chance of bowl: 13.6%
Tonight I got home from a really late softball game to find the BTN playing the 2001 Michigan versus Michigan State game. Against my better judgment, I stayed up to watch it. Here are some stream of consciousness thoughts from watching the replay of this game:
- Is there something wrong with me if I get animated, angry, and frustrated over a game that happened 9 years ago? Can you really get pissed at officials for something that happened that long ago?
- Well, I am. These officials sucked. The lack of holding penalties being called on the MSU offensive line was astounding - and I'm not talking about the last play of the game. On the first drive of the game (a TD set up by a fake punt pass interference call) there were three instances where a Michigan defender had their jersey being pulled in the middle of a play and no calls were made.
- Now I remember how much I hate Charles Rogers. Granted, much of that stems from his Lions' tenure. He got two gift PI penalties that set up touchdowns for MSU. The first was on the fake punt and it didn't surprise me that they called it, but the contact was minimal. The second was on a great play by Cato June in the endzone where Gary Danielson seemed to think it was obvious but to me it looked like a great play.
- On that second one Danielson actually said, "This is a college player (June) covering an NFL player (Rogers)". Little did he know that June would have an infinitely better NFL career than Rogers.
- The first TD of the game for MSU was a great throw by Smoker and a great catch by Rogers. On that play Marlin Jackson had perfect coverage - you just couldn't stop the perfect throw and catch.
- Remember when we had kickers we could trust? Okay, Hayden Epstein had his share of gaffes in his career, but in this game he nailed a record 57-yard FG.
- Believe it or not, I witnessed Todd Howard breaking up two passes in this game. Since I assumed he was born without hands or fingers this was shocking to me. There is video evidence of this.
- Marquis Walker was a total stud of a WR. I'm still stunned that he never even got a cup of coffee in the NFL. I know he was slowish, but he had such amazing hands and dominated in this game. He had over 130 yards in the first half including two touchdowns. And he was doing it without help - Navarre was still a raw sophomore and the other receivers were Ron Belamy, Calvin Bell and Tyrice Butler.
- Ironically, the ref instructed the clock operator to give Michigan back 3 seconds at the end of the first half. That might have been useful after two consecutive 12-yard runs by BJ Askew if Lloyd wouldn't have gone conservative (SHOCK!) and ate up 20 seconds doing nothing before trying two down field passes.
- The lack of recognizable names on the offensive and defensive lines for Michigan is really shocking.
- If I have to hear Brent Musberger compare TJ Duckett to Jerome Bettis one more time I will slam my fingers in a car door. Granted, TJ did destroy us in this game. And Michigan was leading the nation in run defense when this game took place.
- Navarre really killed us with two horrible interceptions. In both cases he had all day and just threw directly into coverage. Navarre turned out to be a solid QB by the end of his career, but he deserved some of the criticism his first couple of years.
- Despite the lack of big names in the Michigan front seven they got a ton of pressure on the QB (something we'd love to see this year). They had ten sacks through three quarters!
- TJ Ducket with 8 minutes to go in the game had over 200 yards rushing and was averaging 8 yards per carry. But the genius that is Bobby Williams took him out after they got inside the 20 and three straight runs went no where and forced an MSU FG to take a 20-17 lead. You wonder why that guy didn't last as a head coach.
- Michigan's offense was a disaster in the second half. Four punts and two interceptions, with only 61 total yards. The sad thing is that the OL, despite their no-name status, kept Navarre clean all day. He had tons of time to throw and just struggled in the second half against a depleted MSU secondary.
- I had totally forgot that Jermaine Gonzalez, the back-up QB at the time, caught the go-ahead TD for Michigan on a third and long . He looked so shocked to have caught the TD that he didn't know what to do when he went to celebrate with his teammates.
- On the critical 4th and 16 at the end of the game Michigan literally double covered Charles Rogers. They lined up two corners in front of him like they were covering a punt gunner.....and LeSeuer blew it with the facemask penalty. Game was over without that stupidity.
- Rogers had a game winning TD catch in his hands on a great throw right after the 4th down play and he just dropped it. He toasted Marlin Jackson and the safety was late arriving. He dropped the next pass to him too. They should have drug tested him at the half I guess.
- How could Michigan get a blatant 12-men on the field penalty with 36 seconds left? It wasn't even a guy running off the field - they had 12 people lined up to play!
- Something I also failed to notice was that MSU used its last timeout on the final drive when Smoker was sacked. But the penalty for 12-men was called on that play, meaning that MSU wouldn't have needed to call time-out. But they didn't get it back obviously and should have lost the game when the clock ran out.
- Gary Danielson at the last play, "It is nice to have that home clock operator for that last play."
- I have never seen a worse hold on a play than on the winning play. Wow......amazing.
Okay - why did I stay up to watch this again? I hope we crush Sparty this week.....
I am now sold on a 4-2-5 defense thanks to the article on Maize N Brew, that Dave wrote. Great read if any one is up and would like to read it.
So why not try this. I have been voicing my displeasure with Roh not on the line more often. A line consisting of RVB, MM, Banks, Roh. Lb's Mouton and Kovacs (Herron). Cb's Rogers, Talbott/Avery/Christian. Safety Gordon and Floyd, and T. Gordon/C. Johnson. Whats some of your thoughts? To me pressure is the key, this would bring some pressure. The young secondary can still play their zone, and make plays! Maybe Gerg and RR are starting to notice this, thats why we saw some of this switch in the IU game.
It's a big week for Michigan. We've got the msu game Saturday and that means another episode of Other People's Pressers, this time featuring Mark Dantonio. Given the relatively short presser he gave, we have BONUS player presser coverage! Included are some kid named Greg Jones (does a decent impression of that foosball player, Bobby Boucher) and Kirk Cousins (a kid who is said to be able to throw the foosball pretty good here and there)
On with Dantonio...
On the rivalry, the game, and his health:
- He's not missing it. It's too big, too special of a rivalry. Excited that both are 5-0.
- Expects it to be a close game ("throw out the records") and hard-fought.
- Expects to be in the press box for the game.
- Hasn't done much beyond watching film. Doesn't want to rush back and consequently sacrifice his long-term health. (good call, coach)
- This is a big series for him since he's been a part of it since 1995, when he was hired onto Saban's staff at MSU. Played Michigan every year since then (at MSU and OSU) except for 3 years when he was at Cincy.
- Mentions that this game is important for recruiting the in-state younger guys (9th, 10th graders) by getting them excited about the winning team, in addition to having overall season success.
- Avoided a trap question from one reporter about how "the momentum in this rivalry has shifted toward Michigan State's side." Just responds that "you're only as good as your last game." No "little brother" type comments this time.
On the gameplan:
- Tony Lippett (WR, Fr), who apparently also played QB in HS. Very quick, good burst.
- Says the have to swarm the D to the point of attack, get guys to the ball.
- Need to tackle well, because Denard makes people miss and "can go the distance" if they do. Can also pass well and get you there, so big challenge.
- Trusts coordinators Treadwell and Narduzzi implicitly to prepare and lead the team.
Now to Greg Jones...
On defending Michigan:
- As for Denard, says that "the best thing you can do is try to corner him, try to give him a tight space to run with and contain him, go after it when he tries to throw the ball."
- Asked if they're expecting to spy him with one or more guys, says that they'll try a few different looks, but that they "haven't put in a game plan or anything yet at all."
- Must be very disciplined with him. Otherwise - "Guys get tired of chasing. He just busts one out. Stride for stride, he's very, very fast, extremely fast."
- Says it's risky for a QB to basically act like a RB, e.g. heading to the sideline and cutting back in, rather than acting like a QB and just stepping out or sliding. Says Denard is "tough" and "brave."
- Have to be more disciplined and "more smarter" in pursuit.
On the rivalry:
- Not really a hate thing, but more of a strong desire to win.
- Mentioned that the "bow down" thing was big for the team. Gave them a lot of confidence and said that Dantonio was the kind of guy they wanted to play for.
Punter Aaron Bates is up next. Really not much to say, other than that he mentions that Keyshawn Martin is a dangerous return man, that the best strategy is to hang it up high and kick to the sideline.
Next we have LB Eric Gordon...
- Beat ND 3 times, want to do it to Michigan, too. Want to win it for Dantonio.
- It will be a hostile environment, with most of the 110k+ against MSU. Need to prepare the freshman for that.
- Mentions that Denard is a unique player, but they need to stick to their game, which is "getting downhill" and not getting "back on [their] heels"
- Need to fill gaps in the middle and expect the safeties/corners to support on the outside in order to contain Denard. Excited to be the first to slow him down.
- Always will be some trash-talking, but Dantonio teaches them to avoid that stuff, to talk with their pads.
Kirk Cousins is our penultimate player...
- Doesn't care that it's been 43 years since MSU beat UM 3 times in a row, or about trying to outshine Denard. Just wants to win this game.
- Moved to Holland, MI in 7th grade and learned about the rivalry. First exposure was Smoker/Duckett beating UM (blech). Wants kids to talk about MSU Monday morning at school.
- Doesn't fall for the "Michigan's weak defense" question. Talks up UM's talent, LBs 8 (Mouton) and 45 (Ezeh), and the nose tackle (Martin).
- Confident coming off the Wisconsin game, especially because of the way their D stopped Wisconsin's OL and running game.
- The rivalry is big. Mentioned that even night janitors are talking it up to him and hoping for a win.
- Against a guy like Denard, need to control the clock (TOP), run the ball, keep the ball out of their hands. Stick to our gameplan, strengths (same ol' same ol', basically).
Senior CB Chris L. Rucker is the last guy. They actually made it a point to include his middle initial - L, if you were wondering (Ed: They have a junior CB named Chris D. Rucker - no relation).
- Denard is fast, good arm, makes it a challenge (starting to get repetitive, folks).
- Nobody really compares to him as far as opponents he's faced (ok, that's a little different, i guess).
- The WRs are a good group, so it'll be a challenge for the MSU secondary. The UM WRs "can make big plays, make plays in space, make big catches."
And that's all, folks. It got a little repetitive with the same Q's and A's about the rivalry and Denard, frankly, so I got a little lazy with the last few. Also, it's late and I should get to sleep. GO BLUE!
Does anyone know when was the last time both of these teams were undefeated and playing in Ann Arbor?
I want to say '99 was the last time both were undefeated but that was in East Lansing.
Alternative Title: "We Already Knew This, But I Spent The Entire Day Working On It Just To Be Sure"
I am picking up where my Notre Dame diary left off. No video was readily available for UMass, Bowling Green, or Indiana.
As noted previously, legitimate scouting of an offense should have 2-4 of the most recent games, but time and resources have forced me to focus solely on last week's game. Defensive scouting based on an a single context is limited to what that offense thought necessary to be successful at a moment in time, and impacts the validity of this diary.
Some positive notes are that the Wisconsin game is MSU's most recent, its offense had some success in the game, and it was a pivotal, contentious game (meaning MSU was unlikely to hold back much in order to win).
The focus was on data and not particular players’ ability. I didn’t review the film trying to figure out how good a particular player or position group is. Regardless, I picked up some things I note at the bottom.
I recorded 71 of 75 plays. 2 plays were not on the video and 2 were used to exhaust the clock.
I link to my own site to explain some terms.
Nominal analytical errors certainly exist, but don’t effect points made in a meaningful way.
The Badgers played both a 4-3 and 4-4 front nearly equally. (In some respects the amount doesn't matter because Wisconsin's employment of man coverage makes it less relevant.) I have them in Cover 3 over 50% of the time and in Man Free for another 25%. They didn't try to disguise what they were doing much, making rotations way before the snap. Cover 3 allowed them to bring an extra man up against the run, where they yielded a respectable 3.9 YPC. In man coverage they mostly rolled the corners up to press. I think WIS knew MSU sometimes leaves eligible receivers (TE/WR) in for protection. So when WIS went man, anyone assigned to cover an eligible who stayed in to protect rushed the passer. This forced Cousins to get rid of the ball quicker if the corners could hold out for a few seconds. Indeed, I only have Cousins connecting deep down the field once vs. man (though others ended up there with YAC.)
As you might expect, WIS was not flashy on D, bringing an extra rusher 9 times and an actual blitz twice. When WIS used 5 man games, it always played Man Free behind it. The Wisconsin front 4 and ILBs are very solid. The Front 4 had some ability to generate pressure without extra rushers. Cousins was sacked, hit, or hurried multiple times. MSU offset this some by using more bootlegs or faster developing play action. The biggest problem for WIS was its perimeter guys vs. the run. Often they didn't come close to making the play when it was possible or couldn't get off blocks.
On with the chlorophyll:
By Down & Distance
1 & 10 had 16 runs/9 pass for 64% run. 5 of those passes were play action.
2 & 3 or less - 4/4 run
2 & 7+ - 8 runs, 7 pass (split between dropback/ PAP)
3 & 3 or less - 4/4 run
3 & 4-6 - 4 pass (all 5 step), 1 run
3 & 7+ - 6 pass (all 5 step), 1 run, 1 screen
4 & 1 (x3) - Misdirection pitch, PAP, Iso strong
By Field Zone
Red Zone: 18 plays, 13 run/5 pass for 72% run. Of the 5 passes, 3 were PAP
MSU was never inside its own 15
By Personnel, Backfield, and Formation
11 Personnel (19x)
Used in 1 & 10 seven times, 2nd or 3rd and long another seven times (total)
In 17 of the 19 times 11 personnel was used, MSU lined up in Dallas or (what I call) Dolphin. These are both 2 x 2 sets. Dallas sets the 2 WRs to the field and TE, WR to the boundary. Dolphin is a mirror image with TE, WR to the field and 2 WRs to the boundary. This is the only personnel group where MSU set its passing strength into the boundary (5x).
MSU used a Gun Near/Far backfield 15x, Ace 4x
12 Personnel (17x)
I look at this personnel as MSU's go-to group. It is used in any 2nd down situation and in 3rd and short. To me, this says the offensive brain trust believes it can call a play with this group to get a first down or get themselves into a manageable 3rd down. 15 of 17 times it was used, MSU was in one of these situations.
9 runs/8 pass, 5 of which were play action
- 10 Personnel - in 6 of the 8 times used, it was 3rd and 4+. 6 of the total 8 were 5 step
21 Personnel (9x)
22 Personnel (8x)
7 of 8 plays were in Red Zone, other for 4th & 1 outside red zone
7 were runs, 1 was play action pass for final touchdown of game
This is an odd personnel group for the current age of football and it was employed in no specific situations or portions of the field. Right or wrong, it leads me to believe it was a game-specific wrinkle to mess with WIS or exploit particular defenders. Each time, MSU used a Power I Weak backfield. 4 times MSU ran in that direction.
Zone Run (23x) - Lead (10x); Outside (7x); Inside (5x); Split (1x)
5 Step (16x)
Play Action Pass (10x)
3 Step (4x)
Top 5 Plays By Result
TB Screen +35 (threw over blitzers with man coverage behind, blown assignment)
5 step +35 (Scissors concept; rubbed off defender in man coverage)
Play Action Pass - +30, +26, +24
The ESPN box score has MSU at 60% run overall (45/74)
MSU relationship between personnel on the field, down & distance, and play call is as strong as any you will see. With 3 WRs/1RB on the field you'll probably see a pass and there are probably many yards and/or few downs to go. With 2 RB and 1, 2, or 3 TE it's going to be a run (16 for 19 in this game) and probably 1 & 10 or in the Red Zone. Play action is nominally added to keep the D honest or surprise for big gain/TD. The only time MSU approaches balance is in 12 Personnel (1 RB, 2 TE). As noted before, they use this when they need a chunk of yardage and will mix run, play action, and the occasional 5 step.
I thought I'd pick up more about particular players than I did. I blame this partially on the fact that I think MSU wants to run particular plays in particular spots of the game more than get the ball into certain players hands. Are the skill guys good? Yes. Did MSU showcase any of them due to their ability? No. Also, to repeat, WIS did get good pressure with only a 4-man rush.
What does all of this mean for Michigan's defense? I don't really know other than I would bet on a lot of Cover 3.
- I apologize for the funky formatting. I copied and pasted some of this from Google Docs.