spoiler alert: i linked this
Programming note: Due to a poorly timed (but awesome) vacation, I was in California for the last several days. That's why Ace had to cover for me at Media Day and why *Jedi handwave* there was no coordinator presser on Tuesday. I'm back to provide uninterrupted coverage from here on out, though, so feel free to get off your tenterhooks.
News bullets and other important things:
- Just completed 14th practice; did some scrimmaging.
- Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and Erik Gunderson are all practicing at tackle.
- No decision yet on Fitz Toussaint.
- Roundtree's chances of returning for Alabama are "good."
- Matt Wile currently holds a slight edge for the punting job over Will Hagerup and Kenny Allen.
- Chris Wormley has not yet undergone surgery but will; as expected, will likely miss the entire season.
Football was being played.
“Thanks for coming. 14th practice, midway point, did some good things, did some things -- playing with a little better speed. I think the fundamentals and techniques that you always go back to. I think the guys are doing a pretty good job with that. I think we have to be more physical on both fronts. That’s not nearly solved yet for how we need to play, but for the 14th day, this is really grind right now and it should be because of the schedule that they’ve been on. You have to see how they respond. They responded pretty well to some situational things this afternoon, but as far as being ready for September 1st, we have a long way to go.”
By situational, do you mean scrimmage?
“It’s a little bit situations. You know, just give as many -- not a lot of plays, but enough to hear some football and those kinds of things.”
When do you plan to have a full scrimmage?
“Not until Saturday.”
Just wanted to ask about a couple Alabama guys: their QB McCarron and nose guard Williams. Thoughts?
“Well I mean, I think McCarron’s done a great job leading their football team. National championship quarterback. Plays with a lot of poise. The run game, he gets them in and out of the right places. They run the ball. He’s a very good leader. He seems to be on the field for them. Williams is a guy who’s disruptive. Somebody will have to contend with [him]. They have 10 teammates on each side of the ball, so they’re really part of a very good football team.”
Have you identified any backup tackles to Lewan and Schofield?
“You know, I don’t know. All those guys -- Ben Braden’s taken some snaps, Gunderson’s taken some snaps, Erik Magnuson’s taken some snaps. I don’t know I’d identify anybody who was it, I’d be honest with you, yet.”
Is it concerning that you have true freshmen at those positions?
“Yeah, always is. But it’s always -- those guys have to grow up fast. All of them are smart guys, and they’re coachable, so they’ll be okay.”
How many freshmen do you anticipate having in the two-deep on the offensive line?
“On the line? Oh maybe three. Maybe four.”
You didn’t get to spend much time with the freshmen earlier because they were in classes. What about now?
“Well they got out on Tuesday and today’s Thursday, so you still, from a learning and being comfortable with the terminology and what they’re asked to do, I think that part of it’s still early. I think they get through this week and into next week a little bit. You have a better idea. Can they play fast? Can they play with poise? Can they play with great technique? All those things are a part of it.”
Does anyone catch your attention in a positive way?
“Uh, you know, I would probably say they’re all -- I think they’re all working hard. I think they’re all eager. I think the talent level, the athleticism stuff is kind of what we’re looking at -- I don’t know. Not yet.”
Has Desmond Morgan made a leap this fall?
“Yeah, I think he did from spring and I think he has in the fall. I think he had a very good summer. He’s a driven, young man. And a very competitive person. I think the improvement of how he reacts -- he’s pretty instinctive. That’s why Yyu play as a freshman, because you’re an instinctive person and football player. And he’s pretty instinctive. I think the strength gains that he’s made, he’s a more powerful football player, linebacker.”
When do you make decisions on walk-ons getting scholarships?
“No we haven’t done that. It depends sometime before school starts if we’re thinking about that or if we have the scholarships.”
Are you thinking about it this year?
“Sometime before school starts.”
How has Fitz looked, and are you closer to making a decision on him yet?
“I have not, and he’s out there like the others running around.”
How do you plan to build cohesion as an offensive line while rotating three guys at left guard?
“What we’ll do is take a big part of scrimmage, practice situations, and keep playing a guy there so that there’s a comfort level between the left tackle and the center. I think Taylor can play basically with anybody because of his experience, and he knows more what to do. So that part of it, he’s pretty good so he doesn’t have to worry about himself as much as he does that guard.”
Has he been sort of an on-the-field coach?
“Yeah, he’s done a nice job. He’s done a nice job.”
When would you like to identify a starting offensive line?
“Oh, ten -- ten days before probably.”
Is that a rough guess? Why ten days?
“I think, you know, some continuity that we try to build consistently, but I think that’s part of it.”
Chris Wormley tore his ACL.
Has he had/will he have surgery?
“No. He has not and he will.”
“Sometime in the near future.”
How did he sustain the injury?
“Just playing football.”
Any plans to redshirt him?
“Most likely he’ll miss the year.”
You have three guys competing for the punting job. Has anyone stood out yet?
“You know, not really. I would give right now -- probably Wile had the better day. But we’ve got to be consistent day in and day out. Today I thought Matt stroked it pretty well. I didn’t think Will was as consistent, but he was better than he has been. Both of those guys were a little bit behind because they didn’t get as many reps during the summer, so I think they’re catching up.”
How confident are you with playing an inexperienced guy like Jerald Robinson, who has reportedly been standing out at the receiver position, on September 1st?
“I think we’ve got to put enough pressure on him and get him out of his comfort zone that you test them as best you can, and he’s got to go out there and do it. I mean there’s no other way besides going out there on that stage and doing it. We can put him on situations and test him and make him uncomfortable and see how he reacts. But at the same time, he’s just got to do it.”
What would you do to get him out of his comfort zone?
“Well you give him a lot of reps. You see how he reacts when he gets tired. You do some things coverage wise to beat him up at the line of scrimmage. Just trying to get him a little bit out of the comfort level.”
How is Roundtree doing, and what are his chances of playing the first week?
“He’s doing great.”
“I think they’re good.”
What is the clearing process for him to get back on the field?
“Him feeling better and the doctor feeling good and comfortable about it.”
Do you check up on him every day?
“Yeah he’s with a rehab specialist every day. We obviously communicate.”
What’s he doing physically at this point?
“With the rehab -- ”
Has JT Floyd progressed since last season, and how has his chemistry with Blake Countess developed?
“Well I think there’s a chemistry before JT and Blake. I think they push each other. I think the consistency is always something that we’ve got to keep having out there. That’s kind of a position where you’re on the island, everybody sees it when you falter, but I think they both improved. I think they both worked very hard.”
How do Blake and JT differ?
“That’s a good question. JT’s a little rangier, a little longer-armed, a little taller. I would say Blake’s probably a little more physical, you know, of the two. I think JT showed some physicalness a year ago, too. ”
Do you think that they feed off each other?
“Yeah I think so. I think that and Tom Gordon and Kovacs. Kovacs [is] kind of the field general, and it’s part of being a safety. I think they feed really well [off] each other.”
Can you get a sense for what kind of team you are 14 practices in?
Can you characterize anything about it so far?
“You know, we’ve got a lot we need to improve on.”
Do you like what you’re getting out of the seniors?
“They’re doing a good job.”
----------------BONUS PARAPHRASED PLAYER INTERVIEWS!----------------
- Likes his new position, prefers it to OLB.
- Technique-wise working on bull rush and a couple other moves.
- Says defense's strength is "technique." Weakness is "toughness." Needs to be "tougher."
- Father is a high school coach -- used to give him a bunch of pointers on technique, but now just watches the games as a fan.
- Family attends every game.
- Second year in defense, is picking up visual cues faster and therefore playing faster.
- Fitz's absence and return didn't affect running back practice. Fitz basically picked up where he left off.
- No sense of cutthroat competition between running backs -- they're all brothers and support each other.
- Loves watching film. Craziest place to watch film? In the shower. Did it multiple times last season.
I brought up the fact that he had only allowed one touchdown to opposing teams' No. 1 receivers all last season.
Floyd: "Which one? I just want to test you."
Me: "The Iowa guy? McNutt? It was either him or DeVier Posey." [I didn't remember exactly, but it was Posey.]
Floyd: "McNutt didn't score a touchdown on me!"
Items of admittedly flimsy substance:
Lots of Rawls. Thomas Rawls is the tailback in most of these sets; Hayes does not appear and Toussaint only gets buried on a flare screen. Rawls mostly gets buried himself. Maybe he's just an excellent vehicle via which to express defensive competence.
Morgan is all over the place. He goes sideline to sideline to thump Rawls on one moderately successful run and generally looks like Michigan's best linebacker. Again, it's one thing to go sideline to sideline against Rawls and another on Toussaint or Smith. Morgan still brings the wood.
Line bits. You can see Chris Bryant acting as the RG on a play where Miller is snapping to Gardner: second unit. Hypothesis: Michigan thinks Mealer can really hack it all of a sudden and is placing the usual pressure on Omameh's job. Either that or they're just getting Bryant some snaps at both guard spots so he's comfortable at either one in case of an injury. There has been a little buzz about Graham Glasgow, the second-team left guard, as well—unrelated to a tandem bike, even.
Also, your second string NT is currently Richard Ash. Not much of a surprise, sure.
Edge defenders. On the play where Gardner escapes Frank Clark pressure to bomb a pass to Jeremy Jackson in the back of the endzone it's the second team OTs—walk-ons—getting smoked. The player coming in from the bottom is redshirt freshman Antonio Poole, which strikes me as odd. He's presumed to be playing WLB, so if he's coming at the left tackle he's either engaged on a seriously long journey from blitz to the quarterback or he's practicing at MLB. (Or SLB, I guess, but I doubt it.)
Adding to the oddness of that play: it really looks like the guy trying to recover on Jackson is #35… Joe Bolden. I am confused about that defense.
Slant. Dime? Denard throws a slant to Gallon immediately in front of Terrence Talbott, who's on the field with Kovacs, Avery, and Countess. People have been talking Talbott up in the recent insidery posts across the web, and that is first-team run he's getting. Michigan seems to have enough depth at corner to consider some dime packages in third and long.
BUBBLE?!?! IS THIS A BUBBLE SCREEN TO DILEO?
AL BORGES IS CAPTURED AND HIDDEN SOMEWHERE IN THE MOUNTAINS OF AFGHANISTAN. WE LAUNCH OUR RESCUE AT 0600 SATURDAY.
Black appearance. Looks like Morgan and Black blow up the next play, one of those spring counters Michigan busted out against Minnesota for an unknown reason. Omameh gets beat, which I'd look at as a good sign since we know Omameh is a pretty good Big Ten player, one who has more trouble with strength than quickness. Black's being talked up as a quick penetrator.
Vincent Smith iso from the I. Zero yards. #sameasever. We get a glimpse of Cam Gordon rotating in with the ones on this play, which is good to see after he vanished last year. Smith does dance into the endzone a couple plays later on a power from the gun with #99 blocking—yeah, Michigan's rotating in a fullback wearing 99 now. Meet Paul Gyarmati.
On that play the second team is in. Poole gets on the wrong side of a pulling Barnum, which prevents Bolden from making a tackle. Then a safety I can't identify whiffs as he tries to fill. Bryant doesn't actually end up blocking anyone. Bolden's reaction time was impressive there: if Poole knows what he's doing that's going to be a thump for Bolden at or near the LOS.
Mmmm Denard. Next play is a QB power on which Barnum pulls. The TV always tells me that's a rare thing that can be of great utility to an offense. Barnum gets well downfield and crushes Morgan to the inside, opening up a lane Denard hits for six. Not Morgan's fault. I wish we'd see Demens doing some of the stuff Morgan is in these clips.
…and Morgan gets beat easily on the next play for a Vincent Smith dumpoff TD.
BONUS TAKE: From Maize 'n' Blue Nation.
News bullets and other important items:
- Vincent Smith dressed for Nebraska but did not play because of a shoulder injury.
- Everything else is sort of general fluff on the rivalry.
“Our guys, I thought, played their best football game as a team on Saturday. In saying that, from the kicking game to offensively and defensively, I thought they all complemented each other well. We had a great day yesterday as far as putting that game to bed and moving forward. This is a special week because you play in the greatest rivalry there is in sport. When you get the chance to play in this game or coach in this game, it’s always a fun week. We’ve got a lot of work to do because we’re not where we need to be in any sense as far as the team that we envision ourselves to be and we expect to be.”
What does this senior class mean to you and this program, and how special will their legacy be if they do win on Saturday?
“Well, you know, the seniors are always out in the forefront. This is a group of guys who have been through a lot. They’ve hung together well and they’ve done a nice job of preparing weekly. Just not preparing themselves but preparing their teammates. They’ve got to keep that up and be consistent in what we do and how we prepare.”
Can you remember the first time you ever watched this game and said to yourself, “I want to be a part of that?”
“Wow. Uh. Boy. I can’t remember how old I was or anything, but my dad had a chance and played for Woody Hayes. Loved coach Hayes. You know, that game you were always watching. So I can’t tell you how old I was or anything else, but it’s always been a special significance, at 12 noon, that last Saturday in November or the Saturday before Thanksgiving -- you’re watching that football game.”
Why do you call them “Ohio” rather than “Ohio State”?
“Always. So whenever always is.”
(more after the jump)
So it's been seven games and it's a bye week so TACO PARTY—
this is a thing you can purchase at "Fine Art America"
or steal from your crazy Aunt Betty in Pensacola
—also generic bullety midseason-type post.
BEST DEVELOPMENT. Confirmation of the offseason's Greg >>> GERG theory.
he's like defensive coordinator Zooey Deschanel.
There are still obvious weaknesses and no obvious stars past a slightly disappointing Mike Martin, but it turns out having a coherent defensive philosophy is a lot better than running around screaming "we're all gonna die but at least my hair is fantastic!!!"
Pick a metric, advanced or not, and the improvement is incredible. The advanced ones are even more enthusiastic than the regular ones: Michigan is actually a top-20 FEI defense. Top 20! They were 108th last year! Excuse me, I have to go list this pool of razorblades, despair, and misery on Craigslist! Where an Ohio State blogger will purchase it to talk about their offense!
You can apply every massively-deserved caveat you can think of and the author will nod sagely about how that is a concern and the end result is still something that should approximate giddiness. When the turnovers stop coming in droves and a smaller percentage of games are played in a trash tornado, Michigan will backslide. But, like… backslide into the 40s or something. IE: the offseason's best-case scenario that didn't involve installing robots from the future at key spots.
RUNNER-UP, BEST DEVELOPMENT. Jordan Kovacs ending the debate about Jordan Kovacs.
If you strain your memory you can think back to a time where it was very warm and people had heated debates about whether Jordan Kovacs was any good or not. This was summer, and it was a silly time. A major reason the defense is scraping the ceiling of the ceiling above its best-case scenario is the near-total absence of big plays. Michigan still hasn't given up anything over 40 yards. Kovacs and (to a lesser extent) Thomas Gordon are primarily responsible for shutting down the Wolverine Free Touchdown Factory and shipping it to Thailand. WOO OUTSOURCING JOKE
WORST DEVELOPMENT. Denard's inability to hit Charlie Weis in three tries.
Even if you ascribe to the theory that Denard's passing success last year was largely a mirage when it came to Actual Big Ten Defenses*, his numbers against the two actual-seeming defenses on the schedule thus far have been horrendous. At least half of that can be ascribed to Denard just missing dudes.
Even running in place would have been disappointing after the quantum leap it seemed he made last year. He was still raw as sushi and could still be expected to move more towards quarterback-dom than a guy who'd had the slightest amount of polish. Instead the Al Borges-Denard Fusion Cuisine has shoved him back to being that guy who heaved it up against Iowa when he had a wide open Odoms running underneath. I didn't like that guy as much as the one from last year, warts and all.
*[Which I don't, FWIW. I UFR this stuff for a reason, and that reason is "so I can do something more than wave my hands in the air and say 'nuh-uh' when I would like to dispute someone else's assertion." I charted all of Denard's throws before the dismal end of the RR regime and there's a definite backslide.]
RUNNER-UP, WORST DEVELOPMENT. What happened, offensive line?
Last year you were all like blocking your way to an insane YPC and hardly giving up anything on the ground and this year you can't pull to save your life; the impregnable wall of no sacks was punched into smithereens by Michigan State. Now it's hard not to look at next year without a sense of panic.
MOST MIDDLING DEVELOPMENT. The tailbacks. It's still Vincent Smith and increasingly less Fitzgerald Toussaint (for reasons that are opaque to me). They're not awful. I still covet any tailback who wanders by to break a tackle or two.
MOST MISLEADING DEVELOPMENT. The defense's turnover-fu. It is not sustainable. Repeat this in your head a thousand times in a futile effort for its lack to be tolerable.
MOST DEVELOPING DEVELOPMENT. Special teams. They've been bad so far but the sample size is small. Brendan Gibbons made three(!) field goals against Minnesota and is 4/6 on the year. His two misses were both blocked. He might be serviceable. He might be benefiting from a bunch of chip shots—he still hasn't made one past 40 yards.
Meanwhile, the starting punter was suspended for the first four games and is averaging under 34 yards a kick because he was a nonfactor against Minnesota and Northwestern and seven of his punts came in a howling windstorm, six(!) of those from the Michigan State half of the field.
They can't cover kicks and can't return them, either. So… yeah. The jury is still out.
OFFENSE: FOCUS: OFFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jeremy Gallon cloaking device engagement.
The play that followed it was pretty sweet, too, but that thing took Michigan from dead in the water to fightin' chance in The First Night Game Evar.
100% WORST THING EVER. Fourth and inches play action pass from the nine against Michigan State. I assume this needs no explanation.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Run inside zone.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Throw deep.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Use stretch blocking and deploy the quick screen with the wide receivers to force a third defender to live outside the tackles. Michigan hasn't attacked the outside enough, allowing Michigan State's double-A-gap blitzes to be ludicrously effective.
BEST PLAYER. Well… Denard, despite obvious issues.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been near-flawless in pass protection, and has generally done well when the run game has come his way, which hasn't been often given their inability to pull left.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Michigan hasn't been able to pull left largely because Patrick Omameh can't get to the hole before the tailback, which is not so good.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Vincent Smith. He's a third down back and useful player who's not a guy you want to give 20 carries.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. Denard. Please, baby, please.
DEFENSE: FOCUS: DEFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jordan Kovacs depositing his head into a ball Alex Carder happened to be carrying.
That sack is like the awful Nick Sheridan interception that kicked off the Rodriguez era and made its way into the Worst Plays of the Decade more for what it symbolized than the actual impact of the play. It heralds a sea change in Michigan's fortunes.
Caveats, caveats, caveats: Michigan is now deploying a zone-blitz heavy 4-3 under that will draw valid NFL comparisons and will hopefully start playing like Michigan defenses of old, and by "Michigan defenses of old" I mean "Michigan defenses of very old or more recent Ohio State outfits."
100% WORST THING EVER. It's a tribute to Michigan's safeties and Greg Mattison that the only long-ish touchdown they've given up was the no-safeties formation that handed Notre Dame a freebie right before the Gallon cloaking device play. But, man… that was kind of not good right there.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Zone blitz.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Let guys outside the tackles.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Uh… you got me. /shakes fist at format established by himself
BEST PLAYER. Ryan Van Bergen, I think. It's close between RVB, Martin, and Kovacs, but Martin had a tough outing against Michigan State. Van Bergen played well. Kovacs had a storming game the first time out and is a major reason for the lack of long touchdown but has not has as much down to down impact. Maybe that's just the nature of being a safety. If Michigan gets through the rest of the year without getting bombed deep he'll win by default.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Kovacs. I don't hate Michigan's safeties except from time to time when Johnson is missing tackles.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Weakside linebacker du jour. Woolfolk hasn't been good but that's obviously an injury thing. I've been leery about Jake Ryan from time to time but he's turning in enough good plays with his bad ones to nose above even most days.
But whoever's been at weakside linebacker has had issues. Brandon Herron started the year, had two defensive touchdowns, and got benched. Brandin Hawthorne came in for him, played okay for a bit, made some mistakes, and has rotated in and out with true freshman Desmond Morgan the past couple weeks.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Will Heininger. Heininger hasn't been a disaster or anything but he is single blocked often, rarely makes plays, and is pretty much what you'd expect a walk-on to be at defensive tackle.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. There are two: Jake Ryan and Blake Countess. Both are freshman starters* turning in promising plays amongst the youthful head-vs-wall moments. Ryan in particular has cut down his blatant errors to getting cut to the ground a few times per game.
*[Countess is not technically starting. He is getting the bulk of the playing time.]
THE BIG TEN
THE WORST. Minnesota. We have a GopherQuest dedicated to their badness.
THE SECOND-WORST. Everyone else. This league is not so good. The team leading the East division starts Matt McGloin at quarterback and is coached by a guy without a headset who isn't on the sideline. The team leading the West division is Michigan State. There are no undefeated teams, no national powers, and it's inevitable that the league's bowl record is going to be 2-6.
FUTURE OPPONENTS IN ORDER OF CONCERN.
- @ Iowa
- Ohio State
- @ Illinois
BALLPARK RECORD AGAINST THOSE FOLKS. 3-2.
WHO'D TAKE 9-3. That's everyone.
WHO'D WHIMPER AND HIDE AT THE BOWL OPPONENT IN THAT EVENT. Also everyone. Okay, not you, message board hero who spent the last week calling Michigan fans whiners. You will say unreasonable things about the prospect of beating…
Wait. There are only two good SEC teams this year. Am I going to tremble at the sight of Arkansas or Georgia or South Carolina? No. Nevermind.
FIVE GUYS WHO SEEM PRETTY GOOD WHOM INSUFFICIENT DISCUSSION IS HAD ABOUT.
Bryce McNaul, Northwestern LB. (Heady, quick the hole, part of Northwestern's good run defense, injured too much, can do nothing about the nonexistent Wildcat secondary.)
Marcus Rush, MSU DE. (Rush has been overshadowed by the Gholston controversy but is actually a better player. Gholston does nothing once he is blocked; Rush will shed guys. Gholston would be on the bench if Tyler Hoover was healthy.)
Devon Still, PSU DT. (Still may be a reach since he is reaching tongue-bath levels but I was all about Still last year.)
Kawaan Short, Purdue DT.
Da'Jon McKnight, Minnesota WR. (Winner: most futile B1G existence.)
Formation notes: Michigan didn't show anything new except what I called Denard Jet for obvious reasons.
That's an ace set with an offset back and two other wideouts.
Northwestern mostly hung out in their default 4-3. At the beginning of the second half they walked a safety down…
…to show an eight-man front, then crashed the end while using the safety as the contain guy. The result was the 0 and –1 yard runs that started the half. Then they rushed three on third and long. Woo!
Substitution notes: Schofield went the whole way for Barnum. When Lewan went out for a play they flipped Huyge to LT and put Mealer in at RT. I assume a longer term Lewan absence would see Schofield move back outside and Khoury or Mealer enter.
Watson again was the #2 TE; Gallon, Hemingway, and Roundtree got the bulk of the WR snaps, with Dileo the fourth guy. Michigan is tipping run when they bring Odoms in, BTW. Toussaint and Smith were the RBs with Hopkins playing FB; Shaw got some playing time in the second half.
Denard went out with another boo-boo to his non-throwing hand, causing a few goal line plays on which Gardner handed off or rolled out. Gardner was in on the Denard Jet plays, obviously, and also had a rollout pass to Jackson on which he was seemingly inserted without any problems with Robinson.
|M26||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|Corner on the edge tight and a safety over the strength of the formation about seven yards deep. Linebackers are flowing down at this hard; Koger(-0.5) blocks down on the playside LB, who gets some penetration. Schofield(-1) should still be able to come around it upfield but does not, instead getting caught up in the wash and failing to get out on the edge. Free hitter results and there is also a safety; Denard gets what he can. RUN-: Schofield, Koger(-0.5)|
|M28||2||8||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Jet sweep||Robinson||6|
|Blocking here is good all around. Lewan(+1) seals the playside DE. Koger kicks out the edge guy, which is easy since he has to maintain contain; NW LB flows hard upfield inside of Smith, which causes Smith to peel off. He doesn't get a piece but that's because the LB went too hard inside to actually get Robinson. Once he runs himself out of position it's open because Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) scooped the playside NT; Schofield got out on the WLB. Denard is chopped down by a quick-filling safety. Why doesn't Hemingway head for the S instead of keeping the CB outside? Note: NW DE on the backside stays responsible.|
|M34||3||2||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power alt||Robinson||5|
|Breaking a tendency here as the power is going away from the RB side as Molk and Schofield pull around. This works well enough; Koger(+1) seals the playside DE easily and Omameh(+1) gets out on the MLB to cut him. Schofield(-1) pulls around and runs right by the SLB; instead both he and Molk head for the corner. Molk is trailing and realizes that the LB is about to hit Robinson, but it's too late for him to do anything. Robinson(+1) stiffarms the dude and rolls for the first down. Because he's been forced to the sideline the CB Schofield cut can force him out with an arm-tackle attempt.|
|RUN+: Koger, Molk, Omameh, Robinson||RUN-: Schofield(2)|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||Inc|
|Hitch is open for six plus some YAC; Denard one-hops it. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|M39||2||10||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||3|
|Koger covered. NW goes under in response to the TE. SLB goes into a pass drop; Hopkins(+1) buries him. Koger(+1) blows up the playside DE. Huyge(+1) climbs to the second level and seals the WLB out of the play. Molk and Omameh down block successfully on the backside; Denard holds the backside DE. Result: MLB vs Schofield and Toussaint in a ton of space. LB bursts outside to funnel back to help that isn't there; instead of setting up the block Toussaint(-2) runs right into the linebacker when a cut back behind puts him one on one with the S for a big gainer.|
|RUN+: Hopkins, Huyge, Koger||RUN-: Toussaint(2)|
|M42||3||7||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||Stack two deep||Post||Hemingway||48|
|Three man rush with this WR return guy as a spy. They rush three with the spy attacking later. Huyge(-1) beaten and is fortunate a little shove on his part gets this DE to the ground. Good pocket otherwise because there's a three man rush; Robinson steps up and bombs it deep to Hemingway in single coverage. It's a bit underthrown but not quite enough to give the DB a play on the ball; Hemingway goes up and gets it. (CA, 2, protection ½, Huyge)|
|O10||1||G||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||1|
|I think so but I'm not sure because Toussaint's angle is outside. Smith heads straight upfield. Omameh(-1) is handled by the DT over him; Smith(-1) runs by the playside LB without hitting anyone. Schofield(-1) can't handle the other DT; three guys converge on Toussaint.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Omameh, Smith, Schofield|
|O9||2||G||I-form big||2||2||1||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle corner||Watson||9|
|LB who previously shot upfield on the Robinson third down power is probably the guy who busts here. He chases after Robinson on the playfake. Watson is wide open. Denard gets a little pressure but not much and chucks it off his back foot. Watson has to adjust and manages to make a diving catch in the endzone. (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Out||Hemingway||27|
|Play action with max protect; two-man route, though Toussaint does leak out late. The PA fake sucks in between eight and nine NW players; Denard has all day. He zings it to a wide open Hemingway on a deep out. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2)|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||2|
|Denard(-2) misses a massive keep read with the backside DE shuffling down and Dileo cracking down on the contain guy. NW is slanting to the playside, forcing Smith into the unblocked backside guy. No minus but it's clear Schofield is having a tough time with DiNardo.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|O40||2||8||Shotgun 3||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA Deep post||Hemingway||Int|
|They run the sprint counter except it's a playfake, and it's a good thing since a late shift and S blitz would have picked off the lead blocker and exposed Smith to a TFL. Denard gets some late pressure as Dinardo releases to the outside of Molk—Molk can't do anything about this because he's cutting behind a teammate. An inadvertent stunt. Denard again chucks a punt off his back foot that is way long; safety picks it off. Never should have thrown it with the safety there; he had a little hitch he could have taken. (BRINX, 0, protection 2/2) Picture-paged by BWS.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-7, 7 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Robinson||4|
|They bring down a LB and blitz from the backside. More pin and pull and as per usual it doesn't quite work. Huyge(+1) cannot get playside of his guy but does end up cutting him, which takes him and the guy playside of Schofield out. Watson kicks out the playside DE. Omameh(-1) is first through the hole and contacts a LB around the LOS. He gets driven back. These guys just aren't drive blockers. Molk bangs into this block, surging it forward, and Robinson bangs into the whole mess. Everyone falls forward.|
|RUN+: Huyge||RUN-: Omameh|
|M39||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA Quick seam||Koger||Inc|
|Wide open; Denard wings it high. Koger does get his fingertips to it but this is not a shoulda-caught-it kind of pass. (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|M39||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Hemingway||9|
|Four man rush doesn't even try to get to Denard. Expecting a QB draw is the only thing I can think of. Totally unmolested Denard pumps once, then zings it into Hemingway for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1… RPS+1, I guess. No pass rush at all.)|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun empty||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||10|
|Easy pitch and catch with the outside corner playing soft; good timing on the throw gives Gallon an opportunity to pick up a little YAC. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O42||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||7 (Pen -10)|
|This opens up as it looks like the playside DE tries to go outside without the NT slanting behind him, for whatever reason. Huyge(+1) and Omameh(+1) kick their guys out. Nice hole. Molk(+1) buries the WLB on the second level. Guy in the hole is the MLB against Hopkins; Hopkins bashes him and then tosses him upfield, sending Toussaint into the secondary, where that quick-filling safety fills again. Hopkins gets a holding call that seems ludicrous. Toussaint is gone, any hypothetical hold had no impact on the play, and you call that when NW has arms outside the shoulder pads on every play? Refs -2.|
|M48||1||20||Ace trips tight bunch||1||1||3||4-3 under||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||8|
|AKA the pitch formation. Michigan goes with a PA throwback screen that Lewan(-1) takes a little too far of a downfield angle on and lets the corner come up to hassle Gallon. Corner gets upfield and makes a diving ankle tackle attempt; Gallon steps through it and gets hacked down by the backside DE from behind. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O44||2||12||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 under||Pass||PA scramble||Robinson||8|
|Attempted play action on which Schofield(+1) pulls to protect the edge. Last week two guys would shoot up into this play and twice Michigan OL would get lost in indecision, forcing Denard to chuck it off his back foot. This week Schofield has eyes only for the outside guy, who he seals, allowing Denard the edge. Denard on edge equals takeoff. (SCR, N/A, protection 1/1, Schofield run bonus for tough job well done.) Picture paged.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Robinson||RUN-:|
|O36||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||TE Dig||Koger||16|
|NW rushes five and gets nowhere thanks in large part to Vincent Smith coming across the protection to pick up the blitzer. Remainder of NW rushers stoned. Robinson steps up and zings it to Koger. Ball is a little behind Koger, forcing him to spin and eventually taking him off his feet. Better thrown and this is a TD. Still good enough for a CA since it is about 15 yards downfield. (CA, 2, protection 3/3)|
|O20||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA scramble||Gardner||4|
|NW expecting this and has the same DE on the edge, covering everyone (RPS -1); Gardner(+1) does well to hold up at the sideline, pump, and then accelerate past the guy to turn this into a few yards.|
|O16||2||6||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA wheel||Smith||Int|
|Okay, I get it. NW blitzes up the gut and gets instant pressure on Robinson, so he sees that Smith has blazed the corner on the play action and tosses the wheel. Safety intercepts because Robinson was rushed. Given some more time he would have either hit Koger wide open because the safety is sucking up or hit Smith wide open because the safety went with Koger. I think Schofield(-2) is the problem here—everyone else is blocking someone and Schofield is pulling into the middle of nowhere instead of reading the blitz up the middle. This is sad, because it was a beautiful design that should have been a wide open TD. I kind of want to PR this but can't. (BR, 0, protection 0/2, Schofield 2). Do not listen to this color guy: I think the safety busts here and that's why this is not wide open for Smith. Picture paged.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-14, 14 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M28||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||5|
|Schofield loses the DT to the inside of him but not too badly; he fends him off well enough to prevent him from getting into the backfield. The two LBs are headed inside anyway, with Molk and Hopkins banging them. Not relevant because of the Schofield thing, which forces Toussaint behind and into the overhanging corner. No one did anything spectacularly good or bad on this play.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-:|
|M33||2||5||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Pin and pull zone||Toussaint||8 (Pen -10)|
|Koger(+1) blocks down on the playside DE and wins; Omameh(-0.5) loses playside DT. SLB is shooting upfield; Huyge contacts him a couple yards into the backfield, which Hopkins(+1) sees. He nails the guy before moving downfield; Huyge(-2) gets his arms around the neck of the SLB and gets a deserved holding call that may not have been necessary. Really wish Hopkins had just held up that guy without moving on but that's not his fault. Schofield(+1) had cut the WLB to the ground, so Hopkins didn't have anyone to block once he got past the LOS.|
|M23||2||15||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Triple option||Robinson||0|
|Northwestern has a LB overhanging the slot, which is a big difference from what Michigan's doing. Huyge(-2) blocks the playside DE, getting a lame shove before trying to release into the second level; he ends up blocking no one really, as that DE, the MLB, and the playside LB all flow out—instead of of one guy for two they have three. Robinson wisely eats it. RPS -2.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Huyge|
|M23||3||15||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Stack two deep||Pass||Deep out||Dileo||Inc|
|Robinson finds a hole in a seven-man zone for first down yardage and throws it out there; Dileo extends for it but the thing bounces off his outstretched hand. Tight window throwing to a 5'9” receiver. If Dileo is 6'1” this is probably complete. Still, could have been better, results based, etc. (MA, 1, protection 2/2) Not a bad throw.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB Iso||Robinson||2|
|They need to run oh noes about three times more often than they do. They're letting opponents cheat on this with impunity. Anyway, as soon as Denard moves to LOS LBs freak out and Denard decides to bounce. LBs flowing hard means that wasn't a terrible decision. M WRs now cracking down so there should be space but Gallon(-1) whiffs on his and Huyge's DE reaches out to grab Denard's jersey, at which point he just goes to ground after grabbing what he can. Evidence for the "jerseys are too easy to grab" crowd. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Molk(0.5), Omameh(0.5)||RUN-: Gallon, Robinson(0.5)|
|M35||2||8||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||7|
|Someone on NW screws up as they blitz off the corner to contain and the WLB still scrapes over the top when the DE crashes. Toussaint has room behind the blocking because Schofield(+1) escorted his guy way down the line. Nice gain because of the vacated area.|
|M42||3||1||Maryland I||3||1||1||Goal line||Run||Iso||Toussaint||1|
|Argh shuffling fullback /shoots self. Watson(-2) shuffles; NW responds by having WLB CRUSH him at the LOS with a blitz. Another LB scrapes over the top, the original blitzer is still up, and Michigan gets nothing. Shuffling fullback. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Watson(2)|
|M43||4||In||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|Yes, Schofield: yes. Pulling again and NW blitzing in the same fashion that got them their INT two drives earlier. Schofield(+1) pulls up and seals the guy. That's it for NW since Koger(+1) and Watson(+1) blow up the playside DE; Smith kicks out the overhanging corner, and the last guy can't prevent Robinson from getting it. Picture paged.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Koger, Watson||RUN-:|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||6|
|NW playing it straight with the backside DE keeping contain as the linebackers flow frontside; backside NT gets under Lewan(+1), but Lewan keeps blocking him down the line and puts him on his butt; Smith(+1) hops behind that block and scoots through the hole before the contain DE can come down on him. He should really run away from that guy but instead tries to cut behind the slot WR's block, whereupon contain DE tackles him. RPS+1. Zone read FTW.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Smith||RUN-:|
|O48||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||18|
|Late shift with slot blitz. M runs away from it. Playside LB blitzes, then holds up. Huyge(+0.5) stalemates the playside DE until Toussaint(+0.5) seals him enough; Koger(+1) fought off the DE upfield to provide a hole. Robinson(+1) bursts outside and heads into the secondary. RPS +1.|
|RUN+: Koger, Robinson, Toussaint(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Zone belly||Toussaint||5|
|Similar to the previous one except with two TEs on that side who release downfield, so it's almost like a DT read. Like to see Michigan block that DE and spring Denard on the edge. Anyway, this is a lot like RR's old belly series, with the backside G and T doubling the DT and driving him downfield (+0.5 Omameh, Huyge) as the frontside DT gets the same business. LBs suck frontside; Toussaint cuts behind the backside double and is tackled from behind by the contain DE. This is the iso of the spread—hard for D to keep from getting some, hard for O to get a bunch.|
|RUN+: Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O25||2||5||Ace trips tight bunch||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||25|
|The difference between this throwback and the previous one is pretty simple: the unblocked playside DE is thinking about defending the zone read and instead of peeling back on the screen when he's not blocked he tries to contain Denard. Yes, even though they're under center. He's dead. Also Huyge(+1) and Omameh(+1) block their dudes such that they cannot even touch Gallon(+0.5), who makes a super easy juke on a safety for six. RPS +1. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-14, 4 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||-1|
|Omameh(-1) pulls and pulls incredibly slowly; Denard always has to wait for his blocking on these. By the time Omameh gets to the POA a non-crazy MLB has scraped to the LOS and put himself in a position where Omameh can't even block him. Robinson(-1) bounces outside because he's spooked by the blitzing WLB, which kills the blocking angles.|
|RUN+: Schofield(0.5), Koger(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh, Robinson|
|M21||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Out||Roundtree||Inc|
|Another back-foot throw sails. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M21||3||11||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Rollout deep out||Hemingway||22|
|No NW players are tight on the edge so rolling the pocket works unless the playside DE flies straight upfield immediately; he does not and Smith chops him out of the play. Robinson has all day. He finds Hemingway, steps into the throw, and zings a twenty-yard dart at the sideline. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1) This is an NFL throw. Hurrah for stepping into things.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Slant||Gallon||13|
|LB creeps down off the corner as NW telegraphs a blitz. Soft corner on the 1WR side as NW runs a zone; Denard fires the ball in before the flat defender can get in the throwing lane. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||Inc|
|Airmailed. Possibly a good thing as a linebacker was threatening to run underneath the route but there's no way I can credit that as intentional. Routes were pretty well covered here. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O44||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Cross||Hemingway||Int|
|I can explain the previous interceptions. This one I have no idea. It's either a massively overthrown out to a double covered Hemingway or massively underthrown fade to Roundtree. (INX, 0, protection 2/2) Okay... on replay it's clear he's overthrowing Hemingway by ten yards. At least he was open!|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 14-21, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-4 even||Run||Zone read dive||Smith||0|
|With a linebacker over the slot, safety rolls down for a full seventh in the box. Safety blitzes off the snap to contain the zone read, end crashes down, line slants hard playside. Smith has no choice but to run behind Omameh and get nailed by the backside DE. RPS -1.|
|M20||2||10||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||-1|
|Backside DE again crashes with a scraper; Omameh(-1) loses the backside DT and there's nowhere to go. RPS –2 for same error twice in a row.|
|M19||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Stack two deep||Pass||Dig||Roundtree||17|
|Three man rush gives M all day. Robinson surveys and finds Roundtree for a bunch in between about four guys in the zone. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)|
|M36||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 under||Run||Iso||Toussaint||4|
|Unbalanced with Koger covered. This does not hit the intended hole as Omameh(-1) is shot back by the DT. Schofield(+0.5) gets a little push on the other DT, though not of the sealing variety, and Toussaint(+1) manages to cut behind him. A safety overhanging meets Toussaint about two yards downfield; he breaks a tackle and grabs a couple more.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh|
|M40||2||6||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Deep post||Roundtree||57|
|Max protection; Watson(-1) gets beat to the inside by the DE, who gets some pressure on Robinson. Robinson rolls away from it as Koger adjusts to push him out of the play. Spying LB now coming up hard. Robinson lets a 60-yard pass fly on the move. Roundtree's in single coverage and the DB is step-for-step. He slows up, then extends back as the ball arrives, getting a little bit of separation and bringing in the bomb. Um, so... if Henne had thrown this to Edwards? Yeah. (DO, 2, protection 2/3, Watson). How does NW let this happen on a two man route, I ask you?|
|O3||1||G||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Goal line||Run||Iso||Toussaint||1|
|Hopkins(-1) whiffs on the crashing LB, forcing Toussaint(+1) to cut behind after running through the resulting arm tackle. That's possible because Omameh(+1) kicked out the backside DE and Molk(+1) plugged a LB trying to hit the gap. Schofield did just okay against the other DT. Toussaint drags the LB who hit Hopkins to the one, where a corner scrapes over to take him down. Toussaint gets a crappy spot.|
|RUN+: Toussaint, Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Hopkins|
|O2||2||G||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||Goal line||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Watson(-1) is stood up by the DE and gets beaten inside; Schofield(-1) then hits it up in that gap, leaving the outside guys by themselves, so Robinson can't do much other than follow into the big pile for little.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Watson, Schofield|
|O2||3||G||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Goal line||Run||Speed option||Robinson||2|
|Stretch blocking immediately seals both playside DEs; Koger releases downfield and Robinson can walk in. Molk, Omameh, Huyge get pluses; RPS +1.|
|RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Huyge, Koger(0.5)||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-24, 10 min 1st Q. Option had nothing to do with the TD; DL was screwed by the zone step.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-4 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||25|
|Tough to tell what exactly this was supposed to be since Robinson drops the snap but the line is pass blocking and the WRs are stalk-blocking so I'm guessing a QB draw. Seems designed to exploit the scrape as even though there's a delay the S flying right upfield can't do anything about this play that goes at the backside of the line. Huyge(+2) starts losing the DE to the inside of him but eventually stalls him at the line and drives him well past where he wants to go. Omameh(+1) is tasked with the SLB; he heads outside and he has to go around the Huyge block. He eventually gets back into position to wall off the pursuit after Robinson(+2) bursts past them. Shaw(+1) is the lead blocker, he cuts the last LB. Robinson into the secondary. Gallon(-1) couldn't do anything with his corner and probably cost Michigan five or six yards. RPS +1, I'm guessing.|
|RUN+: Huyge(2), Robinson(2), Omameh, Shaw||RUN-: Gallon|
|M45||1||10||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Hitch||Roundtree||9|
|No pressure at all with just a three man route; NW playing soft and opens up a hitch for solid yardage. You want Robinson to find this a bit faster to open up some YAC. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) RPS +1; good way to exploit the now-terrified NW corners.|
|O46||2||1||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||-1|
|Yuck. NW slants away from the play; Molk(-1) gets crushed back by the NT coming into him and the other guy wraps around the backside of the line, getting Toussaint tackled behind the line. Robinson is also tackled behind the line because he didn't ride the fake long enough; instead he pulls it really fast and allows the NW DE to redirect to him. Ugly, ugly, ugly. RPS -2.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Robinson, Molk, Lewan|
|O47||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-4 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||4|
|Safety in box. Michigan runs QB power and just barely gets it thanks to a monster play from Schofield(+2). NW slanting hard, getting under Koger(-1) and threatening to get their backside DE straight upfield into Denard. Schofield has to peel off and plug him. He does. Koger keeps pushing the DE past the play. SLB flows up hard, then breaks down at the LOS; Robinson slows up in response, and Schofield disengages from the Koger block to plug the SLB. Robinson squeezes through the hole, jukes the backside DE flowing down after dropping into a short zone, and ekes out the first. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Schofield(2), Robinson(2)||RUN-: Koger|
|O43||1||10||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Counter pitch||Shaw||4|
|Huyge somehow manages to not seal the playside DE despite the guy stepping playside; he should easily get this guy out the play. Instead DE disconnects and starts flowing. He's a couple yards outside the LB and that's the difference between three yards and seven. RPS +1; should have worked, no blocking necessary.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Huyge|
|O39||2||6||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-4 even||Pass||Devious TE seam||Koger||19|
|This is bizarre, with both RBs running flare screens and the OL splitting to block them but remaining careful to remain behind the LOS. Koger then releases on a quick seam as the DL and LBs bug out for the flare screens. It's complete, though a NW DB is alert enough to hit right on the catch. Koger powers through the tackle for some extra yardage. What if the DL tear after Robinson? I don't know man. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|O20||1||10||Ace trips tight bunch||1||1||3||4-3 press||Run||Outside pitch||Shaw||1|
|Pitch formation; they run the pitch. Koger(+1) blows up the playside DE; Odoms(+1) mountain-goats a DB. Dileo gets a cut on the inside of another DB, and Molk is bugging out for the last LB after guys releasing downfield blow up the rest of the world. Shaw(-2) misses the intended gap in favor of BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCE, allowing the DB, who gets up from the cut to string him out until he gets a yard at the sideline.|
|RUN+: Odoms, Koger||RUN-: Shaw(2)|
|O19||2||9||Denard Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Throwback screen||Smith||6|
|Okay, 51 is McNaul. I like him. Smart kid. On this play he diagnoses the throwback screen and is out on it too fast for Schofield or Molk to do anything about it. He's about to blow this up for a loss when Gallon(+1) accelerates on his crackback and shoves him past Smith. Smith(+1) still has to spin through this without losing his balance, which he does. The delay allows a corner to come up, forcing it inside despite Lewan(+1) getting a chop. Schofield(-1) ran past the MLB flowing from the inside; he tackles.|
|RUN+: Gallon, Smith, Lewan||RUN-: Schofield|
|O13||3||3||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||12|
|Omameh(-1) fails to cut the backside DT. Schofield(+1) does latch onto the frontside guy and push him down the line. Koger... actually I don't think I mind Koger losing the DE to the inside because that should mean the pitch is wide open, which it is. Robinson says no to that and shoots up behind Schofield in front of the DT that Omameh did not cut; he got too far upfield and was off balance. Once past that hole he's got Molk, Lewan, and Huyge blocking downfield. Lewan(+1) donkeys McNaul. Molk(+1) gets another linebacker, and when McNaul sheds Lewan Huyge(+1) is there to pick him up. Robinson dances through all this to the goal line.|
|RUN+: Robinson(3), Lewan, Molk, Huyge||RUN-: Omameh|
|O1||1||G||I-form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||FB dive||Toussaint||1|
|This play again. NW is ready for it. When Hopkins motions out of the backfield, one of the linebackers points at Toussaint and the other one adjusts his alignment. They jump at him; Toussaint ends up just short.|
|O1||2||G||I-form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||FB dive||Toussaint||0|
|For some reason Toussaint doesn't jump this time.|
|O1||3||G||Maryland I||2||3||0||Goal line||Pass||Waggle scramble||Gardner||1|
|Gardner does have Watson open but knows he can outrun the LB and beats him to the corner. I'm not RPSing a goal line play unless it's just ridiculously easy. This is not quite ridiculously easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-24, 3 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA Fly||Gallon||Inc|
|Gallon has his man beaten by yards but the throw is long. Robinson stepped into it and everything, he just missed. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O47||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||25|
|Line slanting so Omameh(+1) has a somewhat easy job to push the DT out of the hole. He still does it with aplomb. Molk(+1) gets out on the MLB; McNaul is coming to the line but momentarily thinks pass and takes a step back, which allows Shaw(+1) to cut him to the ground. Big hole; Denard zips up into it, eventually getting taken down by the ankles by the FS. RPS +1. This was the "nice block" play.|
|RUN+: Molk, Robinson, Omameh, Shaw||RUN-:|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Just tons of guys headed to the line again, with McNaul zipping into the play. Schofield does block him but Robinson has to slow up because of how far McNaul is into the backfield. Shaw(-1) basically misses his guy and the overhanging safety creeps up to help tackle at the line. RPS -1. RUN-: Shaw.|
|O22||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||Waggle cross||Jackson||19|
|Gardner in. Michigan does exploit the aggressive NW defense by running the waggle; Gardner has multiple options as Jackson beats the linebackers on his crossing route and Koger releases wide open in the flat. Gardner goes deeper, making a back-foot-ish toss that's a dart right to Jackson's hands for first and goal. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|O3||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Just too much traffic. I think Huyge(-0.5) and Koger(-0.5) don't do great on their blocks—no movement and then there's a free hitter because it's so tight here.|
|O3||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Shaw||3|
|Yeah, that adjustment thing where Shaw is supposedly directed to get outside is entirely Shaw's brain going BOUNCE. He has good reason here since Schofield(-1) gives up penetration; a DT falls in the middle of the line, erasing any potential holes. Shaw bounces to the outside, where his speed and a great block from Gallon get him into the endzone. This too may be an effect of super aggressive NW LBs being super aggressive—playside LB runs straight upfield into a block.|
|RUN+: Shaw, Gallon||RUN-: Schofield|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-24, 14 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||-7|
|Away from the RB to break a tendency with Molk pulling, but NW blitzes right into it. Robinson(-2) should try to hit it up behind Molk and get back to the LOS before a free LB nails him; instead he reverses field and gets eaten up by the slanting Wildcat line. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|M35||2||17||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Screen||Shaw||12|
|Same blitz; Michigan throws a screen at the vacated area. Molk and Schofield are in the area and get decent blocks but don't take their guys out; they do give Shaw a bunch of room to the sidelines. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +2)|
|M47||3||5||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Stack two deep||Pass||Hitch||Gallon||17|
|Gallon gets the NW CB to turn his back, then stops; Robinson tosses it out there on the money. Gallon can turn it up for bonus YAC because the throw is on time and the CB is remembering that one time he got burned like whoah. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O36||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||-2|
|It's hard to tell whether this is actually a blitz or if the LBs are just looking for this play; both of them absolutely fly up into the intended gap, overwhelming the lead block of Shaw and getting a TFL. Once too many times to the well. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: N/A||RUN-: Shaw|
|O38||2||12||Shotgun 2back TE||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||Sweep||Shaw||9|
|Not quite the pin and pull as this has down blocking, not zone steps; Molk and Schofield pull; Hopkins leads. Koger(+0.5) gets enough of the playside DE to take him out of the play. Hopkins(+2) shoots up into the hole and cuts the playside LB to the ground, getting a 3 for 1 when the guy trailing him and the guy trailing the trailer go down. Schofield kicks the edge guy. Odoms(+1) gets a safety and Shaw(+1) hits the gap for a nice gain. This is not actually a fumble, as the ball comes out when his elbow smashes the ground. We are now tipping runs by inserting Odoms, btw.|
|RUN+: Shaw, Odoms, Hopkins(2), Koger(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O29||3||3||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||-2|
|Massively aggressive McNaul is massively aggressive, shooting the gap between the two playside doubles. Robinson has two options: pitch to Toussaint who may or may not have it on the edge, or cut back. Cutback is there because the backside DT crumpled to the ground with little provocation (+1 Omameh, I guess). Backside DE is flowing down the line but Robinson is almost certain to get the first down or something close enough to it to go if he just goes straight upfield; instead he tries to dance around that guy and loses two yards.|
|RUN+: Omameh||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(48), 9 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 2back TE||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Shaw||6|
|Huyge and Molk pulling and Omameh and Koger zone step to get playside of their guys. Koger(+1) kills his dude downfield; Omameh(+1) also wins his block. Playside LB reads what's going on and shoots upfield to cut-block Huyge, creating a pile Shaw has to go around. Shaw can cut up or bounce and bounces, which is good because Lewan had no shot at the backside DT. Shaw's speed(+1) gets him the edge as Hopkins(+1) kicks out the corner.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Koger, Shaw, Hopkins||RUN-:|
|O32||2||4||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||4|
|Huyge(-1) gets beat on his down-block, erasing any hole that may exist and forcing a cutback. Omameh(+1) blew out the backside DT so there's a gap, one filled by the MLB; Robinson(+1) ducks under him to near the first down.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Omameh||RUN-: Huyge|
|O28||3||in||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||2|
|Lewan moves a hair early and does not get called. Refs +1. Thanks to that his kick is easy, but no plus because he is not playing by the rules. Schofield(+1) kicks his guy; Hopkins(+0.5) gets a block on the MLB but has it shed. That block erases MLB's momentum and allows Toussaint(+0.5) to bowl him over for the first.|
|RUN+: Hopkins(0.5), Toussaint(0.5), Schofield||RUN-:|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|Double on playside DT just does work; Huyge(+1) helps Omameh(-0.5) get a push and then releases into the MLB; Omameh almost loses the DT when that happens but Robinson is too quick. CB coming around the outside does not get picked off; Robinson runs through the tackle attempt. Toussaint(+1) nailed McNaul, so there's a crease. Schofield is heading downfield into the safety after a chunk; Robinson is about to pop outside when the playside DE nails him after disconnection from Watson downfield. Not Watson's fault, just a good play. I'm impressed with him. 97: Tyler Scott. Redshirt sophomore. Robinson's bounce attempt holds this to three when he gets six if he just burrows.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Toussaint||RUN-: Omameh(0.5)|
|O23||2||7||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Toussaint||-1|
|Opposition LBs tearing hell bent after this. Schofield's downblock is almost ducked under; he shoves the NT past the play. Both LBs shoot the gap between this and the Koger block; Molk peels to get one of them but is just one dude; McNaul tackles for loss. RPS -1. Had this and the keeper dead.|
|O24||3||8||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA corner||Hemingway||18|
|Lewan goes to the sideline and Mealer comes in. M puts him at RT, flips Huyge to LT, and places a TE next to Mealer. They run PA. Koger(-2) gets killed by Scott, who comes in to pressure Robinson. He doesn't want to get juked so he comes in slow. Short stuff is covered because the edge LB backed off Toussaint's block into the otherwise open Hopkins, but Denard fires deep anyway, finding Hemingway just in front of a safety. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Koger -2)|
|O6||1||G||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Shaw||3|
|Schofield(+1) seals and sends the playside DT to the ground. Lewan(+0.5) does okay with the DE. Hopkins gets a piece of the MLB; Molk(+0.5) pushes McNaul past the play from the other side as Shaw(+1) deftly cuts between the two.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Lewan(0.5), Shaw, Molk(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O3||2||G||Shotgun 2back TE||2||1||2||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||-2|
|MLB blitzes the gap between the playside double and Schofield, making a TFL. RPS or Omameh not adjusting? Not sure. Hopkins(-1) did a crappy job on the edge, though and his guy helps tackle. RPS -1, Omameh off the hook—this would be a hard block to make.|
|O5||3||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||5|
|Omameh(-1) driven back by a bull rush and the MLB hits Toussaint at the LOS so not much in the way of places to go here; Robinson bounces and because the playside LB turned his back to zone drop after chucking Koger the corner is open. Nice block by Dileo.|
|RUN+: Dileo, Robinson(2)||RUN-: Omameh|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 42-24, 2 min 4th Q|
Yay a billion points yay!
Yeah, man, that's a lot of points when you turn the ball over three times and miss a field goal. I'm not entirely sure how they managed it, honestly.
But they have all of the Denards.
Yeah, and all of the third down conversions. For all of the angst about Denard's passing he sure reminded me of John Navarre in the
2004 2002 Ohio State game from time to time. In that game Michigan drives went like this:
- 0 yard run
- 1 yard run
- 15 yard Navarre laser to Avant or Edwards
- -2 yard run
- 1 yard run
- 16 yard Navarre laser to Avant or Edwards
Here Denard got put behind the chains frequently and did this:
So… yeah. Weird, weird day. When not throwing terrible interceptions he was good. You can see this in the—
[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation.]
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
|Notre Dame '11||6||7(1)||1||6(1)||5||1||1||1||-||50%|
Gardner picked up a TA (the three yard run after a jet fake), a SCR (TD), and a CA+(Jackson to the three).
You can see a couple of those four DOs above, long conversions in small holes in the zone. The one on the last touchdown drive is notable because Koger lost #97* and he proceeded to pressure Denard. Result:
Also first and goal. Compare that to his first half:
One of these was a zinger into Hemingway's chest, the other a massively underthrown duck Watson managed to dig out that only wasn't an INT because the guy covering Watson is also one of the guys about four yards away from Denard.
It was remarkable how consistent the mechanical issues were in this game. Back foot was misery, front foot glory. The hope is that's the thing he needs to get corrected and once he does he'll be good at throwing. He certainly was in the second half, when he added two DOs, 5 CAs, and a single understandable IN (the overthrown bomb to Gallon) to a diabolical first half.
*[Who I liked enough to look up on the Northwestern roster: redshirt sophomore Tyler Scott. New starter. Active kid, will be good.]
Let me hear about the receiving corps.
They had an excellent outing.
No drops and seven instances where receivers brought in medium difficulty throws. It's clear by the way I file these that you should be hauling in well more than half of them but no drops in seven opportunities is pretty good. They were at 58% before Northwestern.
Two of those catches were the bombs to Hemingway and Roundtree that were over 100 of Michigan's 541 total yards; on both the WRs showed excellent skill to high-point the ball.
Roundtree's slow-then-extend technique…
…was not quite as flawless as Manningham's. He still caught around his shoulder-pads, not above his head. But slowing down like that puts the DB in a bind. He can run you over, or he can get his head around because you have implied the ball is well underthrown and he can make a play on it. The slow-to-extend gives the DB the wrong idea about the location of the ball and if done perfectly means the guy can't make a play on it at all. Here he could, but didn't know where it was. Meanwhile, Hemingway is Junior Megatron, as Steve Sapardanis dubbed him on MVictors.
Those plays were not luck, and calling them jump balls is harsh. This was not ND when you were throwing back shoulder fades against over the top coverage (or double coverage) that may not have been that intentional. These were balls that gave the WR an opportunity to make a play in single coverage when they have the advantage.
As for the line, they had a step back:
|Lewan||4.5||2||2.5||Why so low, numbers? Discussion later.|
|Omameh||10||7.5||3.5||Thought he'd come out worse than this but more later.|
|Huyge||9||6.5||2.5||Pretty much his average.|
|Schofield||12||7||5||Pulling mania. This third down conversion was all him.|
|Watson||1||3||-2||Not so strong.|
|Koger||8||2||6||Had a day, yo.|
|TOTAL||51.5||29||22.5||Ratio drops and overall ++ go down: 50 carries this week.|
|Robinson||12||9.5||2.5||Missed a lot of opportunities and made some bad decisions; still Denard.|
|Gardner||1||-||1||One scramble, one edge TD.|
|Shaw||6||4||2||bounce bounce bounce bounce|
|Smith||2||1||1||Major step back in usefulness, possibly because of Hopkins…|
|Hopkins||5.5||2||3.5||…who seemed to usurp Smith's role as blocking dude.|
|TOTAL||30||18.5||11.5||Not what you'd like to see from 50 carries.|
|TOTAL||5.5||2||3.5||Secondary less involved.|
|Protection||33||6||85%||Koger 2, Schofield 2, Watson 1, Huyge 1|
Michigan averaged 3.6 YPC on 50 carries, which is disturbing. Some of that was on the ballcarriers, especially Robinson, who missed opportunities to pick up first downs, mitigate damage, or break big ones. Some of that is on the line, which went from averaging 2 plus for every minus to a 5:3 ratio. Some of that was RPS. Michigan won it, but break it down into pass and run RPSs and Michigan wins the first massively and loses the second not quite as massively.
Northwestern stacks the line and says "just try to run on us." That's why Michigan got 3.6 YPC, Illinois got 3.1, and why the Wildcat secondary is giving up 12.5 YPA the last two weeks*. The difference on Michigan's long bombs in this game is there was no safety over the top to cause woe.
Even so, I'm a little worried about the run game now. Pass blocking was again very good, though.
*[They gave up a ton to Army but Army is a pure triple option team so overloading the box is something they are designed to handle and getting aggressive gets you gashed.]
What is with those Lewan numbers?
I know, right? The system doesn't try to judge blocks that are far away from the play and often declares an easy thing done okay to be a zero, so backside tackles and down-blocking guys a gap away from the play rarely register. Lewan rarely registered and this week's picture pages were examples of Schofield pulling, Schofield pulling, and Schofield pulling. Why is Michigan pulling the converted tackle backup and running away from their donkey-hating first round tackle?
The only conclusion that makes sense is they hate pulling Omameh. When they did pull left, they pulled Molk or Schofield and Molk, only rarely trying Omameh. Early in the year they were a left-handed power team; now they're right-handed, seemingly because Omameh can't pull and when he does manage to get into the hole without making Denard slow up he gets knocked backwards too often. So they give him the relatively easy job of blocking down and run behind Huyge, who's decent but no Lewan.
Where did Vincent Smith go?
I don't know, man. I think they may have tossed the screen to Shaw just to break a tendency. Smith did get in one of his usual blitz pickups:
I don't think his brief absence in the second half means he's going to lose his playing time as long as he's doing that.
Why do these throwback screens keep working even though they seem bloody obvious?
The throwback screen from under center on waggle action? It works because the playside tackle releases outside, the linebackers have to respect the play action, and Denard Is Job One for opposing defenses:
Borges has been punishing those uber-responsible DEs, so at least the waggle's given us that.
Scheme complaints of the week?
I would have like to see more play action to punish aggressive linebackers, but I was largely content. Rollouts were minimized and successful, the tunnel screen evaporated, and the I-Form was restricted to passing(!) and short yardage with one or two exceptions.
Nits: the FB dive over the top has run its course and the Denard Jet package was a little too obvious.
The receivers as a unit. Gallon, Hemingway, and Roundtree were flawless and punished Northwestern for their aggression against the run. Also Good Denard.
Evil Denard. The offensive line could have done better, and as a group the tailbacks had an off day.
What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?
If Michigan can't get a ground game going against a cover-two I'll start to get seriously worried but it's hard to judge against a team so hell bent on defending the run they'll put you in crappy single coverage all over the field so your QB can still have an obliterating QB rating despite three terrible interceptions.
So not seriously worried. Still a little worried. Michigan does not run power well but unlike running under center they don't seem to be moving away from it. The stretch blocking on the speed option is still providing cutback lanes, which I like better than the pin and pull because it gives you multiple ways to succeed. It's possible that MSU crushes power blocking, leaving Borges to scramble to find something else after falling behind.
Denard… well. I hope he can step into his throws consistently and that is his only accuracy issue. If so it's a matter of keeping him clean and exploiting overreactions to his legs. This will be a test for him and for Borges. The latter is consistently picking up yards with new stuff; I hope he's got a bundle left before the bye week.
Last time we saw Michael Schofield run by a blitzer coming up an interior gap. That combined with a panicked back-foot throw from Denard to result in an interception on a play that had otherwise opened one of two receivers up for an easy touchdown.
This time we're going to get an almost identical play from the offense, except instead of play action is it QB power. This is the fourth and one Michigan converted en route to the endzone.
The setup is the same: shotgun with twin TEs and twin WRs. Northwestern lines up in an even 4-3 with one of the linebackers over the slot and a safety rolled into the box. For fourth and one this is fairly conservative:
With Denard running the ball Michigan has a blocker for every opponent.
On the snap, Schofield pulls…
…and the SLB blitzes, hell-bent for the gap between the playside DE and DT, both of whom are doubled:
Faced with a similar situation on the last play, Schofield ran by the linebacker:
This time not so much.
With both linebackers gone—the other one ran into the line on the backside—and a double on the playside DE, once Smith kicks out the corner it's an easy conversion.
Items of Interest
Being the pulling guard seems a lot more complicated than you'd think. A lot of power blocking is derp simple: block down on this guy. By contrast, everyone who runs a zone system talks up the need for their linemen to be intelligent because to run the zone you have to make a lot of split second decisions about who to block and when to release.
On these two plays we've seen what happens when a pulling guard gets challenged from a gap he doesn't expect to be threatened. He can miss it, at which point rivers of baby blood, or he can adjust, at which point your unsound defense has put the QB one on one with a safety for bonus bucks. He's got to have the vision and agility to pull that off. That's tough.
This seems like one of the major problems with the pulling scheme: the guards are crappier at it than the defenses are at defending it. Last year when they pulled out power blocking, defenses were trying to defend the zone and often got caught off guard. This year Michigan does not have that luxury. As a result we've seen a lot of plays on which the pulling guard gets caught up in some wash or just takes a bad angle to the hole.
"Adjustments." Is this an adjustment, or is it just telling the guard what he did wrong and not to do it again? In my view, an adjustment is changing your scheme to combat something the other team is doing—like throwing Ryan out on the slot to prevent argh bubble death. Telling your players how to stop screwing up is coaching, but it's not adjusting. What I was trying to say in the game column was that because of the nature of the offense they didn't have to do much adjusting, they just had to stop screwing up, at which point points fall from the sky.
This is not black and white. Borges did bring out some actual adjustments, like using Shaw to get the edge on theses aggressive linebackers, but I think the second-half turnaround was less figuring out what Northwestern was doing and stopping it than having a few specific players fix things the scheme is already telling them to do.
Short yardage numerical advantage. Not running Denard on short yardage is a goofy idea. Here you'd have to be nuts to not run the guy. He gives you the ability to double the playside DE and still block everyone except a safety rolled up. He has to be cautious because if he misses it's six points.
Handing it off, even on a zone read that should occupy some defenders, runs the risk of the defense selling out and Denard missing a read. Going under center takes away one of those doubles and turns the read into a call-and-hope situation.
I can see running conventional stuff in a low-leverage situation like first and goal from the one, sure. Keep the wear and tear down. When it really matters, this is the way to go.
Perfect mirror. This is a perfect mirror of the play that Denard got intercepted on, which is why the latter suckered Northwestern so badly and would have likely resulted in an easy TD if Denard can buy some time or Schofield makes the adjustment.