Where have you gone, perfect-passin' Taylor?
Nebraska needed two touchdowns in the final six minutes to eke by Northwestern on the "road," 29-28, last Saturday. The game wasn't nearly as close as the score would indicate, however, as it took three Husker fumbles—two on muffed punts—to nearly negate a 543-301 total yardage advantage. For most of the game, Northwestern's best offense was to punt to Nebraska and dive on the football.
The first seven minutes of the game and the final two minutes were cut off, respectively, by the Ohio State-Purdue overtime and my DVR (note to self: extend recording an hour, not 30 minutes), and there's no torrent available, so this breakdown covers the middle 51 or so minutes.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? The Husker offense leans heavily spread-run, with the vast majority of the snaps coming out of the shotgun except in short-yardage situations, when they usually go I-form.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? A team that runs as much as Nebraska is going to show both gap and zone blocking concepts. They run a fair amount of inside and outside zone, but also showed some interesting ways to get Martinez on the edge with pulling linemen (see the play breakdown below).
Hurry it up or grind it out? Nebraska had a slightly above-average pace last year and looks to be in the same range this year; they're not a sprint-to-the-line spread squad.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): You're likely pretty familiar with Taylor Martinez, who currently sits behind only Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller in the rushing standings among Big Ten quarterbacks. He's always been a very solid runner, with speed only surpassed by Denard among B1G QBs, and he broke a surprising number of tackles against Northwestern. The threat he provides with his legs makes the Husker offense very difficult to defend—I'll give him an 8, and that could easily be a 9.
Dangerman: With running back Rex Burkhead likely out of the game this weekend, Martinez becomes the focal point of the Husker offense. Another player to watch is sophomore wideout Kenny Bell, currently leading the team in receiving with 26 catches for 540 yards (20.8 ypc) and five touchdowns. He's a tough cover, dangerous both going downfield or catching short passes and getting big YAC, and that's worrisome if Raymon Taylor is limited at all this weekend.
Zook Factor: Despite having one of the best rushing attacks in the country, Bo Pelini is quite conservative on fourth down, only going for it three times this year. The Huskers have converted twice, but the failure came against Northwestern, when they dialed up the same QB sweep that they ran on the previous play for seven yards—the Wildcats sniffed it out and stuffed in the backfield.
HenneChart: If you've listened to the podcast in the last couple of week, you know that the Big Ten's passing efficiency leader—by a wide margin, no less—is none other than Taylor Martinez. Yes, the very same Taylor Martinez who completed 56% of his passes with a 13/8 TD-to-INT ratio last year. T-Magic completed 27-of-39 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns against Northwestern. This must be a fluke, right?
Sure, part of Martinez's performance can be credited to Northwestern's craptastic secondary (107th in pass yardage, 54th in efficiency). However, most of it was due to improved mechanics and better decision-making. There were still flashes of the old T-Magic—back-to-back fourth-quarter passes earned the dreaded "Bad Read" label, and both were potentially game-sealing interceptions that were dropped by the Wildcats—but by and large he looks like a completely different quarterback.
[The rest of the breakdown goes after THE JUMP.]
- Anthony Capatino is running the scout team at quarterback, but they still go against Denard like they usually do.
- Joe Reynolds is not just a blocking receiver.
- Stephen Hopkins has been available for the last two weeks but hasn't played. Kerridge appears to have usurped his spot on the depth chart.
- Re: Not resetting the clock after review, the Big Ten didn't see an issue with it.
“Very physical football game we’re going to play. Tough environment. Good practice yesterday. Have to finish that up with a good work day today. They present some problems with the dual threat of the quarterback and his improvement -- I think he’s 67 percent or so completions -- stable of running backs that do a nice job within their offense, and executing defensively. Negative plays. That’s something that they’ve been very good at to sacks and tackles for loss, try and get you off schedule that way. I think for us, the environment, we have to handle that. I think we’ve been in enough of those situations and mature enough to do that, but we can’t have any confusion at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Confusion in the huddle or those things, so it takes a real focus and concentration to be able to do that.”
Cause they're such B1G Newbs, get it?
Welcome bloggers to installment the third of a new regular MGoFeature, and the only one that gives you free stuff. Usually it'll be something from the MGoStore; occasionally someone will donate or sponsor a different item. It works like thusly:
- Wednesday mornings I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
About Last Week:
MANBALL indeed. Eschewing such newfangled contraptions as downfield passes and touchdowns, the Hokemen finally defeated those irksome helots by an andric score of 12-10. Unfortunately none of you lawn-tramping whippersnappers could imagine such a manful accounting, and therefore I am keeping the prize. And giving it to this week's winner instead. JACKPOT T-SHIRTS!
This Week's Game:
According to a leading agribusiness consultant, brown = bad.
The Nebraska Cornshuckers vs. the Michigan Wolverines: 2012 football edition.
Drought conditions and a throwing motion not seen since the Cretaceous led to record highs for corn this year after the USDA published its bleak report on expected touchdown yields. Though prices have come down somewhat after a surprisingly large crop of points were harvested in a 63-38 loss to Ohio State, these next several weeks, starting this Saturday, will be critical to shaping a market still dogged with questions like "Who's going to win the Bo Division?" and "Is Burkhead healthy?" and "Do they have a defense?" and "Didn't Wisconsin already have those uniforms?"
You, loyal reader, can take this opportunity to let people know you are up to date on the state of agribusiness, and ready to talk futures.
GUESS MICHIGAN'S TOTAL RUSHING YARDS ON SATURDAY
The director has given us several more pairs, so I'm gonna keep giving them to people. If you're going to be around Ann Arbor at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 16, we have two free tickets to the premier of PERSEVERANCE-The Story of Billy Taylor.
Taylor was an All-American running back who broke Michigan's career rushing record (and ended second to Harmon in TDs) while playing for the early Bo teams. Personal tragedies sparked a downward spiral that ruined his pro career and sent him through 25 years of hell. Then he got back up. If you go to the event you'll get to meet Taylor and several other Michigan luminaries. Note: whether you've got our tickets or just wanna go, make sure you get to the Michigan Theater at least a half-hour early or risk losing the seat.
Closest to the pin wins (tie goes to the over).
Notes: If you win the shirt and prefer another shirt, that's cool; pick an MGoShirt.
Rules: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). If nobody gets the score, this week's prize carries over to the following week's. Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game (since I won't have time to pull them on gamedays). MGoEmployees and Moderators--anyone else with moderator privileges--are exempt from winning because you could change your timestamp. If you choose the score that Brian published in the official preview and it actually ends up the final score, well, that would be pretty amazing because Brian picks scores like 29-11 all the time.
Field rush update.
Got a number of emails detailing Michigan's field rush activities:
In response to your question, here are the only three I recall since the 1997 OSU game.
2003 OSU game (100th game)
2011 OSU game
2012 MSU game
But here's one that probably doesn't get remembered:
After the 2008 Wisconsin game, about 5-7 students attempted to rush the field and a few were lucky enough to out-juke the security and run around midfield. One was not: he got body slammed by a police officer right in front of the student section, which is probably the only thing that quelled a massive on-rush of students.
I have somehow forgotten the 2003 field rush entirely despite being in the student section for it. Conclusion: I must not have joined it. If you're more than a couple dozen rows up, which I probably was, rushing the field is an exercise in walking around, looking at other people walking around looking at people since no one's even going "WOO" anymore.
So that confirms the 2012 MSU rush: lamest, only non-OSU field rush in 20 years. I get it, I guess, but if they were going to do it at least they did it in the appropriate fashion by half-assing it and taking about 10 minutes for anyone to get down, then trickling out seemingly one by one because half of the students didn't care to bother. That's the right kind of MSU field rush.
What is next years QB looking like? I thought someone said Gardner would move back to QB in the spring and start in the fall. Is that the case or is Morris going to play in the spring and start in the fall or just show up in the fall and start?
I can't see Morris showing up in the fall and starting.
Gardner just about has to move back to QB as soon as the season's over. Morris won't be enrolling early—his high school does not allow it—and Michigan's not going into spring practice carrying one scholarship QB.
Also, there's an excellent chance Gardner ends up being Michigan's best option there. Morris will be a true freshman, one coming off a senior season partially lost to mono. Bellomy has the look of a game manager type (early, yeah, okay). Gardner's the best bet to MAKE PLAYS with his legs, and he'll have as much experience practicing at QB as Bellomy even with this year that's lost to WR.
Meta photobomb. I still have not seen one of these in the wild, but they exist.
[AFTER THE JUMP: game theory, Toledo style, TE play action on the goal line, some guy with a weird idea that Chip Kelly is going to do someday.]
“Well here we go. We have another week coming up, and obviously this is going to be a huge challenge for us defensively because it’s a very very explosive offense. Watching them on film and watching what they’ve done so far this year, this will be a big test for us, so we’re looking for it. Going on the road and playing an offense like this, it’ll kind of [allow us] to see where we’re at.”
Do you use that at all to keep guys from getting complacent?
“We won’t get complacent. Believe me. That won’t happen. We’ve got so far to go, you know. I mean, again, I’m proud of the way they have played hard. I’m proud of everybody buying into try and run to the football as hard as you can, but there’s so many things we have to get better at, and they see that on the film, and they believe it just as much as we as coaches do. That’s what’s pleasing. They know where they have to get to yet and how far away they are. We just have to keep taking strides and keep trying to get better.”
How has Taylor Martinez been able to improve as a passer?
“Well I think their running game is the best, or one of the best in the Big Ten. Any time you have a really good running game, guys can get a little more open than they would if it was a true passing situation. He’s a good quarterback. I think the other thing is his offensive line looks a lot more athletic this year. They’re a very good offensive line, and they’ve protected him, and he’s a year older.”
900. The video from the boards:
Can we start calling the team Hokemen, Daily?
We have fewer lame-o wins than anyone! Except Georgia! Pat Forde scours the ten winningest programs in college football history to find the out how many of those wins have been run up against East York Veterinary School. Michigan's docket:
Michigan (19). Total wins: 900. Junk wins: 57 (at least). Percentage of all-time wins that are junk: 6.3. Persistent pigeon: Case Institute of Technology (Ohio), 26-0-1 record. Scheduled junk win that turned into a bad loss: Cleveland AA 8, Michigan 4. What, you were expecting Appalachian State? (Since the game was played in 1891, the AA is not believed to be Alcoholics Anonymous.)
That's actually fewer than anyone in the top ten save Georgia, though Georgia did lose to an empty patch of grass in 1943. The worst offender is USC, with 102 Doris Beautician School beatdowns.
Meanwhile… 8-4, huh? Sounds preview-licious. If only I had known about this Cleveland AA game before Michigan played State.
Is that an axe between your legs or are you just happy to see me? Oh, it's actually an axe.
Via Heiko and his insatiable appetite for panoramic photos. Larger version.
Get there. All weeks are championship weeks:
"Probably just as much as you guys are thinking in your heads," Mealer said. "As much as you guys have been hearing it, we hear it even more. And for you guys, it's probably overbearing and redundant and things like that -- I'm sure, because I can see all the smiles when I brought it up -- but for us, that's why you come to Michigan.
"For us players, it's not redundant, it's not, 'OK we get it.' It's, 'Remember last year? We lost a game here, we lost a game there, and we kept ourselves out of that game.' So we accept the constant reminder of it."
Mealer said there's a picture of the Big Ten championship trophy in the team's Schembechler Hall meeting room. There are roses painted on the walls, a not-so-subtle reminder of the bowl that awaits the league's champion.
This one maybe a little more than most.
I'm not sure I can do this any longer, @umichcompliance. I started following Michigan's compliance feed for some reason. Maybe I needed more dry statements of things I can't do and have never even thought of doing in my life.
It's been a passionate affair so far, but I'm not sure if I can deal with the mindboggle on the regular. To wit:
The NCAA prohibits the sale of any item with the name, picture or autograph of a currently enrolled student-athlete.
That seems like a pretty reasonable restrict—
Let's not forget, Dude—that keeping pictures… uh… items with the name, picture, or autograph of a currently enrolled student-athlete… on, uh, your official, you know, website… that ain't legal.
Burkhead may not play. Sounds like Nebraska tailback Rex Burkhead may sit out Saturday after tweaking an ACL sprain last weekend:
Huskers coach Bo Pelini said this aggravation isn't as bad as the one in the Ohio State game, but the repeated issues have him inclined to rest Burkhead for a week. Pelini said Burkhead is day to day and has improved since Saturday.
"He felt really good going into the [Northwestern] game, didn't have any issues in practice," Pelini said. "He's frustrated and obviously disappointed he's had to deal with it. It's been too bad."
Backup/co-starter Ameer Abdullah hasn't ben much of a drop-off: he's averaging almost 6 yards a carry on 86 attempts, with impressive output in the three Big Ten games he's played in—5.5 YPC. He's faster than Burkhead, albeit slighter. Former top 100 recruit Braylon Heard should also get some carries.
Also in Nebraska, reviews of their latest game.
Pitch perfect. The MZone is actually written by Stephen Colbert.
"Nation, I've always been a big fan of Michigan State football coach and scowling man most likely to tell kids to get the hell off his lawn, Mark Dantonio. His enduring sportsmanship, like getting into public feuds with 21 year old college kids by mocking their height, along with always looking out for the health and best interests of his players, evidenced by holding them out at least two plays when they get an on-field concussion, have made him a role model Spartan fans can be proud of before, during and after the burning of their couches."
Fourth line FTW. The top takeaway from Friday's one-off hockey game against Bentley was the fantastic play of what was nominally the fourth line of Andrew Copp, Zach Hyman, and Justin Selman. They scored twice, dominated play when on the ice, and must have locked themselves into additional playing time as Michigan kicks off their final CCHA campaign against Miami:
The line of Hyman, Copp and Selman has “really given our team a life,” according to Michigan coach Red Berenson.
“He told us what we needed to do to have a good week in practice,” Selman said. “He was making sure every day we were going as hard as we could. We kind of worked off what he was doing and followed in his footsteps.
Copp came from the same lineage as Danny Fardig—the guy on the USA NTDP roster who bounces from the U17s to U18s to fill in on the fourth line and never score—but has shown some soft hands early. Hyman played with a high energy level, as well. I haven't seen Selman enough to really get a read on him yet, but the line's performance speaks for itself.
Siberia also FTW. Preds winger Sergei Kostitsyn is spending the lockout playing in Siberia. This is what Siberia looks like. In May.
Kostitsyn, 25, who joined the Predators from the Montreal Canadiens in June 2010, also said he hated life in North America and labelled Columbus "the gloomiest" city in the States.
Unfortunately, he could not continue ripping on Columbus because Omsk was invaded by thousands of red plastic figures at that very moment.
I think the only deep ball in this game was out of an I-Form to a double-covered Jeremy Jackson. Gotta loosen those guys up—yeah, you might turn the ball over if you bomb it deep but if you're just punting in three plays anyway…
How Purdoed it. Doesn't work as well as "Purdon't," I guess, and is equally dumb. Anyway, Ross Fulton's latest breakdown of the Ohio State offense is even more interesting than normal since it deals with topics often found here in the aftermath of OSU's extensive struggles against the Purdue defense. Purdue loaded up to stop Miller, won a lot of battles on the line of scrimmage, and OSU could not punish Purdue cheating off the slot receivers. This sounds awfully familiar:
The Buckeye passing game was perhaps most successful when OSU could get their hurry-up offense going and catch Purdue in uncertainty. This led to the second Buckeye touchdown. But all too often Ohio State missed available opportunities. For instance, Devin Smith several times had man coverage beat. If Braxton simply leads him to the corner and lets him run under it, it was a potential touchdown.
More acutely, Ohio State was not able to punish Purdue for cheating off their slot receivers. It was not simply for a lack of trying. Miller sailed one bubble screen over Corey Brown's head. On the clip above, he held the ball a second too long, allowing the Purdue corner to make a nice play. But other times it appeared clear opportunities were available that OSU did not take advantage of. Traditionally, this has been an automatic check with Meyer and Herman. The offense will continue running the pre-called play but the QB will simply pull and throw the football. Perhaps Meyer & Co have not yet given Miller the ability to do so. But by allowing alley players to cheat into the box, a spread offense quickly loses the numbers advantage it gains from the QB run threat.
That's how you end up with 100 yards at halftime against Purdue. OSU started bashing straight ahead A-gap power from the pistol and running their veer a gap inside the crashing LBs, but Miller's exit cut their response short.
OSU must find more consistent ways to punish a defense that cheats alley defenders. Whether it is with wide receiver screens or bootlegs, OSU cannot allow a defense that much free rein. OSU must not also let opposing defenses dissuade them from sticking to what they do well. Though this is somewhat counter to the previous point, I believe they work together. The Buckeyes must continue to work to establish their base run game and then use play-action to exploit an opposing defense.
This mindmeld thing is creeping me out.
Etc.: Hero police robot back on duty after 'unstable man' blasts it with shotgun. You will be surprised to know this happened in Nebraska, not Detroit, home of police robots. [HT: Corn Nation.] RAWK HELICOPTER FLYOVER. Mmmmm… Dwayne Bacon. Hundred Level video released. O'Bannon lawsuit update. [HT: Get the Picture.] Getting our mean on at MNB. Nebraska equals points. OSU adds an Oregon home and home to their far future.