I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
The place for all opinions and the like on tonight's game versus Northwestern... and hell, the hockey team's playing UAF again tonight (lost4-2 yesterday) and it's on Comcast Local at 11, so anyone wishing to post re: it is welcome as well.
Just a reminder: try to keep your OUTRAGE! out of fifth gear... and probably fourth as well.
Suntory time for all!
Uh... yeah. Someone has decided to use photoshop for bizarre ends; why do all these strange cat animations seem to come from the UK?
Doug Karsch is reporting on WTKA that Hart and Woodley are "unlikely" for tomorrow. I may have to rename Angry Michigan Safety Hating God to Angry Michigan Safety, Defensive End, And Magical Midget Hating God, and that's just not very catchy. Our prospects immediately dim if they don't play but Woods did fill in well against Iowa, and Northwestern's run defense didn't get any better because of it.
I'm going to find out who's fault this is, and I'm going to force them to read the entire Drew Sharp column archive. Primary suspect: the Trix Rabbit.
Run Offense vs. Northwestern
Resistable force versus movable obect here, though our force gets significantly less resistable if a short guy from Syracuse shows up. Even if he doesn't, I have to believe that the Long-infused Michigan offensive line will be able to deal with a Northwestern defensive line that is Barry Coefield and a bunch of guys who are really smart.
Unfortunately, I've probably said that exact same sentence four or five times and been mostly wrong about it; the one time I said we were doomed on the OL, before Penn State, they did an admirable job. Michigan had a lot of trouble without Hart against Iowa, eventually resorting to fourth-string
Jermaine Tito Jerome Jackson late because he would A) not fumble and B) run places that were not also occupied by our offensive linemen. Still, there's a major gap between the Northwestern DL and even Iowa's undersized and young unit that's evident in the statistics. Without Howard these guys are crippled, and they don't have the secondary to run up a safety without seriously tempting fate.
The yards will be there, but there will be many more if Hart can go.
Key Matchup: RB Mike Hart versus Mike Hart's Ankle. The cooperativeness of Hart's ankle is apparently still in question. His replacements all seem adequate but adequate isn't enough to make up for an inadequate offensive line.
Pass Offense vs. Northwestern
Just when all reasonable people had resigned themselves to a mostly ineffective Chad Henne he had to come back and flash some of the ability that had everyone in such a tizzy at the beginning of the year. Of course, he paired that flash with instances of ridiculous decision making and inaccurate short throws, nicely summing up his "Yes, but..." season. Jason Avant and Steve Breaston re-emerged as the heroes du jour after taking a one game backseat to Mario "The New Math" Manningham, whose main contribution against Iowa was a broken route that led to an interception.
I've previously said that Henne has struggled against all but resolutely awful defenses. That's a problem most weeks, but not this one. Northwestern's Mildcat (ho ho ho) pass defense is 115th in the country in terms of yardage and 85th in terms of efficiency--and it was much worse than that before picking off Drew Stanton three times as he melted down last week. Henne's tendency to short-circuit under pressure should not be much of an issue: the Wildcats, deprived of the services of Loren Howard, have managed only five sacks the entire year. Two of those were against Ohio. Henne should have time and the ability to pick his spots throwing downfield, as the Wildcats will probably be forced to offer the Michigan receivers a significant cushion.
So here it is. Fool me like four times, shame on me, but Henne is going to have a great day against the Wildcats, especially if they let him sit in the pocket for extended periods of time. Long's return and the feeble Northwestern pass rush should greatly help his confidence and allow him to make his reads.
Key Matchup: WRs Mario Manningham and Steve Breaston versus CBs Marquise Cole and Deonte Battle. Northwestern has had a tendency to give up a lot of yards on relatively few completions in several games this year. The Northwestern CBs will either have to leave the deep ball open or leave Manningham and Breaston large cushions. Either way, these two have to take advantage of the opportunites the Northwestern defense will afford them.
Run Defense Vs Northwestern
Little. Deadly. Different.
Oy. It's time to start wondering about what happened here. Last year Michigan had a run defense that was consistently great against tailbacks (quarterbacks are another story). Lining up in a 3-4 with Watson, Massey, and Larry Harrison backed by linebackers Lamarr Woodley, Lawrence Reid, Pierre Woods, and Scott McClintock, running on first down was usually second and nine. With the switch back to the 4-3 and a wholly new linebacking corps has come disaster. Everyone except EMU has ownzored the Michigan run defense, and Northwestern is no EMU (and don't we miss the days when that sentence was one of the most ridiculous in the english langauge). The return of Lamarr Woodley and Rondell Biggs will certainly help and Michigan may have found a WLB in John Thompson, but it would take a drastic improvement to hold down the newly resurgent Northwestern ground game. Yeah. Weird, I know.
I haven't been right too often this year, so humor me while I point out something I did get right:
Despite his diminutive stature, or perhaps because of it, Sutton could be the 2005 version of Mike Hart.
This he has done, and how. Sutton has torn Northwestern opponents limb from limb. He's the scariest guy his size since Chucky. He seems especially suited to gashing the Michigan defense by getting outside containment. Maybe Thompson's insertion will help, but he is still young and Michigan's defensive line still has problems keeping gaps down to reasonable sizes. Sutton's going to get some stabbin' in.
Key Matchup: LBs John Thompson and David Harris versus RB Tyrell Sutton. Sutton's going to be bouncing all over the place, looking for holes. Thompson and Harris have to contain and tackle surely, otherwise Michigan will get posterized.
Pass Defense vs. Northwestern
Look, I know I'm just a guy. I've never played organized football, let alone coach it for ten billion years. But some things make no sense to me as a guy who's played a lot of games--chess, Command & Conquer, Super Tecmo Bowl, NCAA Football, etc. One of those things that make no sense is to explicitly disclose your plan to the enemy. As Sun-Tzu's Art of War says, "Goddammit, play some man coverage." Michigan forgoes all deceit with baffling regularity, and this season's all-zone all-the-time attempt at pass defense is a prime example. There's no excuse for Michigan to cover opposing players on 10% of the avaiable downs against Iowa.
While I was dead on about Tyrell Sutton, my preseason slamming of Brett Basanez has to be high on the long list of things I've been wrong about this year:
Brett Basanez has a ton of experience but an inaccurate arm. He's a hard-nosed guy who is decently suited for the run-oriented spread option Northwestern runs but doesn't have the athleticism to be a real threat in the run game or the arm to be a true dropback passer.
Uh.... yeah. Basanez is 19th in passing efficiency, has thrown 12 touchdowns to one interceptions, and has completed 67% of his passes. I suck; Basanez does not. It is worth pointing out, however, that the defenses Basanez have feasted upon are much like the lineup from The Usual Suspects: everyone in the room is guilty. Check their passing stats, you fairy godmother:
- Michigan State: 110th/102nd efficiency.
- Purdue: 117th (last!)/108th efficiency.
- Wisconsin: 88th/45th efficiency.
- Arizona State: 104th/74th.
The only competent non-MAC defense the Wildcats have opposed was Penn State. In that game Basanez did all right (20-38, 229 yards, one interception) but certainly not great.
So I don't know what to think. I'd like to say that Basanez can't possibly maintain that impressive efficiency, but Drew Tate and his 27-for-39-with-a-buncha-drops says ha(!). The Jesus and his 20-for-30 seconds the motion. If Michigan insists on the undisguised zone that freaked us all out after NIU and reappeared with terrible vengance against Iowa, the results will probably be the same: a lot of chain moving throws between guys doing their ill-conceived job and a mut
tered prayer for opponent errors. The strategy that appears to make sense is to press the hell out of the Wildcat receivers, take away their short passing game, and give your defensive line time to have an impact on the game, but Michigan's fear of a
black planet mobile quarterback has seen them lay back and wait. That is unlikely to change.
Key Matchup: Lamarr Woodley, Alan Branch, and hopefully Woods, Crable, and Jamison. Michigan's stops against Iowa that were actually due to the Michigan defense were universally caused by a Tate sack that either killed a drive or put it in 2nd-and-20 critical condition. Stopping a methodical but not explosive Wildcat attack will take MOTS.
Breaston had no opportunity to return any of Iowa's 20-30 yard punts; Rivas' field goal was a chip shot. The Michigan special teams this year have been good but not great; expect that to continue.
Northwestern kicker Joel Howells has been decidedly average this year. He went 5 of 6 against Penn State but is barely above 50% on the year (8 for 15). Marquice Cole has a punt return touchdown and is average 27(!) yards a return, but Ross Ryan has been good about preventing returns this year. Under 30% of his kicks are being run back, and most of those are under duress. Michigan should keep Cole under wraps.
Key Matchup: Rivas versus Howells. At some point these offenses are going to get stopped, probably in the red zone, and these guys will have to make their relatively short kicks.
Yeah, the first kitten thing was funny and effective. The second was not particularly funny... but effective. So I won't push it this week.
But I'm not above some superstition:
Three Things I'd Like To See:
- Hart, Woodley, Thompson, Engelmon, and Long on the field.
- Something that isn't a zone. I'm not talking all the time, but the Iowa game was ridiculous.
- Evidence that the Northwestern defense really is that bad.
Three Things I Don't Want To See
- Brett Basanez with time to throw.
- Pat "Pancake"Massey chewing the turf as Sutton strolls by.
- Any goddamned unforced fumbles with the game salted away.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for They've Got Their Own Hart; +1 for We Think Covering Wideouts is Unsporting; +1 for Season On Borrowed Time.)
Desperate need to win level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Clearing This Hurdle == One Game To Respectability; +1 for I'd Take The Outback; +1 for A Bye Week To Stew In)
Loss will cause me to... wow. 5-4 with a dominant OSU defense on the horizon? Maybe I do have to scout those MAC teams.
Win will cause me to... exhale.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: My 0-fer 2005 was finally broken against Iowa, so I can finally predict in peace. Hopefully.
Defensively, Michigan is going to have major issues with Tyrell Sutton. I doubt he gets held under 100 yards. If they decide to let Northwestern have the same coverage Iowa did the results will be largely the same all around and Michigan will be relying on flukes and drops that haven't been featured heavily by Northwestern 2005 in order to stop the Wildcat offense. Michigan should have a signifcant advantage on the OL rushing the passer, especially if Woodley is healthy enough to go full speed, but if Basanez can throw little slants and stops all day because of massive cushions provided they won't make much difference. If Engelmon returns Michigan may get more aggressive but they'll probably pick their spots, but they'll be too few to really shut down the efficient Northwestern offense.
Offensively, we'd better kill these guys. Last! Dead last! With Long back and (probably) Hart back and Avant and healthy Breaston and a Henne that seems to be coming around gradually, we should be able to pound out a number of methodical drives remiscent of those in the NIU and MSU games. Northwestern's defense is no better than the MSU unit we made look stupid or the EMU unit that gave up and went home, and now we've got our big, bad right tackle back. It's shootout time!
It says here that Woodley and Branch make enough plays to squeak this one out. Bring on the bye week, and sweet, sweet release.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Henne goes nuts, then does it again against Indiana. Everyone says he's back. OSU disagrees.
- The delayed LB blitz stops working.
- 35-31, Michigan.
I'm a sucker for hockey coverage, so with it is with great glee that I point out this NHL.com article on Michigan and its freshmen, though it opens up with this:
In the spring of 1992, Ann Arbor, Michigan and the college basketball world were captivated by five sensational freshmen who brought the University of Michigan basketball team to within seconds of a national title.
Come on, man! Michigan won a national title in 1998 with a similar horde of freshmen... in hockey. No need to throw that Fab Five junk in our face when you've got a much better analogue available--one that ended happily, I might add.
Yes, this is what I meant. The UFR:D yesterday was strident--perhaps a bit too strident, but it's a blog, I don't have an editor--and I expended a lot of words searching for the exact reason why Michigan's passive defense got my dander up. I have found the words:
[The coaches] seemed content with the game being decided by whatever mistakes the opposition made, no matter if Michigan caused them or not.
That's the Underachieving All Stars again filling the pith in where mine fails me. Much speculation about Michigan's tendency towards annoying 9-3 equilibrium has been posted, but I'll add mine to the pile: the reliance upon opponent's mistakes fails a few times a year when Michigan comes up against a team that is on or is just really efficient. Passive play with superior talent is an easy ticket to a bucketful of wins and a small, potent selection of painful losses.
The posts of RBUAS are problematic only in that they are infrequent. Go, partake.
Daniel Horton had a tough year last year in every way you can short of having you mom kidnapped by Space Elvises. Nathan Fenno continues his strong work for the Ann Arbor News with a long story on the star-crossed point guard.
(People asked for a comparison point for Henne's performance last week, so I decided to chart Tate... probably not the best comparison point, as you'll see, but a point of data for both the QB comparison and the defense.)
|1||10||O15||Pass||10||Tate rolls out; Woods(+1) does a great job of getting out on him on the boot but he manages to find an open receiver downfield at the last second. (DO)|
|1||10||O25||Run||1||Off tackle at Burgess(+1), who keeps contain. He and Harris(+1) close off the hole.|
|2||9||O26||Run||6||Massey(-1) gets blown back off the snap; Burgess holds back and makes the tackle downfield.|
|3||3||O32||Pass||25||Michigan stunts Crable(+1) around and gets immediate pressure, but Burgess(-2) ends up two steps behind Chandler, who catches and runs downfield. (DO)|
|1||10||M43||Run||8||Young cuts it back as Watson(+1) clogs the intended POA. This is a prime example of Graham(-2) overrunning a play and being completely unprepared for a cutback. Woods misses a tackle but I think he did well just to slow him up a bit... to no avail because there's no LB.|
|2||2||M35||Run||13||Lloyd specifically called this out as an instance of someone turning the running back outside... someone is Graham(-1). Engelmon(-1) also misses a tackle.|
|1||10||M22||Run||4||I'm not going to give him a minus on this one but Graham gets blocked in the hole, closes it off well, but doesn't shed at all.|
|2||6||M18||Scramble||4||Good coverage down field on this waggle; Tate decides to get what he can after being chased by Van Alstyne; Burgess comes up and cuts of his path as he goes OOB.|
|3||2||M14||Pass||15||I don't think this is really Burgess's fault. He's in a short zone on this ridiculous coverage. We're on the 14 yard line on third and two, playing a three-deep zone. Grigsby just runs a little out after the DB gets run off; Brandt makes a good point that Burgess had to deal with Young coming out of the backfield. He can't cover two guys. This is a (-2) for Herrmann; we were screwed at the snap. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q. Not a fun drive. I'm getting progressively more frustrated with the ridiculous, obvious zone we end up in too frequently. On the touchdown Burgess was over the slot receiver like we've seen so many times before. The combo route with the outside guy driving off the cornerback and the slot going ot the corner was easy as pie. Also: straws are piling up on the Graham camel.|
|1||10||M15||Run||12||Thompson is already in the game at this point. Er... unfortunately he misses a tackle(-1) and Harris(-1) blitzes and overruns the play; once past the two linebackers Young has a lot of room. Still, Thompson made the correct read and put himself in position to make a play on the ball.|
|1||10||M27||Run||17||The same play from the first drive that gained a ton of yards when the WLB turned it outside. The exact same thing happens on this play. This time it's Thompson(-1).|
|1||10||M44||Pass||Inc||Tate tries to go downfield but Woods(+1) is on him before he can let the play develop. Tate throws it but this is more of a throwaway. (TA)|
|2||10||M44||Penalty||-10||Jamar Adams is blocked in the back, allowing Sims to break outside. This is legitimate and stupid, since Adams(-1) had given up the outside already. Hall does little better.|
|2||20||M34||Run||9||Pat Massey(-1) gets shoved out of the hole and then driven into the ground. Burgess(-1) also takes an angle too far inside. Thompson makes a valiant effort to run it down from the backside but just can't make the tackle.|
|3||11||M43||Pass||7||A little dumpoff to Young. We fake a fourth rusher (Crable) and then drop him into a really short zone on third and ten, which I hate since he's useless there given down and distance. The coverage is good. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 4 min 4th Q. The punt is the controversial kick catch interference. I don't think there's actually any contact, but Breaston's vector was clearly altered by the gunner overrunning the play. Oh yes, Penn State fans, let me taste your yummy tears. On the drive itself, more ugly run defense; Thompson played this drive and didn't really do much.|
|1||10||O20||Pass||13||Another play where Tate scrambles around and finds an open man downfield, in between two converging defenders. Branch gets a pass rush but badly overruns Tate, opening up the lane. (DO)|
|1||10||O33||Pass||11||Hall starts this play seven yards off the wide receiver and his first two steps are backwards. Solomon runs a three yard stop and has a ton of room. (CA)|
|1||10||O44||Run||4||Massey(-1) again gets moved out instantly by a single block. Watson, doubled, gets pushed back a bit but manages to come off and make the tackle. Graham(-1) is buried by FB Bush; this has happened multiple times where Graham comes up and ends up crushed face-first into the ground by the Iowa FB.|
|2||6||O48||Penalty||-10||They sweep Young out the the right. Yanda gets called for a hold, and if he didn't get called the guy blocking Burgess was going to get called. Hold drawn by Branch(+1).|
|2||16||O38||Pass||6||A counter screen to Chandler. Mason(+1) forms up and stiffs Chandler impressively. Harris(+1) had previously sliced up between a couple blockers, stripping Chandler's escort. (CA)|
|3||10||O44||Pass||17||Actually really good coverage by Jamar Adams(+1), who gets a hand on Chandler as the ball gets there but can't strip it away. An excellent throw and catch by Iowa; nothing you can do about this, especially since Michigan was getting a fierce pass rush. (DO)|
|1||10||M39||Pass||9||Same thing as the Solomon pass earlier, where a giant, pansy cushion results in easy yardage for Iowa. (CA)|
|2||1||M30||Pass||Sack, -3||Jamison(+2) laughs at Young's foolish attempt to block him and does a sack/strip job on Tate. Note for opponents: don't block Jamison with a tailback.|
|3||4||M33||Pass||10||The design of this play seems ridiculous. Iowa is in a 3 WR 1 TE shotgun set with apparent man coverage that features David Harris vacating his place in the center of the zone to chase Grigsby, a slot WR, downfield while Mason sits defending a flat route; in between the two is a ton of space for Chandler. This is dumb. (CA)|
|1||10||M23||Run||5||I dunno. There's a cutback crease as Watson hops to the left where the play is supposed to go. We've got six in the box here against their 3 WR set, something wev'e gotten consistently gashed on all yeare.|
|2||5||M18||12||Short post in between Mason and Harrison... I'm baffled at the combination of passive CB play coupled with two deep zone. Another great show of timing between Tate and Solomon. (DO)|
|1||G||M6||Run||2||Credit to the DL. Will Johnson(+1) holds up against two guys here, forcing the play outside, where Trent cleans up.|
|2||G||M4||Pass||4||Touchdown. Another combo route against our zone; Chandler runs a fly right up the center of the field that the coverage bites on, opening up a little angle route for Grigsby. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 8 min 2nd Q. Sweet mercy. Tate was brilliant on this drive when he had to be, and the Iowa routes are ripping our zones to shreds. I don't get the combination of two-deep coverage and CBs playing 7-10 yards off like they're Jaren Hayes. We essentially have them 20 of these yards by playing way off.|
|1||15||O17||Run||10||Trent(-1) is blitzing from the short side and runs right by Young. We had scissors and they had rock on this play, which has happened and awful lot so far.|
|2||5||O27||Pass||9||Chandler again. There's no way we can stop this given the defense we keep using, as Iowa knows exactly what zones we're using, exactly where the holes are, and exactly the routes to run to bust them open. You can count on one hand the number of times in this half we've had good coverage. (CA)|
|1||10||O36||Pass||Sack, -10||Technically an intentional grounding penalty, but functionally a sack that should be credited to Woods(+2), who got out on the waggle much faster than Tate expected and forced the penalty. Good coverage by Mason(+1) on the short option.|
|2||20||O26||Pass||Inc||Tate goes deep. Good coverage by Hall(+1). (IN)|
|3||20||O26||Pass||Sack, 0||First indication of some sort of adjustment here. Crable(+1) jams the TE's route and then comes on the delayed blitz we've seen before, forcing Tate up into the pocket where Woods(+1) finishes the job.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 4 min 2nd Q. Iowa fans started booing on the deep pass and didn't stop for three plays.|
|1||10||M49||Pass||Inc||Hall(+1) with great coverage on the deep route, which I guess is expected when you play off 10 yards every snap. Woods(+1) hits Tate as he throws. (IN)|
|2||10||M49||Pass||8||Three man rush w/ delayed blitz from Crable. Tate hits Young, who schools Mason(-1) and Hall(-1). (CA)|
|3||2||M41||Pass||Inc||Straight drop by Melloy well downfield. Fortunate to escape a first and ten from the 20 or so... he was wide damn open. (DO)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 2 min 2nd Q. Dodged a bullet.|
|1||10||50||Pass||Sack, -10||Woods(+2) with another sack, though this one is somewhat on Tate, who held the ball a little long. Woods did a very nice job slipping past the stunt pickup. (TA)|
|2||20||O40||Pass||Inc||Three man rush + late Crable again. Crable(+1) bats the pass down as he's coming. (BA)|
|3||20||O40||Run||10||A we give up run.|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 7-14. Woods has stopped two drives; we got lucky on a third; the rest is methodical Tate and me gritting my teeth re: Herrmann.|
|1||10||O30||Run||3||John Thompson(+1) again does a tantalizing slash-and-whiff job, forcing Young back into the teeth of the defense.|
|2||7||O33||Pass||4||Exploiting the soft coverage. Hall(+1) holds the YAC down as much as humanly possible. (CA)|
|3||3||O37||Pass||Int||A total gift, as Tate throws it right to a wide open Solomon. The ball goes through his hands and Harrison picks it off. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-14, 14 min 3rd Q. A huge Iowa gaffe. Please bring this up the next time someone tries to tell you that Iowa doesn't beat itself. Not because I have anything against Iowa, I just have something against people who regurgitate conventional wisdom and want a cookie. No cookie for you.|
|1||10||O27||Run||-2||Hello John Thompson(+2)! Thompson reads the hole and shoots up through it quickly, beating a block along the way, as he's done before. This time he makes the tackle, for a loss even.|
|2||12||O25||Pass||16||Solomon in a seam of the zone downfield. Burgess(-1) and Adams(-1) simply don't break on the ball even though Tate stares down Solomon the whole way. (CA)|
|1||10||O41||Run||-1||Nobody's blocked here. Jamison(+1), as he's done a few times this year, teleports past his guy before he even knows he's gone. Thompson(+1) again reads and fills, making the tackle.|
|2||10||O40||Pass||21||Tate throws a beautiful fade right on the sideline. Harrison is a split second too late, but I don't know if this is really anyone's fault when Tate throws this so well. (DO)|
|1||10||M39||Run||4||Thompson on the tackle again, though it was barely.|
|2||6||M35||Run||5||This one's up the gut against a DT tandem of Taylor(-1) and Johnson(-1), who both get single blocked easily, allowing the center to seal off Harris and cut back for good yardage.|
|3||1||M30||Run||1||Barely makes this as Michigan has players in the backfield.|
|1||10||M29||Run||-1||Again Jamison isn't blocked at the line at all, and two guys, a pulling guard and the fullback, end up blocking him in the backfield, leaving Thompson to sit unmolested at the LOS and make an easy tackle. More of an Iowa bust than anything.|
|2||11||M30||Run||6||Shotgun draw to Young. Adams(-1) is coming on a blitz and should have a tackle for two but misses. Harris and Burgess are both fighting blockers and do well to hold this to six.|
|3||5||M24||Pass||Inc||Tate is pissed at the WR for not running the comeback route properly. (Uh... I don't have a category for this.)|
|Drive Notes: Blocked FG(41), 10-14, 4 min 3rd Q. Harris(+1) gets the block. We've shored up against the run... sort of. Three passes to three open receivers; save for miscommunication this would be fist and goal.|
|1||10||O28||Run||9||The backside of the zone stretch has been open all day and is again. Adams(-1) comes up and cuts outside for some reason, l eaving a gaping hole for Young to spring up through.|
|2||1||O37||Run||3||Good job by Harris to fight off a blocker; Iowa isn't doubling anyone along the line and our LBs are fighting off blockers every time.|
|1||10||O40||Pass||Inc||Young is open underneath and drops what would end up as six or seven yards. (CA)|
|2||10||O40||Pass||4||Counter screen to Chandler #2. Thompson(-1) overpusues and gets cut behind... Chandler is like a 8 foot tall TE, man, that's embarassing. (CA)|
|3||6||O44||Pass||4||Looks like a screen for a half second as Jamison(+1) and someone I can't ID get free after the intial fake and force Tate to dump it off to Young, who gets smoked by Mason(+2), thus preventing the first down. Mason hates Buddhism. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-14, 14 min 4th Q.|
|1||10||M27||Penalty||-10||Holding on a screen. Apparently drawn by Branch(+1) as he's driving towards Tate encumbered by an Iowa lineman and then falls. Probably a bad call but no conclusive replay is shown.|
|1||20||M37||Run||2||Fabulous job by Branch(+2) to hop outside the tackler to force Young inside and then to leap back inside the blocker and make the tackle.|
|2||18||M35||Run||9||We've been hopping inside their TE/tackle and pressuring the QB with regularity; here Iowa burns us on it by allowing the DE to do so at the snap, leaving Burgess in a no win situation with way too much ground to try and cover. Branch(-1) vacates.|
|3||9||M26||Pass||Sack, -7||This also looks like a screen, though it is not. Branch(+2) owns a guard and gets in almost untouched. Burgess(+1) comes from a linebacker spot as a fourth rusher and stunts around a couple of confused Hawkeyes to finish the play.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-14, 11 min 4th Q. Yes, Kirk Ferentz just punted from his 33 yard line. I love the guy and think he's a fabulous coach but I'm souring on his in game decisions after witnessing his Carrization in this game combined with the botched time management against LSU and the decision to take a safety in the 6-4 game against PSU last year.|
|1||10||O20||Pass||18||Okay, I'm really sick of watching Burgess(-1) chase TEs downfield as both he and Harris bite hard on the waggle. (CA)|
|1||10||O38||Pass||7||They throw the slip screen to Chandler; it works. Burgess just looks really slow every time I see him, like he's running in molasses. (CA)|
|2||3||O45||Pass||4||Long handoff to Solomon. Argh... giant... cushions... crushing... soul. (CA)|
|1||10||O49||Pass||Inc||Abortive waggle because Grigsby thinks he's blocking a run play. Where was the guy in the flat? (Again... WR screwup)|
|2||10||O49||Pass||Inc||Chandler drops a pass, actually deflecting it right to Harris(-1), who drops an easy one. (CA)|
|3||10||O49||Pass||Sack, -4||Tate fumbles the shotgun snap.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-14, 7 min 4th Q. Fenstermaker's punts are averaging something like 25 yards. Again Iowa stubs its toe two or three times and forces itself to punt.|
|1||10||O12||Pass||12||Waggle and Tate finds an open Solomon. (DO)|
|1||10||O24||Pass||12||Yay zone! Chandler in between Trent and Burgess. (CA)|
|1||10||O36||Run||5||Major hole between Branch and a really, really blocked Harris(-1)|
|2||5||O41||Run||8||Iowa runs right at a LB lined up at DT, which, uh, sort of works. They're at the 50 with 2 minutes and three Tos left... not a definite passing down.|
|1||10||O49||Pass||30||Yay zone! When the closest guy to a slot WR downfield is your middle linebacker, you screwed up. I don't think this is a catch, actually... but I also don't think it should have been overturned. (DO)|
|1||10||M21||Run||6||Young bounces outside as Michigan has five in the box, three down, and Jamar Adams(-1) coming on a blitz; he reads run and lets it escape outside.|
|2||4||M15||Run||1||Watson(+1) pushes his guy into the backfield and makes a very nice tackle.|
|3||3||M14||Pass||2||Credit to Adams(+1) here for making the form tackle and preventing the first down, but mostly to Crable(+1) for shedding his blocker and preventing young from bouncing it outside. (Not charted.)|
|Drive Notes: FG(32) EO Regulation. Yay zone!|
|1||10||M25||Pass||Inc||Waggle yet again; Woods(+1) leaps and blocks the pass. (BA)|
|2||10||M25||Run||1||Thompson sheds a blocker(+1) and sticks Young in the hole. Watson is also coming.|
|3||9||M24||Pass||10||Via holding penalty on Crable(-1)... useless, useless penalty. Adams unfairly blamed. Solomon should have caught this ball. (CA)|
|1||10||M14||Run||1||The center can't get out to block Thompson in time and he simply fills the hole (created by Massey moonwalking five yards backwards, natch).|
|2||9||M13||Pass||3||Stop route they've used to good effect already. This time Hall(+1) manages to come up in time and makes a just good enough tackle. (CA)|
|2||6||M10||Pass||Inc||Tate's throw to Solomon lays him out along the sidelines. Tough catch... open if more accurate. (IN... harsh)|
|Drive Notes: FG(27), 20-17, OT.|
So how does Tate stack up?
Sweet Jesus. Keep in mind that two plays where the receivers clearly screwed up didn't get charted, nor did a couple of occurrences of heavy, immediate pass rush. I've included the post-charting-revamp Henne stats for comparison. Here you go:
|Team||Dead on||Catchable||Inaccurate||Bad Read||Throwaways||Batted|
Great galloping gravy! Remember the breakdown of positive/negative downfield plays I did for the PSU game? Henne had 14 positive to 16 negative. Take away two TE screens, two dumpoffs to Young on third and long, and four Solomon stop routes (to play this conservatively) and Tate had 23 positive to 7 negative, and that's being super harsh on the "Inaccurate" category, which holds two bombs and the third down comeback route in OT that glanced off Solomon's fingertips.
It's not fair to hold Henne to that standard--it probably isn't fair to hold Tate to that standard, that was one of the finest quarterbacked games I've seen, like, ever--but that's kind of mindboggling. Seriously, I think Tate made a total of three bad plays (holding the ball too long on one sack, fumbling a snap, and letting Woods bat a ball down on the waggle easily). That says a lot about Tate and a lot about how far away from him Henne has been this year.
Doesn't that say something else, too?
Yes, yes it does. This was a wretched defensive performance. Reviewing the tape I kept thinking to myself "how did we win this game?" A large part of Tate's success was due to Michigan never using man coverage. We played so far off their receivers that the only time we actually covered them is when they went deep. Seriously. I count three instances of tight coverage this entire game: the two deep balls and the Chandler catch that Adams got a hand on. Maybe the fade down the sideline against Harrison. For those scoring at home, Tate threw 34 passes by my count (some were erased by penalty). Coverage was nonexistent.
What stops we did get were either due to good fortune (drops, gifted interceptions, penalties) or a good pass rush and a sack off a stunt. Drive by drive:
- An incomplete bomb and a stupid block in the back puts Iowa in 2nd and 20, we hold.
- Great play by Woods to force a intentional grounding call puts Iowa in 2nd and 20.
- Iowa drop.
- Woods sack on first down and Crable bat put Iowa in 3rd and 20.
- Gift interception; should have been first down.
- WR runs wrong route.
- Mason thumps Young two yards short.
- Sack from great pass rush, again Iowa in first and 20 after penalty.
- Series goes WR screwup, drop, fumbled snap.
- FG. Legit stop but only after giving up 70 yards quickly.
- FG. Route is open but glances off Solomon's hands.
You have three instances of Iowa putting themselves behind the eight ball with penalties, five Iowa execution screwups, and exactly two instances of Michigan actually stopping the Hawkeyes without aid of a penalty. This is the essence of bend-but-don't-break: sit back until your opponents screw up, if they screw up. Michigan blitzed two times (I don't count the delaying LB tactic as a blitz as the LB is the fourth rusher). Two! Even blitz-hating TMQ would find that excessive. You can count the instances of man coverage on one hand . Not coincidentally, you can count the instances of covered receivers on the other hand.
We had the good fortune to get a number of drive-killing Iowa mistakes and thus managed to hold them to 17 points, but Michigan's defensive strategy in this game loses it 8 out of 10 times. We relied on Iowa drops and penalties and failed stunt pickups to win this game, which is crazy considering that Iowa was the least penalized team in the league coming in and is generally regarded as one of the best coached teams in college football. A series of flukes conspired against them in this game, otherwise they put up 30+.
This was probably the worst defensive performance in a very long time. It was worse than Michigan State. It was worse than Michigan State last year. It was worse than Ohio State or Texas last year. We stopped nothing. But for Woods playing phoenix and Branch getting instant pass rush, there's nothing redeeming from this game.
The worst part about all of this is that the players didn't seem to play particularly badly outside of Graham and Massey, but they were consistently put in no-win situations. We got a number of great plays from Woods and Branch and even John Thompson, but if someone wasn't making a great play, Iowa was getting a giant chunk of yardage. What kind of defense is that?
Yes, this seems viciously harsh for a game in which Iowa scored 17 points in regulation, but ask yourself: when Iowa got the ball back with two minutes to go, what did you think our chances of stopping them were?
Did anything good happen?
Well, the best thing I can say is that we were absent Woodley, who's obviously our best defensive player, and Branch should be able to move inside soon if Woods is allowed to play and Biggs returns. I'm sure Pat Massey is a great guy but he should be a roleplayer on this defense. Will he be? No, the evidence of such has been there since about game two. Nothing's changed, and so nothing will change.
John Thompson made a good debut as a first-string linebacker but it wasn't as good as it appeared watching it live. Thompson missed a few tackles, overran a play or two, and was in for a lot more productive rushes against than it initially seemed. However, he clearly has a knack for showing up around the ball and with some more experience should start making those plays he barely missed against Iowa. He also seems like kind of a yappy, trash-talking guy, and we need one of those.
Grant Mason's hit was also kind of awesome; remind me to write derogatory zen koans about Henne.
What about the...
|Woodley||-||-||-||You will be healthy for Northwestern!|
|Woods||9||-||9||Goddamn, son. Good to know we've buried you on the bench all year.|
|Jamison||4||-||4||Kid can rush the passer.|
|Branch||5||1||4||Didn't do much except for a series of great plays interspersed with a bad one on one second half drive.|
|Burgess||2||5||-3||Still chasing Chandler.|
|Harris||3||3||0||Worst game since he became a starter. Still did okay.|
|Graham||-||4||-4||Job in serious jeopardy.|
|Thompson||4||4||0||Not as good as it appeared but still superior to Graham.|
|Crable||4||1||3||Effective rushing the passer.|
|Hall||4||1||3||Seems generous for the corners when Tate goes nuts but I've made my position on the defense clear.|
|Engelmon||-||1||-||Didn't play much.|
Yes, apparently generous but in line with what I thought happened: Woods saved the game for us, the linebackers were a disaster (-7 in total on a scale that tends towards +, since I'm not counting passing-down-only Crable as a LB), and the secondary was sold out by the obvious, repetitive coverages they were assigned.
We kept calling scissors and were shocked (shocked!) when Iowa kept going "rock, rock, rock."
What does it all mean for Northwestern?
Woo haa! It could go one of two ways: Woodley, a revamped Woods, and Branch on the interior annihilate the Northwestern DL on a regular enough basis to keep the Wildcats relatively down. Or they don't and it's track meet time.
This Sutton kid is a lot like Mike Hart, a pint-sized pack of pterror. Dude came straight from an Ohio middle school to become the 5th-leading rusher in the country. He cracked 100 yards against Penn State's formidable defense. He broke out Rex-Kwon-Do against Wisconsin, gashing them for 244 yards. He was "held" to 89 yards against Purdue... on 13 carries! I quiver in fear. He has that feint-inside bounce-outside thing that Calhoun, Walker, Wolfe... well, damn near everyone has burned us with. He also catches the ball out of the backfield--21 receptions for over 10 yards a pop--just like Calhoun did. Much will depend upon how real John Thompson is, because we need someone other than Harris who can take the correct angle.
It's time to face facts, though: we're two-thirds of the way through the season and we have the 76th ranked rushing defense in the country. This is no fluke. Set aside the EMU nothingness. Every team that we've played has gashed us. If you consider the MSU tailbacks a single person, we haven't held a single opponent running back under 100 yards all year. Why is this? Massey, no doubt, plus Watson's eminently disappointing year. Throw in safeties 12 yards off the LOS on almost every play, and outside linebackers who have been really bad and you have a noxious cocktail that is not going to get any more palatable against Northwestern's fireworks display. Expect Sutton to get his 100. Hope he doesn't get his 200.
Brett Bazanez will do the exact same thing Tate did. He'll roll out a ton and find his receivers smoothly in the context of his offense. If we don't change the way we play defense we're going to die by a thousand papercuts.
The numbers, I no like. They, how you say, ass. Straight Bangin' filched a message board post about the efficacy of Lloydball that's interesting, though perhaps not as stark as it's framed. The upshot:
- In the last five years, Michigan has held a 10 point or less lead at the start of the fourth quarter sixteen times. It won seven of those games; in three of the victories Michigan lost the lead before winning the game.
- Over the same time span, Michigan's entered the fourth quarter trailing "narrowly" seven times and won six.
Now, I'm somewhat suspicious of the methodology here that uses a specific cutoff for the leading stat and then a vague "narrowly" for the trailing stat and only covers five years instead of Carr's entire career, but I think there may be something in the numbers. Michigan fans throw around the idea of the Michigan "scoring offense" that emerges when Michigan really needs it (trailing in the fourth) but hibernates when it doesn't (leading). The games referenced show a striking lack of said scoring offense when Michigan leads.
Carr's late game strategy may have made sense at one time when Michigan gave up 300 yards a game, pounded people on the ground, and didn't have a real knack for giving up game-winning touchdown drives, but those days are gone. Michigan now has a tetchy, finesse run game ill suited to attacking eight man fronts and a defense that's eminently mediocre. It's ironic to hear him talking about "keeping the ball away from their offense"--impossible to do in any meaningful fashion-- when Carr fails to take advantage of the one time in a football game in which you can actually play keepaway: right at the end.
The college football blogging capital of the world appears to be Georgia. I realize Georgia is not, in fact, a city. Roll with it. Anyway, you've got ATL/Athens-based Sexy Results, EDSBS (Orson faction), and Eagle In Atlanta plus an absolute flood of Dawg bloggers: Paul Westerdawg, Kyle King, I'm A Realist, NKOTB The Drizzle, and needs-more-pub-and-possibly-vicodin Gunslingers. I mention it because Gunslingers' most recent media Hulk-smash job pushed a lot of my buttons when it fisked the always-intolerable "Sports Reporters." This little passage, well...
Ryan: With all due respect to our friends in Blacksburg and Tuscaloosa... We don't want you. OK. [Lupica tries to interrupt] Don't take this personally. We don't want you.The rest of us in America want SC and Texas. We want those 2 programs, we want... That's the only Rose Bowl we want.
Lupica: How can you possibly say that?
Ryan: Because THAT'S THE TRUTH. The generic college football sportsfan wants that battle of the titans and nothing else. We don't want VT, we don't want Alabama. We want Texas and SC, Michael that's the truth.
... made me want to find Ryan's crab-cake eating mouth and, I dunno, wire it shut. And then staple it some. Not for effect, just so I can hear his pained moans chitter through the wires. The idea of Bob Ryan, whose last conscious thought about college football was no dobut "that Flutie kid has potential," attempting to capture the college football zeitgeist from somewhere in New England is simultaneously maddening and hilarious, especially since college football is the place where the love of the 'dog is most celebrated. No one outside of USC fans--all six of them--and media members looking for "the story" want to see USC in the Rose Bowl. Everyone wants to see some goalposts taken on vacation.
In any case, Gunslingers spins this and other media flagrancies into a narrative about the evils of narrative re: sports that's well worth reading.
Oh, you kidder, you. Is Glen Mason really going to bolt Minnesota? Has the UMinn adminstration totally forgotten what the football team was like before his arrival? Fanblogs details the weird state of Gopher State U.
I was going to say something about the Fisher DeBerry thing, but someone already said it for me. So: I cosign SMQ's take on the matter, word for word. Word!
Totally OT section: BC&RS has Joey Harrington trapped in her basement. Microsoft tells you how to interpret this blog's totally 1337 sp33k. (HT: This Community High kid... Arbor Blogs aggregator, I swear I'm not stalking high school kids on the Internets.) EDSBS throws the UGA logo on pale ale... er, and Jesus (not Stanton, the other Jesus). The Sooner Farkers have some fun with a Michigan cheerleader.