...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
- Replay again blows a huge call by ruling that Antonio Bass had fumbled when it was clear that his elbow hit the ground and then the ball came out. When your elbow hits, you're down, and everyone knows that except for the Big Ten replay official. It balanced out an earlier blown fumble call when Martin clearly coughed the ball up but the play was ruled down and not reviewed. I'm in favor of replay but I'm also in favor of finding replay officials that have watched football before.
- Jake Long returned, praise Jesus. The guy off the bench when Henige was injured was actually redshirt freshman Alex Mitchell.
- Henne... what can you say? Iowa decided at some point to rush three and sit back on passing downs because he would panic after about two seconds in the pocket and check down or throw the ball away. Michigan's confidence in him is seemingly very low. His numbers look fine thanks in large part to the 52 yard screen touchdown and some completions that were meaninglessly short of the sticks on third down, but Lloyd is going to have to call me an idiot again.
- Still not sure if the pass to Avant in overtime was brilliant or retarded, since he was covered well and Henne was throwing across his body. He did put it in the only place he could and let Avant make an incredible (OMG INCREDIBLE) catch.
- I hate the fact that whenever Mike Hart gets injured they show shots of him on the sideline after every other play; each one breaks my heart.
- Jerome Jackson? WTF... okay! Jerome Jackson!
- John Thompson played the entire second half in place of Chris Graham and did very well. We have a new WLB and the difference was immediately apparent, like going from McClintock to Harris. Now about the strong side...
- A ton of frustrating soft zone coverage the whole day. Tate was very accurate but it helped that he only had to thread it into coverage infrequently. I'm getting tired of seeing our cornerbacks 10 yards off the line of scrimmage like they're Jaren Hayes.
- Woodley went out early in the game and Tirico kept referring to an Alan Branch leg injury. Pierre Woods and Tim Jamison filled in for Woodley very well, getting pressure on Tate regularly.
- After a couple of long early touchdown drives Michigan held Iowa to one last second field goal over the course of the second half, though they were aided by a gift interception.
- I was too hard on Jamar Adams. Over the past two games he's played very well in the absence of the starters (Engelmon missed one tackle on Iowa's first drive and then disappeared).
- Shawn Crable only appears on my radar when he's doing something really dumb, like the holding call in overtime.
Not much to speak of in this game. Iowa's punter consistently dropped in 20-30 yard punts, giving Breaston no chance to return. Rivas hit his one field goal. David Harris blocked an Iowa field goal. Ross Ryan's punts were all short-ish and had good hang time. He'll consistently kick it about 40 yards and only very few of them will be returned.
The call on the Breaston muff was correct, I think, as he was clearly affected by the gunner. Perhaps not the letter of the law but definitely the spirit of it.
It took Carr all of one game to forget the lessons he professed to have learned against Penn State. When Michigan got the ball back late Michigan looked at nine man fronts on first down and decided to run into them. The final series before overtime: run for two yards, run for three yards, run for two yards. Punt with three minutes left, almost lose the game.
As per usual, stuff all (hopefully coherent) rants about the game into this particular box.
Update: A reader sent along a link to Stuff On My Cat and accompanied it with a note saying in part "when I saw this I instantly thought of you," which I'm not really sure how to take. In any case, it's awesome and the source for this week's celebratory image:
Oh yeah. Hot, hot, hot!
Run Offense vs. Iowa
The running game was surprisingly good last week against the one of the better run defenses in the country. The left side of the offensive line, including center Adam Kraus, was great all day and Lentz and Riley, though they had significant problems in pass protection, also contributed to an effective (though not explosive) day for Mike Hart and Kevin Grady. Michigan's draw-based running game worked consistently, gashing the Nittany Lions for most of a critical second half-opening touchdown drive.
Iowa's defense is hard to get a read on. Games against Northern Iowa (I-AA), Ball State (83rd in rushing), and Iowa State (93rd) offer little insight into how the Hawkeyes stack up against Michigan. Ohio State completely throttled Iowa, rushing for over 300 yards against them. For comparison's sake, they got 91 against PSU and 137 against MSU, they aren't that good. While they've stood up decently outside of that one game, it's mostly because they jumped out to big leads against bad teams who then were forced to pass. Illinois' Pierre Thomas went for 100 yards on 15 carries. Kory Sheets of Purdue went for 78 on just 16. Iowa did do a good job against a lot of Indiana carries (44 for 86)... but, uh, that's Indiana. Statistics and common sense indicate that even Michigan's slightly wonky offensive line should be able to line up and smash the Iowa front four.
Michigan's Jekyll and Hyde act may spring up and bite them in the ass, but they should have a successful day running against the Hawkeyes. Mike Hart hasn't been held under 100 yards this year; last year against a much more fearsome version of this exact defense he went for 99. He is real and he is spectacular. Combine that with the hopelessly outweighed and inexperienced defensive line and Iowa has two choices: expose their gimpy secondary against Michigan's inconsistent pass game or hope their players can beat the one on one matchups presented and then tackle Hart. Hobson's choice, that.
Key Matchup: TE Tyler Ecker and C Adam Kraus versus LBs Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway. Michigan was able to get out on Penn State's two outstanding linebackers and the result was a series of big gains that led to Michigan's first touchdown of the Penn State game. Facing a similarly intimidating pair, they'll have to do the trick again.
Pass Offense vs. Iowa
Chad Henne's numbers against Penn State--21 of 32 for 212 yards and two axiom-altering touchdowns to Mario Manningham--seem like a drastic improvement from past games when he struggled to complete half his passes, but a closer examination shows that his performance was no better or worse than any of his others this year, if you adjust for opposing defense quality. Henne was often incapable of finding open receivers (11 instances against PSU) and was only somewhat accurate when he did. His PSU numbers were greatly propped by a profusion of screens and long handoffs (12 in total for 10 completions)--take those away and you get MOTS: 11 for 20 with a number of sacks or two yard scrambles due more to Henne's errors than Penn State's defense. To boot, immediately after Mario Manningham etched himself into Michigan lore last week rumors of injury started swirling around him. I have a bad feeling about his availability for Iowa.
Iowa's secondary is not healthy and it showed last week against Indiana. Blake Powers found open receivers all day both deep and short in Terry Hoeppner's spread offense. With two Iowa secondary starters--safety Charles Godfrey and corner Antwaan Allen--limping around on sprained ankles and the intimidating pass rush provided by Matt Roth and Jonathan Babineaux gone, Michigan should find similarly open receivers, but the inconsistency from the entire passing game has been persistent enough to declare it chronic. Michigan will find some success here but as per usual will underperform expectations.
Key Matchup: Michigan WRs versus Iowa CBs after the catch. Iowa lays back in a passive zone a lot and will keep Avant, Manningham, and Breaston, et al., in front of them. Michigan's going to screw up at some point on most long drives and be forced to settle for field goal attempts. Turning five yards into ten or twenty is going to make the difference on a few drives and probably in in the game.
Run Defense Vs Iowa
Iowa's running game is no longer the humorously melanin-free Sam Brownlee and a bunch of broken body parts. Albert Young has emerged from the sack of cats as a real threat... maybe. It depends on whether you're looking at games against Illinois (13 for 102) and Indiana (26 for 125) or Ohio State(10 for 25). Unfortunately, our run defense--currently 74th--is looking closer to the former than the latter... somehow. It seems like it should be much better, but it isn't. Plagued by repeated, maddening containment issues and Pat Massey's tendency to end plays looking up at the sky, Michigan has ceded gobs of rushing yards to all opponents with a pulse.
It's yet to be determined whether or not Iowa actually has a pulse, despite the numbers. Given what I saw against Indiana the answer is definitely maybe. Young gained most of his yards cutting it outside and just outrunning the Indiana defense. Michigan's linebackers won't allow that to happen, since they're fast. There will be opportunities for Iowa to exploit holes that shouldn't be there because of linebackers overpursuing or losing containment but just outrunning them? You tore your ACL last year, Young, you aren't getting outside with impunity. I call fraud on the Iowa run game. Michigan will largely shut it down; there will be scattered instances of linebackers getting (-2) on their chart for giving me aneurysms.
Key Matchup: DTs Pat Massey and Gabe Watson versus the Zone Stretch. I have confidence that Branch and Woodley will hold up admirably by this point in the year, especially against a backup LT (Lee Gray being lost for the year) and a JUCO transfer at RT. Massey and Watson have to fight the more experienced interior offensive linemen off to make that probable dominance count, though.
Pass Defense vs. Iowa
Drew Tate hasn't seemed quite the same this year for whatever reason and is now missing his best wide receiver, Ed Hinkel, for the year. I could point to more stats, but it's been mentioned before: Iowa has no meaningful ones. Tate's torn up three of the worst pass defenses in Division I over the past few weeks (Illinois: 11oth opponent passing efficiency; Purdue 113th; Indiana 69th) so his numbers are gaudy by there's not necessarily any there there. Michigan has somehow acquired the best pass efficiency defense in the Big Ten (24th nationally), probably because they've played Robinson, Cupito, Stocco, etc. Against Drew Stanton they sat back and got shredded. No one has proven anything.
I do think Tate is a very good quarterback who can lead Iowa down the field with some regularity, but without Hinkel he's somewhat handcuffed. Michigan will focus a lot of attention on Clinton Solomon and make him hit his other receivers. He'll complete a lot of passes, but he'll have to.
Key Matchup: Prescott Burgess/David Harris versus TE Scott Chandler. The play action boot is a staple of the Iowa offense and has been highly effective against Michigan for a long time now.
Both Steve Breaston and Garrett Rivas decided to show up against Penn State and Michigan needed both to win. Breaston has seemingly returned to form after two consectutive strong games returning kicks and punts. Also of note was Ross Ryan's performance against Penn State, which was great. Ryan's punts were all around 40 yards and unreturnable. The special teams seems extremely strong save for the field goal per game that Rivas sends into the sidelines.
Key Matchup: Garrett Rivas versus Stop Shanking Stuff.
Have you f
ound Gorgoroth? Let me tell you about how It entered my life. Before, I was a sinner. I loved dogs of all sorts. I consorted with them, hurling balls willy nilly, taking them for walks and disposing of their excrement, lying down in their dens, "roughhousing." I walked that deep, despondent path of friendship and happy companionship.
Lo, I was wretched.
But then, one day I was walking through the park and I saw this french fry that looked kind of funny. I tilted my head, wondering what this fry was trying to tell me. Tell me deep in my soul. I glanced at it for a moment; nothing. I looked away and tried to catch it off guard; nothing. Finally, I held it in the edges of my peripheral vision, waiting for the french fry to reveal itself to me. I heard a mighty crack and people screaming, screaming something about running home. I felt the hand of Gorgoroth upon me. All was black.
He appeared to me.
He spoke his black gospel. And now I'm saved! Shouldn't you be saved by the Demon Kitten God? Maybe? You'll get back to me? Okay. We meet at the civic center. Free coffee.
Three Things I'd Like To See:
- The interior of the offensive line grinding the young chilluns they oppose into a fine paste.
- JUCO transfer Marshall Yanda single blocking Lamarr Woodley.
- Mario, healthy.
Three Things I Don't Want To See:
- Michigan going to a three wide and then running into a stacked line.
- Anyone other than Mike Hart attempting to pick up blitzing linebackers.
- Any $*ing funny stuff on punts.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for On The Road Again (Ugh), -1 for And A Child On The Defensive Line Is A Bad Idea, -1 for You Haven't Beaten Anyone As Good As Us, +1 for Er... Probably.)
Desperate need to win level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for It Would Be Nice To Win Two In A Row, +1 for It Would Also Be Nice To Go To A Bowl; -1 for But It Would Probably Be The Music City Bowl.)
Loss will cause me to... get slightly cranky, boy howdy!
Win will cause me to... cease watching MAC games in preparation for our bowl opponent.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:Goddammit. I think we should win this game. Iowa is a giant fraud, having beaten Indiana, Illinois, Ball State, Northern Iowa, and Purdue. Not one of those teams is going to even sniff the Motor City Bowl. They lost to a bad Iowa State team by 20; they were completely bitched by Ohio State. Michigan has a crappy record but has played much stiffer competition. If Penn State couldn't do much about Hart is Iowa going to? Doesn't it seem fairly probable that Limpy McAnklestein in the secondary lets someone get a big play? Aren't the chances of #*$@ing funny stuff in the punt game fairly low?
I know, I know, I've doomed us. But what we have here is a lack of a control. Wins have been accompanied both by Kitten Power and predictions of losses. This week we get the kittens but not the prediction of a loss. Not all is lost!
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Manningham again plays sparingly due to the mysterious injury.
- Burgess finally gets it right and UFR does not contain "OMG YOU LOST CONTAIN."
- 24-20, Michigan.
The News From Ann Arbor
What could the news be? Michigan lands really, really big defensive lineman? Someone has devised a way to poke Angry Michigan Safety Hating God in the eye?
Find out at
11 ypsi~dixit. (OMG EVIL TEASER!)
The St. Fandrew type will take to message boards proclaiming their own blind faith in their coach as evidence of their superior virtue and character, indirectly accusing everyone who disagrees with them of the things they boast of being
... and the "Master Shake":
The question for the Master Shake fan is not WHO is to blame, but how to fire the coach, the staff, the groundskeeper, revoke scholarships from all enrolled players, slaughter the existing mascot, burn the stadium to the foundations, sow salt on the ground, and build an entirely new program from foundations on up.
EDSBS's dichotomy is something that rings true across the land. Bill of Eagle In Atlanta declares that BC fans are either "rah rahs" or "wah wahs"; the RCMB has regular, hilarious sectarian struggles between the "Sunshine Blowers" and the "Demand Excellencers."
I am a bad person for many reasons. One of them is the fact that I find Syracuse blog Orange44's tribute to Syracuse's dismal season--a photograph of a crying child at the start of every post--endlessly hilarious.
That is all.
Excellent things that demand reading: Gunslingers goes all Vijay on us and does a lot of comparative yardage and scoring sorting to try and determine exactly which undefeated teams are fradulent or non-. Dave Sez continues its series of fantastic analyitical football articles with something of particular interest to Michigan fans wondering wither Jerame Tuman: the waggle. All Things Longhorn indicates that Jeff Sagarin should not be taken seriously by using his numbers to assert that the Big Ten is the best conference this year.
Sunday Morning Quarterback presents its Thursday Morning Quarterback column on Friday. Confusion! He says this about Michigan-Iowa:
Two teams about which everyone, thus far, has been wrong, wrong, wrong - neither of these ubiquitous top 10 and 15 preseason picks is even ranked! SMQ has kept the faith with Michigan, who continues to seem to him very solid all the way around despite some, shall we say, inconsistency. But Iowa's following last season's come-from-nowhere script to T, only with a better running game, and might rise up and roll like a train through the Big Ten/Eleven the rest of the season. The beast is awakened, and tied for the league lead...
IOWA 27, MICHIGAN 21
I think perhaps the "only with a better running game" misses a key issue, that being that you could probably feature the Iowa defensive line on Orange44's posts and no one would be able to tell the difference. But I've quite literally been as wrong as possible ("this will be the least enjoyable game I've ever seen in Michigan Stadium") this season, so I strongly suggest you think the opposite of what I do. And what I'm thinking now is that you should not send me one million dollars.
Iowa partisan Mark Hasty's Pickin' On The Big Ten also predicts dismal defeat:
It's sad when you don't know whether to be afraid of Michigan or not. This game is at Kinnick, and the Revenge Factor for the Hawkeyes is pretty high, so I'm leaning towards "not." I just hope I'm right.
BECOME WHAT YOU ARE 31
Seconded about the sad part.
I am not a robot genius, so I urge you to check the comment threads on the UFR posts, as they often contain useful disagreements, corrections, reinterpretations, and discussions that function as good content I don't have to write. The PSU offense thread is a good example.
And now for something completely insane. Right, if anyone has access to Joe Paterno's computer and wants to set up some desktop wallpaper that will definitely kill him, Andrew Morrell returns with this... thing:
Your guess is as good as mine. Downloadable in 1024 x 768! Is it my wallpaper? You betcha!
Probably the best Michigan basketball preview you'll find this year has been written and is available up at Hawkeye Hoops. I agree with most of it, including the Horton dogging, which I did in my (somewhat dated) preview after exploring his shocking inefficiency with actual numbers. Later I added my own stat-wonkery to the canon started by Kyle, introducing a simple-but-hopefully-interesting "Shots Per Possession" stat that Michigan finished at the absolute bottom of last year.
Whatevs says whatevs about Bill Simmons, and since I am apparently keeping everyone fabulously up to date on everything that's ever said about the man I provide a link.
Chris Perry is about three touchdowns away from being the most successful NFL running back from Michigan since... um. That one three-week burst during which Biakubutuka carried my fantasy team before getting Vince Cartered? Sure.
|1||10||O20||Pass||9||Mason(-1) bites on the play action and Smolko's wide open.|
|2||1||O29||Run||5||End around to King. He gets the corner on Harris since the DBs to that side don't come off their blocks.|
|1||10||O34||Scramble||9||Five wide set here. Defense isn't too bad; the WR's route functions as a convenient block, otherwise Harris shuts this down quickly.|
|2||1||O43||Run||8||Burgess(-1) should make this tackle at the LOS, as the line holds very well.|
|1||10||M49||Run||11||Counter pitch play to Williams that Burgess(-1) gets faked out of his jock on. Can't be too hard on Burgess even though he got posterized as Williams is a tough guy to tackle. IBFC video.|
|1||10||M38||Run||-1||Yeah, the fulback trap is not a good idea. Watson(+1) drives his man way into the backfield; FB cuts right into Woodley(+1) who crushes him.|
|2||11||M39||Run||3||Another option play here. Mason(+1) reads it and hops out on the pitch man. Adams(+1) comes up and makes a very solid tackle on Robinson.|
|3||8||M36||Pass||6||Adams(+1) hits Williams the instant he catches the ball and negates any possible YAC.|
|4||2||M30||Run||7||Mason(-1) doesn't read the play very quickly and is hestitant attacking the corner. By the time he gets there he can only make a weak wave at the tackle.|
|1||10||M23||Scramble||5||Three step chop and fire that Robinson pulls down because of Hall's(+1) coverage. He's flushed by Woodley and scrambles. Trent puts a good lick on him.|
|2||5||M18||Run||3||Shotgun hand off a la MSU. Harris and Graham plug up the hole.|
|3||2||M15||Run||1||Blitz of one guy into a QB draw. Branch(+2) closes it down and forces the FG attempt.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG (32), 0-0 8 min 1st Q. PSU came with a number of fancy tricks designed to get the kid WRs involved and got several first downs off of them and Robinson's running.|
|1||10||O20||Run||5||Shotgun handoff. Watson(-1) slants too far inside at the snap and the guard can use his momentum to dispose of him rather easily.|
|2||5||O25||Pass||Inc||Play action, Robinson manages to slip it in between the guys in the zone here but it's a little bit too high and it falls incomplete. Good coverage by Mason(+1) here, who knows he has safety help. Branch(+1) gets a little pass rush.|
|3||5||O25||Pass||0||Screen that Michigan blitzes into. Harris(+1) slices up and forces the RB back inside where Woodley(+1), who's coming from the other side of the field, makes the tackle. Incidental face mask here against Woodley goes uncalled... that would have been a first down.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 5 min 1st Q. The play by Harris is key, as they had a rock and we had scissors on that play call. If Harris doesn't disrupt the timing of the screen and allow the stunting Woodley to read and make his way to that side of the field, it's easily a first down and probably significantly more.|
|1||10||O22||Run||2||Intended hole is totally jammed up by Harris(+1), who's an arm away from making a very nice TFL. A bounce gets a little yardage.|
|2||8||O24||Run||10||Watson... wow. I was sure that was Massey. Watson(-2) gets doubled on the draw and gets driven way back.|
|1||10||O34||Run||-5||Watson(+2) gets it back on this one, crushing his man in to the backfield. Massey(+1) sheds and tracks his guy down very well, too.|
|2||15||O29||Pass||Inc||Play action here to a doubled Williams. Hall(+1) has a shot at the PBU. Also: this is illegal hands to the face on Branch, uncalled.|
|3||15||O29||Pass||Inc||Rush three... bleah, but I guess against Robinson it's a good percentage play. He has Smolko open downfield but misses him. I think Terrance Taylor(+1) manages to get a hit on Robinson after a few seconds in the pocket.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 2 min 1st Q. Watson gives them a first down and then puts them in second and long; net benefit if you ask me, but why doesn't he make these plays with more frequency?|
|1||10||O5||Run||2||POA is again completely jammed up. Hunt cuts back into Burgess, who makes the tackle. Credit to Harris(+1), and maybe Watson.|
|2||8||O7||Run||7||Draw that we blitz into, perfect call. But Burgess(-1) completely overruns the play, and somehow Graham(-1) misses a tackle.|
|3||1||O14||Run||6||Short side option. Woodley(-1) gets blown off the ball and Graham(-1) just gets crushed by a guy wearing #24. never get crushed by a guy wearing #24!|
|1||10||O20||Pass||Inc||Robinson bombs it deep and Hall(+1) is in better position to make the catch than Williams. Ball is ovethrown.|
|2||10||O20||Pass||14||Slip screen out to #24, who turns out to be a true freshman WR, Graham. For shame. On this play Mason(-2) gets owned overpursing.|
|1||10||O34||Pass||7||Robinson reads the zone correctly and hits the open guy. Another tenuous tackle from Mason.|
|2||3||O41||Scramble||3||Big hole opens up; Harris is spying but doesn't get much of a stop here, more of a force the other guy to fall down. It's third and inches.|
|3||In||O44||Penalty||-5||False start. Muy estupido.|
|3||5||O39||Pass||24||Mason(-2) takes a terrible angle on a slip screen to Williams. Hall got blocked and the play had a good chance of being a first down anyway but not 25 yards and almost a touchdown if Williams doesn't step out.|
|1||10||M37||Run||2||Nice job by Trent(+1) to avoid the block on the run and come up and Burgess(+1) to keep contain.|
|2||8||M35||Pass||6||Three step drop that takes advantate of Trent playing off Butler. Trent does come up and make the tackle immediately.|
|3||2||M29||Run||1||Option short side that Robinson decides to cut up as Burgess(+1) plows through a blocker and is zooming in on the pitchman. Robinson is gang tackled.|
|Drive Notes:Missed FG(45), 0-0, 7 min 2nd Q. More below about the Mason-owning.|
|1||10||O23||Pass||12||Massey(+1) reads this boot as well as he can an d chases Robinson to the sideline. Grant Mason(-1) is way behind Smolko.|
|1||10||O35||Pass||15||Jamar Adams(-2) vacates his zone badly and the slant is wide open.|
|1||15||O45||Pass||6||They run a combo route that runs Mason off and then has Williams come underneath.They're clearly targeting Mason on almost every one of these short plays. They're largely avoiding Hall.|
|2||9||O46||Run||8||QB draw. Robinson scoots through a hole between two of the three (ugh) down linemen. David Harris(+3) gives the ball a yank job on his tackle. Textbook wrap, tackle, strip.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 3-0, 2 min 2nd Q. Harris is the man, man.|
|1||10||O28||Pass||7||Simple out in a zone that was obviously open at the snap; Hall was playing a good ten yards off and backpedals.|
|2||3||O35||Run||1||Branch(+2) owns the OT and makes the tackle on Williams, though he manages to squirt forward from the tackle to prevent a TFL|
|3||2||O36||Run||2||Another short side option that Robinson keeps. Woodley does a realy nice job of holding the corner, as does Massey, but Robinson just manages to squeeze it out by powering between the two.|
|1||10||O38||Pass||7||Play action that we've read pretty well. Branch keeps Robinson contained. Mason(-1) lets Williams get very open in man.|
|2||3||O45||Run||-5||End around to Williams. Spectacular play by Harris(+2) to read, fire into the backfield, and tackle. Woodley's(+1) push on the OL allows Harris the lane. IBFC video.|
|3||8||O40||Run||5||Run pass option for Robinson. Well played by Mason(+1), who covers the WR long enough to force the run and then comes up to tackle.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 7 min 3rd Q. Harris just tracked down Derrick Williams.|
|1||10||O26||Pass||0||Robinson checks down to the flare route. Burgess(+1) plays this very well and makes an open field tackle.|
|2||10||O26||Run||4||Draw. The DTs crease and there's a good sized hole; Harris is blocked but sheds and manages a tackle.|
|3||6||O30||Pass||56||The fumbled snap broken play ridiculousness. Plus a roughing the passer against Graham (no - because the call appears to be really bad). I'm not exactly sure what happens here. After the fumble a blitzing Harris flushes Robinson but gets blocked at the last second and can't make the tackle. Branch comes off his blocker and gets a hand on him but also can't bring him down; then the flick to a wide open WR downfield. Harrison is in hot pursuit but I don't know if this is really his fault; from the replay provided he appears to have the other side of the field. I think Adams(-2) came up assuming a run (somewhat reasonably) and let Golden get way behind him.|
|1||G||O7||Run||0||Woodley(+1) is unblocked and levels Hunt; Taylor(+1) also gets penetration.|
|2||G||O7||Pass||Inc||Great play by Adams(+2) to come around Smolko and break the pass up.|
|3||G||O7||Pass||Inc||Delayed blitz from Graham forces Robinson to throw. The ball is apparently inaccurate but Griese defends the decision as merely avoiding coverage.|
|Drive Notes: Made FG(25), 10-3, EOQ. The final play was something I've seen with frequency where Michigan will hold a linebacker in a spy and then release him on a delayed blitz if a lane opens up for him. It's usually effective.|
|1||10||O37||Run||61||Uh, yeah. Harrison(-2) has an opportunity to stifle this after about 15 yards but goes Shazor on us. Burgess(-1) gets crushed by the FB; Watson(-1) getting pushed back opens the hole up wide. IBFC video.|
|1||G||O2||Run||-2||Woodley(+1) stiffs the point of attack.|
|2||G||O4||Pass||Inc||Graham(+1) gets it thrown directly to him on this rollout and he drops it. Stupid casts.|
|3||G||O2||Run||4||Touchdown. Freaking QB draw, which always works against us. Just the wrong call, a blitz off the corner which forces Harris to drop into a zone and thus the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-10, 12 min 4nd Q. 10 points on busted safety assignments.|
|1||10||O20||Pass||9||Fairly simple out run in front of Hall. Williams does make a huge difference in the PSU O because of plays like this. Last year there's no way Hall's that far off.|
|2||6||O24||Pass||Inc||Williams traps a ball thrown low.|
|3||6||O24||Penalty||5||Holding on Hall(-1).|
|1||10||O29||Run||0||This is a good play by Burgess(+1), who doesn't let the FB block him and crams the hole full of OLB goodness.|
|2||10||O29||Pass||Inc||Spy/delayed blitz from Harris(+1) who levels Robinson as he throws; the ball is well OOB.|
|3||10||O29||Pass||Sack, -8||Three man rush gets relatively quick pressure from Branch(+1) and Woodley(+1), forcing PSU out of bounds. IBFC video.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 18-18, 7 min 4th Q. If three man rushes were that effective on a regular basis I'd be all for them.|
|1||10||O20||Scramble||6||Has all day to throw; can't find anyone. Good coverage but Robinson does that damned mobile quarterback thing.|
|2||4||O26||Pass||Int||Hall(+3) reads and picks the ball off. Mason(-1) gets called for what turns out to be a critical holding penalty.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-18, 3 min 4th Q. Robinson makes only his second real mistake (the other being the interception Graham dropped).|
|1||10||O19||Pass||11||Good time for Robinson and Mason(-1) misses another tackle, preventing this from staying as a five yard completion.|
|1||10||O30||Scramble||0||Flushes after looking downfield. Hall and Mason have him contained pretty well.|
|2||10||O30||Pass||28||Harris(-1) doesn't turn and find the ball. He's in position to make a play if he doesn't Todd Howard this. Of note: Woodley is getting double teamed on every play.|
|1||10||M42||Pass||7||Really soft zone coverage.|
|2||3||M35||Penalty||-4||We blitz into a QB draw that goes for 15; a downfield holding call brings it back.|
|2||7||M39||Pass||Inc||Another dropped snap. Robinson picks it up and, perhaps flustered, one-hops it to another wide open receiver.|
|3||7||M39||Pass||Inc||Reviewed and changed to incomplete. More soft soft zone coverage and another open receiver.|
|4||7||M39||Scramble||9||Branch(-2) loses contain, and Harris can't react because he's covering a guy who turns into a blocker.|
|1||10||M30||Pass||Inc||High and wide to Butler, who's open. We've covered guys on about two plays this drive.|
|2||10||M30||Pass||14||We blitz one guy ineffectively. Robinson makes a great throw about an inch above Harris' hand.|
|1||10||M16||Pass||Inc||Morgan Trent(+1) hits Golden when the ball gets there, though this ball isn't very accurate.|
|2||10||M16||Pass||Inc||Burgess(+1), lined up as a DE, bats Robinson's pass down... no 60 yard game ending run this time.|
|3||10||M16||Penalty||12||PI on Hall(-1). He's there a millisecond too soon.|
|1||G||M4||Run||4||Touchdown... QB draw. Burgess(-1) misses the tackle. We again blitz from the edges.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-25, 1 min 4th Q. I hate this drive. There are guys wide open everywhere and the only plays that are unsuccessful are that because of Robinson's inaccuracy. We play soft, fearing the touchdown that we yield anyway, and repeat the same mistake we made against Wisconsin by letting the opponent drive the clock way down and score.|
How did the new safeties do?
Fine except for the two 50 yard plays? Uh.
Harrison obviously took a bad angle on the Hunt run that turned a 15-20 yarder into first and goal, but the broken play ridiculousness is much harder to pin on someone since ABC didn't show a coherent replay of exactly what happened in the secondary. What happened is this: someone either abandoned their deep zone or their man at some point after the Robinson rollout when it looked for all the world like he was going to run. I don't think this was Harrison, who clearly has the deep middle of the field. It could have been Adams, the other safety, but if he was drawn up into man coverage than it would be whoever had that particular guy... which I still think was Adams.
So, one bad play each that led to a huge gain and, in total, ten of PSU's points. Outside of ground zero, though, they did play pretty well. Adams screwed up a zone and allowed an easy 15 yard completion but made a few other very good plays (coming around TE Isaac Smolko and breaking up a sure TD being the best). Harrison didn't show up in any way good or bad aside from the Shazor moment, which I'll take from a freshman. And he is really fast. I think both will be capable in time but now is not that time. Engelmon should return for Iowa and I'm very glad of that.
Hey, could you incorporate some Zen Buddhism in this column?
Comin' right up, koan style.
Why does Mason lead the team in tackles?
Because he can't tackle.
Is this causing a spiritual awakening in anyone? Someone should be getting enlightened around about... now.
What the hell am I talking about? Well, Penn State made a concerted effort to throw short routes against him, relying on their ability to break his tackles to pick up significant yards. This worked. Wait until you see the chart. I think this has been happening with increasng frequency as the year moves along and more and more film of Mason lunging ineffectually at people dashing past him become available. Mason is facing a ton of short routes run at him by teams looking for easy yards. He's pretty good in coverage but I think he's another reason our outside containment on running plays has ranged from abominable to "don't look at the Ark" this year.
Is there a solution to this?
I don't know. The easiest one seems to be abandoning zone coverages and moving more to a cover-two man-to-man look but that's a really drastic change to cover up a hole in a single player's game. Morgan Trent has looked good as the team's nickelback--he stuck Robinson pretty well on a particular play--and maybe if he starts platooning as a starter with Mason it'll reduce what appears to be a major liability, but I'm not one of those guys that assumes everyone on the bench is better than everyone on the field. There's probably a reason Mason is in front of Trent, and if you still believe that irrationally-playing-seniors stuff, well, you haven't been paying much attention.
Hey, what about the chart?
|Woods||-||-||-||Didn't see him in.|
|Taylor||2||-||2||A couple good instances of penetration.|
|Massey||2||-||2||Not much either way this game; I'll take it.|
|Watson||3||4||-1||Poor game for him.|
|Branch||6||2||4||Consistently a bright spot.|
|Burgess||5||5||-||Player of the game? Seriously? They didn't pick the guy right next to him?|
|Harris||9||1||8||Biggest scrub to star transformation since...?|
|Mason||3||10||-7||Well, at least some people are closer to Nirvana.|
What is the deal with that last drive?
I don't know. Robinson made some excellent throws but Michigan also played off, never blitzed until first and goal (except when they sent all of five guys on one play), and generally made things as easy on him as they could in an effort to not give up a big play. In doing so they repeated the mistake they made against Wisconsin by not adjusting their defense to a much more aggressive stance. Playing soft with that much time on the clock eats time, often preventing the offense from mounting a response drive. Michigan had 20 or 30 seconds against Wisconsin and just 50 against Penn State. Without the Breaston return they lose. The advantage of having the ball last in a close game is often overlooked and Michigan played in a way that immediately reduced their chances of getting a last possession.
Passivity also makes much less sense when the offense is going to go for it on fourth down. Allowing medium range passes without serious resistance when the op ponent has four cracks at a first down instead of three is a tactical error since you're relying on the opponent to screw up an extra play. Given that Penn State had way too much time on the clock for it to pressure them in any way, the correct strategy in that situation was to increase your aggression, reducing the chances of each individual first down at the expense of increasing the chance of a big play. Again, this is just my mathematical intuition at this point but I hope to back this with numbers at a later date.
What does it mean for Iowa?
Drew Tate's the kind of guy who runs around a la your headless chicken and then finds someone open after a long time; this is a nervous tendency given the events on the fumbled snap play. Getting Engelmon back will help but Solomon is a deep threat and Tate is the kind of guy who can get it there. Given Hall's excellent deep coverage (they tried it a few times and then abandoned it after it was clear that Hall was saying no sale) we should be fine in man to man but there may be a time or two when Tate buys a few extra seconds and heaves it into a wonky zone.
Iowa's missing Ed Hinkel and so probably doesn't have the ability to exploit the Zen of Grant Mason. Their depth at WR is negligible. After Solomon, Hinkel, and TE Scott Chandler comes RB Albert Young with 12 receptions. The next WR on the chart is sophomore Herb Grigsby, who was unleashed as a starter against IU and exploded for zero yards on zero receptions. Michigan will probably be free to lavish attention on Solomon and take their chances on the random scrub lining up opposite him.
Containing the Iowa run game will be difficult. Albert Young has racked up 715 yards this year, which is already more than their top two rushers from last year combined. He looked good against IU, but everyone does. Iowa's two-TE stretch rushing game is designed to spread the defense, attack the corners, and open rushing lanes when linebackers and defensive backs attack the wrong hole, something Michigan's done with frequency this year. Against everyone except Ohio State the Hawkeyes have ground out scads of yards--and we aren't Ohio State. However, neither are we Ball State.