the season has truly begun now
2006 notre dame
6. Buffalo Stampede
2003 Minnesota: trailing 14-0, Michigan has driven to around midfield. John Navarre chucks a WR screen to Steve Breaston, who throws it back to Navarre. Forty yards later, we all have beards and Michigan is within seven points.
At some point in the 2003 Minnesota game I needed to get off the couch after something enraging had happened. I was on it with my girlfriend at the time and she sort of ended up on the ground as I executed my plan. The couch was low to the ground, she was unharmed, and in the aftermath the incident seemed funny. At the time all I could do was clench and unclench my fists.
Michigan would eventually deploy an all-shotgun offense in the fourth quarter that shredded Minnesota for 24 points and win the game on a Garrett Rivas 33-yarder, but at the time it was grim. It would have been more grim but for the trick play of the decade:
In the aftermath a friend immediately called me screaming "WHAT." It wasn't a question. It was just "WHAT." That. From seven year's distance it appears to be the slowest, most awkward touchdown convoy in school history.
Eventually it was key in Michigan's comeback win and Rose Bowl berth but really it's just here for its sheer improbability. It was one thing to run the transcontinental with Drew Henson; doing it with John Navarre—and getting a touchdown out of it—is pure audacity. This, by the way, is why Minnesota bloggers will never do a Worst Plays of the Decade list.
5. In ur base killin ur d00dz
MGoRetro: Pit Bull.
Penn State, 2006: it's second or third and long or something again, can't remember, doesn't matter, and I'm back in the pocket and I know I'm going to die. My offensive line has proven itself entirely hypothetical at this point. So I'm going to die, and it's not going to have any purpose. But this time I actually get a faint semblance of protection and I manage to find an open receiver—I'd forgotten those even existed—and I hurl it out there. And if Alan Branch hadn't driven his facemask into my shoulder and run through my tiny hoo-man body and left me in a concussed heap on the ground I would have gotten to see a first down. Which would have been nice.
But then I might have had to play the rest of the game instead of getting an emergency cup of pudding repurposed from JoePa's stash. So, yeah. I could go either direction, as long as it's 180 degrees from wherever Branch is going.
When Michigan fans are (unwisely, these days) attempting to tweak their Penn State coworkers this play, and the iconic image from its aftermath, is their go-to option. That's a meaningful statement when you've got most of a decade's worth of gloating to choose from, including another play on this list.
As for the significance of the play, Penn State had bounced back from its early decade malaise in a big way in 2005, going 11-1 with the only loss featured a bit higher on this list. By the time the PSU game rolled around in '06 it was obviously the only thing standing between Michigan and a 1-vs-2 matchup against Ohio State at the end of the season. Michigan's last four opponents would all finish with losing records; the only road game was against Indiana. When Anthony Morelli got blasted out of the game the decks were clear.
More than that, though, Alan Branch being in ur base is emblematic of the first ten games of 2006, when the Michigan defense was 1997 all over again and things were, briefly, back on course.
4. "Oh, wide open"
MGoRetro: Quod Erat Demonstrandum
Notre Dame, 2006: Late in the first quarter, Michigan and Notre Dame are tied 7-7 after exchanging terrible interceptions when Chad Henne drops back to pass and launches one deep. Pat Haden breaks the suspense before the cameraman can catch up to a streaking Manningham by declaring "oh, wide open." When Manningham finally appears he is running under a perfectly thrown ball, all alone.
Michigan entered the 2006 game uncertain of its place in the college football universe after a frustrating 7-5 season this blog nicknamed the "Year of Infinite Pain," if only to highlight how sheltered the Michigan fanbase has been in the aftermath of the last couple years. And if Alan Branch sending Anthony Morelli to his happy place was emblematic of Michigan's run to Football Armageddon, Mario Manningham getting ten yards clear of the nearest Notre Dame cornerback was the moment the Year of Infinite Pain became part of the past:
Manningham would score twice more on deep balls as Michigan leapt out to a commanding lead. They didn't look back until the second quarter of the Ohio State game.
Michigan State, 2004: Braylon Edwards skies over yet another Michigan State defensive back, tying a game in which Michigan trailed by 17 with under nine minutes to go.
Braylon Edwards was the most frustrating great player in Michigan history, prone to terrible drops on easy throws and legendarily not "on the same page" as Lloyd Carr. But he was great, and never greater than the last eight minutes of regulation in the 2004 Michigan State game. If they gave out Heismans for a single game, they would have had to give Edwards two for this one.
It almost wasn't anything, though. In this game Michigan was driving in the third quarter, down 17-10, when Edwards fumbled around the 20. He was creeping towards the goat side of the ledger when DeAndra Cobb ran That Goddamned Counter Draw again and outran Ernest Shazor to the sideline and the endzone. But when you're down 17 with under eight minutes left, what is there to do other than chuck it up and tell the onside kick team that they should try really hard?
I remember many things about that game. I remember being cold as hell as the game dragged on and the heat fled from the stadium. I remember going over to a friend's house afterward and being told by his roommates that they had actually left immediately after the DeAndra Cobb TD. I remember another friend telling me that a State friend of his had turned the game off as soon as Michigan hit the field goal to get within 14—he didn't even wait for the onside kick. I remember turning around and jovially telling the State fans behind me that it was good that MSU missed their last-second 52-yard field goal attempt to win after a terrible PI call, because if it had gone in there was no way they were getting out of the stadium alive. But mostly I remember the shadows that gave the whole enterprise an otherworldly feel. It's without question the best game I've ever been to.
The pick here is the game-tying touchdown, as at that point victory seemed inevitable and the comeback was complete. Without it, the others are just coulda-been plays like the Mike Hart touchdown in the Horror.
2. Phil Brabbs is absolutely not going to make this field goal
Washington, 2002: Phil Brabbs hits a 44 yard field goal as time expires to beat Washington.
I've interacted with Phil Brabbs a little bit since he came down with cancer and I've read his blog and am wearing his bracelet, so I have a little insight here. The bracelet says DOMINATE and his blog has pictures of him DOMINATING various things from hospital ice cream to IVs to chemo drugs. Sometimes he makes his adorable children DOMINATE things. He's kind of like anthropomorphized Brawndo. So I'm betting that when Brabbs strolled onto the field after a preposterous sequence of events set him up with a potential game-winning field goal in the 2002 season opener, he was totally psyched to dominate himself some 44-yard field goal.
In this, he was utterly alone.
I'm sure his parents and wife tell him that they just knew he'd hit it, but after a career debut in which he missed 36 and 42 yard field goals badly enough for Michigan to send out Troy Neinberg on a 27-yarder that he shanked, no one in Michigan Stadium thought a 44-yard field goal with no time left on the clock was going in. This includes those nearest and dearest to him. I was just hoping it went forward.
Naturally, Brabbs did this:
Though Washington would end up one of the country's biggest disappointments at 7-6, they entered Michigan Stadium a top ten opponent. The moment the kick actually went through the actual uprights and everyone looked at the guy under the crossbar to make sure they hadn't hallucinated it, then looked at the other guy under the crossbar to make sure the first guy hadn't been hallucinating too, promised grand things. (That would fall apart in a ridiculous loss at Notre Dame in two weeks.)
1. The New Math
MGoRetro: The New Math.
Penn State, 2005: With one second on the clock, Mario Manningham catches a deep slant to beat Penn State 27-25. 86 = 1, as Michigan State would learn in 2007.
Why is this number one? It didn't end up mattering, and it was already clear it wouldn't since Michigan was already 3-3 and headed nowhere in 2005. It was the end of a classic game that swung dramatically from one side to the other, but other games were better and meant more.
I think it's that :01 on the clock, the knowledge that that second was precarious, fought for by Lloyd Carr after the clock ran after a Michigan timeout, preserved by Steve Breaston's best Tyrone Butterfield impression, and ironically Joe Paterno's fault for getting his team an extra two seconds on what they thought was their game-winning drive. Michigan was living on borrowed time. It seemed like they'd been given a chance to go back and right wrongs. Scott Bakula was at quarterback.
Meanwhile, Michigan was locked in an existential crisis unknown for decades. The 1984 season could be written off as a fluke since Jim Harbaugh's broken leg threw everything into disarray and Michigan bounced right back afterwards; 2005 was entirely different. Michigan had never been 3-3 in my recollection. My brother and I spent a large chunk of the game being bitterly cynical about everything. We felt justified about it after the killer Henne fumble/botched extra point for two combination. We'd collectively decided to dull the pain by withdrawing emotionally. This was working for a while, and then the team decided to give the middle finger to the cosmic middle finger, getting off the mat twice. The culmination:
In the end, the game served as a reminder that bitterness is no fun, faith is rewarded, the kids on the field are more resilient than we are, and sometimes they can let us borrow some of that. A lot of the plays on this list were diminished by subsequent events in which Michigan failed to live up to the promise they had in that one moment, but this one has been magnified by the awful last couple of years. It promises a light at the end of the tunnel.
Drew Henson bootlegs his way into the OSU endzone to seal the win (2000) … Chris Perry puts the OSU game beyond doubt with a slashing bounceout TD to make it 35-21 (2003) … Breaston returns a punt for a touchdown against Indiana … Northwestern … Illinois … etc … Manningham's worm after the ND game (2006) … Chris Perry punches it against Penn State in to seal a win in Michigan Stadium's first OT game (2002) … Ron Zook seals the Outback Bowl by calling a reverse pass that Victor Hobson intercepts (2002) … Alain Kashama beats the Sex Cannon to a fumbled ball in the endzone, finally fulfilling four years of Canadian Reggie White hype (2002 Outback) … Jacob Stewart picks off Asad Abdul-Kaliq in the Buffalo Stampede game and returns it for a touchdown (2002) … Garrett Rivas finishes the Buffalo Stampede game with a field goal (2002) … Chad Henne hits Tyler Ecker for a game-winning touchdown against Minnesota and executes nailcoeds.exe (2004) … Braylonfest Part I … Braylonfest Part II … Braylonfest Part IV … Brian Thompson recovers an onside kick, greatly aiding Braylonfest parts II through IV … Jason Avant's catch against Northwestern (2003) … Marquise Walker's catch against Iowa (2001) … Jerome Jackson pops through a nonexistent hole against Iowa to establish himself useful, then scores the game-winning TD (2005) … the snap sails over Jimmy Clausen's head on the first play of the game (2007) … Michigan cracks open the Battle of Who Could Care Less against Illinois with a reverse pass (2007) … Manningham outruns Justin King to tie Penn State (2005) … Mike Hart drags Penn State tacklers for five of the most impressive eight yards of his career (2005) … Lamarr Woodley kicks off Yakety Sax (2006) … Prescott Burgess returns a Brady Quinn interception for a TD(2006) … Mike Hart levels Sean Lee on a blitz pickup (2007) … Arrington's catch against Florida (2007) … A ludicrous Ryan Mallett decision—pitch it backwards to Carson Butler as he's being sacked—works out (2007) … Steven Threet takes off on a 60-yard jaunt against Wisconsin (2008) … Denard Robinson fumbles the first snap as Michigan's quarterback and WOOPs his way for a touchdown (2009) … Darryl Stonum returns a kickoff for a touchdown against Notre Dame (2009) … Forcier hits Greg Mathews on a circle route to win against Notre Dame (2009) … Tate Forcier hits Martavious Odoms on a perfect seam for the game-winning points against Indiana (2009) … Forcier's mansome final drive in the rain to tie Michigan State (2009) … Brandon Graham demolishes Glenn Winston (2009) … Brandon Graham demolishes Everybody (2009).
A major reason this series came together is the tireless effort of Wolverine Historian, who put together video for almost everything on the list. Also a hat tip to parkinggod, who had HD of last year's ND game, and akarpo, who helped out with some of the clipping last year.
Expect more Saturday night in the future. This is a bit old, but, uh, yeah. Busy. Anyway, ABC's Saturday night football initiative was a major success:
An average of 14.5 million households tuned in to ABC's Michigan-Ohio State on a Saturday afternoon, making it college football's most-watched game since 1992. But the next seven most-watched games this season â€” Notre Dame-Southern California, Ohio State-Texas, California-USC, Florida State-Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame-Michigan State (leading regionalized coverage in a slot also including USC-Arizona), Notre Dame-Georgia Tech and Ohio State-Iowa â€” were all in prime time.
They were also all on Saturday nights on ABC, which raised its Saturday prime-time ratings 28% by focusing on football. The exception was FSU-Miami on ESPN. That was on Labor Day night, back when experts said both teams were actually good. The only other game drawing more than 5 million households: NBC's Penn State-Notre Dame, a day game that got 5.3 million.
Michigan has long resisted night games, but that's going to get more and more difficult as ABC pushes for winged helmets in its prime time slot. There have been rumblings that Michigan can either choose between a home game at night or three on the road in future years; they might have to cave. Probably not next year, though. Michigan's road slate doesn't exactly scream "FEATURE ME":
- @ Northwestern
- @ Illinois
- @ Michigan State
- @ Wisconsin
You can probably pencil in Wisconsin as a night game -- and a hell of a challenge if the Badgers adequately replace Joe Thomas and John Stocco -- but the rest of that slate is ratings death.
Dan Steinberg is excited!!!!!!!!!! "Vegas Chooses Michigan!!!!!," says Dan, and that's a sequence of punctuation I am deeply uncomfortable with. Anyway:
Some people, including Brian at mgoblog, said loudly that I was wrong [about letting Vegas guys pick the BCS]. And now, in the most delicious of all possible ironies, an apoplectic Brian is using Vegas as justification that Michigan is being robbed!!!!!! I told you Brian!!!!!! You should have listened to me!!!!
For the record, this was my stirring conclusion in the piece cited above:
Striking a balance between style-point madness and rote you-win-you-stay is a delicate thing. While you can very plausibly argue the latter holds too much sway in the BCS selection process, the oddsmakers are the communism to our current fascism: yeah, they're diametrically opposed, but neither is a good idea.
My main complaint with the Vegas rankings as deployed was their wild under-reaction to events. At the time that poll was posted, LSU was 5-2 with wins over nobody and losses to Florida and Auburn. They were #5, ahead of Florida and Auburn. To Vegas, the games hardly mattered. Anyone rushing to say that LSU at #5 was darn prescient should note #2 Texas, 6-1 and then ahead of a wide array of undefeated teams. Hell, suddenly Alamo-bound Texas is still #8 in their poll.
My objection was to letting Vegas' opinion override wide disparities in actual performance on the field. When you have two teams that have virtually identical resumes by every objective measure you can apply that's a very different situation, one in which you have to look at how the teams reached their finishing point and who looks better, because there's no concrete way to separate the two. In that case, the opinion of Vegas wiseguys is highly relevant.
But when it comes down to it... I must offer a mea culpa in the spirit of Dan's post (!!!!):
DAN STEINBERG IS THE GENIUSEST!!!!! HE IS RIGHT THAT A SMALL, INFORMED GROUP OF EXPERTS WHO ARE EMPLOYED BASED ON THEIR ABILITY TO PROJECT FOOTBALL GAMES IS A BETTER WAY TO PICK THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME THAN LETTING A BUNCH OF DOOFS VOTE*!!!!! I OWE HIM SOME BEER!!!!
If you need a letter of recommendation or something, Dan, I got your back. With a select group of Michigan engineering students, there's no better reference.
*(As long as some other group narrows down the potential candidates so they can't pick, say, a 9-3 Texas.)
I was already going to call him "Jimmah!" The Chicago Sun-Times sucks up to Notre Dame fans with this hilarious headline:
'He's just little Jimmy'
Dad's comment aside, Notre Dame awaits special QB
The manual says insert unflattering image of Clausen here...
[USC commit Marc] Tyler, who is black, also saw in Clausen someone capable of fitting in with anyone.
''Jimmy's really into hip-hop music,'' Tyler said. ''He's always trying the latest dances: 'Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It,' the 'Chicken Noodle Soup.' It's like he's black on the inside.''
I got nothin'. That's just a weird quote, and anything I say could come out really wrong. Moving on.
Yeah, we're not happy. I didn't want to wrap up the Michigan outrage. Thankfully, Double Extra Point did it for me. Missed a couple Hoover Street Rag posts, including the best headline anyone's thrown up: "Quag-meyer." Sad giggity. Also excellent: a simple "INFAMY!"
He's Michigan. Forget that. From the SBT:
Notre Dame professor Brad Malkovsky was in the middle of teaching his "Christianity and World Religions" course a few weeks ago when the classroom phone rang.
Never in his 15 years of teaching in that room had the phone even made a peep.
Startled, Brad picked it up.
"A woman on the phone, who sounded like a reporter, asked if this was Lloyd Carr, the head football coach of the University of Michigan," Brad says.
So he repeated the women's inquiry for the benefit of his 70-some students: "No this is not Lloyd Carr, the head coach of the University of Michigan football team," Brad answered.
She apologized and hung up.
That is a hell of a wrong number.
That's right, Tom. Brady on Fiasco '06:
"Anyone who has seen (Florida) play realizes it is a no-brainer. Florida is not very good. I watched that game (Saturday) night and that other (Arkansas) quarterback completed like three passes the week before. They have 18 guys out there throwing passes for Arkansas," Brady said.
When a reporter countered that Michigan already had its shot at beating the Buckeyes, Brady said, "But that's not the way the BCS works. It is supposed to be the two best teams in college football. I would vote for Michigan to play Ohio State if I had a vote."
So meone get that man a vote.
Etc. Wetzel on Don Canham. Mick McCabe declares incoming freshman Manny Harris the best player in the state. Kelvin Grady is #11. OSU is going to turf next year. Bo recollection from a friend of Shemy's. They have Drew Sharp in California, too. EDSBS gives us ten reasons to be happy.
|We still have zone blocking even though there's a designated hole with a lead blocker here. Mitchell(+1) and Riley(+1) do a good job on the backside, allowing a cutback lane and a decent gain.|
|Bihl(-2) completely whiffs on his block, forcing Hart to stop a good five yards in the backfield. He manages to inch toward the line of scrimmage, minimizing the damage. (+1 for him, this could have been -4.)|
|ND floods the LOS with players, blitzing two up the middle. There must be some threat of a blitz from the outside, because Hart(-1) sets up to protect outside of Jake Long, allowing an unblocked blitzer up the gut. Henne throws that pass straight to Ndukwe when he should just take the sack. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-0, 11 min 1st Q. Anyone else panicking at this point? Clear miscommunication here on the blitz pickup, but the person at fault is murky. It could be Henne, as he says something to Hart right before the snap.|
|Henne's pass is tipped at the line but falls to a diving Breaston(+1) anyway. He makes this catch but anything that hits him in the numbers plummets to the turf? (BA)|
|Breaston comes in motion for a fake end-around that freezes no one. Hart(-1) really should have cut this up. He had a hole he could have exploited for near-first-down yardage but he tried to go outside and got swallowed up. Also of note: end around was wiiiiide open.|
|Another unblocked blitzer comes straight up the middle. This time it's Travis Thomas. I'm not sure what exactly goes wrong here... Bihl is blocking the NT, who stunts off to right a bit but towards the quarterback and not in a looping fashion â€“ clearly Bihl is trying to block him so he doesn't get to Henne. This drags him away from the center, allowing Thomas a free lane. Bihl, Long, and Kraus end up blocking two guys. Bihl(-1), I think. (PR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 8 min 1st Q. Both of our first two drives end with missed blitz pickups. Bihl has a hand in both. Wonder why we never came back to the end-around that was so wide open on this drive?|
|I think this is another missed cut by Hart(-1), but Notre Dame is going nuts overpursuing to the ball and eight guys are in the box at all times.|
|M19||2||11||Five Wide||Pass||11||Breaston||WR Screen|
|Another telegraphed screen but they can't do much about it. Superb block from Manningham(+1) and Breaston(+1) does the sort of thing that makes him great. (CA)|
|Don't see much of this play because of NBC incompetence.|
|M30||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||70||Manningham||QED, Mfer!|
|Single blitzer picked up here. Notre Dame's linebackers are within three yards of the line of scrimmage as Henne completes his drop despite no play action fake(!). That's the focus Mike Hart draws from a defense right there. Good God, Ambrose Wooden is slow. (DO, Manningham +3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 13-7 6 min 1st Q. I thought Charlie Weis told the Notre Dame secondary to get faster in the offseason? XP blocked.|
|Blitz off the corner right into the waggle, but Henne leaps and hits Oluigbo perfectly for a nice gain anyway. Throws this short never get (DO) but this one deserves it.|
|Finally a good gain on a running play. Bihl(+1) and Mitchell(+1) maul their men. Hart(+1) makes a good, decisive cut up into the gap and finishes in Mike-Hart-drags-the-world style.|
|Notre Dame run blitzes into the gaps of the zone play. Hart is swarmed before he can even get a foot upfield. Bihl(-1) also gets shoved back a couple yards, and his man disengages to help tackle.|
|I thought Charlie Weis said no penalties.|
|O4||2||G||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||2||Manningham||Pass Interference|
|Zbikowski manhandles Manningham. Don't actually know about this call. He gets a jam before the ball is in the air, which is legal, then the ball is thrown as Manningham is collapsing to the turf. Michigan saw a similar flag waved off earlier in the year.|
|Hart(+1) leaps into the endzone. Hurrah.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-7, 1 min 1st Q. Notre Dame essentially gave us this one. Second and goal from the eight turns into first and goal from the two with two penalties.|
|Newly chastened, ND only has seven in the box. The result is more room than Hart's had all day to this point. Alex Mitchell(-1) blows by Trevor Laws, hardly disrupting his flow to the play. Riley ends up futilely chasing him but without a momentary double from Mitchell he has no chance to get him blocked. Hart's cutback lane is filled by Laws, otherwise this gets into the secondary for a big gain.|
|The reviewed play on the sideline. This is a difficult catch from Arrington(+2), who had to dive to catch a low ball and manage to stay in bounds at the same time. With a defender in the area and the throw downfield don't want to be too harsh, but this could have been thrown a bit better. Still (CA).|
|Outstanding play all around from Michigan. Everyone on ND is blocked and Hart makes the correct reads to get everyone FUBARed behind their men. Bihl(+2) is especially good with his block; Kraus(+1) also does well. Hart darts up through the gap between them then cuts back... only to be caught from behind by Abiamiri as he slows. This is six points without the outstanding pursuit by Abiamiri.|
|Bihl(-1) gets beat by Landri to the playside, allowing him to disrupt the run in the backfield. Hart(+2) dances through it and manages to get upfield for a nice gain anyway.|
|Bah. Zbikowski is the eighth guy in the box and as he is unblocked he forces Hart to make an unpleasant cut and gain little.|
|You put Manningham(+2) in one-on-one coverage with a crappy cornerback and he dies. Ball could not have been more perfect (DO). Of note: picture perfect blitz-pickup from Hart(+1) allows Henne time and space to throw.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 27-7, 11 min 2nd Q. One play after running into the stacked line Debord exploits it for six. Is the seemingly wasted first down rope-a-dope? A missed check from Henne? Just a bad playcall? Who cares, we're up 27-7?|
|Interior of the line completely mauls the Irish D. Two pancakes from Mitchell(+2) and Kraus(+2)... Bihl(+1) gets out on a linebacker. Obi plows Thomas(+1). Hart just takes the open space before Zbikowski runs him down. Seven in the box == run run run.|
|M30||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||2||Hart||Lead Draw|
|Not sure what exactly is going on here. Hart decides to go between Riley, who's being pushed back a bit, and Mitchell, but Obi goes outside of Riley, leaving Travis Thomas unblocked in the hole. If Obi gets a good block on the undersized Thomas this goes for like eight; if Hart cuts outside he might get the same. But wires are crossed. No idea who to assign credit and blame to. (-1 for Riley, I think.)|
|Henne overthrows a screen. Hayden thinks this is going for a while if it's accurate, but Mitchell Thomas was on Hart's heels and had a chance to grab his ankles. Otherwise, yes: mucho yards. (IN)|
|Dropped by Arrington(-1), and good coverage by Wooden makes it unlikely that he gets the first down even if he makes the catch. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 27-7, 8 min 2nd Q. What... no touchdown? Are you sure?|
|This one's a mess I can't make sense of. I think Mitchell's(-1) cut block on the backside was not good enough, and the ND DL on the playside get good penetration, forcing a cutback up into morass.|
|M41||2||10||I-Form 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Breaston||PA Deep Cross|
|Excellent play by #30 to get a hand on the ball, deflecting it so that Breaston can't make the catch. Henne stood in there and got hit as Abiamiri spun right by Riley(-1). This is a really accurate throw in the middle of the field with a man in his face. DO to me.|
|Thrown five yards short of the marker, but Breaston's(+1) first step gets him by the DB and past the sticks. He's going to drop a slant in the second half, but keep in mind this play when he does. (CA)|
|ND flooding the LOS again, with linebackers lined up right next to their defensive ends, waiting for the zone play. It comes, and there's no way for Bihl to block Landri, who flows down the line and makes the tackle. Zbikowski would have stopped it after about six if no Landri.|
|Oluigbo(+1) pounds Mitchell Thomas as ND stunts themselves into big trouble here. Hart(+1) breaks through two arm tackles for a big gain.|
|Eight in the box and it's jammed at the POA. Grady(-1) has two options: 1) cutback all the way and try to outrun Thomas, or 2) take Zbikowski head on. He delays on one then cuts right into the heart of the line instead for little yardge.|
|A small crease is enough. Grady(+1) runs through about four arm tackles, finsihing the run with about four extra YAC.|
|Both safeties are moving forward right at the snap; linebackers are equally aggressive and there are no gaps for the draw.|
|Mitchell(-1) moves to the second level but doesn't really block anyone. He ends up chasing Mitchell Thomas right to Hart at the LOS.|
|Hey, uh, maybe you should cover t hat guy(+2). (DO) Outstanding protection again.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 34-7 2nd Q. Is it garbage time yet?|
|Breaston(+1) manages to barrel his way for three extra yards after contact. He's not supposed to be able to do that. (CA)|
|M25||2||4||I-Form Twins||Run||6||Hart||Off tackle|
|We're lined up heavy to the short side of the field -- 2 WR and the FB offset there -- and run off Jake Long. They slant inside, leaving Long to block a linebacker. Oluigbo gets a block on Zbikowski but Hart(-1) doesn't cut behind it, instead getting tackled. Another missed cut, IMO.|
|I don't know WTF Ecker(-2) is thinking. He doesn't even bother to block Abiamiri, and that's a problem when you're running to his side. Also, the refs missed an incidental face mask on Abiamiri.|
|ND threatens blitz on the right side of the line, causing Michigan to slide its protection so much that Long blocks down on the DT, leaving Frome unblocked. Hart tries to pick him up. This is a major bust in the protection, IMO, as one of the threatened blitzers goes in motion mirroring Breaston â€“ clearly in man coverage â€“ and any threatened blitz would clearly be coming up the middle. Why leave Hart to block a DE? End result: Henne forced to throw off his back foot incomplete to a fullback who was covered anyway (PR)|
|Give up and punt. Eh, up 20 this doesn't bother me so much.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-14, 12 min 3rd Q.|
|This is pass interference: Wooden impacts Mathews before he has a chance to get to the ball. If Wooden decided to attempt an interception he might have had a touchdown. (BR)|
|Goes right after Darrin Walls (ha! That's what you get, fool), as he comes in to replace Wooden. Ndukwe hits Breaston(+1) about four yards out of bounds. (CA)|
|M36||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||-1||Breaston||WR Screen|
|ND linebackers are flowing towards Breaston right at the snap. Mitchell Thomas forces a WR to block him, leaving Richardson unblocked. Clearly we tipped a play here. (CA)|
|No push at all from the left side of the line and the backside is filled by Abiamiri. Nowhere for Hart to go. (Long, Kraus -1)|
|This is an ugly breakdown: Jake Long(-2) gets beat one-on-one by a DT, Landri, and Hart's(-1) attempt to chop him fails entirely. Henne scrambles up into the pocket and takes the sack. (PR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-14, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|No push, two guys in the hole. Oluigbo's block(-1) is kind of weak. These wad plays are impossible to evaluate.|
|Ball is really well thrown where only Arrington can get it. Fades are often difficult catches, but Arrington(-1) has to come down with this one. (CA)|
|O4||3||G||I-Form 2TE||Run||1||Hart||Off tackle|
|Bihl has a seemingly impossible assignment: try to block Landri when he's sitting play-side of you. He doesn't and so Hart doesn't have anywhere to go despite a nice job by the right side of the line.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 37-14, 6 min 3rd Q. Pushing the margin from 20 to 23 is almost ending the game at this point, so I don't mind the third down call, but I would like to have seen another fade maybe. Those are really safe.|
|ND brings both safeties up into the box. There's no way you can run on that. Blocking is fine, there's just too many guys.|
|Hart(+2) somehow finds a tiny lane to slide through, then drives Zbikowski for another three yards downfield.|
|M41||3||2||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||26||Manningham||Deep Out|
|No play action? By the snap there are 10 Irish players within four yards of the LOS. Only one blitzes, that to the side we motion Breaston to in order to disrupt the presumed zone blocking. The rest sit to react to the play... which is a simple pass to Manningham(+1) in one-on-one coverage. Only a genius would disrespect his opponent so. (CA)|
|Landri beats Kraus(-1) and Ecker's beaten by Thomas(-1), forcing awkward cuts before Grady would like to move. Michigan is "out-Weis-ing" the Irish.|
|ND blitzes but it's picked up fabulously this time. Good coverage on reads one and two but the zone, seeing Henne's eyes, slides to the right side of the field, leaving Arrington open for a nice again despite Henne's throw being a bit of a slow looper thrown of his back foot as the pressure finally comes. (CA.) Nice YAC from Arrington(+1).|
|O15||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||0||Grady||Lead Draw|
|Landri beats Kraus(-1), forcing Oluigbo to attempt a block on him. Stripped of his lead blocker and with the lane in front of him clogged, Grady makes what he can.|
|O15||2||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Breaston||Zone PA|
|Weis has his team so well prepared for this game â€“ he is a genius, you know â€“ that the entire team freaks out and zooms towards the line on this play, leaving not only Breaston but Manningham wid e open in the endzone. Chad overthrows it. (IN)|
|O15||3||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Breaston||Delayed Slant?|
|Henne is again coming to a second or third read here, and it's Breaston on some sort of short, slant-type route that still has him moving well after a normal slant would have been deemed useless. Pass hits him in the hands and is dropped. (Breaston -1, DO, as it led Breaston to a point where he would tear past the defender for a first down and possibly a TD.)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 40-14, EO 3rd Q. Look at this drive. It's beautiful playcalling in which DeBord destroys Minter. Third and two? Everyone comes into the box but does not rush: easy pitch and catch. Second and nine? Eons of time with no pass rush and an open receiver. Second and ten? Fake the zone and get two guys wide open in the endzone.|
|M23||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||20||Hart||Off tackle|
|Why Mike Hart(+1) is awesome: he bounces this outside, getting a nice chop block from Breaston(+1) and a great downfield block from Arrington(+1). Ecker also seals Thomas well. Hart finds himself rumbling down the sideline when Ndukwe comes up to tackle: Hart collapses to the ground, pointedly getting his knee down, and comes up making the "wind the clock" signal. I LOVE YOU.|
|Great blocking, but nine guys in the box.|
|Big cutback lane to the backside of the play that Hart(+1) finds smartly. ND DL starting to flag.|
|I mean, there's just no way. Literally every Irish player is within three yards of the LOS. Six guys cross the line at the snap with three linebackers waiting to hit any creases, and we run a stretch play. Guaranteed to be snowed under. I don't mind running here, but bring in Oluigbo and ram it down their throats.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9 min 4th Q. The third or fourth time this year we get stoned in short yardage by trying to do something cute.|
|Nine in the box again. There's no real reason this play should work for any yardage, but Hart(+1) finds a tiny crease and manages to fall forward for another couple.|
|They're stuffing the box and we don't care.|
|No room at the POA. Hart tries to cut outside but Zbikowski is standing there. Hart's magic feet take him back to the LOS. A useless one yard play but fun to watch anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 40-21, 6 min 4th Q.|
|Bihl||6||3||3||Generous. More later. Thought he was an issue and don't know how this happened.|
|Ecker||3||-3||Not a very good blocker.|
|Arrington||4||2||2||Getting involved in the passing game now.|
Still don't like this and wouldn't hang my hat on it. Going to split the OL stuff in to pass/run.
Manningham and Henne, obviously. Manningham's getting all the accolades but his three touchdowns were all inch-perfect throws by Henne and tough ones. (Maybe the first one wasn't so tough, but Henne laid it right in Manningham's chest anyway.) Here's the Hennechart:
Something not captured by the chart is the hugeosity of three of the DOs and one of the BRs. The magnitude of those throws isn't accurately captured. Anyway: yow. Five passes in the negative categories, 16 in the positive ones. Last year Henne's numbers were propped up with a copious number of screens of all varieties, but remove the five he threw in this game (4 CA, 1 IN) and you still get 12-4, a 75% "good" rate. Last year he often hovered around 50%. You could see this coming if you looked closely: Henne was victimized by a spate of drops and more pressure, so his first couple of games had ugly numbers but when he actually threw the ball he was accurate. (Commenters have pointed out that Henne robbed his recievers of YAC opportunities by delaying his throw against CMU and thus I was a little eager to bestow "DO" status. True. Those throws were between the numbers, though, so the accuracy bit stands.)
Also, notice who has a leetle "2" in the minus column versus Victor Abi amiri? Riley.
Bihl had a bad day versus Landri even accounting for the times he had no chance on the snap. Ecker didn't catch anything and had a series of mental errors in the run game.
Should be be concerned with the run game? We averaged 2.9 YPC while GT and PSU both broke five.
A little bit. Since we were so far ahead for so long, we ran into a lot of stacked lines -- we turned the "scoring offense" off -- and that naturally resulted in a lot of second and nine. These weren't your everyday run defenses where they walk a safety up, either. After the first quarter Notre Dame was selling out against the run 75% of the time. Look at our second field goal drive in the third quarter: the first three times we drop back to pass receivers are hilariously wide open because Notre Dame has about three guys who aren't laser-focused on Mike Hart.
What was disturbing: Derek Landri had a very good day against us. He was in the backfield an awful lot, usually with either Kraus or Bihl futilely chasing him. Some of that was blocking screwups where whoever was assigned to single block him was dead before the snap -- likely a consequence of having to shift blocking assignments because of the sell-out thing -- but he plain beat our interior linemen quite a few times, something I didn't see in either the GT or PSU games. I went from totally sold on Mark Bihl at center to uncertain as a result.
Also: Tyler Ecker blocking someone seems like a 50-50 proposition at best, and Mike Hart missed a number of cuts that hurt drives. I don't think he actually had a very good game. Not that this lessens my platonic man-crush on him at all. Wind that clock!
What is the deal with sucking in short yardage?
I dunno. That stretch play for Grady on third and one was stupid. You knew that ND, desperate for the ball and running out of time, was going to stack the line and blitz off the edge. In that circumstance running a stretch is punting time, especially when we've gotten stuffed doing similar things on third and short versus Vandy and Central.
Running is clearly the preferred option up a billion points, but bring in Oluigbo and jam it down their throat. Remember: Weis was totally unprepared for Michigan running up the middle.
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
Nick Hayden and the rest of the Wisconsin front seven will be a stiff test for the run game, but with Manningham firmly established as a threat and a closer game no doubt in the offing they won't be able to jam the line with the freedom ND did. What often wasn't a fair fight against ND simply due to numbers will be comparatively wide open versus Wisconsin. I expect another grinding day from Hart, but not an explosive 200-yard outing.
The passing game has another day against a secondary with pretty good safeties but a lot of questions at cornerback. (Not that ND has questions anymore. They have an answer: you suck.) Jamal Cooper and Matt Shaugnessy are both good DEs that have the potential to give Riley trouble, and against San Diego State they unleashed an array of blitzes that got their linebackers four sacks. The kind of protection breakdowns that plagued Michigan early against ND will end more drives if not repaired this weekend.
Some video from IBFC.
|Quinn lets it rip on the first play from scrimmage. Weis is such a genius. It catches us so off guard that Morgan Trent(+2) is in better position than Samarwhatever and can slow up a bit to impede his progress. Throw was vastly long anyway. (IN) Outstanding coverage from Trent. (Coverage +1)|
|O25||2||5||Standard 4-3||Pass||Int||Shallow Cross|
|Doink! Quinn throws it a bit behind Carlson, who blows the catch. Burgess(+1) is Johnny-on-the-spot and rumbles in. I'm not sure how the LT dragging Woodley to the ground isn't holding but whatever. (CA, barely)|
|Drive Notes:: Interception return touchdown, 7-0, 14:19 1st Q. Ha ha. This is going to take forever: I've watched the Burgess return 8... 9 times. Also: the "touchdown" graphic on NBC should NOT be yellow. Gave me a damn heart attack.|
|Taylor(+1) reaches out and hits Quinn's arm as he attempts to throw. Pressure was a little late in coming. (BA)|
|O11||2||10||Standard 4-3||Run||2||Pitch sweep|
|Woodley(+1) disrupts the timing of the play. He's not supposed to be blocked at the line, I guess, but the fullback doesn't turn him inside and the tight end coming in motion never gets there. Crable(+1) converges nicely to limit the gain.|
|Crable(+1) is lined up at DT and provides a straight-ahead pass rush that's sort of unbelievable. He's six-six and chicken-legged but ends up about a foot from Quinn. He leaps to block the passing lane, forcing a double-clutch. Delayed blitzer is Burgess, who crushes Quinn as he releases the ball. Quinn's throw is a moonshot well past Grimes, who was covered tightly by Hall(+1, coverage +1) (IN)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 13 min 1st Q. Three straight plays from the defensive line. No one is open, either.|
|Walker right up the gut. There's a gap between our DTs but the linebackers close and prevent the TD. Good job by Harris(+1).|
|M2||2||G||Goal line||Pass||2||FB Flat|
|Touchdown. A momentary pitch fake freezes Crable inside, then Samarwhatever runs a pick that seals his fate. No actual contact as Crable avoids it, but it was enough to prevent him from recovering.|
|Drive Notes:: Touchdown, 7-7, 10 min 1st Q. "You have to prepare to defend everyone against Charlie Weis." Especially Prescott Burgess. That guy can score.|
|O40||1||10||Standard 4-3||Run||5||Pitch sweep|
|Biggs(-1) loses his footing, going to the ground and giving the corner. Burgess gets doubled and driven back. Trent(+1) fights free from a Samarwhatever block and grabs Walker around the angles, helping a filling Mundy to bring him down without trouble. Mundy was very solid on this run play: no YAM.|
|Lamarr Woodley(+1) stunts right past a guard and into the draw.|
|Quinn screws up this simple throw. Probably not going to get the first down anyway. (IN)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q. They try this swing/dumpoff stuff to Walker a few more times later and each time someone is in his face.|
|TE comes in motion to the middle of the line to provide a lead block. Michigan stunts its way into a cavernous gap in the middle of the line, but Burgess(+1) does well to defeat a block and tackle downfield. Hall assists.|
|Linebackers are playing off, allowing Walker to glide past the LOS without encountering serious resistance. Harris and Burgess take on the blockers and Walker stumbles over the mess a few yards downfield.|
|O16||3||1||Standard 4-3||Run||-2||Off tackle|
|No push whatsoever from the ND line as Will Johnson(+2) and Woodley(+1) drive their men about a yard back. Crable(+1) and Harris(+1) finish him off. Huge play.|
|Drive Notes:: Punt, 20-7, 14 min 2nd Q. How am I supposed to analyze this? They don't have a first down!|
|Quinn could throw this better but it's still in McKnight's hands. He drops it. We were in a zone that's vulnerable to this throw but Hall(+1) was there almost with the ball and probably contributed to the drop. (Coverage +1) (CA)|
|Good blitz design here gets Burgess in unblocked on a stunt, but Quinn has a wide open out of about eight yards which he takes. Zone so can't really blame anyone. No, wait: Morgan Trent is giving Grimes way too much of a cushion (-1, Coverage -1) . You're Morgan Trent! You beat Ted Ginn in a race once! (CA)|
|O39||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||I Dunno|
|This is probably an incorrect route run by the WR, but I really want it to be Quinn panicking about Burgess blitzing again. Not charted. The pass is off by yards.|
|No pressure because Woodley is being flagrantly held... I mean the guard has his hands on Woodley's shoulder pads for a good eight seconds. Great coverage(+2) downfield, though, forces Quinn to dump a ball off to Walker. Morgan Trent(+1) comes up quickly to make a nice open-field tackle. (CA)|
|Good protection is legitimate this time despite two blitzers. Quinn decides to hurl it to Carlson even though Burgess is sitting right on the route. Burgess(+1) deflects the pass, ending the drive. (Coverage +1) (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 27-7, 10 min 2nd Q. Mutter mutter damned Big 10 refs. I start getting paranoid about holding at this point. Later I capture VIDEO EVIDENCE OF BIAS AGAINST MICHIGAN! Stay tuned.|
|Harris is engaged by John Sullivan and can't come off because he's getting bear-hugged. As a result, Walker can slip into a tiny hole between himself and Jamison to gain some yards. Our first "wait, that's an obvious uncalled hold" video.|
|We blitz; Quinn hurls a slant in to Samarwhatever's knees. Adams(+1) was right there to make a tackle, no YAC. (coverage +1, IN)|
|This one to McKnight is better thrown but still not caught. Hall(+1, coverage +1) was right on top of him, making a hit as the ball arrives. This could potentially be interference but no helpful replay is provided. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 27-7, 7 min 2nd Q. It's a conspiracy.|
|O28||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||3||TE Screen|
|Fake screen out to Walker then come back the TE for a screen to the other side. David Harris(+2) comes up and levels Carlson. Crowd goes "oooooh." (CA)|
|Samarwhatever with his first reception. We've rushed four and zoned the first couple plays this drive. (Coverage -1, CA)|
|O37||3||1||3-3-5 Stack||Run||2||QB Sneak|
|Hey, they got a first down.|
|O39||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||15||Deep out|
|One blitzer. I'm pretty sure Jamison is held on this play, as he makes a move to the inside, seems to have a clear path, and suddenly jerks to a halt. Anyway. No pressure and an accurate throw. (CA, coverage -1)|
|One blitzer again. He comes free as he's delayed, but it's too late to prevent the completion (CA, cover -1)|
|We blitz off the corner; Quinn goes to the vacated area and completes a pass in front of Trent. (CA, cover -1)|
|M24||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||20||Deep stop|
|Rush four + zone. Bleah! Lots of time for Quinn until Jamison(+1) gets free and starts chasing â€“ he's held on this play as the tackle hangs on to him far too long â€“ Quinn rolls and hits an open Grimes way down the sideline. (CA, cover -1)|
|Horrible throw is way, way behind Samarwhatever, but he does make this sort of catch and Trent can't recover in time to do anything about it. (IN)|
|Drive Notes:: 34-14, EOH. Well, we didn't stop blitzing entirely but when we did we only blitzed one and he was usually mistimed. I think the bigger issue was the coverage we played behind the blitzers. It seems like we backed off. Before, Michigan players were aggressive, all over the Irish and Quinn found himself freaking out about coverage with frequency. On this drive we try to prevent the big play and don't give our rushers time to do anything.|
|Walker drops a perfectly placed swing pass... and this is obviously a lateral by like two yards. Damn Big Ten refs. (CA)|
|Crable(+1) is knifing through the defense but can't get there in time to prevent the completion to McKnight. Trent in decent position. (CA)|
|Plenty of time, but Branch(+1) knocks the ball down. (BA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-14, 11 min 3rd Q. Should have been a turnover as the lateral bounced to Trent.|
|O26||1||10||Standard 4-3||Run||2||Pitch sweep|
|Alan Branch(+2) gets terrific penetration, forcing the play back inside. Could be a TFL for Taylor but he's pushed just a bit off balance and Walker dashes by. Burgess and Trent converge for the tackle.|
|Time for Quinn but he's forced to check down (Coverage +1) to Walker despite Michigan sending a blizter. (It's Mundy.) Harris(+1) is there to tackle Walker for no YAC. Woodley's being doubled. (CA)|
|O30||3||6||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Int||Yakety Sax|
|Branch(+2) again plows his man way back, and bangs Quinn's arm as he throws. It's a popup that Burgess(+1) snags and returns to the five. Hooray Beer. (BA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-14, 7 min 3rd Q. Branch is driving mofos back like they're on one of those ice levels in Mario Bros.|
|Announcers give Remy Hamilton props for his Arena League resume: only on NBC! Crable(+2) bursts right past two blockers and levels Quinn, creating the shot featured in QED. He gets remarkable pass rush from the interior now on these plays â€“ he's been close to doing something like this a couple times â€“ whereas last year he was a one-trick pony: the stunt. (TA)|
|Branch(+1) and Woodley(+1) both occupy two blockers... on a draw! Harris is thus unblocked and reacts quickly to snuff it out. You can see on this play the difference between Harris and Burgess, as Harris reads this play a split-second quicker.|
|McKnight is open deep on this one but Quinn puts it five yards past him. Maybe Biggs'(+1) pass rush got to him? He was getting closed on and maybe didn't have the room to step into the throw. Also : Biggs flagrantly held. (IN, cover -1)|
|Drive Notes:: Punt, 37-14, 4 min 3rd Q. The only reason Brady Quinn isn't eating with a straw today is the Big Ten refs allowed the ND OL to hold all day long. Aren't you supposed to be on our side?|
|Woodley held but no call. Coverage is good (+1) forcing a four-or-five yard dumpoff. Unfortunately, Trent(-1) turns in what I think is the only missed tackle all day and Walker breaks it for a first down. (CA)|
|Again no one open deep. Quinn dumps to Carlson under the zone. Brandon Harrison(+1) makes a nice tackle to prevent YAC. (Cover +1, CA)|
|O37||2||6||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||3 + 15||Swing|
|Little swing pass to Walker is defended well by Crable(+1), who forces him out after a gain of maybe three yards. He gets called for a late hit here that's pretty ridiculous. (CA)|
|Trent(+1, coverage +1) nails Grimes the instant he touches the ball. Other than jumping the route this is as good as you can play this coverage. (CA)|
|They decide not to block Burgess(+1), who plows Quinn as he throws. Quinn could have got this ball off â€“ the impact came after the throw â€“ but is clearly a scared little girl. (IN)|
|You can't cover this any better than Leon Hall(+2, coverage +1) does: step-for-step, right in front of the WR, leaping up to deflect the pass away as it comes. Rhema McKnight hilariously gets up to bitch at the ref after the play is done. McKnight == TO â€“ Talent. (DO)|
|The slip screen catches Michigan so off guard that Brandon Harrison has Smarwhatever for a TFL but misses the tackle. +1 for the read but -2 for the miss. He gets the first down but it's called back because McKnight thinks this is the World Cup and is trying to swap jerseys with Sears. Finally! (CA)|
|M43||4||9||3-3-5 Stack||Penalty||15||Pass Interference|
|Mundy called. This is simultaneous with the ball and a good play, not a penalty, IMO. Ball was way high and probably not going to be caught, anyway. (Cover +1, IN)|
|M28||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||28||Ref Pity|
|I also don't have a problem with Trent's coverage(+1, cover +1) on this play. He's right with McKnight on a a fly route despite being line up right on his nose and is fighting him the whole way down the field. This is marginally PI on Trent not for anything he does with his hands but because he's not looking back for the ball and physically obstructs McKnight at about the five yard line, but these things will happen. McKnight clearly pushes off Trent afterwards, though, and knows it: he leaps up to contest the call, assuming it's against him. Took a miracle for McKnight to catch this ball and you might get away with this pretty often. (CA)|
|Drive Notes:: Touchdown, 40-21, 12 min 4th Q. Two terrible calls on this drive give ND 30 yards and a final one is marginal.|
|Great coverage(+1), Quinn has nowhere to throw. He scrables out as Biggs(+1) gets free. Crable(+2) tracks him down. He's frigging fast.|
|Quinn again can't find anyone and dumps it to Walker. Pass lands at his feet. (IN) (Coverage +1)|
|Impossibly good pass 32 yards down the seam. A rush-four-and-zone play on third and long? Don't like it. But he had to make an impossible throw. (DO)|
|Rush four + zone and McKnight finds himself wide open down the sideline(coverage -2). I think the safety gets him if he catches it, but if he doesn't it's a touchdown. Fortunately for Michigan, McKnight's only talent is bitching at officials and he drops it. (DO)|
|McKnight open on an out. We send Harrison as a blitzer but he's picked up. Trent makes the tackle as the ball is caught. Wish he was in tighter coverage but note that ND has had no opportunites for YAC all day. They catch it and are tackled. (CA)|
|Pressure up the middle from Jamison(+1) forces a checkdown. Nice tackle from Harrison(+1). (CA)|
|Good coverage(+1) forces a rollout when Biggs(+1) looks like he's going to come in on Quinn. Hall(+3, coverage +1) makes a spectacular diving interception.|
|Drive Notes:: Interception, 40-21, 7 min 4th Q.|
|Flagrant hold on Crable. Good coverage(+1) forces a dumpoff for five yards.|
|FRICKIN' FINALLY. Santucci tackles Woodley(+1) and is called for it.|
|Nothing open downfield (coverage +1), checkdown to Walker. Harrison(-1) misses the initial tackle, allowing some YAC.|
|O29||3||5||3-3-5 Stack||Penalty||-5||False Start|
|Plenty of time, no one open(coverage +1). After some more ridiculous holding, this one on Branch, we get pressure and the ball's thrown out of bounds.|
|4 + zone , and plenty of time. Legit this time to Samarwhatever. (CA)|
|McKnight had a step, but the pass is well over his head, robbing him of an opportunity to drop it. (Coverage -1) (IN)|
|Harrison(+1) unblocked off the corner blitz. Quinn hurls it downfield. (TA)|
|O42||3||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||-4 / +15||Sack|
|Brandon Graham(+2) gets great internal pass rush, flushing quinn. Jamison and he combine for a sack, then Van Alstyne like falls on Quinn, drawing a late hit flag. Dumb play.|
|Eugene Germany(+1) gets upfield on his blocker immediately, then is held. No call. Doesn't matter, as Jamison(+2) nails Quinn.|
|Branch(+1) spins away from the ND guard and levels Quinn. Comical summary of day: the guard feebly attempts to stop Branch by grabbing the back of his jersey and pulling. No flag and no stopping the train, either. Resultant throw is a bullet high that Samarwhatever can't catch. (IN)|
|M47||3||15||3-3-5 Stack||Penalty||-10 / +15||Holding|
|Walker draw goes for a first down, but is coming back for holding. The end of the run sees a really bad late hit call on Mundy.|
|M38||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Ha ha||Stooge act|
|WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP! (IN)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble Return Touchdown, 47-21, 3 min 4th Q.|
Well, you have to be careful when comparing a team that's had one game against a top 25 team to one of the greatest defenses in college football history, but damn. Watching it live I thought that Notre Dame had shot themselves in the foot a lot but on tape review there was almost always a reason for their screwups, be it an offensive lineman who's just close enough to Quinn to make his throw uncomfortable or a defensive back who hits the receiver the moment after the ball gets there. Quinn had no time to throw, and even when he did his receivers were covered. That's a double-whammy a defense hardly ever pulls off.
And -- and! -- there was a comical amount of holding going on by Notre Dame offensive linemen. Maybe I'm crazy (we'll discuss that a bit later), but it seemed that almost every Notre Dame pass either featured Michigan pressure or an uncalled hold. They simply could not block Michigan's front four.
By the time the fourth quarter started Notre Dame had something like 118 yards offense. Credit the defense with the short FG and remove ND's four-yard touchdown drive and the defense outscored Notre Dame's vaunted offense. 1997? Not yet. But that was a performance worthy of them.
You've got to be joking: you win by 26 and then complain about the refereeing?
Well... yeah. I wasn't expecting to make a big deal of it -- though I did intend to savage that last touchdown drive of theirs -- but sometime in the second quarter I had seen one too many Michigan player dragged to the ground. Watch the clips above: I don't think any of them are ambiguous. When you get your hands outside an opponent's shoulder pads and grab, that's holding. When you reach out with your arm and yank a player that's beaten you to the ground, that's holding. When you ride Lamarr Woodley around the corner with your arms wrapped around his waist, that's holding.
Add in the two late hit calls, the drive-extending pass interference on fourth down and what probably should have been offsetting pass interference penalties on the McKnight touchdown and there is one inescapable conclusion: a vast nationwide conspiracy against the Michigan football program headed by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney, the Pope, Joe Paterno, and Osama Bin Laden. Well, forces of darkness, I regret to inform you that your feeble attempts to destroy us have failed! Mooohahahaahaahaha!
No, seriously: what do neutral fans out there think? Am I crazy, or are those things all holds and of the variety that have to be called? (The one on Harris is not a surprising no-call to me, what with him in the middle of the line and not able to disengage enough to make it obvious, but the rest seem blatant.) And what about the PI? I hate to go all BWI on these refs, but don't they deserve it?
Pick someone. Pick anyone. If I had to single out the best performers, they'd probably be Alan Branch, Shawn Crable and Leon Hall. Hall had a major hand in what you will see is a ridiculous coverage number; Crable is ridiculous in many ways; Branch was the best defensive lineman by a nose.
Nobody. There was not a single player on the defense who was not at least good. Brandon Harrison missed the occasional tackle, and he was a part of the silly great coverage. That's it.
|Woodley||5||5||Quiet game, possibly because he was held all the time.|
|Taylor||1||1||0||Spent much of the game watching after ND abandoned its run game.|
|Branch||7||7||Please come back as a senior.|
|C. Graham||-||-||Saw a few snaps but not many. Burgess is kind of the starter now.|
|Burgess||5||5||Everyone's going nuts but his big plays were gifted to him. Thought Crable was better by far. Still: not like he was bad or anything.|
|Hall||8||8||Outstanding all day. Don't think there was a pass completed anywhere near him. Crushed Samardzija into little bits.|
|Adams||1||1||Hardly had to do anything.|
|Mundy||-||-||-||Was fine. Possible run/pass platoon with Englemon?|
|Trent||6||2||6||New starter, apparently.|
I noticed some personnel changes.
Yes. Trent started in place of Stewart and Mundy in place of Englemon. Brandon Harrison was the nickel corner, and Jamison got some run with the first team. I think that Michigan might be platooning players the strengths of their opponents: clearly the run-support Stewart was so lauded for was mostly unnecessary, but a tall guy who once beat Ted Ginn in a race is a perfect player to match up with McKnight and Samardzija. Thus Trent. And Mundy is probably the preferred option at free safety for pass coverage given Englemon's bust against CMU and Mundy's dalliance as a nickel corner early this year.
Against Wisconsin's power attack I would expect more of Stewart and Englemon, especially since Trent and Mundy's strong performances didn't buy them anything on the depth chart: both are listed as "or" with their competitors. (Note, however, that Burgess has solidified a starting spot.)
What was the deal with that drive before halftime? That thing gave me hives.
Yes. Every Michigan fan had to find that particular Herrmannesque thing downright creepy. English called the dogs off a bit but often sent a fifth rusher, so I don't think it was necessarily a lack of rush -- though that contributed to it -- but rather a much softer coverage designed to keep players in front of defenders. Thus a series of slice 'n' dice completions and Quinn's momentary relevance. You'll note that more than half the negatives for "coverage" in the entire game come on this drive.
Hopefully a lesson is learned.
Any other coaching issues?
No. I didn't like the rush four plus zone on one of ND's last drives. It was third and sixteen and the end result was a 32 yard seam route to Carlson. But by that point I wanted blood and may not have been totally coherent. In general, I love Ron English. Notice how he never, ever rushes three people? Notice how receivers are instantly tackled when they catch the ball? Notice how the best option for offenses is often hopeful balls downfield to guys in man coverage, usually blanketed by our fast corners, if they have enough time to get it off? Given Zoltan's meh performances over the first few games my vote for Space Emperor might be shifting towards English.
So what have we learned so far?
An awful lot about what Michigan is going to do in passing situations against spread teams. In contrast to last year, when they stupidly sat in a base formation and tipped their coverages before every play, English is always in nickel and often a 3-3-5. From that 3-3-5 he'll play aggressive coverages coupled with frequent but not loony blitzing featuring Shawn Crable heavily. The defensive line is built with an eye towards penetration: get past your blocker and hurt someone. Terrance Taylor is often lifted in favor of a linebacker, allowing blitzes to come from more unpredictable locations. Sending cornerbacks is not uncommon.
We know much less about how the team will perform against a pounding run attack like Wisconsin and Minnesota fill feature, but it doesn't appear that Michigan will have much problem. They've faced only a few conventional running plays this year, but almost all of those have been swallowed whole. No opponent has lined up under center and rushed for more than ten yards. I don't think that's a fluke.
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
We'll get our first stiff test from a team determined to run the ball. Expect to see Jamar Adams in the box a lot, offering help to the linebackers, as Wisconsin's receivers are all raw and none seem like a particular downfield threat. Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson will see a bunch more playing time than they have to date. Wisconsin RB PJ Hill is a 242 bruiser who prefers to run over rather than around. Unfortunately for the Badgers, their interior offensive line is new and not particularly cohesive yet. Running against Michigan will be a major chore; throwing looks equally dodgy. There's some possibility the rush defense is vastly overrated due to a lack of serious competition this far, but given their struggle against SDSU and some Badger chattin', Wisconsin's offense will probably pose little threat to the Michigan D. But don't quote me on that.
How would you describe the defensive peformance, overall?
$&*#ing. Beat. Down.
9/16/2006 - Michigan 47(!)-21 Notre Dame - 3-0
They did it, you know. Notre Dame read the damn preview and decided to execute the Plan of Fear outlined therein. They shoved every available player within six yards of the line of scrimmage and dared him. They dared him to do something about it. To prove it.
One double move from The New Math and a ball that sizzled fifty yards through the air before nestling itself between the "8" and "6" that at once seem so wrong and so right on Mario Manningham's jersey, he lined up three dots in a triangle, placed a comma, and said: QED, MFer. This problem is solved. But they asked twice more, and he repeated the proof.
Sometimes -- not always, but sometimes -- Chad Henne is just gangsta like that.
And thus the biggest win since... OSU 2003? Probably farther back in the mists of prehistory than that. Certainly the biggest win since this star-crossed blog came into existence. 47-21. Aided, certainly, by Notre Dame's five turnovers, but when one team is forced to bring every player available within ten yards of Mike Hart to prevent getting ground to bits and the other spends its time definitively proving that Laura Quinn may not have gotten the family's looks but she definitely picked up its balls the outcome of the game is something of a foregone conclusion. As long as Chad dots that triangle. Which he did: quod, erat, and demonstrandum. (via IBFC)
And God, it feels gooooooood. Last year provided but one comparable moment, not coincidentally also delivered by The New Math, and even that was a momentary blip that prevented us from falling under .500. This is different. This is staring at an apparently weak Big Ten with a defense that can be compared to that of 1997 with a straight face for once.
Yes. It's time: 1997. Not to be lost in the point orgy is the 248 yards yielded by a Michigan defense in the full phoenix-bloom of remembered glory that Ron English has brought forth. Even Georgia Tech's blitzing monstrosity yielded almost 400; Penn State's dedication to bending, then breaking held down the possessions enough to keep them under 400. Neither did anything approximating what Michigan did. Notre Dame averaged 4.6 yards per pass and 0.2 per run. Seven of the points yielded were a gift from Henne's first pass; seven more were due to a Hermannesque soft zone on the final drive before the half (English would later say "that's more on me than the players"); Notre Dame's final touchdown was heavily aided by questionable refereeing decisions.
This was domination. Notre Dame totaled four rushing yards. Brady Quinn spent the day attempting to remember where he was, then quickly attempting to pretend he was anywhere else. Sorry, kid: there's no happy place on this field. There are only angry places filled with men named Crable, Woodley, Branch, and Burgess. By the end, Quinn was scrambling from freshman Brandon Graham and cipher Jeremy Van Alstyne, flinging passes anywhere in an attempt to prevent the next crippling blow. It was less fooball and more bloodsport by then.
By the time Crable and Burgess doused Lloyd Carr with a well-deserved shower of ice water, Michigan had demonstrated they are not back but simply here. There is a resiliency in this program dating back to the day Bo took Michigan out against Woody in 1969 and beat the Buckeye monstrosity back to Ohio. You tell them they cannot, and they do. You tell them they don't matter, and they do. They are constant, something that has been more curse than blessing over the past few years, but now Michigan says: I am here. I have been here. I will be here. I have proven that much.