Side note: banner not intended to endorse any political POV. It's just supposed to be funny.
There is no better summary of this game and the typical reaction of the disinterested observer than this:
Go Blue and stuff.
Run Offense vs. SSONIINI
Notre Dame has battled valiantly against the pounding rushing games of Georgia Tech and Penn State but a lack of depth and talent has told late:
rushing average against, by quarter 1Q
3.74 yards per carry
Those numbers are not great even in the first half; in the second half they are deplorable. Notre Dame bloggers have chalked this up to an excessively bleah offense stranding their warrior-poets on the field too long and project this will not happen against a Michigan defense that's much kinder, to say the least, than either Georgia Tech or Penn State. I don't know if that's true, though:
|ND Plays||Opp Plays|
Neither of these is a huge discrepancy, and 68 defensive plays is not out of the ordinary. Notre Dame's offense has been so awful that many of the scores against the defense have been on short fields...
41% of all points scored against ND so far this season have occurred on drives of 36 yards or less.
...which holds down both yards ceded and plays dealt with. While ND's scoring defense (93rd) is an artifact of its tougher than average start and the crappy offense, there's no reason to believe that even if said offense does improve there will be any corresponding bump from the defense, currently ranked 100th against the run and yielding 4.82 yards per carry. The evidence shows that they tire; they should against Michigan.
Meanwhile, the lone bright spot in the first two Michigan games has been the run offense. Mike Hart rolled up 188 yards at 8.2 YPC against Appalachian State and 127 at 5.1 YPC against Oregon. While neither defense is exactly Penn State, neither is Notre Dame. Continued success is probable.
Key Matchup: Mike Hart versus his own damn body. He's limped off and missed portions of Michigan's first two games; Michigan's running game drops off dramatically when he's not in the game: Primary backup Brandon Minor is only averaging 3.8 YPC.
Pass Offense vs. SSONIINI
Ryan Mallett's debut was less than scintillating --6-17, 49 yards, and one interception -- but he was victimized by a few drops and some horrendous babying that asked him to throw a lot of hopeless bombs on third and forever. He was obviously a step down from even a Henne in full on Hennebriation mode and will remain so this week; better numbers are a definite.
How much better is in question. Carr called out Manningham's effort this week and praised Adrian Arrington; Mallett is going to need some help from wide receivers that were unprepared to catch the rockets he was slinging out there. You'd hope that a week of nothing but Mallett zingers would help matters; there will still be a drop here or there and Mallett goes all Jacob Silj on people.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's beleagured secondary has put up good numbers so far. Taylor Bennett was 11 for 23 for 121 yards; Anthony Morelli was 12 for 22 for 131 yards and one pick six into excellent coverage. Never change, Anthony. The mere idea of "excellent coverage" as applies to the Notre Dame secondary is mindblowing and worth examining. In this instance it was provided by sophomore cornerback Darrin Walls, not the cast of Manningham torchees that still hovers in the general vicinity of receivers without actually bothering to cover them. He's grabbed a starting spot and may be headed towards competence or better. The rest of it, though, is the same cast of characters: Boxer Tom Zbikowski, who is a boxer and the most overrated safety in America when he is not boxing or being boxed or participating in a boxing fight, Terrail Lambert and Ambrose Wooden, etc. New safety David Bruton has already made a couple hideous mental gaffes.
So... yeah, they've done pretty well so far but is this not a Zach Mills at PSU situation wherein opposing teams with good defenses can pack away anything remotely dangerous in the knowledge that 14 points will be good enough? A common MGoBlog heuristic is to severely doubt seniors who sucked as juniors without extenuating circumstances and to furthermore doubt all non-freshmen stuck behind the suck: this applies to every member of the Notre Dame secondary save Walls, and Michigan has at least two guys you have to cover, possibly more.
It's impossible to offer anything solid here with a freshman quarterback and conflicting indicators from the opposition... a few big plays for and against are probable.
Key Matchup: Mallett versus Corwin Brown. It will help our efforts greatly if Mallett does not throw the pick or two that seem inevitable; the coverages Brown calls will attempt to bait him into them.
Run Defense vs. SSONIINI
If we are preparing for Cripple Fight 2007, these are the most malformed limbs. Notre Dame's total rushing through two games: -8 yards. Michigan's rank in rushing defense: 109th. Something has to hold. Probably.
Which is it? If there's one position group that Michigan fans might be holding out a little bit of hope for, it's the defensive line. While they were spread and shred the last two weeks the guys up front are relatively veteran folks with little starting experience and considerable guru acclimation. Projected strongside defensive end Brandon Graham has missed most of the first two weeks with an ankle injury but was healthy enough to provide a little bit of pass rush -- virtually Michigan's only -- against Dennis Dixon last week and will hopefully find his way on the field full time, allowing Shawn Crable to resume his outside linebacker role. The rest of the line has been disappointing against spread option attacks, but Notre Dame's offensive line has been somewhere beyond disappointing. Somewhere *way* beyond it. Like in the realm of Michigan as a team. (Zing!)
On the other hand: the linebackers have been awful and the gashing consistent. Armando Allen is a fast little bugger, if one who has been consistently doomed by eight guys in the box and the turnstile in front of him. Notre Dame will not have negative rushing yards this day, and there is always the possibility of effectiveness when Chris Graham is on the field. (Jonas Mouton's potential return could help matters, but he's just a freshman.)
Pass Defense vs. SSONIINI
Everyone's praising Jimmah's poise... for some reason. Hell if I know why. There's a whole post on this: he didn't throw downfield against Penn State until the game was well out of reach and the backups were in; every completion was a swing or a screen or a long handoff save the occasional five-yard-out. He was sacked six times, led Notre Dame to no points, and only reached 144 yards passing with some garbage time YAC. Poised he may be. Good he is not.
So it's fortunate for him that he's going up against a Michigan secondary that has given up four long touchdowns in two weeks largely because it decides not to cover guys or enjoys falling down once they catch the ball. Notre Dame has promised to open up the playbook and they probably will: attempting to flail its way to first downs with ND's promised Nasty Power Ground game is not likely to work, so their best chance to score will be eating up big chunks of yards against Michigan's befuddled cornerbacks and safeties.
Again, I cannot tell you what happens here. Notre Dame has no good receivers. David Grimes and George West are s
light and slightly athletic; Robby Parris is sort of a Samardzija type, and Duval Kamara is an enormous freshman. None has established anything. Clausen enters his second career start with about four passes downfield to his name. The Michigan secondary seems equally crappy. One thing I do figure: the ND offensive line once again proves to be an achilles heel, severely limiting ND's chances of hitting a long play.
Key Matchup: Tim Jamison and Shawn Crable versus Various Offensive Linemen. Jimmah has proven he can hit guys running open by five yards in high school; Michigan secondary will provide these targets; pressure will make or break the ND passing game.
If Notre Dame punter Geoff Price was a thunder god from beyond time, he could battle Zoltan the Inconceivable to a near-standstill. He is but a man, so this is not possible, but you can still expect many booming 50-yarders followed by limp returns.
Punt returner Tom "You May Not Know This, But I Have Boxed From Time To Time" Zbikowski's inability to wrap up and tackle doesn't affect his returns; therefore he is good at them. He's capable of breaking one off if Zoltan decides, in his mighty wisdom, to let off one of the line drives that he occasionally fires.
Kicker Brandon Walker has two short field goals to his name; little is known about his proficiency.
Key Matchup: Zoltan/punt cover versus Zbikowski who is a boxer. Michigan cannot give up cheap points if their defense in intent on being cheap points incarnate.
- The coaching staff clearly has no faith in Mallett's ability to read defenses.
- Demetrius Jones wanders in to take a spread option snap. (Note: WOTS is that Jones is no longer with the team and may be looking to transfer, so this may not be a possibility.)
- Hart limps off the field.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Clausen's poise is limited to passes within five yards of the LOS.
- Michigan dominance on the lines is established early.
- We finally get a couple accurate deep balls.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for We Suck, -2 for They Appear To Suck Worse, +1 for We Could Just Pack It In).
Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -2 for This Season Is Basically Over Already, +1 for But It Would Be Nice To Shift The National Ire Onto SSONIINI, +1 for Mike Hart Deserves Better, +1 for Charlie Weis Deserves Worse, +1 for You Realize I Have To Watch These Things Over And Over Again, Right?)
Loss will cause me to... increase pace of "Profiles in Heroism" series.
Win will cause me to... create "Jimmah Clausen for Heisman" YouTube highlight reel.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
There are portions of Michigan's team that are not resolutely awful: the run game. The receivers. The offensive line. And maybe the defensive line could squeeze its way into competence when it faces off against the Irish turnstiles.
Meanwhile, no part of Notre Dame's team has really looked good except maybe the secondary if you believe the Irish have finally taught Tom Zbikowski to cover and tackle and those corners to not flail horribly. I think the easier explanation is this: Morelli and Bennett suck and their teams knew that they could just pound ND and its swing-mad offense into oblivion. This is a version of the gameplan against Penn State at any point in the Zach Mills era. They suck on a level Michigan probably does not.
So... yeah, this is a game Michigan should win. A freshman quarterback, a defense that looks epically awful, and Angry Michigan Safety Hating God could conspire to throw this one to Notre Dame, but it would require two or three disastrous plays for that to happen. Chances of that: 30%. Outside of disaster, though, Michigan's advantage on both sides of the LOS should be the deciding factor.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hart beats Notre Dame to death with their own limbs. Also goes for 165 and two touchdowns.
- Mallett throws two picks; so does Jimmah.
- 24-17, Michigan.
The Maginot Line in action!
|M45||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||17||PA Stop|
|Zone read fake, Dixon forms up and delivers a strike to a wide open reciever (cover -2). Basically the entire defense bites on this fake, most relevantly Jamar Adams(-1) and Brandon Harrison(-1), who flies up at a guy running a little flat/screen route. This is the kind of thing we should be running from time to time to exploit excessively aggressive corners.|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||8||Triple option|
|Zone read fake again into a speed option as the slot guy, who is Oregon's second tailback, motions into the backfield. Jamison(-2), unblocked, crashes down on Stewart, going up the middle, and gives up contain.|
|This is truly outstanding: Johnny Thompson(-1) bites on nothing at all... there's not even any playfake, opening up a spot for an easy slant completion. Michigan blitzed here and didn't get there. (pressure -1, cover -1)|
|M10||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||10||Zone read handoff|
|They're in this no-huddle thing where they line up, fake a snap with Dixon doing the leg lift, and then check for a new call based on the defensive alignment. (I hate this thing, by the way, and wish I could think of some way to outlaw it. Quarterbacks no longer have to check themselves, they just let the coach make all the calls.) Anyway: this time they actually go with the zone read handoff here; Taylor(+1) times the snap and gets a good push into the backfield. Thompson(-1) sort of runs forward, arms extended like he's blind, and getes chopped to the ground uselessly. Then Stewart just makes an awesome play, leaping through a thicket of arms and helmets, landing on his feet, and grinding towards the endzone. Our defense this day was atrocious, but part of that was because Jonathan Stewart is an outstanding player.|
|M1||1||G||Ace 3-Wide||Goal line||Run||0||QB sneak|
|Slipped as he got the snap.|
|M1||2||G||Shotgun 3-Wide||Goal line||Penalty||-5||False start|
|Note: this is a the "1" but is really the one-inch line, thus the M5 on the next play.|
|M5||2||G||Shotgun Tight||Nickel||Pass||Inc||PA Rollout|
|Zone read fake; Dixon keeps and has one guy on a wheel plus the other outside receiver crossing at the back of the endzone. He throws; Donovan Warren is close enough to break it up. (+1, cover +1)|
|M5||3||G||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Pass||-1||WR screen|
|Brandon Harrison(+2) reads this and attacks before he can get blocked, disrupting the play. This is never a good call inside the five, IMO... too many bodies in enclosed space.|
|Drive Notes: FG(23), 0-3, 9 min 1st Q. Is this our best defensive stand of the day? Maybe.|
|Zone read fake. Dixon sets and throws behind his guy, preventing any YAC. Same play as the slant on the previous drive; bad throw and timing turned that into a stop.|
|Dixon has all day to throw (pressure -3). Brandon Harrison(-3) is burnt all crispy by Paysinger. Harrison just gets run right by. WTF? (Cover -2.)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2 pts), 7-11, 4 min 1st Q. We're out of position on the swinging gate and give up a two-pointer. Yay yay yay.|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read handoff|
|I'm not sure how Michigan can defend this better. Jamison has to stay outside to prevent Dixon from pulling the ball out and running. He collapses down and tackles Stewart, but Stewart is like 240 pounds of rapidly moving anger and he falls forward for a lot. I guess Chris Graham could have been more aggressive, but an aggressive Chris Graham is a Chris Graham who's running himself way out of position.|
|No formation here because of TV. As we come back to the play Dixon is firing a twelve-yard stop route. (Pressure -1, cover -1).|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Penalty||-5||False start|
|Graham comes through unblocked on a blitz, Dixon just runs the hell away from him. I don't even think Jamison is blamable here, as he was set up pretty far outside. Once he gets around him, there's acres of space. This is something you just have to live with sometimes when you're playing a quarterback as fast as Dixon.|
|50||2||2||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||6||Zone read handoff|
|Stewart breaks Chris Graham's tackle(-1) that would have stiffed this for no gain, then grinds forward for a first and more.|
|Crable crashes in recklessly as he was not in position when the ball was snapped â€“ most of the defense wasn't actually â€“ and gets hurdled. Michigan is fortunate that this didn't go for a big gain.|
|M42||2||8||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||8||Triple option|
|Zone read fake inside to Stewart is coupled with an option play using one of the wide receivers as a potential pitchman. Since Thompson(-1) and Harrison(-1) react to this slowly, there's no need for a pitch.|
|M34||3||In||Ace Big||Nickel||Run||1||QB sneak|
|For the first.|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||-7||Fumbled snap|
|Yay yay yay.|
|Simple stop route ten yards downfield is wide open (cover -1); it's a little behind the receiver but catchable. Dropped anyway.|
|Dunno WTF the Oregon tackle is thinking, but he just decides to not block Jamison. Jamison(-1) overruns the QB ridiculously, letting Dixon outside to scramble for about half the yardage.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(49), 7-11, EO 1st Q. Note that this "stop" has nothing to do with the Michigan defense: a fumbled snap, a dropped pass, and a blown blocking assignment. This is what we're banking on versus Notre Dame.|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||18||Zone read handoff|
|This is Johnson, not Stewart. And this is too easy. Crable(-1) streaks upfield, opening a big lane. Terrance Taylor(-1) gives up that gap at the snap, getting sealed on a textbook easy zone block that allows the guard to come out and pound Chris Graham. The defensive line gave the linebackers no chance.|
|Zone read fake. Trent(+1) breaks on this ball and breaks up the pass(!!!). A nice play. (Cover +1)|
|O43||2||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read handoff|
|Same motion into the backfield that created the first triple option of the day; this time they go with the handoff. Taylor(-1) slants inside, giving up the same gap he did earlier in the drive. Graham(-1) is blocked to the ground, and there's a major gap.|
|50||3||3||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|Same play. Crable(-1) keeps contain but when he dives down to take the tailback he misses the tackle.|
|They hurry to the line and snap it this time, catching Michigan (and the ABC producer) off guard. A short pass is open (cover -1) at the sideline. Michigan misses an opportunity to keep this to a small gain as Donovan Warren(-1) misses a tackle.|
|Jumpin' Jehosephat. This is That God Damned Counter Draw. You know, the one Michigan was burned on time and again during the Year of Infinite Pain. But this time there's no running back. Dixon rolls to the right for a bit, then the two OL on the left side of the line get down and chop their guys as Dixon takes off to the wide open backside. This is a called run. And it works brilliantly. Chris Graham(-2) is supposed to be on the weakside here; when Michigan has corralled this it's because the WLB stayed home.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||14||Statue of Liberty|
|This actually shouldn't work. Adam Patterson has shot past an attempted block by Jeremiah Johnson(+1) and has Stewart dead to rights, but just runs past him. (-2). Graham also takes a terrible angle (-1) and then Stewart just does his thing.|
|M11||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|John Thompson, unblocked, attacks the hole and tackles. Why is he unblocked? I dunno. Brandon Logan also helpful. Probably good play by the DTs this time.|
|Flushed out of the pocket by Brandon Graham(+1, pressure +1) and an unidentifiable linebacker. Good coverage (+1) on the roll and Adams keeping him in front of him keeps this from any yardage.|
|Dixon can't find anyone (cover +1), and is flushed by Brandon Graham(+1, +1 pressure).|
|M3||4||2||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||3||Zone read handoff|
|Stewart right up the middle. Johnson(-1), Taylor(-1); these guys have both been massive disappointments.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-18, 10 min 2nd Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||8||Zone read handoff|
|Massive hole inside as Oregon takes advantage of a large split between Crable and Taylor. Thompson(-1) waves aimlessly at the passing Stewart.|
|O28||2||2||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||23||Zone read handoff|
|Complicated dance here; they pull a guard around to block Crable after the zone fake that holds him outside; this works. Then they pull the tight end around this guard to come up and block Thompson. This works. Stewart flies up to the outside, evading the late tackle attempt of Jamar Adams(-1) and Brandon Harrison(-2) being reckless on the outside.|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||4||PA short out|
|Zone read fake to a pass play; Dixon throws high to a relatively covered reciever. Harrison makes an immediate tackle. (Cover +1)|
|M45||2||6||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||7||Short out|
|Quick snap â€“ we aren't set â€“ and a rollout to the short side to set up an out at the sticks. Dixon is off, forcing the reciever to retreat; we cannot tackle him anyway and he gets the first. (cover -1)|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||-2||Zone read handoff|
|John Ferrara (+2) defeats a block on the inside, closing the hole and making a TFL. I remember when this happened with regularity. Jamar Adams, drawn up, prevents him from hopping outside.|
|M40||2||12||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Is this Ferrara's doing again? He gets shoved back a bit but is enough of a bother such that both men blocking him keep blocking him, allowing Graham and Ezeh to congregate unharried. We'll give him a +1.|
|Before the play, Griese is confused by Michigan not covering the slot guy, thus tipping their obvious zone coverage. He thinks this is dumb. Thank you, Griese. Finally someone points this out on the teevee after years and years of it. Anyway: Michigan's zone covers this just fine(+1). But Chris Graham(-3) runs his ass off attempting to cover someone on a nothing crossing route, opening up vast areas of field for Dixon to run up into. Worst linebacker ever.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Pass||11||Deep stop|
|Oregon's stacked Stewart and Johnson, their two RBs, at the bottom of the formation. Obviously this has some interesting stuff associated with it. This is just a simple stop route that Dixon throws high but well enough in front of Donovan Warren. (Cover -1.)|
|M9||1||5||Shotgun two-back||Nickel||Run||9||Statue of Liberty Fake|
|This is pretty fricking cool, the way they set this up earlier. Jamar Adams(-1) buys this hook, line and sinker, as does Thompson(-1). Hell, every-damn-body bought this, including Ferrara(-1). Easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-25 , 4 min 2nd Q. This drive is the difference between Mike Debord and Chip Kelly, and the decision to hire a guy who's proven he can light up opposing defenses at UNH (UNH!) instead of your buddy is the difference between Carr and Bellotti or Miles.|
|This into a three-deep zone. Disgusting. Jamar Adams(-4) decides not to cover the guy. (pressure -2, cover -4)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-32, 3 min 2nd Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||14||Zone read handoff|
|Right up the middle. Taylor(-1) and Johnson(-1) are single blocked and creased, Graham(-1) meekly accepts a block.|
|Zone read fake; easy open gainer. (Cover -2)|
|Dixon zings this over a guy open for the first down. (Cover -1)|
|O42||3||2||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||-2||Zone read handoff|
|We... stop... them? Crable(+1) and Thompson(+1) slice into the backfield for the stop.|
|Drive Notes: Pu... Punt?, 7-32, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Dixon has time but can't find anyone (cover +2). Harrison (+1) flushes Dixon and Taylor(+1) surprisingly tracks him down.|
|O20||2||22||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|Jamar Adams(+1) comes up to fill this near the LOS. Just fine given the down and distance.|
|Incomplete and dropped; not going for the first anyway. Cover +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-32, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|M37||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Deep cross|
|Faked end around gets a wide reciever wide open (cover -2). Ball is a little behind and dropped.|
|M37||2||10||Shotgun two-back||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read handoff|
|Ferrara(-1) blown off the ball, opening up a hole behind him.|
|M30||3||3||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||8||TE out|
|Thompson(-1) gets shoved by the TE as he runs his out and coverts the first down. (Cover -1)|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Pass||2||Jailbreak screen|
|Dixon overthrows this badly. Brandent Englemon(+1) reads it and comes up to snuff it out.|
|M20||2||8||Shotgun Tight||Nickel||Run||9||Power iso|
|A tackle and TE pull around to obliterate linebackers; Ferrara(-1) blown off the ball along with Gallimore(-1) (BRETT GALLIMORE!)|
|M11||1||10||Shotgun two-back||Nickel||Run||1||Triple option|
|Dixon keeps this. Thompson(+1) does well to beat a block and eliminate a pitchman. Crable(+1) stays responsible and corrals Dixon.|
|M10||2||9||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||8||Triple option|
|Gut handoff to Johnson this time. This is embarassing. Crable(-1) misses a tackle, as do Englemon and Trent. Trent's fortunate to force a fumble and fall on it.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-32, 6 min 3rd Q. Yay?|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|Johnny Sears(-3). Awful coverage. He's in a deep zone and decides to ignore the guy he's lined up over. Aaaaand defensive charting stops here. (Cover -4)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-39, 2 min 3rd Q.|
You got me. The most damning thing to me: two of Oregon's long touchdowns were thrown into wussy three-deep coverage designed to prevent any long completions. On both, one of the guys in the three deep just decided not to cover a guy running a fly route right in their zone. Result: doom. By now we kind of expect that from Johnny "-3" Sears, but the other culprit was three-year starter and senior Jamar Adams.
Oh, but there's plenty of damning to go around. Chris Graham remains an easy starter on the Todd Howard All Stars*, always running hither and thither without any care as to where he should actually go. He doesn't defeat blocks or read plays or do basically anything well. Jonas Mouton's been held out the first couple weeks with an ankle injury; hopefully he will replace Graham as soon as he's healthy. Both interior defensive linemen have been disappointments. Neither has provided anything in the way of game-altering plays or even running lanes clogged. John Ferrara had the most positive impact of any DT, and no offense to him but that bodes unwell.
*(A team of the worst players in the Carr era who started regularly. Coming soon.)
I guess. You aren't going to like it.
|Jamison||-||4||-4||Hopefully will be more of a menace against non-spread runners.|
|Johnson||-||2||-2||Did little; not the worst offender, but last year we were getting production from this spot.|
|Taylor||3||5||-2||Looks much worse as the main guy.|
|Ferrara||3||3||0||Actually made a few plays; may be promising.|
|Crable||2||3||-1||Not a defensive end.|
|B. Graham||2||-||2||Has played little in the first two weeks; if healed looks like he will be a help.|
|Trent||1||-||1||Our best defensive player? That would say it all.|
|Harrison||3||6||-6||One! One long touchdown... ah ah ah|
|Sears||-||3||-3||Two! Two long touchdowns... ah ah ah|
|Adams||1||7||-6||Three! Three long touchdowns... ah ah ah|
|Englemon||1||0||1||Oh, Brandent. Always with the 1-0-1 line. How blameless you are.|
|"Coverage"||9||28||-19||It's a three deep zone! You can't give up long touchdowns in a three deep zone! What's the point of anything? Why don't I just die?|
Uh... pay no attention to the text next to "coverage." So... violence has been done unto everyone via numbers, and that was only about 2/3rds of that abortion.
Is there any hope at all?
Maybe if Jonas Mouton and Brandon Graham come back from injury and are effective players we will get a boost; also it'll be quite a bit easier going up against Jimmah and Notre Dame's offensive line, which appears to suck at a level even beyond that of Michigan's defense. But, long term: no. The linebacker play is atrocious and will remain so. At this point you may as well throw in Ezeh and Mouton in the hopes that they can learn. The secondary is atrocious and will remain so. Any time we want to go to a nickel we have to put two of the following players on the field:
- a true freshman
- a midget who can't even run fast
- Johnny Sears.
A hypothetical dime package would see all three on the field. Plus, our safeties are Michigan safeties. Finally, the DL has been a huge disappointment. Crable is a useless defensive end; Jamison has had no impact; the DTs have been pushed around time and again.
Things will get better, but bad is as good as it gets this year.
Come on, there must be some bright spots here or there.
Maybe Morgan Trent is a lot better? And John Ferrara made a couple plays as a redshirt freshman, so that's good. But that's it.
What does it mean for Notre Dame?
This is it for the defense. Notre Dame's offense has three points in two games -- the ten they put up against PSU were off an interception return and a punt return that led to a field goal. If they are to be anything other than Indiana in winged helmets, they have to do the proverbial "step up" and club Jimmah and company to the ground.
Can they do this? Uh... well. I expect things will be a lot better against that OL and a true freshman quarterback who's not that much of a run threat. But I also expect busted coverages, sporadic runs, and one or two hair-pulling moments.
Oh, who am I kidding? Four to six.
One more time. This appears to be the last opportunity to reuse this baby from a year ago, so here goes:
Oh, defense that didn't suck at all times, we miss you.
We spit on your piddling $26 million. Ohio State's latest contract from Nike:
Athletic footwear and apparel manufacturer Nike and Ohio State have signed a new $26 million contract that will keep the Buckeyes' sports teams in uniforms with a swoosh for the next seven years.
Dude, that's not very much compared to Michigan's mondo Adidas deal: at $3.7 million per year, Ohio State is getting but half of what Michigan is. The article does mention bonuses for the final placement of the football and basketball teams, but probably not nearly enough to close the gap. So we've got that going for us.
Oh, if only I believed in this sort of "OMG statistics!" Kevin from We Are Penn State:
In 1980 Michigan lost their first two non-con games, then won the last eight to capture the Big Ten title before beating Washington in the Rose Bowl.
In 1988 Michigan lost their first two games, then closed out the season with an 8-0-1 run to win the Big Ten before beating Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl.
In 1998 Michigan lost their first two games, then won nine of their next ten to win a share of the Big Ten Championship. They capped the season by defeating Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl.
In 2007 Michigan lost their first two games...
FWIW. Personally, if Michigan wins the Big Ten this year I'll... uh. Watch the BCS bowl on TV.
Enormous relief. Quintin Patilla is a free man:
Prosecutors dropped a misdemeanor aggravated assault charge against Quintin Patilla, 19, at a pretrial hearing before 15th District Judge Ann Mattson.
He is also, evidently, a really terrible linebacker given that he was so hopeless compare to our current players that he got shifted to a position, fullback, where he's third string.
Do NOT click here. I warned you.
Oh, this ain't good. When the head football coach of your University is getting mentioned in this context...
*** Bush as Lloyd Carr? Heading into his 9:00 pm ET address tonight, President Bush has seen his Iraq numbers improve in the latest NBC/WSJ poll. But such improvement is akin to Michigan beating Notre Dame this weekend in college football: It's a win, but it won't change the fans' minds that the season is lost, and they want to fire the man in charge, no matter what. Just 30% approve of Bush's handling on Iraq, which is up eight points since July. In addition, 37% think victory there is still possible, up five points. Per NBC/WSJ pollsters Peter Hart (D) and Neil Newhouse (R), the improvement comes primarily from Republicans, which might be enough to keep his party's lawmakers behind him. However, American public opinion -- like Michigan fans this year -- has already moved on.
...I mean, ouch. Yeah. In this metaphor Jeff Tedford = Barack Obama; Mike Debord = Hillary Clinton, by the way.
Show your support. There is a sort of rally thing getting organized for the Notre Dame game tomorrow; the M Zone digs up the details:
Michigan Men... "A call to Arms"
This Saturday approx 1:45pm, we want every former player to meet just outside the tunnel (at Michigan stadium), to support (and remind!) our team on why they wear that winged helmet! We want to show our unity for the Wolverines, when they step off the bus.
For further details, please call Ron Simpkins @ (313)-[xxx-xxxx]
Might be interesting to take in if you want to wander by the tunnel around 1:45 PM.
Say it ain't so, Brandent. This might have solidified my vague skepticism about the potential of any new Michigan safety if I had known it in the runup to the season:
Whatever happened behind the scenes, Englemon's spot on the team was up in the air heading into the season.
"I can't really speak on it," Englemon said.
The Covington, K.Y., native was coming off a season in which he made five starts, played in every game and collected 29 tackles.
Throw in the departure of starting free safety Willis Barringer, and Englemon appeared to be right in the mix for a starting spot his last year on campus.
But something came up.
"We both had a choice," Carr said. "There were some things I expected of him, and he proved to me that he was serious in what he said he wanted to do, and I'm glad he came back."
This was completely under the radar in the preseason and would have been a major reason to cock an eyebrow at the Stevie Brown praise, because without Englemon who are the alternatives? Charles Stewart and true freshmen. One of MGoBlog's primary heuristics is to seriously question any and all effusive praise when the player in question is the only option: see Johnny Sears. Could this dodgy Englemon situation have cost him his starting job and, by extension, Michigan the Appalachian State game?
Miles Miles Miles Miles Miles. Every day someone asks Les Miles about the Michigan job and every day he says he ain't sayin' anything, which is a majorly positive indicator that he's interested in the job. Coaches flat lie about their interest all the time and then bolt to other jobs; to not even bother with that formality speaks volumes. To wit:
"Don't ask it, I've got nothing to say," Miles said "I am so happy right where I'm at. I need to work harder with this team. That's my focus and it will not change."
And all those Michigan fans kicking your name around?
"I have not really given much thought to the fan base in Ann Arbor and it's not something I reflect on in any way."
Also of evidence: his special bonus buyout for the Michigan job and Jacob Hester's statement:
"That would be the only place he would go, but I don't know if he would want to leave this," LSU tailback Jacob Hester said over the weekend.
I am warming a bit to the idea not necessarily because I think any of the concerns I expressed earlier are invalid but because I think I overlooked a major Miles positive: whatever his failings are are greatly mitigated by his willingness to locate and acquire the best assistants without regard to anything except their effectiveness: Jimbo Fisher and Bo Pelini are amongst the best-paid and best-regarded coordinators in the country, and when Fisher bolted to Florida State for a king's ransom he brought in Gary Crowton, late of BYU and Oregon. This is miles (ha!) from Michigan's current situation.
The Mathews thing. Here it is:
IMO, a one game suspension is warranted.
Yeah, about that... AskMen.com declares Michigan the best collegiate program for players looking to make it to the NHL, then blows any credibility they might have with this:
Forward Brandon Naurato has a sweet lefty scoring stroke and with a little bulk could dominate NHL first lines.
Undrafted third liner Brandon Naurato: poised to dominate the NHL! I mean, you could look at the frickin' roster and pick any of three different first-rounders... or you could go with Naurato. No offense to a guy who developed into an unexpectedly useful player as a sophomore, but if he's the best player on the team we dead.
Gittleson ammo. For the S&C zealots out there:
"Right now, they can't tackle in space," ESPN "College GameDay" analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. "For the life of me, I don't understand it. Every February, Michigan recruits really well. But I think their strength and conditioning program has cornered the market on taking five-star guys and somehow finding a way to slow them down. It's mystifying to see it every single time they line up against that type of spread look."
I've always been skeptical of the S&C argument given all the Michigan guys in the NFL and their performances at combines -- generally good -- but there you go. It's not like clearing Gittleson out for someone who's learned something since returning from Vietnam. No... literally:
Michigan's director of conditioning is Mike Gittleson, who's in his 30th season. He was the program's first such coach in 1978, a Vietnam veteran who completed his master's in exercise science on the campus where he works.
Etc.: ESPN announces format switch: now JCSPN. These mockups are always a good time; everyone can stop emailing me about it now.
It returns for a second year: House Rock Built and MGoBlog talk about the game without choking anything to death. Except our hopes. This is part two of our wide-ranging conversation; Part one can be found over at HRB.
So... one guy who's looked impressive so far on the Irish offense (and dare I say, the only guy) is Armando Allen. Yes? No? He's fast... can he run yet?
Love the kid. He runs like a gazelle on crack wearing one of those girdle things that they put on bulls to make them buck like crazy.
This seems... suboptimal.
Your metaphors need work.
It's been a rough season... I alcohol blame.
But in all seriousness, he's something to be excited about. He can run inside and outside, and has actual breakaway speed, which the Irish haven't seen too much of in recent years. I was excited in the Penn State game when the entire first drive revolved around finding ways to get him the ball. Then, the next drive, Travis Thomas came out and ran blindfolded into a gopher hole, and I became saddened and thirsty for the nurturing kiss of grain alcohol.
The little swing on the opener against PSU was pretty impressive. When you get outside Penn State's linebackers, you've accomplished something. I worry he might gash us. I worry that four-year-olds might gash us, but I worry more about Allen.
A legitimate worry... provided Weis has the sense to actually stick with him, which he has inexplicably not done in the first two games
Has he run between the tackles much? Can anyone run between the tackles given Notre Dame's offensive line?
I saw Michael Haywood trying to drive a Ford F-350 between the tackles at the fall practice. I think he averaged like 3.8 yards per carry. So, uh, no.
This reassures, since Appalachian State plowed Michigan. Oh, God. Do they make 400 proof whiskey? Let's talk about the other side of the ball.
So... Corwin Brown. Sellout or sellout?
Nah, kidnap and brainwash victim. Like that girl who played the harp. I think the second he decapitated Keyshawn Johnson in the NFL and developed a taste for Trojan blood, it was inevitable that he'd end up in South Bend.
Ah... that's more palatable. How has the 3-4 gone? I notice a lot of rushing yards ceded.
The defense has been huge this year. The rushing yards are hugely misleading because there have been so many plays run against the defense due to the O's inability to get a first down for large swaths of time. Also, a large majority of the yardage was given up in the 4th quarter against an exhausted D that has been on the field all day.
Fact is, Notre Dame should have lost both of its first to games by Cumberland College-esque scores with the way the offense played and gagged up the ball. The fact that we kept either team under triple digits while giving them the gift of field position and offensive zone turnovers is nothing short of a triumph.
My one beef with the 3-4 is that both GT and PSU showed an ability to get big yards on stretch plays to the right side, where the OLB John Ryan clearly hadn't quite figured out his job of containment from the position. Theoretically, that should be correctible, but it has been a recurring thing.
That seems a poor weakness against Michigan's stretch-mad run game. I also note a BGS post that confirms the exhaustion you saw; is that not a potential item that will recur against Michigan?
If the offense goes two and a half quarters without a first down again, then I can promise you the splits will look exactly like that.
I can promise you that will not happen.
At least Yahoo provided kittens in our time of need.
Sigh. I want to believe you, but we'll have to wait and see. I really feel like if the offense can mount anything vaguely resembling an attack, the defense will be able to make this a game, particularly if they're getting rest time on the sideline and good field position. We were only down by 7 to Penn State late in the 3rd quarter despite having literally no offense (that 10 straight 3 and outs wasn't an exaggeration... check the box score).
I actually watched the game today... the key to me will be whether or not Clausen gets the green light to find receivers downfield and can. People should be open; he might not be able to locate them. Especially if he's on his back. I think the Michigan offense will probably be about as effective as Penn State's. Better running game, probably worse passing with a true freshman at the helm. I think even Michigan can shut down an offense that's playing as safe as Notre Dame did against Penn State.
Well, word on the street is the playbook is going to be opened up, so at the very least we might get to see the Irish go down swinging for once. I'm glad to hear that, and feel like it's the only way this team is going to get anywhere is by taking the skirt off and slinging the football.
Given Michigan's secondary play last week, there will be opportunities to hit guys downfield... assuming people get blocked. Projected starting SDE Brandon Graham should return from an ankle injury that severely limited him the first two weeks; this will allow Shawn Crable to slide back to the attacking linebacker role he filled adeptly last year instead of being an undersized and ill-proportioned defensive end. The hope at the beginning of the year was for an attacking, sack-happy defense. That hasn't materialized but may against an offense Michigan seems better suited to defend.
One thing I am very concerned about: John Carlson. Michigan's linebackers are useless in space and Carlson is a terrific receiver. Seam routes off play action alarm.
Carlson has been the missing man this year. I'm guessing it's a combination of other teams keying on him (him being th
e only real proven threat on offense) and the dink-and-dunk offensive scheme not spreading the field. At any rate, the Carlson seam was a backbreaker against Penn State last year, and getting him involved in the offense should be one of the primary concerns for Weis coming into this game. I think by throwing the ball downfield more, it'll free up more room in the gooey middle of the field, where Carlson can play mismatches and raise hell.
Also Carlson's had to stay in to block.
All right, so the Michigan fanbase. Is there any sort of excitement for this game, or has it completely spiraled into sarcastic numbness? From the Irish perspective, this game is being viewed with much more aloofness and levity than it typically is because expectations are way down from recent years. What's the skinny in AA?
Sarcastic numbness is job one at Michigan even when things are going relatively well, now it's the only way we interact. We believe in nothing, Lebowski! There is something at stake here, though: if we beat Notre Dame there's at least some hope of refocusing the national derisiveness on the Irish and getting it (partially) off Michigan. Winning wouldn't make anyone particularly happy, per se, but it would be grimly satisfactory.
Women say the same thing about sleeping with me.
How about the Irish? Your 0-2 must suck considerably less than ours. I mean... you have all the freshman stuff, not four-year starters at QB and RB and a top five preseason ranking. Also you didn't lose to a I-AA team. But it seems that a lot of people are seriously questioning Weis, which is something I don't get. This year is the reason that Willingham got fired, really... not even the certified genius of Charlie Weis can deal with that. But it seems the natives are, if not exactly restless, a little peeved. Yes/no?
I don't think there's my native restlessness... or more to the point, I think that all of that is manufactured by the media because it makes for a charming headline. Irish fans are still happy with their robot genius, despite the fact that there are some legitimate grips to raise about the way these first two games were handled. You hit the nail on the head, this year is exactly why Willingham was fired. We knew it was going to be a rough 2007 back in 2004, so the results so far haven't been the type of radical departure from expectations that gets coaches fired. It's a rebuilding year, and everybody knows that. As long as the recruiting classes are staying good and the right kids are getting experience out there, the future and general inertia of the program is in good shape, which is the most important thing.
It's fair to say that people are actually "questioning" Weis in the sense that we're starting to move away from acknowledging him as the all-knowing oracle of football and moving toward a more realistic, post-honeymoon belief that he's a skilled coach capable of making some mistakes and occasionally being out-coached.
This seems... reasonable? You've turned my world on its head.
Yeah, there's a few stray rational neurons in the Notre Dame hivemind. Well, it's getting kind of late. You've probably got to go give Chad Henne a lower leg massage, right? So drop me some knowledge... what's your big prediction?
I would prefer implanting Tom Brady's brain but that will do.
I hesitate to predict anything good coming about for this Michigan team but it does seem to me that Michigan has at least one major advantage here: its offensive line and Mike Hart versus the Notre Dame run defense, which though valiant has been oft-perforated. Everything else looks like it could go either way. So I do tentatively think Michigan will win this, although a touchdown-plus spread seems excessive. Notre Dame wins if they find a downfield passing game that does not result in turnovers; I think this is probably not going to happen enough for them to win.
I had a vision last night while I was tripping on paint thinner. A hush falls over the Big House as a wobbly 59 yard field goal sails through the uprights, winning the game for the Irish. The benches clear, the jubilant Irish rush onto the field, and, lo, Jimmy Clausen finds Scarlett Johansson in the pandemonium, kneels down, and proposes. The two embrace passionately and the camera cuts to a teary-eyed Brent Musberger who solemnly declares, "This is why we love this sport so much," then trails off, not having any words to describe what he has just witnessed.
all-Scarlett-Johnasson-references-are-accompanied-by-picture rule. Because,
seriously, ladies... you would hit that too.
I welcome your 59-yard field goal attempt for the win. We are agreed that this is a satisfactory final play. (Assuming Michigan is ahead by 1 or 2.)
Well, best of luck this weekend. Tell that jowly interim head coach of yours I said "hi".
And tell your interstellar pirate made entirely of lard and self regard to invent something cool, like a first down, for Saturday.
Oh the hate!
Feel it flow through you.
Hate makes you strong!
No video, sorry. Still downloading.
|M24||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||4||Hart||Zone counter|
|I don't know exactly what to call this, but this is actually a variation on our traditional zone left to start the ballgame. Massey is lined up off the line and on the snap cuts to the backside of the formation to block the defensive end tradtional zone schemes leave alone. The rest of the play is basically a zone left except Hart knows he's cutting back. This works well, but Hart miscalculates in an attempt to get outside the linebacker and leaves three or four yards on the field.|
|M28||2||6||Ace Twins||Run||7||Hart||Zone counter|
|Virtually the same play but this starts right and comes back left. Butler's actually in on this snap and is the TE cutting across the LOS as Oregon attacks the frontside fiercely. Hart hurdles some traffic and plows out for a first down. These first two plays do a good job of playing off our tendencies.|
|Same set as the last play: two Tes to on side, two WR to the other. We play action the waggle and bring Butler along the same route he took on the last play. This suckers the weakside linebacker something fierce and Butler is wide, wide open. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|Beautifully blocked with a gaping hole off the right side; unfortunately Schilling falls down as he moves to the second level, leaving the WLB to fill the hole without having to deal with a blocker.|
|O31||2||6||Ace Splits||Pass||-5||Manningham||WR screen|
|DeBord's done a great job of mixing up his stuff, playing off our tendencies, and generally proving he's not a dumb robot... but he kind of blows it on this play, which is the same screen we've run a dozen times over the past two years where Michigan takes two Tes but lines up in a four wide, then motions one TE to a cluster at the top of the screen featuring the other TE and the designated screeny guy. Michigan always runs a screen when they motion into this formation. They do so here. Oregon has this scouted and attacks; Butler hauls down a defender for a penalty. Holding, but five yards downfield. (CA, 3)|
|A completely inexcusable ball into a safety who hardly has to move to pick the ball off. (BR, 0) A replay shows Adrian Arrington open by ten yards for a huge gain. (Protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q. Debord starts the game off with a series of clever plays that play off both each other and Michigan's tendencies, then blows it on two downs by doing something predictable and then something just dumb. Henne cannot throw this ball, either. What the hell could he be looking at?|
|M29||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||Run||-1||Hart||Zone right|
|Here endeth the Debord smartness: Michigan puts three wide receivers and a fullback on the field, then shuffles the fullback. If you're counting at home, fullback shuffle is currently reading 100% run. Oregon is counting, runs the safety up to the side of the shuffle and stuffs this in the backfield. This had no chance because Oregon knew exactly what was coming.|
|M28||2||11||Ace 3-wide||Run||17||Hart||Zone right|
|Massive backside hole because Justin Boren deposits one Oregon DT in the stands and Long cuts the other to the ground. By the time Hart gets the ball there's one DE futilely chasing and a linebacker who has to deal with Kraus. Hart can just scoot up without delay for a big gainer.|
|M45||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||3||Hart||Zone right|
|Eight in the box this time. But Michigan runs anyway because like whatever. Schilling doesn't get any push on his guy and the zone block in the middle is similarly stonewalled. Hart rushes up into a wad.|
|Wide open for an easy first; Manningham(+2) dodges a tacker and gives a few yards to set up a picket fence of blockers along the sideline to turn this from a twelve yard gain into a big gainer. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1) I don't like how Manningham just runs out of bounds here. He could pick up another couple if he tried to cut inside.|
|Waggle; this isn't shown but from my seats it was plainly obvious that Arrington was wide open. (BR)|
|O15||2||8||Ace 3-wide||Run||6||Hart||Zone left|
|Oregon's DT does not react quickly enough to Butler's motion across the formation â€“ the middle linebacker has to come up and tap him â€“ and Michigan catches he guy as he's still moving into position; he gets blown off the ball. Hart ends up cutting behind the two guys plowing him, bumping into Mitchell as he does so and falling forward for six.|
|This is jammed up and crushed, no lanes anywhere; Hart bounces outside and manages to plow through two guys for a first down. Hart's essential Hart-ness.|
|O6||1||G||Ace Twins||Penalty||-5||Mitchell||False Start|
|Again, this doesn't show up on TV but Arrington is wide open for a sure touchdown on this. Instead, a checkdown to Butler for four. A tentative CA. (CA-, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Hart is set up offset. This is always a pass. He flares out into the flat; Henne wings it well over his head. Hart was going nowhere on this anyway. (IN, 0)|
|Thrown high, but within Arrington's range. He skies and stabs his foot down for the touchdown. (CA, 2). Arrington made this look easier than this is.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-3, 5 min 1st Q.|
|M38||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||4||Hart||Zone right|
|Hole is between Boren and the DT on the backside who Kraus cuts. No second-level blocks so Hart can't get more than a few.|
|M42||2||6||I-Form Weak||Pass||18||Manningham||PA out|
|Arrington motions in tight here and makes like he's going to block; the only person in this route is Manningham. Again this
is supposed to play off our incredible predictability... we never pass out of something like this.(Hardly anyone does with one-man routes, too) It works; Manningham is wide open and Henne hits him. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)
|Jake Long obliterates the defensive end, shoving him yards downfield. Kraus walls off the DT and there's a gaping hole Hart makes the most of, juking his way to extra yardage.|
|O29||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||6||Brown||Zone counter|
|Same TE pull. The immediate reaction: of course we put in the guy with a broken hand and he fumbles. But this is probably just the general bloody-mindedness of the universe more than anything else. Other than the crushing fumble, this is a nicely blocked play and Brown did just fine cutting up into the hole.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-11, 3 min 1st Q. Seriously, God. WTF?|
|We motion Massey away from the playside. Pretty decent push from the OL but no creases for Hart, he runs up into a wad for three.|
|Same exact play we ran earlier that got Manningham 18. This time Manningham is covered and the zone blocking that imitates a run play turns a DT loose; Henne hammered as he throws. Re-using this play is stupid. It's a one-man route that has no backup plan if that's covered other than a throw to Hart in the flat after he's been faked to and has lienbackers in his face. Henne's throw is an atttempt to use this option, but is wildly inaccurate because of the hit. (PR, 0, protection 0/1)|
|Manningham brought in motion in close; Oregon blitzes the hell out of this. The drag route is wide open, Henne lays it in. (CA, 3, protection 3/3). Nice blitz pickup.|
|Simple play where Arrington's guy is eight yards and bailing off the snap of the ball. He sits down after five yards, beats the corner with a juke, and picks up major YAC. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Manningham to the short side of the field in tight to the line. Manningham comes around and the crashing defensive ends give up contain. Result: open field. We haven't run one of these in forever and I don't know why... the zone forces defensive ends to chase down from the backside like crazy and this sort of thing is likely to be open frequently.|
|O17||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||0||Hart||Zone left|
|We run into seven guys, the equivalent of eight when we have three wide receivers, for little as Oregon's linebackers are slanted heavily to the playside. Predictability? I hate this because the other guys are in an umbrella. Our two receivers to the weakside are in a position where they can run a combo route with the outside guy running the cornerback into the endzone and then the slot guy will be open for a guaranteed eight yards. It's an easy read we don't make. Henne? Debord? We'll never know who's at fault.|
|Henne stands in confidently and fires high to Mathews streaking towards the endzone. He had few options here; everyone covered. Mathews himself was doubled and got knocked out anyway... very marginally CA. (CA-, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Henne hesitates and gets murdered by an unblocked, delayed blitzer. Has to read this and get rid of the ball. (PR, 0, protection 0/2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(43), 7-11, 12 min 2nd Q. Hits the upright. If Henne gets rid of the third down ball, this is good.|
|Open for a decent gain. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M27||2||3||Ace Twins||Run||1||Hart||Zone counter|
|Oregon is wise-ish to this now, but Hart still has a nice lane if not for a crappy block/nice play on the part of Butler and the DE he's supposed to block. The DE refuses to get cut and fills the hole. Otherwise, a first down.|
|M28||3||2||Ace Trips||Pass||1 (10)||Manningham||Out/Holding|
|Bunch of wideouts all jammed into the short side of the field. Henne does a half-roll towards them as they spread into their routes, then fires high and hard to an open Manningham a yard downfield. Manningham makes the catch but the ball carries him OOB before the first down marker. (IN, 2, protection 1/1). Michigan gets bailed out by a holding call.|
|M38||1||10||Ace Trips||Run||18||Hart||Zone right|
|Manningham runs Breaston's old slip screen route as the handoff goes to Hart. It doesn't do anything â€“ both linebackers are charging upfield â€“ but the run goes for mucho yard as Long and Kraus crush their guys down the LOS and Massey(+1) gets his helmet across the defensive end.|
|O44||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||13||Hart||Zone left|
|We spread them out and it actually pays off: they have six in the box this time, perhaps expecting our default bomb when we cross midfield. We run to the weakside of the formation, away from the overshifted linebackers. Oregon expects a zone to the strong side and the DE to that side slants inside on the snap. Long walls him off. Butler, spread wide, walls off the guy lined up over him and the late-filling safety can't prevent Hart from getting outside.|
|Wide open as the corners are playing off. Henne gets it to him but is late and outside such that Arrington has no chance to turn it upfield. (CA-, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O26||2||5||Ace 3-wide||Run||2||Hart||Zone counter|
|There's no hole here as we do the same TE pull. The video does not provide evidence of why, probably on Alex Mitchell.|
|Zone blitz from Oregon sends a linebacker and a corner from the left. Kraus momentarily picks up the DE, then attempts to pick up the linebacker; a DE turned loose then sacks Henne. Hart(-2) spends this play on the other side of the formation, looking for someone to block. Boren doubled a DT instead of attempt to pick up a blitzer. This route was a slow developing one; I watched Manningham do the drag cross that was Breaston's favorite route a year ago when a quick out was an easy first down.
(PR, protection 0/2, Hart -2)
|Drive Notes: Idiotic Punt, 7-18, 7 min 2nd Q. Yay we get 13 yards of field position when our defense can't stop them. Quintessential Carr error.|
|Arrington bumped before the ball is there... potentially interference, but not called perhaps because he's looking at and possibly going for the ball. Good defensive play. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|Wings this one out of bounds at no one. (TA, protection 2/2)|
|Manningham is wide open on this one but Henne throws it well outside and Manningham can't track it down. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-25, 3 min 2nd Q.|
|M29||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||8||Hart||Zone left|
|Oregon's backed off and has only six in the box; neither do they overshift their linebackers. Long kicks out his guy, Boren and Kraus seal the DT, and Kraus gets out to the second level along with Massey. Textbook.|
|M37||2||2||Shotgun 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Manningham||Long handoff|
|Henne throws this in the turf. (IN, 1)|
|M37||3||2||Ace 3-wide||Run||14||Hart||Zone left|
|This hole is enormous. There are huge splits between the DT and DE on the strong side and Michigan goes between them. All they have to do is wall off guys moving in the wrong directions; nice block from Kraus on the second level on a blitzing linebacker.|
|O49||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||8||Minor||Zone left|
|Same huge split, same result. This is completely insane and crap defense. WTF. There's been no shift on either play when Michigan motions the TE. Maybe they're afraid of the TE pull counter game. Must be it.|
|O41||2||2||Shotgun 3-Wide||Pass||11||Arrington||Delayed slant|
|Pitch and catch, a rare one. Massey runs a seam up the middle; Henne reads the linebacker and goes with the shorter option. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Tackles set up to pass block as the interior line drive blocks; TE pulls around to help out in that effort. No matter as Kraus(-1) is beaten by a Samoan dude and he sticks Hart like whoah.|
|Crossing route is open for the first as Henne steps up into the pocket and throws. Some issues with guys as his feet but this is a makable throw. It's well behind Arrington and eventually dropped. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|The insane scramble for yards that he backs out of and tries to throw from. He eventually gets run out of bounds for a loss. The guy has lost it, man. The kicker: he had already crossed the LOS when he decided to start heading backwards. (BR, 0, protection 1/3)|
|Wide open; fired right in for the first. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O14||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||8||Hart||Zone left|
|Backside cut again as the backside DT gets blown off the ball by Mitchell and Schilling.|
|O6||2||2||Ace 3-wide||Run||-2||Hart||Zone left|
|Boren(-2) gets owned by the DT with all the vowels in his name, who swallows Hart in the backfield.|
|O8||3||4||Ace 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Arrington||Deep cross|
|Same route as the earlier touchdown; Henne overthrows him. (IN, 1, protection 1/1)|
|Manningham totally covered here. Actually, every receiver was covered here despite Oregon sending six rushers. Henne had few options. Still (BR, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 7-32, EO half.|
|M18||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||-2||Hart||Zone right|
|Boren plowed backwards by the DT again.|
|M16||2||12||Ace 3-wide||Run||2||Hart||Zone right|
|Uncharacteristic trip by Hart... because he's injured. I hate life.|
|Into double coverage, nearly picked off. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-32, 12 min 3rd Q.|
|M39||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||Run||-3||Minor||Zone left|
|A repulsive playcall. We're down 25, have three wideouts on the field, and they have a legit eight men in the box. They fear a pass not at all. This is stuffed; it didn't have a chance from the moment Debord called it.|
|Eight men drop into coverage this time; Mallet checks down for three. But by God, it's a poised three yards. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Ton of time... great protection. Mallett rifles it directly to Manningham, who appears to be falling down as the ball gets there. He deflects it: TO. (DO, 2, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-32, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|Nice second level block from Kraus; effort reduced from here on out on running plays. Just Mallett.|
|Almost Clausenesque in its magnificence, this screen. (CA, 3)|
|Dunno why Oregon isn't being more aggressive here but they aren't. Given Oregon's actions all Minor has to do is run up into open space.|
|Whatever. This play was screwed from the start anyway.|
|M12||1||20||Ace 3-wide||Pass||-3||--||Fumbled snap|
|Sure, this is a tough situation, but this is a give up and punt call. Down four scores towards the end of the third.|
|This is a little bit inside and well covered, allowing the CB to get a hand on it. (CA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-32, 3 min 3rd Q. Note: we're in stupid time now. All drives from now on end in no points, so I'm just going to chart what Mallett does irrespective of drives and so forth and so on.|
|Thrown into coverage. Not sure if this is innacurate or a bad read. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Mallett flushes out of the pocket and hits Manningham smartly for a good gainer. Excellent accuracy to keep it away from the DB and give Manningham a tough but catchable ball. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Batted at the line. Stared this one down a bit. (BA, 0)|
|Never had a chance. Did Mallett lead them to him with his eyes? Debatable. (CA, 3)|
|Manningham sort of gives up on this route too early, but this was well overthrown anyway. (IN, 0, protection 1/2). Mallett took a guy at his feet as he threw this.|
|Sort of across the middle(!) for Mallett. Rifled high and hard, still catchable. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Basic. (CA, 3). Mathews kicks out at one of the defensive backs after the play.|
|Massey gets obliterated by this DE, who comes off the backside just as Mallett starts his throwing motion. He brings it down for the sack. Not his fault at all. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Massey -2)|
|Mallett flushes away from heavy strongside pressure, waves Arrington downfield, and hits him for the first down. This is sort of badass. (DO, 2, protection 0/2)|
|Double covered and badly overthrown. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Mallett gets blitz presssure â€“ Schilling(-2) whiffs on a guy â€“ and lofts a ball into double coverage. (BR, 0, protection 0/2)|
|Overthrown. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O40||3||9||Ace 3-wide||Pass||--||--||Fumbled snap|
|A little outside, but maybe to keep it away from coverage. Mathews drops it. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Needs to check this down sooner. He has enough time to find someone. (TA, 0, protection Â½)|
We gained 65 yards with Mallett under center against a crap defense. We're gonna die.
That's not a question.
We're gonna die?
Maybe. Let's look at the...
|Oregon - Henne||1||13||6||3||1||0||3|
|Oregon - Mallett||3||7||2||3||1||1||2|
(Legend for this one.) I was initially skeptical of Mallett's performance...
I'll go in and grab all the Mallett plays to evaluate how he did. (Not well is your answer.)
...but after reviewing the tape I think it was considerably better. If Manningham hadn't tripped, the interception would have been a rifleshot completion. Arrington also dropped a ball he could have gotten a first down on. Only once did he sit in the pocket to take a Sack of Ultimate Poise (the other sack was a blindside hit from a guy that schooled Masssey); twice he rolled out of trouble and found receivers downfield for long gainers. Michigan's failure to move the ball in the second half boils down to the following things:
- Predictable playcalling. It's bad even when we have our senior QB in there; with Mallett things were worse. Most egregious was the I-form zone play with six blockers against eight men in the box that had no chance. Michigan pissed away downs in an attempt to protect Mallett.
- Non-throwing errors. A holding call and a fumbled snap put Michigan in second and twenty-four on one drive; a punt soon followed.
- Dropped balls and misfortune. As noted, the interception should have been a completion; Arrington and Mathews also dropped balls.
I fear the first will not change. Michigan is going to run the ball from the first play from scrimmage and probably on most first downs, which might not be a bad strategy against a Notre Dame defense that's thin and prone to tiring as the game drags on, but you can't grind someone into dust if you're getting yourself in second and nine. The other stuff isn't really on Mallett. I mean, obviously he is less effective than a senior Henne, but when he got the ball and threw it the results were okay. Two th
ings that are concerning: the fumbled snaps and the throws into coverage. Mallett was responsible for those things. I don't think the latter will get fixed, but since we've worked the shotgun into our passing offense maybe Mallett can work from that on all obvious passing downs? Texarkana ran that exclusively; he's used to it. There appears to be no reason whatsoever to go from under center on passing downs. I wonder if Michigan will ignore this because the expectation is for the position. I fear they will.
As for Henne: his worst performance since some of the really ugly ones in 2005. The opening pick was inexcusable: two Oregon players had better shots at the ball than Manningham did. Many of his throws were off, and the pocket presence thing remained an issue. The best summary of his day was the play he got injured on: instead of running up for six or seven yards and a makable fourth down, he scrambled out of the pocket, crossed the line of scrimmage, and then ran back behind it in an attempt to find someone to throw to, but could not even come close to squaring his shoulders and ended up losing two yards.
All told, I don't think Mallett's performance was any less effective than Henne's, though there's at least a chance Henne was having a bad day and is better than he showed. Mallett is likely to wing a couple balls directly into coverage Saturday.
I think the most notable thing here is the staggering amount of 1s -- passes that would require a circus catch to haul in -- for Manningham. Some of those were instances of short coverage, but mostly that was deep balls he had no or little shot at. Some people are getting on Manningham for not putting in full effort, but I didn't really see that in my review of the game. There was nothing he could have caught that he gave up on, and he remains a slight guy unsuited for going up and getting a jump ball; none of the vaguely accurate passes hung up that much anyway... they were just a little off. His main problem is that he's not getting open as much.
Yeah, what's the deal with that?
No doubt this will come off as a damned if you do, damned if you don't sort of criticism, but Mike Debord's fondness for the deep ball appears to be hurting the offense. Several times this year Michigan quartebacks have lofted balls into three-deep coverage where there is very little hope of anything positive coming. Michigan's deep routes have almost all been well covered (when they have not, Michigan quarterbacks have missed their passes), probably because the timing of their shots downfield has been predictable. The most frustrating thing about watching this year's offense has been it's refusal to take advantage of two things:
- Adrian Arrington being eight inches taller than anyone on Appalachian State and
- the huge cushion Oregon was giving to both receivers all day.
Quick outs and slants would have been easy completions on several key plays -- I am thinking most prominently of a third and three in the second quarter that resulted in a sack -- but Michigan instead chose their traditional drag routes that depend on tremendous protection. It's really frustrating to see the Oregon defense in an obvious three deep zone when Michigan lines up two receivers to one side of the formation and then see Michigan throw a bomb into that coverage designed to stop it.
This is Michigan's problem in a nutshell. Far too often they run plays into obviously bad situation. You can blame this on the quarterback, I guess, but I think I've seen enough bullheaded rushes into stacked fronts to tell you that the quarterback is not the main issue. Many times Chad Henne will come to the line on first down with two options: a run and another run. This is the only way to explain our run-pass distribution on first and ten. Michigan would be better served if Henne was permitted to check into whatever would exploit the defense. He obviously does not have this power.
Meanwhile, Oregon loses Gary Crowton to Les Miles and brings in Chip Kelly, a guy who lit up I-AA at New Hampshire, and Kelly destroys the Michigan defense with plays both conventional and non-. That's the difference between Michigan and most programs: Oregon goes out and grabs a guy with a proven track record of beating other programs with similar talent; Michigan hires Lloyd Carr's old buddy without any sort of search because he needs a job after failing utterly at Central Michigan.
Why are the coaches sending in a kid with a broken hand to fumble?
Actually, I chalk this one up to the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. Brown should be able to hang on to one friggin carry even if he's got a small cast. No one will ever be able to convince me it was a good idea to not only play Broken Tim Massaquoi during the Year of Infinite Pain but throw him and his sizable cast rockets on third down, but this seems like a criticism we can
My opinion: should be suspended for the Notre Dame game. That's not tolerable.
What does it mean for Notre Dame?
I remain encouraged we can score on them despite the issues against Oregon pending the healthy existence of Mike Hart, who has missed sections of both of Michigan's first two games. Minor is an obvious step down. Notre Dame has been okay in the early going of games but their run defense has worn down as the games have rolled on; if we can get offense going early we can duplicate the success of GT and Penn State. This will mean staying on the field, which will likely require some passing against a defense that knows it's going up against a true freshman.
How will this go? Well enough, I think. Mallett's numbers were not great but his performance belied that, and not just in a "what a poised screen" sort of way. Mallett's screen went for -4 yards. His completions were darts on rollouts, some of them in the middle of the field, and the receivers made about as many mistakes as he did. I assume the fumbled snap thing should go away; I further assume that not even Michigan is doofus enough to put this kid under center for no reason on passing downs. This may be a dodgy assumption. I don't think 50 points is in order, but 24-30 is doable. The keys will be not wasting downs coddling the kid and how many mistakes he makes. Michigan should come out throwing, because Notre Dame is going to assume run and sell out for it. I don't think they will; the low end is likely.
A dual-barrel guest post on some theories why we suck so bad at defending the spread. I was at a bit of a loss to explain exactly why Michigan was getting gashed by lowly Appalachian State and not-so-lowly Oregon. These gentlemen take shots at the question.
First, Alan Weymouth:
Well, the scheme in the first game to twist the LBs was not well thought out, or executed. Twists and stunts are designed to confuse the blocking assignment of the offensive line, even just a little hesitation up there can doom a play. But its a gamble by the DC, as it makes you very vulnerable to certain kinds of plays.
Let me pause a bit to say, that stopping a run/pass QB is the toughest job in sports right now. It essentially breaks the game down to a one on one matchup, and makes things much easier from an offensive standpoint. It's hard to find guys who can really execute the scheme though (like Vince Young), and in my opinion, it's a huge gamble for a team. If your QB goes down, you tank, because you most likely don't have another guy like him on your team ready to step in.
The team was poorly prepared to play Appalachian State. It didn't look to me as if we had actually scouted them much at all. So the stuff they showed us offensively, we weren't prepared for. That is why the adjustments and personnel changes made at halftime had the impact they did.
I really can't point to a single unit on the defensive side of the ball, that I think is performing well, but LB play and Secondary play stood out against Appalachian. During the Herrmann era, our front four basically functioned as blockers if you will, to keep offensive linemen off our LBs. Our recruiting at the DL positions suffered, because no one wants to play that way anymore. The DLs want to make plays too. With English, the DLs have a little more freedom to attack their gaps and make plays...but this means your LBs have to play at a new level. They must diagnose plays early, and be responsible for their gaps, and then flow quickly to the ball. We aren't getting any of that done. In addition, our tackling has fallen way, way off. I miss David Harris more than any of the other guys who left last year.
Our overall defensive effort against Oregon was pathetic. We had very few of our players who managed to play with proper technique. DEs running around blocks instead of covering their responsiblities .LBs who won't or can't properly fill to the ball. Safeties and CBs who don't understand their coverage properly, and know where help is and how to use it. Honestly, I can't believe English still has his job.
As an example, our DE play against Oregon was really poor. Crable at DE is not the answer against a D1-A team. He's too light. But our other DEs just don't play with the right technique. When rushing against a guy like Dixon, you push up field until your even with the QB, then you must check the gap inside of you to see if he runs. If you can't disengage from the OT in time, it's easy pickings for a running QB. Our DTs against Oregon couldn't push the pocket back and help. At DT, you have to maintain your rush lane and "push" the pocket backward..if you don't, you open up a large gap in the middle..with apparently noone to fill it. By pushing the pocket backward, you narrow the gap between DT and DE and make it easier to defend.
I'm not a big fan of rushing only four guys against a run/pass QB. In my opinion, you try to force a guy like that to make quick decisions with the ball, and force him into errors. I'd never rush fewer than five. But, that means your secondary has to cover well, and...well...ours doesn't. We saw blown coverages against Appalachian, and we saw more of them against Oregon. Either we've become "Herrmanesque" in the number of coverages our players are expected to learn, or we've got a collection of dunces unparalleled in the history of football playing in our secondary. Those guys don't understand what they are doing. If we have trouble with zone, you usually go to man...but we didn't do any better there either. Simple pick plays caused us all kinds of problems.
Defense shouldn't be this hard. It's really pretty simple. Cover your gaps, get off blocks and move to the football.
Our weak LB recruiting over the last several years is hurting us. C.Graham isn't very good and won't ever be. Mouton will replace him as soon as he's healthy I think. Thompson is okay...but hasn't tackled nearly as well as I hoped. Ezeh must get more snaps. Panter must be a total bust. I'd still try him at some point though.
We won't see a huge improvement on this defense, until the staff gets these guys to play the correct techniques, and find the best 11 to put on the field. To me, it's like they accomplished nothing in camp.
Meanwhile, frequent commenter DanK makes a convincing case that Michigan's issue with the spread can be traced to their decision to run a standard 4-2-5 nickel against these spread option offenses instead of the 3-3-5 that was so frequently successful a year ago. This isn't blockquoted because of killer graphs and charts, but here goes:
That book I told you about [Obscene Diaries of a Michigan Fan -ed] contained some interesting thoughts about the spread offense NW, Purdue and later MSU ran a few years ago. That specifically talked about the even-man front vs the odd-man front on the Dline. From what I recall in the book, we used an even front vs NW in 2000 (L,54-51) and they absolutely shredded us in epic proportions. The most points & yards given up by a M defense in like 50 years, if not ever. Sure, there were other factors like youth on the M defense (especially @ LB, iirc) and maybe NW was truly an NFL-level-talent filled offense that year (not so much). Yea, they could have executed perfectly and yea Herrmann was the coordinator. But 600 yards & 54 pts? The book's thesis then, as is mine now, is that scheme had a vital role in the epic failures of the D in these games (NW then, ASU & UO now). And although I have no evidence, the author recalls games subsequent to NW2000 in which the scheme changed to an odd front vs spread teams (not a 3 man Dline scheme exactly, but more like a 4-2 with the front 4 shifted to an unbalanced 4-man line). The point was that Herrmann (& Carr I assumed) learned something from that NW2000 game. Again, since I don't have film from the Herrmann era and I haven't figured out the whole torrent/seed thing, I can't speak to that 1st hand. I would trust the author simply b/c he seems to have taken good notes from each game he mentions.
However, the following file contains a few slides representative of what I saw in the ASU & UO games this year. It certainly confirms what I & the book's author recall about the NW2000 game: even-man fronts (4-3...well 4-2-5 Nickel is more precise) vs the spread-option offense. clearly, the results were the same: namely, AAAAAARRRRGGGGG!
1) the purpose of the spread (especially the spread-option) is to obviously spread the defensive personnel sideline-to-sideline. BUT, the primary goal is NOT to throw the ball downfield or throw the ball all around the field. The primary goal is to run up the middle, between the tackles. Logically speaking, why design a formation that guides the ballcarrier toward the bulk of the defense (toward the outside in this case)?
2) the even man front (usually the 4-3, but vs the spread it's 4-2 b/c of all the WRs on the field) is fundamentally ill equipped to defend against this attack. I
think this formation is best suited to defend a pro-style offense with the fullback/multiple TEs for reasons I don't want to get into now. I will show in the slides exactly how the even man front fails based on the film i've seen in the ASU & UO games. In spite of the fact that the Dline in the odd man front has fewer linemen (3, not 4), it seems to actually be more equipped to handle the inside run game. Basic reasoning:
a) even-man fronts don't put pressure on the center. the DTs line up in the 1-technique (over the A-gaps between the center & guards). This makes the center's life pretty easy compared to, say, knowing Terrance Taylor was about to SMASH you as soon as you moved. In the odd man front, the DT (NG) lines up over the C and engages him immeadeitely. In this case, the C needs to execute a good shotgun snap and hold his ground. Anything less is failure for him. b/c of the snap itself, at the instant of the snap the DT is the only lineman with an advantage over his counterpart on the Oline.
b) as will be seen in the slides, the DEs in the even man front tend to run themselves so far up-field that they take themselves out of the play.
- 4(even front)-2-5 (Nickel).
- DEs line up wider than tackles (5-technique); have contain responsibility.
- DTs line up at C-G gap or over guards(1-technique or 2-tech); have 2-gap responsibility.
- No man over center == easy job for center; can snap ball & release easily toward MLBs.
- No other defenders within 10-15 yards of ball: thus 'spread.' Key here is to spread the field in order to make it easier to run up the middle, not pass or run E-W (where the rest of the D is positioned).
- Nonetheless, looks like 6-on-5 in favor of the D.
- Ends run themselves out of the play! Now it's 5-on-5!
- No man over center == easy job for center; can snap ball & release easily toward MLBs.
- Guards contain D tackles, I think b/c each DT has 2-gap responsibility, thus they can't overwhelm the guards.
- RT ignores Crable for the MLB: Crable has contain & QB keeper responsibility, so he can't pursue too aggressively.
- Tackle & guard wash out MLBs: the middle is a free 5-8 yards since the secondary is spread out: RB has choice to follow the center or take the huge hole on the left.
c) in the odd-man front there seems to be less opportunity for linemen (interior linemen especially) to release and engage the 2nd line of defenders (namely, the LBs). this is partly due to the C-NG dynamic, but there's more to it, I suspect.
[more slides! -ed]
- 3(odd front)-3-5
- Taylor lines up over C (0-technique); has 2-gap responsibility.
- DEs line up between tackle & guard (3- technique); have 1-gap responsibility.
- OLBs have contain responsibility.
- Man over center == center not happy; must snap ball & prepare to be demolished. I think just holding his ground here is a win for the center. Demand for double team also likely.
- Still, 6-on-5 in favor of the D.
- Ends do NOT run themselves out of the play: still 6-on-5.
- Taylor has 2-gap responsibility? Maybe just 'Taylor SMASH!' Responsibility? Either way, with him over the nose, there's a lot of pressure put on the center to execute a good shotgun snap and engage the guy 3cm from his face.
- I don't see how a successful inside run is executed here, b/c there's less oppurtunity for interior linemen to advance to the 2nd level (to wash out the LBs). This is basically b/c no one has the opportunity to run themselves out of the play, and only the NG has 2 gap responsibility.
- A double on Taylor allows a DE into the heart of the backfield (same if a guard immediately releases to the 2nd level).
- Assuming Taylor's goal is to SMASH!, major disruption in the backfield is likely w/o a double team.
- Assuming Taylor's goal is to control 2 gaps (no double needed), the MLB (and OLB) is free to flow to the ballcarrier. If there are no doubles at all, the tackles are free to washout the OLBs, allowing for a potential break in containment. BUT:
- If Crable (or the other OLB) can get contain, the MLB is still free to flow to the ballcarrier. Plus, that safety has had more time to move up toward the LoS in run support since the RB has had to dance away from the point of attack & find another lane toward the outside.
- Recall: the purpose of the spread IMHO, is to create more room to run up the middle, NOT to allow the ballcarrier to run outside (this is where half the defense lies). I mean, why spread the defense sideline-to-sideline just to have the ballcarrier run that way?
- Isn't it better to have the RB run E-W instead of N-S? Especially when the formation is designed to run up the middle?
3) the key to any defense is it's ability to stop the run, specifically and most especially up the middle. IMHO, everything else defensively is built on that single basis. It forces teams into 2nd & 3rd & longs, predictable passing situations. General discomfort. These of course lead to Turnovers & changes of possession. Certainly, if one can stop the run without creeping a safety up or all out run-blitzing, your D should be in good shape to allow your team to regain possession.
4) The LBs in the odd-man scheme should tend to crowd the line and not drop back too far into a deep zone on a pass. First, we'd rather have these QBs pass into 7-8 man coverage. Second, most pass plays in this offense are quick slants or hitches, not deep routes over the middle or the long sideline up & out where the QB needs a rocket to complete the pass safely. Third, the LBs need to be aware of the ISQD or scramble.
About the slides: the 1st 2 (pre-snap & post-snap) are representative of the formations when UO (or ASU, iirc) were in a 4-wide 2-back set (QB + RB). It's the Option run where almost every time, it was a handoff up the middle (especially in the UO game). We just got gashed. A few times UO motioned a 3rd guy into the backfield to disguise the direction in
which the QB could take the ball (or to show the possibility of a traditional triple option). Results were the same: 2 OLs released to engage the 2 MLBs waaaaay to easily. DEs running up-field out of the play. The 2nd 2 slides show what I imagine would be the most logical way for a odd-man front to handle this offense. I haven't accounted for the passing options, but as I said, it's not the offense's preference to throw the ball and I figure no matter what D formation you're in, you need to cover the WRs pretty tight in zone, man or otherwise.
I do want to say that this theory is by no means foolproof. Hey, I'm no football coach, hell I never even played organized football. But I have read a few books and heard a few coaches talk (sometimes they let something slip that is more than fluff). This certainly doesn't guaruntee a win over UO. It probably doesn't do much to stop the perfect passes Dixon threw for long TDs, or the statue of liberty plays, taken on their own. But I do think the game would have at least been competitive. I mean, who knows, if they get 1-3 YPC up the middle instead of 5-8, maybe that's more 3rd & longs, more predicitable passing situations, more discomfort for UO: a kind of football butterfly effect. It might have led us to a win over ASU, but just about any single thing, if done differently, would have led to a win there (literally EVERY individual event in that game led to the worst case possibility for M). But I do think that this scheme gives us the best chance to win. Especially when you consider that it really just means playing Crable standing up off the line (no change in personnel needed- the last thing we need is more LBs on the field who couldn't beat out C Graham for PT).
I also can't explain why, if LC & Herrmann did indeed employ this tactic vs the spread 3-4-5 years ago in the aftermath of NW2000, they aren't using it now. Maybe LC is delegating too much to English, who really doesn't know about this idea. I do know that, after 9/1/07, anything is possible. It's not just the score of that game, but the decisions the defensive staff made: stunting Dlinemen every 3 plays in the 1st half against the spread-option, dropping Taylor off the line as a spy for the QB in that last drive. To me, it's these very specific, very illogical decisions made by the defensive staff that has led to the failures so far this season. Not so much the offensive predictability or play-calling or team speed. I think the coaches literally did not put the defense in the best position to be successful.
Well, I hope you find this interesting, if not comforting. I know that after the ASU game, I needed concrete reasons for how & why M could have lost that game. Good or bad, it led me to think that the coaching staff is not making the best decisions from a defensive formation perspective. For me, there's comfort in knowing how it happened. Plus, it gives me more hope that we can beat teams who don't run the spread-option.
So there you have it. I should point out that Michigan may not have the personnel to run this odd man front. Taylor can probably swing the NT and Johnson one of the DE spots, but where does Tim Jamison play? Not as a defensive end except on passing downs. And who is the second DE? John Ferrara? Who rotates in when folks get tired? Etc. Also, Michigan often went with an even front a year ago against spread option teams and crushed that all the same. (In no game did Michigan deploy the 3-3-5 exclusively or even situationally; generally Michigan would come out in it for one drive and then go back to the nickel, swapping off irregularly throughout the day.)
But... the arguments made *do* sound convincing, and I think a major problem with our run defense against both Oregon and Appalachian State was the inability of our DTs to control two gaps. The holes were usually between one of our DTs and our DEs running themselves upfield. Our linebackers hardly ever had the luxury of flowing to the ball without dealing with a blocker, usually one who got out to the second level in a hurry.
I'm trying to pull down the game so I can bring forth some highlights... this is not going that well. So a double-barrel UFR blast tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be able to do video clips, but maybe not. There's not that much to discuss about the defense: it sucks.