that is nice bonus change
Run Offense vs. Minnesota
Mike Hart ground out 4 yards per carry against a good defensive front despite running into stacked lines most of the afternoon. That's nice. Minnesota is not a good defensive front, which is nice, too. Purdue's two-headed running back racked up 166 yards on 25 carries, but Purdue is a passing team was running from shotgun spread looks and that weird pistol formation, so the results may not be applicable if we decide to plow ahead with our zone running game -- something Minnesota's familiar with -- into stacked fronts. Our line hasn't been creating creases very much, leaving Hart to attempt backside cuts where eighth guys (or un-cut DEs) are waiting in the weeds.
The result against Minnesota should be more of the same, especially since the Gophers are should be adept at avoiding cuts while Michigan is not adept at making them. The assumption: Minnesota will dare us to beat them with the pass, and we will run. Every once in a while we will take advantage of their aggressiveness but not frequently enough for the internet's tastes. Hart has a similar day to the one he had versus Wisconsin, except he picks up another 20 or 30 yards because of the downgrade in the defense he opposes.
Key Matchup: Mike DeBord versus Obvious Playcalling. If Minnesota stacks the line they're begging to have their corners ritually humiliated. Running into those fronts might keep the game close enough for wacky stuff to happen and bring on ignominious defeat.
Pass Offense vs. Minnesota
Year to date Michigan's passing game has been deployed sparingly but effectively, ranking 31st in the country in efficiency despite a spate of dropped balls and the occasional meaningless interception. Chad Henne's accuracy has vastly improved since the bad old days at the beginning of 2005. Meanwhile, Adrian Arrington is in the process of emerging into a reliable second option behind Mario Manningham -- who just emerged into a full-fledged #1 receiver himself. Steve Breaston provides a threat from the slot (yes, if he catches the ball) and Michigan has a trio of pass-catching tight ends they love throwing three-yard-outs to on third and eight. The main question is the protection, as Rueben Riley is still vulnerable at right tackle.
The bottom line: if Steve Davis is blocked, Minnesota will get shredded like wheat. Curtis Painter was given hours in the pocket but singlehandedly prevented Purdue from running up 45 or so by missing open wide receivers. Given Henne's improved accuracy to date, if Michigan receives the same amount of time to throw the results will be impressive. Purdue has a veteran line with no outstanding weaknesses, though -- not something that can be said about Michigan.
Key Matchup: Rueben Riley versus Steve Davis. Minnesota was blitz-allergic versus Purdue despite their obvious lack of pressure, no doubt because their faith in their cornerbacks is approaching nil. Davis appears to be their only way to get to the quarterback. Of note: Davis won the the battle handily a year ago.
Run Defense Vs Minnesota
Minnesota's bread and butter for years takes a step back, finally, with the departures of Laurence Maroney, Gary Russell, Greg Eslinger, and Mark Setterstrom. New running backs Alex Daniels and Amir Pinnix aren't chopped liver but neither are they potential NFL first-rounders, especially the 250-pound Daniels, a linebacker until recently. Pinnix is decent back used to zone cuts and with decent speed, but does not put the fear of God into you like Maroney did.
Sure, the Gophers are 8th nationally in rushing yardage, but they struggled against Cal, gaining only 109 yards on 32 carries versus a good front seven, but one that does not compare to Michigan's. Though opponents have been robbed of rushing yards by sacks and severe deficits, Michigan is the #1 rush defense in the country for good reason and should prove it again on Saturday. Twelve rushing yards might be a bit optimistic, but more than around 120 would be a surprise.
Key Matchup: Rondell Biggs and Lamarr Woodley versus Gopher tackles. The surest way to disrupt the perimeter running game of Minnesota is for your defensive ends to get upfield and cut off the corners. With Taylor, Johnson, and Branch on the inside matching up against new starters, if Biggs and Woodley can close down the outside more often than not Minnesota will be forced into third and long with frequency.
Pass Defense vs. Minnesota
I have a sneaking suspicion that Minnesota's excellent pass protection versus Purdue says more about the Purdue pass rush than Minnesota's line. Purdue's senior DE Anthony Spencer, the closest thing to a star their defense has, sacked Cupito twice by beating Minnesota tackles one-on-one. The Boilers' third sack was similar but from an anonymous DE whose name I don't recall. All three were instant pass rush Cupito had no chance to avoid. Given the rest of the Purdue line's performance in both phases of the game, it's safe to say they're not exactly stars in the making. I expect significantly more pressure from Michigan's beastly defensive line.
Minnesota poses a bigger threat in the passing game than Wisconsin did, figuratively and literally. They feature a trio of huge targets in 6'4" Logan Payne, 6'5" Ernest Wheelwright, and 6'6" Matt Spaeth, all of whom have the ability to fetch the jump balls that are a Cupito speciality. Wheelwright is the deep threat, with Payne being more a possession type (yes, he is white) and Spaeth being a tight end, but any and all are threats downfield. The catch? Cupito is still average at best, erratic with his accuracy and not particularly mobile. Against Purdue he was terrible. The chances of long drives featuring multiple third-down conversions from Cupito's arm are slim.
Key Matchup: Hall versus Wheelwright. Expect a few JBPHJBs (Jeff Bowden Patented Hopeful Jump Balls), all of which should be directed at Wheelwright. Michigan was fairly good on deep balls versus Notre Dame but let McKnight behind the defense on occasion.
Michigan has an advantage in the form of one Steve Breaston, especially since the Wisconsin game featured the best punt return setups Michigan has featured in the past year or two. The gunners were still being singled but the two guys Michigan drops off the line were getting back to effectively double team them more often than not, opening up a lot of room for Breaston to work his magic. Minnesota does have a good returner in SS Dominic Jones, who's averaging 11 yards a punt return and has a kick return touchdown this year, but he hasn't proven himself to the extent Breaston has.
Jason Gianni is a decent kicker who's made 17 of 24 in his career to date. Garrett Rivas is 8 of 9 so far this year.
Key Matchup: Breaston versus futile attempts to contain him.
This almost a double-digit spread, so no kittens. Especially because it seems weirdly low for a team that was killed in its one outing versus good competition and lost to Purdue, who is bad.
- We continue running into stacked fronts.
- Our run defense suddenly looks mortal.
- Henne reverts.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Steve Davis is as invisible as he was versus Purdue.
- Our offensive line starts shoving the Minnesota DL into Lake Michigan.
- The playcalling takes what the defense gives us.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for We Seem Allergic To The Metrodome; -1 for You Basically Have Wisconsin's Offense; -1 for You Definitely Don't Have Wisconsin's Defense; -1 for And You Lost To Purdue).
Desperate need to win level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Don't Blow It; +1 for The Jug is of Minor Signif
icance; +1 for Our Opponent Is Not Good)
Loss will cause me to... attempt to implant some sort of mind-control device into Mike DeBord.
Win will cause me to... pray that Michigan State's annual stupid upset comes against anyone except us.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Minnesota has crushed three of the worst defenses in the country and been largely stoned by Cal, who are somewhere between good and very good when they bother to tackle people running outs. Michigan's defense is at least as good as Cal's, but hasn't seen a run offense that could potentially hurt them yet -- PJ Hill was never really a threat. The Gophers have a few playmakers in the receiving corps, something Wisconsin lacked, and will move the ball in fits and starts but this isn't Purdue.
Defensively, Minnesota is no good and will get throttled if Michigan diversifies its playcalling.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Still many first-down runs into stacked fronts.
- Arrington scores.
- 30-10, Michigan.
Okay: the deal in all its gory detail.
- Dave from Tikilounge posts a comment stating Trent's hand is broken. I check around for confirmation on the Internet, there is none, I file it away for later.
- Report from a guy who has Trent on his IM that his away message says "going under the knife."
- Friend of mine IMs me, says Trent's hand is broken. Says Dave and a friend both bowl with the Trents and heard it from Trent's father. I post the rumor.
- Someone posts a snarky rebuttal that declares Trent to be just darn-tootin' fine, nevermind the internets. I'm confused by the strength of their assertions and post that they're probably right.
- Source B confirms story. An emailer responds with a third source who talked to Trent's dad after the initial report. Source C says his hand is broken and he had two pins placed in it. Says his status for Minnesota is questionable and that his father would prefer for him to rest the injury.
That's it. Four separate pieces of information that indicate Trent is indeed injured. You make the call. Personally, I believe me and wish I had stuck by my initial assertion.
Since there are no Minnesota bloggers out there, there's no Vicious Electronic Questioning this week. In its stead: a game impressions column on the Minnesota-Purdue game.
It's tough to judge the Minnesota offense against a team that's given up 35 points to Indiana State, 31 to Fake Miami (as Mark Hasty would put it), and 28 to Ball State. Boiler fans may argue that some of those points were put up in garbage time (7 to ISU and 14 to Ball State), but I repeat: Indiana State and Ball State. But we're going to try anyway.
Minnesota Pass Offense
...is severely hampered by Brian Cupito. Minnesota's impressive receiving trio of Matt Spaeth, Ernest Wheelwright, and Logan Payne got open quite a bit on what should be a legendarily bad Purdue secondary. It was about 50-50 whether Cupito could manage to hit whichever guy broke wide open. Minnesota ran a ton of WR screens as a result that worked decently well, but Payne is closer to Jeff Samarjaeixkia with the ball in his hands than Steve Breaston: not bad but not electric, either.
And it's not like Cupito's problems came from a fierce pass rush. Purdue ended up with three sacks, but those were essentially the only times they got any sort of rush on him. Is that a sign of a surprisingly competent offensive line or just a crappy Purdue rush? I don't know. Purdue does have a star defensive end in Anthony Spencer, who got two of his five sacks on the year versus the Gophers. His pass rush was held largely in check the rest of the game, though.
Minnesota Run Offense
...looked as strong as ever versus Purdue. Amir Pinnix has claimed the starting job from 250-pound converted linebacker Alex Daniels. Against Purdue, he showed himself adept at the quick zone cuts required of Minnesota backs and had a number of impressive runs. Daniels, on the other hand, is a lot like PJ Hill. He's a thumper but if you make him change direction in the backfield he's toast. I doubt he'll have much success versus us.
Of note: while our zone runs feature all our linemen moving in unison, when Minnesota runs to the outside they almost always pull a guard or the center or both to create a hole at the point of attack. Against Purdue they also faked end-arounds frequently, which opened up backside holes on a few of Pinnix's better runs.
This is not a game we're going to hold our opponent to 12 yards rushing, but it will give us some definitive proof about the rushing defense.
Minnesota Pass Defense
...yikes. Much like Cupito, Curtis Painter spent a large portion of the game vastly overthrowing wide open receivers. He he made a number of good throws but was far from surgical. Of note: while Purdue got to Cupito at least a few times, no Gopher came within three yards of Painter the whole game. What happened to Steve Davis, who terrorized Rueben Riley a year ago? I don't know. Purdue does have a veteran line that may well be better than Michigan's -- our performance in pass protection versus Minnesota will be a good measuring stick.
Coverage was somewhere between understandably spotty and nonexistent. Dorient Bryant was Manningham-versus-ND open on a second-quarter flag route that went for a touchdown. Purdue's tight end had a 50 or 60 yard reception to dig the Boilers out of a big hole when he got way behind the Minnesota linebackers.
Minnesota Run Defense
Had the occasional nice play, but also featured a lot of flaming incompetence. Kory Sheets and Jaycen Taylor -- both fast little scatback sorts -- combined for 166 yards on 25 carries, almost all of it from either a spread shotgun or that weird "pistol" half-shotgun that is coming into vogue. With six or seven guys in the box, they couldn't handle Purdue's rush game. Defensive tackles got no penetration, leaving linebackers attempting to pick through the mess and usually a blocker to get to a running back. When Minnesota brought an extra player in the unblocked linebacker flowed to the ball well, but without overloading the box the Gophers were helpless.
Chris from Dangerous Logic proposed a theory: our running game may struggle more versus Minnesota than it would against other teams of similar talent because Minnesota's defense has seen plenty of zone running. I buy that to some extent, but this front isn't Wisconsin or even Notre Dame's. If we can't consistently open up holes against them it's a bad sign.
Right: people who have better connections than I checked into Trent, who was reported to be A-OK. This is obviously a "my bad" situation and I hereby offer apologies for any panic caused. I endeavor not to report rumors unless they trip a certain level of credibility... this one had that, but was still wrong.
I will now undergo a ritual of self-mutilation and purification to purge myself of this deed.
|Against the strength of the formation â€“ probably wise as Wisconsin anticipates run, bringing a linebacker up tight against the TE and moving a safety into the box. Hart(+1) turns this into four by breaking the tackle of MLB Zalewski, who's unblocked. Riley was following him around but that's a tough block to attempt.|
|M24||2||6||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||14||Arrington||PA Out|
|Token draw fake. Henne goes through his five-step drop and fires immediately to an open Arrington a couple yards short of the sticks. Zone defender to his side has been run off by a Manningham fly route, resulting in a lot of space for YAC. (CA)|
|If Ecker can get his man pushed back a couple yards Hart gets a wide-open corner and a first down. As it is, he is shoved himself, forcing aHart cutback. That would have been just fine but Alex Mitchell(-1) fails to cut the DT, who cleans up on the backside.|
|Wisconsin covers this very well, leaving Henne no one to throw to. He keeps running for a first down. Mobility! (TA)|
|We run into eight guys; unsurprisingly the box is completely jammed. Hart(+2) meets a Wisconsin defender a yard into the backfield but somehow manages to drive forward for four. Spielman notices this, too, and points out the victimized player. When he's not going BOOM or POW! He's an able color commentator.|
|O48||2||6||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||4||Breaston||Slip screen|
|Read very well by Langford (I think). Breaston is forced inside and tackled by the linebacker flowing to his spot. I think we need some patterns that exploit a defense's tendency to insta-attack whenever Breaston starts running parallel to the line of scrimmage. (CA)|
|Throw might be a tiny bit high, but it hits Manningham(-2) right in the hands and ricochets into the air. Not Henne's fault at all. Manningham is fallible. But only just. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q. Something that's beginning to bother me: 3/3 first down runs, two of them from a three-wide formation against eight in the box.|
|M27||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||10||Manningham||PA Out|
|Actually only six in the box. The reason? Wisconsin sends two corners on the snap, but they start so far from Henne that getting to him in time to do anything useful is very doubtful: this is a run blitz. We don't run, and Manningham is open on the sidelines for an easy pitch and catch. (CA)|
|Eight in the box, and it's the eighth guy who cuts off the outside when Ecker turns his man in, forcing Hart to cut it up. First contact here is at the LOS. Hart(+1) makes four yards out of nothing again.|
|Seven in the box, one of them spread out to nominally cover a slot reciever on the strong side. We run weakside and there looks to be an excellent hole for a moment until Zalewski closes it down, unblocked. Bihl did not get out on him, although it looks like he might be getting held.|
|Henne slips trying to plant when he finishes his drop, and Deandre Levy is upon him immediately, having beaten Riley(-2) badly. (PR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 6 min 1st Q. 4/5 first down runs, 3 into eight-man fronts. Hart hasn't had a hole yet but manages to make four yards on every play.|
|M29||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||33||Arrington||Seam (2)|
|UW tries to go straight man with a safety on Arrington, who proves thats a bad idea by streaking down the seam. Before the throw Henne looked off the safety, opening the route even further. (DO)|
|Seven in the box and even though Kraus totally whiffs on the WLB, Hart(+2) cuts to the backside â€“ adequately cleared this time â€“ and breaks tackles for ten yards.|
|Eight in the box. Hart cuts behind a linebacker when Jake Long manages to get a bare touch on him, knocking him off balance. Safety fills.|
|Well-read by Wisconsin. Breaston(+2) manages to turn this from -4 into +4 by beating two separate defenders four yards apart.|
|Hart cuts back and meets two Wisconsin defenders. Normally I think he gets this, but not this time.|
|I though they thought they had less yardage to go. 6/8 first down runs, 4 into eight.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-7, EOF.|
|O36||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||8||Hart||Off tackle|
|Long(+2) destroys the defensive end, pancaking him and getting a linebacker caught in the wash as a result. Hart has a ton of room.|
|Seven in the box. Hart cuts back to an open backside when no holes appear. Ecker(+1) did a good job delaying the pursuers.|
|O24||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||24||Manningham||Stop and go (2, 3)|
|Manningham(+2) is kind of good. He's just smooth. Henne's throw is where it needs to be. (DO)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 13 min 2nd Q. The slickness of Mario: He briefly slows his route a little bit to prevent Langford from getting in position to deflect the ball, then gracefully jumps back and snags it. Outstanding! 7/9 FDR, 4 vs. 8.|
|Eight in the box, we run to the weakside away from the eighth .Looks like there's going to be a nice hole between Long and Kraus but when Kraus disengages from the DT Bihl(-1) gets shoved back a couple yards, closing the gap. If Hayden is dealt with this is a nice gain.|
|A four yard miracle from Steve Breaston(+1) as Manningham(-1) whiffs on a Wisconsin DB, forcing Breaston to dance just to get back to the line. (CA)|
|Plenty of time to convert a five-yard throw but Henne does not fire. I can tell you that Arrington's short cross was well covered but TV does no reveal the disposition of the others. The bell goes off in Henne's head and he gives up on the play to start scrambling just as Hart's about to release for a short flat route. That combination allows a linebacker tasked with covering Hart to come up and sack Henne as he tries to run. Um... TA.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 10 min 2nd Q. 8/10 FDR, 5 vs. 8.|
|Pass is sailed by Henne; Manningham goes up and gets it. Vaguely CA.|
|Eight in the box with a ninth guy, the safety, coming up at the snap. He jumps when we hand the ball off and fills the hole that eventually forms a couple yards from the sideline. We actually had those eight guys blocked.|
|Play action rollout to the short side of the field has no one open, so we throw it away. (TA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-10, 4 min 2nd Q. 8/11 FDR.|
|Ugly. Seven guys nominally in the box against this passing formation. Guy #7 is lined up inside of Arrington, making it extremely hard to block him. He comes in and forces Hart to cut back into nothing.|
|I'm tired of this play, which is an obvious tipoff as to our intentions: TE who can't block in the backfield == pass, often to the Incredibly Surprising TE coming out of the backfield. It is this time, we throw it, and Wisconsin is not surprised. (CA)|
|Ton of time for Henne but no one is open. He fires it onto the crowd. (TA)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 10-10, 3 min 2nd Q. 9/12 FDR.|
|WTF is Riley(-2) thinking? Henne's pass is batted into the air, then caught by Riley, who immediately falls down, losing nine yards and keeping the clock running. Just knock it down. Would have been the dumbest thing I saw Saturday if a Spartan hadn't kneeled down at the 12 yard line on a kickoff return. (BA)|
|TV hardly picks this play up at all. (CA)|
|Can't blame Henne too much on this one. Manningham's running a slant and go but gets jammed and is not open. Breaston's sideline route is not a good option but the other option is Unblocked Wisconsin Blitzer. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 1 min 2nd Q. 9/13 FDR, but this one is a two minute drill and maybe shouldn't count.|
|Only seven-ish in the box but neither linebacker has anything resembling a blocker approach him. One meets Hart in the hole for a minimal gain.|
|Rifled and a bit high, but like the earlier interception this goes right through a wide receiver's hands and should be caught. (CA)|
|M48||3||7||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||3||Ecker||Shallow cross|
|Everyone hates this route but this one is open. If Ecker has another couple yards before the sideline he can turn this up for first down yardage but by the time Henne comes to his route that ain't happening. Mistimed and (IN).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-10, 12 min 3rd Q. 10/14 FDR.|
|Nominally seven in the box with UW in their base defense w/ a linebacker shaded over the slot receiver. He comes up on the backside when we run our play; Hart cuts back there as everyone gets blocked except him, and he makes the tackle after a decent gain.|
|M39||2||5||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||14||Manningham||PA Out|
|Spielman has just called our quarterback "Chad Henry" for about the fifth time. Anyway: zone PA and Henne drops back to pass, hitting Mario just as he comes out of his break. And a good thing, too, as Ikegwuonu was right on top of him. (DO)|
|We run into eight guys just sitting in the box. No stemming or D changes, just eight guys in the box with their corners playing ten yards off our Wrs. Stupid.|
|Our first successful screen of the year finds Hart out with Mitchell and Bihl with two linebackers coming up. Hart cuts up behind Mitchell for a good gain when trying to split his OL would have resulted in five or six yards instead. Nice read. (CA)|
|Eight in the box. We actually get a linebacker blocked by a wide receiver and there is the potential for a hole except Riley(-1) doesn't do anything to his man on the backside other than follow him to said hole. Hart tries to cut outside and is stymied.|
|The interception in the endzone. Henne should never have thrown this pass, as Langford is a step and half in front of Manningham. If it's third down in this situation, sure, wing that mother, but on second down check it down to Hart â€“ who didn't have a linebacker anywhere near him â€“ and get yourself in a makeable third down. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 10-10, 6 min 3rd Q. 13/17 FDR.|
|Great coverage by Ikegwuonu here forces a throw low and to the outside that Mario digs out. (CA)|
|Probably the correct read here â€“ Ecker was covered farther downfield. (CA)|
|Finally we try one of these to test those way-off corners. Unfortunately, Langford manages to grab Breaston's collar and drag him down. We should have been doing this all the time on first down. (CA)|
|O38||3||4||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||38||Manningham||Slant and go (2, 3)|
|Eet's a touchdown this time as Manningham's slant and go burns Langford like crispy toast. Henne lays it in his arms like soft baby. (DO)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-10, 3 mind 3rd Q. 13/19 FDR.|
|M27||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||14 + 5||Hart||Zone|
|Seven in the box == big cutback opportunity as Hart can diagnose and deal with the filling safety with a couple extra seconds. He ditches him, then stiffarms the hell out of Langford for another five or six yards, plus an incidental facemask on the way.|
|Wisconsin walks an eighth guy up, and we run away from him. Both linebackers get blocked by OL moving to the second level (finally), but Hart's bumped at the line and somewhat disrupted. Still good for five.|
|Eight in the box. Newkirk gets free because we ask Kraus to impossibly block a guy lined up to the playside, and there's nowhere to go after that.|
|Henne wings it wide of Breaston, but it's doubtful he gets the first down anyway. These throws are too common in this offense and easily read. (IN)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, EO 3rd Q. 15/21 FDR.|
|I have no idea how he does this. There's nowhere for him to run; he stops; he's dead in the water; some guys fall down and he's seven yards downfield. Don't ask me how.|
|Hits Arrington right in stride way downfield on the run. (DO)|
|Riley(-1) driven into the backfield, fouling the intended direction.|
|O5||2||G||I-Form 2TE||Run||5||Hart||Iso (2)|
|Mitchell has a lot of trouble handling the UW DT; Hart is forced to stop when a linebacker come up unblocked and dives at his legs. He breaks the tackle, cuts behind Mitchell and he's in. Made that by himself.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-10, 11 min 4th Q. 17/23 FDR.|
|Momentary re-position of the ball does not appear to be a trick play attempt, as no one is on a route. Also this is Michigan with a two-touchdown fourth quarter lead we're talking about, come on. Backside DE has great contain... it's Jamal Cooper, glorified linebacker, but Manningham get back to the los.|
|Eight in the box; POA jammed; Grady is not Hart.|
|Wide open; perfect throw. (CA)|
|Cutback isn't really open as the backside DE is unmolested by Riley(-1) but Grady manages to power through his tackle and gain decent yardage.|
|Cuts it up and delivers a blow to the dfender, getting two yards after contact and the first.|
|They're stacking the line and we don't care... nor should we at this point. This is a run run run FG situation.|
|Run into the wad. Yay wad.|
|I don't agree with this playcall: run the ball into the line and kick the FG. Don't get Henne killed.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 27-10, ballgame. 20/26 FDR.|
What was the deal with that last interception?
I dunno. Lloyd muttered something about it being third down or some such stuff after the game, but that wouldn't have passed a polygraph test. I guess he was ticked Bielema called his last timeout. Still, dropping back to pass there can only lead to bad things in that situation, like Henne getting his face broken and the beginning of the Jason Forcier era. With just over a minute left and Wisconsin out of timeouts, running into the line almost ends the game. Figure five seconds for the play, forty before the play clock runs out on fourth down, eight seconds for a punt, and then the clock winds when the ball is ready for play. UW would get one or two plays at most. Weird.
Maybe he's trying to get Manningham the Heisman.
Grumble grumble mutter mutter playcalling grumble. Debord!
I'm with you. Michigan spent around half of its first downs running into eight guys and another chunk running into seven from a three-wide set, which is functionally equivalent. Fully 20(!) of Michigan's 26 plays on first down were runs*, which is a big flashing sign that says "BAD OLD DAYS" to me. A big reason that hards YPC average to date is somewhat disappointing is his frequent deployment into obvious rush defenses. He's still doing his thing, but a combination of bad blocking and predictable playcalling means he's dodging tacklers at or before the line of scrimmage instead of three yards downfield.
The end result was a lot of plays where Hart turned something that should have been zero yards into four. I guess the theory is that teams will be incredibly surprised -- note the lack of Ironic Caps -- when Michigan throws to Arrington down the middle and thus those plays will be both safe and yard-rich, but in the summer doldrums I highlighted a post from Smart Football that discussed the proper distribution of run and pass calls for maximum awesomeness. The upshot was that you should balance it such that your passes are only a bit more efficient than your runs, as passes are a bit more risky. The "passing premium" cited by Smart Football is about a yard. Year to date, Michigan averages 4 yards per rush and 7.8 per pass, which is way out of whack. We've also ran fully two-thirds of the time: 181 rushing attempts to just 90 passing.
Before Wisconsin I was willing to dismiss that as two games against patsies and a weird game versus ND that we led by a billion points the whole way, but the stubborn decision to plow ahead into a good defense stacked against the run in a tight game was lame. I don't mind running on 55 or 60 percent of first downs, but 75 percent is almost certainly hurting our offense.
*(Caveat: three first-down runs were when we had the ball in their territory leading 24-10 with time slipping off the clock. I have no problem with these, so 17/23 is probably a better measure. That's still way high.)
Another fine performance, especially because Michigan only threw four screens and only one of those INs was an inaccurate pass. (The other was one of those horrible three-yard TE outs that would have gone for a first down but was thrown too late.) At this point I think it's safe to declare Henne's accuracy vastly improved. He still makes the occasional Morelli-esque throw into a Mongol horde of defenders, but he's performing more like the Henne from last year's OSU game than last year's Wisconsin game. Loeffler strikes again?
The chart for the rest of the offense just isn't working out. I'm going to revamp it but keep forgetting to do so. The idea: passes will get rated on a catch-difficulty scale a bit more fine grained than the passing chart (0 through 3, with zero being totally uncatchable and three being something that would be a hair-pulling drop if it hit the ground) and receivers will get rated on that. Offensive linemen will have separate grades for pass and run blocking... still pending. Anyway, I'm working on something. I don't think the +/- system really said anything about offensive players. I was always getting done and thinking "wow, those numbers are wrong," which is not something that happens for the D. Work in progress.
Henne was excellent. His only real mistake was the second interception, which should have been checked down to Hart. And who thought we'd say that about the King of Checkdowns?
Hart was the engine that kept the offense going by regularly turning poorly-blocked plays into moderate gains.
No one else really stood out, as Manningham coupled his two touchdowns with a drop that led to an interception and probably could have done something to prevent Henne's second, even if that meant taking a penalty. He's still kind of good. Also, Adrian Arrington is emerging as a #2 wideout, but more on him later.
Vijay's been quietly peddling a theory: Rueben Riley's inability to do much of anything useful when he's on the backside of the zone severely hampers the running game. I noticed it a couple times in the second half and offered (-1) for it, but Vijay took a look at most of our run plays and concluded the situation was much worse than that. When he locks onto a guy and drives, he's fine, but try to get him moving at all and he can't hack it. Sort of explains that speed-rusher thing, too.< br />
Two turnovers were a result of missed Manningham-Henne connections, but then again so were two touchdowns, so we can't complain too much.
Mike DeBord's playcalling left something to be desired, IMO, as discussed above.
Do you have any cracked-out suggestions to improve things, you know-nothing internet loon?
Why, yes, yes I do.
- One thing I noticed in the Minnesota game is the frequency with which they faked an end-around. This often held the backside defensive end/linebacker long enough to let Pinnix dart up through a hole that would otherwise have been shut down. Since our slot receiver is usually Breaston, a man who's not much of a blocker but is a terror with the ball in his hands, constantly threatening to hand him an end-around could open up those cutback lanes which are so frequently absent either because they have an eighth guy in the box or someone on the backside has let their man pursue without interference.
- Wisconsin played way, way off our WRs when they brought that eighth guy in the box. I was calling for the long handoff to Breaston over and over again, though when they finally ran it the UW corner made a great play to snag Breaston with his arm and made me look stupid. That thing works 90% of the time, though, and would be a great way to force opposing cornerbacks to inch closer to Manningham (and therefore their doom) presnap.
- We need some plays that play off our WR screen tendencies. When Breaston starts running parallel to the line of scrimmage, entire secondaries freak out and converge. Either a transcontinental or just some faked screens would be excellent. Purdue pulled out a sweet play where they faked the WR screen, then ran a statue-of-liberty sweep to one of their runningbacks. The play sucked in a linebacker and went for a 14-yard touchdown.
- Our old friend the screen was executed successfully for the first time this year. With Hart being who he is I'd like to see more.
- Speaking of screen: play-action waggle screen. Fake a zone, get the offensive linemen moving left, get the defense reacting to the "waggle"... throw back to Hart. It's gold, Jerry! Gold!
How about that Arrington kid?
So. Excited. Disappointed he dropped that fade, but he's open a lot, has displayed an aptitude for the tough catch, and has a rangy easiness about him that radiates "star." That redshirt year forced by an ankle injury may be the best thing that ever happened to him. I expect he'll relegate Breaston to the third-WR slot role he excelled in during the Braylon Era and provide a presence over the middle and on fades that we need sans Avant.
And what does it mean for Minnesota?
We should crush them like silly bug. It's one thing to have troubles against Wisconsin, possesors of a solid front seven and a burgeoning star in Jack Ikegwuonu (who was great in that game, BTW) and entirely another to have the same troubles against a Gopher team with no discernable talent.
That said, we probably won't if we insist on running into stacked lines some more, and I fear that the Boiler offensive line is just plain better than ours (Steve Davis made not a peep). I figure our offensive line kills a few drives, stubborn playcalling a few more, and we score somewhere in the low 30s more due to great field position provided by special teams and defense more than anything else.
- PUNTING (IN GENERAL): not once this year has Carr passed up an obvious go-for-it opportunity. Zoltan the Inconceivable is now sending 54-yard rockets that graze the Karman line with increasing regularity; one of these boomers -- combined with the terrible power of his gaze -- caused a Wisconsin turnover.
- VODKA DRENCHED MONKEY: Media whipping boy slot has a new owner. Breathe the sweet air of freedom, Cory McCartney.
- FIRST DOWN PLAYCALLING: Wisconsin outnumbered us in the run game on first down all day but we ran into it blindly anyway. Thus a ton of short runs where Mike Hart made three or four yards with no hole. That hampered the efficiency of our offense greatly, especially with Henne's radically improved accuracy to date.
- HORSEFACE HAYES: Obvs.