It's a bye week, so let's take a look at a game that may tell us something about the two most important games on the schedule. This is a little like evaluating a spring game—is OSU's defensive line rampant or is MSU's offensive line mewling?—but there are Things that can be Learned.
To the knowledgemobile!
Michigan State Offense vs Ohio State Defense
Andrew Maxwell is a lot better than his stats give him credit for. In this one he had 269 yards and a touchdown on 42 attempts, which is a mediocre-to-poor 6.4 YPA. But it's not his fault. Every negative thing you've heard about the MSU wide receiver corps is true, and then some. They drop balls. They can't get separation. They drop some more balls. They're not particularly big targets. Etc.
Maxwell himself is a dart-thrower who handles pressure well. He laid in three twenty-yard corner routes perfectly, and what did he get from them?
Bupkis. At no point did anyone have an inch of separation.That happened twice in the first half and when Maxwell managed to thread the tiniest of needles in the second half, Fowler was separated from the ball. Fowler has now been displaced by Aaron Burbridge because obviously.
Burbridge must be running routes so wrong they're backwards in practice. DeAnthony Arnett, too.
Anyway, Maxwell had time and was deadly accurate in this game. Good play from the OSU secondary and awful awful awful WR play held his numbers down, as they have every game this year. With a few more games under his belt, Maxwell will not be a huge step down from Kirk Cousins when the time comes.
Is Jonathan Hankins immense or is MSU's offensive line a shambles? Both, probably. Here's Hankins destroying the surest thing on the Michigan State line, senior multi-year starter Chris MacDonald:
Hankins destroying the right tackle:
OSU flips Hankins between three DL spots (everything but WDE); in this game they played him exclusively at three-tech, where he owned. A very large part of MSU's anemic rushing output (LeVeon Bell had 45 yards on 17 carries) was Hankins demanding doubles all day, or blowing up plays when he was not doubled.
/shakes fist at Rich Rodriguez and Archie Collins
As for the MSU OL, it's getting kind of shambling. Maxwell had time to throw in the second half when MSU abandoned the ground game and turned into Oklahoma State lite, but OSU's edge rush guys aren't great. WDE Nathan Williams is Frank Clark but more responsible, and it's basically down to Garrett Goebel and John Simon to get to the QB since it's not in Hankins' job description to do so. In this game Simon was quiet.
Point shambles. With nine minutes left in the game, MSU faced a fourth and one. They've got Le'Veon Bell. They passed. I thought this was defensible.
Le'Veon Bell is still terrifying. OSU bottled him up by forcing him to do things in the backfield, which robs him of his momentum and takes away the YAC that turns three yard runs into five. MSU does lack an alternative this year. Nick Hill is just a guy, and Larry Caper has been almost totally marginalized. Without Baker the Spartans don't have the option of attacking the edges as much as they did last year—welcome news for Michigan.
Ohio State's secondary is athletic and dumb. Keith Mumphery rumblestumbled for a 29 yard touchdown when…
- Orhian Johnson dragged way out of position on a run fake to the opposite side of the field he couldn't do anything about anyway.
- Orhian Johnson missed a tackle.
- Christian Bryant tried the old Cato June shoulder-block, which Mumphery bounced off of.
- Travis Howard tried to strip the ball instead of tackling.
- Etienne Sabino tried to strip the ball instead of tackling.
- ALL OF THE STRIPPING
- NONE OF THE TACKLING
It's something to behold:
Try to imagine Kovacs doing what Christian Bryant does here if you want your head to explode due to logic error.
On the other hand, MSU corner routes were obliterated by Johnson getting over and the corner being underneath, as mentioned above under the Maxwell bit.
OSU's corners got flagged a lot in this game. They're aggressive and will gamble on the flag instead of playing passively and hoping things go right for them. If refereeing is home-field biased this is not so good for M.
Here's what happens when pattern matching goes awry. Pattern matching is nouveau zone coverage in which the guy you're in man-to-man on is determined after the snap. It's what Alabama uses, what a lot of the NFL uses… it's the in thing. Now offensive coordinators are trying to beat it, and here's the first instance I've seen* of a route clearly predicated on the idea the opponent is pattern matching.
MSU WR Bennie Fowler will run an out and up, which happens all the time on the outside. It's not something that common in the slot, at least in my experience. Johnson is checking him because if the #2 WR goes vertical, that's his guy. Once he breaks to the out he thinks "not my problem" and starts looking for a post or crossing route from the other side of the field. As soon as Johnson looks away, the WR does go vertical (this is clear only on the replay):
Big third down conversion because MSU messed with Johnson's key. RPS +2.
*[I'm sure this has been going on for a few years now; this is just the first one that was like "ohhhhh I get it."]
MSU has a screen I remember and hate. They're running it a little differently, but if you remember Michigan's matchups with Wisconsin about a decade ago you probably remember their middle TE screen that invariably picked up 15 yards. MSU is running a variation of that with Bell where instead of looping the ball over someone the QB just zips it to the RB quickly before the DE can collapse back inside. I want to call it a "zip screen" or something because the main advantage it has is being super quick relative to other screens. Por ejemplo:
That's the screen that you thought "ohhhh lucky" on in the Boise game when a DE almost intercepted it, BTW.
OSU will leave big holes in their zone occasionally. MSU's sporadic success in their passing game came largely when big gaping holes sprung in OSU's zone coverage, like here:
Also, Dion Sims is a horse of a tight end. That's a full ten yards after contact.
Here a simple snag package gets Mumphery open for a big gain:
That's a very large hole off a corner blitz; wonder if someone (Shazier most likely) busted there.
Where is the pressure? Despite MSU abandoning the run almost entirely in the second half, OSU was unable to generate much pressure.Williams will run at you fast if you don't get a block on him but he's not an elite pass rusher by any stretch of the imagination. He's just a guy.
More worrying for Ohio State (and Michigan) was Simon's almost total lack of impact. I've seen him beast up in a couple games this year, but not against MSU. I swear, if MSU can cobble together an OL that can fend off Michigan again this year I'm going to have a fit. Another fit. Fitty fit fit.
Marve: available? Robert Marve's ACL isn't completely torn this time so he may give it a go this weekend, which would give Purdue a second option if TerBush struggles. Emphasis on "may":
Marve said he participated in the full practice for 1st time since his latest injury. As for the game "I hope I can help out some" #Purdue
If he ends up in the game that's probably good news since it sounds like it will be a desperation move by the Boilers.
dangit should have titled this section "marvailable?"
Oklahowat. Of all the crazy things to do to save a couple lousy bucks:
Four-star offensive tackle Matt Beyer (San Antonio/Reagan) had been mentally preparing for two weeks, but that didn't make the news any easier to take.
Beyer said he was told Tuesday by Oklahoma offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle that his scholarship offer to Oklahoma will not be honored, Beyer confirmed to SoonerNation on Thursday night.
Beyer, who committed to the Sooners on July 2, has been forced to give up football because he was diagnosed with the spinal-cord condition cervical stenosis about three weeks ago.
The Bylaw Blog notes that OU could sign him and immediately give him a medical scholarship. So… like… why not do that? Your program + Rinaldi profile of this guy – cost of scholarship > Your program + perception you're heartless + cost of scholarship. I don't get it, man.
Morgan head thing. Michigan is very cautious about head injuries:
Morgan said the word "concussion" never was used by doctors, but his symptoms were enough that he was held out against the Minutemen.
"Just got knocked and was a little out of it for a little bit," the sophomore said Tuesday. "A lot of it was precautionary, just doctors making sure on everything. But I haven't had any symptoms since and I'm feeling good.
"I haven't had a head injury, so I didn't know what to expect I guess going into it. But the doctors were really positive and honest through the whole thing and I was real upfront and told them exactly how I was feeling every day."
A plague of missed assignments. ND film review was ugly. Not for me. Not just for me. Also the players:
Against Notre Dame, the Michigan offense had 23 of those missed assignments, according to redshirt junior tackle Taylor Lewan, a number he called “unbelievably high.” The mistakes could range from missed blocks to improper reads to poor communication.
“You should have one or two maybe in a game,” Lewan said. “I’ve never seen (23 missed assignments) happen before, personally.”
Yeesh. Two were on the Smith INT, I'm sure, and various others are in Denard's lap. I hope they get these things fixed, because I don't like watching games like the Notre Dame game. Also I enjoy oxygen and water.
Epic troll? So I'm thinking about making some sort of George Clinton joke about this article on Denard Robinson…
Denard Robinson's funk 'lasted for days' after Michigan loss to Irish
…and end up looking at the comments. I've just read a bunch of "Ken M" trolling posts and this sets off the alarm bells:
Chuck Luck · Top Commenter
"Denard Robinson's funk 'lasted for days' after Michigan loss to Irish".
Glad this young man is not in the military, people die when their fellow soldiers act like this.
In a nutshell. The SF Weekly profiles Bleacher Report and in doing so captures the thing's essence:
The exemplar of contrarian thinking offered within the site's curriculum is a Bleacher Report article titled "Why Tom Brady Is the Most Overrated Quarterback in NFL History."
This piece epitomizes much of what frustrates the site's detractors. The article's author, an affable 19-year-old college sophomore named Zayne Grantham, tells us he still thinks Brady is an overrated "system quarterback" who largely succeeds thanks to his team's capable defenses. (The New England Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl last year with the 31st-ranked defense in terms of passing and overall yardage in a 32-team league.) But even Grantham doesn't believe Brady to be history's most overrated quarterback: "In hindsight, I may not have used that headline. I'll be one of the first to say he's one of the best quarterbacks we've ever seen."
And there you have it: Anyone baited into responding to these hyperbolic stories finds themselves debating a non-starter argument with a teenager from Shreveport who doesn't even buy the premise of his own article.
Somewhere in the Bleacher Report salt mines is the next generation's Drew Sharp, who will be forced to write slideshows about the top tittays in tennis and why LeBron James is bad at basketball until he gets paid 600 dollars a month to write SEO filler under predetermined headlines. Don't tell me you don't believe in the narrative of progress.
Shades of that Illinois game, except weirder. Remember way back in the day when refs botched two massive fumble calls against Illinois and publicly apologized afterwards? This got Michigan fans in a lather because they'd experienced their share of refereeing mishaps without getting a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and did nothing to actually correct the issue. Well, in the Big 12 they've "apologized profusely" for this:
That's a lot more ambiguous than two clearly wrong calls against Illinois. Q: why are Oklahoma State fans taping horrible angles on TV the best we can do here? Shouldn't there be some cameras on the LOS, like, for all games?
[UPDATE: Big 12 says "never happened."]
Compher "marquee." The USHL just had a prospects game and reviews are rolling in. This is from The Hockey News:
J.T. Compher, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Along with Fasching, Compher is the marquee name on the NTDP this season and though he doesn’t have his teammate’s beastly size, Compher gets in the mix. At the AAPG, the University of Michigan commit demonstrated a dogged determination around the puck, never giving up on a play. He’ll be one of the team’s leading scorers this season. Draft eligible in 2013.
Exit CCHA. MLive has a good article on the end of the CCHA. Relevant bit on the Mason Cup:
“I’ve been asked a lot about that. Does the final winner take it? Just like the Stanley Cup, there are two Mason Cups. There’s one where (current CCHA tournament champion) Western Michigan has it on display and we have another we keep on display at the Joe (Louis Arena) during the season.”
Pletsch said no option is being kept off the table. He said he has contacted the Hockey Hall of Fame to gauge the interest there. He said he has also thought about giving the Mason family one of trophies to keep.
In a respectful gesture Pletsch said he has even reached out to the Big Ten about possibly donating the trophy to the league that ultimately led to the CCHA’s demise.
“If they wanted it we would consider donating it to them,” he said.
I doubt any of the other five teams in the newly formed Big Ten are going to be enthusiastic about that idea. Given the hodgepodge of trophies they created for football, the new trophy will probably be the Comley-Markell-Gadowsky Cup.
Etc.: As part of my trip to Georgia I got to deploy my best Marvin the Paranoid Android impression in an AIRBHG t-shirt. Stuffing the Passer. Hockey season preview from Yost Built.
Previously: Fee Fi Foe Film: Notre Dame vs. Purdue
Purdue didn't exactly help the Big Ten's reputation by allowing Marshall to hang around in an eventual 51-41 victory last weekend. This was an odd contest, as depending on how you look at it, the game was either closer than score indicated—Marshall outgained Purdue 534-443—or not as close as the score indicated—the Boilermakers had a 42-14 halftime lead and their yardage was held down due to two Purdue pick-sixes.
After going over the film, I came away impressed with the way the Boilermakers utilize their playmakers on offense, and wholly unimpressed with their defense outside of their two best players, NT Kawann Short and CB Josh Johnson. Let's go to the breakdown—apologies for the lack of video, as no torrent of the game was available.
Photo credit: Purdue Exponent
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Very much a spread. Purdue goes to the I-form as a changeup—utilizing it much like Michigan, hoping to break big plays on play-action—but otherwise operate entirely out of the shotgun.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? The Boilermakers mixed a fair amount of zone running—including the zone read—with gap blocking principles, and didn't heavily rely on one or the other.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Purdue has a slightly higher-than-average pace, though they looked downright slow compared to Marshall's Oregon-like hurry-up.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Starter Caleb TerBush is the least mobile of Purdue's three quarterbacks—Rob Henry being the fastest above the injured Robert Marve—but he's still a marginally effective scrambler. Purdue will run some zone read and inverted veer, and TerBush often keeps, especially on the latter. He won't make defenders miss on the second level; he can eat up chunks of yardage and break the pocket under pressure. I'll give him a 5.
Dangerman: Purdue's offense centers around getting the ball in space to a bunch of undersized but quick receivers, and their go-to is Antavian Edison, who leads the team with 285 yards and five touchdowns on 24 receptions; he's also carried the ball eight times this year, though managing only 17 yards. He's a quick slot-type and the recipient of a variety of screens and end-arounds.
It's tough to key on Edison, however, because Purdue uses fellow receivers Gary Bush and O.J. Ross in exactly the same way. Bush and Ross combined for 16 catches, 152 yards, and three TDs (all by Bush) against Marshall, most of those coming on screens.
Zook Factor: Nothing particularly Zook-like from Danny Hope in this game. Bummer.
HenneChart: Another new feature this week—Brian's HenneChart will now appear in these posts. Here's TerBush's performance against Marshall, with only throws downfield charted (forgot to chart screens until it was too late to keep track, though those are taken out of the Downfield Success Rate anyway):
TerBush didn't have a great game when asked to throw downfield; most of his reads were simple, largely off play-action, and he still missed several receivers. While he only had one bad read (didn't see a waiting safety on a deep out for a near-pick), he had pretty significant accuracy issues, turfing a couple throws and badly overthrowing his tight end on a crossing route for an interception. He had a couple pinpoint throws on the run; for the most part, however, he isn't asked to do much beyond throw screens, and there's a reason for that.
There are reports that Robert Marve may give it a go this weekend despite another ACL injury. He's a more dynamic playmaker than TerBush and has a better arm; he's also prone to forcing the ball into coverage. He was splitting reps with TerBush before the injury and wouldn't be a significant upgrade or downgrade.
[Continue on to the rest of the breakdown after THE JUMP.]
News bullets and other important items:
- Man it is awfully humid outside.
- UPDATE: Iss gon' rain.
“Thanks for coming out. We had a really, really good practice yesterday. Really liked the speed, tempo that we practiced with. Liked the execution from an offense and defensive standpoint. When you look at mistakes or missed assignments or whatever, had very minimal of those. Competed really well with each other, and I thought it was a good day. Now we have to come back and have a [good] back-to-back [practice].”
Taylor Lewan said you had an unusually high number of mistakes (23) on offense. What do you attribute that to?
“Yeah. And I don’t know if it was quite 23. There was a number of them from different guys and different plays. Some of that is you look at how much you’re doing. Maybe you have too much in, maybe they don’t undersatnd it well enough, but for a lot of it, we’re playing at night, you get a little extra time with walkthroughs. I think it always comes down to your focus on every play. When you don’t do that you’re not going to play as well.”
MGo: Not much. How are you?
MGo: How’s kindergarten?
“Kindergarten is wonderful. Every day is just a new experience. It’s awesome.”
Think you’re going to pass?
“I already passed.”
Word of the day?
“I don’t know. I didn’t get one. I’ve been kind of -- no I didn’t get one. I’ll get you one next week.”
Not an easy loss to sit on for two weeks. Did you work on rebuilding Denard’s confidence over the bye?
“Yeah. I think to a degree. I don’t think his confidence is waning too much, though. The biggest thing about that situation is getting back to some of the basics of reading the defense and making good decisions and things like that. I think that’s really the biggest factor. A couple footwork issues that hadn’t shown up until that game too much. … The good thing about two weeks is you get a chance to really evaluate everything you’re doing, and that’s what we’ve kind of done is look at how we’ve played, you know, on the road particularly because we haven’t played well on the road, but overall just see what the structure of the offense is and get back to sending a message and knowing that we’ve got to play better in those scenarios.”
Is there a common thread with the road games and offensive inefficiency?
“I don’t know. Not any more than any place else I’ve been, I guess. It’s harder to play on the road. It’s always an issue, but you can’t always use that as an excuse because good teams win on the road. I mean the biggest issue, we had some breakdowns, but we just can’t turn the ball over. That’s the biggest -- you hear it every week and it sounds like coach speak but it’s so true. When you turn the ball over as many times we turned the ball over you have no chance. We were fortunate it was as close as it was.”
“Well, it’s getting going in the Big Ten season, and you know we’ll see where we are and we’ll see how much we’ve improved. This is a good football team we’re playing. Purdue’s a much better team than they were last year. Watching them on film, they’ve done some good things, so this will be good. This will be good for us to take the next step.”
What are the things they do offensively that concern you the most?
“Well they throw a lot of screens. They throw a lot of screens, a lot of bubble screens, a lot of X screens, and that’s their way of getting the ball outside, so what they’re going to do is show you a running play and either hand it off in the run, or if they don’t feel like you’re covered down well enough, then they’re going to throw it out there, and they’ve been very successful on it.”
Is there a big difference between how they play this year vs. last year?
“Probably executing much much better this year. The quarterback’s making good throws, and they just look like a much better football team. The thing about it is you always look at who do they play, well they played Notre Dame pretty darn well. I’ve been watching a lot of them against us last year, too, and they beat Ohio, you know. They’ve shown that they can go.”