I did not make this headline up
EAST LANSING - An unknown assailant spray-painted a block M, similar to the logo of the University of Michigan, on the brick base of Sparty early this morning.
The vandalism occurred between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., MSU Police Sgt. Randy Holton said. The paint was to be removed the campus grounds crew.
I love "unknown assailant," like Sparty is going to need counseling about this or something.
Oh, and, yes, the picture above is a fake. Look at the tree. For some reason an RCMB denizen put it together; maybe he's getting his bow on.
A snake! Awesome work by MATW:
(What the dickens is this? Surely you've seen Badger Badger Badger, no?)
An oldie. WolverineHistorian has put up Michigan-Michigan State 1979:
Audio by Ufer.
Beilein items. More quotes about practice:
"After the fifth or sixth practice, when I knew this is what it's going to be, I had to get over thinking so much and just play ball and just do what he says," said Sims, a sophomore forward. "It's a learning process. Anytime (a coach) transfers from another school and you have young guys who did not have much experience, they've never seen an offense like this before and were never taught the fundamentals leading up to the offense, it's going to be a tough thing."
Manny Harris says "he doesn't give you a chance to slack off," something that would prompt another useless anti-Amaker tirade if it came from a non-freshman.
People are calling:
Since being hired in April to replace Amaker, though, Beilein has learned that coaching at Michigan is not like being at West Virginia or the five smaller schools he has led.
"I've been sitting at home and have had some of the best juniors in the country call me," Beilein said earlier this week in his office. "We haven't had too many of those situations in the past."
Jim Calhoun is effusive:
"There's nothing I can compare to trying to prepare for his offense. It was the hardest thing we ever had to defend because they truly took advantage of you," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who faced Beilein annually in the Big East. "As much as you think that you're just going to be able to play, John does something in a very quiet, unassuming way. He creates confidence in his players, and they run their system impeccably. They can adjust in the midst of games, and they play enough different defenses [to keep you honest]."
Run Offense vs. Wisconsin
As noted in VEQ, the Wisconsin run defense is probably the most disappointing phase in the conference. The Badgers, so good a year ago, are an ugly 58th nationally and eighth in the Big Ten. Relevant opponents:
Every back in the Big Ten not playing for Iowa has done somewhere between 4.3 and 14.5 YPC, and a large number of them have gone over 6 YPC. This is a really, really bad run defense, and now they're missing starting defensive tackle Jason Chapman.
A quick glance at the above table and Michigan's shiny-ish #25 run offense seem to imply this would be a field day for the Wolverines, but it probably won't. Mike DeBord's run-heavy playcalling -- 59% of Michigan plays are runs -- obscures a rushing offense that's actually fairly mediocre. Sheer quantity makes up for 4.3 YPC, a number far closer to average than the per-game totals suggest. Injuries to Mike Hart and various right guards have something to do with that, but Hart is still gimpy and whoever the right guard is will remain subpar; the issues that have stalled Michigan's offense in the past will be present against the Badgers.
Those issues were certainly in play against Michigan State, a to-date horrible run defense that virtually stonewalled Michigan. Mike Hart had two long runs, one of which sprung from a sick Hart juke on an unblocked linebacker in the backfield; other than that Michigan had virtually no ground game. 19 of Hart's 110 yards were credited to him on a Mallett fumble recovery; remove that and Michigan's other rushes averaged 1.3 yards per carry. Add the long runs back in and Michigan hit... yes, 4.3 YPC. This against a defense about as good as Wisconsin's against the run, which is to say "not at all."
If Bruce's diagnosis of Wisconsin's problems is correct -- and there's no reason to doubt that it is -- then misdirection has been a major cause of Wisconsin's troubles. Michigan's offense features little misdirection and is basically using the exact same scheme these exact same players held to Mike Hart's worst rushing output of last year.
Chapman's absence and the unreliability of the safeties should provide Michigan an advantage they didn't have last year, but this is going to be a slog.
Key Matchup: Mike Hart versus his ankle. Hart can make losses into game-breakers, as we saw last week in the first half. The efficacy of the Michigan run game increases dramatically when he's in the game.
Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin
The Michigan pass offense looks great on paper but languishes at #70 in the nation due to a combination of injuries and the aforementioned run-heavy playcalling. The receivers have been outstanding, near flawless except when Mario Manningham is called on to block or lay out for a ball. Everything else... not so much. Chad Henne and his separated shoulder swung wildly from good to awful to outstanding against Michigan State. The line's pass blocking has frequently been dubious.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin pass defense Bruce Ciskie slaughtered in VEQ sits at a decently respectable 46th (in efficiency terms). They're 18th in yardage largely because the run defense has allowed opponents to end games with 20-something attempts. However, starting cornerback Allen Langford is out for the year, leaving a true freshman in the starting lineup and pushing a little-used backup into the nickel package. Other than Jack Ikegwuonu, this is suddenly a secondary adrift.
Given the dodginess of the UW safeties and the lack of depth at corner, there will be plenty of opportunities here for Michigan. Manningham will have Ikegwuonu dogging him all game, leaving Adrian Arrington alone on a freshman who, though he may be good, is unlikely to lock him down.
Key Matchup: Schilling and Carson Butler versus Shaugnessy, Casillas, and assorted other blitzers. Schilling had another week of trouble against a high quality pass rusher; Butler's blocks were frequently comical in their ineptness against Michigan State. If Henne is provided time Michigan should find Manningham downfield a couple times.
Run Defense vs. Wisconsin
Last week's opening paragraph can be re-applied:
Unfortunately, you could take the damning text in the "Run Offense" section above and reapply it to Michigan's run defense, albeit with a significant reduction in ferocity if you wish to retain credibility. Like MSU, a bunch of sacks has obscured the true quality of the run defense. In Michigan State's case the quality is "atrocious"; in Michigan's it's merely mediocre.
After throttling the Spartans in the first half, Michigan got pounded by Caulcrick and Michigan State in the second half. The stats were acceptable -- 3.8 YPC for him and not much better for Ringer if you consider his reverse-field 70-yarder fluky -- but only just.
Sources close to the Wisconsin program indicate that PJ Hill is not likely to go, leaving the tailback job in the hands of sophomore Lance Smith and freshman Zach Brown. Smith's the better of the two backs and figures to see a significant majority of the carries. He's no pounder like Hill -- welcome news for Michigan linebackers -- but is more of a slasher reminiscent of Antonio Pittman or Carlos Brown. He's averaging 6.4 YPC, which would be a cause for concern if the vast majority of his carries weren't against the likes of the Citadel, Indiana, and Northern Illinois. Smith missed Wisconsin's games (he's suspended for road games after a preseason shoe tiff) against Penn State, Illinois, and Ohio State; Michigan is the first serious defense he's gone up against since the Iowa game. He did well against the Hawkeyes, albeit in limited time: 5 rushes, 37 yards. There's not enough data here to be sure of anything.
On the year, Wisconsin's rush offense is much like Michigan's: strained by overuse and potentially overrated on per-game statistics. Wisconsin is averaging just under 4.2 YPC despite playing a hideous nonconference schedule. The run game was adequate against Iowa and Illinois, but crushed by Penn State and Ohio State. It's an average run offense, especially with Hill out; it meets an average run defense. The results should be about average.
Key Matchup: Brandon Graham, Terrance Tay
lor, and Will Johnson versus the interior UW OL at the point of attack. Taylor, IMO, did a good job last game of holding up versus frequent double teams. Johnson and Graham not so much. With a similar offense on tap this week, Graham's improvement against the run will be important.
Pass Defense vs. Wisconsin
Injuries have struck the Badgers here as well. Not Particularly Inexplicable Pretty Good White Wide Receiver Luke Swan is out for the year, and the loss of Vanden Heuvel will hurt more in pass protection than run blocking according to Ciskie.
Tyler Donovan has been just okay in his single year as Wisconsin's starting quarterback. He's slightly mobile, slightly inaccurate, and has decent arm strength, slightly reminiscent of a Brooks Bollinger. In their way, Wisconsin QBs are as predictable as Michigan's: mini-me versions of the Lurch statues Michigan runs out. Donovan won't be a surprise to anyone who's seen Wisconsin play before.
Tight end Travis Beckum remains Wisconsin's favorite receiving target; his 62 catches are almost triple those of the next active receiver on the roster. He will be an issue. With Swan out, true freshman Kyle Jefferson is Wisconsin's #1 receiver; Paul Hubbard has also just returned from injury. Both are tall, long-striding possession sorts; deep balls will likely be of the jump-ball variety.
Miscommunication got Devin Thomas behind the Michigan secondary a couple times against Michigan State, marking the first time since the post-apocalyptic Oregon game the Michigan secondary looked anything but solid. Of late they have gone up against erratic quarterbacks and generally won the day. Michigan's pass efficiency D is now a shocking 20th.
One concern for Michigan: when Michigan State ran play action Hoyer often had days to throw as the line tried desperately to shut down the guy without the ball. This might be less of a threat against a line that's been a revolving door against opposing pass rushers: Wisconsin is 100th in sacks allowed despite passing just 38% of the time. And their starting right tackle is out.
Wisconsin is without a true outside threat and has serious pass-blocking issues; Michigan is likely to do well against Tyler Donovan and company.
Key Matchup: Chris Graham covering Travis Beckum. Graham's alternated between totally blowing zone coverages and providing good-to-excellent man coverage of tight ends this year; he's the guy who will be tasked with following Wisconsin's favorite target around.
Kicker Taylor Melhaff is reliable, perhaps the Big Ten's best this year, but Wisconsin's punting and return games are mediocre at best.
Key Matchup: Kick coverage, argh!
- For whatever reason the ground game remains mediocre even against a terrible run defense.
- Oh, no! It's Evil Henne!
- Beckum gets loose.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- The first-down playcalling is remotely balanced.
- The Wisconsin line is as sieve-like as their stats suggest.
- Hart is ungimpy.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for They're Battered Everywhere, +1 for Yeah But Hart...?, +1 for I Have A Bad Feeling We Will Not Be Able To Exploit Their Weaknesses, +1 for They're Probably Better Than MSU And Look How That Turned Out).
Desperate need to win level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Bielema Is Kind Of Annoying Even When He Loses, +1 for Yes, There's A Big Difference Between 9-3 and 8-4 (Or 10-2 and 9-3), -1 for But Really This Season Is The OSU Game)
Loss will cause me to... accept that we're going down to OSU again.
Win will cause me to... PREPARE FOR THE HURRICANE, BUCKEYES!
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
A totally healthy Wisconsin would be a serious threat, but a Badger team missing five starters and replacing them all with underclassmen is a significantly less imposing opponent.
Wisconsin's run game should be decently effective. There are enough problems on the Michigan side of things for the Badger to bash out first downs here and there. But the Wisconsin offensive line can't pass block. There's no other way to read the stats. Donovan's only thrown 279 passes this year and opponents have 29 sacks. Almost 10% of the time Donovan drops back to pass he ends up on the turf, to say nothing of hurries and forced scrambles. It's somewhat miraculous that the Wisconsin pass offense is as efficient as it is. Meanwhile, Michigan consistently terrorized opposing quarterbacks until it started worrying about Michigan State's run game. Donovan is unlikely to have much time.
Offensively, Wisconsin's run defense will probably have a brief, frustrating renaissance in which they will reach mediocrity. The eye-popping 6 and 8 YPC days for most backs around the Big Ten are not likely to recur, but 4.3 to 5 should be doable. This would still allow Hart to have a 100 yard day assuming he plays the whole game. Even if that's not likely to be a good assumption the problems with the Wisconsin run defense are so extensive that the Michigan backups will be fine. Henne, if given time, will find open receivers, and Michigan will have a typical offensive day.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Michigan racks up five sacks.
- Hart gets 15 carries.
- Michigan, 28-20.
Hill sounds like a gametime decision...again. [Status is now "not likely to play." -ed] I can't imagine that they're being truthful about his injury when it's going on three weeks for a "bruised foot". I hope it's nothing terribly serious, but I am starting to fear that it's worse than they're letting on. Vanden Heuvel sounds like he will be able to play. Jake Bscherer probably starts at RT, and if Saturday is any indication, Tyler Donovan will need another couple hot tub trips before the Minnesota game if Bscherer plays.
Lance Smith will run the ball if Hill can't go, being as this is a home game and all. Hill's loss is the worst. He's fat, yes, but he can break tackles, and with how this line has been playing, it's good to have a running back who can do that. Holes are not plentiful for backs to run in right now.
Sounds like Michigan's line, actually, minus Jake Long, etc. Who replaces Langford and Chapman? Are the backups tested at all?
Aaron Henry starts at corner. He's a true frosh, meaning he's bound to screw up a few times. I like him, though. He'll challenge receivers, something Langford didn't seem too keen on doing. On the line, Chapman is a huge loss because they weren't deep. Losing Ostrowski and Cooper might not have done much on paper, but it robbed the line of any real depth. I expect Mike Newkirk to start with Nick Hayden at tackle, and freshman Kirk DeCremer is in for more playing time at end. Newkirk had been playing at end and spotting inside until Chapman was hurt. If there's a plus, it's that these guys have all played. If there's a minus, it's that you have to believe they were reserves for a reason.
That leads us to one of the great underrated mysteries of the season: the Wisconsin front seven. They returned five starters -- maybe six depending on how you regard the booted Jamal Cooper -- from an outstanding run defense. Hayden looked a bonafide star; Casillas was poised to break out. But the results have been awful. Wisconsin's gotten bludgeoned. What happened?
Hayden's actually been okay, especially lately. The problem is that the front four was never all that good. Their job was simply to take up blockers. Last year, Zalewski, Casillas, and Levy made most of the big plays, especially against the run. Losing Zalewski was apparently a bigger deal than any of us realized, because the middle of that defense has gone completely soft without him. I don't know if it was the mohawk or what, because I never thought Zalewski was all that good. Steady and a good leader, yes, but not a superb player. He hasn't been replaced, and neither have safeties Joe Stellmacher and Roderick Rogers, both of whom helped against the run at times.
Casillas and Levy have both regressed, it seems. That's due in large part to the fact that they haven't been free to do as much. Offenses are getting hats on them. But I don't think either of them have been anything remotely close to adequate when it comes to getting off blocks and helping to fill against the run. The ends have been dreadful. Cooper wasn't even on the team last year, so we can't blame it on him not being there. Maybe Joe Monty did more than it looked like he did last year.
It's also a coaching issue. I'm not a fan of what Mike Hankwitz has done schematically. Guys are out of position way too much, and the blown assignments that plagued the Green Bay Packers last year have made their way down the freeway to Madison.
[18:29] bruceciskie: (See: Pass play to Hartline at the end of the first half Saturday. I'll never understand how he was allowed to get that wide open.)
Even Shaugnessey? He was like OMG sophomore(!) last year.
Shaughnessy has been injured this year. It isn't true, but I keep telling myself that. Takes the sting off a bit. (He's been freaking terrible. If I knew why, I'd elaborate. I don't get it.)
How have the safeties been? Mario Manningham is making an NFL push and has been lights out lately when not asked to block or stick out the ball to get a first down. Last year he was most of the Michigan offense. This year?
Can we not talk about the safeties? My mom once told me not to say anything if I can't say anything nice. OK, I'll talk about them.
Remember when you asked me before the season about what worried me about Wisconsin? And I told you it was the safeties. And you thought I was nuts?
I think I thought that was fairly reasonable. Aubrey Pleasant was an MSU commit at one point. Bad judgement, as Teddy KGB might say. Not a good trait in a safety.
Yeah, that. They've been as awful as I feared. Carter is a really good athlete, and you can see it, but he doesn't have ball skills, and his coverage skills are lacking. He's a better tackler than Pleasant, but I'm pretty sure Orson is a better tackler than Aubrey Pleasant. More on that in a second. Carter has some upside, and I keep telling myself that he's only a sophomore and is bound to get better. What bothers me is that I don't see him getting remarkably better. Now, for Pleasant. He has nice hair, and that's about it for nice things. Like Carter, Pleasant's ball skills are lacking. Unlike Carter, Pleasant probably would struggle to tackle Chad Henne in the open field. He doesn't take good angles and I don't think he's physical enough in one-on-one situations.
I've not been enamored with Jack Ikegwuonu, but he's been, by far, the best and most consistent defensive player on this team. That says a lot, and most of it is not good.
Yikes. I don't know how much you've seen of Michigan lately but the OL's been a bit of a mess. RT Steve Schilling gets beat for a sack or two a game, the RG is a carousel of different players, none of whom have been particularly good, and Carson Butler just got done nearly blowing the MSU game five times. So... this is not a slam dunk by any means. Henne seems fine -- when I reviewed the game for UFR he looked much better -- and the WRs have been excellent, but if there are guys who can get to Henne Michigan will stall. How's the pass rush?
OK, actually. The problem is that they've not been really consistent, and they haven't finished plays that well. But the press
ure has been there much of the season. They'll blitz just about anyone except Ikegwuonu, and I'm guessing that the plan against Michigan will be to pressure Henne because he's been banged up. The Iowa game saw Henry, who was nickel back at the time, blitz like 200 times against Christensen and cause a bunch of problems. If they're going to have a shot in this game, they're going to have to disguise and blitz. If they rush four and let Henne pick them apart, he will.
It was one of the few things that I liked about last week's game against tOSU.
Meanwhile, Michigan's once-deadly screen game has totally atrophied. Corso says slow 'em down with screens and draws, Debord! Listen to Corso!
"Listen to Corso"? I'm pretty sure that's never been put in a blog before.
Anyway, on the other side of the ball... how has the Donovan era gone?
Donovan is a great leader. Tough as freaking nails (sorry, but I'm frazzled because of upcoming travel and can't think of anything better than a dumb cliche). He took hit after hit against tOSU and kept getting up. He can make all the throws Paul Chryst (OC) needs him to. He's mobile when he can complete his dropback without getting swarmed. He's not as accurate as Stocco, and he did start getting a bit wild with his throws Saturday once the Buckeyes hit him a few times in the second half. But I am not going to complain. He hasn't cost us a game, and he did a lot of really good things.
Allan Evridge will have some shoes to fill next year, to be sure.
I can't help but notice a 2 interception, 0 touchdown performance against Penn State. What happened there?
PJ Hill fumbled on the first play of the game. The defense was almost completely non-competitive. They were out of the game long before Donovan did anything wrong.
Worst game I've seen Wisconsin play in a long time.
Imagine how you'd feel if Michigan's defense spent two quarters making Anthony Morelli look like Colt Brennan.
I would feel very sad. And then I would want to punch a baby.
Okay. UW is 32nd in passer efficiency despite that. But also 100th in sacks allowed. Fluke? Or a likely indicator of serious turf-eating to come?
The sacks aren't Donovan's fault. The line hasn't done a great job, especially in the tOSU game, when Donovan was often swarmed with no chance to survey the field. Admittedly, there have been times that he didn't run when he should have, but I'm not going to fault him for all of that. This line has been a disappointment when it comes to pass-blocking and blitz pickup. My favorite play on Saturday was in the first quarter, when the LT blocked down the line and let Gholston rush into the backfield, where he only had to beat the block of true freshman RB Zach Brown to get the sack.
I mean, Gholston against a smallish freshman back? Who drew that crap up?
Opponents have done that against Crable, too. Weird. I think it's just a protection slide to make the n00b's blocking assignment clear. Sometimes it's Roidy McRoiderson. Sorry, kid.
Dumb. So if we keep doing that, Crable is guaranteed two sacks...in the first quarter.
Maybe Smith's pass pro is more advanced. Michigan did the same with Carlos Brown in the backfield. Not so much with Hart.
Smith is bigger. Frankly, I can't imagine he's a worse blocker than Brown. [Note that he's talking about UW freshman Zach Brown, not Carlos. -ed]
He's just a better player at this point. Too bad he couldn't handle a little cab fare tiff with his woman.
Meanwhile, Michigan's run defense has gotten gashed up the middle pretty consistently this year. After a half of stoning Michigan State they buckled against a fat back. How has the Wisconsin run game gone?
Good with Hill and Smith, bad without. Smith and Brown might have a shot against Michigan, but I'd rather Hill played, no matter what happened last year. The middle of Michigan's defense is vulnerable, and Brown isn't suited for attacking that. Smith's better on the perimeter, too, but is at least passable going up the gut. Hill is the best fit for what Wisconsin needs in this game. Generally, I think Wisconsin's run the ball pretty well, even if the stats don't show it every week.
Any particular strengths or weaknesses on special teams?
The return game is still not that good, though freshman David Gilreath has improved as the season has gone on. I'm just not impressed. Mehlhaff has been solid kicking, and DeBauche is a good punter. The coverage teams have played pretty well, which is nice, and a lot of that credit goes to the respective kickers. But that return game still isn't impressive. I'd like to see them make a big play at some point, and doing it against Minnesota doesn't count.
There should be opportunities in the kick return game. Michigan's been terrible at it this year. I hate the kickoff from the 30 for entirely selfish reasons.
I have no serious basis for this, but I'm going to do it anyway. I think Michigan's offense is too banged-up to consistently exploit Wisconsin's defensive issues. Wisconsin is also helped by the fact that Michigan doesn't run the spread (sound familiar?). Henne gets hit enough to keep him from owning the Badgers, and Wisconsin finds a way to score points. It's Senior Day, and Donovan will play well. So will Travis Beckum, who is a junior but could very well be playing at Camp Randall for the last time. I say Hill plays, and he's much better than last year in Ann Arbor. Wisconsin 24-20. Please.
It would make my trip to Colorado Springs so much nicer.
I don't know how banged up the offense will be, actually. Henne and Hart will play and everyone except TE Mike Massey is (relatively) healthy. Hart will still be gimpy-ish, probably.
Henne didn't look like he could run a 40 last week. And he's not exactly Vince Young to begin with.
You could cut most Michigan quarterbacks' legs off and put them on a cardboard box without any noticeable drop in performance.
So, yeah, I fly out [to Colorado Springs] in the morning. Sunny and temps in the 70s while we're there. It's in the 30s in Duluth, and it snowed this week.
[Holy cognitive dissonance, Batman! Ciskie goes through and viciously mauls UW's entire defense, the offensive line, and the running backs, then says... eh... victory. I followed it up with a query about the sturdiness of his prediction in the wake of the Hill news. The response:
I'm sticking with it. I may have thought Hill would play when I made that prediction, but we all knew something was amiss because he wasn't practicing. If I was stupid enough to pick Wisconsin under those circumstances, then I'm certainly dumb enough to stick with it.
Allll riiiiight! -ed]
Video trouble? Try VLC.
|M29||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||8||Hart||Zone left|
|Kraus appears to be the permanent center, BTW. This is all Hart: there's a crease as Moundros and Kraus take out the playside DT â€“ barely â€“ and Long(+1) does his thing as Boren picks off a LB. A safety run blitzes at the snap and should have this at the LOS; Hart jukes him and heads for eight.|
|M37||2||2||I-Form Twins||Run||5 (pen)||Hart||Zone left|
|Butler starts out wide; we motion him in. A commenter informed me that this "handoff" block I was searching for nomenclature on was actually a scoop block, so that's what we'll call it. Anyway, a scoop on the DT between Kraus and Ciulla doesn't go so well; the DT runs down the line and tackles. Rest of the play well done. Doesn't matter, as MSU is offsides.|
|M42||1||10||Ace Twins||Pass||5 (pen)||Arrington||Waggle|
|Arrington starts out on the other side, motioning to Manningham as the play starts; we have a TE off the line on the side of the waggle tasked with blocking the DE who often shoots into the backfield. Arrington gets open on a circle route; Henne hits him but takes him off his feet doing so. A short gain is negated for another offsides penalty. (CA-, 2, protection 1/1)|
|M47||1||5||Ace Twins||Pass||15 (pen)||Manningham||Fly|
|Inverted TEs here, with the guy lined up off the line inside the one on it. Michigan drops back and bombs it for the first time; live I thought this was inadvisable but results-based and all that. (CA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|Minor in. This is the stupid playcall I mentioned Monday where Arrington is covered up; Butler comes in motion and they run right. Schilling(-2) is owned by The Sackmaster; the DE is right through and tackles for loss. Might Hart break this tackle?|
|Henne misses Butler busting wide open on a seam route, instead settling for a little dumpoff to Manningham that's covered. MSU blitzed; M picked it up. This should not be a one-yard completion. (BR, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Oh, this Henderson guy got owned by a double move and fell down; Henne whiffs badly on a potential touchdown. Announcers claim this could be a penalty, but it looked to me like Henderson was trying to commit one but couldn't manage it. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 8 min 1st Q.|
|Inverted TEs; Arrington motions out of the twins. Henne looks at Manningham, then comes off him and has his pick of three wide open guys on little stop routes on the other side of the field. Maybe a decoy read? He picks Butler out; he rumbles for a first down. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Motion Butler to the right side of the line and run left; both safeties fly up. By the time Hart gets the ball both are committed to the run. I always hate seeing this; where is our play action? Anyway, Hart should be thinking cutback and eventually does; Ciulla(-1) failed to cut the backside DT, who meets him at the LOS. Butler(-1) also completely whiffed on The Sackmaster. Not relevant to the play, but a really poor job of blocking.|
|O49||2||7||I-Form Twins||Run||38||Hart||Inside zone?|
|I'm not sure what this is, but I'm sure that this wasn't supposed to happen. It looks like Hart's supposed to pick a hole on the right side of the line; Boren is defeated by the weakside DE; Hart decides that the intended hole is not for him. On the backside, oddly, Long is blocking the DE as Butler just sort of wanders off downfield. Moundros ran up and plugged the MLB; the WLB, however, is unblocked and shooting through the hole. Hart hops around him as both safeties come up way too hard. Hart runs for a long while. Like the first play of the game this required Hart to make an awesome play to avoid a TFL. I have my doubts about the long-term viability of such a strategy.|
|Reach block for Ciulla on the backside DT just doesn't work; he flows down the line. No minus, as these are hard when the DT slants right away. Kraus gets no push on a Spartan linebacker on the second level; neither does Moundros.|
|Manningham takes a couple of stutter steps off the line, then bursts outside Henderson. Henne lays it in perfectly. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-3, 4 min 1st Q. Hart's long run here reminiscent of one of the long ones the last time M played at Spartan stadium: some poor blocking that Hart makes do with and safeties who get way too aggressive.|
|M46||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Zone right|
|MSU again swarming this at the snap. Ciulla and Kraus end up doubling a DT, but no one gets out on the LB, and since he's really selling out on the run he's at the LOS almost at the handoff. Long can't make a reach on the backside DE; Schilling doesn't get any push but doesn't get beat, either.|
|you are so SMRT|
|A token draw fake as MSU blitzes; Michigan picks it up. Henne finds an open Arrington for 15 yards; he drops it. DB made a hit but this is a drop. (CA+, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Wide open; Henne has a 2005 flashback. (IN, 0, protection 2/2) Butler(-2) gets an MSU-level personal foul afterwards.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, EO 1Q. A really crappy punt combines with the personal foul to change the field position..|
|O42||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||32||Hart||Zone left|
|Again, this teeters on the edge of a TFL. MSU has shifted its defense to the left side of the line; the weakside DT is shaded well inside Mitchell (new to the game), so when Michigan shows zone left he shoots into the backfield. Mitchell has no realistic chance to block him; Hart runs through his tackle. On the frontside, Moundros, Kraus, and Long have all gotten crushing second-level blocks and Boren has sealed away the DT. Long's block also picks off a DE tracking back, Hart runs up into Moundros' back for a moment before popping outside and motoring downfield. +1s for all mentioned, +2 for Moundros, whose driving, extended block sprung Hart into the secondary.|
|O10||1||G||I-Form||Run||-1 + 5||Hart||Zone right|
|MSU swarms this; Mitchell(-1) blown back and Boren(-1) fails to do anything useful with the backside DT Moundros trips on fallen bodies as he gets to the hole; virtually no one is blocked and Hart is snowed under. A personal foul on MSU follows the play. Sparty, no!|
|O5||1||G||Ace Twins||Pen||-5||Mitchell||False start|
|We motion Butler away from the offset TE; perhaps as a result of this the backside DT does not flow down the line on the snap of the ball, instead taking his first step upfield and immediately putting himself behind Mitchell. A big hole results, as Long and Boren kick their guys out. Kraus takes out one LB, Moundros the other; Hart is taken down from behind by The Sackmaster, who got chopped but got up and made a good play; without it high probability of a cutback behind Butler and a TD.|
|MSU blitzes a corner right into this; Hart has no option to cut it up as an MSU LB dashed inside of Long(-1). Maybe the -1 is harsh here, since Long has to expect the guy to attempt to keep contain. Without the corner blitz here this would be suicide on his part. Hart spectacularly leaps the CB, avoiding a loss, but the delay means he's swarmed under.|
|Yeah, MSU blitzes seven(!!!) guys. Michigan has Manningham on one side and runs three guys on different levels to the other side of the field. Henne lofts it to an open Butler. (CA+, 3, protection 3/3). Say goodbye to Good Chad. It's Evil Chad for the next two quarters plus.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-3, 12 min 2nd Q. If I can digress for a moment: I think the five-yard run on our second first-and-goal on this drive is an example of how Michigan's playcalling hurts them. To wit: we almost never see this sort of error out of a DL. The first step upfield was deadly and opened up an immediate, huge hole for Hart. This never happens: it's all slant slant slant as Michigan hardly ever runs misdirection. 80% of our run plays are zone stretches; how easy to defend is that? Quite.
Also, put on your ugly hats, folks.
|Butler spread out wide to start; he motions in. The MSU DT times the snap perfectly â€“ tipped by the Butler motion? -- and drives Mitchell back instantly; Hart has to cut up, powering through arm tackles for a couple yards. No minus; excellent play from MSU.|
|M8||2||8||I-Form Twins||Run||5||Hart||Lead draw|
|MSU gets split immediately as the defensive tackles slant, anticipating a stretch. On the second level, Moundros(+1) effectively cuts the MLB; Butler(-1) whiffs on an OLB, forcing Hart to leap over the FB detritus and turning a potential first down into five yards.|
|Hart(-1) left to take on a DE; he cuts him but not that well and he gets up; Henne decides to scramble out. The ball's punched loose and there's a scramble for it; a Michigan OL falls on it. (PR, 0, protection 1/2, Hart)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 10 min 2nd Q.|
|M7||1||10||I-Form Big||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|Butler(-1) blown back and controlled by the DE, causing Hart to cut back up into a mess of bodies when otherwise it looked like he could shoot into a gap between Butler and Long and maybe beat a safety for a nice gain. As it is, he's tracked down by the backside DT, who Mitchell(-1) could not do much with.|
|M8||2||9||I-Form Big||Run||6||Hart||Zone left|
|Frontisde completely jammed by Spartan jumping the play, but the extra TE in this formation allows Michigan to block the backside DE and there's a cutback lane Hart takes for a decent gain. Hart limps off.|
|Schilling owned by the Sackmaster and shoved aside as he comes up inside, forcing Henne to get rid of it early. He does find an open Minor leaking out of the backfield, but throws off his back foot and sends it wide. (IN, 0, protection 1/2, Schilling -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 5 min 2nd Q.|
|Mitchell(-1) and Boren(-1) both get beaten by DTs, and when that happens your play dies.|
|M20||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Arrington||Skinny post|
|Butler(-2) gone right around by Saint-Dic, forcing Henne to get off a hurried throw on a skinny post to Arrington. This is actually excellent given the situation, a tough catch for Arrington with great coverage from the DB, who knocks it loose. (CA+, 1, protection 0/2, Butler -2) If Henne had more time he could have come down to Manningham on a wide open stop for the first.|
|M20||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Manningham||Stop and go|
|Saint Dic goes right around Butler again, who should probably be flagged for holding; as it is Henne's forced into a quick throw to Manningham on an stop and go. There's room to make this completion, though not much, and a MSU DB leaps up and just gets a hand on it. Maybe a little bit harsh, but (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Butler -2) On review, no... this is just way short and the IN is not harsh.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 3 min 2nd Q. Mesko launches one.|
|Mathews comes in motion, revealing zone as no one follows him; Arrington driv
es off the CB with a deep route and Michigan hits Mathews on a short out with decent room in front of him. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
|O35||2||4||Ace 3-wide||Pass||-2||Arrington||Long handoff|
|I mean, seriously, can we block the frickin' DT on a WR screen? This has to be the only WR screen in history to be broken up because of pressure. Kraus(-2) just ignores the man lined up directly over him, causing the throw to be low and forcing Arrington to his knee to make the catch. (PR, N/A, protection 0/2, Kraus -2)|
|This is open for the first down but Henne's throw is upfield, forcing Manningham to come back and allowing the Spartan DB to close him down before the sticks. (IN, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Excellent play by the DB to chuck Arrington, then start watching Manningham; when he moves to the slant he jumps it and finds the ball, intercepting. Poor decision. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 14-3, 1 min 2nd Q. IMO, two clock errors on the 4th down play. 1) why wouldn't Michigan run the clock down all the way? 2) why would MSU, which will have a minute and field position at the 35 if they stop Michigan, waste a TO?|
|A stunt gets a DE in unblocked and Minor has to cut it outside. He does so â€“ Long(+1) has stoned his guy and driven him back â€“ and gets a decent gain out of it.|
|Henne throws it wide; a potential completion, otherwise. Butler was holding anyway. (IN, 0, 1/2 Butler -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|A 65 yard touchdown waiting to happen; Henne overthrows it but only just. Manningham needs to lay out for this ball. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Ah, the incredibly surprising second and ten draw. MSU blitzes right into it. Also, Boren(-1) lets his guy inside of him.|
|Protection is fine, but Henne can't find anyone. Saint Dic eventually gets loose and sacks. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-10, 5 min 3rd Q.|
|MSU, as you might expect, jumps all over this. There are just too many to block; Boren(-1) didn't do a good job on a Spartan DT.|
|Arrgh, stay on your feet! Uh... yeah, other than that a perfect pitch and catch. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Manningham wide open again; Henne overthrows him. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Mitchell(-1) blown back into the backfield on what might be a designed cutback... we again motion the TE to the backside of the play and block the DE out there; Minor hops out there but the penetration slows him up enough to make this a short gain.|
|Saint Dic stunts around two other defenders, getting in clean. He hits Henne as he throws, the resulting pass is to no one. Don't know how you pick this up, but someone busted. (BA, 0, protection 0/2, team)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-10, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|M27||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||-1||Brown||Zone left|
|Long passes Saint Dic off to Butler(-1); Saint Dic just splits the pair and forces Brown up into bodies.|
|State in a four deep coverage with cornerbacks bailing at the snap; Henne bombs away despite the DB having yards on Manningham and it falls incomplete. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Boren(-1) gets fooled on a stunt between a DT and a linebacker, picking up the DT and allowing the LB in unfettered; Minor(-1) attempts to chop the guy and does a crappy job of it; Henne sees the pressure and sets up to throw but is sacked by the LB; corner coming unblocked meant he had to get rid of it right away anyway. (PR, 0, protection 0/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-17, 13 min 4th Q. Another bad punt from Mesko.|
|Arrington wide open on the sidelines, catching it nine yards downfield and running up for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Henne limps off.|
|Wooo Hart! Can't really blame Mallett for this, as the corner is totally unblocked as there's a protection screwup and he's looking at the other side of the field. Hart scoops the ball up and motors. (PR (not charted), N/A, protection 0/2, team)|
|Manningham this time; same play to the other side of the field. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Pass||4 + 15||Mathews||Quick out|
|Henne throws this little out late, so Mathews can't turn it upfield. The play's over by like ten seconds when MSU pops him. Sparty, no! (CA-, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Virtual replay of the first catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Our second time out. Debord, you only have two plays, please get one of them in. Henne misses Arrington largely because Arrington was shoved with the ball in the air 15 yards downfield. No call. I'm not charting this one. (N/A, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|Henne loops it over the DB's head; a perfect throw that needed to be. A stunt got a DE in unblocked again. (DO, 3, protection 1/2, team)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-24, 6 min 4th Q. Good Henne.|
|And it's wide open again. Henne throws it upfield, forcing a tough diving catch from Arrington. (CA-, 1, protection 2/2)|
|M44||2||1||Ace 3-wide||Run||1||Minor||Zone left|
|MSU's trying to stunt here; Boren(-1) can't seal the DT and no-one bothers blocking the stunting DE; all Butler(-1) had to do was step inside and he was auto-sealed; the DE is free to track Minor down. Minor manages to reach out near the first-down marker and gets it.|
|Way long; Henne complains for a flag afterwards; ABC shows a replay of Mathews, so his complaint goes unevaluated. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Jesus Christ, Mario, get the first down! Aaaaigh! (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O46||3||1||Ace 3-wide||Run||-10 (pen)||Minor||Zone right|
|Butler(-1) driven back and holds as Mitchell and Schilling double the DT, driving him back; Minor manages to squeeze through the MSU tackle.|
|And it's a long, long drag as MSU rushes three and gets no pressure. Henne puts it just past the outstretched arms of the LB to Arrington, who has room up the sideline for the first. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|MSU sends the house; Manningham's drag route is wide open. Henne hits him. Good pickup from the OL. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Kraus(-2) driven way back by Baldwin, lined up as an NT; Minor has to bounce it out. Manningham(-1) doesn't even bother blocking the CB opposite him.|
|Manningham falls down. (N/A, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Well... goddamn, son. (DO, 2, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-24, 2 min 4th Q.|
I can't decide if I should be mad or thrilled. I hate Henne! I love Henne! I hate Manningham! I love Manningham!
Yes. God willing, any ESPN Classic replays of this game will excise the vast majority of the second quarter. I've never seen such a schizophrenic performance. We should just head right to the--
That's a tough day. Making it weirder is the breakdown (Good Henne == up until the second touchdown; Robot Henne == final two drives; Evil Henne == everything in-between):
There is some mitigation here: there were a lot of bombs into a swirling wind, Henne was playing hurt, and it's no coincidence that the three PRs came when Henne was in Evil Henne mode. During the middle of the game, Henne got pounded time and again.
In fact, to fully appreciate Henne's day we should check...
PROTECTION: 58/74, Hart -1, Schilling -1, Butler -5, Kraus -2, Minor -1, Boren -1, Team -5.
Minuses assigned to "team" were generally stunts that got MSU players through.
Ugly, ugly, ugly, especially on the part of Butler, not only complete fail in pass protection but also the culprit on several run plays that went nowhere and the recipient of two critical penalties, one a stupid personal foul and the other a comically inept holding call on Michigan's final drive.
We can break this down further, as well. The final two drives were 26/29, and one of the minuses was on Henne's touchdown throw to Mathews. The rest of the day was 32/45. That's a failure rate of 29%, well into the completely unacceptable range.
A glimpse at the Hart Chart tells a similar story in the run game. For the first time all year the totals are negative, and that's only charting Hart's 15 carries. The numbers would undoubtedly be uglier if Minor and Brown's collective eight carries for -4 yards were included. Our line got straight up owned.
What happened in the shotgun offense?
Part of it was the exceptional generosity of the MSU corners. Time and again they got driven off and receivers were wide open. I don't think Henne had to find a second read on either drive; if I was, god forbid, an MSU blogger the D UFR on the the last drives would be something like:
AAAAARGH they're running the same out for the FIFTH STRAIGHT TIME and no one is even in the same ZIP CODE as these guys. (Cover -2) Someone give me a kitten to strangle.
#*$#!!!!! What are you thinking, Kendall Davis-Moron? I hate you! I hate you so much! I hate you so much I am giving up on saying anything clever about you and just calling you Davis-Moron! Where is my whiskey? I drank it during the Northwestern game? AAAARGGGHHHH
When kids are that open it's hard to get to the QB. Also, MSU started dropping eight guys into coverage, which was something they actually did to good effect earlier in the game, as the faked blitzes often would end up getting The Sackmaster one-on-one on Butler anyway, resulting in pressure against an eight-man zone. Michigan managed to fix that protection somehow and the same three-man rushes were just invitations to give up yards. It was an outstanding performance that pushed the final protection numbers up to mediocrity. Football is so weird sometimes.
Oh, yeah. Ye receive:
Nothing of particular note except the "8" in Manningham's uncatchable column, which was 50% of his season total before this game.
Yes... yes. I do hate to be That Guy, and plead guilty to some That Guy pessimism earlier in the year, but one of my bedrock beliefs about football is that it's stupid to be as predictable as Michigan is and this game was a good exemplar of that.
Simply-titled Michigan blog Blue, run by oft-cantankerous commenter Meechigan Dan, helpfully points out Michigan's first down playcalling, which was... not particularly creative. Here's the first half:
1-10-MI29 (11:14) Mike Hart rushed for 8 yards.
1-10-MIST38 (9:00) Brandon Minor lost 4 yards.
1-10-MI28 (5:45) Chad Henne passed to Carson Butler for 10 yards.
1-10-MI48 (5:27) Mike Hart rushed for 3 yards.
1-10-MIST11 (4:35) Mike Hart rushed for no gain.
1-10-MI44 (1:31) Mike Hart lost 1 yard.
1-10-MIST42 (14:40) Mike Hart rushed for 32 yards.
1-10-MIST10 (14:04) Mike Hart rushed for 5 yards.
1-10-MI6 (11:15) Mike Hart rushed for 2 yards.
1-10-MI8 (6:50) Mike Hart rushed for 1 yard.
1-10-MI20 (4:17) Mike Hart rushed for no gain.
1-10-MIST41 (1:57) Mike Hart rushed for 6 yards.
1-10-MI18 (0:16) Chad Henne lost 1 yard.
The last one is a kneeldown and doesn't count, but that's 11 runs out of twelve opportunities. Things got slightly better in the second half; before the dual de
speration drives started Michigan had three runs and two passes. Total: 14 runs, 3 passes. I don't care how much confidence Michigan has in its ground game, that ain't right.
Exemplar: I had an odd moment whilst reviewing the game for UFR. Michigan was on its final touchdown drive and had just gotten down to the MSU 29. They went under center and ran Brandon Minor on a zone left. MSU's defensive end bizarrely cut inside the DT and I couldn't understand what in the hell he was doing; for a moment it looked like he had lost his mind. Then it occurred to me: they were stunting. Why was it so hard to identify this? I mean, look at the above. Many of the mentions of pressure on Henne involve a stunt. MSU stunted all the time when Michigan found itself in obvious passing downs. But not once did they ever stunt when Michigan was running the ball until they were in, yes, an obvious passing down.
If Carson Butler had just decided to block the DE Minor would have had a nice gain, but he did not and it was a TFL. So... didn't work out so well, but MSU put itself in a bad position. By my estimation they did this all of once the rest of the day, that on Hart's run from the MSU 10 to the 5 on Michigan's second touchdown drive. Michigan opponents make very few mental errors because Michigan hardly ever puts them in a position where they can make a mental error. Scant misdirection; limited play action; low variety in the run game. This thinking belongs to another era of football.
Caveats can be extended for this game: the pass blocking was bad -- though no worse than the run blocking -- Henne seemed dinged, and the wind was nasty. But this is no one-game trend.
I'm sorry, I know: beating a dead horse. Or dying horse. Or retiring. Whatever. Beating a very tired and old but not quite dead horse over and over again. I'm obviously never going to stop or I would have by now, but please accept my profuse apologies.
Robot Henne, Mike Hart's one good leg, and Mario. And Long, always Long.
Evil Henne, Mike Hart's one bad leg, and Mario. And OH MY GOD CARSON BUTLER BLOCK SOMEBODY. Seriously, I would not be surprised to see a lot of Criswell coming up. We don't really need a dynamic receiver at TE. We do need someone who can block.
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
There's a VEQ coming up; in it Bruce Ciskie says the UW safeties have been atrocious and Ikegwuonu pretty average; second starting corner Allen Langford is also out. Ciskie also says the run defense has been atrocious; starting DT Jason Chapman is also out. So all right we run them the hell over yay!
Uh... probably not. Wisconsin is likely to note Michigan's difficulties on the right side of the line, which only get worse when Carson Butler is put over there, as the expectation of nonexistent help is worse than the cold knowledge of your infinite loneliness versus The Sackmaster, and blitz like hell. The return of Alex Mitchell probably says more about the situation at right guard than Mitchell's health and motivation -- dude looks way out of shape -- and Debord... well... if he ever sat down at a poker table I was at I'd get tingly. It'll probably be MOTS: ugliness interspersed with good and 20-something points.
Blood Battle. Brian Talpos writes:
For the past twenty-six years, University of Michigan's Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega (co-ed national service fraternity) has partnered with the American Red Cross to host the largest blood drive in the Midwest, the Blood Battle. Taking place over the two weeks prior to the Michigan vs. Ohio State football game, more than 25 blood drives are held on the U of M campus, collecting over 2000 pints of blood, and potentially saving over 6000 lives. Last year, the University of Michigan collected 1,954 pints, while Ohio State collected 2,044. Michigan's campus accounted for more than 12.5% of the total blood collection in Washtenaw County for the entire year, providing local hospitals with the blood they needed to serve patients in our community. As always, our goal is to beat the Buckeyes by collecting as many pints of blood as we can.
To sign up, go to givelife.org and use the sponsor code "goblue."
Bow Down Part VI:
Die Radford, die. Basketball season starts Friday; Michigan opens against Radford, which is either a university or a way to elegantly prepare kumquat. Big Ten Wonk, now known as John Gasaway, has an overview of the league at Basketball Prospectus that's worth reading en toto. A vote of confidence in Beilein:
Lastly, predicting that an achingly young--qualitatively as much as quantitatively--Michigan team will flirt with .500 should be seen solely for what it is: an expectant vote of confidence in the ability of John Beilein. That confidence is based on what he accomplished with an achingly young West Virginia team last year.
8-10 is the shot in the dark; who knows? At this point I am so NDNation about Beilein I believe the Final Four is possible... last year! Soon, Michigan will have retroactively won ten national championships.
The Daily has an interview with former Fab-Fiver (and soon-to-be BTN analyst) Jimmy King on Beilein.
I hope they sing. This is the most important thing you will ever read on this blog.
It's that important.
Important enough to write like a newspaper columnist.
Chad Henne, Will Johnson, Jake Long, and Jamar Adams are going to be in a play. Yes. A play. It's about Job. And it's at the Power Center. If you live within 1500 miles of Ann Arbor you are thinking "OMG TICKETS HOW". Tickets how.
The price is surprisingly steep for a university production -- 24 and 18 dollars -- which is good and bad. It means that 1) the play is probably something professional and will be worth your time, but 2) our noble warrior-thespians will probably be Plant #1, Plant #2, Interesting Looking Bucket, and Extremely Large Deaf-Mute. Whatever. I'm going. I hope Chad's only line is "Excellence is good." And that Will Johnson's only line is "I'm 21, how can I be going bald?" which, if you think about it, might be plausible in a play about Job.
Miles! Miles! Miles! Astute (== not in coma) readers may have noticed a long hiatus in the "Profiles In Heroism" series; this is mostly because further explorations of the coaching pool seem utterly pointless given the sustained buzz about Miles to Michigan. Thus weekly evaluations of LSU.
Anyway, And The Valley Shook mentions something I asked about Monday. Did Saban's teams commit a ton of penalties? Is it just an LSU thing? Quasi-response in a rant about "outcoaching":
Honestly curious: did Saban DO anything, or is the entire world making a judgment based on Les Miles' team having had one subpar outing? (Yes, I know we lead the SEC in penalties; don't ANYONE try to argue that our Saban teams didn't commit loads of dumb penalties at times.)
In the comments of that post "GeauxTigers" -- if Miles shows up I'm totally ganking "Geaux Blue" -- provides a helpful link to Yahoo's stat repository, which -- unlike the NCAA's -- has penalty data. Unfortunately, the results only go back to 2003, Saban's second year at LSU. Also unfortunately, Yahoo doesn't bother to, like, provide numbers, so anyone in the middle of a particular statistical category can only be called "approximately average" without actually counting stuff out. The numbers to date:
|#||Yards||Per Game||Approx Rank||Michigan|
|2005||100||875||71.4||Bad, not that bad||30.3|
|2004 (@ OkSt)||47||380||34.5||Outstanding||43.6|
|2003 (@ OkSt)||82||764||63.6||Average||42.2|
More fuel for the "all right! a penalty!" fire: Michigan was the least penalized team in 2005... their worst season in 20 years .
Note that in 2005 LSU had an SEC championship game to play, so their raw numbers are higher than most schools. If you drop 1/12th of their penalty yards they finish like 20th or 25th or something.
The only truly conclusive thing in these tables is a remarkable lack of penalties on Michigan. Year-in and year-out Michigan is near the bottom of these lists. Miles looks about average here, alternating flag-filled years with sedate ones.
Also, did you know dude had a brain cyst? In 2001...
A regular exerciser, Les Miles took a jog one morning that mid-December. He returned home with a tremendous headache and feeling nauseated. When the headache did not go away, he saw a doctor in Stillwater, Okla.
Then he saw a doctor in Oklahoma City for an MRI. He was told there was a cyst on his brain causing intracranial pressure and a buildup of fluid. Surgery was needed to remove part of the cyst.
"Well, first of all, you deny it," Miles, in his third season as LSU coach, said recently. "I mean they told me that, and I shrugged my shoulders. 'OK, so what? Let me go.' And I went recruiting. I mean, I left the hospital, and I went recruiting."
The pain came back, though, and Miles had his moment of clarity. He stopped
Dude? Dude! It's totally deranged to find out you have a brain cyst and go recruiting, but if there's one quality I'm looking for in a coach it's totally deranged workaholism.
Braves & Birds takes a look at LSUs "luck" through their brutal Kentucky-laden SEC schedule, concluding it's not actually about luck. A point from the comments that no one seems to make:
Yards per play gained and allowed are as much a function of coaching as anything else. If LSU were a talented, but poorly coached team, then it would not move the b
all well on offense (like, say, Florida State) and/or it would not stop its opponents (like, say, Nebraska). A well-coached team doesn't simply avoid turnovers and penalties; it also does well at the basic functions of the game.
Anyone who's watched Notre Dame play this year knows that turning high school kids into slavering beasts is no mere accident. Three years in, LSU's players might be Saban's recruits, but they're Miles' players; their "immense talent" is partly coaching.
Remember the memories. Yeah... Wisconsin is retiring Ron Dayne's number this weekend. You may remember Dayne from such stellar Michigan performances as "58 total yards" and "0 second half yards"; couldn't Wisconsin have retired Dayne's number against a team he actually performed against? Was Temple unavailable?
|O26||1||10||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Run||2||Off tackle|
|Hey, wow, no nickel. I'll attempt to distinguish between a conventional 4-3 with actual linebackers and a 5-2 where two MLBs sit behind five guys on the LOS. On MSU's first play they motion the TE across the line, then bring him behind the guard as the play snaps; he acts as a lead blocker. BG(-1) is shoved downfield after a momentary double; Taylor(+1) refuses to get sealed and bashes into the pulling guard; no hole. Ezeh(+1) picks through the traffic and makes a tackle as Ringer tries to bounce it out.|
|Handoff fake coupled with an end-around to Thomas in approximately the same area the play would go, except more outside. Jamison(-1) manages to shoot past the blocker intended for him but comes too far up inside on the initial handoff fake; Thomas runs around him. Englemon comes up to tackle after a decent gain.|
|O33||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||17||TE Out|
|Adams(+1, cover +1) is right there, swiping as the ball arrives. Unfortunately, it's high and outside; Davis reaches up but can only bat in the air. It comes right back down to him, and he rumbles for significant yardage. Bad luck and a great catch.|
|50||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Run||3||Iso|
|Caulcrick in the game. Not sure why he decides to cut away from the fullback â€“ looked like a good gain was possible â€“ but he does; the backside looks open but two guys are attempting to block Pollock and another two have engulfed a DT, allowing Graham to close unblocked.|
|M47||2||7||I-Form Twins||Base 4-3||Pass||8||WR Screen|
|This WR screen is actually a RB screen as the "WR" in question is Ringer, who's motioned out of the backfield. This is not good: we're zone blitzing Crable and Ezeh, leaving Graham to chase Ringer down all the way from the backside. Adams does a good enough job of forcing the play back to him; Ringer slips between two tacklers, nearing a first down.|
|Johnson(+1) dives into Hoyer's knees just as he throws; the resulting pass is has no velocity on it. But it is accurate, as there's a ton of room in front of Trent. (Cover -2, pressure +1) This was man, so -1 Trent, too.|
|M21||1||10||Ace||Base 5-2||Run||2||Off tackle|
|Adams comes up and is clearly in man cover over a motioning tight end. This play is the same as the previous off tackle but run to the opposite side of the line. Johnson(+1) reads his man pulling and starts flowing down the line; CG(+1) shoots into a gap, forcing Caulcrick to bounce it out a bit; Johnson is there to tackle with help from Ezeh.|
|M19||2||8||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Pass||Inc||TE Corner|
|Davis wide open for a touchdown (cover -2, CG -1), but Hoyer throws off his back foot and sails it to Tacopants. Taylor(+1) was coming and may have helped save the TD, as another second or two and Hoyer might be more accurate. (Pressure +1)|
|Wow. Michigan clears out the center of the zone; one LB chases a TE on a corner route as the other deploys a very, very delayed blitz that has no hope of getting home. (CG -1, pressure -1). A shallow cross to Thomas should be wide open except for Englemon(+2) reading this from the instant Thomas cuts his route inside and clubbing him just as the ball arrives. Outstanding. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(36), 0-3, 11 min 1st Q. In our 4-4 package Max Pollock comes in as a strongside linebacker over the TE. I can't remember another non-FB walkon who played actual downs on something other than special teams. Can anyone?|
|O18||1||10||Ace||Base 5-2||Run||0||Pitch sweep|
|Well, if you're not going to block the CB on this he's probably going to come up and do something about the run. Trent does this (he's in zone, allowing the quick reaction). Ringer cuts up into Jamison(+1) and Taylor for no gain.|
|O18||2||10||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Run||5||Iso|
|Man, we shift the front again, leaving that 5-3-1-7 gap between Johnson and Jamison; they run right at it. CGraham shoots up, burying himself under the fullback as Johnson is doubled and a major hole opens up. A safety eventually fills. Hard for Michigan to stop this given the shift.|
|Excellent coverage (+1) forces Hoyer to come down to Thomas; Harrison(+1) is right there and tackles immediately.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 6 min 1st Q.|
|O20||1||10||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Pass||5||WR Screen|
|Don't know if this is poor timing or what, but it seems like this play has no hope of succeeding as Hoyer throws a pass a couple yards backwards to Thomas. Trent(-1) meets him at the LOS and should have him for no gain but gets bowled over for five yards.|
|O25||2||5||Shotgun 2-TE||Base 5-2||Penalty||-5||False start|
|O20||2||10||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Pass||-7||Swing|
|The swing pass CGraham(+2) reads and destroys. (+1 cover)|
|Jamison(+1) bats it down. Usually this is a pressure +1, but Michigan blitzed and didn't get anywhere near Hoyer.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 2 min 1st Q.|
|O41||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Pass||Inc||PA Fly|
|A miscommunication here as Trent(-2) obviously thinks he has deep safety help and lets Thomas go by him without even pretending to cover until it's too late. No pressure(-2); Hoyer loads up... and underthrows his guy badly. (Cover -2)|
|O41||2||10||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Run||1||Counter|
|MSU motions the TE away from the offset fullback, then runs to his side after a counter fake from the RB, pulling an offensive lineman around with him. CGraham(+1) picks his way up into the hole and makes initial contact; a mass of bodies ends up with Ringer on the ground.|
|Hoyer throws the seam without bothering to check if Jamar Adams might be in the middle of the field, which he is. He breaks and picks it off(+2). (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-3, 14 min 2nd Q.|
|O37||1||10||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Run||-2||FB Dive|
|Ringer motions out. They hand it to the FB, but Taylor(+1) shoves into the backfield right in his path and BGraham(+1) finishes the play.|
|O35||2||12||I-Form||Base 5-2||Pass||Inc||PA TE Flag|
|A play action fake kills the pass rush, giving Hoyer lots of time (pressure -1); he throws to Davis, blanketed by Adams(+1, cover +1). Adams breaks the play up.|
|Wow... Michigan sends three delayed blitzers. Crazy. I don't necessarily mind one delayed blitzer, but Jamar Adams from eight yards off the LOS? None of them get anywhere near Hoyer, but that's okay because Taylor(+1) and BG(+1) both bust through from the DT spot after a moment or two. With the crappy blitz, good job by the secondary to cover(+1).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 12 min 2nd Q. Mathews lets the punt go over his head; a disastrous shift in field position from a seventy-yard punt.|
|M44||1||10||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Pass||Inc||PA Out|
|Thomas open (cover -1) as a State deep route pulled off the coverage and the linebackers bit; Jamison(+1) manages to get free of a pulled pass blocker and knock Hoyer as he throws, forcing the one-hopper. (Pressure +1)|
|M44||2||10||Shotgun 2-TE||Base 5-2||Run||3||Counter|
|Thomas comes in motion as a potential end-around target. Taylor(+1) reads the counter action, fighting his way back inside; CGraham(+1) had also popped up in a hole. Ringer's fortunate to fall forward after finding himself surrouded by Wolverines.|
|M41||3||7||Shotgun 2-back||Base 5-2||Pass||-10||Holding|
|Good coverage(+1) but no pressure(-1) ends up with Hoyer rolling out of the pocket and finding his TE on an out for the first down. It comes back for holding, as Taylor was tackled trying to chase down the rolled out Hoyer.|
|O49||3||17||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||5||Screen|
|Thompson(+1) does a good job of tracking back on this; Adams comes up and tackles.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 7 min 2nd Q.|
|M49||1||10||I-Form||Base 5-2||Run||9||Pitch sweep|
|Johnson(-1) late reacting and allows a TE to block him out of the play. Taylor does a good job of fighting down the line, but his dive at Ringer's feet fails to trip him up. CGraham eventually tracks him down after picking through a lot of traffic.|
|M39||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||1||Iso|
|This time it's MSU with the unbalanced line, as soon as Crable sees the shift he demands a safety come up and shifts the LBs to the overloaded side; MSU duly brings the other TE in motion to the unbalanced side of the line. CGraham(+1) knifes through the line and gets a hand on Ringer; Ezeh finishes. Taylor absorbed a double team; no second level blocks were offered by the MSU OL.|
|M38||2||9||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Pass||Inc||PA Out|
|Ton of time(pressure -1); Hoyer eventually throws it way high to a pretty well covered Thomas(+1 cover, Warren +1).|
|CGraham(+1) times a blitz well and is in too quickly for the RB to do anything but knock him off balance; Hoyer has to throw. Hoyer overthrows Thomas, who blatantly interferes with Warren and doesn't get called for it. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 4 min 3rd Q.|
|O28||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 5-2||Run||-2||End-around|
|Thomas motions into the backfield as he's done before; this time he gets the handoff and Ringer acts as a lead blocker. Crable(+1) stands his guy up and drives him back, forcing Thomas wide. For some reason, two guys go to block Adams; Ezeh(+1) read and picked through the traffic, hammering Thomas in the backfield for a loss.|
|5-3-1-7 shift to the strongside; we don't adjust as they motion the TE. Odd. They're trying to run a trap right at the gaping hole but the OL bumps Hoyer and he never makes the handoff. After scrambling out for a bit he falls over. Fortunate, as this looked bad if they didn't screw it up.|
|O20||3||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Seam|
|No pressure(-1) whatsoever; CGraham(+1) in great coverage, tipping the ball and getting the PBU. (Coverage +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|Michigan in a zone; Warren(-1) stops on a shorter route, allowing this flag to come open as CG can't possibly cover this guy any longer. (Cover -1, pressure -1)|
|Michigan sends six but does not get there; Hoyer does roll out. He eventually finds a guy open on the sidelines, but throws it wide. (Pressure -1)|
|M48||2||10||Shotgun Empty||Nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Cross|
|A huge bust in the middle of the zone has Davis open for a TE cross with a ton of room in front of him; he drops it. (Cover -2)|
|M48||3||10||Shotgun Empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Stop|
|Jamison(+2) schools an OT, forcing a quick throw from Hoyer as he's hit. It's high. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, EOH. Lucked out a bit there. Where's Crable?|
|O25||1||10||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Run||2||Inside zone|
|State OL s
till having major issues getting off their blocks and into the second level; this time Taylor(+1) fights off a double and tackles in the hole with help from an unblocked Ezeh.
|We shift to the 5-3-1-7 shaded front before the snap, they run right at the gap. Why are we doing this? Johnson(-1) doubled and gone, CGraham blocked out of the play by the FB. Ezeh(-1) meets Caulcrick three yards downfield and gets trucked.|
|O34||3||1||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||2||Iso|
|Taylor(+1) gets great penetration here, forcing Caulcrick to cut back; Ezeh(-1) and Graham(-1) are late, missing an opportunity to punch MSU off the field.|
|O36||1||10||Ace||Base 5-2||Run||6||Off tackle|
|Taylor(-2) clubbed out of this play by the double., ending up four yards downfield and getting Ezeh caught up in the wash. Everyone else did fine, but when your NT gets blown four yards back and they're running right at him it's ugly.|
|O42||2||4||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||2||Iso|
|Johnson(+1), not even the playside DT, drives his guy into the hole behind the penetration of Taylor; Caulcrick is robbed of his momentum and gets surrounded by Michigan defenders.|
|O44||3||2||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||3||Iso|
|Taylor does an okay job on the POA; Crable comes from the backside to grasp; the linebackers flow up but Caulcrick squeezes through.|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun Big||Base 5-2||Pass||21||PA TE Cross|
|They fake the end-around they've run to Thomas before; both LBs bite (Ezeh -1, Graham -1) and Davis is wide open. (Cover -2)|
|M32||1||10||Ace||Base 5-2||Run||9||Pitch sweep|
|BGraham(-1) slants inside, giving up the outside immediately. Adams(-1) has filled, as Michigan is coming up hard against the run, for a minimal gain but Ringer spins past him and stumbles near first down yardage.|
|M23||2||1||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||6||Counter|
|BG(-1) blown down the line, opening up a considerable hole as Crable gets cut. Ezeh gets thumped by a blocker, reaching out to slow Caulcrick as he passes, but that's a tough job.|
|M17||1||10||I-Form Twins||Base 4-3||Run||8||???|
|We get to this play late; CGraham(-1) has overpursued and left a huge cutback lane, which Caulcrick uses. Should probably be another minus in here but I can't tell with the late showing of the play. And if this isn't a fumble â€“ which it isn't â€“ has the tool who called the exact same play a fumble when it happened to Antonio Bass been tarred and feathered?|
|M9||2||2||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Run||1||Iso|
|No creases and a good fill by CGraham(+1) causes a cutback for minimal yardage.|
|M8||3||1||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Run||2||Iso|
|F***, CGraham, you bolt into the backfield all awesome like and should have this dead to rights, then miss a tackle. Come on. No plus/minus, as CG did slow him up at least.|
|Yeah, we have ten guys on the field after a bunch of switching. Awesome. Anton Campbell(-1) in the game; he should have Caulcrick for a one-yard gain but gets trucked. Why is Anton Campbell in the game? Englemon got knocked out a few plays earlier.|
|Plowed in from six inches.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 6 min 3rd Q. Well, that was repulsive.|
|O28||1||10||Ace||Base 5-2||Run||9||Pitch sweep|
|Fairly simple explanation as to why this works: Crable is held blatantly without a call. Ringer pops outside, as Crable's understandably lost contain.|
|O37||2||1||Ace||Base 5-2||Pass||15 (pen)||Fade|
|Warren(+1, cover +1) blankets Dell, but gets the world's weakest PI call, which happens to be like ten seconds late. Awful.|
|M48||1||10||Ace||Base 5-2||Run||4||Off tackle|
|Ringer shoots through a hole that appears to not exist, as Ezeh came up and took out the lead-blocking pulling guard and did well; Taylor stood up to a double team okay. Somehow he leaks through between the two and darts for decent yardage.|
|M44||2||6||I-Form||Base 5-2||Run||-2||Pitch sweep|
|Crable(+2) blows the trapping guard into the backfield, discarding him and closing Caulcrick down for a loss.|
|M46||3||8||Shotgun Empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||6||Out|
|Michigan sends six, but the blitz is ill-timed and doesn't really get there fast. Johnson(+1) eventually hits Hoyer; he still gets a pass off, which is complete but close enough to the sidelines that the WR can't turn it up.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-10, 3 min 3rd Q.|
|O17||1||10||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Pass||6||WR Screen|
|Stevie Brown(-1) in, coming up and moving in on Caulcrick, ignoring the WR screen. Trent has to fight off a cut and get up to tackle with no help; he does so.|
|O23||2||4||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Run||71||Pitch sweep|
|Well, hell, Crable(+1) busts into the backfield and slings Ringer around. 99% of the time this is a TFL by him or someone else; he didn't tackle him but he also set MSU up for a big loss. Jamison(-1) relaxes, thinking the play's over, and Ringer shoots out to the other side. Brown(-1) has also vacated the backside. Ringer takes off, you know the rest. I don't know who to blame.|
|M6||1||G||???||???||Pass||6||PA TE Seam|
|My copy of the game doesn't actually have this play. As I recall, MSU ran play action and had a guy wide, wide open. (Cover -2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-17, 15 min 4th Q.|
|O48||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||7||Off tackle|
|BG(-1) blown off the ball by a double; a pulling guard comes through and blocks one LB as the guy on the double peels off.|
|M45||2||3||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Run||4||Inside zone|
|5-3-1-7 shift and they run at the overloaded side... maybe. This might be an intended counter, as
the predictably large gap opens up on the backside and they've motioned Davis right over that spot. For some reason Davis and the OT double Jamison, though, leaving CGraham unblocked in the cutback hole; he tackles but only after Ringer picks up the first down.
|M41||1||10||Ace Twins?||Base 5-2||Run||-5 (pen)||Inside zone|
|Hard to tell what happens here â€“ poor production â€“ but Taylor(-1) and BG(-1) are blown off the ball... possibly another shifted front since there's a big hole and it looks like Johnson is offset. Caulcrick just pounds ahead. Illegal formation brings it back.|
|M46||1||15||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Pass||9||Bubble screen|
|Michigan in obvious zone; Brown lined up significantly inside of Thomas and can't get an angle; Trent playing back. (Cover -1)|
|M37||2||6||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Run||16||Iso|
|Massive cutback hole as Johnson again tries to flow down the line of scrimmage, but it's CGraham(-2) who abandons the backside here instead of meeting Caulcrick in the developing hole.|
|M21||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||5||Iso|
|Johnson(-1) blown back by the double, allowing an MSU OL to peel off and hit a LB.|
|Slocum(+1) is in at NT; he's double but holds up, causing Caulcrick to slow as he reaches the hole; Crable comes around and grabs him, but Caulcrick falls forward.|
|M15||3||4||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Pass||9||Broken play|
|MSU runs the fumblerooski throw that worked for a touchdown versus Notre Dame; Michigan is not fooled. (Cover +1). Trent, initially up on Thomas, gets too close and lets him run past him to the sideline; Hoyer makes his best throw of the day and completes it for a first down.|
|M6||1||G||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Run||2||Iso|
|Johnson(+1) holds up on the frontside; Caulcrick cuts back into an unblocked Adams and falls forward for two.|
|Michigan has this stopped, or should, but Thompson(-1) falls down as he attempt to tackle, allowing Caulcrick to grind forward. A big play that turns this from third and goal and the three to third and goal at the one.|
|Tape does not have this play.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-24, 7 min 4th Q.|
|O25||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Run||1||Off tackle|
|Jamison(+1) makes this play. driving Davis back and into the center of the line, taking out a pulling guard and allowing CGraham to close and tackle unblocked.|
|O26||2||9||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||7||Off tackle|
|Well, this isn't exactly great by the DL but it's not horrible either. Jamison(-1) is effectively controlled and pushed back, though. Ezeh(-1) is hesitant, allowing a man to peel off onto him and CGraham(-1) does not close the hole.|
|O33||3||2||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Run||0||Pitch sweep|
|Crable(+1) gets enough push on the pulling guard to convince Caulcrick to cut it up, where a host of Michigan defenders meet him. Taylor(+1) did a good job flowing down the line and creating the pile.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-24, 5 min 4th Q.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun Empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||7||Stop|
|A little stop in front of soft coverage. (Cover -1)|
|O38||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||4||Circle|
|Curry beats Harrison; a blitz was sent but did not get there. Harrison does make an immediate tackle. ( Pressure -1)|
|Jamison in unblocked due to a blitz (Pressure +1); Hoyer finds a quick stop route that Warren escorts out of bounds for a minimal gain. (Cover +1)|
|Again blitzing more guys than they can block; Hoyer finds Davis for a short gain. (Pressure +1).|
|I think this is a combo coverage with zone on the left side and man on the right; Warren breaks out to a deep zone and the safety takes the short flat. This would make this bust CGraham's, as he got way too far inside on the TE and allowed Thomas to cross into the middle of the field with no one within 10 yards of him. (Cover -2) On replay.. i dunno. This could be Ezeh, as the swing was covered by Englemon and he was flying up towards it. I think it's Ezeh(-2).|
|Six men cross the line, one of them is an unblocked Crable(+1); Hoyer hesitates on his stop route â€“ Crable just too fast â€“ and is lost. (Pressure +2, cover +1)|
|Max pro for MSU; Michigan rushes only four and still gets pressure from BG(+1), forcing the drag dumpoff. It's dropped; Brown(+1) comes up to tackle anyway; two yards even if caught. (Cover +1, pressure +1)|
|Morgan Trent(+1) jumps this out, which is late, and breaks it up. (Cover +1)|
|M42||4||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Seam|
|Harrison in good coverage(+1); ball is overthrown anyway; Hoyer had to rush it because of a blitz and Jamison(+1) coming free of a blocker.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-24, EOG.|
I'm so confused. Was that a good performance or not?
I tentatively suggest it was. Obviously, the first half was great: 85 yards and three points despite facing a ton of possessions, many of which started near midfield. After halftime things got dicey, but the end results were still 352 yards -- about 75 under MSU's season average -- and 24 points on 15 MSU possessions. That's around 24 yards per drive.
Also, how much do you want to blame the D for Ringer's reverse-field 70 yar
der? I tend to look at those things as fluke occurrences and not reflective of defensive quality; that was fully 20% of their yards. (This is the second straight year Shawn Crable has missed a potential TFL and an opponent has turned it into a long run by using the impetus provided; last year it was Beanie Wells. Crable, wrap up plz.)
But what happened in the second half?
Well, let's look at the char--
|Jamison||7||3||4||Quiet statistically but batted a pass and caused a few others to be inaccurate with his pressure.|
|Taylor||8||3||5||A couple diving tackles that really helped out the befuddled linebackers.|
|Crable||6||-||6||A couple plays on those pitch sweeps; no real pass-rush presence until the end.|
|Trent||1||4||-3||Was fortunate not to give up two big plays.|
|Warren||2||1||1||Still can't believe that PI call.|
|Adams||4||1||3||I will miss these safeties...|
|Englemon||2||-||2||...such a weird thing to think.|
|"Pressure"||10||10||0||In reality worse than this, as many of the +1s came on MSU's final drive when State went empty and M sent six.|
|"Coverage"||17||18||-1||Decent day, though the D was fortunate not to|
Right, on Ezeh: Carr provided effusive praise for him in the postgame and I'm not so in love with my numbers to totally dispute him... but I didn't think he did much, and I assigned a couple pieces of blame to him that I may or may not be right about. Thirteen tackles is a lot, but on most of those he was cleanup or getting the benefit of the doubt in a pile or getting run over by Caulcrick.
I tentatively suggest this was confidence building and pride in his work ethic more than praise for his play. It is nice that we have a mediocre starting MLB who's a freshman; he should have an excellent career by the time things are said and one.
So, anyway, what happened in the second half?
A couple things: sometimes we shifted into that shaded 5-3-1-7 front with the big NT-DE gap and State usually ran right at it, picking up good yardage. Also, they attacked Brandon Graham successfully. He's got a -2 up there, by far his worst total of his career, and it was largely because he got booted out of the line by double teams frequently.
About that shaded front: I don't get it against this offense. I understand its purpose against the zone read, but when MSU is lining up under center and can hypothetically attack any portion of the line without a shift it seems... odd.
A contribution from Greg Simmons, who you may know if you've been reading the comments. He's a defensive coordinator at a NC high school. He thinks the problems in the second half were not schematic but rather on a player level. These are paraphrased:
- DTs getting blown off the ball or collapsing, leaving a hole no non-All-American LB could fill. These were three or four different people. (I thought Taylor was pretty good, though he did get blown out once. Johnson was similar, and Graham a frequent culprit.)
- Missed tackles; LBs and safeties putting their heads down and diving for feet, instead of wrapping up and driving. [This was definitely an issue on a particular second and goal that should have been one yards and was instead three.]
- LBs and safeties not correctly scraping to open gaps on the power off tackle, either out of stack [labeled Maryland I above] or out of I with a pulling tackle or guard. They suck up on the iso, and fail to scrape when the linemen squeeze the down blocks in front of them.
Too many people on Michigan's defense are trying to make all the plays themselves. Why is Taylor trying to spin his way into the backfield when he is getting a double team from a nose and a guard? Because someone is teaching or allowing him to try to make every big play, instead of making a pile and allowing unblocked LBs to make the play.But what if you think your LBs are terrible, and the strength is the DTs and ends? Then don't play gap responsibility, which means dropping the 4-4 scheme or the 3-4 50 scheme that Michigan has employed since I was born.
I do think the scraping issue is something that is a real problem but it's a subtle one I don't quite understand as a layman. When and how a linebacker should move remains one of the truly arcane aspects of football to the interested observer.
What does seem clear is that whereas last year our linebackers were always thumping people at or near the LOS and gaps were hard to come by, this year guys are squeezing through small gaps and blowing through large ones; some of that is on the linebackers and their scraping.
I also have some disagreements, most prominently on Taylor and with the schematic issues, as the shaded front seem an invitation to run right at the gap... but it's food for thought, anyway. Anyone with technical thoughts is invited to comment.
(A clarification for those who fear my latent grumpiness: it's not like they're terrible. Remove the Ringer thing and MSU backs averaged just under 4 YPC. They are what they are, average. )
Terrance Taylor was Michigan's best player on the day, often in the backfield and always occupying two guys.
Trent gets to be a quasi-goat as he was beaten deep twice but Hoyer bailed him out. Other than that, Brandon Graham could not hold up as an every-down SDE against a pounding attack -- he's not Woodley yet -- and the linebackers were erratic.
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
Michigan has to be concerned that the Badgers can find something in the second half to exploit, although to this amateur's eyes it didn't seem to be a schematic change. BGraham's inability to stand up in the run game could prove problematic the final two weeks of the season (or it could be a fluke or something correctable).
At this point we know what to expect from the secondary: solid, but not great coverage and (knock on wood) reliable safety play. The linebackers are good for a bust or two a game.
Wisconsin's almost identical to MSU on offense, though their #1 receiver may be less of a threat and PJ Hill is banged up, and Wisconsin should move the ball sporadically with an eye on making it to the mid-twenties.