Mike Lantry, 1972
[ED: Bump so hard. ]
FF 210 - Screen Package
FF400 - Drag and Follow
So this is what I had intended to do with the series when I started it: breaking down plays/concepts that Michigan runs and why they work, how to defend/attack them, etc. Today I’m going to break down a pass play that Michigan ran twice for first downs in the first half. This is a great play that isn’t necessarily innovative anymore, but it is still very prevalent both the college and pro game. It’s called the drag (jerk) and follow pattern.
What I will be doing today is going over this play and how and why it was successful twice against Illinois. I will also discuss how defenses scheme against it in order to stop it, plays to counter those defensive adjustments, and why Michigan went away from it when it was successful early.
The Play – Drag and Follow
This is a great play because it does two things. It gives both the QB and WR easy reads and it always makes the defense wrong, essentially putting them out of position.*
Note, I have done a fairly simple defensive alignment that isn't really that technically sound to face the run. It is an even front with the SS back. This isn't bad against the pass but against the run it would probably suffer. There are many different variations of D, and I some what change the D alignment to help prove my point. It is important to realize that the keys are still there though, I'm just attempting to teach as simply as possible, so the defense isn't always the same.
Notice the label for each receiver and the Zip presnap motion (into the formation) by the Z receiver. On defense, N is the Nickelback (don't hate me, hate the Lions) subbed in for the SAM.
The Read – Backside LB
The QB will read the backside LB (WLB).
If the he follows the drag route, it will leave the delayed follow route open in the space that that LB previous occupied. You see this the first time Michigan ran this play against Illinois.
The LB attacks downhill at the drag pattern leaving an opening where he previously was.
Finally, a post on Tuesday. November is championship football, and championship football requires championship opponent watching.
(Fear scale: 0 = Bye week; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team Lloyd Carr will announce his retirement a second time; 5 = Illinois any given year; 8 = Best in B1G, which may or may not actually be any good; 9 = National title contender somewhere in the SEC; 10 = Hold me, Ace)
About Last Saturday:
No. 24 Michigan 31, Illinois 14 (W)
The Road Ahead:
No. 19 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2 B1G)
David Swanson / Philadelphia Inquirer
- Chattanooga, 40-7 (W)
- Fresno State, 42-29 (W)
- Washington, 51-38 (W)
- @ Wyoming, 38-14 (W)
- @ No. 7 Wisconsin, 48-17 (L)
- Ohio State, 34-27 (W)
- @ Minnesota, 41-14 (W)
- No. 11 Michigan State, 24-3 (W)
- Northwestern, 28-25 (L)
Last game: Nebraska 17, No. 12 Penn State 14 (W)
Recap: Nebraska shrugged off last week’s upset loss to Northwestern as well as the national scandal that has been monopolizing headlines to win a football game on the road.
Their rush offense steadily churned out a 17-0 lead midway through the third quarter before Penn State finally put together a cohesive touchdown drive. A Rex Burkhead (25 carries, 121 yards, 1 TD) fumble at the beginning of the fourth quarter gave the Nittany Lions a short field, so with the help of some trickery, Penn State was able to find the endzone again to cut the lead to 17-14.
That’s when the Huskers defensive front, led by LB Lavonte David, who had been quiet for most of the game, stiffened. Three times they stuffed Lions running backs for no gain on short yardage. 2nd and 1 turned into 3rd and 1 turned into 4th and 1, which ultimately led to a turnover on downs.
Miraculously, the Penn State defense was able to force a Nebraska four and out to get the ball back with 49 seconds remaining, but Nittany Lions QB Matt McGloin (16/34, 193 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) had trouble finding receivers on the desperation drive, and his last pass under pressure fell incomplete.
Huskers QB Taylor Martinez had a pedestrian day, completing 13 of 26 passes for 143 yards and no TDs or INTs. He was also limited on the ground, carrying the ball 19 times for just 56 yards -- only one of those carries was a sack. He did manage the game well, however, and the offensive play of the game was his last-second option pitch to Rex Burkhead that went for a touchdown.
Right now they are as frightening as: The mounting sense of unknowing you get as you stare down the betting lines this week. 7.
Michigan should worry about: Option offense, which is something Michigan doesn’t really know if it can stop. Northwestern ran it successfully but then outsmarted themselves by abandoning it in the second half. Illlinois used it in limited quantities, and while Michigan stifled the hand-offs, the Scheelhaase keepers were effective and therefore worrisome.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Numerous reports indicate that Nebraska’s offensive line is about as deep as Michigan’s, i.e. drowning is a hazard only for the very young or the very intoxicated. The Wolverines D-line play has been steadily improving since the bye week, so that matchup looks to be favorable.
Additionally, if you’ve ever watched Martinez throw … eesh. Imagine Denard passing, but instead of an arm he has a chicken wing. Expect to see Jordan Kovacs nuzzling the line of scrimmage frequently.
DE Jared Crick has been out with a torn pectoral muscle, so Mark Huyge at least can sleep a little better.
When Michigan plays them: Both teams are going to try to make each other take to the air, at which point it’s anyone’s guess.
Martinez thrives on the kind of passing game that made Denard a 2500+ yard passer last year -- as teams choke up on the run game, receivers find themselves wandering alone in areas of the field large enough to raise a horse. Michigan’s safeties have done a good job of not blowing these sorts of assignments or getting beat deep so far, but again, they haven’t been tested by a true option offense where the whole point is to get safeties to bite on play-action. Worry if the Wolverines can’t stop the Burkhead-Martinez tandem early.
As far as Michigan’s passing game goes, jump balls are probably not such a great idea. Nebraska boasts one of the B1G’s best cover corners in Alfonso Dennard, and the guy playing opposite him is not so bad either. The Wolverines’ passing game does seem to be more sophisticated than the Huskers’ and relies less on establishing the run game, so there’s that.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams combine for six turnovers.
Next game: at No. 18 Michigan
(more after the jump)
You know the drill by now: always Denard's legs always. Michigan went away from using Denard's legs as a threat against Iowa and suffered through a day where their tailbacks averaged 3.6 yards an attempt. Against Illinois virtually every play saw Michigan threaten a Denard run, often with the additional threat of a triple option from a motioning slot receiver or fullback Stephen Hopkins
Additionally, Michigan brought back Rodriguez's old offset H-back formation. This allowed Kevin Koger to either flare backside and open up the designed cutback runs Toussaint had success with or attack the frontside of the play on QB draws and the like. This stretched Illinois out and gave Toussaint some extra creases.
Toussaint's 65-yarder on Michigan's second play demonstrates both of these changes. It's second and ten after the NT jumped he snap on the first play and Denard missed a keep read on a triple option. Michigan comes out in a formation that could be a shot from any of the last three years but for the WR tight to the line at the top of the screen, who isn't actually a WR but is TE Steve Watson. Illinois responds by shifting its linebackers to the field and half-dropping the free safety.
There are five second level defenders on this play: the three linebackers, the overhang corner, and the rolled-up free safety.
On the snap Koger starts to head backside. The slot LB charges on an exchange as the backside DE comes in unblocked:
By the mesh points defenders one and two are dead on a handoff.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 1: Scrape exchange designed to contain threat of a Denard keeper; Koger's backside block.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 2: Drop into zone designed to combat the threat of a mesh point oh noes play-action pass (that still does nothing to combat a bubble screen or quick out by Hemingway.
Denard sees the DE containing and hands off. Koger comes backside to prevent #1 from running down the line and making the play from behind. Defender three is blitzing up the middle…
…he manages to get through the small gap beween Huyge and Omameh but the two guys combine to slow him down long enough for Toussaint to hit the hole.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 3: Blitz picked up by Huyge and Molk.
The Illinois line creases between Schofield and Molk. With the Illinois line clearly slanting to the playside this is mostly thanks to Molk controlling the NT well enough to prevent him from getting upfield. This defense is clearly designed to get Fitz cutting to the backside of the play; Molk's block means he doesn't have to.
By the time Fitz is hitting the line, the gap is obvious.
When he's two yards past it Illinois is done.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 4: General uselessness of one guy in twenty yards of space against a blocker; need to maintain leverage.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 5: Derp. He's containing Denard Robinson, who doesn't have the ball and was never going to have the ball on this play, or he's anticipating a cutback that he doesn't wait to see develop.
Toussaint gets tackled by his shirt tail because that's what always happens to Fitzgerald Toussaint.
He manages to pick up another 15 yards after the initial contact, but someone needs to get Fitz a slippery jersey.
Items Of Interest
Denard's legs: all threaty and stuff. The zone read fake eliminates one linebacker, which helps the run game but isn't a miracle. When Michigan operates from under center they still eliminate a guy because all defenses leave backside ends for potential bootlegs.
Where operating from the shotgun helps Michigan is with defender #2, who has to back out into a short zone because of the threat of a quick seam over the top. The quick PA ability of the spread 'n' shred means any linebacker who sucks up and reacts is DOA.
This is enough to put Toussaint one on one with a safety. Since that safety derps it's one on none. That's a third player the threat posed by Denard in the gun eliminates. That's their starter and fourth-leading tackler, by the way. Don't know what it is about Illinois safeties and massive breakdowns on Michigan's first possession but I like it.
Molk's block: key. Illinois is slanting the line hard and trying to funnel the play back to their backside blitz. If Fitz has to cut behind Molk that blitz may or may not get home. Since he's got a crease to the side where the Illinois line slanted it has no chance.
This isn't entirely up to Molk. Zone blocking is frequently about taking the guy where he wants to go, then taking him past that point. You can see on the replay that the backside DT is slanting, then stops, then tries to extend as Fitz hits the hole. He waves an arm at him but can do no more.
If the NT pushes hard to the playside Molk is tasked with kicking him past the point he wants to end up at; with the MLB handled by two guys Fitz likely has a cut either way. But not getting blown up/shoved back/chucked provides the crease.
Flinging Koger backside: nostalgic. Michigan also did this with Hopkins when they aligned with two backs. This is likely because of a heavy dose of plays like this where Illinois takes a quick linebacker and shoots him down the line.
A few years ago Calvin Magee said he'd worry about the guy crashing from the end "when he makes the play" on stretches; Illinois's goal with this exchange is to make the guy left unblocked a quicker player with a running start. On inside zones blocking the backside guy is mandatory because all possible creases are in the danger zone.
The bubble: screamingly open here. The slot LB will blitz as the MLB drops into coverage, so… yeah:
On this play the threat of the seam still eliminates the linebacker that the bubble usually forces out of the box*. I am still in favor of at least throwing a few bubbles because they will pick up big chunks if the defense plays like this.
I'm in favor of them generally because they put pressure on the defense by restricting the ways they can align without either getting 8 yards in their face or playing games that end with Worst Waldo passes. I mean, by the snap there isn't a guy on the field with a prayer of defending a slot bubble here.
*[When it doesn't it's forcing a safety either to the line or into a dangerous game of jumping the bubble route and opening up wide open bombs.]
This is very important. Fitz Tous is a much weirder name than Gerald Saint.
An image. This was on the internet, but not widely enough. Undoubtedly from this year's Big Ten Media Days, the family portrait:
I'm just posting this for Pelini.
WHAT ABOUT MY SOUL
Where have you been all my life. I can't believe this guy has been doing this for three years and no one has found him before MGoVideo stumbled across him this weekend:
A check of his account reveals he's done this exact same thing dozens of times over the past three years for things as insignificant as victories over Hillsdale. There is no corresponding "BOO" for losses, unfortunately.
NoPa. Whoever wins the league this year won't have to pick up their trophy with tongs:
Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno's name has been removed from the Big Ten's football championship trophy, league commissioner Jim Delany said Monday.
“We believe that it would be inappropriate to keep Joe Paterno’s name on the trophy at this time,” Delany said. “The trophy and its namesake are intended to be celebratory and aspirational, not controversial. We believe that it’s important to keep the focus on the players and the teams that will be competing in the inaugural championship game.”
They're going with just "Stagg." Now all we have to do is tie the division names into a horrible crime and we're set nomenclature-wise. Paterno is kind of a leader and legend all wrapped into one, isn't he?
Legal argh. Marvin Robinson's concussion turns out to be one that causes bad decisions:
Robinson, 20, was arraigned last week on a charge of second degree home invasion and released on a promise to appear. He is accused of breaking into a locked dorm room at 10 p.m. Sept. 29 and stealing the game.
After getting some time early in the year Robinson mysteriously disappeared; now we know why. There's a lot of speculation about this being the end of MRob by mysterious insiders; I find that odd. Unless he's had previous incidents this seems like a first strike type event. Previous Michigan players in the same level of trouble have been able to return after doing penance.
"(They) gave me some freedom to call some stunts up front that coaches wouldn’t typically do, but they trust that I’m smart enough to make the right calls," Van Bergen said. "We didn’t actually get the green light, we just started doing it. Take a risk. Why not?
"It worked the first two or three times, and the coaches were just like, ‘Call ‘em when you feel like calling ‘em.’"
Remember a couple years ago when Indiana ripped off an 85-yard touchdown because RVB missed a check? That doesn't so much happen anymore. Seniors. I like them. We should try to have more of them. You, Desmond Morgan: be a senior with four years of eligibility starting now.
A note on Denard fumbly bits. While it's frustrating to endure a game in which Denard fumbles turn two drives in field goal range to dust, the team's overall trend is still highly positive:
|Year: 2011||Thru: 11/12/11|
The noise you hear is Rich Rodriguez screaming "oh, of course this happens the year after I get fired." Denard coughed it up twice against Illinois and had the elaborate-sack-escape fumble against Iowa; the other two lost fumbles were from Smith and Hopkins against SDSU. Robinson's had 330 events this year; losing three fumbles on them isn't that bad.
Last year Michigan lost 14(!) as a team. The improvement here has been significant enough to more than combat the increase in interceptions.
Complicated bits. Smart Football's Grantland work seems specifically targeted at things we've been discussing about Michigan's offensive transition. There a post about how Jim Harbaugh has dumped sight reading from the 49ers offense and thereby aided them in their transformation from chumps to 7-1. At first they were like this:
And then they would change to this when they got a blitz:
But now they're like this:
They always have hot routes built into the play. Michigan has gone the other direction. Unfortunately you're thinking of Vincent Smith not running a slant against Michigan State right now, but I can't do anything about that. Chris Brown's take on this adaptation:
It's my personal view, but I think NFL teams rely too much on sight adjustments. There are two reasons for this: First, these plays were far more straightforward a decade or two ago than they are now, and second, coaches who spend nearly all their waking hours thinking about football tend to forget that it's not how many X's and O's they know but what they can teach their players. To the first point, sight adjustments are old — at least 50 years old, if not more. But they arose before zone blitzes became popular. Against a blitz with man-to-man coverage in the secondary, sight adjustments made perfect sense. They were extensions of backyard football — throw a quick one to the fast guy and let him run with the ball before the blitz overwhelms the offensive line.
Now it's not so simple. With the rise of the zone blitz, the fact that three defenders might rush from one side tells the offense almost nothing about where the coverage will be. This is why, when zone blitzes first became prominent, you saw quarterbacks throwing awful passes directly to defenders who weren't even close to receivers. This is not to say that sight adjustments are impossible in today's environment, but they require an almost telepathic relationship between quarterback, receiver, and even the offensive line.
Borges and Hoke have been grumbling about wide receivers being hidden issues in the passing game for chunks of the year and I think this is what they're talking about. In the spring game Gardner missed Gallon three times when Gallon pulled up short and Gardner threw long or vice versa; the Smith interception happened; Denard has often been under pressure without anywhere to go with the ball because everyone's 30 yards downfield. That seems nuts so my assumption is when that happens it's because the receivers have not read the play correctly.
While this should get better next year when Gallon, Roundtree, and Stonum all have a year of experience under their belts I'm a little leery of Michigan using sight reads extensively—and they seem like an all-or-nothing proposition like being a triple option or Air Raid team. You're either 100% committed to it or you suck. I'll figure out more about this over the offseason—I've signed up for some clinics featuring Michigan's coordinators that will hopefully shed some light on what Michigan's trying to do.
BONUS relevance: Brown also breaks down one of Oregon's long runs against Stanford with a focus on the alignment of the line and how Oregon forces you to respect the bubble. I'll probably tackle that in greater detail in a picture pages.
Yost attendance problem mitigation. If you have tickets, need tickets, need a rideshare, or require any other thing that will get you to Yost there is a Children of Yost facebook page that can help you with these matters. I don't think their services extend to calling you up at 7:15 and screaming "PUT DOWN THE MW3 AND LEAVE THE HOUSE NOW," unfortunately.
More Trouba. Via NHL.com:
"He has offense skills and he really does defend well," Gregory said. "You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he's a big kid who skates really well. He loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He's going to be someone people are going to talk about; we've known about him for a couple years and he's not disappointing early on this year, either."…
"He skates exceptionally well and likes to rush up the ice with the puck and with good speed," he said. "He's very confident, has great agility, is strong physically and is always alert. He's done a good job in 1-on-1 situations against opposing forwards and contained his man very well."
(HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)
This week in going for it. Advanced NFL Stats has a go-or-not 4th down calculator, but I think it's broken. When I punch in the situation from the weekend, it says 100% of 92 is 93. As a result it says M should have kicked.
I think it means the decision to go was correct since it says you have a 70% chance of success and your WP goes from 92 to 93 if you get it right. Expected points are massively in favor of going, FWIW: 4.5 to 2.4.
The mid 90s summed up. Midnight Maize brings us this shirt, which should be the student T this year and for all time:
That is wicked off the hook but inexplicably managed to escape its ebay auction unsold.
Etc.: Toussaint interviewed by TIM DOYLE OMG. Says "I'm just a big fan of fashion." Toussaint, not Doyle. Dreaded Judgment gets on the "third down == awesome" bandwagon. MGoFootball Illinois bullets arrived too late for yesterday's game post.
Iowa fans think Michigan State got fainting disease last Saturday, which I point out mostly to marvel at the idea anyone would have to slow the Hawkeyes' tempo down. I guess they were down a billion.
This week on Weekday Warriors, the ranks of the surviving Wolverine commits thin out considerably during playoff action. Just a note—I will be attempting to compile season stats in one big post after all the players have finished their seasons. If you have any info that would help in putting together such a post, please shoot me an email.
TN OL Blake Bars
Montgomery Bell fell to Baylor, 20-10, in a state quarterfinal matchup.
This week: The Big Red finish the season with a 6-6 record.
OH LB Joe Bolden
No stats were available for Bolden as Colerain lost to St. Xavier for the second time this season, 28-15, in the regional semifinals.
This week: The Cardinals finish the season at 10-2, with both losses coming to St. X.
MI OL Ben Braden
Rockford amassed 338 yards on the ground en route to a 30-28 victory over Grand Blanc for the regional title.
This week: Rockford plays against Matt Godin and Detroit Catholic Central in the state semifinals on Saturday at 1.
OH DE Pharaoh Brown
Brush finished the season with a 4-6 record.
KY S Jeremy Clark
No stats to report for Clark as North Hopkins lost to Franklin-Simpson, 20-17, in the second round of the state playoffs.
This week: The Maroons finish the season with a 9-3 record.
MI TE Devin Funchess
Harrison finished the season with a 10-1 record.
OH S Allen Gant
Southview finished the season with a 9-2 record.
MI DT Matt Godin
Godin recorded 10 tackles as Detroit Cathlic Central knocked off Drake Johnson and Pioneer, 21-0, to advance to the state semifinals. The Shamrock defense—which was missing Wyatt Shallman due to injury—bottled up Johnson and never allowed the Pioneers to advance past the 50-yard line.
“We took their heart when we bottled up Drake,” Shamrocks’ all-state defensive lineman Matt Godin said. “You could see it in their eyes. They didn’t know what to do when their No. 1 option was taken away. By the second quarter, they were reeling big time.”
This week: The Shamrocks face Ben Braden and Rockford in Saturday's 1 p.m. state semifinal at Battle Creek Central HS.
UT FB Sione Houma
Highland finished the season with a 7-4 record.
Royce Jenkins-Stone (#10 in white) stares down Shane Morris before the snap.
MI LB Royce Jenkins-Stone
Jenkins-Stone recorded six tackles and ran the ball 22 times for 67 yards and the game-winning touchdown as Cass Tech shut down Shane Morris and Warren De La Salle, 6-0, to move on to the state semis. You can find much more on the game in this week's Future Blue Originals.
This week: The Technicians face off against Utica Eisenhower at Troy Athens HS on Saturday at 1.
MI RB Drake Johnson
Johnson was limited to just 48 yards on 16 carries in Pioneer's 21-0 loss to Catholic Central, leaving him just 86 yards short of eclipsing the single-season state rushing record.
This week: The Pioneers finish the season with a 9-3 record.
OH OL Kyle Kalis
St. Edward fell to St. Ignatius, 20-17, on a last-second field goal in the second round of the playoffs.
This week: The Eagles end the season with an 8-4 record.
CA OL Erik Magnuson
La Costa Canyon knocked off bitter rival Torrey Pines, 28-7, in their regular-season finale to earn a bye in the first round of the state playoffs.
This week: The Mavericks have a bye while they await their second-round playoff matchup.
MI DE Mario Ojemudia
Harrison finished the season at 10-1.
MO DT Ondre Pipkins
Park Hill finished the season with a 5-5 record.
Terry Richardson locks down his man against De La Salle.
MI CB Terry Richardson
Richardson had two receptions for 46 yards and played extremely well at corner as Cass Tech squeaked by De La Salle, 6-0, in a classic defensive battle.
This week: The Technicians face off against Utica Eisenhower at Troy Athens HS on Saturday at 1.
OH LB Kaleb Ringer
Ringer sat out the end of the season due to a strained MCL suffered early on in the year.
MI LB James Ross
Ross recorded an 11-yard touchdown reception, his only catch of the day, as Orchard Lake St. Mary's defeated Linden, 49-7, to reach the Division 3 state semifinals.
This week: The Eaglets face Battle Creek Harper Creek at Withington Stadium in Jackson on Saturday at 1.
OH OL Caleb Stacey
Oak Hills finished the season at 4-6.
IL CB Anthony Standifer
Crete-Monee finished the season with a 10-1 record.
OH DE Tom Strobel
Strobel contributed at least one big tackle for loss as Mentor won a wild one against rival Solon, 42-40, to win the regional title:
Solon appeared poised to push that lead out even further after Justin Kresevic intercepted a pass and returned it to the Mentor 22. However, a big defensive stop — keyed by a tackle for loss by senior defensive end Tom Strobel — kept the Comets from adding to the lead, and it was game on for Trubisky and company from there on for the rest of the first half.
This week: The Cardinals face St. Ignatius on Saturday at 7.
OH TE A.J. Williams
The Aviators finished the season with an 8-3 record.
OH S Jarrod Wilson
Buchtel finished their season with a 6-4 record.
OH DE Chris Wormley:
Whitmer remained undefeated as they held Canton McKinley to just 159 yards of offense in a 37-6 playoff rout. Here's Wormley on the victory:
"We prepared all week with the defensive schemes, and I guess we're pretty good," Wormley. "The main thing was getting pressure, sending people off the edge and blitzing. I think that really helped.
"We just stayed focused and mentally tough. It's great feeling to be in the regional final again. We'll be back at it on Monday and hopefully it'll be the same outcome."
[UPDATE: Here's Whitmer play-by-play man Mason Lowry with his weekly first-hand report:
This was the best I've ever seen Chris play. Simply outstanding. Always in the backfield, always causing havoc. Got to the quarterback a ton and brought him down several times at or just behind the line of scrimmage. Not sure just how many sacks/QB pressures he may have had, but I know that I called his name more than I have in any other game this year. This was a really impressive performance from Chris and the entire defense. He looked every bit like a major Division 1 recruit, and certainly played like someone who could make a big impact in Maize and Blue.
Now, the Whitmer D will go from facing an athletic spread offense to a more methodical, running-oriented team. Wadsworth's running back, the wonderfully-named Jack Snowball, has over 2500 yards (!) for the season to this point and can easily carry the ball 40+ times per game. This is a completely different test from what McKinley presented, but one that I ultimately think Whitmer will overcome, but at this point in the season, who knows?
Thanks, as always, to Mason for the update.]
This week: Whitmer faces Wadsworth on Saturday at 7 in their regional final.
MI QB Shane Morris
Morris completed just 4-of-17 passes for 28 yards and two interceptions against a strong Cass Tech defense as De La Salle fell 6-0 in the final minutes.
This week: The Pilots finish the season with a 9-3 record.
OH RB/S Dymonte Thomas
Marlington finished the season at 8-2.
Is this not what you expected to see?
This week we're going to try a little Michigan defense word association. I'm gonna say a phrase and you're going to tell me what you're feeling. All set? Okay:
3rd and 1.
Lemme guess: Confidence? Excitement? Anticipation? A center sent airborne by a launching pad named Martin?
It is that, and Jake Ryan coming off the edge and hugging an opponent's running back two yards behind the line of scrimmage. And then it is RVB past his block and stopping all forward progress even though the running back's legs are still moving because Ron Zook told him if he keeps his legs moving he can still get yards. Then Heininger arrives. And maybe Demens, or a safety, and you know for certain it is over. You know, and now you've seen it so many times you think you knew before they even snapped it...
Dragging behind you the silent reproach of a million tear-stained eyes…
You slip out of your depth and out of your mind
Now I want you to wind your mind back one year. Michigan has just defeated Purdue to get to 7-3, with Wisconsin and Ohio State left. Same exercise, I say a phrase, you tell me what your last year brain is feeling:
3rd and 1
Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter?
This isn't just your imagination. Opponents' conversion rates on 3rd- or 4th and 1 the last three years, from UFR-ed drives plus Illinois (:
- 2009: 15 for 22 (68.18%)
- 2010: 20 for 28 (71.43%)
- 2011: 12 for 27 (44.44%)
What shall we use to fill the empty spaces?
The going rate, I've been told, is generally 70% so those '09 and '10 numbers are average-ish (help me Enjoy Life, Mathlete, anyone?) That would make sense with RVB and Martin around both years. But it makes this year's numbers just ridiculous. Michigan has stopped their opponent at least once in every game this year. Two of those conversions were from Illinois's 4th quarter drive down 24-7 versus Brink-Campbell-Heininger-Roh-Beyer.
This isn't a competition thing either. When I excise MAC and FCS opponents from all years it's far more pronounced:
- 2009: 10 for 13 (76.92%)
- 2010: 15 for 19 (78.95%)
- 2011: 6 for 19 (31.58%)
Notre Dame (0 for 3), Michigan State (0 for 1), and Iowa (0 for 3) have extant pound-it tailbacks and went a combined zero first downs in 7 attempts. Thanks to the above-mentioned Letterman-collaring 4th quarter TD drive, the Illinois game actually made Michigan look worse than they've been since conference play started.
Of all the things Michigan's defense is doing this year, the sudden and remarkable ability to stone teams on 3rd and 1 is likely a big part of the Mattison Renaissance. Using a simple calculator (made for the NFL), that stop in the 1st quarter was worth 1.56 expected points for Michigan, the equivalent of a 28-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.
Who could be responsible for such success? Just a couple bricks in the wall:
Don't leave me now. How could you go, when you you know how I need you
to beat to a pulp on a Saturday night? (Greilick|DetNews)
We are really, really going to miss these guys next year, period. But a glance at this year's UFR tracking of 3rd and 1, 4th and 1, and anything from the Michigan 1—not a perfect resource but useful for this at least—and it shows those aren't the only two guys showing up in the hole this year:
|Kenny Demens and Ryan Van Bergen each||6.5||0|
|Campbell, Hawthorne, and Heininger each||2.5||0|
|Black, Morgan & Woolfolk each||1||0|
Just a little pinprick. There'll be no more aaaaaah!
Keep in mind these sorts of plays make guys look overly good in UFR since giving up one yard generally doesn't net anybody minuses while stuffing them in the backfield causes them to rain. The encouraging part is many of these plus-earning pieces will be around next year. Even Campbell (who moved the line backwards in two chances v. Illinois) looks to be an asset in short situations. The cleanup crew of Demens, Roh, and Ryan should be around next year. Of course with freshmen etc. at the big man DL positions next year I expect this outrageous level of success to regress. /shakes Brian's fist at Rodriguez DT recruiting.
After the jump you can re-live the UFRs of every 3rd/4th and short since 2009 (but not Illinois 2011 'cause it's not written yet). This is entirely optional since hopefully my point has been made already. By clicking you agree to absolve MGoBlog of all damages from GERG-related coronary failures, strokes, embolisms, and/or cranial pyrotechnics. Fortunately, I have become comfortably numb.