and... i like them? I think I like them.
Does this game feel different for you because it’s SDSU? “Well, looking at that part of it, I guess is different. We’re obviously more familiar with this team because we just coached the team. It’s nothing to do with any of that stuff. It’s about San Diego State against Michigan. Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.”
Rocky Long said you have advantage because you know the SDSU players and their signals. How much does that come into play? “No. I really don’t get caught up in that too much. Signals and all that stuff, it’s overrated. Way overrated. There are 17 teams in the NFL that run the same offense. They use the same terms. Nobody changes -- they may change a little bit here and there, but not significantly enough to where it scares people.” Do you use the same signals here at Michigan as you did when you were at SDSU? “No we don’t. A lot of ours is sent in on wristband calls anyway, so it’s difficult for anybody to get what we’re doing because they’d have to have the wristband.”
Were you involved in recruiting Ronnie Hillman? “Hillman was already committed when we got there. Our job was really just hanging onto him.” Did he look good back then? “Oh yeah. The kids that we kept, we thought were pretty good players.”
Are you surprised by how prolific they are offensively? “No. No. Not at all. Not even a little bit.” Does that make you feel good? “No. We have to play them. Made me feel great last year. They’re a good team and they deserve respect, and we’re going to give it to them. Our kids are well aware of what they’re dealing with here. We’ve made it clear that this is going to be a tough contest. We better come ready to play.”
(more after the jump)
[Editor's Note: I was going to do a jet sweep post but got beaten to it by BWS. His conclusion is pretty harsh to Demens, and some of that is deserved. I don't see that as a specifically Demens problem, though. EMU used a ton of formations, unbalanced lines, presnap motion, and wholesale realignments to get Michigan's D out of position and confused. It worked. It worked on Demens and it worked on large chunks of the rest of the D. I think they're confused as a group.
That taken care of I'll move on to one of EMU's completed passes, which answers a question from earlier in the year.]
In the first week of the season we discussed Michigan's End Man On The Line Of Scrimmage (EMLOS is the commonly accepted jargon) and how his performance was hurting Michigan against power runs, particularly the counters that both WMU and Notre Dame used to good effect.
Part of that discussion was about how much Brennen Beyer was at fault for getting way upfield on our first example. Beyer was sent on a blitz, ended up three yards in the backfield, and made it difficult for Kenny Demens to close down a major hole. Demens lost contain, compounding matters. How much of that was on Beyer?
I thought the answer was "quite a bit" and the way Michigan handled a particular play-action showing the same counter action seems to confirm. It's the first quarter and EMU is on its second drive. They've got a first and ten. They line up in a three-wide shotgun with two backs; Michigan aligns in the under.
On the snap two things are apparent based on the Michigan line: 1) Jibreel Black v(top of line) is dropping off into a short zone and Jake Ryan (bottom) is blitzing as the rest of the line slants left:
EMU is pulling the backside G; the RB is taking a counter step, and the other RB is coming down the line to block. This is a close analogue to the Beyer counter. You'll notice that both linebackers are still waiting.
Here's how Ryan handles this:
LEFT: he reads the pulling OL.
MIDDLE: he flattens his approach and starts coming down the line.
RIGHT: he's in the running lane playside of the block, not kicked out.
Here's Beyer vs Ryan:
Beyer is three yards upfield. Ryan is two. You can't tell this in the stills but Ryan's momentum is also much better. He is heading down the line and can impact a blocker with force. Beyer had to come to a full stop and redirect. He did that impressively; it was not enough.
Move Beyer a yard towards the LOS in the left frame and he is either making a tackle for no gain or picking off the other blocker, leaving the RB for an unblocked Demens. Look at the distance between the DE/LBs and the DTs. Even though RVB is fighting playside in the left frame and slanting away from the play in the right, the gap is much larger in the former. Win for Ryan.
Great! Except the tailback doesn't have the ball.
Gillette rolls out as Ryan comes underneath the tackle and three WRs release to the roll side:
Ryan's there to provide some token pressure but it's not enough; a WR running deeper than Demens and Gordon finds a window. Gillette throws…
…for a nice gain.
Items of interest
Just because you're blitzing doesn't mean you don't have keys. My assumption is that Ryan is the guy doing what the coaches want here. He's got a year of experience, Michigan's been burned by this before and probably made a point of it in film study, and he's playing instead of Beyer (mostly).
You're sent on a blitz and get no resistance at all? Check for a pulling OL and get inside of him.
Just because there's obviously a key here doesn't mean there aren't more. The RB's second step here should be a giveaway that this is not a run play. My guess at Ryan's thought process:
- BLITZ WOO crap check the…
- Pulling G. Have to get inside pulling G to occupy blockers, restrict hole.
- Pulling G.
- Token, too late edge pressure.
My guess at the ideal thought process:
- I have been assigned a blitz. Let's soberly check the…
- Pulling G. Have to get inside pulling G to occupy blockers, restrict hole. Hmm, maybe I should check the…
- Running back. He is past the mesh point but not following the pulling guys.
- EDGE PRESSURE WOO
"Football is hard." -psychology majors who used to be pre-med
I'm not too bothered by the hole in the zone. Once Ryan loses the edge there that's a lot of time for the QB to sit and wait for his WR to run his way into an inevitable gap. I guess you could blame either Gordon or Demens, probably Gordon. He could sink back into the route by reading the QB's eyes and either get a PBU/pick or, more likely, force a less-damaging dumpoff to the underneath receiver.
That seems like Advanced Zone Mechanics 486, though. That's a place to get to eventually.
Kovacs is the free safety. Gordon/whoever rolls down into the box far more often than Kovacs does and it's almost always Kovacs who's coming down to fill against WRs when completions are made.
Q: How did Eastern Michigan run for 4.5 YPC despite having their quarterback attempt five passes all game?
A: There were a few different issues. Here's one of the minor ones.
It's first and ten on EMU's first drive of the day. They've just gotten a first down on a jet sweep. Their second play from scrimmage is POWER they will run with POWER and on the BIG TEN NETWORK they use HUGE WIDE ANGLES instead of REAL TIGHT ANGLES and this was going to be MATT FOLEY but now it's more like a BRAWNDO COMMERCIAL.
Anyway. EMU I-Form, Michigan responds with an even front with three linebackers back. They'll run power at Will Heininger. The images will be a little fuzzy. Tackle box:
On the snap the backside G pulls; linebackers start creepin':
The playside DE is Craig Roh and he'll do a pretty good job. He's at the LOS, his guy is a yard or so behind it, he's able to release either way. He is not sealed. This is what he looks like:
This is the essence of a half-point. You are relevant to the play. You are basically doing your job. When everyone does their job and you don't get rock-paper-scisssored you are not going to give up many yards. Roh will eventually get plastered by a pulling G and tumble to the ground, but that's fine. Two guys blocking you means someone's free to hit.
If the rest of the line did this there'd be nothing. Unfortunately, this is Will Heininger's fate (second from the top in the first frame):
You can see the blue stripe. Roh has his helmet on it. Heininger ends up a yard behind it and sealed away. That middle frame is a butt-kicking, and the third frame is the result: two Michigan players with no hope of making a tackle.
The result of this is a hole with blockers headed out to the linebackers:
Here's the key point as EMU's #13 has to whack Roh, leaving the pulling G for Hawthorne. If there's a crack here the RB is into the secondary:
Hawthorne holds and the RB runs up the back of his blockers. His other option is a bounce outside that Floyd may or may not have covered:
The blob stops moving after about six yards.
I don't think Heininger can hold up. Last week I pointed out a couple instances where one on one blocking handled him easily against ND; here he gets blown up by a couple of dudes from Eastern Michigan. He makes plays from time to time but I shudder to think about what will happen when we play Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State to close out the year. Those OSU drives against Miami where their interior line whooped that of the 'Canes give me the heebie-jeebies.
So Campbell's pretty important, and every time I see something like this it increments my Rodriguez firing justification meter, especially with Jon Hankins starting as a sophomore for OSU.
The playside DT is probably the most important player on a power. We've explored what happens when DEs aren't in the right spot, but what happens when they are in the right spot is not often impactful. The play kicks you out and you need to restrict the hole; you also need to be prepared for a bounce. This makes it hard to do much* except sit there and maybe try an arm tackle if the running back passes by close enough.
The playside DT is kind of the key to the whole thing. If the DE is in the right spot and that DT holds up to the double two things are going to happen:
- the hole in the line is going to be very narrow or nonexistent.
- one of the linebackers is going to be a free hitter.
If the guy gets caved in it's hard not to give up your three to seven yards. It's hard not to get caved in—that's why they double you—and this is why planet-sized DTs are popular.
*[Exceptions for slants and stuff granted.]
Michigan's alignment exposes Heininger to the double. This is not the "under" alignment that usually allows the three-tech to take on single blocking. Here he's on the strongside between the G and T. Ryan is not on the line hovering over the TE.
That's about it. It's bad if your DT gets his butt kicked. SCIENCE!
This week on Weekday Warriors, the Farmington Hills Harrison duo continues to dominate, Matt Godin has another standout performance, and Ondre Pipkins is "shut down," for a very bizarre (read: wrong) definition of the term.
TN OL Blake Bars
Montgomery Bell dropped their fourth straight game with a 35-17 loss to Battle Ground Academy.
This week: The Big Red look for their second win of the season on Friday against Pearl-Cohn.
OH LB Joe Bolden
Bolden helped Colerain hold Mason to just 87 yards rushing on 45 carries in a 56-20 Cardinals victory. He also had one rush for six yards and Colerain improved to 3-1 on the season.
This week: The Cardinals head to Middletown on Friday at 7:30.
MI OL Ben Braden
Braden helped Rockford overcome a slow start as the Rams ripped off 38 points following a touchdown pass with five seconds left in the first half, leading to a 41-16 win over West Ottawa.
This week: Rockford (3-1) hosts Muskegon on Friday at 7.
OH DE Pharaoh Brown
No stats were available for Brown, who has been limited by a foot injury this season ($, info in header), but Brush was able to record their first victory of the season, 42-12, over winless Valley Forge.
This week: The Arcs hope to piece together a winning streak on the road at Twinsburg on Friday at 7.
MI TE Devin Funchess
Funchess caught four passes for 87 yards as top-ranked Harrison improved to 4-0 with a 34-7 victory over Oxford.
This week: The Hawks play at Southfield-Lathrup on Friday at 7.
OH S Allen Gant
Gant caught two passes for seven yards, rushed twice for zero yards, and helped Southview's defense hold Napoleon to just 112 total yards in a 28-13 victory.
This week: In this week's Creeper Van Original game, Southview hosts Maumee on Friday at 7.
MI DT Matt Godin
Godin texted that he finished with 2 1/2 sacks and three tackles for loss in Detroit Catholic Central's 48-6 blowout win over Highland Park. The Shamrocks improved to 4-0 on the season, and 2013 recruit Wyatt Shallman rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown.
This week: The Shamrocks face Shane Morris's Warren De La Salle squad on Saturday at 7. Depending on game-day traffic, I might be able to make this game as well.
UT FB Sione Houma
Houma sat out Highland's 29-0 victory over Clearfield with an ankle injury suffered in his previous game. He should be back in time to play this week.
This week: The Rams (4-1) take on Bountiful on Friday at 7.
MI LB Royce Jenkins-Stone
Cass Tech was the subject of the first part of this week's Creeper Van Original, and through three quarters of an eventual 36-6 blowout win over Cody, Jenkins-Stone recorded four tackles and had one catch for 28 yards. Highlights:
This week: The Technicians host King on Friday at 6.
OH OL Kyle Kalis
Kalis played in his second game after returning from a knee injury and was apparently dominant ($, info in header) as St. Edward defeated Elder, 30-10, to move to 4-0 on the season.
This week: The Eagles play on Saturday night at 7 at home against Jefferson.
CA OL Erik Magnuson
Magnuson's La Costa Canyon squad was blown out, 58-7, by San Clemente, but Scout.com's Scott Kennedy was on hand to check out Magnuson as he faced off against fellow blue-chip offensive tackle Kyle Murphy. Here are @ScoutKennedy's tweets about Magnuson from the game [emphasis mine]:
Not surprisingly, LT Magnuson is stoning DE kyle murphy right now. 2 OLs going against eachother, give advantage to one on offense #goblue
Draw play up the middle, Magnuson released Murphy, and had a key block downfield for a TD. 7-0 La Costa Canyon
Maguson is playing D as well, but they're lining him up of the opposite side of Murphy, just had a TFL #goblue
#michigan commit Erik Magnuson sacked #utes commit Travis Wilson to force a FG. San Clemente 24-7
I have a play that sums up the night, Camera iso on #michigan commit Magnuson. He stands up his guy, and in background, QB gets creamed
So, yeah, it doesn't sound like the big guy is getting a lot of help right now on a 1-2 LCC squad.
This week: The Mavericks travel to Redlands on Friday at 7.
MI DE Mario Ojemudia
Ojemudia recorded 12 tackles in Harrison's 34-7 win over Oxford.
This week: The Hawks play at Southfield-Lathrup on Friday at 7.
MO DT Ondre Pipkins
First, a quote from the game story after Pipkins's Park Hill squad won 21-3 over Truman to improve to 3-1 [emphasis mine]:
“We moved the ball really well; it was just a couple penalties that kept us back,” added Truman center Cody Wiegers, who had the unenviable task of facing Park Hill’s Ondre Pipkins, a 320-pound lineman bound for Michigan.
“Me and my guard were able to shut (Pipkins) down. It’s little things we need to take care of ... getting mentally and physically tougher.”
And now, via Pipkins himself on Twitter, here are his stats from Friday:
15 tackles 1sack 4tackles for a loss
This week: The Trojans play Jefferson City at home on Friday at 7.
MI CB Terry Richardson
Richardson had one tackle (coming on offense after a Cody fumble recovery), didn't have a ball thrown his way, and caught two touchdown passes in Cass Tech's 36-6 victory over Cody.
This week: The Technicians host King on Friday at 6.
OH LB Kaleb Ringer
Northmont won its first game of the season, 62-5, over Sidney. No stats are currently available for Ringer.
This week: Northmont plays host to Lebanon (long trip, amirite?) on Friday at 7:30.
MI LB James Ross
Orchard Lake St. Mary's defeated U-D Jesuit, 34-0, in the second game of this week's CVO doubleheader. Though three quarters, Ross had tallied 11 tackles and two QB hurries, and WXYZ has more highlights from the game, including a quick quote from the future Wolverine:
This week: The Eaglets (3-1) host play Columbus St. Francis de Sales on Friday at 7:30.
OH OL Caleb Stacey
Oak Hills fell to 2013 blue-chip recruit Jalin Marshall and Middletown, 46-13, to fall to 2-2 on the year.
This week: The Highlanders travel to Lakota West at 7:30 on Friday.
IL CB Anthony Standifer
Standifer told me via Twitter that he recorded a fumble recovery and had a 30-yard reception on a fake punt as Crete-Monee defeated Glenbard South, 64-19.
This week: Crete-Monee play at Kankakee on Friday at 6.
OH DE Tom Strobel
Mentor remained undefeated on the season with a 52-14 victory over Mayfield. No stats are currently available for Strobel.
This week: The Cardinals plays host to Parma on Friday at 7.
OH TE A.J. Williams
Williams once again didn't record a catch in Sycamore's run-heavy attack, but playing tackle he helped the Aviators rush for 299 yards in a 24-0 shutout of Fairfield. Sycamore is now 4-0 on the season.
This week: The Aviators look to stay undefeated against Lakota East on Friday night at 7:30.
OH S Jarrod Wilson
No stats to report for Wilson as Akron Buchtel recorded its first win of the season, 26-0, over Garfield.
This week: The Griffins host Ellet in a noon game on Sunday.
OH DE Chris Wormley:
Whitmer opened conference play with its third straight shutout, this one a 34-0 victory over St. Francis de Sales, to improve to 4-0 on the season.
This week we get another report from Mason Lowry, Whitmer's play-by-play man on WRSCSports.com:
The Whitmer D got excellent pressure on the St. Francis backfield all night, and Chris played a big part in that. SFS’ quarterback hurt his knee last week and was a game-time decision; he did play, but his mobility was clearly limited and he only threw 8 passes, many of which were slow-developing play action throws. Chris did have one very nice play in which he snuffed out a sweep in the backfield from the other side of the field, and being able to reach SFS’ speedy tailback is no mean feat. Beyond that, there were plenty of running plays in which four or five Panther defenders were in the backfield really quickly, causing havoc, with Chris being one of them.
If you haven’t seen Whitmer play in person, I really suggest you do so. This is a very fun team to watch that’s got several other DI prospects outside of Chris. Our left tackle is a Toledo commit, we’ve got an excellent free safety who has MAC offers and significant interest from Purdue, and a couple others that will probably play in the MAC as well. We’ve got a big one against St. John’s, which features Jack Miller’s younger brother on the line and QB Brogan Roback, who was at the UM-ND game on an unofficial visit. It’ll be televised on BCSN and ONN, but we’ll have the only live radio coverage of the game on WRSCsports.com with pregame starting at 6:30. Just sayin’.
Thanks to Mason for helping out, and for more updates on Whitmer football and Wormley you can follow him on Twitter @MLowry3.
This week: As Mason said, the Panthers have a big home game against St. John's Jesuit at 7 on Friday.
KY S Jeremy Clark
Clark caught a 35-yard touchdown pass to help Madisonville (4-1) defeat Union City 48-0.
This week: The Maroons play at Owensboro on Friday at 7.
MI QB Shane Morris
Morris struggled against Brother Rice in one of the biggest games of the weekend, completing just 6-of-16 passes for 61 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, but a QB sneak by the future Wolverine for a touchdown in overtime gave De La Salle (4-0) a thrilling 21-20 overtime victory. Morris on the final play:
Morris said that there was some dispute over the final play, as head coach Paul Verska was not sure if his quarterback could power the ball over the goal line.
"He didn't think I could do it," he said. "He asked me again if I believed and I screamed 'yes coach, I'll get it'. The line got a good push, we got in to score and got the kick to win the game."
This week: The Pilots play DCC at Lake Shore High School on Saturday at 7.
OH RB/S Dymonte Thomas
Thomas rushed for 150 yards on 10 carries, including touchdown runs of 67 and 47 yards, but Marlington (3-1) dropped a stunner to Louisville (2-2), 35-28. The game was televised on Fox Sports Ohio, which has highlights of both Thomas TD runs:
That kid is quite fast, to say the least.
This week: The Dukes look to rebound at home against Salem on Friday at 7.
So Rich Rodriguez did a deeply bizarre thing. Captain Renault, yes, yes. GERG, yes. 3-3-5 addiction, yes. Groban, yes. Right. I'll start again.
Amongst the many deeply bizarre things that Rich Rodriguez did was allowing John Bacon virtually unfettered access to his program for three years. He didn't know it at the time, but these happened to be the only three years of his program.
I received an advanced copy of the book that resulted and… man. If you are a Michigan fan the result is a must read. Hate Rodriguez, love Rodriguez, have deeply conflicted relationship with Carr, love Carr—doesn't matter. This is not another book where ex-jocks tell jovial stories about the slightly dangerous things that happened to them.
This is a book that immediately makes everyone in it mad as hell except the guy who did Never Forget. This is close to literally true. Bacon's been banished to the Drew Sharp area of the press box, Michael Rosenberg is livid, Rodriguez himself is apparently hugely pissed. And while I can't confirm this like the above, I can't help but think that Lloyd Carr hates this book more than anything he's ever hated.
I know Bacon a bit and have pressed upon him an opportunity for MGoBlog: to badger him with questions. I would like to crowdsource these questions because these are important. I want to cover all the bases, ask the things clarify a lot of the debates fans have argued endlessly about for the last four years.
So: what would you ask someone who spent the last three years embedded in Operation Spread Ann Arbor? I'll cull the best ones and pose them to Bacon. He'll answer, and maybe we'll get some clarity.
Before you get to asking, some context:
- While the book documents Rodriguez's increasingly desperate behavior it does seem to have a pro-RR editorial POV. Hard questions will be about the things he did wrong.
- It does not really address the DC fiascoes, which I'll already be asking about.
- The Free Press stuff comes in for a thorough treatment; if you want to be pointed the Qs there should be Devil's Advocate type things.
- It's clear Bacon could not get anything solid on the Great Stapleton/English Conspiracy Theory, though he tried. Wouldn't bother there.
- The Rodriguez coaching search went down essentially like we expected: Ferentz, panic, Les Miles boat incident, panic, Schiano, panic, Rodriguez.
- I'm not going to ask a guy who spent three years of his life with unprecedented access to a major college football program why he decided to write a book about it. Figure it out yourself.
Along with a severe grilling of Bacon, we'll be running an excerpt from the book around the time of its publication, which is scheduled for October 25th.
News bullets and other important things:
- Vincent Smith has earned a start at RB
- New NCAA rules mean that Rawl's redshirt is not completely burned yet.
- Herron and Cam Gordon are expected back next week, but must compete for their jobs.
- Gallon might get time as kick returner, but not because V. Smith is slow.
- Hoke tried getting Dave Brandon to buy out the SDSU game.
- Raymon Taylor played in nickel because Woolfolk got beat up a bit, but did not necessarily surpass Courtney Avery.
- Taylor doesn't have the Desmond patch.
- David Molk hates people in general, not just the press.
Press Conference (filmed)
Did you talk to the players about being in the rankings? “Does it matter?” Well, no. “Exactly.”
Opening remarks: “A couple things about last Saturday. It’s good to win a football game. I thought we started a little slower than we’d like to. I don’t know if there’s a magic answer for that. We talked about that as a team. The first six possessions offensively, I think we were three-and-out three times. We were driving the ball and then we threw an interception. That hurts you when you look at tempo and fluidness you want to have offensively. And obviously your defense is back on the field. We struggled a little bit with the jet series plays, but after that I think our guys really made some good adjustments on both sides of the ball. I thought the kids played fundamentally maybe more sound. The time of possession, obviously, became a big factor. We play good defense when we’re watching our offense, and we were able to do that in the second half a little more.
“The running game, I thought, came on as I saw it. We still don’t want to run Denard 26 times a game. That’s a good way to get him beat up and hurt. So we have to keep plugging away. With Vince’s production, [and] Fitz gave us some good runs in there, it took a little bit of load off [Denard], but we have to make sure we’re a healthy football team as we continue forward. We need to complete a couple balls if they’re going to load the box and play man coverage, which they did, and that’s smart. We have to be able to complete a couple of those things to loosen some people up.
“Defensively, Thomas Gordon made a critical a play in the game with the interception and the fumble recovery. Both of those were hustle plays. On the interception it was Thomas doing his job. [He] didn’t get fooled, didn’t get sucked in, and I thought that was a nice play by him. We felt our defensive front during the course of the game a little more. Craig Roh played his best football of the year so far. Jibreel played a pretty productive football game. You could feel Mike [Martin] a little more in there. I thought Will Campbell gave us some really good snaps.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us with a very good San Diego team coming in. They’re undefeated. They’re 3-0. Beat Washington State last week. Very talented team, a team that’s going to play with a lot of toughness and a team that’s well coached. We have our hands full.”
(more after the jump)
Three things of interest happened over the weekend to the Everything Is Agricola portion of my brain:
1. Michigan had it first and ten from their one. Q: what's the difference in overall value between sneaking it for two yards and just flat-out taking a safety? I'm thinking it's not very large. Michigan did that and threw incomplete twice and then had to use their no-blocky punt formation. The result was EMU getting the ball around the Michigan 30.
I wonder if it makes more sense to just act like you're on the ten or something. It seems like giving away that down makes your life much tougher when the alternative is 1) rare and 2) maybe not that bad. You're giving up two points but you're probably gaining half of that back in field position. The difference between a punt from the five and a punt without any rush from the 35 (since punters usually drop back 15 yards) is big.
[UPDATE: I asked the Mathlete. He responded thusly:
1st and 10 at your own one has an expected value of -1.71. The offensive value is +.79 and the ensuing opponent possession is worth 2.50.
At 2nd and 8 the offense drops slightly to +.76 but so does the opponent to 2.27, improving the offense's expected value by 0.2 to -1.51.
A post-safety kick off from the 20 yields the opponent an average of 2.09 points but forfeiting the offense's expected points, giving up 2 points and getting back only a slight benefit in defensive EV.
The play is worth -2.38 points on 1st and 10 from the one and -2.58 on 2nd and 8 from the 3. The only time you can make a case for it is on fourth down when the offense has exhausted its value and it's the fourth quarter and the 2 points on the scoreboard won't be a major swing, i.e. between 4 and 6 points.
So it's a big deal. I'm following up to figure out whether pretending you're at the 30 and just running your offense is a better play than the usual strategy.]
2. Jim Harbaugh did something stupid. The scenario: San Francisco has just kicked a field goal to go up ten with 11 minutes left. A 15 yard penalty would put the ball on the Dallas 22 with a first down up seven. Harbaugh declines the penalty and San Francisco blows the game.
This does seem like a huge, stupid error. NFL kickers are near automatic from within 40, you might get a touchdown, and even if you don't you've bled another two minutes off a clock that's significantly in your favor.
The NFL win percentage folk say this is no big deal, though:
The 15-yard enforcement on the kickoff ensures a touchback. By taking the 3 points, the 49ers have a 10-point lead with the Cowboys having a 1st down at their own 20. This gave the 49ers a win probability (WP) of 0.90.
Accepting the penalty for a 1st down gives the 49ers the ball at the Dallas 22, up by 7. This is worth a WP of 0.91.
The percentage play would have been to take the points off the board and accept the 1st down, but just barely. In the grand scheme, this is a very small error. The common punt or FG attempt on 4th and short in most game situations is usually more costly, and most fans and analysts hardly take note of them.
I'm not sure I agree. For one, this situation seems like a stat more like save percentage than anything else. When 90% is the baseline success rate there's a big difference between 90% and 91%. If you look at it from a chance of losing perspective, forgoing the penalty increases your chance to lose by 11%. In hockey that's the difference between an AHL goalie and an NHL one.
3. Before that Jim Harbaugh did something even dumber. But even if we put that aside, Harbaugh went maximum puntasaur just to try the field goal. It was fourth and one on the 37! Doing anything other than going for it is the beyond stupid. It goes into the realm of irredeemable. According to the WP folks, that decision swung SF's chance of winning from 87% to 83%, a 31% increase.
The moral of the story, as always, is that if you find yourself at a poker table with a football coach other than Bill Belichick mortgage everything you have.
This stuff just must be not that important. Recruiting and strategizing and fundamentals and all that stuff has to be about 98% of the job or the odd guy who's heard of expected value would instantly shoot to the top of the league. What league? Any league.
Brady Hoke will disappoint sooner or later; the best we can hope for is that he won't do it as spectacularly as some coaches do. /shakes fist at 2005 Ohio State game
This week, the Creeper Van made its way to not one, but two local games, catching Cass Tech's Royce Jenkins-Stone and Terry Richardson as they took on Cody, and then visiting Orchard Lake St. Mary's standout James Ross as he faced U-D Jesuit. Both teams featuring Michigan recruits rolled to easy victories, with Cass Tech taking the afternoon matchup, 36-6, and OLSM winning under the lights (NTUTL) with a 34-0 shutout. Here are exclusive (high definition!) highlights of Michigan's commits from both games:
On to the scouting reports...
Royce Jenkins-Stone: By my count, Jenkins-Stone had four tackles through three quarters before the van made an early exit to catch the second game. Much like the last time I saw him play, there was a concerted effort by his opponent to run away from him, but I must admit I was still disappointed by his performance overall. RJS has all the physical tools you'd like to see in a BCS-caliber linebacker, but it appeared either his effort or instincts were lacking at times (my, er, instinct is that the latter is more the issue, since RJS appears to be very into the game emotionally at all times)—this is no more apparent than in the third clip from the video, in which he bites hard on an end-around fake and leaves a huge gap for the quarterback to take off up the middle.
This is not to say that I don't think Jenkins-Stone is a good player—when he's aggressive, he does a good job of finding a way to the ball and either making a play or forcing the ballcarrier into the rest of the defense. I like the way he's able to shed blocks to get to where he wants to go, and his athleticism and size combine to be a huge asset, and if anything, he's just got to harness that athleticism and play more under-control—overpursuit was an issue on a couple plays, and I think he just needs to slow down a little to become a bigger playmaker at linebacker.
Terry Richardson: Friday's game was not exactly a showcase for Richardson, as Cody mostly ran the ball and when passing did not throw it in his direction—I didn't count a single play in which he was challenged through the air. Richardson blanketed his receiver, using his superior speed and quickness to stay step-for-step with his man, and there really wasn't an opportunity to pass on him at all. If a cornerback is practically invisible in the passing game, I'll take that as a good sign.
I was also encouraged by Richardson's physicality, considering his rather small stature. The first clip in his section above shows him playing bump-and-run and driving a wideout a few yards out of bounds without drawing a flag. Richardson also picked up a flag for holding when he got a little too aggressive in chucking the receiver more than five yards past the line of scrimmage, and while you don't like to see defensive backs drawing penalties, the fact that he was so effective in the bump-and-run was good to see.
Richardson's biggest impact came on offense, as there wasn't a returnable kickoff or punt in the time that I watched. His recorded his only tackle after a Cass Tech fumble, when he chased down a Cody defender from behind to mitigate the damage. Later in the game, he torched a defensive back from the slot for an easy 24-yard touchdown—his speed was on full display on that play. This wasn't an easy game to get a solid evaluation of Richardson, but I thought he played well.
James Ross: Ross, in stark contrast to RJS, was all over the field for OLSM, tallying 11 tackles and two QB hurries through a little more than three quarters of play. Ross was never caught out of position and did a fantastic job of diagnosing plays, using his instincts and athleticism to stymie Jesuit's running and short passing attacks with apparent ease.
From the middle linebacker position, Ross covers the field sideline-to-sideline in a fashion that reminds me (lofty comparison alert!) of former Michigan beast-backer and current New York Jet David Harris. No matter where the ball ended up on the field, Ross was there at the end of the play, either making the tackle himself or cleaning up the pile. He plays up on his toes at the beginning of the snap, as you can see on the video, and this allows him to easily go in whatever direction the play takes him with speed.
When Ross got his hands on a ballcarrier, it was over—his open-field tackling was very solid, especially on a screen pass in which he avoided three oncoming blockers and wrapped up the running back for a minimal gain on a play that should've gone for at least ten yards. His low center of gravity allows him to take on blocks and either knock his man back or simply use his quick feet to slip by entirely, the latter being his preferred method for wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Ross also played occasionally as a back in OLSM's wing-T, and while he didn't carry the ball he did deliver a few punishing blocks, including one that took out two Jesuit defenders and sprung his running back for a touchdown. While this didn't help in evaluating him as a linebacker, Ross was able to show off his strength, always knocking defenders backward when he made contact.
My one concern with Ross is his size. He's listed on Rivals at 6'0", but I think that's generous by at least an inch or two, and it will be interesting to see how much weight he can pack on to his 209-pound frame before he starts losing some speed and agility—he already looks like he's beginning to max out his frame. Otherwise, I thought he was the most polished prospect I've seen so far on the recruiting trail, just edging out Matt Godin in that regard, and I think he'll be a big-time player at the next level.
Apologies for the lack of action photos, as I was scouting these games solo and spent most of the time taking video before my camera died at just about the time that OLSM began putting in their backups. Here are a few shots from Cass Tech vs. Cody...
...and here's my set from OLSM vs. U-D Jesuit:
This Week: The van heads down to the Toledo area to see Allen Gant's undefeated Southview squad take on Maumee (3-1).
9/17/2011 – Michigan 31, Eastern Michigan 3 – 3-0
The first quarter is a stupid quarter. It eats American cheese still in the wrapper and sits down for reality TV marathons. I suggest that in the future all first quarters will be abolished in favor of other, better quarters, like the second, third, and fourth.
That is the future, though, when Michigan's depth on both lines isn't horrifying and the quarterbacks have returned to their baseline state—enormous, ponderous, NFLerous. Right now we have to endure first quarters and run Denard Robinson 26 times for 198 yards against Eastern Michigan because first quarters are stupid.
They leave us so spooked that Borges sends Denard out to add three carries to his total in a 28-3 game with ten minutes left, and in doing so explodes the idea that this offense is not Denard, Denard, Denard. Next Saturday the real lyrics to Varsity* will be
"Robinson… Robinson. Robinson, oh Robinson /
Robinson Robinson oh Robinson!"
The Saturday after that he will take all 110,000 tickets. By October he will have evolved an organic superstructure that slowly replaces the metal and concrete of Michigan Stadium with rainbow rows and gently whinnying unicorn hand-warmers.
Is this sustainable? Almost certainly not. Will an exhausted Denard evaporate mid-season as the demands on his existence become too much to even contemplate, let alone bear? Almost definitely.
Does Michigan have a choice? No.
We may be reading way too much into these two drives:
- (1st and 10) Toussaint, F. rush for 1 yard to the MICH2 (CUDWORTH, J.;MULUMBA, Andy).
- (2nd and 9) Robinson, D. pass incomplete to Roundtree, Roy.
- (3rd and 9) Robinson, D. rush for no gain to the MICH2 (WESTERMAN, J.;KASHAMA, K.).
- (1st and 10) Toussaint, F. rush for loss of 1 yard to the MICH20 (CUDWORTH, J.).
- (2nd and 11) Robinson, D. pass incomplete to Koger, Kevin.
- (3rd and 11) Robinson, D. pass incomplete to Roundtree, Roy.
One of those started at the Michigan one and the other was a victim of Denard's early-season inability to throw. But they did not move the ball against Eastern. This blog's prediction that Michigan would manage to exceed Eastern's terrible YPC yielded from under center was nowhere close to true. Combined with a bunch of two-yard runs against Notre Dame the overall effect is to look at a run out of the I-form as a wasted down.
Michigan ditched any semblance of a pro-style offense at that point, whereupon the drives ended like so: TD, three and out, TD, TD, TD, 21-yard field goal. That is what life is supposed to look like against Eastern Michigan, and if we have to wear Denard Robinson into a beaming nub by God that's what we'll do.
Maybe those two drives are flukes. That would be odd since it seems pretty hard to go from five years of primarily zone blocking to primarily power, from an offense that is based on being faster and smarter than an opponent to one based on being bigger and stronger. Remember the theory that stated Michigan's linemen not adding any weight over the offseason was clever gamesmanship? Yeah, not so much: that's just how big they are. That's big for humans, but not beef machines.
Once you add the above into the two-yards-and-cloud-of-despair ND under center runs you've found a dataset nearing significance. It says Shotgun Forever, for the next two years.
Borges flipped his script immediately after, and that's great. Long term projections that these coordinators are the best in a long time remain on track. Getting Denard on a similar track is a lot more pressing, unfortunately.
I keep bringing this up in the UFRs but it's worth repeating: this is a regression. Why it's a regression is unknown, but the legions of people declaring Denard a "terrible" passer are reacting to the most recent data only. Before that he was not Chad Henne but he was not awful, either. I mean, sweet hotpants in a pickle bun, I have him for 15 good throws downfield, 2 meh ones, and 2 poor ones against Wisconsin(!) last year. These are throws past the LOS, not screens. Wisconsin! I take these numbers specifically to reduce the noise you get from drops and completion percentage and the numbers say he's not Chad Henne but when you put him in last year's offense he's not that far off.
So… last year's offense. Borges's next step is trying out the snag, all-hitch, and curl/flat routes that Denard had gotten comfortable with last year to see if his persistent inaccuracy is purely mechanical or an artifact of nerves that come with unfamiliarity with the offense. (Also, can we get bubble screen action up in here?)
If he's not the relentlessly accurate guy it seemed in the first half of last year, neither is he the guy who can't seem to complete anything this year. There is a ridiculously good offense lurking somewhere in Michigan's personnel. It's up to Borges to find it. Declaring the offensive line average and blaming Denard Robinson is faintly ridiculous. They managed to muddle through with those anchors last year.
Michigan wins games down the road by making Denard the focus and exploiting how opponents react to that.
If it doesn't work, okay. It's all you've got, for a given, incredibly sexy version of "all you've got."
*[Do not be fooled by the words on the video board. The only words in "Varsity" are "oh" and "Varsity." Try it.]
Non-Bullets of First Quarter Hatred
Edge issues. I'm not enormously concerned about the defense because most of the issues seemed to have one very obvious cause: freshman DE/SLB types losing the edge on jet sweeps. Jake Ryan in particular was exploited to the point where they threw Brennen Beyer on the field, who we've seen have major edge issues. I'd rather have one obvious coaching point to work on than a wholesale breakdown. Michigan seemed to adjust in-game and showed better edge contain before the day was over.
BONUS: Frank Clark had one of the day's most impressive plays on a late jet sweep where he set up in a good spot, baited the WR inside, popped outside his blocker, and forced the guy back into pursuit. Mental +2 there.
Changes. Thomas Gordon got an entire game as a deep safety and made a spectacular interception; in his stead the nickelback was Raymon Taylor. Taylor's main contribution was picking up a personal foul on EMU's long drive that got stuffed at the one; after that Michigan realized EMU was about as likely to throw as they were and took him off the field. The non Black/Roh DE spot was a jumble of Clark, Beyer, and Ryan.
Q: was the Gordon move a permanent thing or a reflection of EMU's non-spread offense? I'm hoping it's the former. I've been high on him since early last year and the coverage on his INT was another tick in a positive direction.
Annual exposure to Vincent Smith zealots. Man, I'm all like… yeah. No offense to Vincent Smith's quality day against the Eagles, but it's still Toussaint. There is a common theme in the long Smith runs against Eastern: the ability for grandma shotgunning a beer to run about that far.
He's a great guy to have on your team and he's going to be a major part of the offense because he's a B+ in many aspects and an A+ at blitz pickups, but Toussaint is faster, more agile, and has at least equal vision.
Meanwhile, Rawls looked exactly like Kevin Grady on two short runs. First impressions there are meh. This is surprising to people named Fred Jackson but not many others.
Redshirt status. A game against Eastern that manages to get a couple of garbage time drives in gives us some hints as to who's getting a redshirt and who isn't:
- BURNED: Wile, Taylor, Countess, Morgan, Beyer, Clark, Rawls
- STILL REDSHIRTED: Carter, Hollowell, Brown, Heitzman, Miller, Rock, Poole, Bryant, Bellomy, Hayes
Pick a random day three weeks into any football season and you'll probably find me railing against inexplicably burned redshirts, but I don't have an issues with the guys above getting in the game. All the guys on defense save Countess could develop into starters as early as this year, and Rawls is another option at a tailback spot that needs them.
Recruiting numbers. It's three weeks into the season and we haven't seen Mike Cox even get his ceremonial long run against crappy competition. Terrance Robinson made a brief cameo at the end of the EMU game. Neither should be expecting fifth years at this point; if they don't receive them Michigan will be at the 26 number they've been projecting for a while. That's if they don't lose anyone between now and Signing Day, which is possible but unlikely. With four stars knocking down the door I can see this class getting to 28.
The main issue getting there won't be the scholarship limit but the cap on enrolled signees. That's 25, but you can dodge it by enrolling kids early. Michigan has just one EE committed right now. That's not something they can change since early enrollees acquire the status by taking a lot of summer school. I haven't heard that anyone Michigan is pursuing is planning on an early enrollment, so they might end up with a couple empty slots on Signing Day.
The early enrollee exception is OSU commit-type substance Bri'onte Dunn. The rumblings on him have oscillated between 100% OSU and 100% undecided, and of late it's pushed more towards the latter. He took a visit to Penn State last weekend and declared himself "confused," and after that Miami game it looks like he'll have a very brief window to get acquainted with whoever OSU's new coach is before he's on campus somewhere. Dunn is a touted player at a major position of need who Michigan would yank away from OSU; he would also allow them to take a 27th player. He's kind of important.
StephenRKass asks if defense and special teams are "becoming a positive." D is wait until later. Special teams do seem better but they aren't championship level yet. Kickoffs both ways are terrible, punt coverage has been weak, and I'd like to see the kickers hit an actual field goal instead of a glorified extra point before I stop panicking about them. Once Hagerup gets back the punting and Jeremy Gallon's sudden ability to field and return punts probably make it average.
Media: I should have been linking these all along, but Mike DeSimone's database is always key. Mikoyan shot from the sidelines. He's got pregame, in-game and postgame posts plus a bonus shot of an MGoBlue barn.
There is also a torrent of saner size up.
The Wolverines' special teams, at times, looked ugly in the 31-3 rout. Michigan's squib kick with 39 seconds left in the first half is a perfect example. The stratagem can work sometimes, but this was not one of them.
The call was especially egregious against a team such as the Eagles, who passed just six times the whole game. Could they have traversed a long field in such a short time?
But the squib gave the Eagles the ball at their own 47-yard line, and they needed just four plays — all runs — to get into position for a 50-yard field goal. That's just too easy.
Squibs are way over-used. Unless there are fewer than 20 seconds left in a half they're a bad idea, but coaches tend to prioritize risk aversion over expected value.
Meinke also suggests Vincent Smith is not the right guy for kick returns due to his lack of speed. I agree with that, too. If Shaw is third-string-ish on the tailback depth chart wouldn't this be a spot for him?
Blog stuff: BWS has his frown on:
After a 7/18, 95 yard (5.3 YPA) day against a MAC bottom dweller, it's difficult to see Denard Robinson as a sustainable option at quarterback in Borges' offense. It may sound reactionary, but after another game riddled with poor decisions (chucking the ball into double coverage) and spotty accuracy, and against competition that shouldn't be able to compete with Michigan's athletes, it's clear that Denard's struggles in the passing game last year, his uninspiring spring game, and his poor passing performances against Notre Dame and Western Michigan are no flukes. He locks onto receivers, struggles with his accuracy, and frequently makes near backbreaking decisions.
This is true so far and made up for by Denard's other talents. We are almost an old-school option offense that needs to stay in front of the chains. He's real mad about burning Rawls's redshirt, though. I'm all like whatever: Rawls may be needed this year since Hopkins is full of doghouse and the starters are fragile. And I'm betting that by the time Rawls would have been a fifth year senior there's someone better on the roster anyway.
Is it just me or does our offense look like the one that that one friend--the friend that everybody has--always runs against you in Madden/NCAA...you know the friend. He's usually the guy who says things like "watch these 4 verts bro" before throwing a bomb on first, second, and third down (he also goes for it on fourth down regardless of field position). Another hallmark of this friend's offensive strategy is a running game that involves picking a team with a fast quarterback and running outside every time that he doesn't throw deep (which is every pass).
UPDATE: So I wondered which 80s-era estrogen rock band was responsible for the title reference and googled it. The result: REO Speedwagon. REO Speedwagon's mindblowing video for the thing, which has almost as many ridiculous haircuts as profiles of me do and obviates the need to actually do LSD:
Good Lord. I'm just going to float off into the sky now.
We are still short on the clarity, but there was a ton of carnage in the middle:
Alabama's temporarily validating win against Penn State looks like the kind of thing that a lot of teams could pull off and they fall behind LSU, which paired its Oregon win with one over Mississippi State. Oklahoma flies to the head of the class on the assumption that @FSU is the best win anyone's acquired this year.
Lower down it's not that surprising until you get to #14, whereupon five of the next 11 teams were booted from the poll. I elect to shove a couple of teams who are playing well and have good wins above Arkansas and South Carolina. South Carolina in particular appears to be living on borrowed time after being out-played by Georgia and scraping by Navy.
At the bottom you will find Michigan, mostly because I ran out of teams I could plausibly insert if you think Notre Dame is going to end up around 8-4 or 9-3. I regret having to do this.