Mike Lantry, 1972
9/10/2011 – Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 – 2-0
is this real life?
Not only can Denard Robinson redefine All-America teams, average nearly 500 yards per game against Notre Dame, and pilot the most insane fourth quarter Michigan Stadium has ever seen, but he can sum up what happened on Saturday in a single word:
If you still need evidence that Denard can do things other people can't, there you go. Because I've got nothing. I can gape, slack-jawed and twitching, if you'd like. Oh, and I can put my finger between my lips and go "brrrrrrrrrbbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrrbb" with crazy googly eyes. Also I can spin in a circle going "yip yip yip yip yip."
These are my capabilities. All other functions are currently offline. Attempt to access higher cognition and you will receive 503 Gateway Not Found.
That's fine. There's nothing to say that "brrrrrrbrbrbrbrbrrbrbrb" doesn't cover anyway. I am so high, you guys. I don't even know what I'm saying.
Seriously. I'm really struggling here to put words in the computer. I guess… okay.
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. I couldn't block them from my phone. The tweets sat there, whispering evil things into my ear.
As I projected Denard's state of mind my own got inky black. The road ahead seemed like another two years of painful rebuilding towards a goal Denard will never see, his career relegated to that of Brandon Graham when Desmond Howard seemed in reach. It's going to kill me if Denard ends up a really good player on a mediocre team for the duration of his career and Michigan doesn't end up making anyone who wants 16 in the future wear a patch with dreads on it. It's going to be worse if he's not even a really good player. Someone is at fault for this travesty.
I was running advanced equations of blame assignment amongst Bill Martin, Rich Rodriguez, Al Borges, Dave Brandon, and bloody fate when Denard rolled out. Corralled by a Notre Dame defender, he stood perfectly still but still delivered a game-changing dart to Junior Hemingway before two more ND players could close in.
From there the delirium took over.
That game was delirious because of the many improbable events stacked on each other. Jeremy Gallon jump-ball touchdowns. Tommy Rees's aiming device locked on Michael Floyd. Tommy Rees throwing a ball backwards for no reason. More jump balls to Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon turning invisible with 23 seconds left. All the reasons it left you with your finger between your teeth are reasons to wonder about the smoothness of this transition (not very), the repeatability of such miracles (even less).
This isn't to blame anyone—it seems that coaches are who they are and as much as I want to, you can't hire a guy based on the two years left you've got with Denard. But I hope I'm not the only one who felt a sense of foreboding in the midst of the joy and relief. We've seen this script the last two years, and never has it been as rickety.
Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season. The stakes are only Denard's career, everyone's faith in the Ethical Les Miles theory of Hoke's success, and the very survival of pandas in the wild. I'll take the escape. I wonder what happens when the drugs wear off and real life reasserts itself.
For now, though:
The game is ova!
Non-Bullets Of WHAT?
Pantheon placement. I think this is below Braylonfest—but only just—in the competition for Best Comeback Ever (that people 32 or under remember). For Michigan to pull Braylonfest out they had to recover an onside kick and survive not just triple overtime by an oft-forgotten 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation that was set up by a horrible pass interference call.
A good proxy for the level of kickass in your comeback is how many people left the stadium early. While there were some people who took off when ND made it 24-7, they don't compare to the legions who left early during that MSU game. And winning that eventually got Michigan a Rose Bowl appearance. The season-long significance of this ND game is going to be lower.
It easily beats out the Buffalo Stampede game, since it's not against Minnesota or in the Metrodome, and then it's a long way to fourth place.
As far as best game ever… it depends on what you're rating it on. I like my defining victories to be well-played and not hinge on the opposing quarterback throwing the ball backwards for no reason. In terms of pure drama it's up there but with both teams unranked and not looking likely to defy that I'd say most Ohio State games before we stopped being competitive had more salt to them. We lost all the ones that came down to the last play, though.
The entire Denard interview. If you missed this, you should fix that:
Commence the bitching about the offense. Watching Michigan run a play-action bomb from the I-formation after averaging exactly two yards per carry out of the I on previous attempts was exactly what I was beating into the ground over the offseason. No one is scared of Michigan's crappy backs running power out of the I-form so no one has to cheat to it. Thus instead of Worst Waldo plays featuring Roy Roundtree and twenty yards of grass we got a lot of hopeful downfield jump balls into excellent coverage.
Michigan was lucky as hell to get most of those. That was a Jeff Bowden special right there. I'm not alone in this. There has to be some adaptation now that we know the relative success rates of manball and Denardball. When Denard's averaging 7.5 YPC (sack excluded) and the rest of the backs under are 2, power is a lost cause.
Denard has to be the focal point of the offense, fragile or no. And the new offense seemed to remove Denard's legs as the primary threat without actually reducing his carries: he had 15 carries* in just 50 snaps. Project that to last year's 72 offensive snaps per game and Denard would have carried 22(!) times. What's the point of throwing away snaps on two-yard runs from the I?
Primary thing that may just work. "Chuck it up to Hemingway" may be the world's most primitive passing game but dang if it doesn't work. Hemingway not only has great leaping ability, he's enormous and therefore capable of boxing out opponents. Add in an uncanny knack for being able to high-point the ball and he's a hell of a lot like Marquise Walker before Walker got the dropsies as a senior.
Primary thing that did work from under center. Vincent Smith's throwback screen touchdown was a great call since it used Denard's legs. He rolls, defense freaks, he throws back, Smith should have an easy touchdown if any of the offensive linemen block that one linebacker, Smith makes it happen anyway. Contrast with the earlier screen where a short Denard has to float a ball over a guy leaping in his face and ends up throwing it eight yards too far and getting it picked off.
And introducing… Facepalm Guy. The facepalm guy from the sad fugee face picture in the "So I Was Like" post: the the new Lloyd Brady? He's already won an award for "Media Criticism" from Doctor Saturday.
1) He caught ESPN's camera's capturing his facepalm moment and gave them an oh-no-you-di'in't:
2) After the game he… well, he did this:
Can a brother get a Facepalm Guy touchdown Jesus photoshop?
(HT to MGoUser Haterade.)
Defensive events. Brandon Herron and Mike Jones were supposedly out with injury but if I had to guess they were not so badly hurt they couldn't play and Michigan was trying out their other options at WLB. Desmond Morgan started, played poorly—he got trucked like he was in a BTN practice highlight-type substance—and was yanked. Then Brandin Hawthorne came in and may have been plausible. He knifed into the backfield for one key TFL on third and short. I'm guessing he was at least partially responsible for a number of Cierre Wood runs that went for big yardage, but we'll see. WLB remains a sore spot.
The other sore spot is an alarming, unexpected one: WDE. Craig Roh had zero tackles for the second straight week and while he did get a QB hurry or two he seems less impactful from that spot than he did last year. I mean, last year he split two ND linemen and picked up a huge TFL en route to a +11 day. This year he'll be lucky to break even. Hopefully he's still sick. I wonder if we see more Black in the short term.
How did Jordan Kovacs only have eight tackles?
BONUS: Will Campbell got held! By an offensive lineman!
Special teams. Matt Wile has been at least average spelling Hagerup, and with only one more real-ish game left before the latter returns it looks like Michigan will escape that suspension without much real damage. I still hate the regular punt. If ND's John Goodman hadn't made inexplicable fair catches he had tons of room on two of Wile's five punts despite Wile's excellent hangtime.
The patch thing. It's pretty cool. Some potential tweaks and additions:
- Should we un-retire numbers? I could get behind a 98 if it meant someone was going to be sitting in front of a locker that said Tom Harmon. You'd have to ask whoever the nearest relative is.
Further locker room additions. Everyone who's been an All-American should have their name engraved in a fashion more understated than this legends designation…
...but still be there. Having Chappius and Oosterbaan and Friedman and McKenzie and Dierdorf and Long's names up in the locker room would be a nice way to recognize All-Americans past.
- Next up. AC and Woodson. If they don't put the retired numbers back in circulation. Jake Long would probably be next up way down the road.
- The patch is too big. That's just, like, my opinion, man.
So there's this. Exploit your children for fun and profit:
Profit not applicable.
Pom-poms and RAWK and crowd noise. Is it just me or was the stadium not actually very loud when it would help out the most? The pom-poms encouraged people to use their hands shaking pom-poms instead of making noise and while the piped-in music was indeed loud, when it cut out the people in the stadium making noise were largely going "OH oh oh oh oh, OH oh oh oh oh" instead of "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA." The latter is louder.
Putting aside the insults to the Great Tradition they represent, is the noise level created by the frippery mostly cosmetic? It has seemed much louder in Michigan Stadium—I was frustrated as I was screaming myself hoarse on the last drive while people around me shook their little plastic thingies. Plastic thingy shaking is not that intimidating, people.
And then there's the guy two rows in front of you who's shaking the thing constantly so you can't see the game. In the South they have a protocol about these things: raise that thing above your shoulder during a play and you're not getting that arm back. Here we get them every five years or so and there's always someone who thinks row 14 is the last one.
ST3 goes inside the box score. Michael Scarn says trying to describe that game was like taking a picture of Bigfoot. Post-ND MonuMental riff by ppToilet. (You can't choose your username, man, it chooses you.) MonuMental himself shows up to modify his Denard action figure for the occasion.
Pretty much the best. An obviously drunk Jeff at Maize Pages digs up the fantastically entertaining Roundtree-Shaw Newlywed game BTN video in response to the delerium.
Photo galleries and assorted media. Pregame shots from MNB Nation. Other shots from MNBN. The Shredder took a zillion shots. Tailgating from AnnArbor.com. Also the game. Here's a great stadium shot from Melanie Maxwell:
Also here's this dude:
The whole gallery is worth checking out.
Wolverine Historian put together a 28 minute highlight reel.
Column-type events. Wojo. More Wojo. MVictors also fills you in on the techno viking behind Hoke: yes, it's Steve Everitt, and no, you do not want to get between him and his cubs. Kyle Meinke says Denard was a big part of the offense and the running backs weren't and that's not so cool. Florek in the Daily.
UGA/M dual-fan Michael at Braves & Birds wonders whether it's better to play poorly and win (as Michigan did) or play well and lose (as Georgia did).
Entertaining serieseses of bullets. MVictors:
On the sunny side, they pulled out all the stops in the press box for the media on hand. Witness the butter dish of victory:
This might have been Brandon's special bonus.
[Robinson's] total of 446 yards and 5 touchdowns was excellent, but how he got there was strange. Through three quarters of football, he was 4-for-14 passing (if that accuracy rate sounds familiarly horrible, that's because it's the same as Michigan's kickers circa 2010) for 136 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. In the fourth stanza, Robinson went 8-for-11 for 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus a recovered Stephen Hopkins fumble that he turned into a touchdown.
That graph is intended as a baseline estimator for a team's real-time win probability and is independent of situation, but the site also offers a crude win probability calculator, which, while it's calibrated to an NFL scale, can at least give us a decent estimate of how unlikely Michigan's victory was: four percent, Michigan's win probability after Notre Dame's slot receiver scampered into the endzone without a defender in site. Denard Robinson laughs at your probabilities and says, "Really? Oh man, that's crazy," and throws the ball to Jeremy Gallon standing alone in the Notre Dame secondary.
Maize and Blue Nation wins best headline: "The Denard. The Denard. The Denard."
National takes: Adam Jacobi marvels and notes that Robinson couldn't throw the ball even when he was completing passes; he also points out that uh… the Big Ten is not so much this year. Doctor Saturday:
Here, instead of merely covering poorly, Notre Dame subsequently failed to cover Wolverine receiver Jeremy Gallon at all, incredibly freeing him for a 64-yard sprint to the Irish 16-yard line with eight seconds left for a) A couple shots at the winning touchdown; b) A shot at a field goal to tie; or c) A confused catastrophe that left 110,000 people contemplated mass hara-kiri. With all of every one of those people secretly fearing c), Robinson delivered the dagger.
Robinson was, again, heroic for Michigan. He has brutalized the Irish the past two seasons, rolling up a mind-boggling 948 yards of total offense to go with eight TDs. His performance in the fourth quarter Saturday night was downright epic: 7 of 9, 202 yards, three passing touchdowns to go with six carries for 24 yards and another TD. In all, he accounted for a staggering 226 of his team's 229 yards.
In Case You Live Under A Rock
Opening remarks: “Um, that was an exciting football game.” Har har. “Oh, you do have a sense of humor.
"I thought both teams -- I’ve gotta give Brian and his staff and his kids a lot of credit. I thought both teams fought, and they fought for 60 minutes. It wasn’t pretty probably at times on both ends of it. But like I told our players, it’s great to win. There’s a lot to learn from this tape, but to go out there and play for 60 minutes and win the football game in the manner that we won -- our kids, I’m real proud. Terrence Robinson, on the last kickoff [with] two seconds left, watching him bust his butt to get down the field to try to cover it. There were other guys doing the same thing, but that’s the thing, as a coach, that you take away from your team.
“We had some adversity, they fought back. We never really got on track early in the game. Didn’t have any momentum, any rhythm, when you look at it from an offensive standpoint. And defensively, we didn’t start as well as we’d like. Played a little better there for a while, and then it was back and forth. We have a lot to look at and a lot to work on. It’s great to win, and it’s great to win for our seniors -- [it’s] the last time they play in this great rivalry. So now we move forward.”
Did you say anything to Denard after he threw the pick in the endzone? “We’ll look at it tomorrow, and he may have seen something there that was better than maybe it was. I never said anything to him -- unless it’s really a poor decision throw. I didn’t think it was a poor decision.”
Do you think this win creates momentum for the program? "I don’t know. I think there is momentum. I think you do gain some momentum, and I think for us, as a team, it will be a great learning experience. It’s amazing when you do play 60 minutes of football, meaning you do stay together as a team. You compliment each other and you lean on each other. That, for us, will be part of the teachings and part of the lessons from this football game.”
Why were receivers so hit-or-miss, and what allowed them to be able to make spectacular catches? "I think it’s just being a human being. I think we all have good days and bad days. We all maybe write something good one time and maybe something not so good the next. I’m sure that never happens in here.” Aw, shucks. "I’m not being sarcastic. Really.” You shouldn’t have. “But, in truthfulness, there were probably three balls early in the game, in the first half, maybe one in the second -- maybe four total -- that I think would have moved the sticks for us, would have given us some more momentum. We weren’t very good on third downs on either side. They were 8 for 14, which is good for them, bad for Michigan defense, and I think 3 for 9 when you look at what we were. There’s no explanation besides we have to do a better job concentrating and focusing and catching the ball.”
How much did it help to have beaten Notre Dame in similar fashion the last couple of years? “I’m sure it helps. I think it’s a great question for them. I think anytime you compete -- but at the same time every team is so different. Your seniors are different. Your leadership is different. Playmakers, to some degree, may be different. I think it’s a great question for them, if they had a little more juice at the end because of that -- I don’t know.”
[More after the jump]
Let's all not panic. Uni-watch reports that the piping is dead:
(As per usual, do not be alarmed at the white pants.) I was never a piping fan—too West Virginia—so its removal is welcome.
(HT: the board's JeepinBen.)
Quote of win. Patrick Omameh on Denard Robinson speech patterns:
“He just has to do everything fast, and I don’t know why,” Omameh said. “I think we’ve kind of adapted to his … I guess, uh … method of speaking. We say he be speaking Florida.”
Yes, I'm a sucker for ungrammatical uses of "be." Also I find it hard to believe why Omameh thinks Denard Robinson doesn't have to do everything fast. He completed a Rubik's Cube before it was invented. He can't eat eggs. When he gets in a Ferrari the car tries to shift him. He's too fast for eggs! What does that even mean HE'S TOO FAST TO FIND OUT
“It’s just real fast,” Omameh said. “Everything is just super sped up. I’m like, ‘You know, you can slow down a little bit if you want us to run the play right. But, you don’t have to.’"
Even better quote. Manny Diaz on BYU's fullbacks:
They've got fullbacks that want to block your soul.
That is all.
More McGary. Sam Webb's latest article in the News is on Mitch McGary with more from McGary's (and Glenn Robinson's) tough-talking AAU coach Wayne Brumm:
"The post player is intimately and intricately involved in John Beilein's system," Brumm explained. "I don't know anybody who runs a better offensive system for a post player than Michigan. So I have to say, why not (Michigan as a possible destination)? Everybody else is (analyzing McGary's recruitment) like they're a friggin fan. We're trying to pick a school that is in Mitch's best interest."
Brumm added: "John Beilein can flat-out coach. The people I talk to and the coaches I talk to, I'll flat-out tell you — they are scared of John Beilein. They are worried about the day he starts getting the talent that they've got (at their schools). He's been at a bunch of places that he couldn't recruit high-major talent. Now he's at Michigan and it looks like he is making some headway there. When he starts with an even slate in terms of talent, look out! Look what he did last year. Look what he did with Darius Morris, Timmy Hardaway, and look what he has done with Jordan Morgan. My goodness, isn't anybody paying attention?"
That sounds like a guy who would like McGary to hit up Ann Arbor. On this morning's WTKA recruiting roundup, Webb delivered the "gut feeling" on McGary's top three: Michigan, Maryland, and Florida. No disrespect to those programs but that's a lot less of a mountain to hurdle than UK, UNC, and Duke, the other schools he plans to visit. I'm kind of thinking this is going well. Listen to the roundup—Webb won't say it (specifically disclaims it, actually) but it sounds like he believes this is happening.
Brumm also literally states that Bacari Alexander "gets it." WOO!
Mattison on the trail. Wolverine Nation—how is that URL even available?—has launched. They've put Tom behind a paywall and don't have an RSS feed, but here's this excellent article from Mike Rothstein on Greg Mattison's recruiting style:
"He didn't realize at the time just how expensive they were," former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Bob Davie said. "The business manager brought him in and they could have bought a new car with how much he spent on that mobile phone. I'll never forget that.
"That's just how he does it. He's going to work harder than anybody."
Rothstein hits up Mattison's head coach from back in the day when he was a D-line coach at Northwestern and various players from his Notre Dame days.
The other guy. ND DC Bob Diaco on Denard:
"Unfortunately it just is what it is," defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. "We need to be perfect, because any little crease and it's over, he's gone. It's not like, somebody hits a crease and he rattles for eight, 10 yards and you get him on the ground. This guy hits the crease and he can punch a hole in the top of the defense like that." …
"It's just a monumental task defending a runner at quarterback in particular, that it almost gives you the feeling like they're playing with 12," Diaco said. "It's a problem."
This game will not only be the first real opportunity to see what Borges does with Denard, it will be a major hype-check on Diaco. After his defense gave up 35 in a humiliating loss to Navy that had option-savvy Middies in disbelief that anyone could be so incompetent:
Navy wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. Kelly and Diaco just have absolutely no clue how the Navy offense works. …
If Diaco and Kelly hadn’t seen it before, then I have no idea what film they’ve been watching, or if they even watched any at all. That isn’t even hyperbole; they thought that Navy’s fullback ran through the A gap. And that was their plan– to send the inside linebackers crashing into the A gap that nobody was running through. That just made those LBs easier to block as either the fullback or quarterback ran right by them and into the secondary. …
What’s almost as incredible as this horrible game plan is the fact that despite Kelly’s assertion to the contrary, Notre Dame never adjusted. Those ILBs kept running into the A gap for the entire game. Once or twice Te’o scraped outside to make a play in the backfield, and I’d think,”OK, now we’ll see something else.” But we didn’t. Notre Dame would go right back to the same old thing on the next play, and the Mids would pick up a big gain.
Diaco appeared clueless in a media interview soon after. The next week his D gave up almost 400 yards and 28 points in a loss to Tulsa and people were screaming for his head. The next four games were all wins in which ND game up 17 or fewer points.
- Three points ceded to Utah, a mediocre offense.
- Three against Army, whatever.
- 16 against USC in a driving rainstorm slopfest in which the Trojans were helmed by Mitch Mustain.
- 17 against Miami in a game where Jacory Harris threw three picks on seven attempts and was yanked for Stephen Morris, who averaged 8.5 YPA but threw a pick of his own.
Last week USF only got 250 yards but BJ Daniels is horrible. Is the improvement real or a mirage? No idea.
I'm like what? Your game programs for ND are going to be electronical:
Each gameday program includes an audio file of "The Catch," Desmond Howard's famous touchdown against Notre Dame twenty years ago.
But it's not just the audio of the call, from the announcers that day — Frank Beckmann for the Michigan Sports Network and Brent Musburger for ABC — it also includes the play call from Michigan's head football coach at the time Gary Moeller and sound from Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac in the huddle.
That's kind of cool. Fifteen bucks cool? I'll listen to yours.
BONUS: Darren Rovell suggests there is a person in this world whose "dream" was to "embed the audio file of a famous play into a gameday program." Reach for the stars.
Blog content. NKOTB From Hope There Is Glory is not a Notre Dame blog, but a Michigan blog sporting statistical breakdowns of the WMU game. Here's a section:
Passes attempted against
Passes completed against
Etc.: WMU stunt blitz picture pagin' from BWS. Vincent Smith picks it up. MVictors on Michigan's first night game. Jerry Palm projects us in the… Fiesta Bowl? Good lord. Very cool Mike Leach interview from a technically oriented football site. HT: Smart Football.
Sippin on Purple breaks down a That Goddamned Counter Draw the Wildcats ran against BC. Why don't we use this for good? Denard rollout will make this enormously successful.
Gratuitous video of the week: It's only appropriate that we lead off with some fullback SMASH.
THAT'S MANBALL YOU'RE PICKING OUT FROM YOUR SHATTERED TEETH, BRONCO WOOOOO
Reminder: dotted underline mean a video that will pop up for you when you click.
Formation notes: As noted by many, Michigan was about 70% shotgun in this game. They showed some I-form, a few ace sets, a few big sets, and one unbalanced line. I'm not sure breaking down the percentages is going to mean much given the paucity of snaps and big lead. We'll get a better picture of the offense in a pressure situation this week.
Substitution notes: Schofield played the entire game at left guard. Lewan had to come out for a couple snaps after losing a shoe; when that happened Mealer went in at RT and Huyge flipped to LT. Toussaint got the bulk of the work at RB with Shaw and Smith getting carries here and there.
Moore was the second TE and only one to play other than Koger; Hemingway, Roundtree, Gallon, Grady, and Dileo were receivers on passing downs. Jackson played but those were all runs IIRC.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M24||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Down G||Robinson||11|
|Koger(+1) blocks down on the playside end as Lewan(+1) and Schofield(+1) pull around, both picking off linebackers. Toussaint(+1) leads the way for Robinson, hitting Schofield's guy as he threatens to break outside and driving the pair back into the last LB. Hemingway(-1) totally whiffs on his guy; Robinson can cut past him but slips to the ground just past the first down marker.|
|RUN+: Koger, Lewan, Schofield, Toussaint||RUN-: Hemingway|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 2TE Twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||4|
|The old Minor play where Robinson takes a step towards the LOS late and the RB attacks downhill. It's a little like the pistol. Schofield(+1) kicks out the playside DE; Molk and Omameh double the NT and there is a crease playside. It's getting filled by the S quickly but it's where Toussaint(-1) should go, probably. He cuts back. This puts him in the path of the NT, who is spinning backside; NT falls past the play. Toussaint is nimble enough to get behind him. This means he runs up the back of Molk and Omameh. That S and a few other guys make a pile.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Molk(0.5), Omameh(0.5)||RUN-: Toussaint(0.5)|
|M39||2||6||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||3|
|Simple pitch and catch as the CB bails at the snap. Defense reacts quickly and holds it down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M42||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||4|
|Schofield pulls around. Huyge(-1) is blocking down and loses his slanting DE a bit. This isn't serious enough to get the DE in but the ground given up almost disrupts Schofield's pull. He does make it, though, kicking out a linebacker(+1). Omameh(+1) pancakes the other MLB; Toussaint(+1) kicks out the playside OLB. Safety is charging hard but can't get to Robinson before the first down.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Toussaint, Omameh||RUN-: Huyge|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Tunnel screen||Gallon||1|
|Man, do I like the bubble way better here. The play action fake sucks the playside OLB up and if this was a bubble it would be one blocker, one defender, and Gallon—probably a good chunk. On the tunnel Gallon's coming inside just as the OLB reads the fake. He forces Gallon upfield and inside. Gallon does well to turn a two yard loss into a minimal gain. (CA, 3, screen, RPS -1)|
|M47||2||9||I-form||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Smith||4|
|Some third down back. Huyge(+1) gets a much better block this time, nailing his man inside and out of the gap. WMU is playing to spill this: the DE dives inside and an OLB scrapes over the top to catch bounce-outs. DE does a pretty good job, leaving Smith no choice but to hit it up behind Huyge's good block. In there Koger(-0.5) has only done a meh job on the MLB, who is sliding towards the LOS, where he trips Smith. I have an impulse to RPS -1 this that I know is bad.|
|O49||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||10|
|Other side of the line so Omameh pulls. Lewan(+2) goes EPIC DONKEY, first blocking down on the DT with Schofield and sealing him, then peeling to pancake the playside LB. Omameh doesn't really have anyone to block; he's concentrating on the other LB but I'd like to see him read that and beeline for the safety. Those guys end up at a pile at the LOS; Robinson cuts behind it to avoid the safety and gets a few more.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Lewan(2)||RUN-:|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 4-4||Pass||PA TE Seam||Koger||11|
|Zone read fake draws up the linebackers and opens up Koger. Robinson zips it high, forcing Koger to extend to grab it. At the same time he gets lit up by the safety. He hangs on. Nice catch. (MA, 1, protection N/A)|
|O28||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||5|
|Doubles on both DTs; the playside one sees Schofield shove the guy and move to the second level, where there is no one to block because the WMU LB has shot up through the gap to the inside. This is to no avail as Toussaint is already outside. He's got a lane. Molk is doing okay against the playside DT and the gap is narrow. That DT reaches out to arm-tackle. Toussaint hops through it and then has to leap over Lewan, who was chucked to the ground by the DE. He's then in no position to deal with the safety; he still gets decent yardage. I think half points for Lewan and Molk for creating the hole and a half point to Toussaint for getting what he can.|
|RUN+: Lewan(0.5), Molk(0.5), Toussaint(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O23||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||QB draw||Robinson||1|
|I'm not sure if this is anyone's fault or just an RPS. WMU line slants playside so the NT ends up impacting Omameh, not Molk. Omameh lets him outside, which means Robinson has to cut behind. This robs Toussaint of his angle on the MLB. I think I do blame Omameh(-1) because Schofield(+1) had the same problem and did better; Molk(-1) still had an MLB angle and whiffed. He tackles after a minimal gain.|
|RUN+: Schofield||RUN-: Molk, Omameh|
|O22||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Speed out||Dileo||3|
|IE: cover zero. They send seven. Michigan runs speed outs with the slots and I think this is a missed read from the start since the safety is way off Grady on the other out and he's got an easier throw and obvious first down over there. As it is he does have Dileo and probably has a first down; he throws it upfield, forcing a diving catch that takes Dileo off his feet a yard short. (MA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|Straight up the middle with no lead blocker. Eh? Omameh(+1) latches onto the LB blitzing up the A gap and puts him on his ass. Molk(+1) gets under the NT and drives him back, and Huyge(+0.5) gets enough of the last LB. Toussaint slams it up.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Molk, Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||-1|
|Lewan loses his shoe. Huyge flips to LT and Mealer comes in at RT. Blitz/slant from WMU. Blitzer cuts off the frontside of the play; on the backside Schofield(-1) and Huyge(-1) let the DE slant between them into the backfield. Schofield ends up running into Huyge behind the LOS. Mealer(-1) ends up blocking no one. Toussaint slows up and is lost. Run-: Mealer, Huyge, Schofield|
|O17||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Dig||Grady||15|
|PA stretch into the passing play where the TE leaks into the flat. WMU's WLB makes a great play; he's blitzing into the backside. He whacks Koger, then grabs him a bit and starts riding him downfield. First read closed. Robinson comes off it and hits Grady in the numbers just as he clears one linebacker in zone. Catch, first and goal. (CA+, 3, protection N/A)|
|O2||1||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||1|
|Actually blocked pretty well but just too many guys in the area. The safety who would normally be way downfield is at the LOS. Toussaint isn't big enough to plow him into the end zone. This is such a wad of bodies I hesitate to give anything out. No one seems to do anything wrong or exceptional. I guess Lewan gets a point for being the main thing that created the room down to the one.|
|Same play as the 4th and 1 and they get it. Again it seems like Lewan is the main reason, as he is playside of a tackle slanting into the gap and gets enough of him. But he also kind of gets annihilated. I'll abstain here.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 14 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||TE Out||Koger||5|
|Meh gain that looks like a bad read. Slot is running the same pattern farther outside except the corner over there is being run off by a fly route. He could turn it up; Koger just gets chopped down by a linebacker. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, though Schofield had a little trouble.)|
|M26||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||2|
|Gets past the first level snappily as Schofield(+1) kicks out the playside DT. Omameh does okay with his guy but can't prevent him from getting playside when he starts giving ground. Still, he's through the hole. Molk contacts the MLB near the LOS and this spooks Robinson(-1) into the backside of the play, where the blocking is thin on the ground. It doesn't help that Hemingway(-1) was torn between two different guys and ends up blocking no one. The corner comes up hard; Denard jumps over him and looks like he just... might... fall over for two yards.|
|RUN+: Schofield||RUN-: Robinson, Hemingway|
|M28||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||TE Fly||Koger||Inc|
|WMU rushes four and gets stoned; Molk is driven back by a blitzer and then starts blowing that LB downfield. Robinson has a ton of time. He sees Koger breaking open downfield and decides to take a shot; the pass is long. Koger had good position on a DB but was step-for-step with him. Also it's third and three and you're Denard Robinson: run. (IN, 0, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 11 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 2TE Twins||1||2||2||Base 4-4||Run||Pin and pull zone||Shaw||-1|
|This does not work at all. The idea is to pin a couple guys with down blocks and pull more and then have the RB work it out as he goes; nothing works here. Koger(-1), Omameh(-1), and Lewan(-1) get beaten on their down blocks. Huyge misses a hard-charging corner but that wouldn't be a problem if anyone else had made a block. Shaw(+1) manages to dodge that guy and a six-yard loss. Molk(-1) then runs by the guys flowing down the line before thinking better of it, giving him no cutback against the charging corner. This was a crapfest.|
|RUN+: Shaw||RUN-: Molk, Lewan, Koger(2), Omameh|
|This is a well-blocked play that gets held down because WMU is running cover zero and by the time Shaw crosses the LOS the FS is four yards away from him and charging. RPS -1. Molk and Omameh(+1 each) destroy a DT; Lewan and Schofield(+1 each) both kick out DL. McColgan kind of misses but not too badly; Shaw is one on one with a safety for a TD, but unfortunately this battle is going down three yards past the LOS.|
|RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Schofield, Lewan||RUN-:|
|M30||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Deep Hitch||Gallon||13|
|WMU sends five and gets picked up pretty well. WMU corner bails out early and Gallon cuts his route off; Denard zings it to him. Ball is a bit outside and upfield but nothing too bad; could argue he's keeping it away from defenders. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M43||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 4-4||Pass||PA TE Cross||Moore||Inc (8 Pen)|
|Play action with a pulling guard suckers Western. Denard pulls up and floats one to Moore at about the sticks; he's tripped just as the ball gets there. On replay this looks like a pretty tough catch. (MA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|O49||1||10||I-Form Big Unbalanced||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Run||Power off tackle||Smith||7|
|Moore at “RT”; Huyge on the left inside of Lewan. Huyge(+1)blocks the playside DE off the ball; Lewan(+1) gets a linebacker; McColgan(+2) blasts a linebacker back into a teammate, leaving no one for Omameh to block; Smith follows the blocks.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Huyge, McColgan(2)||RUN-:|
|Pitch and catch as a linebacker who might be able to cover this zooms into a flat with no one in it. Zone opens up. Denard zings it considerably behind Roundtree, who makes a tough spinning catch just as he's lit up. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||10|
|Molk(+1) clubs the NT out of the hole. Lewan(+1) gets his helmet across the backside DE and then blocks him with his back; there's the crease. Toussaint(+1) hits it, then gets into the chest of a guy Schofield was trying to block, running through him for six yards.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Molk(2), Toussaint||RUN-:|
|Schofield(-2) smoked in pass pro, but the guy misses Robinson, and then another guy sort of inexplicably hits the ground. Missing Robinson means you are in trouble and he takes off on a weaving, darting run. By my count he slips three tackles and turns a six yard loss into a first down. (SCR, N/A, protection -2, Schofield)|
|O10||1||G||I-Form||2||1||2||Base 4-4||Run||Quick pitch||Shaw||5 + 2 pen|
|I kind of hate this play since it depends on suckering an unblocked guy or having your RB make a great play. Here WMU blitzes off the edge, suckering by default, and the CB is still totally unblocked. Huyge(+1) does a great job of sealing the playside LB; Roundtree(-2) runs at the same guy, leaving the corner to charge up unmolested. Shaw(+2) jukes him , gets five yards, and then gets hit OOB.|
|RUN+: Shaw(2), Huyge||RUN-: Roundtree(2)|
|O2||1||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 4-4||Run||Iso||Toussaint||2|
|Nothing on the frontside; Toussaint sees this and cuts behind Koger(+1), who's driving down-the-line block opened up a cutback lane.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Koger||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(blocked XP), 20-7, 1:50 2nd Q|
|Miss the play because of technical difficulties.|
|We come back just in time to see a scrambling Robinson nearly throw a pick in the direction of Moore. (BR, 0, protection ??)|
|M45||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Slant||Roundtree||Inc|
|Well defended; pass thrown in front of Roundtree anyway. Mitigating factor: it is now raining like mad. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, special commendation to Smith for a blitz pickup)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-10, 14 min 3rd Q|
|M13||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||43|
|For the first time all game that's not a passing down WMU removes a linebacker from the box and places him over the receivers. The WMU DE has to form up on the zone read; Huyge(+1) gets the MLB and Omameh(+1) shoves the NT well past the play; he slanted playside when Michigan stepped to a zone. Big cutback lane that Toussaint(+1) hits fast enough that he's by the last LB despite his angle not giving Molk an opportunity to block him. I guess that's RPS +2 if only because this was easy.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Omameh, Toussaint||RUN-:|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||PA seam||Dileo||Inc|
|Zone read dive fake sucks up both linebackers and one safety, leaving Dileo open for six; Denard throws it well behind him. (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +3|
|O44||2||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Shaw||44|
|This may be what was supposed to happen on the previous play, with both LBs hitting the backside hole after the line slants playside. Problem: two blockers there. Schofield(+2) and Lewan(+2) annihilate the linebackers; the DE is held outside by Robinson. Then the umpire(+2) picks off the safety. Good job ump. Shaw just has to run straight upfield. I guess that's +1? Also RPS+2? This is why the zone read is powerful. On both these plays it erased the DE, giving a numerical advantage.|
|RUN+: Schofield(2), Lewan(2), Shaw, Umpire(2)||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 34-10, 6 min 3rd Q|
|M25||1||10||I-Form||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||PA post||Hemingway||37|
|Hemingway comes in motion inside and Michigan runs play action, pulling(!) the backside guard as if this is power. This sucks in both linebackers and one safety, who is five yards rom the LOS in a flash. Oops. Denard sets up and has Hemingway free on a post one on one with a corner. Denard puts it up. The ball is a bit short but I'd rather it's a little short and you give up five yards than missing long here; Hemingway posts up and brings it in. (CA, 2, protection 2/2, RPS+2)|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||3|
|WMU has flipped their formation and manages not to give up 40 yards on this. Michigan gets confused as to what they should do, as Omameh(-0.5) and Huyge(-0.5) end up doubling a DT without trying to scoop him and end up leaving the MLB unblocked. Toussaint(+1) swiftly cuts behind that block and gets out of that gap. WMU did run a scrape here; Huyge has pulled off to take on the crashing DE. The scraper read the handoff and is in position to tackle at the LOS. Here the ZR did not option off a defender. RPS -1|
|RUN+: Toussaint||RUN-: Omameh, Huyge|
|O35||2||7||Ace twin TE||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||11|
|WMU slants under the down-block from Schofield(-1) to get a DT into the backfield; he delays the pulling Omameh. Koger(+1) is a lead blocker and bangs a linebacker who's sucked too far inside. The slant plus that equals just a morass of bodies; Toussaint(+2) bounces out like whoah, breaking contain and dodging a safety for good yardage. Lewan(+1) clubbed a linebacker to the ground as well.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(2), Koger, Lewan||RUN-: Schofield|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun twin TE||1||2||2||Base 4-4-||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||2|
|Cover zero in a driving rain storm means this run is overwhelmed and it's tough to block everyone. Charting this is pointless.|
|Drive Notes: EOG, 34-10.|
Well, Mr. Fear of MANBALL, don't you feel silly?
Um, well… I'm not sure yet. We had five and a half drives against a MAC team, some of which were in a pouring storm. The jury is still out. As far as the blocking schemes go… I have to admit I'm a little worried. After years of noting that Molk can get his helmet across damn near anyone if tasked with a reach block, he wasn't asked to try it once against Western. The play at the beginning I thought was a stretch was actually a Down G, which they did run last year. All this interior blocking minimizes the advantage Molk possesses that seems likely to get a relative shrimp like Molk a job in the NFL.
For the record, Michigan's run breakdown:
- Down G (gap): one for 11 yards on the first snap.
- Power (gap): three RB carries for 7.3 YPC. Three QB carries for 5.3 YPC.
- Draw: two QB draws for three yards.
- Quick pitch: one for five.
- Inside zone: seven for 15.4 YPC. Woo small sample size!
There were also four short yardage plays. Two were dives from a two TE ace formation with Toussaint lined up three yards from the LOS, a third was an iso out of an I-Form Big, and the last was a power from the same formation. The dives/iso got first downs or TDs; the power got a yard on first and goal from the two. These aren't included in the YPC numbers I'll be tracking since they'll unfairly ding under center carries that are successful if they get a yard.
Shotgun carries averaged 10.6 YPC. From under center they averaged 6.8. Zone/gap was split about evenly but there was no outside zone. Obviously these are massive sample sizes that should be taken with deathly seriousness.
SAY IT YOU SILLY PERSON
Hoke uber alles?
Indeed. Tell us about our sumptuous quarterback who is the awesomest.
Uh… he kind of sucked.
LIES UNLESS THERE'S A CHART ALSO PROBABLY EVEN IF THERE IS ONE YOU LYING CHARTMONGER CHART
Chart. I'll throw in last year for comparison:
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
This is also a huge sample size not acquired in the process of herding animals into an ark and must be taken seriously.
But… yeah, when people were saying Robinson was a disappointment they were not wrong. That's his worst downfield day since he was a confused freshman and frankly some of those MAs could have been INs. I mean, Dileo touchdown easy biff sad. He didn't do much on the ground other than use his speed on the first play from scrimmage and dance around on that one scramble. In addition, two of those non-bad throws were bad reads where he had a better option. The weird nature of the game obviates a lot of that but if Denard does not go all Denard on Notre Dame there are going to be some nervous people around here.
I don't think much of it can be ascribed to operating from under center since he was missing plenty even when it was dry and he was operating from the shotgun. The throws he was asked to make didn't seem much different than what he was doing last year, but it's possible some of the inaccuracy was a timing issue. Saturday will be the first real test.
YOU SON OF A—
How about some more charts?
Receivers follow; I'll refrain from duplicating the first game totals. You can figure it out:
Very little to go on when there are 13 attempts but for what little action they got they did superbly, bailing out Robinson on two occasions and helping twice with no drops.
Finally, you can see the effect of the change in run offense on Molk's numbers:
|Omameh||4.5||2.5||2||Lot of pulling; bear with me as I adapt to the new style.|
|Huyge||4.5||2.5||2||All right, as per usual.|
|Schofield||8||2||6||Good debut; did get smoked on the Denard scramble.|
|Moore||-||-||-||Did some blocking but didn't register good or bad.|
|TOTAL||34.5||11||22.5||Solid; running does seem considerably left-handed.|
|Robinson||4||1||3||Most of this on the scramble.|
|Toussaint||8.5||0.5||8||I like him. May be a little exuberant though.|
|Shaw||4||-||4||Half of this on the quick pitch, another point for running fast on TD|
|Smith||-||-||-||Third down back my patootie.|
|McColgan||2||-||-||One slamming block.|
|TOTAL||18.5||1.5||17||We'll see if this holds up with more sample size.|
|TOTAL||0||4||-4||Not a good day on the outside. Held down a couple runs.|
That's a lot of plusses, but the numbers say they're warranted as Michigan ripped off 7.3 YPC and would have threatened 250 yards rushing if the game had been completed. Rushing is not a concern yet. Notre Dame looms.
Little enthusiastic about Toussaint there, aren't' you?
I admit that when the number came up I was like "oh, someone wants a good running back this year and has corrupted himself to get it." This was pretty sweet, though:
That bounce is super-quick and correct. Toussaint showed good vision all day and that is 11 yards from nothing.
Lewan was the best of the OL, Toussaint had a good debut, and the receivers as a unit were near flawless.
Er, Denard? Please don't pelt me with radioactive socks.
What does it mean for Notre Dame and beyond?
Man, I ain't extrapolating much from a few plays run in blistering heat or a driving rainstorm against a MAC opponent that got outscored by Michigan's defense. I think we'll see a multiple offense that leans on the shotgun in crunch time; I think Toussaint is for real and will be a B+ starter this year; I seriously hope they're not just going to shelve the stretch all year.
Against better teams I think the only way they get that safety in the box is by using Denard as that extra guy in the run game—the two long ones this week were zone reads where WMU did not scrape, providing Michigan a numerical advantage. Let's say it a third time: next week will be the test.
News bullets and other important items:
- Cam Gordon's status (back) is "up in the air," probably leaning towards sitting out for Notre Dame.
- Stonum and Jerald Robinson are stunt-doubling for Michael Floyd in practice.
- Woolfolk OK, will likely stay on special teams (confirmed from yesterday).
- Hopkins will contribute, could win starting job, or even play fullback.
- Hoke will continue to wear pants on the sideline, even though he prefers shorts.
From file (Yes, my file)
Opening remarks: “Ahem. Everybody ready?
“Thanks for coming out. We had a pretty good practice yesterday. We had the first day of school. You worry about how that affects guys, especially your freshmen -- getting them to class, making sure they know where they’re going -- but overall putting a plan in. Tuesdays are usually a day that there’s a lot of planning. There’s a lot of tweaks to the game plan, and sometimes they’re not as good as you’d like them to be, but I thought overall -- as a team and in the kicking game and the offense and defense side of it -- I think we had a pretty good day. We needed a better day today, obviously, because that improvement daily is very improtant to us.
“We run it pretty live. We get after it pretty well. I think our guys understand that. I think we looked at some personnel things that we’ll continue to look at throughout the rest of the week, building up to Saturday. We'll go pretty full-go.”
Will Woolfolk remain on special teams? “I would expect Troy will be healthy. He did more yesterday, really, than I thought he would. And the thing I liked about it was Troy wanted to do more, and there’s been situations we’ve all been in as coaches where some guys who’ve played football and are older, they may be a little delicate about when they get back in there, but he jumped right back in, and I was real pleased with the way he approached yesterday.”
So is he going to stay on special teams? “Oh, sure.”
Did you see improvements in kickoff coverage? “We work our coverage teams two days a week, and then our return teams two days a week. I think for the first day, it was good. I think the guys know that we didn’t perform like we should. We’ll look at some other guys in there a little bit, but I think it was pretty decent yesterday.
Did you see what the problem was on film? “We had one situation where two guys ran into each other. There’s a way you want to avoid blocks, and placement of the ball is important when you want to kick into the boundary a little bit more -- you need the ball a little more into the boundary. We were folding the guy early in the game, and we quit doing that because of where they wanted to take the football. So I was more pleased yesterday than I was on Saturday.”
What about Cam Gordon’s status? “He’s still up in the air. I don’t talk much about injuries, but he’s still up in the air. He did a couple things yesterday, but not near as much as we like.”
What do you need to see to feel good about him playing? “I need to see him go out there and run around and play football today. Because if not -- you pretty much have to do some things on Wednesday on a full tilt level, or Saturday you’re not going to be effective anyway.”
Borges always says make plays, not miracles when talking about Denard. What’s your take on that? “That’s always a good point. When you have a guy who has a skill set that’s pretty special, and Denard is, as he’s progressed in the offense and learning it, I think he sees that he doesn’t have to be everything. And that’s an important part. There’s a poise and composure that you want to play with, that you don’t want to force things whether from running or throwing it. I think just staying within the framework of what we need our quarterback to do, because I think he’ll make enough stuff happen during the course of the game that will just happen because of that skill set. But he just needs to play in the framework of what we’re doing offensively.”
With the way your running backs played last Saturday, was that reinforced for Denard? “If our offensive line -- and it starts there -- can get movement on the line of scrimmage, if our lead blockers, whether it be with an H-back or a U-back or a full back, can get on guys, and we do a great job down the field with the receivers, then good things will happen.”
Is Stonum giving you a good look in practice for Michael Floyd? “Well I don’t know. He’s pretty daggone good. I would say that the thing about Darryl is that he is a team guy. He has jumped in with both feet, and really done a great job the week before, and right now him and Jerald Robinson are both wearing number three out there, so it gives our guys a good look.”
What more do you want see from your linebackers? “The linebackers and the defensive front -- we need to see more disruption up there. I don’t think it’s been a secret that I wasn’t real happy with how we played there. There’s a higher expectation, and obviously your second level guys, the linebackers, they’ve got to do a great job with their run fits and the different defenses we have. Jordan does a nice job of deducing [plays]. He’s a smart football player. You gotta give him some credit for some of his reactions as a football player.”
What did you lose by not having a fourth quarter? “Well depending on how the game goes, there may be some guys you would have loved to get in the football game for experience. I know offensively, just talking to Al a little bit, there’s some things that he wanted to look at in a game environment that we didn’t get to.”
Would you have liked to try for a FG? “I like touchdowns. PATs are fine.”
How do you feel about Rees as Notre Dame’s QB? “You look at the last four games of last year and you look at what he did -- he played with a great deal of composure. He has a very good arm. I think his release is good. I think he understands conceptually Brian’s offense. Both of them I think are very talented guys. Obviously Brian’s going to make decisions that are best for his team, but we have to prepare the same way for both of them.”
Could Hopkins win starting job? “Oh he could. We’ll let the week play out. I think he’s done a nice job. He did a nice job in fall camp.” Could he play fullback? “He can play some fullback. Can … has.”
Did Toussaint solidify his spot at all with his performance Saturday? “No, well -- I think right now he’d be the guy to start the game.”
Did you run more single-back than you planned? “I think number one we’re trying to get Denard comfortable. I think that always is part of it. Your quarterback -- doesn’t matter if it’s Tom Brady or Denard Robinson -- you want guys to be comfortable because that position specifically is so important to your football team. We may have gotten a little more into the two-back stuff as the game progressed.”
You’re a shorts guy. How come you wore pants on Saturday? “I think I probably have to. Believe me, I’d wear shorts in a heartbeat.” Did Dave Brandon make you? “No, I think it probably just comes with the territory.”
How do you feel about Brian Kelly’s in-game meltdown? “I don’t know… you don’t think of that. Every guy’s different. That’s what makes -- you’re all different. You all have different questions, and you all have different slants in what you look at, and so I mean, everybody does some stuff differently. I know I look real big on HD. But my whole point is: you’re coaching kids. You’re trying to help them so that they’re going to make the improvements and fundamentals, techniques, recognition, sometimes it maybe a mentality you’re expecting them to play with.”
Have you interacted much with Brian Kelly? “He was in the MAC Central. He beat us three times.” You talk to him at all? “League meetings, those kind of things. I’ve got a lot of respect for Brian. He’s a good coach. He was at Grand Valley and did a great job there … [and then at] Cincinanti and Central [Michigan].”
News (and other important items) bullets:
- Hopkins will be major contributor, can compete for starting position at RB
- Borges wants to use less shotgun -- Saturday wasn't representative
- Mattison does not plan to put any one cornerback on Michael Floyd all game
- Woolfolk is healthy and practicing at full speed
- Woolfolk will remain on special teams
- Barnum will be back this week
- <3 Kovacs
Coach, you look great. “Well, thank you.”
How would you assess Denard’s performance? “He managed the offense very well first time out. He had very few errors. A couple of deals, but nothing catastrophic, which is really all you ask for the first time out. He didn’t create the big plays that he’s used to, but our tailbacks did. So as long as somebody does, we’ll be fine. Eventually that part of his game will surface.”
Did you get use enough plays on offense you wanted to? “Oh, it wasn’t even close. We ran 39 plays. I mean, we didn’t even scratch the surface. There was so much left in the bag, just the way the game went, which is kind of good. Didn’t even begin to approach our menu.”
The one play where Denard scrambled and almost threw a pick, did you use that as a teaching moment? “Of all the plays he had, that was the only play that was a little higher risk. After the fact, he realized he should have probably checked the ball down to the tight end in the flat, but he got a little greedy on that one. But for the most part his decision-making was fairly accurate, other than a play or two.”
Is it hard to get a gauge of your offense with only 39 plays? “Yeah, a little bit. But you have 39 to judge, [so] judge and go from there. It was incomplete in so many ways. But it was a win, and we’ll take it, and we’ll go from there. We got another week to practice.”
This horse isn’t dead yet. Let’s beat it some more. Fitz vs. Shaw? “Both of them showed up. We ended up playing them both, probably Fitz a little more than Shaw, but Shaw did some nice things.”
Can you comment on Notre Dame’s defense? “They’re legitimate. Their third-down percentage -- [USF] got two or three third down conversions on them. If you look at their numbers, South Florida didn’t move the ball very well on them. And just because of the circumstances of the game, they lost, but the defense, I thought, was outstanding. Te’o the linebacker was as active and as physical a player I’ve seen in a while, and that’s quite a statement. He is a good football player. They get pass rush with only four guys. They don’t have to blitz, which is disconcerting. They’re good on the back end -- Harrison’s around the ball all the time. Ball hawk, physical, well-coached. They use their hands real well up front on the line. They’re good.”
What do you see in Harrison Smith? “I think he puts himself in position real well. He doesn’t get out of position a lot. He’s got a feel for where the ball’s going. It looks like he plays smart. He’s physical. He’s just one of those guys I’m sure they count on.”
Passes were distributed pretty evenly between receivers against Western. Is that going to be how you do it for the rest of the season? “Not necessarily, no. I think there’s going to be games where you’ll see one guy catch a bunch of balls, and the other guy won’t catch as many, and vice versa. Once you get into the battle, you don’t know how it’s going to go, so you’re never sure exactly who’s going to get it. Now you design certain plays to go to certain guys, but because of the nature of the defense you’re not going to get it to those guys. You always want a degree of distribution, but I’m not obsessed with [the idea that] everybody needs to catch x amount of balls. I could care less about that. What I care about is taking what the defense gives you, and if that means one guy catches ten passes, then so be it.”
How did Denard do under center going through his reads? “I thought he did a pretty darn good job. For his first time, his under center play was really good. His shotgun play was -- that’s kind of his power zone, and that’s why we’re going to use that and do that stuff. His under center play was solid. His mechanics in terms of exchange, tracks and things -- had a couple of errors on some tracks, but for the most part was pretty reliable.”
Only two of Denard’s runs were scrambles. Were you pleased with patience in pocket? “He did a nice job on one scramble particularly. I think he got a first down. He came off one of his receivers a little quick -- but for the most part, what you have to understand is you want him to give the pass a chance, but you don’t want to be so obsessed with him always wanting to check the ball down, because he is the best checkdown you could have. So what could be perceived as impatience is sometimes a little more designed than you might think.”
Talk about that NFL pass to Grady? “That was the second option. That was a good play. They jumped the slide play, and he threw the ball. That was a nice play by him. He reset his feet, got his hips set, and he hit [Grady] right in stride. That was totally designed. And no scramble there.”
How would you assess O-line play re: Schofield vs. Barnum? “Mike had a good game. Mike did a good job. He was very solid in there. And now this week, we’ll see how the thing goes [between Schofield and Barnum]. It’s nice to know [Schofield] can, if that makes any sense.”
Is Barnum back in the lineup for Notre Dame? “Oh yeah. Absolutely.”
Talk about going for it on fourth and one. Whose call is it? “It’s my playcall, but it’s [Hoke’s] decision.”
Do you coach Denard on his scrambling or do you allow him to improvise? “When the protection breaks down or the pocket gets pushed or for some reason he can’t see, he has to go to an improv mode. All our improv has structure, but Denard does a lot in there that I don’t draw on the board. The one thing you don’t want to do is inhibit a playmaker. A guy that can do some things, you don’t want to make him so that he’s so robotic he’s not doing what he’s capable of doing. Yeah, there’s structure within our improvisation, but his ability to create -- I always talk about create without doing something stupid. He’s living by the law pretty good, knock on wood.”
Would you have gone completely vanilla if there had been a fourth quarter? “Had we scored on the last drive, we probably would have gotten a little more physical. It’s hard to say, but when we get ahead, we like to run the football if we can without being too conservative.”
Is the ratio of shotgun vs. under center what you’ll stick to the rest of the season? “No, no … no. The game had no balance to it with regard to that. If we had played a fourth quarter, we would have been right about where we wanted it.”
Would Devin Gardner have gotten some snaps? “I don’t know. We’ll see. I couldn’t tell you. That’s up to Brady.”
Is Hopkins going to have a role this week? “Oh, absolutely. You bet. He was in the fold big time. Before he couldn’t play, but now that he’s back, he’s going to be a factor. He’s a good player. He brings something to the table. He’s a big back that you like to have.”
Is he competing for the starting job? “They’re all competing still. I’m not counting him out of the mix.”
(more after the jump)
A photo of the elusive Greg Mattison in his natural habitat.
Can you share what it’s like to have coached on both sides of rivalry? “It’s a great rivalry. I mean, you’re talking about two of the greatest schools in college football in athletics. I don’t think there are any better when you look at the whole package of it. I know it’s a huge rivalry for everybody involved in it. It’s Michigan. It’s Notre Dame. That’s what it is.”
Was it weird when you went from Michigan to Notre Dame? “Yeah, it was hard. I can tell you that was hard because it was Michigan … you know, I can’t honestly say if I even really knew what a big rivalry that was. I never grew up being a Notre Dame fan. I’m a Lutheran, not a Catholic. When you do that decision based on family, once you’ve made that decision, you kind of go, ‘Whoa.’ But I had a great eight years there. Got to see my family through school and my daughter in collge there, so that made it a really, really good deal.”
Assess defensive performance early in the game and how you adjusted later? “The thing that happened is what you kind of worry about happening when you have so many guys that haven’t played a lot of football. You probably got the toughest scenario you could get because it was a very fast paced -- they were switching personnel groups in and out without us really being able to see what they were, and you got defenses that you’re playing for certain personnel groups that you hadn’t against a different group. This young group needs to see everything.
“Then it goes down to when a team hurries like that and speeds up the pace, communication is everything, and that’s something we’ve been harping on. With a young group of guys and young linebackers that haven’t played a lot, the communication is the first thing -- when it all happens -- it goes. [During] that [first] drive, there was a number things that we weren’t aligned correctly on. And we’re not good enough to do that. We’re not good enough to not be perfect at what we’re doing. Once they came off the side and we settled them down, and we just said, ‘Hey listen. There’s a whole ball game ahead of us. If we get these things corrected we’ll be fine.’ And then we get the interception, and [we] let them pick back up again.”
Hoke wasn’t happy with D-line play. “Neither was I.” What stuck out to you? “I wouldn’t just single out the defensive line. When we looked at that tape, I knew what I would see. That is not how we want to play defense. Our whole thing is stopping the run. Some of those runs were me -- I’m calling pressures to try to get after the quarterback and he runs a draw, and we didn’t fit our gaps right. That kind of thing happens. Others they weren’t. We have to be able to stop the run. Anytime a team runs the football on your defense, you can’t have a great day. I think a lot of our fits, our backers fitting, our defensive line knocking them back, playing real physical every snap, all those things have to improve.
“The one positive thing in the entire game, though, was we kept the ball inside and in front for the most part. We can’t allow a big play [to become] a homerun play, and that quarterback is a big time quarterback, and that wide receiver is a great wide receiver. So our guys did keep the ball inside and in front, so we could get more guys on the tackles.”
Rees vs. Crist? “Well, I think that they’re both very good quarterbacks. The one thing that you have to understand with Rees is he was the starting quarterback the last four games [of 2010] and they won all four. And then he goes in this game in a half and throws for 300-some yards or whatever. So obviously he’s a guy that when he goes in ball games, he does a great job. I think both of them are very talented. You wouldn’t be at a school like Notre dame or Michigan if you didn’t have talent. I think they both have good arms, and they both appear to be very intelligent, and they both have a great wide receiver."
How do you get D-line up to where you want it to be? Will you keep blitzing as much? “It depends if a team is going to throw as much as [Western Michigan] threw. It all depends on what the team does. We won’t sit back and play zone coverage until we have the ability to get a rush with a four-man front. And that comes from technique -- that comes from a lot of things. It’s not fair to that secondary and it’s not fair to that underneath coverage to let a quarterback like that hold it. I’m not going to say I’m a guy that’s going to blitz every down, but when it dictates it, then I think you have to.”
Do you need to get more production out of Craig Roh? “Definitely. He has to play better. One of the things we addressed is that we had too many players in that defense that did not get production. We have a big chart up in our hallway [where] you get points for tackles, for assists, for caused fumbles, all those kind of things, and then you also get minus points for missed assignments, missed tackles, that kind of thing. [Ed-M: Mattison keeps a UFR!!!] On our defense we had too many guys that didn’t have a lot of points. You had one guy that had 47 points: Jordan Kovacs. So we gotta get more guys get production. And Craig’s one of those guys. We’ve gotta get more out of him. I think he knows that, and he understands. He saw the film himself. He understands he’s a better football player than that.”
What makes Kovacs so special? “He’s a football player. He’s a Michigan football player. If you had a team of eight of those. I’m not going to say 11. Eight of those. You might sit on a lawn chair and watch the game. That hit that he came on one of the pressures -- you all saw the picture. It was what you tell and what you coach. Put your face right through his chest. Wrap him up. Eyes up. And he put his helmet right through the football. The thing that people didn’t see on that was he was in the endzone almost the same time as Herron after he had caused a fumble and made the hit. That’s what Michigan defense is about. The same thing happened that was a positive -- Jake Ryan on his tipped [pass]. He hit the gournd after he tipped it, [and] he was the first guy down there next to Herron. And that’s what we’ve been talking about. That’s a great sign. Now we gotta keep doing that all the way through a ball game.”
Did Herron just happen to be in right place at right time or was he actively doing things right? “He was where he was supposed to be. He executed the defense and good things happen. Thank goodness he’s fast. He never looks like he’s running that fast, but not many people catch him.”
Kovacs said he expected to have fewer tackles in this new scheme. But he led the team in tackles on Saturday. At what point is that going to change? “I hope soon. You hit it right on the head. When your safety is making a lot of tackles, that’s not a good thing. It’s a good thing we have Jordan Kovacs, but that’s not a good thing [for him to be making all the tackles]. That happened a number of times -- if a linebacker were where he was supposed to be, he would have made that tackle. The great news though is Jordan was where he was supposed to be, and I think at times when I’ve watched, he’s been up in there too far, because he’s been trying to make [the tackle], and all of a sudden if he misses the tackle, [the other player] is gone.”
Does having a guy like Kovacs allow you to do more with the defense? “Well it allows you to call it without wincing. No no … I have confidence in the entire defense. I wasn’t pleased with our performance. I was pleased with the win. I was pleased with the turnover margin, but as a defense I can’t say I was pleased because I really, really believe in my heart we can be much, much better than this. And we have to be. We have to play better defense than what we did. “
How do you defend Michael Floyd? “You better make sure, number one, that you’re playing with great technique on him. If you don’t -- in the back end -- if you don’t play with perfect technique, you’re going to get exposed. I think the second thing is you can’t allow the quarterback all day to throw to him, and I think you have to give him a number of different coverages so he doesn’t know all the time what you’re getting.”
Are you going to play one cornerback on him the entire game? “No.”
Was Woolfolk on pace for Kovacs’ level of production before he left the game? “He made some very physical hits on those bubble screens, which was great to see. I would love to see him play that game. He needed that. I would have loved to have that thing go four quarters. We needed it. We need every second of playing under pressure that we can get. But I’m glad that we got out of there like we did, and we got a victory, and now we just got to improve more.”
Was Woolfolk going full speed in practice today? “Uh huh.”
Will you lobby to keep him off special teams? “No. No I won’t. honestly, I will not … special teams play is a huge, huge part in our defense -- if you saw where we started on defense after a number of those kickoffs. There’s three equal parts to the game, and I’ve seen too many coaches that will say, ‘I gotta have that guy.’ Okay then put another guy [on special teams] that doesn’t do as well and you’ll see how fast that ball comes back. We really believe in that here.”
What do you and Hoke talk about on headset? “He doesn’t have it on, does he?” But he said he did! “Oh I don’t even know. I tell you what, to be honest, he probably can hear everything I’m saying without the headset on, so I don’t know. Brady is -- he is tremendous on the sideline. After that first drive -- because he’s a great defensive coach -- He was over there saying the same things I was saying to those guys. A lot of head coaches might not have reacted like he did. And that pays dividends, because we trust these guys. We believe that they’re going to try as hard as they can. Now we gotta get their tehcnique better, we gotta get a lot of thigns better as coaches, but they’re going to try it, and they’re going to do it. Just like today’s practice. There was a whole bunch of mistakes … but you know what? They went hard. And we’ll get those corrected. We just gotta keep on eliminating those mistakes.”