I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Run Offense vs. Penn State
Not likely to be a strength. Penn State has been moidering opposing running backs (see?). They're tenth in the country against the run and that's after games against Minnesota (#4 rush offense) and Northwestern (#12). Hell, even USF checks in at #23. Tamba Hali is making a run at All-American status with five sacks and seven TFL so far. Paul Posluszny has 71 (71!) tackles. They were very good last year; almost everyone is back. They're better this year.
As for Michigan, they're unlikely to radically improve their mediocre-to-date run blocking. They've opened up holes against MAC teams and teams with MAC defenses like Michigan State but haven't shown any tendency towards being able to ground-and-pound even mediocre defenses. Penn State's fast, intelligent linebackers will probably shut down the draws that have been a staple of the offense the past year and a half, leaving the offensive line to try to plow ahead more conventionally.
Mike Hart is still freakin' awesome, yo, but too often this year the three yards he's fabricated from nothing have gotten him back to the line of scrimmage instead of past the first down marker. Expect a rushing performance similar the to one Michigan turned in against OSU last year: not good.
Key Matchup: FB Brian Thompson versus Posluszny. Thompson has emerged as a decent starting fullback and the rushing game's ability to run straight at the Lions will depend heavily upon him blocking Penn State's tackle factory.
Pass Offense vs. Penn State
At this point we've all stopped hoping that Henne's going to rekindle that Rose Bowl magic, haven't we? His good performances this year are heavily tainted by the defenses he opposed in them, defenses that got no pressure whatsoever against him and couldn't cover a disabled goat if asked to. The defenses he's played against that aren't resolutely awful have pwned him. Wicked pwned: he hasn't completed 50% of his passes in any of Michigan's losses this year.
I think it can safely be declared that the Penn State defense is not resolutely awful. They're 20th in pass efficiency D and have an explosive pass rusher or three (20 sacks to date, on pace to easily surpass last year's badass Iowa D number of 35) plus a secondary that's veteran and good. The image of Tamba Hali crushing Ohio State TE Ryan Hamby and then performing a fatality on Ohio State's Rose Bowl chances was at once a joyous, schadenfreude-laden thing and an ominous portent of doom. The similarities between it and the rings true freshman and non-All-American candidate Steve Davis ran around our right tackle are stark and unpleasant to contemplate. And that's just one freakin' guy.
It probably won't be total disaster against Penn State. It hasn't been total disaster at any point thus far. Except against Notre Dame. And Wisconsin. And Minnesota. And that pick against Michigan State. Er. I guess the point is: Michigan's pass offense probably isn't that bad, but it would take a major improvement merely to hold its crappy ground in its first foray against a defense that isn't terrible.
Key Matchup: OTs Ruben Riley/Mike Kolodziej ("small animals in my immediate vicinity post-game") versus Tamba Hali ("wood chipper").
Run Defense Vs Penn State
We have a great run defense that's gashed when Pat Massey gets crushed or one of our outside linebackers does something inexplicable, which means we have an average-to-poor run defense despite having three great players in our front seven (Harris, Branch, Woodley). Penn State's was eating up some of the worst run defenses in the country before running up against a brick wall in Ohio State. We're not either of those extremes.
So what will happen? Robinson is going to run a lot, sometimes from a designed play but often when he can't read the coverage and just takes off. Harris will probably spy on him most of the day and remove the latter option or at least reduce its effectiveness. The draws will probably work since Michigan's apparent answer to the mobile quarterback issue is to lay back... a lot, rushing only three with great frequency and dropping a ton of guys into coverage. Tony Hunt has been playing very well this year but is probably not going to do very well against a Michigan defense that will have to be keying on the run most of the day. Sporadic runs in the teens will occur due more to errors from our safeties and linebackers but Robinson is going to have to throw on third down a lot.
Key Matchup: OLBs Chris Graham and Prescott Burgess versus Their Apparently Religious Objections To Maintaining Outside Containment.
Pass Defense vs. Penn State
Any other safeties want to test fate? Call it the Curse of Cato, since it seems everyone we throw out there ends up injured or goes slowly insane and fails to show up for an NFL camp. Ryan Mundy's career may be over and both starters in his absence didn't say their prayers or something and were subsequently smote by Angry, Michigan-Safety-Hating God during the Minnesota game. Shazor-apparent (not a compliment) Jamar Adams and true freshman converted cornerback Brandon Harrison step forth into the void, awaiting God's boomstick justice.
The cornerbacks are healthy and pretty good, actually. There's a little Todd Howard disease going on and some issues with reading and reacting with Mason, but the coverage should be all right. I don't expect much in the way of laser-accuracy from Robinson; I don't actually expect much at all. Penn State will probably break out the same gameplan it did against Ohio State and Lloydball the hell out of this thing, keeping Robinson from doing anything like throw three picks like he did against Northwestern.
Key Matchup: Deep, open Derek Williams versus Michael Robinson's history tendency to suck. It's going to happen. There's going to be a heavy play action bite or a blown coverage or something truly wacky and blackly humorous and Williams is going to be striding downfield with someone behind him--probably Adams--running real fast, trying hard not to think about what just happened. Robinson will either hit him or miss him.
Hey! Steve Breaston! Goddamn, nice to see you. You're a little late. How come we never see you and Garrett Rivas in the same room?
Key Matchup: Garret Rivas versus AAAAARGH! AAAAARGH!
Something, I know not what, brought me up short--perhaps an acrid, unfamiliar smell or the suspicious patterns of light that reached my questing eyes. I felt a deep disquiet. All around me the jungle laid, waiting. It was as if I had placed my foot directly above a trap laid by the forest itself. The normal teeming, beastly chatter that composes a background symphony to all one's movements in this accursed place had utterly ceased. The impression was one of indrawn breath. A tense moment passed; I saw a clearing; men were in it; strange men, desperate men; I listened...
"Gorgoroth, we beseech you. Fill the hearts of our enemy with dread at our coming. We are weak, and he is strong, but many battles have we won against these interlopers from the far east. We ask you, in our time of need, to smite them! They have scorned you! Scorned you and your kitten cuteness! They revel in the mature form of the feline beast! They mock your adorable mewling with their pre-canned growling sound! We bring you forth to destroy them, to make our Brie Stone(?) fly, to grind their fence into the ground with our Heart, to strike them off their lofty perch!"
The ground trembled, and I momentarily glanced around me, checking for an exit route. When I looked back, indescribable horror confronted me.
GET OUT OF MY MIND! GET OUT OF MY MIND!
A terrifying ululation filled the canopy. Birds burst from their perches, scattering feathers in their mad flight to escape. I looked deep into the heart of a terror I have not words for. These desperate, mad people! Their eyes! One turned right towards me, spotted me, and burst forth with words in their savage language that chilled my very bones. I cracked. In a panic, I tore through the forest, screaming, my voice merging with theirs until memory fades--all that remains is the sensation of branches whipping at my exposed skin, the sting of the myriad cuts I sustained, and a deep disquiet I fear will never leave me. I passed out of sight and time for how long I do not know.
When I awoke, my tattered body laid on the forest floor; the stars were out, and it was unseasonably cool.
Three Things I'd Like To See:
- Trickeration. Copious freakin' trickeration, man. I don't think the PSU defense is going to give us much of anything unless we pull some Houdini. Let's see the Bass/Breaston option, some single wing, transcontinental stuff, slip screens, the diamond formation, flea-flickers, anything. It's time to empty the cookie jar.
- A tight end lined up next to whichever RT is playing Tina.
- Two David Harris clones.
Three Things I Don't Want To See
- Our OLBs losing contain yet again.
- Michael Robinson running effectively.
- This game.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +2 for No, I Guess Henne Isn't Back; +1 for Safety Smiting; -1 for He's Still Michael Robinson; -1 for Maybe Breaston...; +1 for ...Naw.)
Desperate need to win level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -2 for We're Playing For Pride? Pride Blows; +1 for At Least We'd Still Own... Penn State; +1 for Stay Out of Detroit)
Loss will cause me to... I dunno. Go to the hockey game. At this point it's academic, isn't it?
Win will cause me to... run over to BWI to revel in the misery.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: I was warned to predict a Michigan loss deep down in my bones, unlike last week's patently ironic, Angry-Michigan-Safety-Hating-God-baiting prediction of 3,000 points via lasers for Minnesota that faintly cloaked a confident prediction of victory.
Well, you got your wish. How are we going to move the ball? Hart will probably do a few nice things but unless the OL gets hopped up on PCP they're not going to create anything approximating a consistent run game, which leaves it in the hands of Henne and the Deadly Squirrel RT Platoon. Feelin' good? No.
Defensively, well, we aren't Ohio State but neither are we Minnesota. Penn State fans seem to have forgotten all about the fact that Robinson is terrible simply because they're winning against really bad defenses and scoring via short drives courtesy boneheaded turnovers. Robinson's been bombing it deep all year because that's the only throw it's safe for him to make. Michigan is going to hold up just fine against the Nittany Lion offense... save for the semi-frequent occurrences of lost contain and safeties blowing coverages or run defenses. Penn State scores when we screw up.
This will be a contest of errors. Whoever makes the fewest will win; that'll be Penn State.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hart gets a total of sixty rushing yards.
- When you combine the pure aesthetic value of the upcoming festival del suck with my psychological state in regards to it, this will be the least enjoyable game I've ever seen in Michigan Stadium.
- 7-6, Penn State.
(There's nothing redeeming about this editon, apologies.)
Long winded yammering or panel-based pith. Yeah, the estimable Soxaholix, which you should read even if you think the Sox are pure evil, gets across in one strip what I try to say in billions (and billions) of words:
Let's see, for stahtahs we've got laziness, sloppiness with facts, hostility toward playahs, animosity towards their readahs, a mockery and general disdain for sabermetrics ... Whoo hoo! Now that's a savvy business model to reverse the downwahd trend in newspaper readership and profitability!
Hearting of FO continues... and this one is slightly on topic. The latest Too Deep Zone takes on the issue of why Kevin Jones has no rushing yards, but the real reason I highlight this article is for this pithy statement of great relevance to Michigan fans:
Tollner's philosophy seems to be risk avoidance at all costs, and he doesn't seem to realize that there's nothing as risky as doing exactly what the defense expects.
Er... I don't understand this passage from Bruce Hooley's midseason review of the Big Ten on ESPN.com:
Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan, leaving the Big Ten embarrassingly short of its seven bowl commitments.
Bruce Hooley covered the Big Ten for 18 years and now hosts a daily talk show on WBNS-AM 1460 in Columbus, Ohio.
...yes I do.
Update: Apparently someone at ESPN can count; they fixed it. No visible correction, though. Sweeping their errors under ther rug... just like they did to hockey.
Er... Part 2. Courtney Sims: "We have the talent to win a national championship."
It's gonna be okay:
Via Suds & Soliloquies.
People older than me are pissed that WJR has switched from Michigan to Michigan State sports programming, though my initial reaction was a definite "uh... and?" I don't know who's whatsit is at fault or whatever and I don't know how relevant it is--technophile me thinks that broadcast radio will be D-E-D dead in relatively short order--but rest assured that my reducing my donations to the U by 50% because of it. (Go on... ask...)
|1||10||O20||Pass||13||Play action sucks everyone in and they waggle to Wheelwright. Jamar Adams is the nearest.|
|1||10||O33||Run||3||Maroney goes off tackle. Dave Harris(+1) stays on his feet in the face of a chop and sticks him.|
|2||7||O36||Pass||9||Triple stack screen that we essentially concede 10 yards on at the snap with only a couple players anywhere near the screen.|
|1||10||O45||Run||0||No one on Minnesota picks up a block. Harris(+1) avoids his man, forms up, and waits for help to arrive.|
|2||10||O45||Pass||Inc||Cupito tries to pump fake and the ball comes out.|
|3||10||O45||Pass||10||Wheelwright runs a simple out at the sticks in front of Mason(-1).|
|1||10||M45||Run||1||Again the Gophers can't get guys blocked on the pull. Burgess(+1) makes the dogde and slows him down long enough for Massey(+1) to make the tackle.|
|2||9||M44||Run||5||Triple stack again, they hand off to Russell up the middle. The Minnesota OL gets a good push, though Watson holds his ground and Russell has to cut back a little.|
|3||4||M39||Run||0||Watson(+2) crushes his man into bits and makes the tackle. Controversial fumble play. I dunno. Forward progress was stopped but I've seen stuff like that go either way.|
|4||4||M39||Pass||Inc||Mason(+2) does a really nice job on the slant here, breaking up the pass immediately upon the throw's arrival.|
|Drive Notes: 3-0, 7 min 1st Q. Caught off guard with a couple plays (waggle to Wheelwright, triple stack) and Mason has to react faster on an obvious out on the third down but we do a good job against the run here and Mason ends the drive with a nice play. All in all a good performance.|
|1||10||O19||Pass||9||Rollout pass, simple out run in front of Hall(-1).|
|1||10||O32||Run||8||Triple stack; handoff is to Russell again. Woodley(-1) can't hold the corner and Graham(-1) picks the wrong hole.|
|2||2||O40||Run||2||Well defended but can't prevent the first down. Harris with another tackle.|
|1||10||O42||Pass||19||Cupito with all day to throw and he finds Wallace. Adams is again running a few yards being the recipient, but it's hard to fault a DB when the QB has that much time.|
|1||10||O39||Pass||2||Triple stack screen #2. Hall(+1) attacks immediately and slows the play up so that help can arrive.|
|2||8||O37||Run||5||Jamison(+1) is lined up as an OLB on the LOS and just blows past the TE before he even knows what's going on. Unfortunately, he misses the tackle, and then Mason misses a tackle downfield. Jamison gets a +1 because he was supposed to be blocked but didn't and slowed the play up even though he didn't finish it.|
|3||3||O32||Run||8||Cupito runs the option. Harris(-1) does get chopped on this play and there's a big hole up the middle.|
|1||10||O24||Run||9||Goddamn. Woods is in as the DE opposite Woodley on the short side of the field. They pull the LT and LG around the TE, who crushes Woods, and there is instantly a big hole that Russell flies through. Never seen that before. No Harris on this play; Crable at MLB.|
|2||1||O15||Run||2||Maroney up the gut.|
|1||10||O13||Penalty||-15||Chop block against Minnesota on a Maroney stretch.|
|1||30||O33||Run||3||Graham(+1) shoots out to the sideline and forces Maroney to cut back into an agile, pursuing Watson(+1).|
|2||27||O30||Pass||10||Mason versus Wheelwright is a physical mismatch; here he gets inside of Mason and is thus open, but on second and 27 from the 30 this is okay to cede.|
|3||17||O20||Pass||8||A 'we give up' flare route to Wallace.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 3-3 13 min 2nd Q. I'm willing to chalk some of this up to Minnesota being a very good running offense, but our persistent inability to get a pass rush when we expect run is concerning.|
|1||10||O19||Run||0||Toss sweep to the outside. Branch(+1) and Burgess(+1) hold up well enough to let Graham(+1) flow and stick.|
|2||10||O19||Run||7||Cupito checks into an off tackle run. Massey(-1) vacates the space immediately. At this point Maroney 11 for 34.|
|3||3||O26||Pass||Inc||Cupito's wet noodle of an arm can't get it to an open receiver.|
|Drive Notes: 3-3 10 min 2nd Q. We're doing decently at this point.|
|1||10||O20||Run||14||Maroney gets the corner. Engelmon is freaking held here, and that's a big reason why. I see hands outside of shoulders constantly and it never gets called.|
|1||10||O34||Pass||0||Why are they throwing these shallow outs that serve only to highlight Cupito's weak arm? This play almost can't work with the personnel Minnesota has.|
|2||10||O34||Run||1||Russell up the middle. I think he makes a crappy cut here since there are unblocked guys on the side he cuts to. No one bothers blocking the DE on that side; probably a bust.|
|3||9||O35||Pass||Inc||Mason(+1) is in good coverage here but the reason this is incomplete is Woodley(+1), who stunts unblocked on a blitz and gets there immediately.|
|Drive Notes:3-3 7 min 2nd Q. I'm really not complaining too much about the refereeing in this game. Just that one play. I promise.|
|1||10||O20||Run||9||Barringer(+2) puts his hat right on the ball. Before the snap we were in a 3-4 and were misaligned; Minnesota outnumbered us on the near side of the field and ran a simple pitch out there. Burgess is sealed, Engelmon is blocked, and Maroney gets a nice run that we can't do anything about right on the snap.|
|Drive Notes: 6-3, 6 min 2nd Q. Foreshadowing.|
|1||10||O25||Pass||Inc||Play action and a ton of time for Cupito; Wheelwright is open but Cupito misses him.|
|2||10||O25||Run||4||Toss sweep. Massey holds up decently here and Graham avoids a block to converge.|
|3||6||O29||Pass||8||Wow. Really frustrating. Woodley(+1) and I think Branch(+1) execute a perfect stunt that has Woodley flying at Cupito unblocked but it doesn't matter because Harris(-1) and Brandon Logan(-1) (Brandon Logan?) have dropped too deep to prevent an easy completion to the TE underneath for the conversion.|
|1||10||O37||Pass||36||Play action. Hall(-1) gets completely turned around right before Ellerson cuts his route to a post and Jamar Adams(-1) is sucked way up by the pla y action.|
|1||10||M27||Run||5||Harrison(-1) misses a weak arm tackle on a play where most of the D holds up pretty well.|
|2||5||M22||Run||1||Engelmon blitzes from the corner right into the Minnesota run; Harris(+1) finishes the play.|
|3||4||M21||Pass||21||I think Trent's in about as good a position as he can be in here. Given the coverage there's no way you can stop the 6'5 Wheelwright when Cupito throws a perfect fade like he does here. Credit to Minnesota.|
|Drive Notes: 13-10, 1 min 2nd Q. Adams and Harrison both check in with negative plays. There's a drop from our starters. The killer was the third and six conversion that if Cupito was forced to hold the ball for a single second longer he was going to be sacked.|
|1||10||O38||Pass||Inc||Engelmon(+1) lights up Wheelwright, causing the drop. Illegal touching in any case.|
|2||10||O38||Run||0||Conceding the half.|
|Drive Notes: 13-10, Halftime. The defense is playing very well to this point.|
|1||15||M45||Run||4||Hall holds the corner and it's a nice cut by Maroney that gets the yardage. Massey(+1) is pursuing and makes the tackle.|
|2||11||M41||Penalty||15||Really unfortunate here, as Branch gets chopped and reaches out to Cupito to make a tackle. In the process he yanks him down by the facemask.|
|1||10||M26||Run||8||The same toss sweep into the overloaded bunch on the wide side of the field. Engelmon(-1) misses a tackle and Burgess(-1) is embarrassingly driven downfield by Jared Ellerson.|
|2||2||M18||Run||9||Maroney vaults Branch at the LOS. Watson(-1) is single blocked effectively by Eslinger here.|
|1||G||M9||Run||4||Maroney to the outside again. Really questionable angle taken by Graham(-1), who has an opportunity to make a tackle for no gain. Barringer is the one who actually makes the tackle. He injures his knee on this play and is gone for the rest of the game.|
|2||G||M5||Run||-4||Branch(+2) penetrates and makes a shoestring TFL. Huge play.|
|3||G||M9||Pass||Inc||Fade to Wheelwright, who again has Trent on him. This is about a millimeter away from intererence. Trent manages to bother Wheelwright enough to force a drop.|
|Drive Notes: 13-13, 13 min 3rd Q. Defense cracks somewhat to begin the half. Breaston returns the kickoff for a touchdown; Carr pooches the subsequent kick... bad decision.|
|1||10||O39||Penalty||15||PI on Hall. Really tough for him to avoid this as Cupito underthrows the ball and when Payne tries to stop Hall just runs right into him.|
|1||15||O49||Pass||Inc||Play action. Michigan has totally ceded any pass rush in on non obvious passing downs. Cupito can't get the deep out there.|
|2||15||O49||Run||3||Harris(+1) makes a very sure tackle as Russell shoots up into a good-sized hole on this draw.|
|3||12||M48||Penalty||15||PI on Mason(-1), as he gets caught jamming Wheelwright with the ball in the air. The thing is, they're 20 yards downfield at this point; the ball's likely in the air.|
|1||10||M33||Run||4||Russell up the gut from the triple stack.|
|2||6||M29||Run||1||Toss sweep. Adams(+1) does a good job of cutting off Maroney's outside path and the calvary converges.|
|3||5||M28||Run||6||Killer play. Russell is hit in the backfield by Burgess(-1) but he escapes and manages to squeak out the first down. Brutal.|
|1||10||M22||Run||2||Up the gut. Massey(+1) sheds his man and sticks for the tackle.|
|2||8||M20||Pass||6||PA waggle... on a zone blitz where Woodley pulls out and drops too deep(!).|
|3||2||M14||Run||3||Straight up the gut between Taylor(-1) and Will Johnson(-1). Why is Watson on the sideline on third and two?|
|1||10||M11||Run||8||Maroney straight up the gut. Will Johnson(-1) is destroyed and Watson just can't close off that big of a gap.|
|2||2||M3||Run||3||Michigan misses like four tackles. I'm gibbering.|
|1||G||M1||Run||0||A wad right in the middle; I can't really determine anything.|
|1||G||M1||Run||0||A TO before this play is really strange.|
|1||G||M1||Run||1||Toss sweep touchdown for Minn. Crable gets blocked but it would be really hard to prevent this by yourself.|
|Drive Notes: TD, 20-20, 6 min 3rd Q. Complete defensive meltdown on this drive. Really, really strange to see the two freshman backup DTs in on two critical plays on 3rd and 2 and 1st and 10 in the red zone, but the defense has been on the field for about ten straight minutes. We really miss Biggs and Jamison; think Branch would have been of help at DT on this drive?|
|1||10||O26||Penalty||-10||Holding; the play was a play action bomb played well by Hall(+1). Penalty drawn by Woodley(+1), who was hog-tied by the OT.|
|1||20||O16||Run||-1||Woodley(+2) destroys the OT and makes the TFL all by himself.|
|2||21||O15||Penalty||er, +5||Holding downfield on Ellerson after a huge run. Burgess(-2) sits there, gets chopped by the slot WR, and then goes inside of him. Unexplainable.|
|2||16||O20||Pass||Inc||Play action stretch and Cupito misses his guy on the sidelines.|
|3||16||O20||Run||13||They run Maroney off tackle. Burgess(-1) again takes a bad angle, but it's third and 16.|
|Drive Notes: 20-20, 2 min 3rd Q. Woodley makes a couple of nice plays to offset Burgess's bad angles.|
|1||10||O42||Run||-4||Harris(+2) reads, reacts, and makes the TFL very nicely. Burgess attempts to slip inside of his block again.|
|2||14||O38||Penalty||7||PI on Mason(-1). He reads and reacts on Wheelwright and arrives too early.|
|1||10||O45||Pass||Inc||More play action; more oodles of time. Cupito eventually has to roll out and fire it short of his receiver.|
|2||10||O45||Run||-1||Dave Harris(+1) again, flowing unimpeded to the ball carrier.|
|3||11||O44||Pass||Inc||Michigan comes up with aggressive press coverage and sends an extra guy. Cupito just fires the ball downfield, badly overthrowing his WR.|
|Drive Notes: 20-20, 13 min 4th Q. I don't understand why this press cover thing doesn't get used more often. I know you can't do it all the time or Wheelwright is going to torch you (if Cupito gets it there), but th ere are a couple instances earlier when the soft zones let a pressured Cupito make a relatively easy hot read.|
|1||10||O20||Run||8||Triple stack and they're expecting the screen because Woodley drops off into the short zone on that side of the field. Russell runs up into the vacated area.|
|2||2||O28||Run||1||Woodley(+1) dominates his man and shoots upfield, breaking up the sweep, allowing guys to converge.|
|3||1||O29||Run||3||They run a stretch play to the right side of the field; the DL fired into the OL, attempting to prevent a run up the gut. Engelmon goes down.|
|1||10||O32||Pass||Inc||Woodley(+2) kills Cupito, forcing an inaccurate pass to Maroney and ending Cupito's afternoon.|
|2||10||O32||Run||-2||Quarterback draw which Watson(+1) reads and consumes, then has to limp off afterwards.|
|3||12||O32||Run||7||We play passively here. Harris(+1) plows through a blocker and sticks his man.|
|Drive Notes: 20-20, 5 min 4th Q. Goddamn Woodley is great. He does this every game. There's usually two drives where these notes are essentially "OMG WOODLEY"... please, please don't have NFL measurables this offseason.|
|1||10||O13||Run||5||Triple stack and Russell goes right up the middle. Seems like every time they do this they gain yards. Massey(-1) is pancaked pretty brutally.|
|2||5||O18||Run||7||Man... again they run right at Massey(-1) and he gets moved way out. I don't want to be too hard on the guy but they're killing him.|
|1||10||O25||Run||0||They toss it over to Woodley's(+1) side, which is just a mistake. Graham(+1) nimbly steps past a potential blocker to finish the play.|
|2||10||O25||Run||0||Again they run it over towards Woodley(+1) and he holds up at the line and comes off to tackle, assisted by Graham(+1), who makes an excellent play to pick through the trash.|
|3||10||O25||Run||60||This has been discussed. Burgess(-2).|
|Drive Notes: FG, 23-20, EOG.|
Any final words on the game-killing run?
I've seen a couple people argue that Carr should have played for overtime, but I disagree. Minnesota was clearly not going to have their backup QB throw unless it absolutely had to. Their punter had been dropping 30 yarders in front of Breaston all day. Michigan had a not-insignificant wind and would have gotten the ball back with plenty of time to execute a two minute drill for a winning field goal. The strategy was correct and it was not close, especially given that Carr had to make a second decision on playing for OT after the initial first down. He waited until Maroney was stuffed on first down to take his TO, when it was second and ten.
As for the run itself, I've made my position clear--it was a colossal coaching blunder--and I won't rehash it here.
What about the rest of the game?
They actually did decently. Before the 61 yarder at the end, Michigan had conceded 212 rushing yards, yes, but that was on 54 carries--3.9 yards per. Not spectacular but also not bad against such a powerful rushing attack. They clearly wore out early in the third after the Breaston KR TD (unless you think the coaches were itching to put Johnson and Taylor in on a critical third and two at the 11), but that's understandable. They racked up a bunch of penalties early in the second half that helped the Gophers move the ball; those were also more unfortunate than instances of poor play.
Cupito was intermittently effective--the fade to Wheelwright was beauty and totally unstoppable--but at other times was his usual weak-armed self, bailing Michigan out in several situations in which he had open guys.
All told, a good performance.
|Woodley||10||1||9||Best DE in 15 years.|
|Woods||-||-||-||Saw him on maybe one play.|
|Massey||3||3||0||Was generally effective flowing to the ball and only had a couple instances where he was blown out of the middle.|
|Watson||4||1||3||Good but not dominant.|
|Johnson||-||2||-2||Tough to get your feet wet against Eslinger and Setterstrom.|
|Jamison||1||-||-||Wanted to see more from him on the weakside.|
|Branch||4||-||4||Consistently a bright spot.|
|Burgess||2||7||-5||Get this man a protractor stat.|
|Harris||8||2||6||Well, we've got one linebacker.|
|Mason||3||3||0||Needs to be more aware of the ball in the air.|
|Trent||-||-||-||Can't blame him for giving up the TD.|
|Barringer||2||-||2||God hates Michigan safeties.|
The chart accurately reflects what I think happened: the DEs were indeed very good against Maroney. The DTs not so much, possibly because of that stretch in the third. Harris was a beast; Burgess was a disaster, a WLB playing SLB. The secondary was all right but not great.
How badly are we going to miss Engelmon and Barringer?
More badly than Shazor. We'll be starting a 5'9" true freshman cornerback and Jamar Adams, who gives me the willies. The response may well be to sit back and cross our fingers, hoping PSU can't do anything about the seven guys in the box. Against the inaccurate Michael Robinson and a running game that I still think is pretty suspicious that may well work... but there's a reason Adams was on the bench despite being fast and huge. They're young and inexperienced. They'll probably screw up at least a few times.
Also, who's next on the depth chart? Anton Campbell? BJ Opong-Owosu? The safeties are atom-thin now.
What is the deal with Branch at DE?
I do understand the motivation against the Gophers. Woods runs out on the field for a snap; Minnesota consumes his soul and gains 9 yards. Jamison runs out there; they try the same thing but Jamison teleports into the backfield (and misses a tackle). Branch is big enough and fast enough to hold the corn er and collapse on the runner.
Against Penn State, however, I'd rather see him shift inside with Woodley taking on the strong side of the formation and one of our smaller edge rushers on the weak side. The Penn State offensive line doesn't compare to Minnesota's and but they do have a mobile quarterback. Someone like Jamsion's more likely to track him down if necessary.
Don't get ahead of yourself... what does it mean for PSU?
Well, there's that on the DL. I expect a game plan very similar to the one we saw against Michigan State with a lot of zones, spying, and laying back waiting for errors. It'll probably work better than it did against Michigan State--Robinson will be forced to take off more often than The Jesus and probably will make several more mistakes than he did. Penn State is not going to roll over our run defense like they did to Minnesota, but I expect several mistakes from the outside linebackers and safeties plus a few instances of Massey getting catapulted across the field. Those errors combined with sporadic good play from Robinson will get PSU a few drives where they threaten to score--with their offense, even(!)--but this one is going to be a low-scoring slugfest of a game.
So it'll come down to a Rivas kick?
SHUTUPSHUTUP SHUUUUUT UUUUUP.
Cato June twitch central: Here you go, kids. We've got a candidate for understatement of the year:
Because of his body art and trash-talking on-field demeanor, June may not appear to be a humble, hard-working professional.
Good for you in any case, Cato. Those prone to seizures induced by unexpected images should look away:
ERROR! MALFORMED DATA.
Can anyone read this and tell me if it's good? Scoop Jackson wrote a huge long column on the Fab Five that I swear I tried to read. I couldn't do it, man. I'm pretty sure he expends many, many words talking about how goddamn black they were. (On further review... yep.)
These things [Cartman] seriously piss me off you guys [/Cartman]. Indeed they changed a lot of things. Notably, they changed the Michigan basketball program into a disaster zone. That only gets passing mention here because the downside of the OMG ATTITUDE(!) that is the Fab Five's true legacy hardly ever gets mentioned. With the baggy shorts came a lot of baggage you see reflected in people like Terrell Owens today, but try mentioning that as a negative side effect of the "urbanization"--and what a tidy euphemism that is--of sports and see how many different Jesse Jackson organizations sue you.
Also: I failed to "report" this when this "happened" but I'm a "loose cannon blogger" so you'll have to deal. Brent Petway is academically ineligible for the fall semester.
Diabolically friendly! Uh, yeah. SI On Campus decided to grace the Halloween post with a link for the better part of a day and traffic doubled-ish. If you're wondering, yes, this does somewhat dampen my enthusiasm for telling, say, Stuart Mandel to, say, "eat a dick." Er... again, that is. Definitely not a third time. Probably.
Delphi speaks. Bo:
"I don't know whether they can put it together or not; I really don't. ... They don't have a real good offensive line, their back is playing on one leg. The quarterback hasn't looked as good as they thought he would, and they lost a great receiver before the season, and now their safeties are out.
"Well, I don't know."
"They had so many injuries early, and they got off to a bad start and they didn't look good and they got beat by Notre Dame. ... They should never have lost to Notre Dame. My God, they had the ball down there and they should have won."
|1||10||M27||Run||Hart||1||Draw. Stenavich's man sheds and tackles.|
|2||9||M28||Pass||Avant||Inc||Tipped at the line. (BA)|
|3||9||M28||Pass||Avant||13||Tipped again; ominously, Riley just barely gets enough on the DE to push him past Henne. (BA)|
|1||10||M41||Pass||Avant||16||Nice slant to Avant. (DO)|
|1||10||O41||Run||Hart||3||Lentz pulls onto a linebacker, who stands him up at the LOS. Not so good.|
|2||7||O38||Run||Hart||20||Draw. Bass gets just enough of the LB/S to push him just past Hart and he moves through the hole.|
|1||10||O18||Run||Hart||3||This play isn't on the tape. Thanks ABC.|
|2||7||O15||Run||Hart||8||Draw once again. We're in a 3 WR set and they have six in the box. The blockers do well.|
|1||G||O8||Run||Hart||3||Hart has to cut back since the planned route of attack is totally stuffed.|
|2||G||O5||Pass||Avant||Inc||Henne overthrows Avant on a slant by six feet. (IN)|
|3||G||O5||Pass||Ecker||Inc||I'm going to be charitable and say that this was just thrown away since there was no one open. It's either that or another ridiculously overthrown ball. (TA)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 3-0, 10 min 1st Q. The runs that work are all draws. We are a finesse running team. Henne had Avant open but just rocketed it well above his head. Four points left on the board.|
|1||10||M39||Run||Hart||8||An off tackle here were Lentz gets a very good seal block and lets Hart dart up for a big chunk of yardage.|
|2||2||M47||Run||Hart||6||Draw. Hart jinks his way through a minefield of guys holding their blocks.|
|1||10||O47||Pass||Manningham||Pen / 15||Manningham is tackled by his man.|
|1||10||O32||Run||Manningham||-5||A reverse that doesn't work. Avant misses his block on the safety, otherwise I think Manningham gets the corner here.|
|2||15||O37||Pass||Avant||6||I think this is a checkdown. (CA)|
|3||9||O31||Pass||No one||Sack / -8||Riley gets destroyed by this Steve Davis kid, a freshman. At this point the elderly gentleman in front of me, who I do not know, turns to me and says "Is that Riley? Pathetic." I've got no response.|
|Drive Notes: 3-0, 3 min 1st Q. Davis is going to kill like three additional drives by owning whatever RT we throw out there.|
|1||10||M27||Pass||Ecker||Inc||Nice seam route to Ecker 23 yards downfield. Ecker drops it. (DO)|
|2||10||M27||Pass||Avant||14||Simple out to Avant which is somewhat overthrown. (CA).|
|1||10||M41||Run||Hart||1||Henige's block is to fall down in the general direction of the Minnesota defender, who disrupts the entire play.|
|2||9||M42||Pass||Dunno||Inc||The offensive line decides not to block the blitzer, who crushes henne as he attempts to throw. (BA)|
|3||9||M42||Pass||Tabb||7||Henne has all day here but can only dump it down to Carl Tabb, who is well short of the first down. (BR).|
|Drive Notes: 3-3, 11 min 2nd Q. Total busts on first and second down by the OL put Michigan in third and long.|
|1||10||M35||Run||Hart||5||This is indeed a fumble and it is recovered by Minnesota. After video review, the player was ruled down? What? The Gophers got screwed here.|
|2||5||M40||Run||Hart||1||Jesus. Davis just decides that Mike Kolodziej is an annoying fly and gets rid of him, then tackles hart.|
|3||4||M39||Pass||No one||Sack / -3||Henige is forced to hold Montomgery, who gets the sack anyway. Henne is tentative and not throwing the ball on time. I refuse to believe that the toasterrific Minnesota secondary is covering Avant and Manningham.|
|Drive Notes: 3-3 8 min 2nd Q. Another big play by Davis and then Henige can't block Montgomery. The OL is killing us.|
|1||10||M26||Pass||Manningham||11||Out to Manningham. (CA)|
|1||10||M37||Pass||Breaston||18 + 15||Roughing the passer after the completion to Breaston, who turns his man completely around on his post-out. (DO).|
|1||10||O30||Pass||Avant||Inc||Tipped by the LB in the zone. He's staring down Avant and thus he's surrounded by like four guys. (BR)|
|2||10||O30||Pass||Massaquoi||Inc||Sure, throw to the guy with one hand. (CA)|
|3||10||O30||Pass||Avant||Inc||Avant's open in the end zone and Henne plain misses him. (IN).|
|Drive Notes: FG. 6-3 6 min 2nd Q. I really dislike these downfield throws on third down. It would be one thing if Henne was having a good year and nailing guys who came open 20 yards downfield, but that's not happening.|
|1||10||O23||Run||Hart||0||This Steve Davis kid can play. He stands up Ecker and then nimbly avoids Thompson's block and makes the tackle for no gain.|
|2||10||O23||Pass||Breaston||18||Breaston's wide open as Avant and Manningham clear it out for him. (CA)|
|1||G||O5||Pass||Avant||Inc||This fade is badly overthrown. (IN)|
|2||G||O5||Run||Hart||4||Good blocking by Lentz and Thompson makes a crease that Hart can exploit. Big play.|
|3||G||O1||Run||Hart||0||This is the exact same play that failed on 4th and 1 versus Wisconsin. Again the pulling guard Lentz doesn't block anyone.|
|4||G||O1||Run||Hart||1||He makes it but isn't easy. No pull here just an F-U iso play.|
|Drive Notes: TD, 13-3 3 min 2nd Q. Thompson has asserted himself as the starting FB and is doing a pretty good job. He's not Dudley but he's not a disaster.|
|1||10||M31||Pass||Massaquoi||Inc||I think he's throwing it away here since Mass is triple covered, but he doesn't even bother with his other reads. (TA)|
|2||10||M31||Pass||Massaquoi||Inc||A freaking bullet over the middle that's high and incomplete, though he has to throw it like so given the coverage. Why are we throwing to Mass here? (marginally CA)|
|Drive Notes: TD, 13-10, 36 sec 2nd Q. Not exactly go go gadget two minute drill.|
|1||10||M47||Run||Hart||4||Another draw; these all seem to open up big holes between the tackles and guards, probably because the DEs are screaming upfield.|
|2||6||O49||Pass||Ecker||Inc||Dropped by Ecker. You TEs are killing me. (DO)|
|3||6||O49||Pass||Breaston||9||Finally ahead of his guy on the crossing route by a yard or two. Henne leads him just right. (DO)|
|1||10||O40||Pass||Avant||10||Wide open on the out, but this throw is not exactly on the money. (CA)|
|1||10||O30||Run||Hart||8||Stenavich seals the DE when he slants inside on the snap, opening up the weak side.|
|2||2||O22||Pass||Avant||Inc||Play action. Henne steps up and fires it towards the corner of the endzone for Avant and misses him. (IN)|
|3||2||O22||Run||Hart||-3||Riley screws up his block, fouling this up and disrupting Thompson's blocking route. As a result the LB shoots up into the gap unmolested and makes a TFL.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG, 20-20, 4 min 3rd Q. Rivas isn't even close. The RT position has killed two drives so far and there's a third one coming up. I again dislike the call on second and two here, and I swear I said that in the stadium.|
|1||10||M17||Run||Hart||6||Lentz pulls onto the linebacker well enough to crack open a hole that Hart squirts through.|
|2||4||M23||Run||Hart||-2||We're running into an eight man front and tip the direction of the run with the FB shuffle. Minnesota flows to the ball and overwhelms the blocking immediately.|
|3||6||M21||Pass||No one||Sack / -9||Davis blows past Kolodziej for the sack very quickly. Griese starts talking about Henne holding the ball too long but he'd hardly finished his drop. No replay to see about the coverage.|
|Drive Notes: 20-20, EO 3rd Q. Davis is killing us; refusing to adapt to the defense presented to us is not helping either.|
|1||10||M26||Pass||Manningham||7||Pretty obvious screen with Ecker going in motion to the top of the formation, but it works. (CA)|
|2||3||M33||Run||Hart||9||Pure draw here and Hart sheds a DT's arm tackle.|
|1||10||M42||Run||Hart||7||Great block by Thompson crushes the defensive end and springs Hart for a nice gain.|
|2||3||M49||Run||Hart||2||Initially stopped a the LOS by the eighth guy in the box but somehow Hart falls into a third and less than a yard.|
|3||1||O49||Run||Hart||4||Hart cuts right inside of Henige's pull block for the first down.|
|1||10||O45||Pass||Thompson||10||Play action; Manningham was probably open as has been mentioned but it's hard to complain about a first down. (CA)|
|1||10||O35||Run||Hart||16||Draw right up the middle. Another good block from the fullback blows the hole open; think it's still Thompson.|
|1||10||O19||Run||Hart||-2||Attempted sweep right is pretty well fouled up and Hart trips. This was going nowhere anyway.|
|2||12||O21||Pass||Manningham||Inc||Henne is really late with this throw and by the time he finds Manningham he's covered. Probably a checkdown. Henne had to throw it away from the DB. (IN)|
|3||12||O21||Pass||Manningham||4||A slip screen that never really has a chance.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG, 20-20, 9 min 4th Q. What can you say? Rivas has become hennebriated.|
|1||10||M28||Run||Hart||0||Draw; Hart has an avenue but slips on his cut.|
|2||10||M28||Pass||Avant||12||Ton of time and Henne has Avant on the comeback. (CA)|
|1||10||M40||Penalty||15||Michigan goes deep to Avant and picks up a PI. Dunno, think that's a weak call.|
|1||10||O45||Run||Hart||0||Run up the gut does nothing. Massaquoi has no one to block on the outside so there's an unblocked guy up the middle and he sticks Hart.|
|2||10||O45||Pass||No one||Scramble / 2||Either no one open or Henne just can't read the defense.|
|3||8||O43||Pass||No one||Inc||Throws this away after bailing way, way to early. It's a three man rush and he rolls out, freeing a rusher to pressure him. (BR).|
|Drive Notes: 20-20, 3 min 4th Q. We never get the ball back.|
Who in the hell is Steve Davis?
Well, he's a defensive end from Missouri, a true freshman, and foremost among the reasons Minnesota won. People are just starting to write articles about him, but you heard it here first: this guy is good. Four separate times he snuffed out UM drives largely or entirely on his own, generally by exploding past whichever RT was starring in the role of Courtney Morgan at that particular moment. Twice he sacked Henne; once he blew up a third and two run play.
Would Jake Long have done better? No doubt. But Davis still deserves copious credit. No defensive end to date, including ND's Victor Abiamiri, had been able to take advantage of our questionable situation at RT to such an extent.
So our offensive problems were on the shoulders of Riley and Kolodziej?
That was certainly a large part of why we bogged down but not all of it. There were several instances of missed blocks by the two guards and Stenavich did not get much push on the non-draw running plays (plays that we largely abandoned). The offensive line held its ground and kept players engaged on many of Hart's successful runs, but that's about all you can say for them.
Henne didn't have a great game. It wasn't as bad as the Wisconsin performance but it wasn't very efficient, either:
|Team||Dead on||Catchable||Inaccurate||Bad Read||Throwaways||Batted|
I tried to have the stats reflect something I suspect was the case from attending the game but can't confirm because of the way football is broadcast: Henne seemed to throw late or sit in the pocket unable to find an open receiver too often against a weak Minnesota secondary. A couple of these were counted as bad reads.
Four of Henne's five inaccurate passes were thrown towards an open Avant in the endzo ne. Michigan scored on one of those drives, got a field goal on another, and crapped out on the other two. Two of the throws were relatively deep downfield (20-30 yards), the other two were a fade launched into the crowd and a badly overthrown slant.
No picks but there were instances where Henne was hesitant to throw and did not go through his progressions. Four passes were dropped; Henne was also sacked three times.
So what's the problem?
Uh... everything? If we had one unit playing really well we could overcome the plays the others waste but it seems that every unit is the source of consistent error. Henne overthrows his receivers; the offensive line can't block very well; the tight ends and receivers drop passes; the running backs fumble; the wide receivers don't get open enough. No one unit is completely inept, but neither is any particularly reliable (other than units named "Mike Hart"). You know it's bad when even Jason Avant has been the source of a couple third-down drops.
Is there any hope?
I doubt the offensive line gets any more reliable sans Jake Long and Henne's got the yips real bad. He has reacted poorly to pressure. That said, we have outgained most opponents so far and are just a few plays here and there away from repeating that robotically effective NIU performance. I don't think it's time to send for the coroner just yet.
What does it mean for Penn State?
Ugh. The idea of Tamba Hali going up against Riley/Kolodziej is extremely unappealing, especially with Connor and Posluszny backing him up and flowing right into the holes our draw-heavy run game uses. We absolutely cannot afford to spurn the few scoring chances we earn against the Lions, as they are going to shut down our offense for most of the day unless we suddenly right the ship--possible but only distantly so. It'll come down to Henne's poise and accuracy. If he finds a man open downfield he has to hit him: that's how we won the MSU game and that's how we lost, well, the rest of them.
First, if you care about that last play in the Minnesota game I suggest you check the comments on yesterday's voracity. There's a lot of intelligent discussion (much of it disagreeing with me) about the play and exactly what the problems were. I still hold to my belief that the call was a major coaching mistake above all, but you can read both sides and decide for yourself.
I have to be faster because people keep "stealing" my obvious column ideas. Offtackle beats me to the halfway point punch with six reasons Michigan has done poorly. I agree that QB play and the Long injury have been major problems but I think the problem on defense hasn't so much been tackling as extremely poor play by the outside linebackers, who have all too frequently tried to run around blocks instead of taking them on and have let running backs escape contain with disturbing frequency. And who knows what's going on with Breaston? Crap crap crap crap great game. Is it injury or is he just not as good as we thought? Probably some of both.
The Athletic Department, in the hunt for funding for new stadium renovations, has floated the idea of building a new level of indoor luxury seating, a proposal that while potentially lucrative, risks irreparably altering the face of the Big House as we've come to know it. Athletic Director Bill Martin, in weighing different alternatives to offset construction costs, should consider the stadium's structural and commercial integrity as nothing less than sacrosanct.
(Someone hit the author with "Elements of Style" before he writes again.) I'm all for removing the head of the first AD who approves that advertising in Michigan Stadium and placing it on a pike on Stadium as a warning to others who would be so foolhardy, but I don't get this. If people want to pay an insane amount of money to sit very far away from the game, we should encourage them. Luxury boxes will help shift the burden of funding Michigan Athletics towards the people with enough disposable income to purchase a small island and away from people like, well, me. They'll also get some of the ancient, silent people who actively detract from the atmosphere of the stadium into a quarantined place where they can no longer ask me to sit on third and five in the fourth quarter. How is getting rid of several thousand of these people going to hurt anything? The idea that Michigan Stadium--where the new PSLs have made seats between the twenties approximately twice as expensive as endzone seats, where the only way to get said seats is to donate a metric buttload of money to the athletic department--is somehow an egalitarian place where Downriver Bob in his Red Wings pleather jacket and Grosse Point Bunny in her mink stoal commune as one with the football team found therein is, uh, interesting. Bring on the rich old people bilking-machines, I say! Huzzah!
My only concern with the proposed renovations is they put a fairly hard cap on the ultimate seating capacity of the stadium--personally I would add a dozen or so rows to the top of the stadium before sealing the sides off with relatively immobile luxury/press boxes. I'm talking Maracana here. Screw this "largest crowd watching a football game in America" stuff. I want "largest crowd watching anything in the Solar System."
The BCS could be only one of its annual train wrecks away from going directly to some sort of a playoff system.
At least that's the view of BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg.
"If the majority of the folks agreed to take a look at something like that, it could possibly happen," Weiberg said. "It's hard to predict what would trigger our presidents changing their minds about the structure.
"But, if we have another year with three major teams unbeaten and one left out of the championship game or some additional situation, that could cause folks to at least think about it."
In hindsight this extra-bowl-a-week-after thing does look mighty convenient. The idea of a college football playoff has been beaten to death, reanimated, and then beaten to death again in this space, so I'll skip it this time. But: yay.