"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
So yeah, I concluded yesterday that the quick fire throw to Gallon in the second quarter was a presnap read, not a true packaged play, and then about two plays into the remainder of the UFR, Michigan runs the same thing with the cornerback showing blitz presnap and M runs it after he backs out. Timing: I do not have it.
To the screenshots!
It's first and ten; Michigan's trying to respond to Indiana drawing to within one and has first and ten on their own 23. Same setup as the last play: 3 wide, Gallon alone to the boundary, IU in their nickel-ish package. This time the corner is indicating blitz.
On the snap, though, he backs out. Gardner's checking on Gallon, seeing if he's got the hitch.
When it become clear that the CB is not coming, he changes his plan. Taylor Lewan has the same idea, as his initial reaction was to pick up the corner. He's flared out to do so, and now has to frantically try to get back into the play and block someone who's trying to defend what's actually occurring.
Which is a handoff.
Now: Lewan's flare has borked a couple of things. See 98 below? He is being doubled and will end up three yards downfield, where it is ideal for him to go in the eyes of the offense.
The other DT, though, is being single blocked by Glasgow and if he chooses can decide to go upfield of him to the outside, which he does. Glasgow locks him out and pushes him past the play; Toussaint has one lane straight up the middle. Bosch deals with a DE well, but there's no one for an ILB.
That's unfortunate, since a guy dealing with him is a big gain with the other LB on a pass drop he's convinced to take by Funchess releasing into the slot LB. Even if he doesn't take this the backwards direction of the other DT would make it difficult for him to get to the hole.
Lewan tries to recover; can't quite; Toussaint makes the guy miss, which gets him a decent gain before the shuffling backside end comes down from behind to tackle.
Items of Interest
Nope, totally packaged. Gardner's first option is the hitch in the event of a CB blitz, and he decides that it's not there, so he hands off. Post snap read determining run or pass is the Smart Football-approved definition of a packaged play. Packaged.
An old bugaboo. This harkens back to some oddities Michigan had in their plays like this a couple years ago. When they ran the inverted veer in 2011, Michigan would often block the guy they were supposedly optioning with the pulling guard, leaving Denard to beat a guy if Michigan was going to pick up anything. This happened not infrequently, but it seemed pretty weird that you'd run an option and not option anyone.
This is a version of that old problem: Lewan flares out to block the corner when Michigan has a plan to deal with that. They're optioning him and they still block him, or would if he didn't back out into pass coverage. That leaves one of the ILBs free.
The rest of the line blocks it like they should if the corner blitz was coming; seems like someone on the OL made an adjustment to the blitz IU ostentatiously showed and backed out of.
A minor place. I don't want to make any grand conclusions from these two plays. A number of programs from the Okie State/WVU Hologorsen tree will build large chunks of their offense around packaged plays; Michigan has only dabbled in this department under Borges. They're still dabbling. The OL blocks this goofy because they are not on the same page as the play concept. If the guy making the line check understands that the corner is never a threat, this is a nice gain that doesn't require Toussaint to get his Hart on.
This isn't the first time they've tried these things—I remember pointing out a package to Smart Football a couple years ago. That didn't work, and it seemed like it got put on the shelf because the coaches weren't enthused with Denard's ability to read post-snap. Devin executed both of these; could they have been a test run for Michigan State?
Probably not, but here's hoping they've got something up their sleeve.
Bosch check. This was about par for Bosch's day. He got decent to good movement on his guys, probably better than Magnuson on average. Hopes were consistently tempered by the guy next to him, as when Lewan latched onto a dude he all but threw the dude into his teammates, ninjas-attacking-hero style. Indiana's terrible. He'll get a trial by fire next Saturday.
An accidental RPS. The other ILB's pass drop here is an interesting offshoot. He's reading Funchess and sees him release, and so goes to cover, as Funchess blocks (or attempts to block) IU's hybrid space player. That leaves the OL five on five in the box, which should be a profitable situation.
Every time a DE shuffles like this I want Gardner to pull, which is probably irrational. I don't think he should, but I have this visceral thing where it's like GO GIT EM, because is anyone in that position really keeping up with Gardner on the corner? I say no, especially when you've got Funchess bothering the slot LB. All DEs are shuffling and Gardner has beat them all around the edge. Sometimes there's help out there; that is the only thing that keeps these plays down.
Triple option? On this play it's asking a lot of him to read the corner and then come across the field to read the end, so the pull here is almost certainly not something that he has in the toolbox anyway. So, no, just a single option I think. The read option nature of the play does let you sort of option off two guys, though, except "optioning off" the corner is really just nerfing the corner blitz.
This space has seen epic amounts of bitching about Michigan's failure to check into easy plays that would get some yards and pressure a defense to the edge, but at least once in the Indiana game they did that in a fashion that still kind of baffles me. Michigan's driving to take a 21-7 lead and finds themselves with first and ten on the IU 24.
Michigan comes out in a shotgun with three wide; Indiana goes with the same response they did all day: two deep safeties and a hybrid space LB shaded over the slot.
To everyone on Michigan's offense other than Jeremy Gallon and Devin Gardner, this is going to be an inside zone. Gallon and Gardner are going to run a pop pass hitch, because they are spooky.
So. Presnap, Gardner starts scoping out the boundary corner. A lot of teams will blitz that guy to combat spread looks; Michigan's seen it frequently and hasn't had an answer. This is one, but I'm kind of at a loss to tell you how Michigan read it. Whatever Gardner's reading here is subtle.
He's making some sort of hand motion to Gallon here.
On the snap, Gardner takes a momentary glance back at that corner. This is an instant, and the guy hasn't had the time to indicate he's coming. He's not focused on Gallon, but a glance this quick could miss something there.
Gardner fakes a handoff; line run blocks, with Lewan getting a couple yards downfield eventually.
The CB now commits to his blitz; Gardner pops up and hits the open Gallon for a few yards.
Except Gallon is good, man, and Indiana's safety gets shook, turning seven yards into 17.
Items of Interest
Pop pass FTW. For a team that seems to be allergic to quick presnap reads for its quarterback this is some advanced stuff. If the corner tips his blitz here that's a tendency I can't pick up; Michigan must have seen something in their prep, or Gardner just feels it. I looked at this a dozen times trying to figure out the exact thing that tipped Gardner and still bupkis. There was a time during my odyssey that I thought it was just a called play, but no, that hand motion Gardner makes before the snap (not the one for the snap, the little indicator to Gallon) seems like a one-to-one check.
Either way, this is a response to the corner blitzes that earlier in the year would wreck Michigan's rudimentary spread running game, which is good to see. Point Borges. It's also a short quick throw that gets an athletic guy in space, which pays off with ten extra yards.
Crouching Gallon, Hidden Yards. Man is Gallon good at this method of getting yards after the catch. He's built low to the ground and has a knack for taking a hit when he's bent low, which gets him under the defender and allows him to spin to keep his feet. The middle frame of the triptych above is the Hypothetical Gallon Statue in my mind: he's just dusted a defender and is sneaking his way for YAC.
This is not quite a packaged play. Everyone on the college football internet just thinks whatever Smart Football thinks, so a favorite topic these days are "packaged plays," which are run plays paired with a quick hot read the QB takes if a particular player (usually an OLB) crashes to the run. A lot of these end up looking like those PA spread passes up the seam. These plays feature an offense that runs a run play and a quarterback and WR who are given the option to abort.
Here Michigan aborts a run play, but it appears the call is made presnap, not post-snap. So not quite packaged. A close relative, certainly.
Reader and graphic designer Brian Downing shows off his skills with the above, which I wish I was aware of before attempting my own "Al Borges is trolling us all" GIF:
Brian's (NTB's) is obviously superior; both of these are exempted from voting this week since they're edited. There's still plenty to choose from after the jump, mostly featuring Indiana not playing defense and various reactions to the on-field insanity. It's a good crop, so...
10/19/2013 – Michigan 63, Indiana 47 – 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten
Jake Butt's block gets Devin Funchess cupcake dog eyes. [Eric Upchurch]
Chris Tucker! Jackie Chan!
YET MORE EXPLOSIONS!
EVERY ATOM IS RAPIDLY RECEDING FROM EVERY OTHER ATOM WITH FLAAAAAMES!
Someone mentions that 67-65 Illinois game!
And he gets thwacked!
This is Michigan!
I have confirmed this with people who do not care about Michigan football that much: that was not a collective fever dream brought on by the stress of the Penn State game. It happened, because Indiana is #1 in Big Ten offense and #546th in total defense. A team that put up 42 on them last week waddled towards their first and only offensive touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter of a game against Purdue. They gave up 35 to Indiana State while torching those guys for 70 points. They walloped Penn State by 20. Adam Jacobi has taken to calling the Hoosiers #CHAOSTEAM because at any moment they will break you or be broken themselves, leaving seven points and a flaming wagon wheel in their wake.
Pick literally any stat about offense you want and laugh. Indiana first downs: 28! Michigan's average gain: 9.0 yards! Indiana time of possession in a third quarter in which they scored 23 points: six minutes! Devin Gardner YPA: 17.3! Number of Indiana receivers with catches of at least 20 yards: 5!
This purports to be the same sport that Michigan played against Minnesota. I say it is not. I say it was a test pilot for TV executives from a dystopian future looking for something that will distract the masses from their slave-like drudgery in the fur mines. It was wildly successful. I barely remember anything about my day to day life in the fur mines.
In the aftermath, no one knows if anything means anything. Our ears are still ringing, shrapnel still falling, ham fragments scattered in the front yard. One of the children is walking with a limp and tilting his head funny in a way that seems worryingly permanent. The oil derrick is on fire.
In these situations it's hard to tease out judgments, especially when last week your offense was a few deep balls to Funchess and pain and your defense seemed rather good. A week later, Michigan's setting program records for total offense and getting eviscerated on the other side of the ball.
We had this debate last week about Raymon Taylor and now it's writ large: can any part of this team decide whether it sucks or it is awesome? Lewan and Gallon excepted, it seems like everything Michigan does is prone to insane swings. On the player level, hey look it's Devin Gardner, who explodes in all directions. Or Taylor, who was repeatedly roasted one game after having an awesome interception and was the primary hand in shutting down Allen Robinson for 3.99 quarters. Or Dennis Norfleet, who had an electric juke-you-out-of-your jock kickoff return and an electric reverse-field-twice-and-get-tackled-at-the-nine kickoff return. Even previously consistent Brendan Gibbons is now two for his last five with two line-drive blocks.
On the unit level, the defense waxes between perforated against Akron to crushing against UConn and Minnesota and most of the Penn State game. The offense nukes Notre Dame, nukes itself against Akron and UConn, reconfigures itself into a dump truck to out-dump-truck Minnesota, is bombs and turnovers and pain against Penn State, and then rewrites the record book this weekend. On a team level… well, you saw the Akron and UConn games. Michigan's quite a CHAOSTEAM itself.
Meanwhile, the opponent. In the second half, Michigan's game plan seemed to be max-protect pass after max-protect pass on which Funchess and Gallon would wander out in different variations of deep routes. Indiana would cover Funchess; Gallon would engage his cloaking device to become improbably open, then catch a ball and run for many yards. At some point in the second half, Gallon had already broken the Big Ten all-time receiving mark and one of these two man routes found him open by literally twenty yards.
Jeremy Gallon has three hundred receiving yards and the defense is blowing a coverage on him.
Blow a coverage on everybody else! Penn State intentionally blew a coverage and got an interception out of it! Are you recent immigrants from Malaysia? Do you think this is… Malaysiaball? I need Michigan to score a touchdown here and I am still slightly angry at you, Indiana. Incompetence so vast is a thing to behold, but how are you supposed to take this performance and extrapolate anything from it? It exists in a different world from football; it is for dystopian future distractions.
I probably shouldn't be looking for life lessons after that in any case. It's my natural inclination to search for What It Means For The Future after playing Indiana, since for my entire life as a Michigan fan Indiana games have been speed bumps on route to games Michigan might actually lose. This is a bad instinct after a game that will be That Indiana Game for the rest of time.
Here we should set those things aside and align ourselves in repose. Whatever just happened has no bearing on the future. Lay back, let your feet flop open, and breathe. Our neck muscles and inner ears could use the rest.
I'M FINISHED [Upchurch]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. That Jeremy Gallon's epic, Michigan and Big Ten record-setting performance has the whisper of a challenge here is testament to the ridiculousness of this game. Even though Devin Gardner set some Michigan records of his own, Gallon's the guy.
Honorable mention: Gardner, obviously. Thomas Gordon's interception was the biggest defensive play of the day, by some distance. The line kept Gardner clean for long stretches.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. After a couple weeks during which it was a stretch to pick anything, here the problem is paring it down form an explosion symphony to a quartet. Or singlet. Whatever. Music things!
But there is a pretty obvious item: Thomas Gordon undercutting a badly-thrown deep ball to intercept moments after Devin Gardner had fumbled a snap on the two yard line. Indiana got to the line instantly, caught Raymon Taylor off guard, seemingly had burned him for yet another immense touchdown, and Sudfeld left it short. A catch and return later, Michigan was once again in position to regain possession of the two-possession lead that was the only thing between Michigan fans and mass chaos. More mass chaos, anyway.
Honorable mention: Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball. Etc. Gardner scrambles, gets flipped into the endzone. Funchess leaps damn near out of the stadium to near the endzone in the second half.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
[After THE JUMP: Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball.]
Devin, did it feel like a basketball game where there’s one guy who’s on fire so you just keep giving him the ball?
Gardner: “I mean, I guess you can say that. I felt like the offensive protected so well and gave me such a good opportunity to hit those guys. [The receivers] did a good job getting open, so it made my job easy.”
With the criticism you’ve been getting, how excited were you to have a record day on offense?
Gardner: “I mean, I just feel like we did a good job of rebounding. It just shows the senior leadership and the leadership on the team that after such a tough loss last week, we could come out and perform and fight like we did and finish the game.”
NOT PICTURED: Indiana's defense (far left: Upchurch; center and right: Fuller)
Michigan comfortably defeated Indiana by 16 points, outgaining them by 161 yards and staying even in the critical turnover battle.
Or something like that, at least.
In real life, the Wolverines and Hoosiers traded haymakers, smashing records while combining for 1,323 yards of total offense. I'll spell that out: ONE-THOUSAND, THREE-HUNDRED AND TWENTY-THREE YARDS OF TOTAL OFFENSE. 751 (SEVEN-HUNDRED--okay, you get it) of those belonged to Michigan, a school record. Devin Gardner passed for 503 of those yards, another school record, and added 81 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, breaking Denard Robinson's U-M record for single-game total offense. Jeremy Gallon caught 14 passes for 369 yards and two scores, felling not only the Michigan receiving yards record, but also the Big Ten mark.
On the other side of the ledger, Indiana amassed 572 yards and 28 first downs while scoring on seven of their first 11 full drives. We all know this feel, probably-drunk student (via bubbaprog):
When the above occurred during the game doesn't matter, because it could've been any moment of the game.*
Remarkably, the teams traded punts to begin the game; matters escalated quickly. First, Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld hit a wide-open Cody Latimer for a 59-yard touchdown when Michigan's defense couldn't get set against the lightning-fast Hoosier attack; Raymon Taylor got beat over the top, and the safety help it appeared he expected never arrived.
Michigan responded with a five-play, 56-yard march capped by a 13-yard Gardner scoring run; all but one of the plays was a shotgun run. Clearly, Al Borges wasn't pleased with last week's effort; not only did Michigan come out with two new starting guards, Erik Magnuson and Joey Burzynski, they spread the field to make attacking a porous Indiana defense that much easier.
From there, it was the Jeremy Gallon Show. The Wolverines took a 14-7 lead after a 70-yard Gallon catch set up a two-yard TD run by Fitz Toussaint. By the end of the first quarter, he had 116 yards. Back-to-back first down passes to Gallon set up the next score, too, a seven-yard Toussaint run to the pylon for a 21-7 Michigan lead.
Indiana responded to that score in their trademark lightning-strike fashion, taking just 1:03 off the clock as Tre Roberson took over for Sudfeld, going 3/3 on the drive for 57 yards. That took some luck, as Roberson's second throw went right through the hands of Raymon Taylor, only to be caught by Duwyce Wilson; one play later, Shane Wynn took the top off the defense for a 33-yard score.
The Wolverines looked to carry all the momentum into halftime, going on a methodical 12-play, 91-yard drive that ate 5:19 of the final 5:59 off the clock; a 21-yard touchdown pass to—who else?—Gallon on a wide open flag route. As it turned out, however, 40 seconds was just enough for the Hoosiers to move into field goal range with a little help from a very passive defense, and Mitch Ewald drilled a 50-yarder to make it 28-17 at the half.
Michigan received to start the second half; any hopes of opening up a comfortable lead were quickly dashed, however, when Toussaint dropped a pitch from Gardner and IU LB Flo Hardin returned it 13 yards to the Wolverine five. Three plays later, Tevin Coleman dashed through a huge hole in the middle to bring the Hoosiers within four.
Even as the Wolverines tried to slow the game's breakneck pace, Indiana wouldn't allow them to do so; unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they did this by ceding a 50-yard touchdown pass to Gallon on the fourth play of the next drive. The play came on another very successful adjustment by Borges: bringing in two tight ends, going max protect, and letting Gallon and Devin Funchess work against Indiana's generous secondary. Funchess drew a lot of attention from Indiana's back seven, allowing Gallon to roam freely downfield, almost as if he were invisible.
Indiana came back with a five-yard Roberson pass to an uncovered Wynn on a broken coverage, failed to convert a reverse pass on a gutsy (read: questionable) two-point conversion attempt, and after a Michigan punt another Ewald field goal cut the lead to just one point. The offense once again answered the bell, however, this time in the form of Gardner pump-faking and scrambling through several Hoosiers en route to a six-yard score, eating an illegal late hit after he arrived in the end zone.
Despite kicking off from the 50 with a nine-point lead and a defense seemingly incapable of slowing down Indiana, Brady Hoke elected to have Matt Wile boot the ball through the end zone instead of trying a relatively safe onside kick. The Hoosiers made up the 15-yard difference in one Tevin Coleman rush, then cut the lead to two on a 15-yard Roberson scramble.
Hearts quickly jumped into throats and stomachs plummeted into shoes after Michigan moved their way down to the Indiana two-yard line, only for Gardner to fumble the snap on first-and-goal; Indiana recovered and the Big House fell silent as the Hoosiers took the ball with a chance at the lead. Michigan caught two big breaks, however: first, Roberson dislocated his thumb, forcing Sudfeld back onto the field; second, Sudfeld softly tossed the ball in the direction of an open receiver, only for Thomas Gordon (above, Fuller) to undercut it for a critical interception, giving the Wolverines the ball back just three yards worse for wear.
After two runs were stuffed by the Hoosiers, Gardner dropped back to pass, niftily eluded a corner blitz, and took off up the middle, barrel-rolling over a tackle attempt and into the end zone to make it 56-47. Roberson gamely got Indiana into scoring position again on the next drive, but Hoosier hopes were dashed when either a bad overthrow or a miscommunication with the intended receiver resulted in a ball deflecting off Jourdan Lewis's hands and straight to Gordon for his second pick. Toussaint, who finished with 151 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries, capped the scoring with a 27-yard dash up the middle.
This felt a lot like the 2010 Illinois game, with Michigan looking unstoppable on offense and incapable on defense. The difference, of course, is that the offense was supposed to be the big question mark with the defense being called upon to keep the team afloat. For this game's good signs—the offensive explosion and adjustments from Borges—there were plenty of bad ones, especially the defense allowing five different Indiana receivers to record catches of at least 20 yards. One thing is for sure: this team still looks eminantly beatable, and after this week's bye, the Wolverines face the teeth of their schedule, starting with a trip to East Lansing to face the vaunted Spartan defense (and also, thankfully, a Connor Cook-led MSU offense).
*If you must know, it was after Gardner's fumble on the goal line, which stood out as particularly absurd even in this absurdity of a game.