"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
11/6/2010 – Michigan 67, Illinois 65 (3OT) – 6-3, 2-3 Big Ten
At the risk of convincing everyone that the first impossibly apropos moppet was fiction, let me tell you about this impossibly apropos moppet a few rows in front of me.
He was about ten. He was wearing a number seven jersey and when he took his hat off for the national anthem his hair was staticky. Before the game he was hopping up in down in an attempt to burn off nervous energy, and when Michigan ran out to touch the banner his mind was blown. He exclaimed "this is so AWESOME" as only a ten-year-old boy can. The words forced themselves out in self defense—if they hadn't the pressure would have given him an aneurysm. I know what that excitement is like. I remember getting a Nintendo.
I can't imagine what his mind is like four fighter jets, three overtimes, 132 points, and one last-play win later. He's probably sitting at his desk right now, mouth slightly ajar and drooling, involuntarily twitching out the words "so" and "awesome" as the rest of the class learns to count to 15 in Spanish. Plans to put him on ritalin have been temporarily shelved. His father has been asked "what did you do to the boy?"
The father can only shrug and say "talk to Ron Zook, Rich Rodriguez, and Greg Robinson."
What can you say about a game like that? You can say it was entirely appropriate for Special K to play the Bed Intruder song. Yes. Michigan and Illinois just went Rasputin on that barn. They burned it, then they napalmed it, then they nuked it, then they shot up the radioactive wasteland for the hell of it, then they poisoned a flat expanse of glass with holes in it, then they dug it up and threw it into the river for it to drown. And then it was halftime.
While the kid was getting the football equivalent of heroin in his eyeballs it seemed like the rest of the stadium was strangely muted once it became clear that touchdowns were more like baskets than goals. Any individual event was far less important in a game that would last until mid-day Sunday.
I was with them. I still remember thinking "that's 30% of the points we need to win" after Michigan's first touchdown in the 2006 Ohio State game. I was raised on three yards and a cloud of dust, and while I could not be more grateful that Michigan's offense now has run plays beyond "zone left" and "zone right," this style of football is all frisson. It piles up and up and up. It's amazing, but when you're not ten your mind only has so much to give before it gets complacent. Things don't build up, they just happen. So when Roy Roundtree scores on the first play of the game you're happy but you're also wondering how they're going to blow it.
The answer was "in all ways possible with a special emphasis on running back wheel routes." But they kept setting things right until Jonas Mouton leapt over a cut block and Craig Roh stunted inside and Nathan Scheelhaase finally had nowhere to go but down. My reaction to this was very strange. After feeling dampened most of the day I cracked and hugged my fiancée—making her annual pilgrimage—long and hard and relieved. So relieved.
This team isn't good at all but I love it. If Craig Roh gets to class early he runs up and down steps in his spare time. Roy Roundtree does a Donald Duck impression and wakes up hungry. Tate Forcier's gone from sulking on the bench and "out" to leaping around like a madman after leading a comeback win over Illinois and coming somewhat close to the same against Iowa. And then there's Denard, and the most put-upon man on the planet, and I just want them to succeed because it will make them happy.
A lot of sports fandom does degenerate into rooting for you in that sad Nick Hornby way. While I'm not anywhere near sports Buddhism, more and more prominent among the millions of reasons I want Michigan to win is because of how it will validate all this crap they have to put up with.
Even if that goes with the territory at Michigan, what's gone on the last three years long ago crossed the line from disappointed and upset to nastily personal, on everyone's part.
Almost everyone, anyway. After the game we're walking up the bleachers and the kid's right in front of us, trying to show his father his hand. His father seems to acknowledge the hand, but not enough for the kid's taste. "I'm never washing this hand again," he says. "Denard gave me a high five." He wears an Adidas wristband like the players. He doesn't care about anything other than Michigan won and I touched Denard and this is awesome. I think about White Noise, a Don DeLillo book I don't actually like that much* about the paralyzing fear of death driving middle aged academics literally insane, and how the only moments of respite in the book are thanks to the presence of an infant named Wayne or Warren or something.
So Saturday was awesome, and this is my favorite bad team ever, and goddammit I'm going to their nondescript bowl.
*(The moment in American literature when ironically capitalizing marketing messages to assert that the background radiation of advertising has become our national discourse has mercifully passed—David Foster Wallace got away with it a few times but only just, and not always.)
Non-Bullets, Amazingly Long
Head injuries. Michigan's bombing Illinois with Denard and pulls him because of a headache and some concussion-like symptoms in a game that is almost make or break for Rich Rodriguez's career. And he could even see:
"Certainly for his safety, you're not going to put him back out there," Rodriguez said. "I'm not a doctor, so I can't tell you where he is, but he had a smile on his face and he was talking, but obviously, you're going to be precautionary.
"Anytime you get hit there and you've got some headaches, you're going to watch that."
Is there anyone who's been unfairly demonized more than him? "Win at all costs." Right.
(HT: the Wolverine Blog.)
Skill position contributions. My takeaway from the offense other than "duuurrrr" was that's what it looks like when the skill position players are adding yards of their own. Vincent Smith made a lot of great glide cuts on the zone stretch, spun through a couple tackles, and had his best day as a runner at Michigan. Junior Hemingway's sideline rain dance created another touchdown from 15-20 yards, and Roy Roundtree was finding epic YAC. That's something we've been missing most of the year save for Stonum's screen touchdown against UMass, which is UMass and was not the #15 defense in the country entering the game.
Stretching it. Speaking of the stretch: it came back. Michigan had gone almost exclusively to an inside run game earlier in the year, and that worked well enough, but I think part of the issue with getting Denard some zone keepers has been that move away. The stretch makes it tough on the backside defensive end because if he's going to tackle the tailback on a cutback he has to flow down the line hard. On all the inside zone stuff Michigan's been running he can hang out and do whatever and still have a decent chance of making a play. That's why Michigan has been blocking the backside guy all year and probably why I'm always a little frustrated by Denard never keeping the ball.
They brought it back for Illinois and I'm pretty sure what I'll see in the UFR is an ass-kicking day from David Molk. On Michigan's last touchdown they went to the stretch on second and goal from the five. Corey Liuget, who is an all-conference type of player, shot into the backfield; Molk walled him off and eventually sent him to the ground. There wasn't a hint of a hold on the play, but a frustrated Liuget did the flag motion thing to the referee and just stood there exasperated as Michigan celebrated a touchdown that came on a gaping hole from the five because Liuget had just gotten owned.
The stretch also seemed to revitalize Vincent Smith, who had the opportunity to make darting cuts past traffic and find the creases as they developed. I'll be interested to see how it holds up on film.
End of half game theory stuff. Reverse on the kickoff was a beautiful playcall because in that situation if you get hammered for a loss you can probably just run the clock out. A perfect time for that call and one that got Michigan in scoring position with a minute on the clock. That's a win.
In retrospect, the decision to kick was not so much. I didn't think about this at the time so I'm not blaming anyone else for not thinking about it either, but with Michigan's defense and 42 seconds (IIRC) on the clock the argument for going for it is a lot stronger than it would be with 12, because if you get it you're robbing Illinois of the opportunity to get that last possession in. Even if you don't get it, most coaches will just head to the locker room if they get the ball on their own 15.
Defensive moves. While the defense remained horrendous, it wasn't nearly as horrendous as it was against Penn State (and Matt McGloin did just bomb Northwestern for 35 points despite Robert Bolden playing the first two series, so that performance was only 90% completely awful). PSU had 41 points on nine real drives; Illinois had 45 in regulation on 16, many of which started in advantageous field position after Michigan turnovers and one Hagerup punt from his endzone.
Moving Craig Roh back to defensive end seemed to pay immediate dues, but Michigan kept flipping between three and four man lines with the fourth guy on the line either Obi Ezeh or JB Fitzgerald. Illinois ran right at that and had good success—that was the setup on the first and twenty option that went the distance, though I'm pretty sure the culpable party there was Mouton. Anyway, Cam Gordon looked a lot better in his second game at spur and you can tell the difference in tackling technique between him and Ray Vinopal—Vinopal uses his arms. Sweet.
Gordon looks like a much better fit as his current position. He was surprisingly adept at blitzing—he'd get the edge on the Illinios tackle and come around to flush Scheelhaase a few times.
Demens, yo. Another thing that will have to wait for the tape but: I'm pretty sure Kenny Demens had a great game unless he blew a lot of coverage (which is possible). The number of runs that were heading outside the tackles for what looked like big gains until they were suddenly cut down by Demens after he cut through a block seemed like it was around a half dozen.
Not a controversy but not a clear cut thing either. I was thinking this myself but Adam Jacobi already wrote it and blockquoting is easy:
Forcier is clearly not Denard, but the fact remains that Forcier is good enough that he should be spelling Robinson periodically throughout Michigan's game regardless of Robinson's health. Michigan has two starting-quality quarterbacks, and as Robinson's accumulation of minor injuries demonstrates, they clearly need to use them! It's just up to Rich Rodriguez to use both on his own terms, rather than waiting for Robinson to get knocked out of the game first.
The frequency of Denard Robinson dings has seen Forcier enter most games this year, with extended relief appearances in the fourth quarter of the Iowa and Illinois games. When Forcier comes in Michigan generally punts quickly (or Forcier yakety saxes an unforced fumble). Forcier gets his feet under him a bit later and things are fine. It may be time to put Forcier in on the regular, say two or three drives a game. This would reduce wear on Robinson, have Forcier ready to play each week, throw defenses a curveball, and lessen the chances a desperately-needed Forcier lights out for somewhere else after the season. The offense doesn't seem quite as good when Tate's in there but the difference isn't vast and the benefits are tangible.
Special K, I hate you. The level of odiousness from Special K was exceeded by a factor of 100 on Saturday when he played "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" and "Down with the Sickness." We've gone from minor league hockey to WWE. Thanks, Special K. This is the no-BS one thing that makes me think the Brandon era will be something other than a success: he hasn't taken this guy and put him in stocks on the diag.
Some photos from an Illinois guy. AnnArbor.com has an extensive collection as well.. Purdue blogger guarantees victory over Michigan. The Hoover Street Rag riffs on A Better Son/Daughter. Doc Sat's take:
If for some reason you were kidnapped by maniac who forced you at gunpoint to make sense of Michigan's roller-coaster season in 12 words or less, you'd probably settle for something like this: The offense is unstoppable. The defense is horrible. Denard Robinson got hurt.
If you hadn't seen a single one of the Wolverines' first eight games, that would pretty much bring you up to speed coming into today, except for one minor detail: Against a string of respectable competition over the last month, you could also add "Wolverines lose."
And a random video of the Michigan drumline:
There's another one on the tubes as well.
An finally, Maize n Brew headline:
Hallelujah!!!! Holy S@#%
Ready to get back on the field. Had a week off to relax. "I don't know if I can wait. I'd rather play right now. We'll see on Saturday how we come out."
"I can't put nothing on nothing. I was out there playing so I can't blame it on my shoulder." The injury can't be blamed for any of his interceptions.
"We've been treating it every single day so I feel 100% better. Ready to rock." Doesn't care if he gets held out of games if the team's winning. Trainers kept him out against Iowa in the second half.
Will Campbell: "He's gonna be nice, he's gonna be nice at offensive guard."
On helmet-to-helmet hits: "I think we should just go out there and play football." Don't limit the physical play too much. "I just try to avoid them, I guess."
The coaches told him to improve his decision making in the bye week. "Not rushing it, just calm down." Ran too hesitant in the past couple games. "Making the read faster."
Team's coming together a little bit more in the bye week. "We train harder, we practice harder, we play harder. More as a team and a family than last year."
"We could have prevented all of those turnovers. Just simple mistakes. You live and you learn, you can't make the same mistakes twice."
"I don't like talking at all. I love to lead in examples." Would rather show than speak up.
"Cam Newton, I mean he played a great game." Doesn't know him personally.
Didn't watch much football for enjoyment during the bye Saturday - just a bit of future opponents to get some info on them.
Health and attitude can be improved during the bye week. "Very excited. This bye week pretty much got us back on track." Mentally and physically, the team is better ready to go. "Just being more hungry."
Hopkins is different than Smith or Shaw: "Inside. He's a better downhill runner."
Fewer mistakes coming up? "Yes, obviously. This bye week helped us look at all the mistakes we had, and correct them." Worked on small things this week, which they may have been overlooking in the week-to-week grind of the past few games.
Slot WR? "I like being in space, out in wideout, at running back, any way for me to get the ball and I'm free in space."
100% over his knee injury.
The night game is "Taking me back to my high school games when I always played on Friday nights, so I'm pretty excited about it."
Campbell and Washington "We always joke about those two switching them back and forth." He played DT kind of like an offensive lineman. "He can be a really really good offensive lineman. He's athletic, he's big, he's strong." Washington is a big hitter, so "I'm pretty excited to see what he can do against some other teams."
Team's leaders didn't address the team specifically in the bye week. The team just worked on fundamentals. "It was good to get a little rest this weekend... kinda recharge the battery and get ready to go."
Jibreel Black and Taylor Lewan are some young guys who are impressive. Lewan - "You just got to try to calm him down." Was a little too fired up against Iowa. "He has energy which is good, he's just gotta learn to control it and use it between the whistles."
Schilling only has 5 games left to finish his Michigan career. Wants to complete it the right way.
On Penn State: "It's a fun place to play, that's for sure." The night atmosphere is a bit different. "It's loud in there, it's hard to hear." The no-huddle might not be quite as affected with signaling.
Fun game in a great place to play. Feed off the increased excitement of the crowd at night games. Excited to get back out there. Watched PSU play on Saturday. Nice to see the tempo of the game. "I get more out of watching film, but I do get something out of watching the live games."
"Every team in the NCAA has bumps and bruises. A week to heal them is great." Feels very refreshed after the bye week. Points of emphasis during bye week: fundamentals, making the right reads.
"Obviously on Saturday we can prepare a little bit more because it's a bit later of a game."
"We've been making steps this whole season." May not correlate on the field yet, but they're making improvements on D. "You can definitely see things that we're doing better now that we didn't do at the beginning of the season." Reading keys, breaking faster on the ball. The team has guys who want to be good, and are willing to put in the time, which will prevent another collapse like last year.
Quinton Washington - "I thought that Quinton should be playing defense about a month ago. He's got that aggressive manner that's good for defense." It's going to take some time for him to get comfortable there.
Kenny Demens: "great athlete, great build. I think he's doing great with the opportunities he's getting."
Mike Martin is an amazing athlete, can fight through double- and triple-teams.
"We just keep looking forward, looking ahead. We try not to think to much about the past. Just try to stay positive and always have a good attitude."
In the offensive UFR I mentioned State's Denard containment strategy: they sat a defensive end out on the zone read and forced gives, causing Michigan to go away from the read in the second half. But in the first half they had some success with their tailbacks. Also scrape exchange link.
The setup: Michigan is on its first drive of the day. It's second and two near the 50. They come out in a trips formation:
They're going to run a zone read but here they'll do something a little different. Instead of looking to seal a guy they'll double team both defensive tackles and blast them back. The handoff:
Denard sees the DE keeping contain and hands it off.
As Smith nears the line the doubles start to take effect. Both DTs are getting shoved yards downfield:
Both linebackers suck up into the hole in the interior; Smith can bounce it out either way. He goes to the backside, where the containing defensive end cannot get back in time to tackle. The doubles have driven the DTs back so far that the linebackers cannot get outside:
By the time the backside DT does grab smith he's five yards past the LOS:
…and ends up with eight.
- In this trips formation you have a pretty good idea who the contain guy is. With the linebackers shaded to the receiver-heavy side of the field asking the WLB to scrape is a somewhat taller task. By alignment you're likely to read the DE unless a safety walks down.
- A DE containing the zone read means cutbacks are more viable; this play is designed to cut back. Michigan showed little interest in blocking the linebackers on this play because they assumed doubling the DTs would open up two large holes. One is between Lewan and the doubled DT on the frontside, the other between the two DTs. Linebackers have to fill those holes, leaving Michigan room on the backside of the play to pick up a nice chunk of yards since the only person covering the cutback lane is a otherwise-occupied defensive end. Here the driving double-team on the backside DE effectively blocks both linebackers on the cutback.
- MSU adjusted to this and blew it up a few times. Later in the game MSU would slant that backside DT around the double and blitz linebackers into the A gaps, which stuffed Michigan on a couple of third and shorts. I didn't clip any of those but I did clip this Shaw run on which MSU runs the same blitz and gets burned:
- MSU was probably okay with this. They bled a lot of yards early in the game and coulda/shoulda given up a lot of early points but the long drives gave them time to adjust. Michigan had to go away from this later, but not before they saw a couple drives end when they went to the well one too many times with the 5'6" Smith.
Formation notes: nothing new.
Substitution notes: Hemingway, Stonum, and Odoms split outside reps pretty evenly until Odoms was injured. Stokes got a few snaps after that but it was mostly the two juniors. Shaw played some at the start and then his PT trailed off, likely because of the injury. Hopkins got one drive as the primary back, seeing two carries; he also got some time as the second back in a two-back set but did not see the ball. OL was the usual.
Zone read metric note: MSU defended the zone read simply, by having the backside DE keep contain all the time. Denard never kept it on the read, so I got bored and stopped tracking it, though I did give him a couple minuses more from irritation than anything else.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Inside power zone||Smith||7|
|MSU DE keeping contain on Robinson(ZR+1) so the handoff is made. Michigan is doubling both DTs, with Dorrestein(+1) and Omameh(+1) driving the backside guy way downfield and providing Smith a cutback lane once Jones attempts to fill the hole created between the two DTs.|
|RUN+: Dorrestein, Omameh, Smith(+0.5)||RUN-:|
|M32||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout out||Roundtree||8|
|MSU in zone so the CB has to drop back with the outside receiver and Roundtree is wide open; Robinson reads it and hits it for an easy first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||8|
|This opens up wide as Dorrestein(+1) authoritatively kicks out the DE and the DT to that side of the field slants inside Omameh, but Robinson(-1) doesn't read it developing and ends up running almost straight into that guy instead of cutting outside in to a big hole that Smith(+1) has cleared with a thumping block on Gordon. If Robinson just runs right up this gaping hole he's one on one with a safety for six. Instead he almost falls trying to avoid the DT, manages to keep his feet, gets a second-effort block from Koger(+1), and still picks up decent yardage. Still minus because he gave up a ton with the bad read.|
|RUN+: Dorrestein, Smith, Koger||RUN-: Robinson|
|M48||2||2||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||Inside power zone||Smith||8|
|MSU keeping two deep safeties and inviting M to run here, so they do. Same play as last time and Michigan knows by alignment that the DE has to keep contain so they run the exact same play as the first on the drive, blasting the backside DT back with a double from Dorrestein and Omameh and having Smith cut back behind it before the backside DE can crash down.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Dorrestein, Smith(+0.5)||RUN-:|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||7|
|This is one block from a touchdown and that block is not even attempted. So: frontside scoop from Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) gets Omameh(+1) out on the second level, where he obliterates Gordon because he just does that in space. Smith and Shaw hit it up, with Shaw taking out the safety and clearing Robinson for endzone takeoff... except for Jones tackling from behind. I think this is on Lewan(-1), who did not release downfield in an attempt to block Jones, instead peeling off to block the backside DE. Schilling(+1) sealed the backside DT, too, in excellent fashion. This is beautifully blocked all around but for the screwup on Jones.|
|RUN+: Schilling, Molk, Omameh(2), Dorrestein||RUN-: Lewan|
|O37||2||3||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Shaw||21|
|MSU doing a somewhat strange slant/stunt that sees the backside DT shoot outside as both linebackers attack the interior; Michigan handles this confidently. Lewan(+1) reacts to the stunting DT, kicking him out; Schilling(+1) and Molk(+1) both get pieces of the linebackers, and Shaw(+2) makes a decisive cut behind Schilling to burst into the open field past the remaining linebackers, who cannot converge in time; a safety manages to make a lunging tackle to prevent six points.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Schilling, Molk, Shaw(2)||RUN-:|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Shaw||3|
|Unfortunate here as Molk controls and seals the playside DT; Lewan(-1) and Schilling are about to execute a perfect scoop on the backside DT and Jones when Lewan steps on Schilling, causing both to fall and forcing Shaw further inside, where Molk's guy does come off to tackle with help from the freed-up guys on the comical scoop.|
|RUN+: Molk||RUN-: Lewan|
|O13||2||7||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Inside power zone||Shaw||4|
|Less successful this time because Shaw can't cut back behind the double with Gordon waiting there. Shaw should just blast it upfield with the intent of meeting Jones four yards downfield, banking on his momentum plus Molk impacting him to have the pile fall forward for third and short. Instead he starts dancing a little bit and ends up getting hit by an unblocked Norman, who stops him for no YAC. Not a minus-worth offense but Hopkins probably gets six or so here.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Dorrestein||RUN-: Shaw(-0.5)|
|O9||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Dig||Roundtree||Int|
|Yes, this is open with the DB trailing Roundtree by a good two steps. It's is thrown way behind him. Robinson pumps one way and then half-rolls left, pulling up to make the fatal throw. This has not been an issue so far this year and he's made a number of throws like this that have been right on the money. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 11 min 1st Q. Hard to believe this run game slows down given what they did here.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M10||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Robinson||5|
|Omameh pulls as Lewan and Schilling block down on one DT. Schilling(+1) seals and crumbles him. Lewan trips getting out to the second level; Smith(-1) runs by first Norman and then the safety, blocking no one. Omameh(+1) does pop Norman, giving Robinson a hole between him and a good kickout from Webb(+1); Lewan recovers enough to get some push on Jones, allowing a crease for decent yardage and avoiding the dread minus.|
|RUN+: Schilling, Webb, Omameh||RUN-: Smith|
|M15||2||5||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Smith||13|
|This is the run I think Shaw takes to the house. Lewan(+1) kicks out the DE. Molk(+1) doesn't seal the playside DT but does kick him down the line, which allows a crease since the backside DT is again getting doubled; Schilling(+2) hits the second level and clubs Gordon to the ground, erasing him and delaying Jones. Smith(+1) bursts through the hole to the outside and is a step from setting sail because of a crappy fill from the safety but gets taken down by a desperation shoestring tackle. A step. A half step, and this is 85 yards gone.|
|RUN+: Schilling(2), Lewan, Molk, Omameh, Dorrestein, Smith||RUN-:|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||PA short seam||Roundtree||15|
|Zone fake gets a step forward from Jones and opens up the quick seam to Roundtree. Robinson hits him in he hands; Roundtree catches it and attempts to juke the safety who is the last guy between him and a long touchdown. He can't jump through the desperate arm tackle. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||1|
|Norman either blitzes or just recognizes this immediately and is heading into the backfield; Smith attempts to cut him but fails. Robinson should still be able to cut it directly upfield for good yardage since Omameh(+1) has sealed and crushed his DE and Molk(+1) has reached the playside DT, leaving space, two linebackers, and Dorrestein that could result in somewhere between three and eight yards. He doesn't read it, though and tries to head outside where Norman keeps contain, jumping on Robinson's back for little gain.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Molk||RUN-: Robinson, Smith|
|M44||2||9||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||6|
|Linebacker in space does a good job of getting into Grady and cutting off the outside but that just holds the gain down with Roundtree running directly upfield. (CA , 3, screen)|
|50||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout hitch||Hemingway||15|
|Wide open just past the sticks as it appears MSU is in cover three and Robinson takes the easy pitch and catch for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) Good job by Hemingway to get considerable YAC.|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Shaw||2|
|At first glance this seemed like Shaw being hesitant but on review he got the blocking exactly right. Playside DT slants and isn't sealed; Shaw initially looks for the cutback but Lewan(-1) doesn't attempt to cut the backside guy for some reason and does not get an effective block, At this point that DT comes underneath Molk; Shaw decides to pop outside, where there is now a gap. Omameh and Webb are there in space against a linebacker and filling safety; both go for the linebacker, leaving the safety to tackle at the LOS. I'm not sure who this is on, but Webb was behind Omameh and did not process his intent so he gets the minus.|
|RUN+: Shaw, Dorrestein||RUN-: Webb, Lewan|
|O33||2||8||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||5|
|Quick snap catches MSU off guard; Omameh(+1) gets under and controls his guy; Molk(+1) gets out on Jones. Schilling only did okay with his guy, who fights under him to tackle a few yards downfield. Pile falls forward.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Molk||RUN-:|
|O28||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout fly||Stonum||Inc|
|MSU sends both LBs up the middle and slides one safety into a cover-one. Michigan runs an out coupled with a fly route on the rollout away from the pressure; Denard has the easy out for the first down but he also has the fly for a touchdown. He picks the more ambitious route and overthrows Stonum badly. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +2)|
|O28||4||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout scramble||Robinson||4|
|MSU LB rolled up on the LOS blitzes; they expected this. Smith(+1) cuts the hell out of the guy and Roundtree is open for the first but Robinson does not throw it, spooked by the blitzer. He's on the corner, then, with Jones running after him. He just gets the corner by a step and scrambles for the first. Uh... (SCR, N/A, protection 2/2) Also Smith gets a run plus.|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||PA out||Roundtree||4|
|A variation on the lead draw fake to the seam where Roundtree breaks it outside and the outside receiver goes deep. Robinson hits Roundtree in stride but he bobbles the ball momentarily, coming to a stop. This allows the chasing safety to tackle after a minimal gain. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O20||2||6||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Short bubble||Roundtree||3|
|PA fake to the bubble but this is the one that goes straight upfield, hopefully the slot LB gets aggressive to the outside. Here Norman just shoves Grady back and sets up inside, convincing Roundtree he should try to cut it outside. This would work if Grady had actually blocked Norman, which he is in position to do now that he's fought inside. He doesn't so Norman can run him down. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O17||3||3||Shotgun 2H||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||0|
|Man, this is frustrating. Smith motions out again and absolutely no one goes with him. If Robinson just tosses him the ball this is possibly six, but that's not the call. Anyway: MSU shoots linebackers into the intended gap. Molk(+1) seals his guy; Omameh(+1) reads and reacts to the slant well enough. Webb kicks out a corner decently; Dorrestein(-2) runs right by two linebackers on an epic whiff, giving those two guys room to tackle at the LOS when a block is probably a first down and maybe lots more.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Molk||RUN-: Dorrestein(2)|
|Drive Notes: FG(34), 3-0, 1 min 1st Q. Gahhhh. About five different plays on this drive could have been TDs if one more player had executed or Vincent Smith was fast. Getting three points out of these first two drives was doom.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O13||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Smith||3|
|Robinson should pull with Koger coming out on the backside DE and the WLB sucking inside (ZR -1). Backside DT holds up much better this time against the double (Dorrestein -0.5, Omameh -0.5). Schilling and Molk(+1 each) seal the playside DT and make a mess that Jones can't get through so there's a crease; Omameh whiffs on the second level block, too, so that LB who should be containing Denard tackles. Michigan has not taken advantage of MSU's predictable scheme on the backside.|
|RUN+: Molk, Schilling||RUN-: Robinson, Omameh, Dorrestein(-0.5)|
|O16||2||7||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||PA TE flat||Koger||6|
|Instead of blocking the DE like Michigan usually does this time Koger releases into the flat. Open, and Robinson hits him. Koger turns up for decent yardage as he breaks a tackle and is pushed OOB. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|O22||3||1||Shotgun 2H||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||0|
|MSU walks a safety up. MSU slants past blockers, jamming up the play on the frontside. Omameh(-1) did not read the slant and let the playside DT in without helping Molk. Robinson(-1) is staring down a safety charging at him at a poor angle and should pull the ball but does not (ZR-1). Smith(-1) has no choice but to run to the backside of the play where the guy who's been contain previously is now just flowing down the line looking for him; he hits Norman with a head of steam and goes straight down because he's 160 pounds. This cries out for Hopkins, and this failure is a hidden reason Michigan lost. (RPS -2)|
|RUN+:||RUN-: Robinson, Smith, Omameh|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, 12 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Robinson||6|
|Webb(+1) blocks down and eliminates the playside DE. Schilling is pulling around but gets shoved back by the DT before Lewan can get a hat on him, which isn't anyone's fault. It does knock him off course and prevent him from blocking anyone, though. Hopkins(+1) is in and does a good job kicking out Norman, leaving Robinson in space with Jones; he makes him miss. Molk(+1) got a great cut on the WLB. Way on the backside Dorrestein(-1) does not cut or control the backside DE, who ends up tackling just as Robinson's about to head downfield. This was picture-paged.|
|RUN+: Webb, Molk, Robinson(2), Hopkins||RUN-: Dorrestein|
|M46||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||PA out||Roundtree||12|
|Same play as earlier, with the QB lead draw fake leading to the out. This time Roundtree does not bobble it and cuts right upfield for good yardage. Robinson got clocked on the throw as MSU slanted under Omameh(-1) and Molk, who was headed to the second level. Hopkins picked one off; the other nailed Robinson. (CA+, 3, protection 0/1, Omameh)|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Belly||Hopkins||7|
|This is our old friend the belly, which I used to call the zone veer and Brandon Minor made a living on. Schilling(+1) blocks down on the backside DT, kicking him down the line. Webb(+1) kicks out the contain guy on the LOS, who is crashing, and Lewan(+1) releases into the MLB. Hopkins slams it up, picking up two or three YAC.|
|O35||2||3||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||PA deep seam||Roundtree||Inc|
|Inside zone fake sucks up the safety and man free turns into cover zero. Grady runs a slant that sucks one guy up, Roundtree runs past a safety who's late reacting, and Denard throws before the contain guy can get to him. Throw hits Roundtree in the hands 25 yards downfield and will be an easy touchdown... dropped. (DO, 3, protection N/A, RPS +3)|
|O35||3||3||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||6|
|Pump fake and then go, with Robinson swiftly cutting outside when the hole opens up between Omameh(+1), who got a good block on the DT, and Dorrestein. Once in space the first down is academic.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Omameh||RUN-:|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Hopkins||6|
|I may be splitting hairs here but I think this is a different play since the backside tackle, Dorrestein, does not release downfield and instead tries to block the DE. He doesn't get sealed so Hopkins cuts behind the two guys and runs directly into an unblocked LB. Dorrestein releasing == belly. Doubling a DT == inside zone. I still think Denard should be pulling more often but will not ding him this time.|
|RUN+: Webb, Dorrestein||RUN-:|
|O23||2||4||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||PA slant||Grady||11|
|State blitzes the LBs and gets pressure. Schilling(-1) let his guy through; another guy comes through unblocked because of the blitz. Hopkins can't change direction fast enough after the fake to get a piece of him. Not his fault. With guys bearing down Robinson has to get rid of it immediately and nails Grady with a bullet he snags and takes for a first down. Excellent play all around. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Schilling -1, team -1)|
|O12||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||0|
|Well defended by State but I think someone busted an assignment because M runs by the backside DE *and* the backside DT, so when Robinson cuts back that DT is right there to tackle. This is almost always the backside tackle's job so -1 Dorrestein. On the frontside, Lewan(-1) may be trying to turn his guy inside but lets him too far in and the DE shoots into Robinson's path, forcing the cutback that the DT swallows.|
|RUN+:||RUN-: Dorrestein, Lewan|
|O12||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||TE counter flare||Webb||12|
|New. Michigan does the half-roll away from the TE side; Webb sets up to block the blitzing LB to that side, then releases into the flat. Stonum has taken the corner to that side away from the play so Webb is wide open and can stroll into the endzone. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-7, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M15||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||1|
|MSU aggressively getting upfield here and Molk(-2) gets beat by the NT as Lewan barely gets a cut on the backside DT. Molk ends up three yards in the backfield and his man is still not sealed out of the hole. Smith tries to run up in the C-T gap anyway and gets dragged down by the guy who beat Molk; Dorrestein(-1) also couldn't kick out the DE and he helps tackle.|
|RUN+:||RUN-: Molk(2), Dorrestein|
|M16||2||9||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Deep hitch||Stonum||Inc|
|M runs the same route combination we've seen work for them before in the ND game where they have an out and a hitch behind it. MSU shows two deep before the snap but is actually running three-deep so when the corner on the outside comes up on the out and Denard goes to the deeper hitch there's a safety coming over to defend it. The throw is good but the safety arrives with Stonum, breaking up the pass. (BR, 0, protection 2/2, RPS -1) Maybe the BR is harsh because his other options were pretty well covered hitches and maybe this had a chance; still threw it into coverage.|
|M16||3||9||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Scramble||Robinson||1|
|MSU sends a delayed blitzer that Michigan does not pick up; Schilling ends up blocking air as this guy has a free run. Robinson is looking at covered guys and has to scramble once that blitzer gets in. He's about to break free in some space when a DL grabs him from behind. He runs through the tackle but trips shortly after. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, team)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-14, 3 min 2nd Q. I guess I will chart the last couple plays of the half, though they're weird.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||3-3-5 nickel||Run||QB draw||Robinson||6|
|Opens up as MSU is expecting pass; Jones avoids a cut from Roundtree(-1) so Robinson has to set up a juke that allows the NT to come from behind and tackle.|
|M26||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Fly||Odoms||54|
|Robinson looks one way then changes his target to the other side of the field and launches one to Odoms, who's got a couple steps on the defensive back. The pass is short but it's also in the air for 45 yards so it's hard to criticize; Odoms pulls up and makes a leaping grab with the DB's hand in his face, bringing it down. He's chopped down by the safety. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(42, blocked), 17-10, EOH. Michigan let six seconds run off the clock before calling TO on the first play; could have had another play here.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||2|
|Contain; ZR+1. Smith(-1) misses his cut since the playside DT has fought through the attempted scoop attempt from Molk(-1) and Omameh(-1), who also missed a linebacker. Lewan(+1) had cut the backside DT and with Schilling shoving Jones a hard cut behind Molk finds daylight.|
|RUN+: Lewan||RUN-: Molk, Omameh, Smith|
|M32||2||8||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||12|
|Omameh(+1) dominates the playside DT with a single block and Dorrestein(+1) kicks out the DE, leaving a big gap. Smith(+1) walls off Gordon and Robinson is through the gap; he's taken down from behind by a guy Shaw only got a weak shove on.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Dorrestein, Smith, Robinson||RUN-:|
|M44||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout fly||Hemingway||27|
|Robinson has to pull up with a DE getting out to contain; Michigan runs the out-fly combo and this time the safety is late getting over, allowing Hemingway the opportunity to make a leaping catch on a well-timed dart. (DO, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||16|
|Playside DE slants inside Lewan(-1), getting into the backfield; Hopkins(+1) has to use himself to get rid of the guy, which he does thumpingly. Robinson's now on the edge but Shaw is headed too far outside to deal with Gordon; Robinson WOOPs him, and then WOOPs a safety and Jones back to the outside, running through a desperate lunging tackle. The last DB chops him down as he nears the ten.|
|RUN+: Robinson(3), Hopkins||RUN-: Lewan|
|O13||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||Broken play||Robinson||1|
|Shaw does not come to the mesh point so Robinson takes off and gets what he can, which isn't much. Should have thrown the bubble but it's a broken play so whatever.|
|O12||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout hitch||Odoms||Inc|
|Michigan rolls away from blitzing linebackers and Odoms sits down in front of the zone on the interior; Robinson sees him and pulls up to zip it in for first and goal at the two… turfed. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O12||3||9||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Slant||Hemingway||Int|
|Robinson reads the coverage and does have window for Hemingway but again just throws it two steps behind his receiver, getting it picked off. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Molk -2 for a chop block)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 10-24, 10 min 3rd Q. And boom does not go the dynamite.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||PA slant||Grady||Inc|
|MSU has this well covered with Norman all over Grady's back. There is an opportunity to hit Grady for maybe five but Robinson throws it high. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M36||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare||Shaw||7|
|Robinson is about to throw a slant to Odoms that MSU has covered as Michigan runs a snag concept but stops himself and then hits the wide open flare route. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M43||3||3||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||-3|
|MSU blitzing and slanting the DT M is running at, causing Molk(-1) and Schilling(-1) to end up blocking no one as three guys come right up the middle. Robinson can avoid one, but not two. (RPS -2)|
|RUN+:||RUN-: Molk, Schilling|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-31, 3 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Smith||9|
|Bubble screens on both sides with no linebacker covering Smith in the slot; MSU must be concerned with the draw. Smith has an easy nine yards. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)|
|O32||2||1||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Smith||4|
|Blitz up the guy from MSU puts them in man so the safety is coming up hard and holds this identical play down. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O28||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||Inc|
|Too far in front of Roundtree. (IN, 0, screen)|
|O28||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout hitch||Hemingway||Inc|
|Hole in the zone has Hemingway catching the ball six yards downfield and probably picking up 3-4 YAC, except he drops it. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O28||3||10||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Stonum||Inc|
|Tight window but Robinson throws it right on time, almost before Stonum turns around. This ball is a little in front of him but I'm not sure if that's on him or Stonum's route. Could be either. (MA, 2, protection 1/1) On replay, Stonum's pulling up a yard short of the ball and could easily be in the right spot. I think this is on the WR.|
|O28||4||10||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Deep hitch||Grady||17|
|Four verts concept on which Grady sits down right behind the linebackers and Robinson throws a rope right in front of the safety. Grady gets nailed but hangs on. Good execution all around. Free blitzer meant Robinson had to get rid of it, too. (DO, 1, protection 1/2, team -1)|
|O11||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||7|
|Schilling and Omameh(+1 each) kick out the DTs, who appear to be thinking pass, and Molk(+1) gets a good second level block on Jones; Robinson hits it up and the safeties converge.|
|RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Schilling||RUN-:|
|O4||2||3||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||4|
|Lewan and Schilling block down on the playside DT; Omameh pulls around and Hopkins is the other lead blocker. Webb kicks out the DE; everyone gets their block, and it's a touchdown.|
|RUN+: Webb, Hopkins, Omameh||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-31, 14 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||3|
|An MSU stunt gets the DEs in and forces Robinson outside, where the delay takes him away from the downfield block of Molk and allows one of those DEs to tackle from behind. (RPS -1)|
|M23||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Scramble||Robinson||8|
|MSU has a safety on the corner route and drops the corner back when Gordon gets over to cover the hitch so Robinson, who did get the edge thanks to some dogged blocking from Shaw, says screw it and takes off. (SCR, N/A, protection 1/1)|
|RUN+: Robinson, Shaw||RUN-:|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Post||Grady||Int|
|Depressingly similar to the Iowa INT last year, as a the corner covering Stonum's hitch at the sticks bails out to cover the deep post well before Robinson throws the ball. If Robinson reads this the throw to Stonum is a first down and lots of YAC, but instead he throws it deep. Grady has a step, two steps, on a safety who bit up on a hitch, but the ball is way too far outside and intercepted by the sinking corner. (IN, 0, protection 2/2) If this is thrown five yards further inside Grady has a great shot at a touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 17-31, 12 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Sack||?||-10|
|MSU sends a DT between the tackle and guard, occupying Dorrestein on a possible stunt, but just sends the DE outside anyway. Dorrestein pops out on him; Omameh ends up blocking air as the DT comes up the middle. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Omameh -2)|
|M19||2||20||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout bomb||Roundtree||Inc|
|Schiling(-2) pwned by Worthy and Robinson has to scramble out. He gets on the corner as a linebacker comes up and ends up chucking a back-foot punt that is actually to Roundtree, who's got a step on the last MSU defender. Ball hangs up but is fairly accurate. It's a little short but Roundtree's got a shot at it. He leaps and it clangs off his hands. (CA, 2, protection 0/2, Schilling -2)|
|M19||3||20||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare screen||Shaw||11|
|MSU playing off so there's a lot of room once Roundtree(+1) shoves his block to the ground. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-34, 6 min 4th Q. Lame.|
We met a real defense and scored 17 points and our defense is tuberculosis in a uniform we're going to DIEEEEEE…
Aw, come on, you know Michigan left a ton of points on the field.
WE'RE GOING TO DIEEEEEEEEEE
It's not that bad, look at the—
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||-||44%|
That success rate has to be wrong.
It's not wrong, it just doesn't weight passes based on how damaging the particular inaccurate ball is. Against MSU, Denard threw the following balls not to his receiver:
- Endzone interception #1 on route Roundtree had two steps on. [Zero points]
- Wide open Stonum on fly route about 20 yards downfield that's airmailed. [Three points]
- Hitch to Odoms on second and nine from the 11 that would have been first and goal. [Zero points]
- Endzone interception #2 on slant that Hemingway was open on. [Zero points]
- Covered slant zinged over Grady [Zero points]
- Bubble too far in front of Roundtree. [Seven points]
- Other interception on route where Grady had plenty of room to the inside of the field but the ball was way, way too far outside, allowing sinking corner to react and intercept. [Zero points]
How big of a deal is it to throw a bubble screen a step in front of a receiver? One unit of big deal. How big of a deal is it to throw a makeable 20 yard touchdown over someone's head on third and three? Two, three units of big deal. How big of a deal is it to throw endzone interceptions when you have open receivers? Five units of big deal.
The reason the rate is the rate is because a bad pass is a bad pass; in reviewing a performance we're trying to strip out the emotion from the game and use it as a predictive measure. If Robinson had thrown those balls out of the endzone instead of behind the receivers Michigan would have had maybe seven more points but the QB play would have been equivalent.
So Robinson has been exposed?
Not enough data so you make big. The terrible horrible no good very bad off day against Michigan State is a data point, but so is this:
The numbers above speak for themselves—Robinson's overall accuracy was much better than he showed against Michigan State.
Did Michigan State have anything to do with this, then?
Not really. Robinson had open receivers on all of those throws except the Grady slant; that slant was the only throw on which he was pressured, as well.
He just missed.
So he's inaccurate?
Maybe? I pulled those clips above because that's what it's been like when Robinson throws those sorts of passes this year. Against Notre Dame his four downfield INs were:
- an overthrown bomb on third and long,
- a turfed hitch identical to the one he left short of Odoms Saturday,
- a seam to Roundtree he threw accurately but on a line, allowing T'eo to knock it down, and
- a seam on the next play that was well high as he tried to compensate.
Against Indiana it was three overthrown bombs and another hitch in the dirt. That and one overthrown out to Terrance Robinson against UMass were the sum total of his bad passes to date. He hadn't thrown many of the above zingers but he'd had at least a dozen, maybe two. The passes well behind players were unprecedented.
Robinson's early enough in his career that randomness plays a major factor in how his accuracy is perceived. The Michigan State game knocks expectations down several notches but they are still high; I'm willing to wager small amounts of money or pocket lint that MSU is Robinson's worst performance of the year.
Robinson's disappointing day statistically was compounded by some errors by his receivers. Roundtree dropped a 30-yard touchdown, Hemingway an 8-ish yard hitch; Stonum and Roundtree did not come up with a couple coulda-had-its, one a long bomb on Michigan's last drive. He did get some help from Odoms and Roundtree, who both reeled in big gains in tough situations.
Protection metric: PROTECTION METRIC: 30/41, Omameh –3, Schilling –3, Molk –2, Team –3.
This number is much larger than most metrics to date, and it's not so good. 75% is pretty bleah, though before the final drive when Michigan was forced to pass it was 30/37, which is pretty decent. The suggestion is that Michigan's pass blocking is greatly aided by Denard's run threat and when that goes away so does a chunk of the assumed competence in the line.
And, finally, a running chart that is a step back but not off a cliff or anything:
|Lewan||4||5||-1||Had some trouble.|
|Molk||9||4||5||Had a little trouble on stretches in the second half.|
|Dorrestein||6||5.5||0.5||Fights guys to stalemates; could be vulnerable against Iowa.|
|Webb||6||1||5||The secret weapon.|
|Koger||-||1||-1||Didn't play much.|
|TOTAL||45||20.5||23.5||Good, not great.|
|Robinson||8||4||4||Also left a lot of yards on the field on rushing plays.|
|Shaw||4||0.5||3.5||Injury limited, still seems like clearly the #1.|
|Smith||3.5||5.5||-2||Needs to make that 13-yarder 85.|
|Hopkins||3||-||3||Lot of beef back there to pair with Robinson.|
|TOTAL||18.5||10||8||Line gave them some opportunities to bust big ones but they did not take them.|
|TOTAL||1||-||1||Limited long runs so not really involved.|
This seems about right to me since Michigan averaged 5.2 YPC. In any other year people would be delirious that Michigan managed that against a non-pushover Big Ten team.
Why do you hate Vincent Smith? He's adorable and tough.
I don't hate Vincent Smith. It's weird being critical of running backs because at most other positions you can make obviously bad plays, like missing a block or a tackle or a throw. Other than fumbling and the occasional obvious missed cut, mistakes running the ball are rarely obvious. It's just that some guys are just guys. Barking Carnival described Texas's running backs as a "bunch of JAGs" a couple weeks back, and that popped into my head as the perfect way to describe a meh tailback. Smith is just a guy*. I can't think of a better example than this:
Carlos Brown? Touchdown. Shaw? Touchdown. Baker or Bell? Touchdown, possible touchdown. Minor? Good chance to rage through the tackle and possible touchdown.
Meanwhile, there was that third and one on which MSU did a decent job of stacking it up but Michigan had a running back hit at the LOS by a single linebacker and got zero yards. He doesn't fumble, he knows the plays, he's healthy… I can see why Michigan is using him. I just hope that they can get Shaw to 100% and get Hopkins on the field at least as much as Smith as the season goes on.
*(At least right now. I can't shake the impression I had from the tail end of last year when he seemed really quick and exciting. He could get a lot better next year as he gets back to 100%.)
Denard did not get a billion yards. I am confused. Why?
Michigan ran a lot of zone read and they defended it simply by having the DE keep contain. This was a major reason Michigan's early drives went right down the field:
Without a scrape exchange or something similar that gap is always going to be open, especially when you can get a double team on that tackle. Michigan was content to do that for a while and Denard was content to hand off; Michigan State was content to let Smith and Shaw run, especially later when Shaw exited.
I still don't like this. Michigan could have played a ton of games with the backside end since they knew how MSU wanted to defend the read. Here is the complaint about midline: where is midline? That DE is begging to get kicked out and MSU's DT's got crazy aggressive in response to the constant double teaming. Letting one of those guys go would have seen Robinson get an opportunity in lots of space. Want midline.
You want more things?
In general I'm dissatisfied with what seems like a tendency to have this cool new package in the first half that works and then when the defense adjusts Michigan doesn't have the next thing. In the second half Michigan tried some more of the double-the-DT thing on short yardage and got it blown up when MSU blitzed into it. They needed to have a different thing to go to in the second half before the defense even tried anything.
I should say that the RPS was 9-6 = +3, which is good, but Michigan spurned most of those positive chances with drops and misthrown balls. They ran out to a big lead in that category and then gave it back as the game progressed. Part of that was being so far behind and getting out of their gameplan, I guess, but that didn't really happen until late.
I do like that Michigan anticipated that MSU would have some answers for things they'd already run and changed it up. The PA fake where Denard fakes the iso and they throw a slant was changed into an out/fly combination that didn't have the big play potential but I assume the safeties for MSU were ready to deal with that.
The interior OL controlled the MSU DL for the most part, and Webb had a great day blocking.
Denard, first and foremost and close to only.
What does it mean for Iowa and beyond?
I'm not that depressed; the overall impression I got from the game was that Michigan's offense set them up for many big plays and because of poor execution—unusually poor execution, unlike the defense—by one guy here, one guy there, and a lot of Robinson they couldn't take advantage. If Robinson throws those balls to his open receivers in the endzone Michigan is tied at 31 at the start of the fourth quarter and the game has an entirely different complexion. They didn't, but that doesn't mean they're headed to the bottom of the Big Ten scoring standings. I'm still confident this is going to be the best Michigan offense in a long time.
We'll see about Denard. I think he'll bounce back but there's a chance it was the early bits that were false. The preponderance of the evidence is still in favor of accuracy, however.
The interior OL seems like it's got a fighting chance against the Iowa DL. They stumbled a little bit in the second half but did not have much opportunity as Michigan got down and the clock got short. If Iowa is going to run the same vanilla scheme MSU did that could allow Michigan to option off Clayborn and maintain their run game. They had a good day in Iowa City last year and Michigan has upgraded probably a little bit more than Iowa did with returning starters and new players.
It's back. Sorry for the two-week interruption, but Forces Beyond My Control intervened.
- UMass: Molk excellent, everyone else solidly positive, Lewan goes donkey, Dorrestein majorly positive.
- Bowling Green: candy for everyone. Omameh gets the gold star.
- Indiana: everyone positive, numbers depressed because they scored too fast, WOO DENARD, Lewan gets the gold star.
The major difference between my charting and The Other Brian's is a difference of opinion on Dorrestein. I evidently think he's treading water and just okay; TOB has him approximately equal with the other four guys on the line. Also he was quicker to catch the effectiveness of Michigan's TEs.
Devin zone read issues. After the BGSU game, BWS put up a post about Devin Gardner's zone reads and how they are "rough" if you're being nice and "sucky" if you're not; this was in agreement with the UFR's assessment. Michigan's coaches probably saw too; it appears Tate has reclaimed the backup job. Or maybe Gardner has tendinitis.
I don't hate Vincent Smith. Most of the offensive UFR comments were taken over by the comment war about Vincent Smith. To clarify:
- Smith is a good pass protector and reliable run blocker, though his size makes his run blocking a little sub-optimal.
- He's a good option out of the backfield but the way Michigan's offense is going this year throwing to the tailback is almost pointless.
- He seems to have lost a significant amount of shake-and-bake because of the ACL injury.
- He does not make a lot of yards himself, but he doesn't miss reads often either.
This adds up to an average back.
Finally. BWS has an excellent breakdown of the final drive and the importance of this moment:
This offense is not only explosive but S-M-R-T, kids.
And now on to the WARZONE:
Rollout mitigation strategies. Our Helmets Have Wings has a post based on this previously-linked BWS piece about defending the copious rollouts Michigan has endured. It evades easy summary but the idea is to take someone out of a deeper zone and have him play a flat zone close to the area the rollout is intended to go so he can pressure the QB.
Crab man. The Indiana UFR did not pick up a whole lot in the way of disagreements that are supposed to be the reason for this series, but this is an informative comment for doubters about Roh's DE potential from ironman4579:
While Roh has good athleticism for his size, the key term is "for his size." His hips are fairly stiff in coverage. He has great speed for a DE, probably average at best for a LB. He's not great in space. He has elite athleticism for a DE. He has below average athleticism for a LB. He's just too stiff.
I'd also disagree that he's undersized. Yes, he's a little light (I'd agree that he's definitely lighter than I'd like to see my DE's, but there's enough successful, disruptive light DE's out there in a 4 man line that I think he'd be fine. He might struggle a bit against the run, but I'd give up some in the run game to get an, IMO, vastly improved pass rush), but a guy like Aaron Maybin of Penn State had 12 sacks and 20 TFL's at 235 pounds. O'Brien Schofield was 248 pounds when he went ahead and got 12 sacks and 24.5 TFL's. That's just two recent examples. There are many, many others. Leverage plays a huge part, which actually leads to my next point.
I want people to watch Roh this week when he's at DE and when he's at LB. When he's at DE, he's what scout's call a "flatback." He's incredibly low in his stance. When he comes out he stays basically in the same stance, getting very low with great leverage. He gets his hands out and keeps guys away from his body, and has a great initial punch. He shows a variety of pass rush moves.
When he's at LB, he gets very high. He goes into blockers almost straight up. He lets guys into his body and almost seems to forget his hands until he's already engaged and the blocker is into his body (this is especially evident last year against ND on the Armando Allen hold run at the end of the game, but throughout the season this was a problem). He loses leverage regularly. When he rushes, it's almost always a straight speed rush. He gets lost in space.
The difference between Roh as a DE and Roh as a LB are night and day. He has flashed the potential to be a fantastic DE. As a LB, I don't think he's going to be much more than an average to slightly above average player
I added the picture demonstrating Roh's crazy leverage stance before the snap. I'd like to see a lot more four-man lines this week.
An aside: the debate that's raged between what people are calling a 4-2-5 but is really just last year's defense and the 3-3-5 that's Michigan's run most of this year is really just debating what Craig Roh should do.
Cam Gordon confusion. I solicited opinions on whether or not Cam Gordon should have been able to do anything more than tackle on that corner route…
…picture-paged yesterday. Many people said yes. Many others said no. Upon review I do think that Cam should have been a lot closer since there was no vertical threat from the inside. That probably wouldn't have let him make a play on the ball but he might have been able to tackle at the 25 instead of the 15. The counterargument:
The problem is, jumping the route too quickly can lead to long touchdowns. Gordon does in fact make the right play here. If he jumps up, the experienced receiver will skinny his route and the 5th year QB will loft it over the crashing safety. In a cover 2, the corner route will almost always beat the safety to the soft part of the zone; it's only when the corner drops back enough to disrupt this spot that this pass fails (and then the QB checks down to the out). In a 3rd and long situation, the CB should focus on the deeper part of his zone, as it's always easier to stop a first down if the catch is made in front of the sticks. A more experienced corner, or one that is just less hesitant to react, makes this a much more difficult play to complete.
As always, pass defense and linebacker play are mysterious since who's at fault can vary wildly based on assignments you're not privy to.
The larger point stands. Michigan's inexperienced secondary is not reading the opponent's routes at all (underneath) or quick enough (deep). Hopefully they develop this with time. Also, Chris Brown pointed out this is another variation on the snag concept that Michigan was running elements of earlier this season.
BONUS: Misopogon suggested that the issue was with JT Floyd not getting depth and letting Gordon out to the sideline, but I disagree. Sometimes I fail to explain things I picked up over the course of the game and people disagree based on the individual play, and that's the case here. Most of the time when Michigan went to this coverage, JT Floyd was acting as a Tampa 2 middle linebacker with responsibility in the deep seam. That's why he was at fault when IU hit a deep seam to the TE in the first half…
Does the "J" in J.T. stand for Journeyman?
Floyd spent his second week in a row being moved all over the place. I can understand why they're doing this (he's probably our best DB and we need to get our best athletes on the field.) But with all this moving around, you expect him to get confused occassionally.
On this play he gets caught looking at the underneath crossing route when what he needs to be doing is getting depth in his zone to squeeze off the seam route. The cross will be picked up by the other linebacker, so his false step here was not going to help anyone.
… later in the game when Michigan had covered this bunch snag route a few times they went to a different variation where the vertical receiver ran a post and Floyd dropped right into it. He is not playing a deep half; he's playing a robber. On this pattern he will be of use when the receiver running a dig to the top of the screen clears the CB.
Zone! Man! Fight. BWS's thing this week is advocating more man coverage, complete with a chart of the results when Michigan ran man:
So in 12 attempts, Indiana had six incompletions, one sack, and five completions for approximately 69 yards. Is this statistically significant or proof that Michigan should use more man coverage? Probably not and no.
I'm not sure all of those were man, as BlueSeoul's continuing epic game breakdown series touches upon:
When you're facing 4 or 5 WR, a 3 man rush is not a bad idea because it allows you to run combo coverage behind it.
2 Deep, looks like man coverage underneath, but really it's zone. The man on the slot has good position for run support. The near cornerback is in bump n run with the tall and dangerous, but not necessarily quick, Belcher.
Everyone is covered, Rodgers even manages to stay close enough to his man to dissuade a throw against the confusing look, the 3 man rush gets pressure because Martin beats a double team. Plus we've got 4 extra men in coverage that are just waiting for Chappell to misread it as man coverage and try to force a ball in, so they can get an interception.
Chappell coolly throws it away.
So those numbers may not be right. It seems clear that whatever Michigan is doing in the dime they need to keep doing until they can do it right, at which point they can mix some stuff up. Man coverage is playing with fire every time because of…
James Rogers finally getting exposed. One of the main takeaways from BlueSeoul's post is something that was obvious in the Indiana game after Michigan managed to get away with it through the nonconference:
I've probably covered this enough already, but just to summarize, he is the weakest link. No, that's not surprising given what's happened to the depth chart at corner.
It's so bad that it's hard to tell who he's covering and whether he's supposed to be in zone or man. He's just kind of over there on one side. By the 2nd half, Indiana was actively targeting him on a large percentage of plays. He's giving up the 7 yard out
ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
I don't mean to beat up on him but I agree; he's Nick Sheridan out there. I'm half-expecting he gets replaced this weekend, probably by Avery, though I imagine he'll still have a job in the dime package. Whither Cullen Christian? (Blowing coverages against BGSU, is where.)
10/2/2010 – Michigan 42, Indiana 35 – 5-0, 1-0
When you want to watch ESPNU in Sedona, Arizona, you go to this place called "Sticks and Steaks." To get there you drive past a massive tourist art complex with a faux-native name, a sign exhorting you take advantage of Angel Lightfoot's magic healing crystal expertise, and an enormous, profligate fountain in the middle of the damn desert. Whatever Sedona's purpose was when someone said "screw it" and set up camp in 1902 is gone, replaced by a talent for taking money that was jammed into old ladies' bank accounts and circulating it through the economy again.
Inside this place you'll find TVs, horse betting, and a motley collection of people who would rather be home for three and a half hours on Saturday. In front of me there were a couple peeved Texas fans watching their team get punked by Oklahoma. Behind me there was a Wisconsin guy who asked if I was wearing my lucky Michigan tie. (I wasn't: I'd neglected to bring one and had to drive back to the next town over and stop at their outlet strip mall to get one.) A couple of old women who didn't care about football ate there; as they left one of them said they'd gone to Indiana and was surprised the game was even that close.
I think it was an attempt to comfort me, as I'd spent the hour they were there pulling my hair back over my skull and swearing under my breath. Sometimes not so under my breath, too. I said something about how IU's quarterback was outlandishly good and hoped it was true.
I do not have to tell you this but I will anyway: that game was bizarre.
In the aftermath it stands as a tribute to how useless time of possession is. Michigan's put-upon defense actually got better in the second half of their 98-play version of Ishtar, and it turns out that a touchdown scored in three plays is worth just as much as a touchdown scored in 14. We have sufficient evidence now to declare this finding statistically significant. So that's nice.
In progress it felt like dying from a thousand paper cuts only to be brought back with the crashing thunder of paddles, conscious and fully aware you were about to do it all over again. The opponent holding the ball for 42 minutes might not mean much statistically, but it does make most of the game an agonizing slog.
As a result, records were set across the Michigan fanbase for "most muted response to a 70-yard touchdown." Such a thing wouldn't have been possible even four years ago. I remember thinking to myself "that's 25% of the points we need to win" after the first drive of the '06 Ohio State game, and I was delighted through a whole commercial break. I grew up with angry cold Midwestern football where touchdowns were hard-earned things only somewhat less rare than goals in soccer. Each one was a major step towards your goal, and punting a guy down inside their ten was tantamount to getting the ball back on the fifty.
Now a touchdown is just holding serve. When Denard fumbled the snap on the one I thought "this is going to be a 99-yard touchdown drive," and then it was a 99-yard touchdown drive. It's disorienting, and as Indiana is driving down the field again you can't even figure out who to scream at because no one's in the same zip code as the receiver, and you hate everything about everything because this is MICHIGAN we don't do things like this.
On the other hand, "this is MICHIGAN" also applies to an offense that could end up loaded with NFL talent and still come nowhere near this one. Michigan still has Denard and its blitzkrieg of an offensive line and a bunch of wide-receivers who draw straws to determine who gets this week's monster day. One day when the defense is capable of covering guys here and there, Michigan will club people. At the moment it's about having the ball last.
I got somewhat demonstrative during all of this, which is why the Wisconsin guy asked me about my tie and the Indiana woman offered a ham-fisted attempt at comfort. People found me entertaining as I alternated between brief flashes of happiness and long stretches of sports Tourette's, I guess. I probably would have too.
As I was leaving this other guy who I hadn't even noticed added his bit, jovially saying "Hey, you survived." I had. They had, unlike Texas or Wisconsin or Indiana. The Texas folk hadn't even made it past halftime. The fiancée, still able to engage in small talk beyond grunts and squeaks, asked who he was rooting for. He said "USC, but they don't play yet." When they did, they lost to Washington for the second straight year. There are worse things than getting bombed for 480 yards by Ben Chappell even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.
Stop it. I've defended the three man rush but good lord you have got to be kidding me. I defended the 3-3-5 but that's when I thought it would be used to create a wide variety of four-and-five man fronts with unpredictable blitzing. Michigan probably rushed more than three guys 10% of the time in the second half, and when they did that it was four. I can't support having Craig Roh and using him in zone coverage on every snap.
What's worse was the inane substitution pattern. Every Indiana run in the second half was a wasted down, and probably would have been a wasted down even if you replaced Banks with Roh and brought in a cornerback. One of this defense's few assets is the pass rushing ability of the outside linebackers, but Michigan is going out of its way to avoid using it.
Stop it, but the clock. I would have thrown a shoe at the TV if Michigan had botched time management at the end of the half like Indiana did. How do you get inside the 20 on that drive with a minute or so on the clock and end up with four seconds on third and goal? Indiana let the clock run from 13 seconds to 9 after a first and goal play before calling timeout, which meant they'd just blown an opportunity to run a fourth down. They got the TD anyway, but that was a sequence worthy of Les Miles.
Speaking of decisions like going for it on third there…
How Denard Robinson is like multi-way callers in a limit hold-em game. There is a phenomenon in limit hold-em called "schooling" where a bunch of weak players who call a lot of hands they should ditch accidentally make their play close to right, frustrating more experienced players with a strong hand they'd like to get heads up with.
I think about this every time an opposing coach defies his inner Lovie Smith and goes for it on a fourth-and-Romer down against Michigan or eschews a half-ending field goal attempt in an effort to score the seven it's obvious they'll need to keep up with Denard. Michigan has now faced 15 fourth down attempts on the season, which is double the next-highest total in the Big Ten and triple the average*. They've converted nine of these, turning a bunch of drives that would have been punts or field goal attempts against a less terrifying offense into touchdowns.
The difference is that the coaches' decisions are statistically correct, not just less wrong. Which is not so good for Michigan. Bill Lynch did manage to punt from the Michigan 42 on fourth and short, which just goes to show that it is the nature of all coaches to play it safe. I'm hoping as we get into the stodgy section of the schedule we'll see more insane decisions to punt when Michigan scrapes together a stop. Someone can tell Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz and Joe Paterno that they should go for it, but what are the chances they listen? Maybe 40%?
*(FWIW, I disagree with the author's assertion that the reason Michigan's opponents are exceeding their yardage season averages when they play M is because Michigan is the "red-letter" game on the schedule. It's just because Michigan's defense sucks.)
Same thing on our side of the ball. Michigan should have gone for it on fourth and one in the second half; instead they sent Forcier out to pooch it. I'm fine with the pooch punting in general, as it's impossible to return or even catch one. Michigan netted 39 yards on Forcier's attempt, which would be good for 23rd nationally as a season-long average.
But punting in that situation? No thanks. When your offense is tearing through the opposition like M's offense was that Mathlete chart about correct decisions swings way towards going for it there.
Part of the problem may be the apparent lack of faith in Michigan's bigger backs. Cox didn't appear at all and Hopkins was just used as a blocker; when Vincent Smith is your best TB option (blocking or running) short yardage is less of a certainty. I'm still not a fan of Smith this year despite the long run against IU. He didn't have to do anything except run through a gaping void and run through an attempt to tackle him from behind. He's reliable, but having him at tailback is like having Greg Mathews on punt returns.
It could not be clearer that Michigan doesn't need much time to score.
But what the Wolverines do need is the ability to keep their defense off the field. This defense is young, and it's still learning, and without the Michigan offense, its flaws would be that much more evident.
The Daily's Joe Stapleton also offered something along those lines.
Anyone who's read this blog for longer than a couple weeks knows the general outline of what's to come but whatever here goes: a touchdown is worth seven points no matter how long it takes to score, and having an offense that rips down the field in three or four plays against Indiana is not a bad thing. Against better defenses those opportunities will be much rarer. And what is Denard supposed to do, anyway? Kneel down at the 20?
It's the defense's job to get off the field. The offense is a thing to score points with. Was it good that Roy Roundtree got caught at the three? Not so much. If Michigan wants to bring TOP closer to even they'll have to get much better or blitz like madmen, but since that's a stupid goal to have they should only do the latter if it also makes it more likely they'll get stops.
Slight mitigation. One effect of Michigan's rapid-fire touchdown drives was to inflate Indiana's opportunities. Both teams had twelve bonafide drives in the game. That's 50% more than the opener against UConn; Michigan would have expected to give up 23 points if they'd faced eight IU drives. Which is still terrible, but maybe slightly less so than it seemed.
I was in transit yesterday so no VOAV; apologies. Here's the Michigan defense highlight reel:
Something slightly longer from WH:
In non-video items: a serendipitous sideline photo gallery. Michigan's ridiculous "on pace for" numbers. Mike DeSimone has resumed his incredibly useful photo collecting. Wow, Les Miles. Wow Denard from the Indy Star:
There are certain moments that reveal a potential Heisman Trophy winner's essence, and that came on that final five-play, 73-yard game-winning drive that sealed the 42-35 victory.
"Shoelace'' has got my Heisman vote, and it would take an act of God to make me change my mind.
ESPN's Heisman watch says it's "Robinson and everyone else":
Now it's just getting ridiculous. I mean, at some point shouldn't we stop being amazed? We've seen it for five weeks now. Shouldn't we be used to it? I'm talking, of course, about Michigan QB Denard Robinson, and the answer is no. We haven't seen this type of college football playmaker since … Barry Sanders?
Postgame GERG-RR stills from MVictors are… not so happy. Ace asks if we're jaded already. I'll talk about this more in a bit but despite the stuff about the three-man rush above, complaints like those of BWS…
The real story is that Greg Robinson's defensive schemes do not work. No longer is this a question of defensive talent or improper personnel. No, sadly, this is far more systematic: Greg Robinson's schemes Do Not Work.
I've been advocating a man coverage package for the last three weeks. Robinson has shown it sparingly. Not that I'm more qualified to run this defense, but Robinson's inability--or maybe stubbornness--to show new looks is far and away the most disappointing aspect of this season. Play after play (and now game after game), teams are running quick slants and seven-yard hitch routes and absolutely shredding Michigan's defense. And it's not that the defense looks athletically overmatched. They look unprepared and poorly coached.
…are kind of ridiculous. James Rogers cannot change direction. Jordan Kovacs cannot cover people man to man. There are massive personnel deficiencies that need covering up.