan or Sean Clifford’s 117 net rushing yards on the season.

You can go back to Ohio State’s two losses on the year, and it never was really going to come down to Anthony Brown, Cade McNamara or JJ McCarthy running for huge gains. Ohio State’s zero combined sacks in those two games and one tackle for loss certainly ring much louder than Ohio State’s ability to hold those two opponents to a combined 82 yards of QB rush on 12 carries.

What does it mean?

There are going to be plenty of people who will watch clip reels of Cameron Rising running the ball and the belief that a spy is going to be necessary on the Utah quarterback. With Ohio State’s thin numbers at linebacker, that might not be an option, at least with a linebacker.

The Buckeyes need to be much more concerned with the combined 1,700-plus yards between Thomas and Pledger as the main focal point of the Utah offense, especially coming off the Michigan game.

That does not mean that Ohio State can just ignore Rising, who has shown on more than one occasion that he can tuck it and run and if the Buckeyes are not playing sound defense up front, the Utah quarterback has all the tools to make the Buckeyes pay.

I think one of the things that doesn't show up in the stats is how well the Buckeye defense fared against running QBs this past season. Not so much against ones who ran unexpectedly but against guys like Adrian Martinez, the Akron QB and Indiana's back up.
Of course Utah's QB is a different breed but I think that if they can go into this game knowing that that's what he's going to do or running the ball is Utah's M.O., they can better prepare for it. That then brings up why weren't they prepared for *ichigan's run game then. I think that one may have been more anomaly than standard but we'll see.