From Portage Northern.
Complaining about the lack of bubble screens in Michigan's offense has become a hobby-horse here. Some people find this weird. I admit that a focus on one particular play, no matter what it is, is often missing the forest for a tree, and my focus on a play that picks up eight yards if run well is a little maniacal. But I see a lot of things not work and think 1) the bubble is open and 2) that might have worked if the bubble wasn't open.
While the bubble seems like an option you can take or leave, it's actually a key way to make every player on the offense an effective blocker every play. When Magee goes to his cutups in those videos about the spread 'n' shred philosophy, the guy asking most of the questions* wants to see bubbles first.
*[who I think is Harvard's coach since he talks about playing Columbia and a pizza place on "Comm Ave" that Google reveals is in Boston.]
The bubble is a constraint that opens up other things and forces the defense into positions it would rather not take. Michigan saw this first hand, as a series of first half bubbles forced Jake Ryan into the slot against Northwestern. Even that wasn't enough to hold down the single bubble the Wildcats ran in the second half before fumbles and interceptions and Michigan scoring on every drive terminated Northwestern's ability to use them.
It's not just a play. It's part of a coherent whole. Spreading the field stresses the defense only if you make the D cover everyone horizontally. Smart Football explained a long Oregon touchdown in the recent Stanford game and I was struck by the difference between the way Stanford defends this play…
…and the way Illinois defended a similarly unbalanced formation from Michigan:
That is a similar setup with one extra guy in the backfield. The highlighted defender to the top of the screen is the equivalent of #3 at the top of the Stanford defense (not the guy on the line)… unless the highlighted guy at the bottom—the corner—is. Someone on this defense is not respecting the threat of Junior Hemingway.
Michigan will run the play I've been calling "inverted veer", which is probably not the best terminology since various people say people call it "dash" and since it features a guy pulling to the frontside of the play it's not really a "veer"—if you care about these things. It's too late for me since I've got a tag, but you can still save yourself.
Anyway, on the snap, before the mesh point, it is clear that both highlighted defenders are going to get involved in the run defense.
Where is the equivalent guy in the Stanford play?
His feet are the ones bugging out for the bubble at the top of the screen. This effectively blocks a defender without having to engage that receiver's potentially crap blocking skills.
Junior Hemingway's existence, in contrast, is pointlessly lonely:
There isn't anyone within five yards of him by the time the mesh point passes. Even before the mesh it's clear the bubble is going to be open, if it was being run.
Anyway, at the mesh point the containing DE is containing so Denard pulls.
This options off a DE; the slot guy is being taken by Hopkins; the playside LB will get kicked by the pulling Omameh. There is no one for the corner, and this has turned into a run up the middle.
This is pretty much dead at this point. Michigan's got some problems on the line, too: you can see that the Lewan/Schofield combo block hasn't even sealed the playside DT, let alone the WLB… but that's just another reason the play isn't going to work since Denard is tackled in the backfield by that backside CB:
Pile of bodies, no gain, third down.
Items of Interest
This isn't to say I think Borges did a bad job in this game. I did get a little frustrated by the forays into the I that were spectacularly unsuccessful—before the Toussaint runs in garbage time Michigan had run seven times out of the I for –1 yards—and the lack of responses to the increasingly aggressive Illinois defense. HOWEVA, in context the move was to go conservative and get out of Dodge; before that was the move he tore up a good defense and was thwarted largely by things out of his control.
There are multiple issues with this play and I'm not suggesting the bubble is a panacea. I am saying it is going to work for tons of yards here, but it's not the only reason this play gets thumped.
The threat of the bubble effectively options off another defender. This means more space for people who are good in space, one more opportunity to blow something for the defense, and mitigates the following.
Receivers' blocking eh… not so good. On the play where Denard fumbled he actually had a good setup for the pull: the backside DE has shuffled down the line and Koger went around him to the edge.
Unfortunately, Junior Hemingway's consistently crap blocking reared its head on this play and the slot LB—who is actually covering the WR on this play—created problems.
Denard has to cut back. If Michigan's running a bubble this guy is either outside of the hash or Denard's throwing it to Hemingway or the Illinois defense is getting super aggressive and opening itself up to a Worst Waldo play. Since he's just a wide receiver who can't block Denard loses an opportunity to burst into a ton of space.
Lack of bubbles = lack of big plays (that aren't chuck and hope)? If you're looking for a culprit when it comes to the lack of long plays that are very open, the lack of the humble bubble screen is a candidate. When you spread the field and make the defense defend all eleven players on every play, a single breakdown means big yards. If you're covering every WR man to man and trying to leave two deep safeties, this is the result:
Michigan has put a lot less stress on safeties this year because they run a bunch of plays from a formation in which opponent safeties think "if they run it will be for half a yard" and when they're in the shotgun they aren't really in the spread, if you catch my drift. By not attacking the outside consistently Michigan lets opponents defend them with two deep.
In the inverted veer above the guy on Hemingway starts 13 yards off the LOS, which means the free safety can come down on the run without worrying about an Oh Noes.
Also bubbles work, yo. I mean, sure, opponents freaked out about them in the RR era since they were a foundational component of the offense but when they were run they worked, and when opponents run them against Michigan (or State vs Iowa) they pick up chunks. When you can get a chunk on first down you have a low-pressure environment to probe with your run game.
This is clearly a philosophical thing that is permanent. I'll drop it now, and this is not a criticism of Al Borges's overall philosophy—we have no idea what that's going to be like. It's clear, however, that the vast bulk of teams who use the quarterback as a runner believe the bubble is an integral part of the effectiveness of the offense. Michigan doesn't, and unless Borges can explain that in a way better than "don't ask me about it" its absence will rankle.
You know the drill by now: always Denard's legs always. Michigan went away from using Denard's legs as a threat against Iowa and suffered through a day where their tailbacks averaged 3.6 yards an attempt. Against Illinois virtually every play saw Michigan threaten a Denard run, often with the additional threat of a triple option from a motioning slot receiver or fullback Stephen Hopkins
Additionally, Michigan brought back Rodriguez's old offset H-back formation. This allowed Kevin Koger to either flare backside and open up the designed cutback runs Toussaint had success with or attack the frontside of the play on QB draws and the like. This stretched Illinois out and gave Toussaint some extra creases.
Toussaint's 65-yarder on Michigan's second play demonstrates both of these changes. It's second and ten after the NT jumped he snap on the first play and Denard missed a keep read on a triple option. Michigan comes out in a formation that could be a shot from any of the last three years but for the WR tight to the line at the top of the screen, who isn't actually a WR but is TE Steve Watson. Illinois responds by shifting its linebackers to the field and half-dropping the free safety.
There are five second level defenders on this play: the three linebackers, the overhang corner, and the rolled-up free safety.
On the snap Koger starts to head backside. The slot LB charges on an exchange as the backside DE comes in unblocked:
By the mesh points defenders one and two are dead on a handoff.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 1: Scrape exchange designed to contain threat of a Denard keeper; Koger's backside block.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 2: Drop into zone designed to combat the threat of a mesh point oh noes play-action pass (that still does nothing to combat a bubble screen or quick out by Hemingway.
Denard sees the DE containing and hands off. Koger comes backside to prevent #1 from running down the line and making the play from behind. Defender three is blitzing up the middle…
…he manages to get through the small gap beween Huyge and Omameh but the two guys combine to slow him down long enough for Toussaint to hit the hole.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 3: Blitz picked up by Huyge and Molk.
The Illinois line creases between Schofield and Molk. With the Illinois line clearly slanting to the playside this is mostly thanks to Molk controlling the NT well enough to prevent him from getting upfield. This defense is clearly designed to get Fitz cutting to the backside of the play; Molk's block means he doesn't have to.
By the time Fitz is hitting the line, the gap is obvious.
When he's two yards past it Illinois is done.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 4: General uselessness of one guy in twenty yards of space against a blocker; need to maintain leverage.
CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 5: Derp. He's containing Denard Robinson, who doesn't have the ball and was never going to have the ball on this play, or he's anticipating a cutback that he doesn't wait to see develop.
Toussaint gets tackled by his shirt tail because that's what always happens to Fitzgerald Toussaint.
He manages to pick up another 15 yards after the initial contact, but someone needs to get Fitz a slippery jersey.
Items Of Interest
Denard's legs: all threaty and stuff. The zone read fake eliminates one linebacker, which helps the run game but isn't a miracle. When Michigan operates from under center they still eliminate a guy because all defenses leave backside ends for potential bootlegs.
Where operating from the shotgun helps Michigan is with defender #2, who has to back out into a short zone because of the threat of a quick seam over the top. The quick PA ability of the spread 'n' shred means any linebacker who sucks up and reacts is DOA.
This is enough to put Toussaint one on one with a safety. Since that safety derps it's one on none. That's a third player the threat posed by Denard in the gun eliminates. That's their starter and fourth-leading tackler, by the way. Don't know what it is about Illinois safeties and massive breakdowns on Michigan's first possession but I like it.
Molk's block: key. Illinois is slanting the line hard and trying to funnel the play back to their backside blitz. If Fitz has to cut behind Molk that blitz may or may not get home. Since he's got a crease to the side where the Illinois line slanted it has no chance.
This isn't entirely up to Molk. Zone blocking is frequently about taking the guy where he wants to go, then taking him past that point. You can see on the replay that the backside DT is slanting, then stops, then tries to extend as Fitz hits the hole. He waves an arm at him but can do no more.
If the NT pushes hard to the playside Molk is tasked with kicking him past the point he wants to end up at; with the MLB handled by two guys Fitz likely has a cut either way. But not getting blown up/shoved back/chucked provides the crease.
Flinging Koger backside: nostalgic. Michigan also did this with Hopkins when they aligned with two backs. This is likely because of a heavy dose of plays like this where Illinois takes a quick linebacker and shoots him down the line.
A few years ago Calvin Magee said he'd worry about the guy crashing from the end "when he makes the play" on stretches; Illinois's goal with this exchange is to make the guy left unblocked a quicker player with a running start. On inside zones blocking the backside guy is mandatory because all possible creases are in the danger zone.
The bubble: screamingly open here. The slot LB will blitz as the MLB drops into coverage, so… yeah:
On this play the threat of the seam still eliminates the linebacker that the bubble usually forces out of the box*. I am still in favor of at least throwing a few bubbles because they will pick up big chunks if the defense plays like this.
I'm in favor of them generally because they put pressure on the defense by restricting the ways they can align without either getting 8 yards in their face or playing games that end with Worst Waldo passes. I mean, by the snap there isn't a guy on the field with a prayer of defending a slot bubble here.
*[When it doesn't it's forcing a safety either to the line or into a dangerous game of jumping the bubble route and opening up wide open bombs.]
This is very important. Fitz Tous is a much weirder name than Gerald Saint.
An image. This was on the internet, but not widely enough. Undoubtedly from this year's Big Ten Media Days, the family portrait:
I'm just posting this for Pelini.
WHAT ABOUT MY SOUL
Where have you been all my life. I can't believe this guy has been doing this for three years and no one has found him before MGoVideo stumbled across him this weekend:
A check of his account reveals he's done this exact same thing dozens of times over the past three years for things as insignificant as victories over Hillsdale. There is no corresponding "BOO" for losses, unfortunately.
NoPa. Whoever wins the league this year won't have to pick up their trophy with tongs:
Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno's name has been removed from the Big Ten's football championship trophy, league commissioner Jim Delany said Monday.
“We believe that it would be inappropriate to keep Joe Paterno’s name on the trophy at this time,” Delany said. “The trophy and its namesake are intended to be celebratory and aspirational, not controversial. We believe that it’s important to keep the focus on the players and the teams that will be competing in the inaugural championship game.”
They're going with just "Stagg." Now all we have to do is tie the division names into a horrible crime and we're set nomenclature-wise. Paterno is kind of a leader and legend all wrapped into one, isn't he?
Legal argh. Marvin Robinson's concussion turns out to be one that causes bad decisions:
Robinson, 20, was arraigned last week on a charge of second degree home invasion and released on a promise to appear. He is accused of breaking into a locked dorm room at 10 p.m. Sept. 29 and stealing the game.
After getting some time early in the year Robinson mysteriously disappeared; now we know why. There's a lot of speculation about this being the end of MRob by mysterious insiders; I find that odd. Unless he's had previous incidents this seems like a first strike type event. Previous Michigan players in the same level of trouble have been able to return after doing penance.
"(They) gave me some freedom to call some stunts up front that coaches wouldn’t typically do, but they trust that I’m smart enough to make the right calls," Van Bergen said. "We didn’t actually get the green light, we just started doing it. Take a risk. Why not?
"It worked the first two or three times, and the coaches were just like, ‘Call ‘em when you feel like calling ‘em.’"
Remember a couple years ago when Indiana ripped off an 85-yard touchdown because RVB missed a check? That doesn't so much happen anymore. Seniors. I like them. We should try to have more of them. You, Desmond Morgan: be a senior with four years of eligibility starting now.
A note on Denard fumbly bits. While it's frustrating to endure a game in which Denard fumbles turn two drives in field goal range to dust, the team's overall trend is still highly positive:
|Year: 2011||Thru: 11/12/11|
The noise you hear is Rich Rodriguez screaming "oh, of course this happens the year after I get fired." Denard coughed it up twice against Illinois and had the elaborate-sack-escape fumble against Iowa; the other two lost fumbles were from Smith and Hopkins against SDSU. Robinson's had 330 events this year; losing three fumbles on them isn't that bad.
Last year Michigan lost 14(!) as a team. The improvement here has been significant enough to more than combat the increase in interceptions.
Complicated bits. Smart Football's Grantland work seems specifically targeted at things we've been discussing about Michigan's offensive transition. There a post about how Jim Harbaugh has dumped sight reading from the 49ers offense and thereby aided them in their transformation from chumps to 7-1. At first they were like this:
And then they would change to this when they got a blitz:
But now they're like this:
They always have hot routes built into the play. Michigan has gone the other direction. Unfortunately you're thinking of Vincent Smith not running a slant against Michigan State right now, but I can't do anything about that. Chris Brown's take on this adaptation:
It's my personal view, but I think NFL teams rely too much on sight adjustments. There are two reasons for this: First, these plays were far more straightforward a decade or two ago than they are now, and second, coaches who spend nearly all their waking hours thinking about football tend to forget that it's not how many X's and O's they know but what they can teach their players. To the first point, sight adjustments are old — at least 50 years old, if not more. But they arose before zone blitzes became popular. Against a blitz with man-to-man coverage in the secondary, sight adjustments made perfect sense. They were extensions of backyard football — throw a quick one to the fast guy and let him run with the ball before the blitz overwhelms the offensive line.
Now it's not so simple. With the rise of the zone blitz, the fact that three defenders might rush from one side tells the offense almost nothing about where the coverage will be. This is why, when zone blitzes first became prominent, you saw quarterbacks throwing awful passes directly to defenders who weren't even close to receivers. This is not to say that sight adjustments are impossible in today's environment, but they require an almost telepathic relationship between quarterback, receiver, and even the offensive line.
Borges and Hoke have been grumbling about wide receivers being hidden issues in the passing game for chunks of the year and I think this is what they're talking about. In the spring game Gardner missed Gallon three times when Gallon pulled up short and Gardner threw long or vice versa; the Smith interception happened; Denard has often been under pressure without anywhere to go with the ball because everyone's 30 yards downfield. That seems nuts so my assumption is when that happens it's because the receivers have not read the play correctly.
While this should get better next year when Gallon, Roundtree, and Stonum all have a year of experience under their belts I'm a little leery of Michigan using sight reads extensively—and they seem like an all-or-nothing proposition like being a triple option or Air Raid team. You're either 100% committed to it or you suck. I'll figure out more about this over the offseason—I've signed up for some clinics featuring Michigan's coordinators that will hopefully shed some light on what Michigan's trying to do.
BONUS relevance: Brown also breaks down one of Oregon's long runs against Stanford with a focus on the alignment of the line and how Oregon forces you to respect the bubble. I'll probably tackle that in greater detail in a picture pages.
Yost attendance problem mitigation. If you have tickets, need tickets, need a rideshare, or require any other thing that will get you to Yost there is a Children of Yost facebook page that can help you with these matters. I don't think their services extend to calling you up at 7:15 and screaming "PUT DOWN THE MW3 AND LEAVE THE HOUSE NOW," unfortunately.
More Trouba. Via NHL.com:
"He has offense skills and he really does defend well," Gregory said. "You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he's a big kid who skates really well. He loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He's going to be someone people are going to talk about; we've known about him for a couple years and he's not disappointing early on this year, either."…
"He skates exceptionally well and likes to rush up the ice with the puck and with good speed," he said. "He's very confident, has great agility, is strong physically and is always alert. He's done a good job in 1-on-1 situations against opposing forwards and contained his man very well."
(HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)
This week in going for it. Advanced NFL Stats has a go-or-not 4th down calculator, but I think it's broken. When I punch in the situation from the weekend, it says 100% of 92 is 93. As a result it says M should have kicked.
I think it means the decision to go was correct since it says you have a 70% chance of success and your WP goes from 92 to 93 if you get it right. Expected points are massively in favor of going, FWIW: 4.5 to 2.4.
The mid 90s summed up. Midnight Maize brings us this shirt, which should be the student T this year and for all time:
That is wicked off the hook but inexplicably managed to escape its ebay auction unsold.
Etc.: Toussaint interviewed by TIM DOYLE OMG. Says "I'm just a big fan of fashion." Toussaint, not Doyle. Dreaded Judgment gets on the "third down == awesome" bandwagon. MGoFootball Illinois bullets arrived too late for yesterday's game post.
Iowa fans think Michigan State got fainting disease last Saturday, which I point out mostly to marvel at the idea anyone would have to slow the Hawkeyes' tempo down. I guess they were down a billion.
11/12/2011 – Michigan 31, Illinois 14 – 8-2, 4-2 Big Ten
In a distant place a long time ago they played a football game in a dark and remote land. The opposing team's coach was a confused person who thought he had a pretty good team. Michigan scored a couple touchdowns but couldn't put the game away; at some point during the second half the confused coach's confused offense finally put together a touchdown drive to narrow the game, and I felt… irritated. Annoyed. Peeved.
This was a strange feeling to have about a suddenly close football game Michigan should have put away already, because every damn game Michigan lost against teams not named Ohio State could be described as "a suddenly close football game Michigan should have put away already." Despite this I was not casting about for pearls to clutch or pre-perforating my garments for easy rending when the time came. I was worried about the stats. This was odd.
Then: near interception, four-yard out, incomplete, incomplete, ballgame. Instead of a roar there was but a flat, damp squeak as Michigan landed the final clubbing blows and emerged from the lion's den with a rug in tow. There are no arguments about this game. No two seconds, no questionable heels or holding calls or other fantasies about if this or that. There is no "if". Michigan has still not been threatened this year. No opponent has moved the ball except when fortunate or permitted to. Its dominance is unquestioned by the foes it leaves battered in its wake. Sometimes -- and I know this is hard to believe -- seven points is a very large lead indeed.
Yeah, that game.
Of all the magical things that Greg Mattison has done since arriving in Ann Arbor for a second tour of duty, making me think about the 2006 Michigan defense a year after… that is hard to top.
2006 happened a century ago. I looked it up. The top songs were "I Want A Girl (Just Like The Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad)" and "Down By The Old Mill Stream." Long-distance communication was conducted by banging rocks together and hoping to startle a pigeon in a way that communicated "happy birthday" instead of "everyone is dead of typhoid again lol." Football games were played between competing sawmills and textile factories; a strict limit of two cattle per offensive line was still controversial. People in Alabama were accused of over-bovining. Craggy men who remembered the invention of writing like Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel, and Lloyd Carr roamed the sidelines. People did not reflexively talk about real good times.
2006 was a long time ago. The ten-volume history of the intervening century is a narrative of relentless, soul-crushing decline on defense.
This summer the UM Club of Greater Detroit invited me to their kickoff dinner. There I sat on a roundtable with Greg Dooley of MVictors and Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News as various guys with nametags peppered us with questions.
These things always have a pattern: I start out nervous because I'm just this guy, really, and there's a chance someone asks "why should we listen to you?" Since my response is necessarily "I have this blog… it's on the internet!" it's not a question I look forward to. These concerns are a little more pressing when the room is full of people who look like they still get newspapers home-delivered.
But the questions remain hypothetical because I start talking about these things and it turns out that doing what I do on a weekly basis fills your head with esoteric knowledge about all things. Denard Robinson was 84th of 100 qualifying quarterbacks last year in interception percentage. That sort of thing is just in my head, ready to be dispensed. After my head pops open and I start depositing THE KNOWLEDGE like the world's least appetizing Pez dispenser, there is a groove of confidence.
I mention it because there was one question from an elderly gentleman with a pleading edge I still remember. It was about the defense and why anyone would think it would get better. I was already on the record that this was an eight or nine win team; Dooley and Chengelis were pessimists. They cocked their heads and passed the mic.
I said that if you had only watched every play from the last three years over and over you would know. You would not know but feel the mass incoherence, the week-to-week changes, the insane personnel decisions (Demens, Roh as a LB, moving Woolfolk to corner in 2009, Cam Gordon as FS). That if you felt this thing having a guy the Ravens had coordinating their defense could only result in instant, massive improvement. At the very least they would have a plan*.
Though I believed it, as I was saying it it seemed like a reckless thing to tell people. If…that, or anything like it, happens again people will remember someone told them it was going to be all right, and then it wasn't. I hoped I wasn't telling them about the rabbits.
This was the point last year where everyone wrote off JT Floyd. It was the logical thing to do.
Twelve months later Floyd is holding AJ Jenkins to five yards a target and jumping a short route for a shoulda-been pick six for the first time since… God. A century ago. Time is working funny again. Greg Mattison has a phonebooth time machine he sent the secondary back to Charles Woodson's childhood in; they have emerged with ZZ Top beards, children, and skills.
This is a foundation for the future. Wrapping this motley crew of walk-ons, freshmen, people who were totally incompetent last year, Mike Martin, and Ryan Van Bergen into a top 20 defense is a QED achievement no matter the quality of the opposition. The level of coaching required to go from that to this is a constant Michigan can build its program on.
Last year the quality of the opposition didn't matter. Matt McGloin had the above to throw at, and he did. This year Michigan has been average at worst after Mattison figured out he didn't have Ed Reed. Some days they stroll off the field and if you squint you can just convince yourself the last century never happened. You can envision a future where Michigan isn't wondering about its place in the world.
*[Then I told everybody that Denard Robinson's turnover rate would drop like a stone. One out of two isn't bad. ]
There's also the Illinois POV. In their world Illinois wins 14-0 in a thrilling game lasting exactly 1:30. Parkinggod highlights miss the first drive thanks to ESPN sticking with the PSU press conference, but prove that Michigan's everything-is-wonderful POV still goes ten minutes.
Meanwhile, Desmond Morgan is fabulous.
Borgeswatch. 95% thumbs up. As it transpired I was frustrated with the lack of play-action after Illinois started selling out on the run game, but I forgot about the wind. I much prefer that to being reminded about it every 40 seconds like we were against Michigan State. I wonder if Scheehaase's propensity to wing it wide on Jenkins out cuts was due to the wind. While he's not the most accurate guy in the world he seemed particularly off Saturday.
It may have taken two harsh wakeup calls but at least Borges got the message. Run/pass breakdowns in the three windtastic road games against teams with secondaries:
- MSU: 39 passes, 28 runs
- Iowa: 21 passes, 28 runs*
- Illinois: 16 passes, 47 runs
The Gardner package also went away after its momentum-killing outing last week.
A large chunk of getting that play distribution was getting the running game to work. I don't know all of how or why that happened yet, but giving Toussaint the ball 27 times instead of two is part of it; using enough outside runs to get creases on the inside zone is part of it; making Denard a threat is part of it.
While Denard only managed 3.5 YPC on his 11 attempts it's hard to imagine what turned the #15 rush defense** into Swiss cheese if it wasn't Illinois paying too much attention to 16. This was clear on the first drive of the game. Watch the free safety who would be tackling Toussaint after ten yards but for one Denard Robinson:
By the time that dude realizes Denard does not have the ball Toussaint is gone. A similar screwup does not happen if Michigan is operating from under center.
Since I'm usually at games I'm not often able to participate in the internet zeitgeist to the extent I was the past couple weeks. Last week I was in line with everyone being real mad. This week I was surprised by the amount of heat Borges was taking for stuff that wasn't his fault at all. When Denard fumbles and Michigan misses a field goal or Huyge gets destroyed by Mercilus and Denard doesn't see the guy coming right at him, that's not on the OC. The reasons Michigan didn't score touchdowns in this game seemed to be out of Borges's hands.
*[Not counting the final three drives. I did move the two sacks, the fumble, and one Gardner scramble. I made similar adjustment to the other two games; they may be off by one or two but you get the idea.]
**[15-ish. Illinois's sacks distort that. Still a very good unit.]
Fourth and one. The 5% thumbs down, very down, was the fourth and one from the Illinois one yard line. If you're not willing to throw it when you spread them out and they don't spread out…
…I don't think you can do the wacky thing. Those guys to the top of the screen are late arriving and have no idea what they're doing. If you're going to swinging-gate them like this you've got to be able to take advantage of what they give you.
That fourth and one continues a couple trends: speed option and Borges getting cute. I wouldn't have minded it if they had lined up in one of those massive Tebow sets and tried something like this, but going without so much as a tight end in this spot is asking for trouble. The snap didn't help but I don't think it mattered much.
The immediate aftermath. Hoke calmly pointed his defense onto the field:
You are experiencing an unusually calm sensation. Which reminds me:
EPIC HOKE DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. I'm terribly sorry that I inaugurated this thing and then immediately forgot about it. It returns this week because of one man being so ridiculous I thought I should have some sort of special award… oh wait I do.
Your Illinois winner: JT Floyd. AJ Jenkins may have gotten his requisite eight catches for 100 yards but Scheelhaase had to work for it. At one point they showed some Jenkins stats and noted that he had five catches… and fourteen targets. According to Adam Jacobi he ended with eight on 20. That's 5 YPA throwing to a guy who may be the best WR in the Big Ten.
Even that undersells Floyd's day. The deep ball that took Jenkins's stats from mediocre to decent was zone coverage in the middle of the field Floyd was not directly responsible for (and it came after Scheelhaase was given all day). When involved Floyd was all over double moves and jumped a third and short pass for the interception that sealed the game with a little help from Gardner and Odoms.
Even Magnus thought he was "okay for once." WHAT MORE CAN ONE MAN DO?
Honorable mentions go to Al Borges (for his gameplan and getting in on the pointing his ownself), David Molk, and Fitzgerald Toussaint.
RETROACTIVE EPIC HOKE DOUBLE POINTS.
- Michigan State: Ryan Van Bergen, for being the only person to have a good day. HM: None.
- Purdue: Fitzgerald Toussaint, for making the tailback spot a plus for the first time in forever. HM: Mike Martin.
- Iowa: Mike Martin, for being GET IN THE CAR Mike Martin. HM: David Molk.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).
Weekly bubble bitchin'. Only Ron Zook could send his team out with two deep safeties and three guys tight over WRs against a team that hasn't run a bubble all year:
That's nuts. That's one reason you have that play in the playbook. If they take it away by alignment they've opened something else up. Usually not by putting five guys in the box—that's a Zook special.
What I really meant by posting "We Are ND" after Hoke hiring. I meant that we'd ride a soft schedule to an iffy BCS berth and get our faces crushed. If Michigan wins out—obviously a big if—that could happen. A 10-2 Michigan team will be second in the Big Ten pecking order since everyone other than the champ will have three losses.
Michigan will then be in competition with…
- Boise/Houston. Houston's 11th in the BCS standings and will get an autobid if they remain in the top 12. Boise's actually a spot in front of the Cougars still. One or the other will get a bid. All they have to do is finish in the top 16 since the Big East winner is going to be below them.
- Alabama/LSU/Arkansas. The SEC will get a second bid.
- Stanford/Oregon. If those two win out Stanford will probably get a bid.
- ACC runner-up: a two-loss Clemson or Virginia Tech.
- Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
Michigan's a lock to beat out a team coming off an ACC championship loss, but one-loss versions of Stanford or Oklahoma State would be tough—Jerry Palm has an all-at-large matchup of those two teams right now. If OU loses Bedlam that would also be tight.
Not making it would be just as well. I'd be happy playing Georgia in one of the infinite Big Ten/SEC matchups. I like nine wins and I cannot lie.
Special teams: actually a positive. FEI's not the only advanced stat rankings system purveyed by Football Outsiders; there's also one called F+. Last week F+ integrated special teams data for the first time; Michigan dropped from 17th to 25th. The special teams… eh… not so good.
This week they were. Matt Wile put five kickoffs in the endzone, Jeremy Gallon averaged 15 yards on four actual punt returns, and the missed field goal was off by about a foot. The only downer is Will Hagerup's persistent mediocrity. He averaged under 35 yards a kick and Michigan is now 112th in net punting. Even if you exclude all the coffin corner stuff from the MSU game he's averaging just 37.7 yards a kick. Wile was doing significantly better during Hagerup's suspension.
Unfortunately, it's likely Gallon's momentary renaissance and the Wile bombing are effects of the opponent and the wind. Illinois's punting is also in the triple digits.
Derp du jour. Seeing some revival of the "we can't run Denard because he won't last through the season" meme, which… like… guh. He's missed a series last week and the last quarter and a half this week because he banged his hand on a pass-rusher's helmet. Twice. The first time he was back in after a series. The second time he could have come back in if necessary. Cancel the spread offense.
Denard's lasted through the bulk of the Big Ten season and with Nebraska and Ohio State left on the schedule, restricting his carries in case he gets hurt is nuts. What are you saving him for?
BONUS: Devin Gardner did two things and Michigan's offense went from racking up yards (and shooting itself in the foot) to not doing the former (and getting short fields). There is no QB controversy. If Michigan makes a 39 yard field goal and Borges doesn't get too cute on the goal line it's 24-0 at halftime and we aren't having this conversation.
Let's stop talking about this.
A permanent feature. Hoke on his decision to go from the one:
Michigan reached the Illinois 1-yard line in the second quarter and went for it on fourth down. Robinson lost 4 yards on the play.
Hoke was asked if going for it in that situation will be the norm. "Pretty much," he said. "And the defense bailed me out."
Desmond Morgan decleater. Don't hate me but I thought that was a missed cut by the RB, who had a lane outside the block. /ducks
dnak puts the defensive performance in a graph (graph):
Left axis is as a percentage of historical worst—ie, last year. That's right: Michigan's scoring defense is brushing up against '06.
Inside the Box Score on Martin going uber:
Mike Martin lead us with 9 tackles. That’s right, an interior defensive lineman lead us with NINE tackles. I’m going to miss that guy. He also got half a sack and 2 QHs. Roh also had 2 QHs. We were QH’ing Scheelhaase all game long.
That's three straight games he's crushed the opponent. Moving towards what we all thought he'd be this year. Too bad it will be tough to crack the All Big Ten team with Short, Still, and Worthy also tearing up offensive lines.
Hoke for Tomorrow brings yet another reason to laugh at Ron Zook:
Ron Zook is a bad coach, this is known. It is remarkable how bad he is though, when looking at his record after bye weeks. Over the past 4 seasons (2008-2011) Illinois has had 6(!) bye weeks, with two in both 2009 and 2010. Their record following these bye weeks? 0-6:
2008: Lost to Penn St 38-24
2009: Lost to OSU 30-0, Lost to Cincinnati 49-36
2010: Lost to OSU 24-13, Lost to Fresno St 25-23
2011: Lost to Michigan (woot!) 31-14
That is epic fail. Ron Zook should be fired.
Bye weeks aren't actually helpful, but come on.
2010:: Total: 8, Scoring: 25, FEI: 2
2011:: Total: 40, Scoring: 37, FEI: 17
Our youthful inexperience has been replaced by transitional inexperience - so we still are inconsistent and turnover-ridden.
The FEI is most indicative I think - we went from an O with the potential to be great (if we had any kind of ST and D) to one that is just very good. I think after Borges was hired, this is sort of where we expected to be offensively - a step back, but not disastrously.
2010:: Total: 110, Scoring: 107, FEI: 108
2011:: Total: 16, Scoring: 5, FEI: 17
Mattison == Awesome. Last year, I said that I thought our D played worse than the personnel. Nevertheless, even if they were being outcoached by say, twenty teams in FEI, and the extra year of experience is good for another twenty teams - Mattison still improved the baseline by about 50 ranks. The defense is now as good as the offense.
Keep in mind that FEI adjusts for schedule strength so a realistic benchmark for an average BCS offense is not 60th. I just chopped out all the non-BCS teams and an average offense is 48th. That's actually lower than I would have guessed. Unfortunately for Michigan, their lack of success has been highly concentrated.
Unwashed blog masses. Via Adam Jacobi, Junior Hemingway scored an imaginary touchdown:
Ron Zook can probably make this happen.
Illini blog A Lion Eye has a habit of taping himself when things are actually going on. This seems like a bad idea in general and for an Illinois fan in particular, but it is entertaining. A partial transcript:
So there's two twenty-four left. We just got the ball back down… what is it… 31-14? And I… I really have… I'm like "oh, what's my emotion? What am I going to record?"
Uhhhhm… dead inside? That doesn't sound right. But it's kind of a… I don't know. I guess the only way to describe it is—oh, and a sack.
I recommend the whole thing not necessarily for the schadenfreude (of which there is plenty) but because it's reassuring that we're not jaded. You may think you're jaded after the last century, but you have no idea. I mean: "I'm just normal right now."
The HSR decides to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald a lot:
"Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle."
I think we can all agree that yesterday's game was a classic example of "left wanting". Though Michigan had a two score lead, on the road, against a team that considers Michigan its arch-rival*, it still felt like all of the missed red zone opportunities were going to come back to haunt Michigan, because we're taught that when you don't put the boot on the throat, it will cost you. Except, it didn't.
Refs. They obviously made a decision to only call holding if the offensive lineman actually removed the jersey of rusher. And on the play where Avery picked up the ball and scored the touchdown, they made three bad mistakes on a single play. The unholy trinity: 1. It wasn’t a fumble in the first place, that’s somewhat forgivable. 2. If it was a fumble, Avery was clearly on the ground (and thus down) when he picked it up, but they gave him a touchdown. 3. They didn’t adjust the clock after the play was reversed, should have been 19 or 20 seconds left instead of 14.
Hoke even complained about #3 and got nowhere. That is almost inevitably a call the refs give coaches.
My first impression was one of doom and gloom, but, the more I think about it, maybe it's not so bad. Michigan put up 31 against a formidable defense, more than any other Illinois opponent save Northwestern (qualifier: yeah, those are some bad offenses on their schedule, but it's all relative at this point). This is of course not even mentioning the inopportune turnovers and the Illini's general inability to move the ball, additional reasons to not feel so bad about things. Obviously you can't just take turnovers out, but Michigan could have very easily scored in the 40s, on the road, against a pretty good defense.
There was a lot of the doom and gloom on the internets, which I don't get. Michigan failed to put up 24 in the first half on the #6 defense in the country by shooting itself in the foot. While that's frustrating, it is so much worse to have a performance like Iowa where the offense is neither scoring nor moving the ball. Sometimes bad things happen. Michigan outperformed Illinois's yardage average by 80 despite playing in adverse conditions.
BWS is eeee Mattison:
Mattison is installing this defense a lot like Rodriguez or Borges installed their offense. Week by week, Mattison introduces a new formation or coverage scheme to the defense--usually only one. Early in the season, it was a basic stunt move intended to overwhelm one side of the offensive line. Against MSU, he debuted an A-gap zone blitz. Purdue: nickel blitz. Iowa: crowding the line of scrimmage. Michigan's base defense is a 4-3 under, man-coverage look that Mattison can slowly and effectively build upon. While he doesn't go back to the cookie jar in later weeks, the hope (and my expectation) is that when Michigan plays Ohio
State, they'll have an arsenal of blitzing plays that can be deployed in unison, creating a defense that is as unpredictable and consistently effective as the constantly tweaked offense under Rodriguez.
Mainstream media type persons. The Daily's Stephen Nesbitt gets a a slice of life from the field:
As Floyd started crossing the turf toward the tunnel to the visitor’s locker room, he saw Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins approaching him. The receiver-cornerback duo had battled all game long.
Floyd pulled up at the goal line.
“Heck of a game, man,” Floyd told the All-American wideout. “I think you’re a heck of a talent.”
Jenkins, in his orange No. 8 jersey, gave a big smile and tossed the same compliment back at Floyd — Michigan’s No. 8.
“Make sure you go get the rest of the (defensive backs) and give them some trouble the rest of the season,” Floyd said as he stepped away.
Chengelis on the diverse and sundry contributions:
Senior defensive lineman Mike Martin led the team with nine tackles. Linebackers Desmond Morgan and Kenny Demens had eight and seven tackles, respectively, and senior Ryan Van Bergen had 2.5 sacks.
Safety Jordan Kovacs forced a fumble, and Thomas Gordon made the recovery, his fourth of the season, and cornerback J.T. Floyd made a pivotal interception in the fourth quarter on a third-down play at the Michigan 40-yard line. He returned it 43 yards and Michigan converted into a touchdown to make it, 24-7.
That is many contributions. Kovacs's in particular was a MAKE PLAYS moment, putting his head on the ball after Michigan had found its line creased and forcing a turnover. That fumble was forced in a way that some of the previous ones haven't been.
Daily on Mattison's reaction:
“That was a Michigan defense,” Mattison said like a proud father figure, admitting it for the first time all season. “They played as hard as they could, they did whatever they had to do. Without a doubt, that was a Michigan defense.”
The Michigan football team had just won the game on defense, holding Illinois to 30 yards, including minus-14 first-half rushing yards, before ultimately allowing 14 points and just 214 yards of offense en route to a 31-14 victory on the road.
“They’re Michigan Men,” said an emotional Mattison. “We talk about it all the time, that there’s a standard at Michigan and you’ve got to live up to that, and you're judged by it. We haven’t come to that final point where you win the game on defense, and we said, ‘This is your last away trip to do it.’ I couldn’t be more proud of this group of guys.”
Formation notes: A lot more under center in this game. I've got Michigan with 9 snaps in an ace formation, four in Denard jet, and 14 in I-Form. Michigan had 26 shotgun snaps in hurry-up time and 22 outside of it.
Of Michigan's 49 snaps in their base offense, 22 were from the shotgun, a 45% rate. Big dropoff from before the bye week.
I called this "ace tight":
And this is still "shotgun trips bunch" but note that those are tight ends tight to the strong side, not WRs:
Substitution notes: Nothing you don't know. Hopkins is pretty much the only FB now, Schofield went the whole way, Toussaint and Smith were the only backs, and the WR/TE rotation was basically how it's been all year. Odoms and Grady may have gotten a little more time late for whatever reason.
|M31||1||10||Shotgun trips bunch||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||1|
|Two WRs are actually TEs as M comes out in a shotgun version of their pitch formation. Iowa ends up shifting its line away from the TEs and putting a LB over Watson. Basically an under front. Michigan runs a zone read and Denard pulls with the backside DE engaging Lewan as he tries to release downfield. DE does pop up after the mesh point to force Robinson outside; Hemingway(-1) loses his block to the outside. Robinson has a lane to cut up into but slips. Something wrong with the field? Maybe. The DE also bit it without impacting anyone. Watson got away with a hold. RUN-: Robinson, Watson, Hemingway|
|M32||2||9||Ace 4-wide tight||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||Pitch sweep||Toussaint||4|
|Similar concept with TEs in a two point stance being all like “I'm a receiver.” M runs a pitch sweep to the short side, pulling Schofield and Molk. Omameh(-1) whiffs a cut on the backside DT, which becomes an issue later. Molk(+1) feels the DT on his back and knows if he continues through the hole Toussaint may get blown up by this guy, so he slows down and blocks him with his back. Iowa corner charges up into Schofield(+0.5) at the LOS, giving himself up to maintain leverage. Roundtree(+1) gets a good block on the playside LB, sealing him; Koger does a mediocre job he gets away with thanks to Roundtree; Lewan(-1) ends up losing the playside DT as he detaches to run downfield. Still, Toussaint has a crease he hits... that the Iowa safety can fill unmolested because Molk had to double back. Minimal gain. Picture paged.|
|RUN+: Molk, Schofield(0.5) Roundtree||RUN-: Lewan, Omameh|
|M36||3||5||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Pass||Skinny post||Roundtree||Inc|
|Four man rush with a spy. Iowa stunts; Michigan sort of picks it up but it's Toussaint picking up a DE. This is a temporary solution. Worse, the DT is now free to hit as Schofield belatedly tries to pick the stunt up. No one is open; Robinson chucks it deep into double coverage but well long. I think this is just throwing the ball away. (TA, 0, protection 0/2, team 1, Schofield 1, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun trips stack||1||0||4||Nickel||Run||Inverted veer power||Robinson||5|
|One LB over the stack, another in the gray area between it and the box. Two deep safeties and like... five point five dudes in box. M runs the veer. Playside DE moves out on RB; keep. Schofield(-2) is the puller and gets blown up. The sole LB in the box gets into him at the LOS and gets inside, forcing Robinson into a bunch of traffic. Robinson manages to fall forward for a good gain because of the lack of dudes. RPS +1; this formation saw an opponent put five in the box against Denard.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-: Schofield(2)|
|M28||2||5||Ace 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||Inc|
|Finally an opponent figures this out. Backside DE is sitting there waiting for the waggle action. He bats the pass down; corner had read it and beaten Koger's attempted block anyway. (BA, 0, screen, RPS -1)|
|Starts with a triple stack to the short side; motion takes one WR to the wide side. Iowa blitzes off the short corner and leaves Hemingway wide open for about ten. Robinson puts it there; dropped. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 under||Pass||Rollout hitch||Hemingway||9|
|Michigan exploits some soft coverage to get an easy completion on first down; possible because Iowa shoved seven in the box against a three wide set. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M48||2||1||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Smith||0|
|Gardner, and a double-A-gap blitz gets M's inside zone again. The two linebackers run into the gaps caused by OL doubles and meet Smith in the backfield. RPS –2, no chance for the O.|
|M48||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-4 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||2|
|Iowa again shooting the gaps. Michigan handles it well (Koger shoves the DE inside and pancakes him; Hopkins kicks out the CB) and Toussaint should be able to hop outside and pick up the first down easily before the safety chops him down. Instead he decides to leap into the original hole, whereupon the MLB scrapes over to nail him at the LOS. Toussaint keeps his legs pumping and manages to get it.|
|RUN+: Koger, Hopkins, Huyge||RUN-: Toussaint|
|50||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||8|
|Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) kill the NT in the face; Hopkins(+1) stands up a blitzing LB; Toussaint cuts past that block smoothly; Lewan(+1) dealt with Binns.|
|RUN+: Molk, Schofield, Toussaint, Hopkins, Lewan||RUN-:|
|O42||2||2||Ace twins||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||5|
|Gray area LB and two deep safeties so only six and a half in the box; M has numbers. They run at the gap between the one and five tech. Michigan gets a little lucky, as the SLB drops into a zone. This means the slant underneath that wipes out Omameh's downfield release does not give Iowa a meaningful free hitter. Huyge(+1) sealed the slanter before he became dangerous; Schofield(+1) got a good pull; Koger(+0.5) kicked out the DE. Toussaint(+0.5) makes a nice cut behind Schofield to pick up the first.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Schofield, Koger(0.5), Toussaint(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Hemingway||Inc|
|This is going to be one of those five yarders with an immediate tackle; Hemingway drops it. This could have been thrown better but it's not quite an MA. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O37||2||10||Ace||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||PA TE flat||Koger||9|
|Play action fake sucks the linebackers in and you'd think there'd be a spot over the middle where Iowa was vulnerable, but Robinson can't find anyone. Looks like Iowa has a robber—that might be it. Robinson surveys, checks down, and hits Koger for about six. Koger can turn it upfield for some nice YAC. (CA, 3, protection 2/2). This is a terrible spot, BTW. Koger had the first by a yard easy.|
|O28||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-4 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||8|
|Iowa very tight to the line. M runs an iso right at them. Schofield(+1) kicks a DT; Hopkins(+1) wastes a blitzing LB, giving Toussaint(+0.5) a crease. He makes a smart cut through the line for the first.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Hopkins, Toussaint(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer give||Toussaint||10|
|Looks like a scrape exchange with a late-moving LB, which convinces Robinson to give. This is probably the right move. Unfortunately for Michigan, Iowa is keying on this with the safety, who is shooting upfield into the play. Toussaint(+2) cuts back. Omameh(+1), Molk(+1), and Lewan(+1) are maintaining their blocks and shove guys past the play; Toussaint cuts back further. Huyge(+1) gets one last block and Toussaint is into the secondary, where the safety chops him down as he threatens to turn this into a touchdown.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(2), Molk, Omameh, Lewan, Huyge||RUN-:|
|O10||1||G||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 over||Run||Power sweep||Toussaint||2 + 4 Pen|
|Koger and Lewan down block; Schofield, Molk, Hopkins lead. Koger(-2) gets beat. Hopkins(+1) has to peel off and take the DE; Toussaint does have a hole as a result of that and a great edge block by Jackson(+1). The MLB is unblocked because of the Koger miss; that guy tackles. Michigan gets lucky with a facemask.|
|RUN+: Hopkins, Jackson||RUN-: Koger(2)|
|O4||1||G||Shotgun trips bunch||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||0|
|Michigan actually blocking the backside end here; Robinson is reading the LB in the gray area over the slot. When he turns his attention to the WR, Robinson pulls. Huyge(-1) gets a crappy block and lets that end out on the edge; Robinson(-1) should just run for the edge but pulls up. Bad move. RUN-: Huyge, Robinson|
|Play action, no one open, no one bothering to rush, Robinson has decades. As he starts rolling Toussaint breaks for the corner with him, beating the rather slow LB easily. Robinson flips it out. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown (botched XP), 6-7, 2 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||2||0||3||4-3 over||Run||Iso||Toussaint||3|
|Molk(+1) chucks the playside DT to the ground as Omameh releases into the SLB. Hopkins(+1) blocks the MLB and gets a good push but can't seal him away (not his fault); Huyge(-1) does not seal the weakside DE, causing Toussaint to bounce out awkwardly. With the way this is set up he should just slam it up and see what happens; Huyge's block is not necessarily a killer. His bounce takes a long time and allows the D to converge.|
|RUN+: Molk, Hopkins||RUN-: Huyge, Toussaint|
|M25||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||PA quick seam||Dileo||12|
|LB starts creeping off the slot, indicating blitz, or at least contain. M goes inside zone play action and hits Dileo on the quick seam; Dileo gets lit up a moment after he catches the ball but hangs on. Throw could have been better here... actually, no, it almost got batted as it is. (CA, 2, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|M37||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 over||Run||Jet sweep||Robinson||3|
|Molk(+1) reaches and buries the playside DT. Lewan seals the playside DE; Schofield gets out on the SLB but cannot seal him; not his fault, he has no angle. He and the backside DT are flowing hard; two guys are on the backside containing Gardner. Denard cuts up and sees the cutback, which he takes... Lewan's(-1) guy has come around him and tackles just as he slips past the pursuers and is poised to move into the secondary.|
|RUN+: Molk||RUN-: Lewan|
|M40||2||7||Ace twins||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Power off tackle||Smith||3|
|Huyge(-2) loses his down block; an Iowa stunt is handled by Omameh and Molk but it ends up absorbing Omameh on the line when he should be getting out on the WLB. Still, doing that well gets Smith a cutback lane when Schofield gets submarined by Huyge's guy. Points for those two. Picture paged by BWS.|
|RUN+: Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Huyge(2)|
|M43||3||4||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Pass||Dumpoff||Smith||Inc|
|Robinson looks downfield, then checks to Smith, who is breaking open for a first down. Binns knocks the pass down because he isn't even trying to rush the QB. (BA, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, 12 min 2nd Q. I don't have Denard for a single bad pass or decision yet.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||4|
|Michigan runs at the weak side. Omameh(+0.5) and Huyge(+0.5) cave in the playside DT; Hopkins(+1) gets under and inside of Binns, shoving him out of the hole. Schofield(+1) blocks the WLB. Toussaint pops outside for a moment before diving back inside; not sure if Toussaint is pulling a guy outside intentionally or just not being patient enough. It works, though, and he gets a crease. He's through to a safety, but because of the delay that's not that far downfield. I think this is actually a minus for the back.|
|RUN+: Huyge(0.5), Omameh(0.5), Hopkins, Schofield||RUN-: Toussaint|
|M35||2||6||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||-1|
|Oof. Michigan destroys the playside DL. Molk, Schofield, and Lewan(+1 each) end up driving their guys yards off the LOS and get a cut on the WLB. Grady(-2) totally whiffs as he cracks down on the MLB. Huyge(-1) got nothing on the backside DT, who's flowing down the line; Robinson(-2) should risk it anyway and hit it up behind his killer frontside blocking for a decent gain. Instead he hesitates. LB maintains outside leverage when he meets Toussaint; Robinson can no longer cut behind the DT, and when he tries to go outside the LB eats him. Very disappointing.|
|RUN+: Molk, Lewan, Schofield||RUN-: Huyge, Grady(2), Robinson(2)|
|M34||3||7||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Rollout hitch||Hemingway||12|
|Binns is let go and starts moving inside, whereupon Smith chops him. That gives Denard the edge. Unmolested, he sees Hemingway about to turn to the QB on a hitch at about ten yards and throws it before the guy comes open. Hits Hemingway in the hands, caught, first down. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1 for edge)|
|M46||1||10||Ace twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||PA Fly||Roundtree||Inc|
|This is how contain-minded the Iowa DL is: Binns remains responsible for this waggle and hardly gets anywhere near Robinson before he gets the ball off. As for the throw: three guys in the route. Koger is bracketed short. Jackson and Roundtree have steps deeper. Robinson loads up and fires to Roundtree... and it looks like he hits him right in stride but for Roundtree misjudging the pass, breaking stride, and ending up a step behind the ball. Argh. This is a DO that the WR screwed up. (DO, 2, protection N/A) Flag thrown for PI, then picked up. I don't get how that's possible but I also don't think this was PI. Prater acts like a jackass afterwards.|
|M46||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer give||Smith||0|
|Guh... why is Grady in the game here instead of Odoms or something? Iowa shifts late, bringing the LB off the slot. Grady runs to the safety instead of doing something useful by cracking down. Robinson is reading the MLB and gives because he is sticking inside; Smith is cut off by the slot LB, who absorbs Toussaint. He cuts back inside and meets two Iowa players. He had a major cutback if he came back inside of Omameh; instead he trips over Toussaint. RPS -1. RUN-: Grady, Smith|
|M46||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Dime press||Pass||Sack||Robinson||-12|
|Guh. On third and ten Robinson has two guys running three yard circle routes and two guys running double moves deep. Iowa sends six; one guy is buried by Smith; the delayed guy finds his way past the engaged members of the line; nothing any of the OL can do about this since blocking this guy means giving up their man. Robinson pumps a dig route and then the LB is on him. He manages to break the tackle but loses the ball as he escapes and turns it over. Frustrating thing: the route he was pumping was wide open for the first down. Again Borges has no intermediate routes. Robinson had nowhere to go with the ball before a delayed blitzer got to him. (PR, 0, protection 2/3, Team -1, RPS -2)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 6-14, 4 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M49||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Comeback||Hemingway||14|
|All day for Robinson as Iowa only rushes four, though a couple LBs bite so hard it looks like a blitz until they back out. Iowa is not coming anywhere near Denard. He waits and fires a high hard one to a covered Hemingway that he snags for a first down. Excellent coverage that the throw and catch beats. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|M35||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||--||Yakety snap||--||3|
|M32||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 under||Run||Pin and pull zone||Robinson||19|
|Michigan has an alignment advantage here with the slot LB not on the LOS, but working on Dileo. Dileo(+1) kicks him and opens up the corner. Koger(+2) gets the key block on the playside DE, knocking him three yards off the ball and eventually sealing him when Robinson threatens to go upfield inside of the block. Smith(+0.5) and Molk(+0.5) combine to take out one linebacker flowing from the inside and Lewan(+1) pulls around to nail the safety, sending Robinson into the secondary. RPS +1.|
|RUN+: Dileo, Koger(2), Smith(0.5), Molk(0.5), Robinson||RUN-:|
|M13||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||PA throwback screen||Koger||2|
|This is a touchdown waiting to happen if Lewan blocks the corner; he doesn't. This is because the corner is waiting for this play and has been coached to blow it up, so I don't blame Lewan too much. (CA, 3, screen, RPS -1) RUN-: Lewan|
|M11||2||8||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 split||Pass||Slant||Roundtree||INT|
|Another planned pump, then Robinson fires a slant to a well-covered Roundtree that a DB deflects up to a safety. There is a planet on which this is called interference, but it is a planet where everyone goes the speed limit because robot birds shoot you if you go two over. Yeah, guy got there a tiny bit early. No, this is never called. The problem is Denard threw it a yard or two too far inside, allowing the DB to make a play on the ball. The INT is bad luck, but Tom Brady makes this throw. Slightly reminiscent of his second INT against MSU last year, except not as bad a throw. (MA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 6-17, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Omameh(+0.5) only stands up his DT but does just enough; Hopkins(+1) does a good job of getting around that block and plugging the MLB; Molk(+2) has blasted the NT four yards downfield by the time Toussaint reaches him. Toussaint(+0.5) cuts through the gaps quickly, getting cut down by a safety.|
|RUN+: Omameh(0.5), Toussaint(0.5), Molk(2), Hopkins||RUN-:|
|M47||2||3||Ace||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||1|
M double the backside LB, leaving the backside DE unblocked. Lewan(-2) busts. DE rushes down the LOS and makes the tackle from behind when Omameh(-1) and Molk(-1) lose their blocks. Picture paged.
RUN-: Molk, Omameh, Lewan(2).
|M48||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Power off tackle||Robinson||22|
Safety walks down w/ linebacker in gray area over the slot; gray area LB then comes down before the snap. Cannot let the D do this. Have to bubble. No bubble.
With an extra player backside the S and LBs can charge at the play without delay. Schofield gets beat to the hole—not his fault—but manages to shove the guy, who falls. Koger gets beat but manages to shove the guy, who falls. Robinson slows up and pops out side a bit as these guys tumble to the ground. Toussaint(+1) redirects at the last second to kick out the S, and with the three guys on the playside either on the ground or gone, Robinson accelerates through the hole for a big gain. He reaches the 30 and runs through an arm tackle, then just kind of glides OOB when he could stay in bounds for another 10 yards, maybe more. Argh. RPS -1. Koger goes out after the play.
|RUN+: Schofield, Koger(0.5), Toussaint, Robinson(3)||RUN-:|
|Omameh(-1) can't move the DT and that's the intended hole gone. Molk(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) blow up the other guy; Hopkins(-1) runs up the back of Omameh, making himself useless, and Toussaint has to cut back into an unblocked LB.|
|RUN+: Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh, Hopkins|
|O27||2||7||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||-1|
|DE swims upfield of Lewan(-2) and beats him clean, then redirects down to tackle for loss. MLB met Hopkins in the backfield, which didn't help matters. RPS -1. RUN-: Lewan(2)|
|Safety comes down to blitz off the edge. Michigan picks it up, and then the DL goes into panic mode. Robinson finds Smith breaking to the outside on a dumpoff and hits him; Smith orbits inside the LB covering him and manages to extend for the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Sweep||Toussaint||0|
|Again: LB over slot comes down to contain zone read, opening the bubble M refuses to run. Everyone on the line loses. Schofield(-1) can't cut the backside DT. Huyge(-2) misses a down block on the playside guy. Roundtree(-1) runs by the corner. Toussaint runs to the sideline and is surrounded. RUN-: Huyge(2), Schofield, Roundtree|
|O20||2||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-3 under||Pass||PA TE out||Watson||Inc|
|Backside DE on Denard contain; everyone covered anyway. Robinson throws it at Watson, who's covered but might be able to pick up a few yards. Binns bats it back in his face. (BA, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)|
|Iowa sends seven against six blockers (Smith is releasing downfield) and gets through clean. Robinson tries to throw and is blown up in the act. The ball miraculously falls to Smith. (PR, 0, protection 0/3, team, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(32), 9-17, 6 min 3rd Q. Denard whacks his hand on a pass rusher on the final play of that drive. Gardner gets the next one.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M24||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle scramble||Gardner||3|
|Gardner doesn't see anyone open downfield and decides to take off for a minimal gain. Had Hopkins late but didn't see him. (TA, N/A, protection 1/1)|
|M27||2||7||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||0|
|Gardner checks into this... not so much. This looks like power designed to go in the A gap instead of off tackle, but that could just be because this gets blown up. Koger(-1) does not block down well and Omameh(-1) fails to recognize a linebacker blitzing from the inside; Hopkins(-1) ends up missing on the outside but it doesn't matter since the LB has forced Toussaint away from his blocking. Molk and Schofield handled a stunt well, but for naught. RPS -1|
|RUN+: Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh, Hopkins, Koger|
|Plenty of time; Iowa has adjusted to the slot hitch Hemingway has run for good yardage (or drops) a couple times earlier. They've got a guy sitting in front of it. Gardner waits, does not check down to Smith, who's running underneath this and has a 50-50 shot of turning it up for a first down. He eventually throws it to Hemingway. It's way high, which prevents the ball from being intercepted, I guess. Hemingway stabs at it with one hand but cannot bring it in. Offsides gives M another chance. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|M32||3||2||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Speed option||Gardner||5|
|Molk(+1) seals the NT. Koger(+1) and Lewan(+1) momentarily combo the playside DE; Koger gets a seal and then Lewan comes off to plow a LB shooting the gap. Gardner almost takes the cheese but does see the DE reached on the outside and takes it out there; safety cuts him down as he picks up the first.|
|RUN+: Molk, Koger, Lewan, Gardner||RUN-:|
|M37||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Sweep||Toussaint||1|
|Huyge(-2) gets beaten up by this little LB on the POA, giving a bunch of ground, forcing Molk upfield inside of him, and eventually losing him outside, where he makes a tackle at the LOS. Molk(-1) ran by the MLB and even if this didn't happen Toussaint probably wasn't going anywhere. Toussaint dinged. RUN-: Huyge(2) , Molk|
|M38||2||9||Ace trips bunch tight||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||Gardner||1|
|Sweep formation except Watson flares out wide and Hemingway is the interior slot guy. Seems to tip pass. It's a straight dropback. Gardner finds no one and takes off for minimal yardage. (TA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|M39||3||8||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel||Pass||Rollout sack||--||-12|
|Michigan runs a flood and I bet they have the second level. Hard to tell but the corner is at ten yards and I think the guy behind him should be open. Gardner again finds no one, sacked. (TA, N/A, protection ½, Smith -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9-17, 1 min 3rd Q. Down 24-9 with ten minutes left, M goes hurry-up.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Miss most of this play for some frippery. Short pitch and catch for a decent gain. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Well covered; way long and on a line. A throwaway? I don't know. Rather see him toss it back shoulder to maybe give his guy a chance. (IN, 0, protection 2/2) He had more time, so if a TA a bad decision.|
|50||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|Iowa ready for this. They have the line and LBs moved playside. Down block on playside DT from Omameh(-0.5) and Huyge(-0.5) is meh. Linebacker can scrape over the top of it because of the difficulty and the alignment. Robinson has to slow, at which point DT comes through to tackle. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Koger||RUN-: Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5)|
|O48||4||1||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||5-2 tight||Run||Speed option||Robinson||5|
|Smith blows the snap count and moves way, way too early; NT points him out... and Molk(+2) still reaches him. Robinson(+1) sees it and hits the gap immediately. Schofield(+1) reaches the backside DT and slows down to eliminate him. Omameh(+1) releases into the MLB; Koger also helps. Robinson picks up the first and then cuts outside... or would but for a desperation ankle tackle by the safety.|
|Grady's the slot; he does a good job of settling in a spot in the zone and then moving a bit as the linebacker comes over so that Robinson still has a lane. Robinson hits him in the numbers. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O34||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Pin and pull zone||Robinson||14|
|Omameh(-1) blows his zone block; Molk has to peel off to finish it. Grady(+1) gets a good kick on the slot LB, which allows Robinson to just squeeze through a crease between that and Koger zoning—barely—Binns. Smith(+1) also hopped through and hits the safety, opening up the corner. Huyge(+1) got a good whack on the playside LB as well.|
|RUN+: Grady, Robinson(2), Smith, Huyge||RUN-: Omameh|
|Slot LB creeps down and basically sits there; with the outside receiver going deep and running off the corner this is wide open and easy. Is this a bust? Probably. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Grady breaks a tackle for some extra.|
|O6||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||Angle||Koger||6|
|Robinson again has forever. Koger releases, makes like he's going to run an out, then cuts back upfield on a post cut that gets a linebacker to hold him. Robinson loads up and floats it right to him or six; Koger makes the catch despite being interfered with. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-24, 7 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M4||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||PA quick seam||Hemingway||20|
|PA mesh point to the quick seam as the slot LB again sucks in on the run. Robinson zings it to Hemingway, who catches it for a first down, then runs through a tackle for a chunk more. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +2)|
|Dileo is well covered and there is no pressure so you'd like to see Robinson keep this a bit and try to find someone else or scramble, but it's thrown. It's low and away from defenders but not accurate enough to give Dileo any chance of catching it. The lack of a potential INT prevents this from being a BR, but Robinson made this tough on himself. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M24||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||QB iso||Robinson||1|
|Schofield(-1) does not get around the NT despite getting quite a bit of help from Molk; Omameh(-1) loses the playside DT after giving a bunch of ground. Robinson doesn't see it and decides to bounce. Safety comes up, Robinson has to cut back inside and gets little. Bounce was not there and he definitely didn't improve his lot by taking it; should have hit it up. RUN-: Robinson, Omameh, Schofield|
|Zone blitz(!) from Iowa sees a DT drop off, but it's picked up and Robinson can step and fire up the middle. Roundtree has no separation at all, Robinson throws high and a little wide, and the safety nearly picks it off. Tough life there when you've got a dig route against man that should be open and Roundtree is blanketed. Crappy route? Maybe. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 4 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M18||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||11|
|Playing off the first play of the last drive, and also you basically can't defend this with six guys in the box. Michigan doubles the backside DE—weird--and the NT. Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) get push on him; Molk pops off to get playside LB. Backside guy is watching Robinson and has to remain responsible; Robinson hands off. Smith hits the hole and breaks an arm tackle to pick up a first down. RPS+1.|
|RUN+: Smith, Molk, Schofield, Omameh(0.5)||RUN-:|
|So M blows 11 seconds before snapping the ball here. Gurg. No pressure; Robinson sets up and bombs it deep to a single-covered Roundtree, but Roundtree has run a crap route and is pushed OOB by the CB (legally). No chance. Robinson had a guy underneath open and time. Shouldn't have thrown to a guy with no shot. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Half roll with Robinson pulling up once the backside DT threatens him a bit; he finds a wide open Roundtree for six... and misses. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M29||3||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Rollout hitch||Odoms||13|
|First catch of the year for Odoms; he is on a short hitch and rotates outside as a late-arriving DB misses a tackle on him. Turned up for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Ton of time; he finds Hemingway in one on one coverage but very good one on one coverage and throws it way long. Hang that baby up there. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M42||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|Some confusion and the offense never fully stops moving before the snap. Roundtree was the guy who did not get set.|
|Forever, huge pocket, zings to Roundtree as he cuts in front of coverage at the sticks. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Ready for play is three seconds after the playclock resets. WTF. Michigan lets 15 seconds run off before the snap. MOTS: forever and a day in the pocket, zinged to Roundtree's hands for seven plus maybe some YAC, dropped. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Roundtree in backfield, motions out. Again no rush. Gallon's drag comes open as Roundtree drives off the corner; Robinson hits him and Gallon turns it up for a first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Gallon stumbles and does not actually get OOB here.|
|Michigan huddles. Guh. Ready for play at 32 seconds, snap at 14. They blow 18 seconds. Did they think Gallon got OOB? Anyway, no rush: Robinson pumps to one side of the field and then comes to the other side where a well-covered Gallon is one on one with a corner. He throws it OOB. This may be a throwaway. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O32||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Slant||Roundtree||9 (Pen +10)|
|Zone blitz sees Iowa send five. Michigan biffs the protection with Huyge and Smith headed out to the corner, but Robinson's already throwing a slant. (CA, 3, protection ½, Huyge -1) Flag for holding stops the clock and gives M a first down.|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Deep out||Roundtree||19|
|Michigan lets nine seconds run off the clock from the ready to play after a penalty. No pressure. Robinson finds Roundtree inside the ten in front of a corner and nails him. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O3||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Pass||Fade||Hemingway||Inc|
|Massive blitz; Robinson chucks a duck off the back foot when the back corner fade to Hemingway is looking open. (IN, 0, protection 1/1) Protection only one because it's a quick throw and the free blitzer is unblockable since they're sending seven.|
|O3||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Pass||Fade||Hemingway||Inc|
|Slant is first option; covered. Robinson comes off it and there's a guy eating his face, so he has to chuck it back foot. This one isn't great but it's vaguely catchable; Hemingway vaguely does not catch it. (MA, 1, protection ½, team)|
|O3||3||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Pass||Improv||Smith||Inc|
|This time a guy gets free right up the middle; Robinson has to dodge him, which he does. He's taking more heat and has to get rid of it; he finds Smith and tosses it to him; a little low and outside but pretty catchable and away from the defender. Smith can't bring it in. (CA, 2, protection 0/3, team)|
|O3||4||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Pass||Slant||Roundtree||Inc|
|The interference. Refs -2. Again no time because a guy not on the outside is coming free (CA, 0, protection 0/3, team, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 16-24, EOG.|
Denard Robinson is a terrible thrower who can't throw anything.
Look, man, I'm just like… I chart—
—these things and this is what I got:
[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation. Screens are in parens.]
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
|Notre Dame '11||6||7(1)||1||6(1)||5||1||1||1||-||50%|
Gardner had a CA on a screen, an IN, and three TAs, for a DSR of 0.0%.
I got Denard's best performance of the year against a D-I opponent. The things that happened to him that were bad were many dropped passes, Roundtree misjudging a perfectly-thrown deep ball, and plenty of batted passes.
Yeah, I said it, perfectly thrown deep ball:
Roundtree slowed up a moment before this still. If he runs through the ball this is a touchdown the DB can't do anything about. Arggggh.
What's more, I have all seven of Denard's INs and his BR in hurry-up time; most of those were the Rex Grossman deep balls it seemed like he was instructed to throw on first down just in case something worked out. All were way off but historically I've mentioned deep ball INs as less egregious because… like… they are. His BR was an OOB chuck to Roundtree when he had a shorter guy open for a chunk—there was no "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING" throw this week. If his WRs had helped him out we are talking about a different game.
There is a massive caveat: Iowa did not rush the passer. I don't mean they rushed four and didn't get there. I mean that unless Iowa was deploying one of their infrequent blitzes, they literally made no attempt to sack Denard.
- why Denard did not even look like scrambling once (not that he does much anyway)
- why an unusual number of passes got batted down
- why Denard's DSR is much better
It seems like an incredibly dumb strategy but I guess it worked. Robinson did not handle the pressure well on the last series—third down was good, first and second not—and against opponents that get after you more I expect his passing to revert back to the previous not so good form.
The receivers were bleah, you say?
[Passes are rated like so: 0 = uncatchable, 1 = very difficult, 2 = moderately difficult, 3 = routine.]
Three flat drops and two coulda-had-thems. Both of the latter were critical. The first was the Roundtree misjudge you see above, the second Smith's endzone drop of a low floater. One of Hemingway's routine drops ended a drive. It wasn't an all-time bad performance but it could have been better, especially when you consider some of the seemingly crappy routes Michigan ran. I have no way to quantify that, but trust me.
And the run game?
This is an ugly chart.
|Molk||14.5||2||12.5||Legit All-American, I think.|
|Omameh||4||6.5||-2.5||The usual at this point.|
|Huyge||5||9.5||-4.5||Binns ripped him up.|
|Schofield||9.5||4||4.5||Got an easier assignment against the crappy DT.|
|Watson||-||1||-1||Not a whole lot of time.|
|Koger||6||3||3||Still held up okay.|
|TOTAL||45||33||58%||A struggle. Had moments, though. Bigger disappointment…|
|Robinson||8||5||3||Too much bounce, not decisive enough, blew some good reaches. M needs more from him on the cuts.|
|Toussaint||5.5||3||2.5||Also could have done better. Had some dancing at the line that allowed safeties to help. Did have a sweet cutback.|
|Hopkins||7||2||5||Nice day. Major reason those isos were effective.|
|TOTAL||24||11||13||Need to MAKE PLAYS here and largely did not. Ball carriers +5 on 35 carries.|
|TOTAL||5||5||0||Also a disappointing day.|
|Protection||57||15||79%||Team 12, Schofield 1, Smith 1, Huyge 1. Blitzes an issue.|
|RPS||7||15||-8||Throwback screens don't work anymore. At least they got a rollout blocked.|
That is Molk, Hopkins, Schofield, and disappointment. Denard is not immune to criticism here. It was on the ground more than in the air that his decision making was problematic. Cut it up, dude:
Glarg. I wonder if the change in emphasis here has made Denard rusty on his zone cuts. Once that guy comes up it's straight upfield until they tackle you.
Meanwhile, Iowa's ends won the day against the tackles—Huyge in particular could not handle Binns, or the cut block on the above play—and the receivers were crappy when called upon. Like on that play, where Grady turns a big gain into zilch. Y U NO ODOMS. Seriously: why he no Odoms? Where did Odoms go?
We can has fullback?
Maybe. Stephen Hopkins was a bright spot. He has nimble feet, especially for a fullback, and brings a load when he meets linebackers at the POA.
That's pretty good right there. Dude is hammering full speed at the LOS and gets turned out. Later he pancaked the same dude.
He's quickly supplanted McColgan and should be a useful piece the next couple years. If he can stop fumbling he could let Michigan add a triple option to their repertoire.
Why haven't you complained about a bubble yet?
Oh mah gawd, good point. It's not really about the bubble, it's about preventing stuff like this from happening:
Not the 22 yard run part. The part where it takes two guys miraculously falling down to get the 22 yard run. Not bubbling this…
Is pretty much asking for vicious frontside flow because ain't nobody worried about the cutback with the slot LB coming down. This is the wider view from a little earlier:
That is a free first down. Take it. Take it and relieve some pressure from your run game. The only way for them to defend the bubble with that setup is to have the safety roar down at it, which opens them up to Worst Waldo counterpunches.
Can a brother get a run breakdown?
Right. I forgot last week. This week:
ACE (INC DENARD JET)
Total: 6 carries, 2.6 YPC.
Total: 11 carries, 3.4 YPC
Total: 15 carries, 6.3 YPC. Should be noted that the power play was fortunate, the zone read that got any yards on the last drive, and the veer that got any yards the Toussaint massive cutback. Not a whole lot went as planned.
Did you have any issues with the last drive?
We talked about this a bit earlier in the week: once you get to the three with 16 seconds left I think taking your TO and throwing is the move, at least until fourth down.
HOWEVA, there's no way it should have come to that.
Is that a freaking huddle as the ref signals the game clock with 31 seconds on the play clock? Yes.
NASCAR? MORE LIKE SLOWCAR ZING
That's Michigan snapping it seventeen seconds later. /head asplode
Two plays earlier they let fifteen seconds run off after the Roundtree conversion on second and eighteen; three plays later they let nine seconds run off after a penalty. If they chop those delays down to an average of five seconds—more than reasonable considering the last one should have been like two—Roundtree is tackled at the three with 42 seconds left, ie forever. They easily keep their time out and prevent Iowa from sending seven on four consecutive plays.
There is a slight mitigating factor on the above since I think they thought Gallon got out of bounds, so they could huddle. Once it was clear the clock was running they'd already slowed down. It's still really frustrating.
I need one more complaint for my bingo card.
Hated the playcall on Denard's fumble. M comes out in a double stack and has the foremost WRs run little out routes as M goes for a double move. Pump fake…
…to a wide open dude at the sticks…
…who is trying a double move. LB roars up; Denard escapes but fumbles as he does. He had nowhere to go with the ball.
Watch Vincent Smith advertise speed option to the entire state of Iowa and Molk still reach the DT:
I am going to miss that brilliant twinkle-toed media-hating bastard.
Also… uh… Hopkins? Yeah, Hopkins. And here's a change of pace: Denard's arm.
The rest of the line not named Schofield. The receivers somewhat. Denard's legs. (I knew I put Opposite Day in the podcast for a reason.)
What does it mean for Illinois and the rest of the season?
The line has to be better against the Illinois DL or it's going to be a long day. Can they? I don't like that Huyge-Mercilus matchup at all. Without Liuget I think they'll be vulnerable on the interior—Molk reached Akeem Spence all day last year—but will Hopkins-based isos be enough? Will Michigan use Molk's super powers or not?
I don't think Denard's passing performance is replicable. Not only does Denard screw up throws when he actually gets pressure, his inability to figure out how pressured he is has caused a lot of bad throws when players are vaguely near him. The comfort zone he was in against Iowa isn't going to be replicated against an Illinois defense that gets a ton of sacks (third nationally at 3.4 per).
I don't have a lot of faith in this offense moving the ball against the #6 D in the country, on the road. Since this is Big Ten football 2011, they will score 40 points.
- 2 inside zone for 0.5 YPC
- 1 jet sweep for 3 YPC
- 1 pitch sweep for 4 YPC
- 2 power plays for 4 YPC
- 6 isos for 4.7 YPC
- 4 power plays for 2 YPC
- 1 sweep for 1 YPC
- 2 pin and pull zone for 16.5 YPC
- 1 power play for 22 YPC
- 1 QB iso for 1 yard
- 1 QB power for 2 yards
- 1 QB stretch for –1 yards
- 1 sweep for 0 YPC
- 3 inverted veers for 5 YPC
- 2 speed option for 5 YPC
- 3 inside zone reads for 4 YPC
11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.
You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.
Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.
This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.
Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.
In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.
The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.
I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.
This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.
Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.
There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.
We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.
*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:
ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]
Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.
On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.
Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:
- Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
- Losing Rich Rodriguez.
- Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]
On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:
In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.
I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.
I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.
The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:
- Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
- 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
- Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.
Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.
I guess no turnovers is a bummer.
The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.
Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.
Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.
If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.
Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.
Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.
Des Moines Register
Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.
Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.
That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez
Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.
Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.
Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:
What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…
Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes. TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.
I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.
The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.
Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.
But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Bull. I mean:
Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.
So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.
I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.
Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.
BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.
I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.
I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.
Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:
Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)
Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.
I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:
So that happened. I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome. I could feel the disappointment coming all week. Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house. Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already. There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that. No surprise: it did.
Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.
And the Denard slide started a long time ago.
Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:
My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm. He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three. He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated. Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.
Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels. Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge. I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst.
The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:
but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.
the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.
When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.
There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.
Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.
It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.