rundown of Michigan's riser
al borges denard fusion cuisine
Outside of a two-possession stretch when Michigan fans held their breath as Denard Robinson was sidelined with a pinky injury, the Wolverines couldn't have made it any easier to look ahead to next week's game against Michigan State, pounding a hapless Illinois squad, 45-0.
If anything, the final score belied Michigan's dominance. The offense moved the ball at will, rushing for 353 yards on 6.9 per carry and adding 174 through the air on just 15 attempts. The defense held the Illini to a mere 134 yards, including an unheard-of 29 yards on 16 passes; while it didn't help matters when starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase exited in the second quarter with an upper-body injury, his four yards on six attempts weren't lighting the world on fire.
Seemingly every play called by Al Borges worked as intended, starting with a 71-yard touchdown to Jeremy Gallon on a bubble screen* to open the scoring; Gallon weaved through the Illini defense, helped by stellar downfield blocking, most notably by tight end Mike Kwiatkowski. The next drive stalled near the goal line for a field goal after Denard exited the game with a banged-up pinky; it was the only moment when Michigan fans felt even a hint of concern.
The Wolverines continued to establish their identity as a run-first, run-second outfit on Denard's first possession back in the lineup, gaining all 68 of their yards on the ground en route to a six-yard scramble for Michigan's dreaded wonder. When Robinson opened the second half with a physics-defying 49-yard scamper to paydirt, the rout was on in earnest. Illinois's next possession ended after one play, a Kenny Demens interception of Reilly O'Toole. Three plays later, Devin Funchess hauled in a Robinson lob in the back of the end zone, bringing the score to 31-0 before many fans had returned with their halftime hot chocolates.
On the other side of the ball, Jake Ryan flashed his All-American potential again and again, amassing 11 tackles (7 solo), four TFLs, 1.5 sacks, and a devastating forced fumble as he flushed O'Toole out of the pocket, doubled back, and blindsided him to jar the ball loose. Denard Robinson may have finished with four touchdowns, 159 yards passing, and 128 yards rushing, but Ryan made a legitimate claim for best Wolverine on the field.
Ryan wasn't the only standout, as seven Wolverines tallied tackles for loss, neither Illini quarterback could find an open receiver, and Greg Mattison's blitzes hit home time and again. Two years ago, Michigan faced this same Illinois squad—with the same starting quarterback, even—and gave up 561 yards and 65 points. Against this defense, the Illini would need almost a full 17 quarters to rack up that same yardage; no matter how long they went, they'd obviously never reach that point total.
Safe to say, times have changed for both programs.
Michigan has found their perfect match at head coach and defensive coordinator. The offense under Al Borges has had their growing pains, but it's clear that they've found a suitable balance since the bye week to maximize Denard's remaining time as a Wolverine.
After the game, the marching band spelled out "Marry Me, Danielle?" as a band member dropped to a knee at midfield. Like everything the Wolverines dialed up on Saturday, the play was a success. On a cold, grey, rainy day in Ann Arbor, only the weather could dampen the spirits of those in Maize and Blue.
*On second look, it wasn't exactly a bubble screen, as Gallon started downfield before stopping and coming back to the line; a very well drawn-up play regardless.
MGo: Not much. How are you?
MGo: How’s kindergarten?
“Kindergarten is wonderful. Every day is just a new experience. It’s awesome.”
Think you’re going to pass?
“I already passed.”
Word of the day?
“I don’t know. I didn’t get one. I’ve been kind of -- no I didn’t get one. I’ll get you one next week.”
Not an easy loss to sit on for two weeks. Did you work on rebuilding Denard’s confidence over the bye?
“Yeah. I think to a degree. I don’t think his confidence is waning too much, though. The biggest thing about that situation is getting back to some of the basics of reading the defense and making good decisions and things like that. I think that’s really the biggest factor. A couple footwork issues that hadn’t shown up until that game too much. … The good thing about two weeks is you get a chance to really evaluate everything you’re doing, and that’s what we’ve kind of done is look at how we’ve played, you know, on the road particularly because we haven’t played well on the road, but overall just see what the structure of the offense is and get back to sending a message and knowing that we’ve got to play better in those scenarios.”
Is there a common thread with the road games and offensive inefficiency?
“I don’t know. Not any more than any place else I’ve been, I guess. It’s harder to play on the road. It’s always an issue, but you can’t always use that as an excuse because good teams win on the road. I mean the biggest issue, we had some breakdowns, but we just can’t turn the ball over. That’s the biggest -- you hear it every week and it sounds like coach speak but it’s so true. When you turn the ball over as many times we turned the ball over you have no chance. We were fortunate it was as close as it was.”
Formation notes: "second and seven under center play action":
Substitution notes: usual. When Lewan went out temporarily they made the same OL switch. No Rawls, FWIW.
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||5|
|End around fake gets Te'o chasing Gallon way away from the play after he initially reacted quickly to the actual run. Kwiatkowski(+1) seals Tuitt inside impressively; Mealer cannot pass Nix off to Barnum and the other ILB and Motta are flowing freely. Schofield makes contact with the playside OLB at a hash; OLB tries to force it inside but Robinson just runs past him, jogging OOB as Motta comes up. Probably a push as far as yardage goes, but upside was greater on the cut.|
|M30||2||5||I-form twins||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Pass||FB wheel trickery||Kerridge||Inc (Pen +15)|
|Kerridge offset. Gardner comes in motion and takes a pitch from Robinson, then sets up to throw. This doesn't really fool the OLB covering Kerridge but he is checking for a potential run and ends up a step or two behind. Gardner leaves it short, giving the LB a chance to catch up and interfere. (MA, 1, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|M45||1||10||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||3|
|ND shifts from an under look back to their standard presnap. Lewan(-1) is smoked by Tuitt on the backside. Omameh and Mealer(-1) double Nix; when Nix takes the contact he pulls Mealer with him so that when Omameh releases he's free to run at the play, too. Denard pulls as he sees the playside LB bug out for the frontside but the two DL cut off the vertical hole and he ends up having to go back outside, which blows up all the blocking angles and lets a bunch of guys converge after three. +0.5 for Schofield, I guess, for fending off Lewis-Moore decently enough and giving Denard the little chunk he did get.|
|M48||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide tight||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Slant||Gallon||Inc|
|I don't think this is a bad throw, actually, since the OLB was backing out into this route and if he leads Gallon he is potentially throwing an INT. Gallon gets his hands on it but it's behind him and dropped. (MA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|M48||3||7||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Scramble||Robinson||7|
|Forever to look, but he can't find anyone. Kind of looks like a delayed drag from Gardner is his primary read after the other guys run off the coverage, but for whatever reason he doesn't like that and takes off, reaching for the first down dangerously. He's down before it comes out. (SCR, N/A, protection 3/3, Robinson +1 on ground.) On replay, he didn't really have anyone.|
|O45||1||10||Ace twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||PA fly||Roundtree||Inc|
|Under center PA fools no one, nobody open. ND only rushes three, leaving a spy back. Time and Robinson chucks it in the general direction of a blanketed Roundtree. That's so overthrown I think he's throwing it away, but if so just run the ball. There was room to pick up something. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, RPS -1)|
|A corner blitz submarines this. A slant got Nix upfield of Barnum but Barnum gets a shove and Nix runs by the play, leaving a gap; Toussaint tries to hit it but is run down by the corner and a LB coming around the outside. RPS -1.|
|O43||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Dig||Roundtree||Inc|
|Double A gap blitz. Michigan almost picks it up. Toussaint chops down one LB, but he is fortunate enough to roll over to his feet quickly enough to get up and hit Robinson as he throws. He'd found an open guy but the pass sails since he literally cannot step into it. (BA, 0, protection ½, Toussaint -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O10||1||10||Ace trips bunch||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Pitch sweep||Toussaint||-2|
|Play asks Roundtree(-1) to block a 250 pound OLB with predictable results. OLB beats him, strings it out, pushes Roundtree back, etc. Te'o shoots up in the gap to the interior of this block and convinces Lewan(-1) he must abort his pull outside Roundtree to take him. Toussaint ends up with no space and unblocked guys in his face. RPS -1.|
|O12||2||12||Ace 3TE||1||3||1||Base 3-4||Pass||PA sack||N/A||-3|
|Play asks Toussaint to block Tuitt with predictable results. He whiffs, Lewan gets beat by Shembo, down goes Robinson. (PR, N/A, protection 0/4, Lewan -2, Toussaint -2) Also no one was open because not one ND player took a step towards the line of scrimmage, but hey when you can get Michigan's incredibly deep TE corps on the field on second and goal from the twelve, you gotta do it. RPS -2.|
|O15||3||15||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Sack||N/A||-10|
|Barnum(-1) is shoved back into the pocket by KLM; Schofield(-2) gets crushed back by Tuitt and Denard has no pocket and an edge rusher, with predictable result. Looks like Tuitt got his rush by smashing Schofield in the face, which isn't legal, but it also isn't called. Meanwhile, everyone in the pattern is double covered. Woo! (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Barnum -1, Schofield -2).|
|Drive Notes: missed FG(43), 0-0, 9 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M12||1||10||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Run||End-around||Gallon||8|
|Similar to the Norfleet play from UMass. The OLB and corner to that side both hop out to contain; Gallon cuts it up. M gets lucky after a terrible block from JRobinson(-1), who's supposed to crack down on a linebacker and gives a weak shoulder shove as he falls to the ground. This means he accidentally trips KLM as he tries to release from Schofield(+1, I guess), and KLM falls into the linebacker who was gently caressed by JRob. Gallon(+0.5) cuts behind a charging Te'o on the corner and picks up an extra few yards.|
|M20||2||2||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Yakety snap||N/A||-6|
|Was going to be an inverted veer, it looks like.|
|M14||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Dig||Gardner||18|
|Good protection; Robinson zings it in a tight window just as Gardner breaks open between two zone defenders. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M32||1||10||Ace 3TE||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||Inc|
|Third TE actually Kerridge, no Funchess. This one isn't going anywhere even if accurate, as Lewan got bumped by the OLB and cannot get out on the corner. OLB and CB will probably combine to TFL if caught. Denard turfs it. (IN, 0, screen)|
|M32||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 under||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||9|
|Barnum pulls and falls over but ND is just containing, really, and there's no pressure. Big difference between this and the passing downs above. Corner to this side is playing three deep and is run off by a corner route; Roundtree is wide open underneath it as a linebacker tries to get out on him. This is a read he was making in his first start, FWIW. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|M41||3||1||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|Safety blitz almost blows this up as ND slants under the blocking and sends Motta; Omameh(+1) almost accidentally blocks him, but block him he does. Robinson(+0.5) can blast straight ahead to barely get it. Williams(-1) got slanted under dangerously; Lewan(+0.5) got enough movement on his guy to provide the tiny window exploited.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel even||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||0|
|Slant sends Toussaint into a corner blitz. Mealer(-2) got beat up by the slant and ends up in the backfield, forcing Toussaint into the unblocked contain. If the corner didn't get him the other unblocked LB would. RPS -1.|
|M43||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||PA rollout dig||Roundtree||11|
|PA half roll thing puts Denard in space with unblocked Tuitt. Denard stops, finds Roundtree in a spot on his dig route, and zips it to him without stepping into the throw. Flat footed, a dart. I bet this goes as well all other times. (DO, 3, protection N/A)|
|O46||1||10||Ace 3TE||1||3||1||4-3 under||Pass||PA hitch||Gallon||12|
|Two guys in this pattern and ND still gets pressure as Barnum(-1) and Mealer(-1) get split. Denard has to roll away from that and zings it to Gallon, dangerously. CB was breaking on the ball and almost had a play. (CA, 2, protection 1/3, Barnum -1, Mealer -1)|
|O34||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Pass||PA comeback||Gardner||9|
|Great protection this time, though again we're talking two guys in a route so maybe that's expected. Gardner comes open, Denard slings it to him. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O25||2||1||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Nickel even||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||15|
|Kwiatkowski(+1) erases the end, who I can't ID. Backup? OLB contains, Denard sees a lane, he pulls. Barnum(+1) gets a block on Te'o. Schofield fell as he released but did make the other ILB run around him enough for Denard(+2) to burst into the open field, where he does not get a block from Roundtree(-1) and ends up chopped down by a safety.|
|O10||1||10||Ace trips bunch||1||1||3||4-3 under||Pass||Halfback pass||Dileo||INT|
|You know about this. RPS punt; ND getting Te'o in Smith's face so fast he panics is because the line busts. Smith gets a BRX, if you're keeping score at home.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||2|
|Kind of a midline look as Lewan flares out to block OLB Shembo and the 3-4 DE is let go. He's outside, so give. The end result of blocking Shembo is to remove Lewan from blocking the backside LB. Toussaint wants to cut back, but unblocked LB, so he has to go back into the interior, where he's dead meat. Given the angle of Toussaint's attack this is probably what he's supposed to do. Not sure what they think ND is doing that will make this work, but it doesn't. Mealer and Barnum managed to get enough push to crease Nix a little but that's a push at best; Schofield(-1) got beat up by Tuitt. RPS -1.|
|M36||2||8||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel even||Penalty||False start||Toussaint||-5|
|M31||2||13||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB draw||Robinson||2|
|They fake the bubble screen, which only proves that the bubble would have picked up like ten yards on this play. Of course, this should have as well, but Te'o makes Omameh(-2) whiff and Barnum(-1) does not get much of a block on the other LB.|
|M33||3||11||Shotgun trips||2||0||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Corner||Gallon||INT|
|Toussaint motions out. M rolls the pocket to the field, which only succeeds in getting a three man rush instant pressure when Kerridge(-2) is assigned to Shembo and fails to cut him. Three guys block Tuitt, though. Guy in Denard's face, throws worst possible pass ever. Absolutely no one open, FWIW. Throw it away, Denard. (BRXXX, 0, protection 0/2, Kerridge -2) RPS -1, as best case this playcall is a sack since you singled up a freshman fullback on a great pass rusher on a three man rush.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 11 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||PA slant||Gardner||INT|
|PA leaves Te'o unblocked, who then runs into Denard's face. Denard finds Gardner, who's open, and throws it way in front of him. (INX, 0, protection 0/2, Smith -2, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-3, 9 min 2nd Q. FWIW, the production on this game is fantastic. Great replays, no missed plays, Maycock saying a ton of smart things.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||3|
|PA fake with Toussaint going hard the other way doesn't hold anyone. Kwiatkowski(+1) gets a block on the playside end that forces him to give a ton of ground to come around it. That should secure the edge but a late move from Motta brings a ninth guy into the box and he aggressively fills that hole unblocked. Roundtree is hypothetically the guy who is supposed to block him but he's running downfield at the guy in man over him. (Who is twelve yards off the LOS. Bubble, etc.) Denard decides to cut back, which is worth three yards. Going at unblocked Motta is probably the same, so push. I liked Barnum(+1) sealing Te'o inside and giving Denard a lane; Lewan(+0.5) got a good kick so there is a spot. Mealer(-1) did not help Omameh seal Nix very much and he ended up not blocking anyone on the second level. RPS -1.|
|M23||2||7||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||8|
|Lewan(+2) and Kwiatkowski(+0.5) get great push on the playside DE, which makes the LBs' jobs very tough. DE contains, Robinson pulls. Lewan then comes off a crushing block on the playside DE to get a LB. Barnum(+1) has cut off Nix; Robinson has a big lane and hits it up. He's about a foot from busting outside for a big gain but can't quite get behind Williams(+0.5) who had an extended backside block that fended off Shembo.|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|Schofield pulls. Barnum and Mealer get motion, but a LB shoots the gap on the backside. Te'o shows hard and gets outside at the LOS, funneling back; with the other LB pursuing Robinson doesn't have much of an option other than running up Schofield's back for a few. I think Nix was holding Mealer, FWIW, but it was subtle enough to not get called, because you never get called unless you literally tackle a dude. I think this is push all around.|
|M34||2||7||I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle derp||Gallon||INT|
|Notre Dame may be expecting this! Tuitt is on the edge, unblocked, and immediately shoots up at Robinson; nobody open, Robinson should just take a sack, but throws something in the general direction of Gallon that is both a terrible decision and inaccurate, turnover. (BRX, 0, protection 0/2, team -2, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-3, 6 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M16||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||2|
|This is set up pretty well with Lewan(+1) blowing up one LB and two blockers hitting it up in the hole to block Te'o. Robinson(-2) should hit it up like the play is designed, but instead tries to cut back, where Nix hacks him down since he's just invalidated Barnum's block. Funchess(+1) kicked out Shembo well.|
|M18||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||20|
|Kwiatkowski(+1) seals Shembo; Lewan and Barnum pull around. LBs are charging hard upfield at the snap, which gets one of them blocked by a releasing Mealer(+1). Te'o gets super aggressive and tries to shoot inside of Barnum to attack an outside run, which runs him out of the play. Lewan(+0.5) easily kicks the OLB, and the nose is the nearest guy as Robinson hits the LOS. Boom secondary. Robinson ducks OOB after picking up a bunch. RPS +2: caught the LBs with a play that exploited their aggression.|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Hail Mary||Roundtree||INT|
|Why is Roundtree just jogging down the field? Why is Michigan throwing a Hail Mary with 16 seconds on the clock and a timeout? We may never know. Not charted.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-10, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||31|
|M seems so much more comfortable running at a four man line. Omameh(+2) takes on Nix one on one and blows him off the line. Mealer(+1) releases and kicks one of the ILBs. Te'o is not trying to hit the frontside gap and contains backside as he is again expecting this to be the belly. It looks like it but the Toussaint angle indicates it is not. The slight change gets two guys on the backside, where they're useless. Toussaint(+1) glides through the gap; Lewan(+0.5) gets an eh block on the corner, who gives up the edge, and Toussaint breaks a big one. RPS +1.|
|O48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Zone stretch||Toussaint||4|
|Again two guys end up containing Denard. Te'o is creeping forward at the start as Motta comes down over the TE to check any of those PA seams and bursts upfield in a flash past Omameh(-1), who does not recognize this and get a shove. Toussaint(+1) makes a cut behind this and gets some yards thanks to the double delay on Denard; Nix got moved by Mealer(+0.5) and Barnum(+0.5) and this helps as well. RPS push; guys on backside are good, but allowing Te'o to attack like this bad; bubble yadda.|
|O44||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Run||QB power||Robinson||-1|
|Toussaint runs to the opposite edge on a fake that holds some backside guys as Barnum pulls around the TE and Lewan. Te'o is running at the gap on the snap after having read the Barnum pull, presumably, and is aligned in such a way so that Mealer had no shot anyway. He shows in an otherwise well blocked hole (Kwiatkowksi, Lewan(+0.5 each), Barnum(+1). Denard has to run up the backs of his blockers and gets nil. RPS -1. Unblocked guy in hole due to ND D alignment.|
|O45||3||7||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||0||4||4-3 even||Pass||Drag||Gallon||8|
|Straight dropback; four man rush with Te'o spying. He comes on a delayed rush and the other LB bugs out for Toussaint flaring out of the backfield, opening up a cross. Denard steps into it and hits Gallon against three guys on the first level of the zone. He turns it up for the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||9|
|OLB contains, pull. Kwiatkowksi(+0.5) seals a slow-reacting Tuitt inside. Te'o is outside of an attempted block from Schofield, which isn't really his fault. Barnum(+1) pulls around and nails him. Te'o contains, forcing it back inside. Motta assumes this is not happening and hops outside; Roundtree(+0.5) gets a block; Denard cuts behind. No flow from the inside as Omameh(+1) hammers Nix on a double. This is momentarily super exciting until Robinson(+1) runs into the overhanging corner as he tries to get the edge. Nice tackle but I think Denard needs to keep going straight upfield since this guy didn't screw it up this time. Schofield(-1) tried to block Te'o, missed, and then peeled back instead of just going further downfield, or he could have blocked the CB and put Denard one on one with the S for six.|
|O28||2||1||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||4 (Pen -10)|
|This is all Toussaint(-2), who has a gap to slam it up for a first down in as Omameh(+1) gets push on Nix; Barnum is giving ground but has fended off an OLB. Toussaint's going to get a yard or four and not much more, but that's a first down. Instead he bounces around a guy three yards in the backfield and a second guy further outside two yards in the backfield, into the boundary, which draws holding calls and gets him the same number of yards he would have had anyway.|
|O38||2||11||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 over||Run||End-around||Gallon||5|
|Almost but not quite a big gain as FR Day is in at this end and is the guy M is trying to confuse. He pops up and contains the QB as Gallon gets the ball. Nix goes straight upfield, knocking back Barnum(-0.5) and delaying Omameh's pull, so he can get to Day before he realizes who's got it and starts chasing. JRobinson(+1) cracks down on the playside LB very well; Lewan whiffs on Te'o but to the outside, which makes him not relevant. Corner contains at the numbers and Day manages to run Gallon down from behind. Nice play by Day.|
|O33||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Drag||Roundtree||10|
|Double A gap gets a guy in immediately, M has a route right beneath that from Roundtree. No one within 10 yards of him, easy completion and YAC for first. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)|
|O23||1||10||Ace 3TE||1||3||1||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||-1|
|Schofield(+1) locks out Tuitt and pushes him upfield. Linebackers flow hard to the playside, Toussaint(-1) sees massive cutback lane provided by Schofield, cuts into it... and falls down untouched. Glarble. Lewan(+0.5) and Barnum(+0.5) had blown up KLM, FWIW; Omameh and Mealer had a tougher time with Nix but did okay.|
|O24||2||11||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Run||Lead zone||Toussaint||8|
|Nix starts pushing into the intended hole; Mealer(+0.5) and Barnum(+1) push him down the line and eventually pancake him, with Barnum popping out on a LB. Kerridge(+1) eases past the detour and booms the other ILB. Toussaint(+1) has a big gap now thanks to Lewan(+1) kicking the backside DE way out and cuts behind Kerridge into a big gap. He starts dancing as pursuit converges and picks up a nice gain.|
|O16||3||3||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||5|
|Kwiatkowski(+1) and Schofield(+1) blow Tuitt out, knocking him downfield; Mealer(+0.5) just manages to get his helmet across Nix and there's a crease Robinson(-3) hits. An arm rakes the ball out, drive over.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-10, 8 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M43||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Run||Iso||Toussaint||2|
|Argh bubble etc. Schofield(-2) is head up on KLM and doesn't really get anything. No motion, beat to inside. Omameh(+0.5) and Mealer(+0.5) beat up on Nix pretty good and Kerridge(+1) plowed the MLB; Toussaint has to cut away from his blocking because KLM is all over it. OLB who should be covering bubble contains.|
|M45||2||8||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||4-3 over||Run||Inverted veer give||Toussaint||1|
|DE comes down on Robinson so give. Smith hits him not too well but enough; Omameh is pulling around to block the LB trying to contain; Toussaint(-2) should bounce it outside after feinting in but just decides to run into defenders. Barnum(+0.5) neutralized a penetrating Nix and Omameh(+0.5) got to the POA despite some delay caused by that; Lewan(+0.5) seemed to have a pretty good handle on Te'o.|
|M46||3||7||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||TE out||Funchess||5|
|Gallon runs the corner off and Funchess goes out to exploit the space underneath. Denard hits him but it's kind of a slow, looping pass that allows the corner to recover quickly enough to prevent any YAC and force Michigan in to a fourth down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O49||4||2||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Out||Dileo||4|
|Toussaint motions out to give an empty look. A couple of quick outs to the short side of the field are paired with a corner blitz so both Dileo and Gardner are open. Denard's pass is dodgy and low but Dileo digs it out. (MA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|O45||1||10||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Run||Iso||Toussaint||5|
|ND reacting hard to inside zone action from the OL. Te'o is gone a gap away from the play as Mealer(+1) moves out on him after doubling Nix, who Omameh(-1) seals away. Nix comes upfield of Omameh's block and pursues Toussaint from behind. Kerridge(+1) pounds the LB and gets movement on him. Schofield(+1) blows up a backup DE and there's a gap; the Omameh block makes it smaller than it should be. Pursuit harasses Toussaint into the filling S.|
|O40||2||5||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||1|
|Mealer pulls here. ND is just too aggressive on this one, but they have to have gotten help from a Jackson(-2) bust as he runs right by the OLB to this side to hit a safety. OLB contains, getting outside the Mealer block, Te'o fills unblocked, Robinson bounces out for a minimal gain. Man, Kwiatkowski(+0.5) is just sealing guys every time. Easy job? Or is he killing people?|
|O39||3||4||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||6|
|Omameh(+1) gets across the playside DT, who is a backup, and gets to the second level; Mealer(+1) then takes over and eventually puts this guy five yards downfield as he tries to flow. Schofield(+1) and Kwiatkowksi(+1) do the same thing to the DE, who is FR Day. Robinson sees the world caving in and just rams it up the backs of his OL for the first. Pitch was open too. Lewan leaves with a shoe issue.|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||5|
|ND has slid its LBs to the field and Robinson is reading the OLB, as M blocks the line. OLB contains, pull. Kwiatkowski(+0.5) and Schofield (now at LT, +0.5) seal Day, with Kwi popping out on a LB. Burzynski(+1) pulls around and hits Te'o. Hole. Robinson hits it up then cuts behind, which seems like a good idea, but Mealer(-1) lost KLM after getting a good seal on him and he flows down the line to tackle.|
|O28||2||5||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||3|
|Again they're flaring out to block that OLB and letting the 3-4 DE go; DE does not really commit anywhere and there is a handoff. Ride that mesh longer or you're not really getting anywhere here. Toussaint is attacking farther outside, but this time no holes. Mealer(-1) got pushed too far by Nix; Schofield(+0.5) got a decent push on KLM and Toussaint can run up his back for a few.|
|O25||3||2||Shotgun 2back 2TE||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||3|
|Lewan back in. He(+1) blows KLM back a yard on the snap and to the inside. Kwiatkowski and Williams(+0.5) both take on players at the POA. Kwiatkowski has a DE, who wins easily but not fast enough to be relevant. Williams stalemates a LB. Omameh shoves him forward, Robinson burrow up behind. RPS +1; this was a pretty easy conversion with a spare blocker pushing a pile past the sticks.|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||0|
|Oof. This is one block away from being huge, and that block is Omameh(-2) not getting any kind of seal on a DT shaded inside of him. He fires out straight while everyone else steps right, Nix gets the edge on him. Kwiatkowski(+1) gets Tuitt sealed. Schofield and Mealer pull around. Schofield doesn't actually kick the OLB but he's moving way outside to contain. Mealer(+1) chops Te'o but the contain and pursuit from Nix ends the play when this is probably at least a first down otherwise. Denard tries to cut after being chased outside and slips, giving up a few yards.|
|O22||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||4|
|Barnum(-1) does not step around Nix after he takes a Mealer bump and loses him to the playside. Omameh(-1) just gets beat by KLM. Toussaint(+1) bounces outside past both DTs and picks up a few thanks to Kwiatkowski(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) getting the playside DE back a couple yards.|
|O18||3||6||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||PA scramble||Robinson||3|
|Play action fake does nothing except get two ND defenders in as they take off for Robinson. LBs suck up a little but get back on a little drag over the middle, and Funchess is blanketed by two guys. Denard dances around and gets tackled short of the sticks. (PR, N/A, protection 0/2, team -2, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(33), 3-10, 13 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M30||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Pass||PA post corner||Gardner||Inc|
|Gardner starts in the backfield and then motions out. Denard gets great protection this time and can sit and survey until Kwiatkowski finally gets beat, whereupon he finds a miraculously open Gardner 40 yards downfield. Gardner again does the 360 as Denard takes him away from the safety; pass is in his hands; dropped. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2) No idea why this could possibly work in this situation but it did. Borges sorcery ++.|
|M30||2||10||Shotgun 2-back 2TE||2||2||1||Base 3-4||Pass||RB wheel||Toussaint||Inc|
|Toussaint motions out to the boundary, which is WR-free. Token play fake to Kerridge, protection pretty good but Omameh does make Robinson move his feet a little. He's staring at a bunch of covered guys and manages to put it over the head of a guy in great coverage on Toussaint, who has the ball in his hands a moment before Motta comes over the top and separates it from him after disengaging from Funchess, who he's covering. We don't get a wide shot to see if he had someone somewhere else; this is a great deep throw and a play equal to that from Motta. (DO, 1, protection 2/2)|
|M30||3||10||Shogun trips||1||0||4||Base 3-4||Pass||Improv||Gardner||13|
|Only a three man rush. Robinson steps up through it after his initial survey finds no one. This draws a couple of underneath zone defenders up; he tosses it over them to Gardner, who is still just a hair in front of the safety. Completion, tackle, first down. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||Bubble screen||Gallon||13|
|Boy am I glad it took 54 minutes to throw this. It's not a true bubble as the throw is delayed and guys get downfield to block but it's so open Gallon cuts inside of the OLB despite Roundtree setting up to block him so Roundtree can get outside. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1!)|
|O44||1||10||Ace 3-wide||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||PA corner||JRobinson||20|
|PA kind of threatens dread waggle. Barnum is flaring out to the waggle-ish side to block, though, and Smith has enough time to shut down Shembo on his otherwise unblocked charge. Denard sets up and now has a simple high low read on the corner, who is not sinking, so he throws the corner. Nails the other Robinson in the numbers on rhythm. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||TE drag||Funchess||5|
|Double A blitz. It's not timed as well as the MSU ones, which allows a pickup. Smith gets a cut but the LB does force a throw; it's the same drag M used a couple times earlier and is complete but this time ND is ready for an immediate tackle. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O19||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB draw||Robinson||12|
|ND sends only three and starts dropping the LBs; by the time M releases downfield all those guys are at the sticks and moving backwards. Mealer(+1) shoves the NT to one side and that's Denard through the line. Funchess(+1) and Omameh(+1) pick up blocks on virtually stationary downfield defenders and Robinson shoots between them, getting chopped down by a safety inside the ten. RPS +1.|
|O7||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||QB power||Robinson||1|
|Funchess(-1) is blocking down and gets blown up by Day, which picks off Barnum's pull and makes Denard(-2) decides to go under it... which is where Day is. Go outside, take your chances, maybe get OOB.|
|O6||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Pass||Sack||N/A||-8|
|All day, no one open. Robinson's timer goes off and he wants to scramble around; Day grabs him as he tries to break the pocket. Not Schofield's fault at all. Just a thing that happens on the goal line sometimes. (TA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|O14||3||G||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Corner||Gardner||Inc|
|OL collapsing all around him as ND knows he has to throw and is really coming hard this time w/ Te'o spying. Gardner is his best option and is kind of open. Denard misses, putting it off Gardner's hand but well OOB. (IN, 0, protection 2/3, team -1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(33) 6-13, 3 min 4th Q. EOG for offense|
Dispensing with chatter.
This was the structural problem with the Michigan offense against ND.
- often showed extremely soft coverage,
- ran cover zero behind it,
- never had their corners tested, and
- never had their OLBs put in a bind.
I'm not just talking about bubble screens here. In either of the top two frames, a simple smash concept…
A and Z are running a smash concept that high-lows the corner
…is an easy read Michigan—one Denard was doing way back in the day—is in advantageous position on. Michigan ran some of these. They either should have kept going to that and curl-flat or bubble screens until ND was forced out of this defense.
They should also have protected Denard at all costs. Even in this game, when Robinson had time he was zipping it in.
Borges's late under center passes were max-protect sorts that kept Robinson clean and resulted in big gains (or should have) as ND's inexperienced corners got lost on Gardner, sucked up on a short route, opening up a longer one, etc.
On each interception*, Denard got quick pressure. On the first it was a three man rush with a rolling pocket that got a redshirt freshman fullback singled up against Shembo. On the second, Te'o flies up in the pocket unmolested. Smart Football suggested that Smith needs to abort the mesh point and just go block the guy, and yeah if that's what ND is doing and Michigan is prepared for it go for it. They apparently weren't. I've never seen M abort a mesh like that, or have to.
The third is second and seven under center play action that gets Tuitt in Denard's face. Is Gallon open? Yeah. Does that somehow erase the fact that Denard has thrown INTs on his past two throws thanks to pressure, has has thrown the ball away once this year and was amongst the worst guys in the country in interception rate last year? I mean, we know this happens. It has just happened against Air Force and UMass, at home. It is not going to stop happening. Calling plays that emphasize this flaw is insane. Everyone in the stadium knows that when Michigan goes under center a defender or two will make their top priority Denard containment. He'll be unblocked, and Denard will have to form up and make a throw with a guy in his face. Which he sucks at.
If you don't think that's stupid, I don't know what else I can tell you. Robinson was 24 of 40 for 244 yards, a TD, and no INTs two years ago against the Irish in a year when they finished with the #25 pass efficiency D. His regression is obvious despite having two solid years of QB coaching from Borges to raise him up.
If it's not the structure of the offense, what is it? Is Denard in Flowers for Algernon?
*[we're setting aside the Hail Mary because it's a Hail Mary.]
Losing this game was of course a joint effort. Passing table:
[Hennechart legend is updated.]
|2011 through MSU||13||66(12)||11(1)||34(1)||17||2||3||10||4||55%|
|2011 after MSU||9||77(9)||7||17||9||6(1)||5(2)||9||5||69%|
Gardner had an MA, Smith an INX. UFR charts don't fully weight the horribleness of any particularly horrible throw and so the DSR does not reflect the horrible horrible INTs. It's still pretty bad. The run chart is worse for Denard: he ends up –2.5 after fumbling and missing some cuts.
I've gotten so many conflicting opinions on the Gardner route on INT 2 that I don't know what is going on there, but he's staring right at Gardner so even if the route is not as expected he should be adjusting to that. The most authoritative word I've heard said the route was fine in the eyes of the coaches, so the final verdict is it's on Denard (and the combination of events that literally prevented him from stepping into the throw).
Meanwhile, taking sacks or just chucking the ball away on the other two throws saves Michigan 100 yards of field position, with another 71 thrown away by the fumble. Thanks to the heroics of the defense, it took both Denard and Borges having awful games to lose it, but lose it they did.
FWIW, Denard did abort a throw in the second half, which resulted in… a failure to convert a third down and a field goal attempt after he got instant pressure on ill-conceived play action. If he had done that in the first half, Michigan punts and ends up in third and long on the two passes that were just WTF—ie, not the Gardner miss. FWIW, in that half he was 8 of 11 with two of the incompletions deep balls in the hands of his WRs on the final drive. Notably, he was not eating unblocked pass rushers as he did this.
How could the pieces fit together better?
Bubble, etc. Posts written about it before. Or flash screens or what have you, anything that forces opposition corners and linebackers to think about the slot guys on every play. They're more effective as in the box blockers when they are dragging guys out of the box than trying to deal with guys much bigger than them.
That brings the secondary up, and then you're either looking at a deep safety and a more consistent run game, opportunities to hit shots over the top, or zip gone TDs. Here's a nine-yard inverted veer from the second half:
They option off the OLB. The safety sitting twelve yards off the LOS flashes into the screen at the end; he's the guy who forced Denard into the cornerback. If Michigan has forced him to react to the possibility of a bubble screen, he is not available and this defense has just ceded a 42 yard touchdown, or Motta has made a fantastic recovery—look how he's beating Roundtree's block to the outside—and Michigan still gets nine yards.
Meanwhile, Michigan's best running play is that inverted veer.
Michigan has no play action off of it. They have no counter from it. They just kind of run it. And it's great! But if you want to get the explosion back you need to start screwing with opponents by faking your good plays. Michigan tried it last year, couldn't block it, and dumped it. They took an offseason and kept it dumped. Oy.
Michigan should be running more max protection schemes. Keep Denard clean, give him a couple options, and then tell him to take off. Maybe leak Toussaint or Smith (or Norfleet) out of the backfield after a delay.
What was with the Vincent Smith play? That didn't look right.
It wasn't. A reader pointed out what Michigan did against Minnesota, pulling both playside linemen. On the initial pitch play, Michigan pulled both playside linemen. On the ill-fated trick play, nobody pulls. According to Borges that's a call that did not get to the line, which yeah. I punt on the RPS there, shading to plus since if Smith didn't have to pull up so quickly it looked like Dileo was coming open.
Consider my objections there retracted. The play likely would have worked but for the bust on the line call.
Please give me something positive?
The offensive line went from battered to batterer at halftime, inexplicably. Michigan's first play of the half set the tone when Patrick Omameh(!) of all people blows Nix off the line of scrimmage:
Michigan manballed up late and blew a dump-truck sized hole in the ND OL plus got a Dudley-level thump from Kerridge:
Here's the run chart:
the ratio that is important for the OL. On a lot of plays they do okay and get a push.
|Lewan||8.5||2||6.5||Got quality motion.|
|Barnum||7.5||3.5||4||Much better day than UMass.|
|Mealer||8||6||2||Big time struggles early, did better, also bad snap.|
|Omameh||8||7||1||I'll take a positive day for him against that line.|
|Schofield||7||6||1||Roughed up a little, but came through okay.|
|Kwiatkowski||10.5||-||10.5||I must be giving him too much credit for easy stuff?|
|Williams||1||1||0||Kwiatkowski is getting more PT than these guys though.|
|Funchess||2||1||1||Not really tested.|
|TOTAL||53.5||26.5||67%||Burzsnyski also +1. That's quality but the Kwiatkowski thing worries me about this number.|
|Robinson||4.5||7||-2.5||Didn't really get many Denard yards.|
|Toussaint||4||5||-1||Couple of WHAT ARE YOU DOING cuts|
|Kerridge||3||-||3||Insert complaints about scholarship FBs x2|
|TOTAL||11.5||12||-0.5||Need better from the ballcarriers.|
|TOTAL||2||5||-3||[Comment not found]|
|Protection||32||19||63%||Toussaint –3, Lewan –2, Schofield –2, Barnum –2, Kerridge –2, Smith –2, Mealer –1, Team -5|
|RPS||12||13||-1||I was super super kind on the Denard INTs.|
So, the protection sucked, and the line was in tough but came out okay, and the ballcarriers didn't do much, and I must be Mike Kwiatkowski's secret dad or something. I don't know about the Kwiatkowski stuff, but he sealed guys away every time when Michigan went for the edge. That gave him a ton of relevant blocks that he accomplished and boosted those numbers up there. I probably should have started with the half-points more, but I'll keep an eye on him in the future. There is a reason he is playing a lot more than Williams in single TE sets (and sets with Funchess).
[Passes are rated by how tough they are to catch. 0 == impossible. 1 == wow he caught that, 2 == moderate difficulty, 3 == routine. The 0/X in all passes marked zero is implied.]
Nothing to see here, really.
Kwiatkowski was a major part of Michigan's success on the ground, along with Lewan.
Denard, Borges, Denard, Borges, Denard, Borges, Denard, Borges, offensive line pass pro.
What does it mean for the Big Ten schedule?
I don't know, man. I'm guessing they'll finally look at themselves and say "okay, let's just assume this is what happens when Denard gets pressured" and move to avoid that at all costs. That means more running, fewer plays on which they put Denard on the edge against an unblocked dude, and please sweet baby Jesus more easy quasi-running game throws that get Gallon more touches.
Even in this dismal game, Denard's passes when he did not get pressure were quality, so max protect the guy, give him easy hot reads against those double-A blitzes, and run the ball.
They can and will do better against the Big Ten. Yes. I believe this.
9/22/2012 – Michigan 6, Notre Dame 13 – 2-2
Lloyd Carr coached every game like he had a fantastic running game and great defense. He usually had an okay running game and a good defense, so this caught up to him from time to time. When Jim Tressel arrived and showed the men of manball what manball really was, Michigan's downward spiral began. In time, Tresselball would come to signify the exact same thing Lloydball did except without the oh and we lose the most important game of the year every time.
I grew to hate Lloydball.
The moment I threw in the towel is crystal clear in my memory, and by this point probably many longtime readers: punting from the opponent 34 against Ohio State in 2005. It was fourth and four. The clock read 4:18. Michigan had a two point lead. They'd recently had a nine point lead, but OSU ripped off a five-play touchdown drive in under a minute to change that. Michigan's defense had faced four do-or-die drives* already that year and failed on all of them. Faced with third and eleven, Michigan threw a screen to Antonio Bass for seven yards. They punted out of a field goal formation, which was so obvious to Tressel that they put a guy back there to field it. He would have had a shot at a touchdown if the punt hadn't exited the field at the twelve.
Just minutes before—literally in the same quarter—Lloyd had taken his frenzied quarterback's advice and gone for a QB sneak on fourth and one on his own 40. This caused everyone in the stadium to pick a partner with whom to share an incredulous look. This was not the way things went. The fourth down was successful; one bomb to Manningham later Michigan had staked itself to a two-score lead. That only made the knife cut deeper when in the moment of truth Carr reverted to form.
Michigan punted once Saturday.
I'm not sure if it's football in general that has shifted or if it's just Brady Hoke, but when Michigan had a fourth and two around the same area on Saturday, eyebrows were only slightly cocked when Michigan went for it. While Michigan was down 10-0, this was still the third quarter.
Lloyd wouldn't have even thought about it if his defense had given up 139 yards to that point. But he wouldn't have been down 10-0 in the first place. He would have squinted at his quarterback, wondered where the six-six artillery piece had gotten to, shrugged, and told his offensive coordinator to thud out a ten-point win based on Michigan's superior ground game. Only he would have had that faith, because he always had that faith.
But it was true. Take out a knee and ND averaged 3.2 yards a carry. Take out three sacks and a bad snap for Michigan and they averaged 5.1. That's a cavernous gap, one that a dinosaur coach would have driven through to a boring, field-goal-heavy victory.
Instead, we got several more entries in our database of what happens when Denard Robinson gets unblocked rushers in his face.
Is it good? No. Does it make any sense at all to run play action from under center on passing downs? No. Is it ever going to stop? No.
Well, maybe. Michigan did not throw a pass before third down on their two grinding second-half drives before the hurry-up was called for. Do that for the next eight games and run play action off plays you actually run and then Denard might get back to the things he was doing in an offense that was not trying to jam him into a hole he clearly does not fit. I thought maybe we'd learned that lesson after Iowa, but apparently not.
When stressed, people making decisions find it very hard to move away from habit. Everyone reverts to their comfort zone unless they are making a concerted effort to get away from it. Even then, you fall back into old patterns. Lloyd punted. Rodriguez installed a 3-3-5 defense. Borges starts calling plays from a long-ago offense helmed by a guy who was a better passer than runner. Denard throws the ball somewhere, anywhere.
Over the bye week, Michigan will refocus on what they're good at. This will get them through some games. They'll get comfortable with this, think they can install more stuff, and we'll get another Iowa, one they might pull out since the defense might be good and the Big Ten is definitely bad. And Denard will soldier through it, taking barbs from people who don't realize he could be in his first of two years at Oregon now, doing what he was born to.
He's not. He's doing this. This is "this": Al Borges has been Michigan's offensive coordinator for 17 games now. Five were against non-BCS opponents. A sixth was against Alabama and will be set aside. Of the remaining eleven, five were out-and-out debacles: both Notre Dame games, MSU, Iowa, and the Sugar Bowl. That Junior Hemingway rescued two of those doesn't change the fact that in about half of Michigan's games against real competition, the combination of Borges and Denard can't put up 200 yards until bombed out of the gameplan by events on the field.
You can blame Denard if you want. Sure, that happened in 2010, when Denard was a true sophomore and the second-leading rusher was Vincent Smith. I'm more concerned about the guy who isn't gone after this year, the offensive coordinator who vows to never work with a quarterbacks coach again and can't stand it when anyone dares to scream "RUN THE GODDAMN BALL" at him over and over and over and over and over, except whatever the press conference version of that is. Asking about bubble screens and stuff.
One day Borges will have a shining golden hammer of a quarterback, six-four, carved from marble, jawline for days. This man will coolly survey the field after faking a handoff to a two-hundred-thirty-pound bowling ball with knives sticking out of it. No one will run up in his face, because they are afraid the bowling ball has it. He will throw it to another six-foot-four man, this one long and graceful, built for escaping packs of hunters. This will be a good day. Nails are so dead.
Until then, here's to running, punting, and humility.
[Wisconsin: 52 yard, 11 play, four minute TD drive to win. Minnesota: eight play, 75-yard FG drive to win. Penn State: 13 play, 81-yard drive to wi—OH MY GOD MANNINGHAM. Iowa: 9 play, 74-yard FG drive to tie; Ferentz played for OT once in FG range, because he is Ferentz.]
All the INTs:
Bullets Yes More Bullets In The Head Please
Sanity check. I know I may not be entirely reliable on this matter, but stuff coming through my twitter feed from the folks I respect most as college football observers helped me think this was not just a mania. Smart Football:
Nice call Borges. Denard struggling? Let's run some kind naked waggle pass from under center where we let Denard throw vs unblocked DEnd
An Al Borges cooking show would be great if you like seeing someone throw everything into a blender even if it makes no sense at all.
Blaming it on "execution" is horseshit, plain and simple. When the offensive coordinator flat-out refuses to take free yards on the outside and has not once used the devastating play action on which Denard is moving towards the line scrimmage before throwing, it is on his shoulders for not using the tools he has in the way they are most effective.
A third of the way through the ND game, Michigan had run Robinson three times. Instead Michigan threw the ball all the time against a rampant DL. The first INT was a running back in the redzone. On the second, Michigan rolled the pocket and told a redshirt freshman fullback to block Prince Shembo. On the third an unblocked Te'o roars straight up the pocket. On the fourth he ran a waggle on second and seven, which got an unblocked Tuitt in Denard's face after having thrown INTs on back to back passes.
This is a consistent theme. They go into games doing something other than making their running QB a runner, and then are surprised when it goes poorly. They have the guy turn his back to the line of scrimmage and are surprised when 1) opposing defenses prioritize getting a guy out on him and 2) he reacts poorly. The exception was last year's OSU game, during which Denard threw all of 17 times.
Robinson failed, sure, but he was put in a position to do so by a guy who puts three tight ends on the field on second and goal from the twelve yard line and fools no one with the subsequent play action. Coaches have to execute too. Borges's gameplan was a disaster, again.
Come on Denard. Let's ask Peyton Manning to be Pat White stuff aside, at some point you've got to just eat the ball, or not throw it at a guy so covered you're trying to throw it through the chest of not one but two opponents. That first Te'o interception was probably the worst throw of Denard's career; if one of the two guys underneath it didn't get it a safety in coverage on the corner had a shot at a PBU.
I bet a dollar that someone else was open on that play.
The fumble was the real killer, though. Michigan has just taken their first drive of the half 71 yards and Denard has just made it first and ten at the ND 11, boom ball out drive over everyone thinks of 2010 when Michigan put up scads of yards and usually had ten points to show for it. Down two scores and suddenly running all the time, Michigan really needed that drive to pay off.
Blame Gardner? Some people on the twitter and then Ace suggested that the slant INT was on Gardner instead of Robinson. I don't think that's the case. It looked to me like he ran a fine route and was open and Robinson just missed.
Gardner does have to catch that bomb on the last drive.
When to go for high risk trick plays. When there is a payoff commensurate with the risk. The Gardner pass is fine. You've got a play that is potentially 70-some yards if everything goes well. The Smith pass gives you at most ten and is less likely to get a guy wide open just because there's far less space. Last year's Smith TD pass was 30 yards out, which gives the WR room to break past the safeties and the RB room to throw it long. Doing that in a constricted space is asking for it when Manti Te'o is raging his way into a running back's face.
The only time I can recall Michigan running a trick play like that inside the red zone was during the 2007 Illinois game when both teams were actively conspiring to lose. With Henne shuttling in and out of the game and Mallett insane, trying the Arrington end-around pass after a muffed punt was a defensible decision. At the end of an 11-play, 78-yard drive maybe not so much.
What is this huddling business again? There's a case that you shouldn't be doing it at all; not only is huddling a useless anachronism but going away from it locks defensive personnel on the field and gives you easier looks as the opponent struggles to keep up. See Oregon, of course.
But even if you're intent on huddling the time to do so has passed when you're down two scores with 6:46 left. There's something to be said for the idea that an offense should be using tempo as much as possible so that in situations like that they are naturals at it. It's a lot easier to slow down than speed up.
Anyway, I had bad flashbacks to that Iowa game as Michigan took 3:19 and used a timeout on their last drive.
OTOH, didn't mind the end of the first half playcalling since in that situation you're worried about giving ND a possession they can use and you've just thrown interceptions on three straight plays. Why throw a Hail Mary with 16 seconds left, though? And what was Roundtree even doing there?
Defense! Woo defense! Also filed under "if you told me before the game…" with "Michigan would punt once": "Notre Dame would have under 200 yards of offense with three minutes to go." Before Floyd stumbled on that third down bomb to Eifert, Michigan had held two ND QBs to 5.6 YPA and two interceptions, with the only completion over twenty yards another tough fade on the sideline.
From way up in the stands I had a great view of the routes developing and nobody was open basically all day. Combine that with Quinton Washington problems like "is not tackling when he bursts into the backfield on three consecutive plays" and you have a soothing balm to apply as you look forward to the rest of the season. I'm actually eager to get to the UFRing just so I can see how the guys on D did. Live I saw Ryan make plays, Campbell make plays, Washington make plays, and that allowed the linebackers to flow freely, with the 3.1 YPC results mentioned above. Kenny Demens looks a lot better when he's not trying to fight off two different blockers on the same play.
If Washington can translate those plays against UMass and Mattison hype into an impact day on the interior line against a real opponent, Michigan's biggest question that isn't "how will Denard fail to be Peyton Manning this time" is a lot closer to resolution.
Potential caveat: ND's interior OL may not be very good. They got annihilated by Purdue (Riddick: 53 yards on 15 carries, five sacks on Golson, two by Kawann Short) and ND didn't do much against MSU that wasn't deception (counter draw) or Wood getting cutbacks similar to the one he busted for ND's only big run of the day.
Caveat caveat: "only big run of the day." The shot above is Michigan corralling the play I started calling "That Goddamned Counter Draw" after DeAndra Cobb staked MSU to the lead they'd give up during Braylonfest. I call it TGDCD because Michigan has never stopped the thing (except once, I think). They did it up there.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point of the Week. I have no idea yet, but it's obviously someone on defense. There is a weird lack of stats for such a dominating performance, with no sacks and just two TFLs, one for Kovacs, another split by Morgan and Washington.
For now, Jake Ryan gets the nod for most impactful-seeming impactfulness, but I reserve the right to switch this to Kovacs or Washington pending review.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Jake Ryan(ND)
Freshman linebackers. They're basically co-starters at this point. I'm still nervous about them but if the D continues to perform like that in the Big Ten season, expectations for that crew will be enormous next year with four-ish returning starters, all of whom will still be around in 2014.
Demens did rotate in during the second half. He was in on six tackles, Morgan seven. Ross had one and Bolden did not register. IIRC Demens was the preferred option on passing downs, which makes sense since zone drops are often a struggle with young linebackers.
Norfleet. Please do not jump like that again. The air up there is dangerously low on oxygen and people are trying to kill you. Stay low, where you are under the radar and can execute deep infiltration missions.
ND future. I wouldn't get too worried about a full-on return to glory. If that interior OL is what it seems to be and they're flipping between Rees and Golson against the rest of their schedule, they'll drop some games. They'll still probably get that BCS bid so they can get stomped on by someone a lot better.
Funchess. Didn't really have much impact; I'll pick up the Mandich thing the next time he takes a significant step towards it. Did feature in this picture:
This is my ball. Do not take my ball.
In the week preceding this game, some random internet poster guy asked what was the worst performance you’ve seen by a QB. I ran screaming from that post, but couldn’t escape the images of Demetrious Brown throwing seven interceptions – SEVEN INTERCEPTIONS!!! - in a game against MSU many years ago.
WHY DID YOU DO IT RANDOM INTERNET POSTER GUY, WHYYYYYY
When I was 16 and learning how to drive, my Dad, trying his best to impart some constructive criticism without being overly harsh, said, “ST3, your driving lacks a certain smoothness.” I think it’s wonderful how Devin Gardner has moved over to WR to help the team, but at this point in his career, I think his route running lacks a certain smoothness.
The results of this game and a record of 2-2 are not indicative of the abilities of this team, and it would do every Michigan fan good to forget about what has happened and to concentrate instead on what can be accomplished in the BIG. I rest easier after seeing the O and D-lines gel and play very well. Denard will bounce back.
The rest of the BIG continues to look shaky, to say the least, and Michigan should be licking their chops against the likes of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and I dare say Michigan St at this point. Ohio has obvious problems as well, letting UAB run wild on them. Michigan should have distinct talent advantages against Northwestern and Purdue.
I'll skip all the articles about how Michigan turned the ball over a lot, since I think you probably know. More photos from Maize and Blue Nation. Sad Panda at MVictors. MVictors on the press box atmosphere:
It’s well known that the media is prohibited from cheering in the press box but it’s not just a collection of writers upstairs at Notre Dame. After Denard connected with Gardner on a third down conversion in the first half some dude belted out, “DAMN IT!”. When Denard took off on a run later in the game, I heard, “GET ‘EM!”. And so on. I’m actually glad this happened because it created some much needed lighter moments on the glass.
Maybe it was the guy in seat 652:
Also, that Webb tweet that looked like it was from my account? Not on purpose:
Speaking of tweets, after another turnover (I think Denard’s fumble?) this came from Sam Webb’s feed. It was retweeted 28 times instantly:
The beauty – it wasn’t a case of Sam grinding the keyboard in frustration. It was a legit accident as his phone went sideways and spit out Matrix code. Love it.
…unless the phone is also a Michigan fan.
The Daily has a great article about Denard's family in the stands:
The group sat in the family and friends section of Notre Dame Stadium. Steve wore his best friend’s varsity jacket. The two girls wore “Shoelace” and another Robinson-themed shirt.
This section is different. Here, the hits sound louder. The mistakes sting more.
From here, you can reach out and touch the bass drums in the Michigan band. When a Notre Dame wide receiver was open on the goal line, the parents shouted and pointed, so Thomas Gordon bumped over and covered.
Robinson’s supporters sat in the fifth row, tucked in between friends and family of freshman linebacker James Ross III and the family of fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd.
Robinson’s parents come to games “very rarely, very rarely,” J.T.’s father, James, said. Normally the Robinson clan gathers in Robinson’s grandmother’s house in Deerfield Beach, Fla. around a television.
“Every Saturday,” Durrel said. “Everybody (goes). I can’t even tell you who don’t go.”
Would you like frustrating losses scored? Of course you would.
“ ’Sup. Where’s your glasses?”
I didn’t want to look cerebral today.
“It’s up to you.”
MGoYouAreStaringAtMeButIHaveNothingToSay: So. Norfleet.
“You’re not even going to ask me about my daughter first?”
MGoOfCourse: HOW'S KINDERGARTEN?
“She learned about caterpillars. And you know what the word of the day is? Metamorphosis.”
They haven’t gotten to bubble screens in kindergarten yet? [Ed: This was not me.]
“Psh. Bubble screens. No. They blow bubbles.”
Are you expecting a metamorphosis from last year’s performance against Notre Dame?
“I’m hoping it’s better than that. Holy smokes that was just awful.”
What didn’t go right early last year that all of a sudden clicked in the fourth quarter?
“Well we completed some passes. That’s the thing, when people are crowding the line of scrimmage like that, kind of forcing the issue. They were keenly aware of what Denard had done the year before. They restructured their defense to kind of stop him and force the issue with the passing game. We just weren’t early on completing many. We made a couple adjustments at halftime with the run game, and it helped us a little bit, but they played good, too. They came out ready to play and, you know, we were still so unpolished at that time -- not that we’re real polished now, but we did not play well at all and they played well.”
There was once a dream that was called Denard Robinson: Accurate Passer. You could only whisper it; anything more than a whisper and it would vanish…it was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the fall.
Last Saturday while watching Andrew Maxwell derf another derpity doo, I half-rhetorically asked the assembled a room full of Spartan fans who's the best passing quarterback in our conference this year. Answers, in order of appearance:
- "CHHIIIRP CHIRRRP" –insects with that leg-rubbing noise
- "Howl" –wolf in the distance
- "How about that little dude on Northwestern?" – a Sparty
- "No he graduated." –another Sparty
- "Shit. Really?" –first Sparty
After three weeks the stats (min=25 attempts) say it's Denard and ol' Tyranno-arm:
His interceptions are dragging down the passer rating, but half are explained by an accurate throw Vincent Smith deflected, and Roundtree getting shoved into last Tuesday by a Bama cornerback. It's just three games in, and the Big Ten competition this year isn't exactly the NFC South, but raise your hand if four weeks ago you thought there might be even a flimsy statistical case for saying "Denard is the best passer in the Big Ten right now."
We've been over his higher efficiency as a runner from the gun ad nauseum, and charted his regression last year as of December, but is he really a better passer when dropping back? Brian's suggested explanations were Pressure, Situation, or Luck (ie sample size). Let's dig into the UFR database and see if there's an answer.
[ROLL'D OUT AFTER THE JUMP]