A few weeks ago, Devin Gardner was the king of turnovers, baseball existed, and no one other than Jeremy Gallon was the target of passes. None of these things are true anymore—NONE—thanks in large part to Michigan exploring the idea of using Devin Funchess as a large and generally in charge wide receiver. Michigan's second touchdown was an excellent example of what happens when you focus too much one one guy and how Funchess can be effective even if he's not as fast as a really fast guy.
It's third and fourteen after Chris Bryant got smoked for a sack on second and five; Michigan comes out with a trips formation with Gallon the lone receiver to the bottom of the screen. Jake Butt, Drew Dileo, and Devin Funchess are bunched to the top of the screen. Minnesota responds with a 3-3-5 stack look and one deep safety:
Minnesota's coverage is going to end up super inane. They'll rush three, leave all three linebackers in no-mans land neither pressuring Gardner or covering anyone, and bracket Jeremy Gallon, leaving one on one coverage on all three guys to the trips side.
Below here is an approximation of what they do. Linebackers have been designated "blorp" in an attempt to get the reader thinking about the walrus defensive coordinator accidentally blowing bubbles with his own spit instead of whether he should have called this defense on third and fourteen.
Now, two of these guys seem to have obvious tasks. One is in man coverage on Toussaint. The other is spying Gardner. The third, the top-most blorp, seems to be in a robber zone type thing to the trips side of the field.
A moment after the snap, Michigan's plan is revealed:
Butt runs an out at the LOS; Dileo tries to get up the seam. He'll be held and thrown to the ground, drawing a flag. Funchess releases upfield, well past the blorp zone, and is one on one with Martez Shabazz, a senior JUCO transfer who hasn't started for Minnesota in his career.
Shabazz has already turned to run with Funchess at this point, when Funchess is five yards off of him:
That's because Funchess is angling for the corner of the endzone, selling fade.
This evaporates from the screen shortly after, but on replay you can see Funchess flip the defensive back entirely around as he breaks to the post.
You may remember "defensive back turns 360 degrees" from such things as the 2010 defense. More likely you made sure you do not remember that by liberal application of whiskey. Either way, your result is separation.
Gardner's throw is high and a little behind, but Funchess don't care, and the defensive back is trying to get a PBU on a guy who's 1) a half foot taller than him, 2) leaping, and 3) made of solid material.
GET ORF ME
It is now 14-7.
Slow not really necessary here. Here's a couple of replay angles, the first of which does a good job of showing Funchess selling fade and his quick transition to the post. That's a quality route even with the stumble.
Items Of Interest
This defensive call is ridiculous. It's third and fourteen and you don't give your crappy backup corner any help against Devin Funchess. I get bracketing Gallon, sure. But going straight man against three WRs without any help at all is asking for a facepunching. Here is a facepunching.
I also get spying Gardner, and covering Toussaint out of the backfield once you've scouted Michigan's wheel route predilection. It's that third linebacker hanging out nine yards downfield that really gets me.
Devin Funchess can turn around Minnesota defensive backs. This was far from an isolated occurrence. Here it seems like the CB is thinking "oh crap oh crap oh crap this giant robot thing is going to put a fade on my face," bails super early to the corner, and then gets turned around easy on the post. At that point it's all over even if Gardner's throw is less than perfect, as it is, because anything up high requires the DB to go through Funchess's butt (not that Butt) to even get a finger on his arms.
Can Funchess do this to better opposition? That's the question. It was interesting to watch Michigan State go up against 6'5" Admiral-spawn Corey Robinson in the Notre Dame game, as he presented a lot of the same issues. State had those safety things in the middle of the field, though, which limited Robinson to sideline routes on which he was fairly successful, catching 3 balls for 54 yards and drawing a couple of pass interference calls. Funchess is pretty much the same guy.
He'll have to prove it down the stretch here. I think his route running skills are quality enough to make him an option, and even when guys get over the top, the Hemingway Option always remains on the table.
Better behind and high than on target. What is the nature of "on target"? This not-perfect throw works out perfectly because of the nature of Devin Funchess. If it hits him in the hands in stride there are defensive backs other than this one who will be there to break it up. If you lay it up and let the guy get the rebound, nobody's defending this.
The nature of on target varies with the target. Gardner seemed a bit off with his timing in this one, resulting in a number of balls that forced receivers to reach behind them. Funchess has proven very good at this in his career, and his general enormousness moves throws that are definite incompletions to Gallon into big chunks of yards:
That's why Michigan's receiving corps is about to be land of the giants.
With Funchess threatening, it will be a struggle for defenses to cover everything. Minnesota tries to play it safe by rushing three, which gives Gardner time. Despite the fact that they have eight guys in coverage their fear of Gardner's scrambling ability pulls guys out of relevant coverage, and while they could still put one of those safety guys back there, Dileo's route up the seam will give hypothetical safety a choice between those two folks and Gardner should have an option either way.
FORMATION NOTES: Discontent with trying to file plays on which a tight end motio`ns inside of the tackle box but does not line up as a pure fullback as either "ace" or "I-Form," I've created new lingo. This is "Ace H":
Welcome it. It will be your good friend for a long time.
As the coaches mentioned, Akron spent much of the day in bear fronts. That means they folded linebackers inside of their ends at the LOS like so:
I noted this as 6-2 bear. When only one Akron player was folded inside it was 5-3 bear. (On almost all plausible run snaps Akron showed an eight-man front.)
PERSONNEL NOTES: OL was the usual, with Magnuson making his regular goal-line cameo. AJ Williams didn't play and Funchess went out late, paving the way for a lot of Jake Butt and the debut of Jordan Paskorz, runnin' routes with a broken hand.
Green got two snaps, I think, and Justice Hayes was briefly featured as a second back in a shotgun 2-back formation; all he did was pass block. Wideouts were as usual. If you squint maybe you can perceive Chesson getting more time than he has in the past.
Oh: again there was a small Norfleet package. Hopefully as the season goes along "Norfleet is on the field" starts being less than 90% "Norfleet is getting the ball."
[After THE JUMP: wha happen]
This guy lost a bet. Don't gamble, kids.
Also a lost bet. A love poem to Tommy Rees from a Notre Dame fan.
The girls of St. Mary’s pray at your knees
Because you are not just Tommy Rees
You are QB1
Equal to the likes of Montana and Theismann and Stuhldreher
A symbol, a winner, an icon
Your droopy eyes, not of a stoner, but a leader
One who studies play books until 4 a.m.
A senior who now neglects parties and cops’ groins
You will now prevail
Don't gamble, kids.
The Harmon thing. Do be awesome, though.
Blowing the coverage open. One Foot Down talks about what went wrong for Notre Dame on the long Gallon touchdown.
Long story short, when Michigan motioned Funchess across the formation ND changed their coverage and freshman Jaylon Smith didn't change his despite changing his alignment in a way that suggested he got the call. He followed Funchess into the flat, opening up Gallon for a catch and run.
Not sure if that was specifically designed to test Smith's understanding of his checks, but that's what it did. It is a great example of the kind of things motion can do to a defense: you're testing their ability to adjust at little cost to yourself.
In other film business, Space Coyote takes a look at how Michigan got beat up on the DL when the Irish ran. I mostly agree, but he's a little harsh to Morgan in one instance. I thought the DL play in front of him opened up a cutback lane he had to fill.
Beyer ends up way upfield and Black tries to rip inside of the right guard, so there's a massive backside lane. Once it's clear the back isn't taking it he can't scrape because Wormley got blown up. Thus the crease. Morgan's in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation.
None of this is particularly surprising with six in the box and no nose tackles on the field. I do wonder why Pipkins didn't get more playing time, as he seemed to do well with the snaps he got and there's no way he'd get as blown up as Wormley did on a couple of those plays.
Space Coyote also has a post at his own site on the passing combos that got Fitzgerald Toussaint open for that critical swing route and saw Dileo shake himself open for the final touchdown.
Stick a fork in an outlet. MSU running back Nick Hill:
“I think we’re very close to just being the electric offense we were in 2010, 2011,” Hill told the Spartan Sports Network. “Obviously, we struggled a little bit last year, but we’re right there. And I noticed it when we went through summer conditioning going into fall camp that the pieces are there, the players are there.”
Michigan State starts walk-ons at tight end and right tackle, has the worst receiving corps in the league, and is currently starting Connor Cook because pretending he's Denard Robinson is their best option. Nick Hill may have depth perception issues.
Injuries. AJ Williams is "questionable" and Courtney Avery still limited. I bet we don't see much of either this weekend—why risk it—but it sounds like Williams will be ready to go by the time Big Ten play rolls around. Gallon says he's fine.
In future opponent injury news, Minnesota loses spectacularly-named starting corner Briean Boddy-Calhoun for the year with an ACL tear. Kill said he was their best cornerback, so that's a blow. Jeremy Gallon cackles madly.
More Legends Jersey proposals. From HSR:
4). Jareth Glanda | #54 | Michigan LS 2010-2013
Move anonymously through two whole seasons of football without having your name mentioned, then catch a pass for a first down on a broken play during a bowl game.
Anyone who fumbles ten snaps should be given a red 15 patch reading Mallett.
Etc.: The House Rock Built's UFR of the fourth quarter is slightly different from mine, but spiritually the same. The Daily profiles Taylor Lewan.
FL C commit Ricky Doyle picks up a fourth star from ESPN, is now just outside their top 100. Practice video is a lot more exciting before the season. Fixing the NCAA rule book. New throwy-sticky ball turf. Michigan offers combo guard Donte Grantham. Adidas alternates worn by Arkansas State draw 15-yard penalties at the beginning of each half. A final look at ND.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan was split close to evenly between shotgun/pistol/under center. Notre Dame, meanwhile, was in a ton of four-man fronts until late, when they went back to more of a 4-3 look. Here you can see Shembo with his hand down and a 1-3-5 technique split to the strongside of M's formation:
I know I've mentioned in the past that Notre Dame's defense is not really all that different from Michigan's, and this game was a good demonstration of that. ND prefers over fronts when they go to a four-man line since their SAM equivalent is Jaylon Smith, a fast light bugger. I guess that's kind of a big difference. The point is: ND runs a lot of four man fronts.
Here's ND's 3-4:
The DL are head up on the Michigan OL, with the SAM over the TEs and Smith is over the slot.
This is the pistol. Pew pew:
Another 4-3 over from ND.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: QB Gardner, RB Toussaint on almost every play. Derrick Green got in for two, I think, and M lined up Norfleet as a back once. The line was the starters the whole game, but when Lewan got poked in the eye, Michigan sent in Magnuson, not Braden. Lewan returned, so Magnuson didn't get a snap. He's your #3 tackle it appears.
Williams, Funchess, and Butt all played plenty; Williams went out with an injury, came back for a few plays, and then left permanently. At WR, Gallon (obvious) with Chesson and Jackson rotating more heavily than Reynolds, who may still be dinged. Excepting the Norfleet package early, the slot was always Dileo. Michigan never had more than two outside WRs in the game. On passing downs they filled out with Funchess and Dileo.
[After THE JUMP: slicing and dicing goes both ways.]
- Boo boo watch: AJ Williams is questionable, Courtney Avery is getting better, but still probably limited.
- It's Akron week. Yawn.
"Practice was pretty good on Tuesday. We've talked about it before, we're putting some wrinkles in, both offensively and defensively, for what you want to do and what you want to try and work on for the future. Some of it always is for that opponent. It was a pretty good practice. A lot of heat, which was good, because we were relatively, during fall camp, it really never got hot. So we got to play in the heat a little bit, and Akron is going to be a high tempo team. They like to get on the ball as quickly as they can. They like to throw the ball around, get on the perimeter of the defense some. From a defensive perspective for them, they're very aggressive. You know, they like to blitz, they like to play zero coverage, they like to play man free. So they'll stack the line of scrimmage a little bit and you have to take advantage of the shots you get."
MGoIcebreaker: Big win. Does that mean we get to have a word of the day? [MGoContext: Al stopped doing words of the day because "It's only cute if you win.']
" 'Big win.' Two words."
Other than the big mistake, the offense seemed to execute flawlessly. Were you pleased?
"Oh I wouldn't say flawlessly. But I think I was pleased with the result. I was certainly pleased with the effort. I mean we played pretty hard from the beginning to the end, and that was nice. We had a time during the game when the football gods were kind of frowning on us a little bit. We recovered nicely. That was probably as good as anything. That one part where we turned the ball over, had a couple bad things happen, but we recovered nicely from it, and all the coaches felt good about that."