TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
I am headed for East Lansing very early in the morning so I should put this up now so that it actually gets done. Here it is. Please see the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post for information on how to be an excellent liveblog participant.
Go Blue. If I don't post by Monday, avenge my death.
Oddly not a problem. Thanks to a couple of diarists and the Wall Street Journal, we can answer the question posed in this AnnArbor.com headline:
Is Michigan at a disadvantage because of MSU's off week?
Bye weeks seem to hurt more than they help. Since 2002 (to 2010*), teams of the six BCS conferences have an overall win pct of 0.480 when coming off of a bye week. The Big Ten teams in particular struggle when coming off of a bye. From 2002-2010* Big Ten teams are a combined 17-32 when coming off of a bye. This is good for a 0.35 win pct.
…no. This also applies to the small sample sizes posted by Mark Dantonio coming off a bye and Brady Hoke facing someone off a bye. This is an odd finding, but there it is.
Bacon book excerpt. Has hit the WSJ:
Denard Robinson's day started at 6:30 a.m., when his alarm clock went off in his off-campus condo bedroom.
He hit the snooze once, then twice, before getting out of bed to put on jeans, a red polo shirt, black Adidas training shoes and his varsity jacket. Then he hopped into his roommate Devin Gardner's family pickup truck, a beat-up 2002 Dakota.
It continues following Denard from there. Autograph seekers, man. We will be running another installment of the Q&A Monday or Tuesday, depending on how jam-packed Monday is. Three and Out is out October 25th.
[*cough* if you are planning on buying the thing you can support the site by purchasing Three and Out through MGoBlog affiliate linkage *cough*]
Pizza: we want it. There was a "We want pizza" chant as Michigan's goal count exploded against St. Lawrence, and this is why:
Also in 1997, there was free pizza. Back in the day, Cottage Inn sponsored a 10-goal promotion, where every member in attendance received a free slice of pie if the team reached 10 goals. Sounds awesome, right?
It was awesome all right — for everyone but Cottage Inn. Even though 1997 was the last straw, the restaurant still had issues with the promotion in previous years. The blame game can start with a man they called ‘Doughboy.’
In the early 1990s, when the Wolverines would put up seven or eight goals, the crowd would start to chant, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” It seemed that Michigan had a player who liked pizza as much as the fans did, as he would seemingly pick up his play whenever the total got close to 10. Hence, Cam Stewart became ‘Doughboy.’
Michigan's fallen off from their glory days and Cottage Inn could fire up the pizza promotion without too much damage—this was the first time it had happened since 2008.
I'm out of toner, too. I don't want to wade into a discussion about the content of this Dennis Dodd piece on why Rodriguez should get some credit. (Surprise: Dodd and Rodriguez share an employer.) I do want to linger on this image:
Rich Rodriguez still runs into his players during shopping trips in Ann Arbor.
"Office Depot or something," said Michigan's former coach. "You can figure, you've got mixed emotions. You're frustrated because it's your guys and you want to coach them."
That's the problem with the system: too much money going to students. The Big Ten and SEC made a case for "full cost of attendance" scholarships as caring more about student welfare than a level playing field, and they carry a lot of water in this town so I assume this will be killed and never brought up again:
Following a six-hour meeting in late September, the Resource Allocation Working Group, chaired by Georgia President Michael Adams, agreed to consider a reduction in FBS football scholarships from the current number of 85 to 80 and a reduction in the number of FCS football scholarships from 63 to 60. The reductions would likely follow a move toward a full cost-of-attendance scholarship that is expected to be passed in early 2012. In addition to football, the group agreed to consider a reduction in the number of men's basketball scholarships from 13 to 12 and in women's basketball from 15 to 13.
If it's not it's time to burn the NCAA to the ground. If you don't want to offer a full complement of scholarships, don't. Atlantic Hockey offers 13, not 18. Fine. Don't force teams awash in money to not offer scholarships because you cry poverty. The NCAA should be exploring relaxing or changing caps in money sports*, not increasing them.
*[The best anti-oversigning proposal I've heard is removing the overall cap entirely and just having a yearly one. Totally removes the motivation to kick a kid off the team unless he's Stephen Garcia.]
Etc.: Just Cover's SteveY dubs MSU's QB 'Kork Coupons,' which I find delightful. It is entirely plausible Lou Holtz has called him this at some point. Tom Ziller blows up David Stern. Grant Wahl makes the case for promotion and relegation in American sports. Yost renovation to take out 400 seats, add more "premium" seating so people can pay even more money to not show up at hockey games.
Previously here: ACE FFFF!
|WHAT||Michigan vs State|
|WHERE||Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, October 15th 2011|
|THE LINE||State –2.5|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN|
|WEATHER||mid-50s, partly cloudy, 10% chance of rain, windy|
Run Offense vs. Michigan State
Jerel Worthy: self-trolled
This is an irresistible force versus immovable object matchup that pairs the nation's #7 rushing offense against its #1 rushing defense. Massive schedule strength caveats apply to both numbers.
Michigan State has played a I-AA team and I-A's #111, #94, #48, and #31 rushing offenses. The two good opponents were Ohio State, against whom MSU got a healthy dose of Bauserbombs and nine sacks, and Notre Dame, whose primary tailbacks combined for 126 yards on 26 carries—4.8 a pop. MSU did shut down an Ohio State rushing offense that did well against Nebraska, Colorado, and Miami (That Miami). There is plenty of there there.
A large part of the there is in the person and Missouri-themed tattoo of NT Jerel Worthy. Worthy is being talked about as a potential first round draft pick and has tormented Michigan the last two years by jumping snap counts and generally being impossible to to run against. Michigan will have to block him, and get his snap-timing ways off guard. If you let him jump a snap your play is done. Trap him, counter him, do various things to him that exploit his aggression.
The rest of the line is inexperienced. With Tyler Hoover out for the year the ends are one-time Michigan prospect Marcus Rush, a redshirt freshman, and hyped true sophomore William Gholston. Gholston got a lot of hype during the Ohio State game but that turned out to be mostly for running down the backside of the play and tackling for loss when State's massive blitzing forced tailbacks to cut back. When Ohio State blocked him he stayed blocked; his pass rush moves are rudimentary. He remains a physical marvel. Rush is a smaller DE in the mold of a Roh who's quick around the edge and has some issues holding up.
Chris Norman, Max Bullough, and Denicos Allen are the linebackers. Allen you may remember executing the flying squirrel sack on Bauserman late in the OSU game. Norman and Bullough are four-star types with a modicum of experience. They aren't Greg Jones, but they're obviously not a huge downgrade.
As for Michigan, their merry train of destruction was slowed considerably by Northwestern. Denard managed his hundred or so yards but the tailbacks had grim days. This was due in part to Northwestern stacking the line to the point where they gave up 13 YPA. Michigan State is like Iowa in that they are loathe to do that, preferring a standard 4-3 cover two against all offenses from maximum spread 'n' shred to maximum MANBALL. They blitz from time to time but rarely.
Michigan has had issues running power, first from under center (now abandoned) and increasingly from the shotgun. They've started running a lot of two-back, one-TE sets from the shotgun, de-spreading the spread and packing the box, and they've been running away from Taylor Lewan, their best drive-blocking OL, because they evidently don't trust RG Patrick Omameh to pull. Finding a way to make Michigan State defend both sides of the line and giving them things other than plain old power will be important—MSU sees that stuff every day all day in practice and Michigan's line is not built to move guys off the ball.
Key Matchup: Borges vs finding ways to get the edge. Michigan State's linebackers are young and the defensive ends younger. Worthy is large and the interior OL is not prepped to drive-block him. Speed options, veers, pitches, rollouts, zone read variations, stretch blocking—Michigan has to get outside the tackles effectively.
Pass Offense vs. Michigan State
Tacopants via Spawn of MZone; MSU's Johnny Adams
Denard Robinson's interception rate has shot up this year to a staggering 8.6%. He thrown 9 picks in 104 attempts after throwing 11 in 291 last year. That is a hell of a step backwards. If Denard's INT rate remains at that level Saturday, Michigan loses.
Denard INTs have come in two flavors this year: extremely bad decisions to throw deep into coverage (all three against ND) and massive overthrows (all three against NW), with some combining both aspects into one debilitating cocktail of depression. Over the past two weeks Denard has shown considerable progression in his accuracy (65% against NW, much better than that against Minnesota) at the same time he's made a ton of horrible overthrows. He seemed to fix his issues in the second half against Northwestern—maintaining that through the Michigan State game, especially in the face of pressure, will make Michigan's path to victory much clearer.
Michigan's receivers are the opposite of MSU's: a deep bunch without a true star. Junior Hemingway and his ability to high-point underthrown deep balls are the closest thing.
State's secondary is pretty good. Their safeties make mistakes from time to time but not too many; the cornerbacks are tough guys who make you earn your completions short and long. That's the impression from the Notre Dame game, anyway. There is no other data worth looking at.
Their line is 21st in sacks thanks to the nine against Ohio State; they have five in their other four games, one against Notre Dame on a stunt that was not picked up. Michigan is first nationally, allowing two in five official games. Part of that is Michigan not passing much—they're just over 20 attempts per game—and part of that is defenses sitting back lest they get too aggressive and spring Robinson into the secondary. Unfortunately for Michigan, even token pressure has caused Robinson to fling inadvisable or inaccurate balls—they don't need to swarm him to be productive.
State will sit back in a cover two and play a ton of zone, forcing Denard to be patient for holes to open up and hit spots in the zone with good timing. He's done it before… he's also imploded spectacularly.
Key Matchup: Denard vs Accuracy. Forever and ever this key matchup until Denard's missing at a rate that forces defenses to fear him in the air. Is this possible? Absolutely—a lot of spread QBs have light-on moments. Until it happens it hasn't happened.
Run Defense vs. Michigan State
Edwin Baker; Dan France having a sad last year, wearing a DL number
A year after... actually, nevermind. I was going to contrast this year's MSU run offense with last year's but it turns out Michigan State was mediocre in 2010, finishing 64th in yardage and 49th in YPC. Their 249 yards against Michigan said more about Michigan than State, but you knew that already.
That was with the assistance of an offensive line. This year they don't have one of those. Both guards return and are okay, though Joel Foreman was the guy getting schooled by Aaron Lynch late in the Notre Dame game. It's the other three spots that are a concern. At right tackle, redshirt freshman starter Skyler Burkland broke a bone in his ankle and is out for the year, leaving fresh-off-the-JUCO Fou Fonoti the starter. At left tackle, converted DT Dan France has emerged as the starter after Jared McGaha proved to be not very good at football. Redshirt freshman Travis Jackson returns from injury to replace injured converted DT Blake Treadwell—he was supposed to be the starter at the start of the season.
As a result, the same tailbacks who were okay last year can't run this year. Like, at all. In their two games against BCS competition, Michigan State has rushed for 2.2 YPC against Notre Dame and 3.3 YPC against Ohio State, sacks removed.* They managed 4.2 against Florida Atlantic, an 0-5 Sun Belt team, and 4.6 against Central Michigan, which lost to Western Michigan by about the same score they did against State. That is their rushing year against I-A competition. Opponent with pulse == shut down. Without pulse == mediocre production.
So, does Michigan's rushing defense have a pulse? Unfortunately we can still do no better than "maybe" at this point in the season. Plausible opponents to date:
Non-plausible opponent Eastern Michigan also managed 4.5 YPC. Those numbers aren't any more encouraging than State's.
The UFRs have detailed one of the major causes of the big numbers put up by opponents: weakness on the edge. Freshman SLB Jake Ryan has been a major source of these issues but indecisiveness from the other linebackers has also "helped." Last week Northwestern exposed yet more edge weakness on a series of option plays. State will try to exploit that, but Kirk Cousins isn't running the triple option and while their tailbacks have some quickness, Bell and Baker are more north-south guys whose effectiveness wanes when their shoulders are square to the LOS. Expect Martin jet sweeps, possibly out of a wildcat look.
On the interior, Michigan isn't great. Neither is State—their OL cannot get to the second level. A couple of screwups by Michigan linebackers will grant State a few chunk runs and the steady power diet will chew up 2-4 yards at a time; Michigan will still put up its best YPC effort of the year against the Spartans.
Key Matchup: Will Heininger and Will Campbell against the MSU interior line. Michigan's three-tech has been a sore spot against the pro-style formations MSU figures to spend much of its day in. If the three tech can hold up, Michigan State isn't going to move anyone else on the line and those erratic yards on the edge will be easy enough to weather.
*[I also removed a -12 yard carry from Cousins against OSU and two "team" carries for -9 yards. IIRC the Cousins thing was a fumbled shotgun snap he fell on.]
Pass Defense vs. Michigan State
oh good, an enormous NFL wide receiver wearing #3 again
Kirk Cousins is Kirk Cousins: pretty good, not great, somewhat prone to the yips when pressured. He was 20 of 32 against OSU for 7.8 YPA; he also threw a touchdown and two interceptions. Against ND they had to rely on his arm almost exclusively and he put went 34 of 53 for 6.2 YPA, a touchdown, and an interception.
In both games a large bulk of his production came through BJ Cunningham, the hulking senior who is the Big Ten's best Michael Floyd impersonator. Cunningham has 38 catches for nearly 600 yards already. He's a lock to be all Big Ten and Michigan's going to give up ten catches for 150 yards. Brace yourself.
There's little past Cunningham. Slot guy Keshawn Martin figures to get involved on the edge as Michigan State tests out Michigan's evident weakness against bubble screens—Cunningham doubles as a tight-end-sized blocker out there—and former QB Keith Nichol has made catches here and there. WR depth remains a major issue. MSU runs out a bunch of tight ends, computer distribution expert Dion Sims most prominently, and throws screens and dumpoffs to the backs. Downfield threats begin and end with Cunningham. MSU does expect Bennie Fowler back. He had 14 catches last year as a freshman and may be a better non-Cunningham option than the guys on the field to date.
The line is also an issue here. Though Cousins was only sacked twice against ND and zero times against OSU, the line picked up a bunch of holding calls trying to keep their QB alive and it seems like Cousins's internal clock has accelerated to the point where he's not letting certain plays develop.
Though Michigan's remarkable streak of not being totally awful continued against Northwestern, the M secondary exposed some flaws against Dan Persa and company. Persa averaged 7.5 YPA and his interception was of the WR gift variety*. Freshman Blake Countess got beat on a 39-yard fade and Michigan gave up an average of 7.1 yards on nine bubble screens. JT Floyd has emerged into a reliable, average-ish Big Ten corner and Countess is promising, but Troy Woolfolk's perpetual injury issues have seen him rendered largely ineffective. He's been pulled for Countess before garbage time each of the last three weeks.
And Michigan's safeties are extant. Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon have not let a long run past them this year, nor have they blown a deep coverage. They are clueful. Things get a little dodgy when Gordon slides down to the nickel and Carvin Johnson comes in, but Michigan's days as Free Touchdown U have come to an end. Michigan showed a little nickel with Courtney Avery in and Gordon deep against NW, but pulled that once the bubbles rained down—on passing downs I bet Michigan goes with the three corners and keeps Johnson on the bench.
Michigan's pass rush has been okay. After a slow start they've picked it up; Dan Persa was sacked four times last week. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen are capable of getting pressure by themselves, but a lack of consistent production from the defensive ends has been a problem. Mattison compensates with frequent zone blitzes.
*[Northwestern also managed an incompletion charged to "Team." What?]
Key Matchup: Mattison zone blitzing versus Cousins's head. This should be the perfect situation for Mattison to loose his devious NFL blitz packages against a rag-tag bunch of crappy, confused offensive linemen. The catch is the veteran senior quarterback behind that OL. Cousins has proven ill-equipped to handle pressure in the past—how he deals with it Saturday is a major key.
State's punting looks atrocious thanks to a blocked or fumbled zero-yarder; when actually getting punts away Mike Sadler has been okay. He averages about 40 yards. Nick Hill has done well in limited opportunities as the kick returner, and Martin is a large threat to rip off a long punt return when Michigan's gunners don't get the job done. On the other hand, State has given up a kick return touchdown of its own this year. Kicker Dan Conroy is 6 of 9 on the year after going 14 of 15 last year.
Michigan can now kick field goals up to 38 yards, maybe, has terrible kickoffs—they were a bit better against NW but Wile put one out of bounds—can't return anything for any yards, and has a punter who should hypothetically be righteous but missed the first four games due to suspension and is averaging 38 yards on three kicks since that suspension expired. Advantage MSU.
Key Matchup: AAAAAH GIBBONS YOU PUT IT THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
- Michigan again lets State win the overpreparation-for-a-single-game battle.
- The State run defense shows up at maximum legitness.
- Denard isn't stepping into throws.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Jerel Worthy is picking up offsides calls early.
- Mattison blitz packages cause OL head explosion fiesta.
- Borges has a crazy package that is crazy effective.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for Oh Good It's Michael Floyd Again, +1 for Actual Road Game Instead Of Neutral Site Chicago, +1 for Spartan Overpreparation Now Actually Working, –1 for Opponent Offensive Line Best Compared To Michigan 2008, –1 for Strong Possibility Terrible Interception Battle Is A Draw, +1 for Even A Fraudulent #1 Run Defense Is Probably Pretty Good.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for Must End The Brahgasm, +1 for This Is Not 2009 Or 2010, +1 for Winner Is Strong Division Favorite, +1 for We Have A Countdown Clock For This Now, +1 for Juggalo Invasion Revenge Tour.)
Loss will cause me to... scream "I HAVE TWO COMPUTER ENGINEERING DEGREES" to thousands of people in green Affliction t-shirts.
Win will cause me to... unironically proclaim Brady Hoke gets it, chant "just like basketball," post Vincent Smith fingerguns.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Flip a coin.
I have no feel for how the game will go. I can see blowouts both ways. Michigan State: M OL cannot get push, coaches cannot invent ways to run, Denard throws three picks. Michigan: MSU OL combines with Martin and Mattison zone blitzes to leave the MSU offense a quivering hunk of goo and youth on the edge for Michigan State lets Denard rack up video game numbers.
None of that seems particularly likely. Neither do a lot of points, especially with wind potentially hampering deep balls on both sides. Offenses move in fits and starts with Borges getting some gashes and Michigan's addiction to power it can't run very well putting Denard behind the sticks; Michigan State can't run consistently either, and they can't protect Cousins well enough to convert third downs.
Special teams look like a tiebreaker to me, with State's field goal kicker an established one and their return units far more likely to rip off a long one, especially since Michigan can't get more than two guys within 20 yards of a punt returner on the catch.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Newly stride-y Denard looks more like he did in the second half against NW than the first half, cuts down on the terrihorrible overthrows, and puts up numbers that surprise many. Still throws mind-bending INT.
- Mattison blitzes Cousins into two turnovers.
- Something goes very wrong on special teams, likely a long return.
- Michigan State, 22-19
For a half, it almost felt like last year. Northwestern attacked Michigan's youth on defense with, among other check plays, the triple option (Picture-paged by dnak). With the "curse of 5-0 lurking in the shadows like some angry pedo-bear" (jhackney) and big chunks of yards (ST3's Inside the Box Score, includes ref commentary) coming off Michigan's hide all I could think about was how jamie mac said Michigan was tempting fate and the sharks by breaking every Just Cover Blog Rule in the book. Michigan was about to be the victim of the Ugliest Game of the Week (stubob). Then the Hoke things started happening again:
- Michigan forced a fumble, because Michigan leads the nation in fumble recoveries (Turnover analysis, by Enjoy Life)
- And baaaarely picked off another (Game Wrap with pics by Blue Seoul)
- The offense dominated in 3rd and long and 4th and short situations (Moving picture pages by Logicdangerchrisdanger),
- The Wolverines avoided the upset scare (can they do it again? –Maize_in_spartyland's Upset Watch. .<p>no<p>. says a guy from the future.)
- And entered the mid-way point of its season 6-0, a thing which in Lordfoul's life has happened just three other times.
Not So Much with the Hate Week
Yes, I still play NCAA'04 because it was awesome.
Since MSU had a bye week preoccupied diarists went back to State's offensively challenged game in Columbus to ask things like is our biggest rival a bowl team (Chi-Blue), and whether our arch-rival's ethical struggles teach us about the human capacity for lying to oneself (hailtothe).
RESPECT THE RIVAL, NOT THE RIVALRY
On the boards, Michigan Arrogance asked whence the great Spartan trollers of yesteryear? Perhaps with MSU recently closing the gap from 39 games back to just 36 in the all-time rivalry, things have gotten a bit more sanguine. Also the fact that Michigan State is a great university with a great athletic program that has beaten us in football three years running under a great football coach. RationalMSUfan previews the offense, while bama blue has their best-in-the nation defense covered. Smile, Mark Dantonio (at right, HT Six Zero):
Maybe it's just that the trolls coaching one of the big Detroit programs (HT: MGoAndy) and Spartan Bob (HT: Everyone Murders) have both been shipped out the of state. The Spartan Bob article makes it sound like Michigan fans are a bunch of classless griefers but nobody I know ever said they hate him; we hate that a guy named "Spartan Bob" was in a position to hair-trigger the clock when the Spartans needed it most.
After the jump: more from the board, a three-part preview of Three and Out, and other things Michigan is better at than Michigan State.
My eccentric Oregon financial advisor doppelganger. Smart Football points to a fellow who goes by FishDuck and is all about zone reads, feeding his dog, the violent-yet-genteel devouring of Mike Patrick, and more zone reads:
An interesting point picked up from Chip Kelly's presentations: Oregon has tipped inside/outside zone for six years without ill effect because declaring the play causes people to overreact to it, which opens up constraint plays. More than that, the zone often acts as its own constraint as over-aggressive players flow playside or bunch up inside, opening cutbacks and bounces.
He's also got a video on Oregon's deployment of power, which it uses as a counter to their usual inside zone stuff. We haven't seen this out of Borges yet, but I'm hoping. My desire to see Michigan pair an opposite-side-of-the-line speed option with the inside zone borders on lust. And by "borders on lust" I mean "invades Poland with sexy tanks."
When he was hired in January, Hoke's mission was explicitly to roll back the Rodriguez era, to restore whatever it was that made Michigan feel like Michigan again. To that end, even Wolverine fans seemed to find the sudden proliferation of countdown clocks, macho posturing and various Buckeye-related eccentricities laying it on a little thick. But six weeks in, the Wolverines are right on schedule in the national polls, the Big Ten standings and the weekly stat sheets. If they clear the midseason hurdle Rodriguez's teams never could at Michigan State, they can claim one more phase of the mission accomplished.
Kind of a big deal, this game.
Point: Tim. Reportorial ex-girlfriend Tim, who now goes by the bizarrely long moniker "Tim Sullivan" over at Rivals, was a committed skeptic about Rob Bolden since he was one of a trio of touted in-state quarterbacks in the 2009 recruiting class.
Despite the rankings, Tim said the guy didn't know how to play football. It seems like his scouting prowess has been borne out:
Game Over, Man. Game Over. This quarterback contest is done. Urban Meyer remarked toward the end of Penn State's first offensive drive that at Thursday practice, he did not see Bolden complete a single pass over five yards. This makes sense, as Bolden did not throw a single decent pass on the entire first drive. …
Rob looks completely shattered at this point, and it's time for the coaches, players, and fans to embrace the crazy train that is McGloin Moxie Mania.
It's McGloin o'clock in Bolden's Penn State career. Beaten out by a walk-on, does a transfer again beckon? /NYT headline writer imitation
Point: Hoke. Shudder at the awful puntasaur display in the Iowa-Penn State game:
…Iowa got to the PSU 33, faced 4th and 8... and punted. That Guthrie was able to pin PSU on their own 10-yard line (a solid accomplishment) is irrelevant. Punting from the other team's 33-yard line is A F---ING STUPID AND TERRIBLE IDEA. I don't even need statistics to back me up on that one (although they would). Even if Ferentz didn't want to try to convert on fourth down (4th and 8 isn't easy, obviously), why not give Mike Meyer a crack at a field goal? It was a beautiful day, the ball was lined up near the middle of the field, and Meyer has made 50+ yard field goals in the past (this year, in fact). But no. Ferentz gave a vote of "no confidence" to both Meyer and his offense on that play. Iowa probably deserved to lose the game for that decision alone.
Of course, JoePa was determined to out-conservative -- or out-dumb -- Ferentz; he punted three times from the Iowa side of the field, including late in the game on 4th and 2 from the Iowa 36. If he really didn't think his offense could rip off a two-yard gain against a gassed and reeling Iowa defense, I... I just have no words for the level of neanderthal football thinking on display in this game.
Of course, that coaching blunder on Ferentz's part might be narrowly eclipsed by the decision to eschew running a two-minute offense upon getting the ball at the Iowa 20 with two timeouts and 1:42 to go before halftime. God forbid we try to score there. It's not like we don't have a no huddle offense that's been effective this year or a kicker with decent range. Nope.
Even if trying the field goal with Gibbons is a mistake, it pales in comparison to that business. I cannot express how much I love the Mathlete's new Dumb Punt of the Week feature. The inaugural winner is Ohio State's Frank Solich, who punted on fourth and one from the Buffalo 36. Buffalo has the #91 rushing defense. After an 11 yard punt, Buffalo drove for a touchdown. Ohio State lost by a point. The game theory gods do not take kindly to being spited so grandiosely. (See also: Kirk Ferentz.)
I missed another Hoke game theory bit: he got the ball at the 22 with about two minutes left and did not pull the Ferentz. Robinson rushed for a loss of one on first down, then five straight passes got Michigan to the Northwestern 44 before Robinson's third awful interception set up a Northwestern field goal drive. While we've seen Hoke eschew half-ending drives a couple times this year, those were with a minute or less on the clock, not two.
Now… it didn't work out that time, but these things are never 100%. Did it make sense at the time to try to score with a couple minutes left against Northwestern's defense? Yeah.
Glarb glarb glarb. So when Michigan shuffled its fullback on third and one and got owned I had a conniption fit. This was the result of DeBord Doom re-emergence:
That's the corpse of Steve Watson you see getting annihilated at the LOS. Glarb.
BWS picture-pages this and points out that the shuffling fullback opened up the Gardner rollout TD on which he had either the run or pass; I'm not so sure showing the first play is worth the cost to get a yard when your redzone offense seems to be able to get a yard whenever it wants. I like diabolical machinations better when they're like the above Oregon stuff—plenty diabolical in their own right without the counter.
Mitchbreaks. Mitch McGary's impending Michigan decision now seems far less certain:
Recently, reports came out that Mitch was nearing or had made a decision. However, Tim refutes that notion “He hasn’t made a decision. I just talked to him tonight (Monday night) and we talked about it a little bit. He’s coming home Wednesday night and we’re going to sit down and talk about it. They get a four or five day break this weekend so he’s flying in to O’hare and my older son will pick him up. We’ll be able to sit down and sort things out.”
Likely rumor vector: AAU coach to national guy, national guy tizzy checks in with coach a few more times, everyone wants to back off. Confidence level: reduced, but still high.
Etc.: Denard Robinson is healthier this year because he is homeopathic or something. Mark Huyge has had a tough year. Holdin' the Rope doesn't like "smug, pompous buffoon" Mark Dantoinio. Jon Merrill suspension 50/50 to end his career. Sad face.
Formation notes: Michigan didn't show anything new except what I called Denard Jet for obvious reasons.
That's an ace set with an offset back and two other wideouts.
Northwestern mostly hung out in their default 4-3. At the beginning of the second half they walked a safety down…
…to show an eight-man front, then crashed the end while using the safety as the contain guy. The result was the 0 and –1 yard runs that started the half. Then they rushed three on third and long. Woo!
Substitution notes: Schofield went the whole way for Barnum. When Lewan went out for a play they flipped Huyge to LT and put Mealer in at RT. I assume a longer term Lewan absence would see Schofield move back outside and Khoury or Mealer enter.
Watson again was the #2 TE; Gallon, Hemingway, and Roundtree got the bulk of the WR snaps, with Dileo the fourth guy. Michigan is tipping run when they bring Odoms in, BTW. Toussaint and Smith were the RBs with Hopkins playing FB; Shaw got some playing time in the second half.
Denard went out with another boo-boo to his non-throwing hand, causing a few goal line plays on which Gardner handed off or rolled out. Gardner was in on the Denard Jet plays, obviously, and also had a rollout pass to Jackson on which he was seemingly inserted without any problems with Robinson.
|M26||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|Corner on the edge tight and a safety over the strength of the formation about seven yards deep. Linebackers are flowing down at this hard; Koger(-0.5) blocks down on the playside LB, who gets some penetration. Schofield(-1) should still be able to come around it upfield but does not, instead getting caught up in the wash and failing to get out on the edge. Free hitter results and there is also a safety; Denard gets what he can. RUN-: Schofield, Koger(-0.5)|
|M28||2||8||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Jet sweep||Robinson||6|
|Blocking here is good all around. Lewan(+1) seals the playside DE. Koger kicks out the edge guy, which is easy since he has to maintain contain; NW LB flows hard upfield inside of Smith, which causes Smith to peel off. He doesn't get a piece but that's because the LB went too hard inside to actually get Robinson. Once he runs himself out of position it's open because Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) scooped the playside NT; Schofield got out on the WLB. Denard is chopped down by a quick-filling safety. Why doesn't Hemingway head for the S instead of keeping the CB outside? Note: NW DE on the backside stays responsible.|
|M34||3||2||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power alt||Robinson||5|
|Breaking a tendency here as the power is going away from the RB side as Molk and Schofield pull around. This works well enough; Koger(+1) seals the playside DE easily and Omameh(+1) gets out on the MLB to cut him. Schofield(-1) pulls around and runs right by the SLB; instead both he and Molk head for the corner. Molk is trailing and realizes that the LB is about to hit Robinson, but it's too late for him to do anything. Robinson(+1) stiffarms the dude and rolls for the first down. Because he's been forced to the sideline the CB Schofield cut can force him out with an arm-tackle attempt.|
|RUN+: Koger, Molk, Omameh, Robinson||RUN-: Schofield(2)|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||Inc|
|Hitch is open for six plus some YAC; Denard one-hops it. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|M39||2||10||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||3|
|Koger covered. NW goes under in response to the TE. SLB goes into a pass drop; Hopkins(+1) buries him. Koger(+1) blows up the playside DE. Huyge(+1) climbs to the second level and seals the WLB out of the play. Molk and Omameh down block successfully on the backside; Denard holds the backside DE. Result: MLB vs Schofield and Toussaint in a ton of space. LB bursts outside to funnel back to help that isn't there; instead of setting up the block Toussaint(-2) runs right into the linebacker when a cut back behind puts him one on one with the S for a big gainer.|
|RUN+: Hopkins, Huyge, Koger||RUN-: Toussaint(2)|
|M42||3||7||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||Stack two deep||Post||Hemingway||48|
|Three man rush with this WR return guy as a spy. They rush three with the spy attacking later. Huyge(-1) beaten and is fortunate a little shove on his part gets this DE to the ground. Good pocket otherwise because there's a three man rush; Robinson steps up and bombs it deep to Hemingway in single coverage. It's a bit underthrown but not quite enough to give the DB a play on the ball; Hemingway goes up and gets it. (CA, 2, protection ½, Huyge)|
|O10||1||G||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||1|
|I think so but I'm not sure because Toussaint's angle is outside. Smith heads straight upfield. Omameh(-1) is handled by the DT over him; Smith(-1) runs by the playside LB without hitting anyone. Schofield(-1) can't handle the other DT; three guys converge on Toussaint.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Omameh, Smith, Schofield|
|O9||2||G||I-form big||2||2||1||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle corner||Watson||9|
|LB who previously shot upfield on the Robinson third down power is probably the guy who busts here. He chases after Robinson on the playfake. Watson is wide open. Denard gets a little pressure but not much and chucks it off his back foot. Watson has to adjust and manages to make a diving catch in the endzone. (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Out||Hemingway||27|
|Play action with max protect; two-man route, though Toussaint does leak out late. The PA fake sucks in between eight and nine NW players; Denard has all day. He zings it to a wide open Hemingway on a deep out. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2)|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||2|
|Denard(-2) misses a massive keep read with the backside DE shuffling down and Dileo cracking down on the contain guy. NW is slanting to the playside, forcing Smith into the unblocked backside guy. No minus but it's clear Schofield is having a tough time with DiNardo.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|O40||2||8||Shotgun 3||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA Deep post||Hemingway||Int|
|They run the sprint counter except it's a playfake, and it's a good thing since a late shift and S blitz would have picked off the lead blocker and exposed Smith to a TFL. Denard gets some late pressure as Dinardo releases to the outside of Molk—Molk can't do anything about this because he's cutting behind a teammate. An inadvertent stunt. Denard again chucks a punt off his back foot that is way long; safety picks it off. Never should have thrown it with the safety there; he had a little hitch he could have taken. (BRINX, 0, protection 2/2) Picture-paged by BWS.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-7, 7 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Robinson||4|
|They bring down a LB and blitz from the backside. More pin and pull and as per usual it doesn't quite work. Huyge(+1) cannot get playside of his guy but does end up cutting him, which takes him and the guy playside of Schofield out. Watson kicks out the playside DE. Omameh(-1) is first through the hole and contacts a LB around the LOS. He gets driven back. These guys just aren't drive blockers. Molk bangs into this block, surging it forward, and Robinson bangs into the whole mess. Everyone falls forward.|
|RUN+: Huyge||RUN-: Omameh|
|M39||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA Quick seam||Koger||Inc|
|Wide open; Denard wings it high. Koger does get his fingertips to it but this is not a shoulda-caught-it kind of pass. (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|M39||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Hemingway||9|
|Four man rush doesn't even try to get to Denard. Expecting a QB draw is the only thing I can think of. Totally unmolested Denard pumps once, then zings it into Hemingway for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1… RPS+1, I guess. No pass rush at all.)|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun empty||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||10|
|Easy pitch and catch with the outside corner playing soft; good timing on the throw gives Gallon an opportunity to pick up a little YAC. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O42||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||7 (Pen -10)|
|This opens up as it looks like the playside DE tries to go outside without the NT slanting behind him, for whatever reason. Huyge(+1) and Omameh(+1) kick their guys out. Nice hole. Molk(+1) buries the WLB on the second level. Guy in the hole is the MLB against Hopkins; Hopkins bashes him and then tosses him upfield, sending Toussaint into the secondary, where that quick-filling safety fills again. Hopkins gets a holding call that seems ludicrous. Toussaint is gone, any hypothetical hold had no impact on the play, and you call that when NW has arms outside the shoulder pads on every play? Refs -2.|
|M48||1||20||Ace trips tight bunch||1||1||3||4-3 under||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||8|
|AKA the pitch formation. Michigan goes with a PA throwback screen that Lewan(-1) takes a little too far of a downfield angle on and lets the corner come up to hassle Gallon. Corner gets upfield and makes a diving ankle tackle attempt; Gallon steps through it and gets hacked down by the backside DE from behind. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O44||2||12||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||PA scramble||Robinson||8|
|Attempted play action on which Schofield(+1) pulls to protect the edge. Last week two guys would shoot up into this play and twice Michigan OL would get lost in indecision, forcing Denard to chuck it off his back foot. This week Schofield has eyes only for the outside guy, who he seals, allowing Denard the edge. Denard on edge equals takeoff. (SCR, N/A, protection 1/1, Schofield run bonus for tough job well done.) Picture paged.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Robinson||RUN-:|
|O36||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||TE Dig||Koger||16|
|NW rushes five and gets nowhere thanks in large part to Vincent Smith coming across the protection to pick up the blitzer. Remainder of NW rushers stoned. Robinson steps up and zings it to Koger. Ball is a little behind Koger, forcing him to spin and eventually taking him off his feet. Better thrown and this is a TD. Still good enough for a CA since it is about 15 yards downfield. (CA, 2, protection 3/3)|
|O20||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA scramble||Gardner||4|
|NW expecting this and has the same DE on the edge, covering everyone (RPS -1); Gardner(+1) does well to hold up at the sideline, pump, and then accelerate past the guy to turn this into a few yards.|
|O16||2||6||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA wheel||Smith||Int|
|Okay, I get it. NW blitzes up the gut and gets instant pressure on Robinson, so he sees that Smith has blazed the corner on the play action and tosses the wheel. Safety intercepts because Robinson was rushed. Given some more time he would have either hit Koger wide open because the safety is sucking up or hit Smith wide open because the safety went with Koger. I think Schofield(-2) is the problem here—everyone else is blocking someone and Schofield is pulling into the middle of nowhere instead of reading the blitz up the middle. This is sad, because it was a beautiful design that should have been a wide open TD. I kind of want to PR this but can't. (BR, 0, protection 0/2, Schofield 2). Do not listen to this color guy: I think the safety busts here and that's why this is not wide open for Smith. Picture paged.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-14, 14 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M28||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||5|
|Schofield loses the DT to the inside of him but not too badly; he fends him off well enough to prevent him from getting into the backfield. The two LBs are headed inside anyway, with Molk and Hopkins banging them. Not relevant because of the Schofield thing, which forces Toussaint behind and into the overhanging corner. No one did anything spectacularly good or bad on this play.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-:|
|M33||2||5||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Pin and pull zone||Toussaint||8 (Pen -10)|
|Koger(+1) blocks down on the playside DE and wins; Omameh(-0.5) loses playside DT. SLB is shooting upfield; Huyge contacts him a couple yards into the backfield, which Hopkins(+1) sees. He nails the guy before moving downfield; Huyge(-2) gets his arms around the neck of the SLB and gets a deserved holding call that may not have been necessary. Really wish Hopkins had just held up that guy without moving on but that's not his fault. Schofield(+1) had cut the WLB to the ground, so Hopkins didn't have anyone to block once he got past the LOS.|
|M23||2||15||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Triple option||Robinson||0|
|Northwestern has a LB overhanging the slot, which is a big difference from what Michigan's doing. Huyge(-2) blocks the playside DE, getting a lame shove before trying to release into the second level; he ends up blocking no one really, as that DE, the MLB, and the playside LB all flow out—instead of of one guy for two they have three. Robinson wisely eats it. RPS -2.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Huyge|
|M23||3||15||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Stack two deep||Pass||Deep out||Dileo||Inc|
|Robinson finds a hole in a seven-man zone for first down yardage and throws it out there; Dileo extends for it but the thing bounces off his outstretched hand. Tight window throwing to a 5'9” receiver. If Dileo is 6'1” this is probably complete. Still, could have been better, results based, etc. (MA, 1, protection 2/2) Not a bad throw.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB Iso||Robinson||2|
|They need to run oh noes about three times more often than they do. They're letting opponents cheat on this with impunity. Anyway, as soon as Denard moves to LOS LBs freak out and Denard decides to bounce. LBs flowing hard means that wasn't a terrible decision. M WRs now cracking down so there should be space but Gallon(-1) whiffs on his and Huyge's DE reaches out to grab Denard's jersey, at which point he just goes to ground after grabbing what he can. Evidence for the "jerseys are too easy to grab" crowd. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Molk(0.5), Omameh(0.5)||RUN-: Gallon, Robinson(0.5)|
|M35||2||8||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||7|
|Someone on NW screws up as they blitz off the corner to contain and the WLB still scrapes over the top when the DE crashes. Toussaint has room behind the blocking because Schofield(+1) escorted his guy way down the line. Nice gain because of the vacated area.|
|M42||3||1||Maryland I||3||1||1||Goal line||Run||Iso||Toussaint||1|
|Argh shuffling fullback /shoots self. Watson(-2) shuffles; NW responds by having WLB CRUSH him at the LOS with a blitz. Another LB scrapes over the top, the original blitzer is still up, and Michigan gets nothing. Shuffling fullback. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Watson(2)|
|M43||4||In||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|Yes, Schofield: yes. Pulling again and NW blitzing in the same fashion that got them their INT two drives earlier. Schofield(+1) pulls up and seals the guy. That's it for NW since Koger(+1) and Watson(+1) blow up the playside DE; Smith kicks out the overhanging corner, and the last guy can't prevent Robinson from getting it. Picture paged.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Koger, Watson||RUN-:|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||6|
|NW playing it straight with the backside DE keeping contain as the linebackers flow frontside; backside NT gets under Lewan(+1), but Lewan keeps blocking him down the line and puts him on his butt; Smith(+1) hops behind that block and scoots through the hole before the contain DE can come down on him. He should really run away from that guy but instead tries to cut behind the slot WR's block, whereupon contain DE tackles him. RPS+1. Zone read FTW.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Smith||RUN-:|
|O48||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||18|
|Late shift with slot blitz. M runs away from it. Playside LB blitzes, then holds up. Huyge(+0.5) stalemates the playside DE until Toussaint(+0.5) seals him enough; Koger(+1) fought off the DE upfield to provide a hole. Robinson(+1) bursts outside and heads into the secondary. RPS +1.|
|RUN+: Koger, Robinson, Toussaint(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Zone belly||Toussaint||5|
|Similar to the previous one except with two TEs on that side who release downfield, so it's almost like a DT read. Like to see Michigan block that DE and spring Denard on the edge. Anyway, this is a lot like RR's old belly series, with the backside G and T doubling the DT and driving him downfield (+0.5 Omameh, Huyge) as the frontside DT gets the same business. LBs suck frontside; Toussaint cuts behind the backside double and is tackled from behind by the contain DE. This is the iso of the spread—hard for D to keep from getting some, hard for O to get a bunch.|
|RUN+: Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O25||2||5||Ace trips tight bunch||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||25|
|The difference between this throwback and the previous one is pretty simple: the unblocked playside DE is thinking about defending the zone read and instead of peeling back on the screen when he's not blocked he tries to contain Denard. Yes, even though they're under center. He's dead. Also Huyge(+1) and Omameh(+1) block their dudes such that they cannot even touch Gallon(+0.5), who makes a super easy juke on a safety for six. RPS +1. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-14, 4 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||-1|
|Omameh(-1) pulls and pulls incredibly slowly; Denard always has to wait for his blocking on these. By the time Omameh gets to the POA a non-crazy MLB has scraped to the LOS and put himself in a position where Omameh can't even block him. Robinson(-1) bounces outside because he's spooked by the blitzing WLB, which kills the blocking angles.|
|RUN+: Schofield(0.5), Koger(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh, Robinson|
|M21||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Out||Roundtree||Inc|
|Another back-foot throw sails. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M21||3||11||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Rollout deep out||Hemingway||22|
|No NW players are tight on the edge so rolling the pocket works unless the playside DE flies straight upfield immediately; he does not and Smith chops him out of the play. Robinson has all day. He finds Hemingway, steps into the throw, and zings a twenty-yard dart at the sideline. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1) This is an NFL throw. Hurrah for stepping into things.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Slant||Gallon||13|
|LB creeps down off the corner as NW telegraphs a blitz. Soft corner on the 1WR side as NW runs a zone; Denard fires the ball in before the flat defender can get in the throwing lane. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||Inc|
|Airmailed. Possibly a good thing as a linebacker was threatening to run underneath the route but there's no way I can credit that as intentional. Routes were pretty well covered here. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O44||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Cross||Hemingway||Int|
|I can explain the previous interceptions. This one I have no idea. It's either a massively overthrown out to a double covered Hemingway or massively underthrown fade to Roundtree. (INX, 0, protection 2/2) Okay... on replay it's clear he's overthrowing Hemingway by ten yards. At least he was open!|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 14-21, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-4 even||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||0|
|With a linebacker over the slot, safety rolls down for a full seventh in the box. Safety blitzes off the snap to contain the zone read, end crashes down, line slants hard playside. Smith has no choice but to run behind Omameh and get nailed by the backside DE. RPS -1.|
|M20||2||10||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||-1|
|Backside DE again crashes with a scraper; Omameh(-1) loses the backside DT and there's nowhere to go. RPS –2 for same error twice in a row.|
|M19||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Stack two deep||Pass||Dig||Roundtree||17|
|Three man rush gives M all day. Robinson surveys and finds Roundtree for a bunch in between about four guys in the zone. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)|
|M36||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||4|
|Unbalanced with Koger covered. This does not hit the intended hole as Omameh(-1) is shot back by the DT. Schofield(+0.5) gets a little push on the other DT, though not of the sealing variety, and Toussaint(+1) manages to cut behind him. A safety overhanging meets Toussaint about two yards downfield; he breaks a tackle and grabs a couple more.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh|
|M40||2||6||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Deep post||Roundtree||57|
|Max protection; Watson(-1) gets beat to the inside by the DE, who gets some pressure on Robinson. Robinson rolls away from it as Koger adjusts to push him out of the play. Spying LB now coming up hard. Robinson lets a 60-yard pass fly on the move. Roundtree's in single coverage and the DB is step-for-step. He slows up, then extends back as the ball arrives, getting a little bit of separation and bringing in the bomb. Um, so... if Henne had thrown this to Edwards? Yeah. (DO, 2, protection 2/3, Watson). How does NW let this happen on a two man route, I ask you?|
|O3||1||G||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Goal line||Run||Iso||Toussaint||1|
|Hopkins(-1) whiffs on the crashing LB, forcing Toussaint(+1) to cut behind after running through the resulting arm tackle. That's possible because Omameh(+1) kicked out the backside DE and Molk(+1) plugged a LB trying to hit the gap. Schofield did just okay against the other DT. Toussaint drags the LB who hit Hopkins to the one, where a corner scrapes over to take him down. Toussaint gets a crappy spot.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Hopkins|
|O2||2||G||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||Goal line||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Watson(-1) is stood up by the DE and gets beaten inside; Schofield(-1) then hits it up in that gap, leaving the outside guys by themselves, so Robinson can't do much other than follow into the big pile for little.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Watson, Schofield|
|O2||3||G||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Goal line||Run||Speed option||Robinson||2|
|Stretch blocking immediately seals both playside DEs; Koger releases downfield and Robinson can walk in. Molk, Omameh, Huyge get pluses; RPS +1.|
|RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Huyge, Koger(0.5)||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-24, 10 min 1st Q. Option had nothing to do with the TD; DL was screwed by the zone step.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-4 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||25|
|Tough to tell what exactly this was supposed to be since Robinson drops the snap but the line is pass blocking and the WRs are stalk-blocking so I'm guessing a QB draw. Seems designed to exploit the scrape as even though there's a delay the S flying right upfield can't do anything about this play that goes at the backside of the line. Huyge(+2) starts losing the DE to the inside of him but eventually stalls him at the line and drives him well past where he wants to go. Omameh(+1) is tasked with the SLB; he heads outside and he has to go around the Huyge block. He eventually gets back into position to wall off the pursuit after Robinson(+2) bursts past them. Shaw(+1) is the lead blocker, he cuts the last LB. Robinson into the secondary. Gallon(-1) couldn't do anything with his corner and probably cost Michigan five or six yards. RPS +1, I'm guessing.|
|RUN+: Huyge(2), Robinson(2), Omameh, Shaw||RUN-: Gallon|
|M45||1||10||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Hitch||Roundtree||9|
|No pressure at all with just a three man route; NW playing soft and opens up a hitch for solid yardage. You want Robinson to find this a bit faster to open up some YAC. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) RPS +1; good way to exploit the now-terrified NW corners.|
|O46||2||1||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||-1|
|Yuck. NW slants away from the play; Molk(-1) gets crushed back by the NT coming into him and the other guy wraps around the backside of the line, getting Toussaint tackled behind the line. Robinson is also tackled behind the line because he didn't ride the fake long enough; instead he pulls it really fast and allows the NW DE to redirect to him. Ugly, ugly, ugly. RPS -2.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Robinson, Molk, Lewan|
|O47||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-4 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||4|
|Safety in box. Michigan runs QB power and just barely gets it thanks to a monster play from Schofield(+2). NW slanting hard, getting under Koger(-1) and threatening to get their backside DE straight upfield into Denard. Schofield has to peel off and plug him. He does. Koger keeps pushing the DE past the play. SLB flows up hard, then breaks down at the LOS; Robinson slows up in response, and Schofield disengages from the Koger block to plug the SLB. Robinson squeezes through the hole, jukes the backside DE flowing down after dropping into a short zone, and ekes out the first. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Schofield(2), Robinson(2)||RUN-: Koger|
|O43||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Counter pitch||Shaw||4|
|Huyge somehow manages to not seal the playside DE despite the guy stepping playside; he should easily get this guy out the play. Instead DE disconnects and starts flowing. He's a couple yards outside the LB and that's the difference between three yards and seven. RPS +1; should have worked, no blocking necessary.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Huyge|
|O39||2||6||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-4 even||Pass||Devious TE seam||Koger||19|
|This is bizarre, with both RBs running flare screens and the OL splitting to block them but remaining careful to remain behind the LOS. Koger then releases on a quick seam as the DL and LBs bug out for the flare screens. It's complete, though a NW DB is alert enough to hit right on the catch. Koger powers through the tackle for some extra yardage. What if the DL tear after Robinson? I don't know man. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|O20||1||10||Ace trips tight bunch||1||1||3||4-3 press||Run||Outside pitch||Shaw||1|
|Pitch formation; they run the pitch. Koger(+1) blows up the playside DE; Odoms(+1) mountain-goats a DB. Dileo gets a cut on the inside of another DB, and Molk is bugging out for the last LB after guys releasing downfield blow up the rest of the world. Shaw(-2) misses the intended gap in favor of BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCE, allowing the DB, who gets up from the cut to string him out until he gets a yard at the sideline.|
|RUN+: Odoms, Koger||RUN-: Shaw(2)|
|O19||2||9||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Throwback screen||Smith||6|
|Okay, 51 is McNaul. I like him. Smart kid. On this play he diagnoses the throwback screen and is out on it too fast for Schofield or Molk to do anything about it. He's about to blow this up for a loss when Gallon(+1) accelerates on his crackback and shoves him past Smith. Smith(+1) still has to spin through this without losing his balance, which he does. The delay allows a corner to come up, forcing it inside despite Lewan(+1) getting a chop. Schofield(-1) ran past the MLB flowing from the inside; he tackles.|
|RUN+: Gallon, Smith, Lewan||RUN-: Schofield|
|O13||3||3||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||12|
|Omameh(-1) fails to cut the backside DT. Schofield(+1) does latch onto the frontside guy and push him down the line. Koger... actually I don't think I mind Koger losing the DE to the inside because that should mean the pitch is wide open, which it is. Robinson says no to that and shoots up behind Schofield in front of the DT that Omameh did not cut; he got too far upfield and was off balance. Once past that hole he's got Molk, Lewan, and Huyge blocking downfield. Lewan(+1) donkeys McNaul. Molk(+1) gets another linebacker, and when McNaul sheds Lewan Huyge(+1) is there to pick him up. Robinson dances through all this to the goal line.|
|RUN+: Robinson(3), Lewan, Molk, Huyge||RUN-: Omameh|
|O1||1||G||I-form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||FB dive||Toussaint||1|
|This play again. NW is ready for it. When Hopkins motions out of the backfield, one of the linebackers points at Toussaint and the other one adjusts his alignment. They jump at him; Toussaint ends up just short.|
|O1||2||G||I-form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||FB dive||Toussaint||0|
|For some reason Toussaint doesn't jump this time.|
|O1||3||G||Maryland I||2||3||0||Goal line||Pass||Waggle scramble||Gardner||1|
|Gardner does have Watson open but knows he can outrun the LB and beats him to the corner. I'm not RPSing a goal line play unless it's just ridiculously easy. This is not quite ridiculously easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-24, 3 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA Fly||Gallon||Inc|
|Gallon has his man beaten by yards but the throw is long. Robinson stepped into it and everything, he just missed. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O47||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||25|
|Line slanting so Omameh(+1) has a somewhat easy job to push the DT out of the hole. He still does it with aplomb. Molk(+1) gets out on the MLB; McNaul is coming to the line but momentarily thinks pass and takes a step back, which allows Shaw(+1) to cut him to the ground. Big hole; Denard zips up into it, eventually getting taken down by the ankles by the FS. RPS +1. This was the "nice block" play.|
|RUN+: Molk, Robinson, Omameh, Shaw||RUN-:|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Just tons of guys headed to the line again, with McNaul zipping into the play. Schofield does block him but Robinson has to slow up because of how far McNaul is into the backfield. Shaw(-1) basically misses his guy and the overhanging safety creeps up to help tackle at the line. RPS -1. RUN-: Shaw.|
|O22||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||Waggle cross||Jackson||19|
|Gardner in. Michigan does exploit the aggressive NW defense by running the waggle; Gardner has multiple options as Jackson beats the linebackers on his crossing route and Koger releases wide open in the flat. Gardner goes deeper, making a back-foot-ish toss that's a dart right to Jackson's hands for first and goal. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|O3||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Just too much traffic. I think Huyge(-0.5) and Koger(-0.5) don't do great on their blocks—no movement and then there's a free hitter because it's so tight here.|
|O3||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Shaw||3|
|Yeah, that adjustment thing where Shaw is supposedly directed to get outside is entirely Shaw's brain going BOUNCE. He has good reason here since Schofield(-1) gives up penetration; a DT falls in the middle of the line, erasing any potential holes. Shaw bounces to the outside, where his speed and a great block from Gallon get him into the endzone. This too may be an effect of super aggressive NW LBs being super aggressive—playside LB runs straight upfield into a block.|
|RUN+: Shaw, Gallon||RUN-: Schofield|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-24, 14 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||-7|
|Away from the RB to break a tendency with Molk pulling, but NW blitzes right into it. Robinson(-2) should try to hit it up behind Molk and get back to the LOS before a free LB nails him; instead he reverses field and gets eaten up by the slanting Wildcat line. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|M35||2||17||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Screen||Shaw||12|
|Same blitz; Michigan throws a screen at the vacated area. Molk and Schofield are in the area and get decent blocks but don't take their guys out; they do give Shaw a bunch of room to the sidelines. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +2)|
|M47||3||5||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Stack two deep||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||17|
|Gallon gets the NW CB to turn his back, then stops; Robinson tosses it out there on the money. Gallon can turn it up for bonus YAC because the throw is on time and the CB is remembering that one time he got burned like whoah. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O36||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||-2|
|It's hard to tell whether this is actually a blitz or if the LBs are just looking for this play; both of them absolutely fly up into the intended gap, overwhelming the lead block of Shaw and getting a TFL. Once too many times to the well. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Shaw|
|O38||2||12||Shotgun 2back TE||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||Sweep||Shaw||9|
|Not quite the pin and pull as this has down blocking, not zone steps; Molk and Schofield pull; Hopkins leads. Koger(+0.5) gets enough of the playside DE to take him out of the play. Hopkins(+2) shoots up into the hole and cuts the playside LB to the ground, getting a 3 for 1 when the guy trailing him and the guy trailing the trailer go down. Schofield kicks the edge guy. Odoms(+1) gets a safety and Shaw(+1) hits the gap for a nice gain. This is not actually a fumble, as the ball comes out when his elbow smashes the ground. We are now tipping runs by inserting Odoms, btw.|
|RUN+: Shaw, Odoms, Hopkins(2), Koger(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O29||3||3||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||-2|
|Massively aggressive McNaul is massively aggressive, shooting the gap between the two playside doubles. Robinson has two options: pitch to Toussaint who may or may not have it on the edge, or cut back. Cutback is there because the backside DT crumpled to the ground with little provocation (+1 Omameh, I guess). Backside DE is flowing down the line but Robinson is almost certain to get the first down or something close enough to it to go if he just goes straight upfield; instead he tries to dance around that guy and loses two yards.|
|RUN+: Omameh||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(48), 9 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 2back TE||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Shaw||6|
|Huyge and Molk pulling and Omameh and Koger zone step to get playside of their guys. Koger(+1) kills his dude downfield; Omameh(+1) also wins his block. Playside LB reads what's going on and shoots upfield to cut-block Huyge, creating a pile Shaw has to go around. Shaw can cut up or bounce and bounces, which is good because Lewan had no shot at the backside DT. Shaw's speed(+1) gets him the edge as Hopkins(+1) kicks out the corner.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Koger, Shaw, Hopkins||RUN-:|
|O32||2||4||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||4|
|Huyge(-1) gets beat on his down-block, erasing any hole that may exist and forcing a cutback. Omameh(+1) blew out the backside DT so there's a gap, one filled by the MLB; Robinson(+1) ducks under him to near the first down.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Omameh||RUN-: Huyge|
|O28||3||in||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||2|
|Lewan moves a hair early and does not get called. Refs +1. Thanks to that his kick is easy, but no plus because he is not playing by the rules. Schofield(+1) kicks his guy; Hopkins(+0.5) gets a block on the MLB but has it shed. That block erases MLB's momentum and allows Toussaint(+0.5) to bowl him over for the first.|
|RUN+: Hopkins(0.5), Toussaint(0.5), Schofield||RUN-:|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|Double on playside DT just does work; Huyge(+1) helps Omameh(-0.5) get a push and then releases into the MLB; Omameh almost loses the DT when that happens but Robinson is too quick. CB coming around the outside does not get picked off; Robinson runs through the tackle attempt. Toussaint(+1) nailed McNaul, so there's a crease. Schofield is heading downfield into the safety after a chunk; Robinson is about to pop outside when the playside DE nails him after disconnection from Watson downfield. Not Watson's fault, just a good play. I'm impressed with him. 97: Tyler Scott. Redshirt sophomore. Robinson's bounce attempt holds this to three when he gets six if he just burrows.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Toussaint||RUN-: Omameh(0.5)|
|O23||2||7||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Toussaint||-1|
|Opposition LBs tearing hell bent after this. Schofield's downblock is almost ducked under; he shoves the NT past the play. Both LBs shoot the gap between this and the Koger block; Molk peels to get one of them but is just one dude; McNaul tackles for loss. RPS -1. Had this and the keeper dead.|
|O24||3||8||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA corner||Hemingway||18|
|Lewan goes to the sideline and Mealer comes in. M puts him at RT, flips Huyge to LT, and places a TE next to Mealer. They run PA. Koger(-2) gets killed by Scott, who comes in to pressure Robinson. He doesn't want to get juked so he comes in slow. Short stuff is covered because the edge LB backed off Toussaint's block into the otherwise open Hopkins, but Denard fires deep anyway, finding Hemingway just in front of a safety. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Koger -2)|
|O6||1||G||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Shaw||3|
|Schofield(+1) seals and sends the playside DT to the ground. Lewan(+0.5) does okay with the DE. Hopkins gets a piece of the MLB; Molk(+0.5) pushes McNaul past the play from the other side as Shaw(+1) deftly cuts between the two.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Lewan(0.5), Shaw, Molk(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O3||2||G||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||-2|
|MLB blitzes the gap between the playside double and Schofield, making a TFL. RPS or Omameh not adjusting? Not sure. Hopkins(-1) did a crappy job on the edge, though and his guy helps tackle. RPS -1, Omameh off the hook—this would be a hard block to make.|
|O5||3||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||5|
|Omameh(-1) driven back by a bull rush and the MLB hits Toussaint at the LOS so not much in the way of places to go here; Robinson bounces and because the playside LB turned his back to zone drop after chucking Koger the corner is open. Nice block by Dileo.|
|RUN+: Dileo, Robinson(2)||RUN-: Omameh|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 42-24, 2 min 4th Q|
Yay a billion points yay!
Yeah, man, that's a lot of points when you turn the ball over three times and miss a field goal. I'm not entirely sure how they managed it, honestly.
But they have all of the Denards.
Yeah, and all of the third down conversions. For all of the angst about Denard's passing he sure reminded me of John Navarre in the
2004 2002 Ohio State game from time to time. In that game Michigan drives went like this:
- 0 yard run
- 1 yard run
- 15 yard Navarre laser to Avant or Edwards
- -2 yard run
- 1 yard run
- 16 yard Navarre laser to Avant or Edwards
Here Denard got put behind the chains frequently and did this:
So… yeah. Weird, weird day. When not throwing terrible interceptions he was good. You can see this in the—
[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation.]
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
|Notre Dame '11||6||7(1)||1||6(1)||5||1||1||1||-||50%|
Gardner picked up a TA (the three yard run after a jet fake), a SCR (TD), and a CA+(Jackson to the three).
You can see a couple of those four DOs above, long conversions in small holes in the zone. The one on the last touchdown drive is notable because Koger lost #97* and he proceeded to pressure Denard. Result:
Also first and goal. Compare that to his first half:
One of these was a zinger into Hemingway's chest, the other a massively underthrown duck Watson managed to dig out that only wasn't an INT because the guy covering Watson is also one of the guys about four yards away from Denard.
It was remarkable how consistent the mechanical issues were in this game. Back foot was misery, front foot glory. The hope is that's the thing he needs to get corrected and once he does he'll be good at throwing. He certainly was in the second half, when he added two DOs, 5 CAs, and a single understandable IN (the overthrown bomb to Gallon) to a diabolical first half.
*[Who I liked enough to look up on the Northwestern roster: redshirt sophomore Tyler Scott. New starter. Active kid, will be good.]
Let me hear about the receiving corps.
They had an excellent outing.
No drops and seven instances where receivers brought in medium difficulty throws. It's clear by the way I file these that you should be hauling in well more than half of them but no drops in seven opportunities is pretty good. They were at 58% before Northwestern.
Two of those catches were the bombs to Hemingway and Roundtree that were over 100 of Michigan's 541 total yards; on both the WRs showed excellent skill to high-point the ball.
Roundtree's slow-then-extend technique…
…was not quite as flawless as Manningham's. He still caught around his shoulder-pads, not above his head. But slowing down like that puts the DB in a bind. He can run you over, or he can get his head around because you have implied the ball is well underthrown and he can make a play on it. The slow-to-extend gives the DB the wrong idea about the location of the ball and if done perfectly means the guy can't make a play on it at all. Here he could, but didn't know where it was. Meanwhile, Hemingway is Junior Megatron, as Steve Sapardanis dubbed him on MVictors.
Those plays were not luck, and calling them jump balls is harsh. This was not ND when you were throwing back shoulder fades against over the top coverage (or double coverage) that may not have been that intentional. These were balls that gave the WR an opportunity to make a play in single coverage when they have the advantage.
As for the line, they had a step back:
|Lewan||4.5||2||2.5||Why so low, numbers? Discussion later.|
|Omameh||10||7.5||3.5||Thought he'd come out worse than this but more later.|
|Huyge||9||6.5||2.5||Pretty much his average.|
|Schofield||12||7||5||Pulling mania. This third down conversion was all him.|
|Watson||1||3||-2||Not so strong.|
|Koger||8||2||6||Had a day, yo.|
|TOTAL||51.5||29||22.5||Ratio drops and overall ++ go down: 50 carries this week.|
|Robinson||12||9.5||2.5||Missed a lot of opportunities and made some bad decisions; still Denard.|
|Gardner||1||-||1||One scramble, one edge TD.|
|Shaw||6||4||2||bounce bounce bounce bounce|
|Smith||2||1||1||Major step back in usefulness, possibly because of Hopkins…|
|Hopkins||5.5||2||3.5||…who seemed to usurp Smith's role as blocking dude.|
|TOTAL||30||18.5||11.5||Not what you'd like to see from 50 carries.|
|TOTAL||5.5||2||3.5||Secondary less involved.|
|Protection||33||6||85%||Koger 2, Schofield 2, Watson 1, Huyge 1|
Michigan averaged 3.6 YPC on 50 carries, which is disturbing. Some of that was on the ballcarriers, especially Robinson, who missed opportunities to pick up first downs, mitigate damage, or break big ones. Some of that is on the line, which went from averaging 2 plus for every minus to a 5:3 ratio. Some of that was RPS. Michigan won it, but break it down into pass and run RPSs and Michigan wins the first massively and loses the second not quite as massively.
Northwestern stacks the line and says "just try to run on us." That's why Michigan got 3.6 YPC, Illinois got 3.1, and why the Wildcat secondary is giving up 12.5 YPA the last two weeks*. The difference on Michigan's long bombs in this game is there was no safety over the top to cause woe.
Even so, I'm a little worried about the run game now. Pass blocking was again very good, though.
*[They gave up a ton to Army but Army is a pure triple option team so overloading the box is something they are designed to handle and getting aggressive gets you gashed.]
What is with those Lewan numbers?
I know, right? The system doesn't try to judge blocks that are far away from the play and often declares an easy thing done okay to be a zero, so backside tackles and down-blocking guys a gap away from the play rarely register. Lewan rarely registered and this week's picture pages were examples of Schofield pulling, Schofield pulling, and Schofield pulling. Why is Michigan pulling the converted tackle backup and running away from their donkey-hating first round tackle?
The only conclusion that makes sense is they hate pulling Omameh. When they did pull left, they pulled Molk or Schofield and Molk, only rarely trying Omameh. Early in the year they were a left-handed power team; now they're right-handed, seemingly because Omameh can't pull and when he does manage to get into the hole without making Denard slow up he gets knocked backwards too often. So they give him the relatively easy job of blocking down and run behind Huyge, who's decent but no Lewan.
Where did Vincent Smith go?
I don't know, man. I think they may have tossed the screen to Shaw just to break a tendency. Smith did get in one of his usual blitz pickups:
I don't think his brief absence in the second half means he's going to lose his playing time as long as he's doing that.
Why do these throwback screens keep working even though they seem bloody obvious?
The throwback screen from under center on waggle action? It works because the playside tackle releases outside, the linebackers have to respect the play action, and Denard Is Job One for opposing defenses:
Borges has been punishing those uber-responsible DEs, so at least the waggle's given us that.
Scheme complaints of the week?
I would have like to see more play action to punish aggressive linebackers, but I was largely content. Rollouts were minimized and successful, the tunnel screen evaporated, and the I-Form was restricted to passing(!) and short yardage with one or two exceptions.
Nits: the FB dive over the top has run its course and the Denard Jet package was a little too obvious.
The receivers as a unit. Gallon, Hemingway, and Roundtree were flawless and punished Northwestern for their aggression against the run. Also Good Denard.
Evil Denard. The offensive line could have done better, and as a group the tailbacks had an off day.
What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?
If Michigan can't get a ground game going against a cover-two I'll start to get seriously worried but it's hard to judge against a team so hell bent on defending the run they'll put you in crappy single coverage all over the field so your QB can still have an obliterating QB rating despite three terrible interceptions.
So not seriously worried. Still a little worried. Michigan does not run power well but unlike running under center they don't seem to be moving away from it. The stretch blocking on the speed option is still providing cutback lanes, which I like better than the pin and pull because it gives you multiple ways to succeed. It's possible that MSU crushes power blocking, leaving Borges to scramble to find something else after falling behind.
Denard… well. I hope he can step into his throws consistently and that is his only accuracy issue. If so it's a matter of keeping him clean and exploiting overreactions to his legs. This will be a test for him and for Borges. The latter is consistently picking up yards with new stuff; I hope he's got a bundle left before the bye week.