Yes, these posts are now everything I ever hoped they would be when Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh. There's no longer really room for words; I made 42 GIFs for this game. The righteous punt anger only accounts for three of them. Let's get right to it.
[Hit THE JUMP]
You're going to have to bear with me on the offensive UFRs this year. The last time I saw a traditional gap-blocked, regular-ol-QB offense for anything more than a one-game debacle was ten years ago. That was the first year I did UFR and most running plays of that sort were deemed "another wad of bodies" because I didn't know what I was looking at. Since then:
- Two years of Debord running almost nothing but outside zone
- Three years of Rodriguez running inside and outside zone with a little power frippery
- Two years of Hoke trying to shoehorn Denard Robinson into a pro-style offense, giving up, and running a low-rent spread offense
- Al Borges's Cheesecake Factory offense that ran everything terribly
- Doug Nussmeier's inside zone-based offense.
I've seen plenty of power plays. Most of them were constraints that could be run simply and still succeed because the offense's backbone was something else. The rest were so miserably executed that they offered no knowledge about what power is actually supposed to look like. I watched a bunch of Stanford but not in the kind of detail I get down to with the UFRs.
One thing that I am pretty sure I think is that the popular conception of power as a decision-free zone in which moving guys off the ball gets you yards is incomplete. Defenses will show you a front pre-snap. You will make blocking decisions based on that front. Then the defense will blitz and slant to foul your decisions and remove the gap you want to hit. If you do not adjust to what is happening in front of you then you run into bodies and everyone is sad.
What Stanford was great at was running power that was executed so consistently well that it was largely impervious to all the games defenses played. This requires linemen who are downblocking to think on their feet, maintain their balance, and stay attached to guys who may be going in directions they were not expected to. It requires everyone off the line of scrimmage (tailback, fullback, pulling G) to see what's in front of them and adjust accordingly.
Michigan did a bad job of this against Utah. They also got blown backwards too much, complicating decisions for the backfield. The latter was not a problem against a much weaker Oregon State outfit. The former was much better, and that's the most encouraging thing to take from this game.
Here's an example. It's a six yard run in the first quarter on which Oregon State sends a blitz that Michigan recognizes and thwarts. There's no puller on this play; I think it was intended to be a weakside iso that ends up looking not very much like iso because Michigan adjusts post-snap.
M comes out in an I-Form twins formation; Oregon state is in a 4-3 that shifts away from the run strength of Michigan's formation. They are also walking a DB to the line of scrimmage:
By the time Michigan snaps the ball this DB is hanging out in a zone with no eligible receiver while both WRs get guys who look to be in man coverage. This is not disguised well unless the highlighted player is Jabrill Peppers and can teleport places after the snap:
He's going to blitz and the DL is going to slant to the run strength of the line. Michigan will pick this up, and I wonder if they IDed the likelihood of this pre-snap. No way to tell, obviously.
On the snap both the FB and RB start to the weak side of the formation; you can see Erik Magnuson start to set up as if he is going to execute a kickout block on the defensive end:
With the blitz and slant from the Oregon DL that's not going to happen. Each Oregon State DL has popped into a gap. Kerridge is taking a flight path to the gap that would normally open between Magnuson and Kalis, the right guard, on a play without this blitz. Without the blitz the DE would be the force player tasked with keeping the play inside of him; Magnuson would have a relatively easy job as he and the DE mutually agreed on where he should go.
Here the DE threatens the play's intended gap. Magnuson can't do anything about that. The D mostly gets to choose what gap they go in, and it's up to the offense to roll with the punches.
Michigan does this:
A moment later Magnuson has changed his tack from attempted kickout to an attempt to laterally displace the DE using his own momentum. Kerridge has abandoned the idea of hitting the weakside B gap and is flaring out for the blitzer.
Now, this could be successful for Oregon State still. The slant got five Michigan OL to block four guys. Nobody got downfield; the slant got a 2 for 1. But their MLB has stood stock still for much of this play, and Magnuson ends up shoving his dude past the hash mark—+1, sir. This is a ton of space to shut down, and De'Veon Smith is the kind of back that can plow through you for YAC.
Smith fends off the linebacker with a stiffarm and starts gaining yardage outside; it could be a good deal more but Chesson misses a cut* and the DB forces it back, creating a big ol' pile:
Second and four sounds a lot better than second and eleven.
*[Drake Harris will later pick up a 15-yard penalty for a similar, but more successful cut block; the genesis of that flag is probably Gary Andersen doing some screaming at the official after this play.]
Items of interest
You don't get to pick the gap even if it's gap blocking. Defenses slant constantly, and often in a specific effort to foul the intended hole and pop the back out into a place where an unblocked guy can hit. Post-snap adaptation is a must for a well-oiled power running game.
Slants win if they suck away an extra blocker. I would be peeved at the MLB if I was Oregon State UFR guy. While Michigan adapts to the slant well enough to provide a crease for Smith, the blitz means Michigan had to spend a blocker on the defensive back and the MLB is a free hitter. He should be moving to this more quickly than he does.
Slants also tend to open up giant running gaps. Adjustments like the above will often lead to a defender running in one direction suddenly getting unwanted help from an OL. If the OL can redirect and latch on just about everyone is going for a ride here. Once Magnuson locks on and Kerridge targets the DB these are two blocks that are easy to win and Smith is going to have a truck lane.
Given how much space Smith has even a linebacker playing this aggressively who shows up in the gap might lose or get his tackle run through; Michigan's getting yards here, whether it's three or six or more if Chesson gets a good block.
In the past this site has seen arguments about whether meeting an unblocked safety at or near the line of scrimmage is a win for the offense or the defense. I have largely come down on the side of "that absolutely sucks," but when the hole is so big that the defender is attempting to make an open-field tackle it's a lot more appealing.
Michigan WRs need to be more careful with the cut blocks. You can cut a guy from the "front," by which the NCAA means the area from 10 to 2 on a clock. (Seriously, that's the way it's defined in the rulebook.) This was very close to a flag, and Michigan got one later.
I wish Michigan was running pop passes, as those are good ways to get defensive backs hesitant about running hard after plays like this. Maybe in a bit.
Michigan linebacker commit David Reese is the focus of this week's FBO. While his Farmington squad fell short against a talented Southfield team, 45-22, he had a productive game—12 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble he returned for a TD, a blocked extra point, and a rushing touchdown. Reese lined up at middle linebacker, fullback, and H-back; he'll come to Michigan as an inside linebacker but I also pulled some clips of him on offense in case he switches sides of the ball—he looks viable on either side.
David Reese Highlights
Reese is #3 in blue. Thanks to Dave Nasternak for filming this one.
[Hit THE JUMP for a breakdown of Reese.]
This is a new feature this year where I track the secondary ticket market, because I'm a cheap bastard who doesn't buy season tickets. This Big House vagabodry dates back to childhood, when my dad had a lot of friends with tickets, and a son who always answered "yes" when one of them called to offer. I of course got tickets as a student, but since graduating, I've had my ear to the ground. This does not make me an expert, but I've enlisted some readers plus our ticket partners TiqIQ and a Futures analyst to talk tickets and give some away.
If you would like to give away some tix to an MGoBlogger, leave a comment here.
We are now past the pre-season demand spike, which this year saw amazing $100/ticket average climb from last year. You knew last year was bad because you were getting phone calls from my dad's friends too. But the numbers revealed in Brandon's Lasting Lessons were staggering: an average of 9,000 tickets per game were given away by the athletic department alone. Typically the ticket market for any sports team is going to be high with expectations at the beginning of the season—and last year most expected Michigan to win 8 or 9 games—but 13,000 were given away for the Horror II. That was because of the opponent, yes, but also a screaming bear of a market which would only get worse after the pasting at Notre Dame.
Michigan did right itself but the effects linger, and that showed in the Oregon State ticket market. Even with a Pac12 opponent, the first Harbaugh home game, and the home opener, there were still guys standing outside Crisler offering free tickets and getting no takers. A reader reported he got two tickets at $5 each from the Stadium & Main melee. You could get tickets the morning of the game for $20-$30 on the ticket resale sites, though a lot of people were still holding out for face. This is typical for a 1990s mid-September MAC opponent, not a home opener.
Losing to Utah was the big thing—losses always bring down ticket prices, and the first one does the most. I think we also overestimated how quickly the hole of 2014 could be filled in. While the tailgaters (and the M-14 traffic congestion after 8 a.m.) were back en force the sense of scarcity is taking its time to climb back. That's unfortunate for all those who got season tickets, but good news for secondary buyers.
By the way the student section did get pretty full even if it looked like the top was empty. Back in the day student tickets were easy enough to resell to people who actually plan on sitting in their seats. Students pack in with their friends lower down, and that's why you'll see empty spots at the top. You could tell when Grapentine welcomed the freshmen to the stadium and freshmen all over the student section went woo while all the upperclassmen to have lived through Brandon had their arms crossed and eyes rolled.
THE NEXT GAME
If you were looking for an opportunity to bring the whole family on a budget UNLV should be the cheapest ticket all year. If the opener on a beautiful day against a P5 opponent on Harbaugh's first home game still didn't fill, a high school team from Nevada that dresses like the Buckeyes and uses a mascot from losing side of the Civil Rights Movement is going to make a lot of fans go meh. And then there's this (via Weathertap):
When they say 50% that means a front is probably coming but they don't know when it will clear out by. Even if it turns out sunny, storms Friday night or Saturday morning will mean a lot of stay-homes. You can get four in Row 11 on the 50 yard line for $50 each right now. You can probably get two people in for free on Game Day, and a decent seat for $20/ticket on your walk to the stadium.
The seller's season became a buyer's season with Michigan's first loss, then more so as scarcity effect was undermined badly by the lackluster Oregon State fill.
Again, my process is I spend a week of tracking prices on TiqIQ (which collates all the smaller markets), Stubhub, and Craigslist (Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit), then post a price per ticket for two or more seats together:
|UNLV||$45||$30||free||at game||See above. Buy only if you desire good seats/have a big group.|
|BYU||$72||$70||$65||at game||Already below face ($80-$100) now. This stock's a dog|
|@Maryland||$85||$85||$60||Now||M fans still driving up the market.|
|Northwestern||$80||$66||$60||wait.||If M beats BYU start shopping.|
|MSU||$194||$225||$118||Now||State fans will drive up.|
|@Minnesota||$78||$66||-||wait.||No idea how the Minnesota secondary market works now—last time I went was Metrodome, which had unlimited seats. Help?|
|Rutgers||$43||$45||$12||Now||People are dumping them in protest. Jump.|
|@Indiana||$63||$56||-||wait.||Hoosiers will dump tix when they start losing.|
|@Penn State||$145||$108||$80||Now||I was wrong before. Get 'em now while PSU sucks.|
|Ohio State||$217||$144||$130||Now||I believe in Harbaugh.|
The games close at hand took a big dip, and MSU hit a low—remember the face on those start at $95 and that's not counting PSLs. By mid-October State fans will notice. If you see tickets near $120 and you really want to go to that game, jump.
I was so so so wrong about Penn State so please don't get mad at me if I'm wrong about the rest. I thought PSU had such an easy schedule they'd be romping to 9 wins by the time Michigan came to town, and their unreasonable fans would take that to mean they're good. Then Temple happened. I say buy now because they'll eventually have something to get excited about and prices were really high during a bad season when we went there last time.
I never buy from the ticket hucksters around town. They're way too good at their jobs and love to lie about bad seats. If you find yourself having to use the scalpers, don't ever buy the first tickets they show you, and catch them when you're walking FROM not TO the stadium—you'll have a better gauge of the market by that point. Whenever possible try to find another fan going to the game since they're motivated to get rid of those tickets and get in the building.
BEST DEAL RIGHT NOW (that I can find on the sponsor's site because let's support people who support us okay?)
The MSU ticket market is volatile right now. Leave a window open here (1 ticket for MSU) and you'll come across singles around $150 each here and there, and sometimes in the same section.
Radio mishap. Sorry to streaming listeners who ended up getting a nonstop pile of ads about halfway through the show. We don't know what happened there; we've reached out to WTKA and they say that should not recur. Podcasts should be coming, possibly tomorrow. We're still working out the kinks.
RAGE now comes with official approval. The Big Ten said "whoops" on the punt flag:
Harbaugh asked the Big Ten for an explanation on the call, and during his radio show Monday night, said the league basically offered an apology for an officiating error.
"You just want to be able to know what to tell your team, that's why we ask, that's why we inquire," Harbaugh said. "Once the punter goes outside the tackle box, you don't know if he's a runner or he's going to punt the ball. He's afforded the same protection a quarterback would be when he's outside the pocket. If he throws the ball, he can be hit like a quarterback.
"They would've rather not thrown a flag on that. ... That's what they said."
They have not as yet apologized for the various other errors this crew inflicted on Michigan: the opening-play PI against Darboh is blatant, as is a hold on James Ross that sprung one of Oregon State's big runs on their touchdown drive. Michigan got hoooooosed on Saturday and still won 35-7.
Chris Brown on Power. An excellent primer on something Michigan's going to be running a ton of for the foreseeable future:
“There is nothing magical about the Power play,” Paul Alexander, the Cincinnati Bengals’ longtime offensive line coach, said at a coaching clinic in 2012. Almost every NFL team runs Power, though some (like the Seahawks, Vikings, Steelers, and Bills) will emphasize it more than others, and it has produced some of the most dramatic plays in recent memory, including Marshawn Lynch’s infamous Beast Mode run. The idea behind Power is as old as football itself, as having an overwhelming force at the point of attack was an obvious strategy as soon as someone first picked up a football; versions of the play pop up as far back as in Michigan coach Fielding Yost’s playbook from 1905. But NFL coaches have spent the past 20 years tweaking and adjusting the play, and now the proper form is gospel.
Brown details the various responsibilities the players have. This one in particular is something De'Veon Smith had trouble with in week one:
Running back: Veteran NFL offensive line coach Mike Solari, who’s currently with the Green Bay Packers, says he prefers to tell the running back to “read the alphabet: Read from the playside A to B to C to D gaps for a running lane.” But the running back’s real key to success on Power is to let the blocking develop. “People ask me what I tell our running backs,” said Shaw at the 2013 clinic. “Mostly what we tell our running backs is [have] patience.”
He improved a considerable amount in week two.
Staples on the State of Michigan. SI's Andy Staples took in the doubleheader this weekend:
Graham Glasgow has just finished explaining the importance of pad level as it relates to play along the line of scrimmage—short version: the low man wins—when the Michigan fifth-year senior center says something telling. "I felt better in this loss," Glasgow says, "than I would after some of our wins last year."
Five days earlier, the Wolverines lost their season opener at Utah. Four days from now, Michigan will make its home debut under coach Jim Harbaugh against Oregon State. As Glasgow says those words, he stands in the Towsley Family Museum in Schembechler Hall. He is a few feet from the "Win Wall," a massive glass enclosure that, on this particular Tuesday, features a football representing each of Michigan's 915 all-time wins. In another part of the room, the words of former Michigan coach Fritz Crisler are carved into wood.
"Tradition is something you can't bottle. You can't buy it at the corner store. But it is there to sustain you when you need it most. I've called upon it time and time again. And so have countless other Michigan athletes and coaches. There is nothing like it. I hope it never dies."
Glasgow's words suggest that in 2014 Michigan's football tradition was dying.
Whole thing is worth a read.
This week in good quotes. Blake O'Neill quizzed about his modeling career:
"All sorts of things,"he said Monday at Michigan's weekly news conference. "Fashion modeling, catwalk, anything.
"I was a little budding Zoolander."
He does not have a "Blue Steel" look.
Who will I scoff at now? Texas deep-sixes Brandon 2.0:
University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves is expected to fire embattled athletic director Steve Patterson, and the move could come this morning, a Houston-based source with knowledge of the situation told the American-Statesman.
Fenves and Patterson are meeting Tuesday morning, the Statesman learned.
It could bring an end to a tumultuous 22-month journey for the athletic department during which fans grew outraged over higher ticket prices and Patterson battled the perception that his cool demeanor simply does not fit UT’s style.
"Cool demeanor" is the nice way of saying it.
Good on Texas for dumping their version of the buzzword-spewing Emperor's New CEO after less than two years. That Patterson got himself fired after making what look to be excellent hires in both football and basketball speaks to just how hated he was by just about everyone. Justifiably. Hell, I have no connection to Texas whatsoever and I hated him because he was bad for college football, all of it.
Hopefully they've got a Hackett hanging around.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) September 15, 2015
That would be a terrible idea, but on the other hand I would no longer have to listen to him relentlessly praise every coach in every situation. ("Not many coaches would feed their quarterback to an alligator at halftime, Rece, but Tim Beckman is an innovative thinker.") I approve.
Oh right. The legend:
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 15, 2015
I'm sure that will last.
Injuries and more injuries and Rutgers. Michigan's gotten through the first couple weeks of the season without anything serious happening to their players; other than Bryan Mone they're as close to completely healthy as a group of people playing football can be. This is not the case for a number of upcoming Michigan opponents.
BYU is of course down Taysom Hill and relying on freshman-ish Tanner Mangum, who was a big recruit a couple years back and is just off his Mormon mission. On the other hand, that linebacker who bingle-bangled a Boise State player right in the dingle-dangle will somehow not be suspended—nice to not have a conference sometimes. Michigan players will have to keep an eye on the family jewels.
Minnesota has a number of guys out with relatively minor issues but may have lost WR KJ Maye to a broken rib.
And then of course Rutgers. Star WR Leonte Caroo was the latest Scarlet Knight to get arrested. He's been suspended indefinitely for an "altercation" outside the stadium Saturday night that resulted in a domestic violence arrest. What exactly went down is still unclear, but if you poke around On The Banks the impression their comments give is that Rutgers insider types think it's pretty serious and we may not see Carroo for a while. Oh and they didn't list Darius Hamilton on their most recent depth chart because he has an undisclosed injury of some variety. And of course five guys got arrested for armed robbery and transferred to Michigan State before the season started.
Rutgers fans are now calling this "their darkest hour," which may be true if the history of Rutgers football started with Greg Schiano. It does not.
Speaking of Rutgers. Julie Herrmann has a job! Still! She is employed and everything! She probably has a company car and a dental plan!
Unhappy Moeller. Via Dr. Sap:
How the Norfleet thing went down. Via the man himself:
“To be honest, everything caught me off-guard,” Norfleet said. “It just happened. (Harbaugh and I) weren’t seeing eye to eye. Nothing real big. We had disagreements but nothing serious. He thought I was going to be ineligible, and I wasn’t. He is real big on academics. That’s one thing I can say about Jim Harbaugh — he’s going to make sure these players are going to class.”
Norfleet said Harbaugh never told him he wanted him on the team.
“I never got that at all,” Norfleet said. “The only thing I got was, come back a semester to get a degree. Not play football. He wanted me to use my scholarship. I still love Michigan, though, as a whole. Sometimes, you’ve got to move on.”
Unfortunate all around, but it seems like Michigan was willing to have him around even if he wasn't going to play. That seems to have smoothed over things with Detroit King.
It's not a crisis if you complain about it every year and things are just fine. The only person more prone to complain about spread offenses than NFL scouts and coaches is Gary Danielson, and the arguments the NFL has are about as good as Danielson's:
…if current trends continue, NFL insiders say, quarterbacks who have the sophistication to outfox NFL defenses to deliver the ball to open receivers are “going to be on the endangered species list,” said Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine. “The quarterback may not be gone yet,” he added, “but if you have one, protect it.”
“It’s doomsday if we don’t adapt and evolve,” said St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead.
These people are just in charge of things for no reason and should be given the Patterson/Brandon treatment. Half of the top ten rookie QB seasons in NFL history have come since 2011. Those five seasons came from Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson, Teddy Bridgewater, Cam Newton, and Mike Glennon. Three of those guys came from out-and-out spread offenses. After one game Marcus Mariota looks set to join them.
A parade of general managers, like Pittsburgh’s Kevin Colbert, think that if the current model holds, the notion of drafting a quarterback to start right away will need to be scrapped.
Cleveland’s Farmer has one idea: What if you could design an offense to minimize the passing deficiencies of modern quarterback prospects?
WHAT WOULD THAT EVEN LOOK LIKE?
Etc.: Mike Riley literally has his team yelling "hip hip hooray" after games. Flanders, the coach. Local news talking with El Harberino. Jake Lourim with a longform on ECA, Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson's school. Wide pin down. Harbaugh profile (autoplaying audio warning). SMH NCAA. UNLV is not good. Holdin' The Rope.
Kenny, when you first got here you were kind of thought more of as a punter. Did you ever think you'd be in the position where you'd be competing for and then winning this job as kicker?
Kenny Allen: "I've kind of always had it in the back my mind, but to be honest I didn't actually think that I would be pursuing the kicking job this much and then when the opportunity did arise it really started to become a reality."
How much in high school did you kick as well as punt?
KA: "I did everything in high school so yeah, it was kind of nice to get back to doing all three."
Kenny, how long did it take to settle into that role? Was it in the first game after you made some kicks?
KA: "Yeah, I think after the first game. After getting the first kick out of the way everything felt a lot easier. Kind of like a weight was lifted and then from then on everything was downhill, just smooth. Everything was a lot more comfortable."
Kenny, last week before the Oregon State game you got a full ride. Can you just talk about the timing of that?
KA: "Yeah, I’d say it's kind of ironic because I turned down a full ride from Oregon State coming out of high school, and then the week that we play them I’m put on scholarship here. So, it's just kind of nice to see that other people think I'm working hard and that I'm deserving of a scholarship. Yeah, it's nice."
[After THE JUMP: Allen, Blake O’Neill, Erik Magnuson, and Matt Godin]