1. We're clear about this shotgun thing, right?
The number one question about last year's offense was how much it would play to Denard's strengths and how much it would settle into Borges's comfort zone. The answer was mostly the former. While the first real test against Notre Dame was a rocky one and Michigan's under-center experiment against Iowa—against a Hawkeye defense that had just been plowed for a game-winning touchdown by Minnesota—was an outright disaster, those were outliers in a season that saw Michigan hardly budge from its shotgun-oriented ways under Rodriguez. The Sugar Bowl was a big fat raspberry at the end of things, granted.
What they ran from the shotgun was a lot different, but when it came down to the most important game in Brady Hoke's career to date—Ohio State—Michigan's primary gambit was the single most prominent spread play in the game today: the inverted veer, which marries power blocking to spread principles and gets you a lot of carries where Denard is charging hard upfield. The result was 170 rushing yards, a 167 yard, 14/17, 3 TD, 0 INT day passing, and 40 points against Oho State.
That seemed to work pretty well, right?
This blog tracked Michigan's success in various formations all year, and it wasn't even a debate except when the opposing defense was entirely theoretical (think EMU). Against mediocre defenses, the shotgun was far superior. Against good defenses, the shotgun was far superior. Various examples:
- Michigan averaged 10.6 YPC from the gun against WMU, 6.8 from under center. (Note that all these numbers excise goal line and short yardage carries as distorting.)
- It was 7.5 gun, 2.3 under center against ND.
- It was 6.4 gun, 3.4 I, 2.3 ace against Iowa.
- It was 5.8 gun, 3.9 under center against Illinois, and before two garbage-time runs from Toussaint Michigan had –1 yards on 8 carries from under center. The blocking on those wasn't even good: "On the first he cut to the backside of the play on a power, which rarely goes well; on the second he had to dodge three tacklers on the backfield on an iso and bounce all the way to the sideline before finding open grass."
You get the idea. For the season Michigan averaged 3.9 YPC from the I and 6.7 from the gun. While ace (not that Ace) actually bested the gun's performance at 7.4 YPC, less than ten percent of Michigan's snaps were from that formation and they were heavily biased against good Ds—no ace snaps against ND or MSU, big chunks against Purdue and Iowa. One 59-yard Fitz run against Purdue explains most of that number, and that was some pretty inexcusable D combined with Fitz being awesome.
When the I worked it was usually due to opponents screwing up…
Three defenders to the left of center vs four blockers plus a FB = 8 yards
…or the tailback making chicken salad out of chicken despair, as in the clips from the Illinois game above.
SHOTGUN SHOTGUN SHOTGUN SHOTGUN SHOTGUNNNNNNNNN. Consider the line: Lewan, Mealer/Kalis, Barnum, Omameh, Schofield—all Rodriguez recruits who can move save the LG. Consider the QB: Denard. Consider the RB: Fitz Toussaint, space jitterbug. Consider the TEs: 404 file not found. Consider the FB: Stephen Hopkins, a guy who can reprise some of the MINOR RAGE if attention is drawn away from him and he's free to run straight at one guy. You've even got leftover RR slots in the WR corps. Just let it ride, man.
Next year is the year you flip over to your multiple pro-style whipsaw offense, next year when Denard is gone and maybe Toussaint heads for the draft and Kalis/Miller/Bryant is your road-grading interior OL and you've got TE depth and a panoply of different rushers for different situations. This year, stick with it and refine what works.
The spring game, which was almost all RR-at-WVU déjà vu 3WR 2RB shotgun set, indicates that's what the coaching staff thinks, too, as does the buzz I've gotten from The Fort. Now about using it a little more smoothly.
[after the JUMP: Borges fusion cuisine, yet more on DG at WR, stupid predictions.]
“Thomas Rawls is fine.”
Why was he held out of practice this weekend?
“That’s injury information that’s not my area. Thomas Rawls is fine. That’s all that matters.”
How much are you emphasizing to the rest of the offense that they need to take the pressure off Denard so that the offense can succeed?
“Well, we don’t really put it that way. But that’s kind of the effect of how we approach it, is that when we came here, it became real apparent that he was the centerpiece of the offense, but we didn’t want 90 percent of the offense based on his production for obvious reasons because if you lose him you lose too much. We’ve been sending out the message since we got here is that we have to have other people involved, with our run game, our pass game, all that. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that. I hope like heck we can do the same thing this year. Yet at the end of the day, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that he is the centerpiece of the offense. When push comes to shove he’s going to play a big part in whether we win or lose.”
How are you guys doin? Kinda stoic. / File
How are you feeling about things now compared to the beginning of camp?
“Better. I think we have a little bit of feel, we’re getting a little bit of rhythm on occasion, but we still need a little more practice. We’re not there, but we feel better. I mean the thing about offense and defense is once you narrow down your field of players and you start working with them rather than work with the whole team, which you’re doing kind of for two weeks, the execution gets better. I mean that’s been the case, and that’s why spring football is hard, because you never really do that, you know. In the fall you narrow down your field of players and they start doing better.”
What exactly is the criteria for being there?
“I’ll tell you after the game whether we were there or not. The reason -- and I’m not being sarcastic -- but sometimes you think you’re there and you find out whether you were or not. You can go through a very good practice where there are very few errors and then all of a sudden the pressure of the game gets to some kids, particularly the ones who have never played before that don’t have a start. You realize that you weren’t quite as prepared as you thought you were. But all you do is the best you can to get those kids in as many scenarios that will make them react well and hope like heck they do. But there is no way to really know.”
[After THE JUMP, offensive line, freshmen freshmen everywhere, and Borges comes perilously close to admitting slot backs exist]
"Okay. Who’s going to break the ice?"
With Fitz out for a while, how quickly will you be able to identify your next No. 1 RB?
“Well we’re just going to the next guy. We’re not really changing anything. Thomas Rawls is going to be that next guy. Vince is going to do what he’s done, and on we go. I think the key to these situations from a game plan perspective is to try to make as little out of it, to make it as seamless as you can, and just go.”
What can you glean from the first few practices?
“Not much. I mean, what do you see? They’re just running around in shorts. Until somebody’s going to hit somebody and somebody’s going to do something, it’s really just kind of glorified aerobics in a lot of ways. I hate to put it that way, but you know, we have a few kids run pretty good. We’ll learn more today because we’re in half pads and we’ll learn even more towards the end of the week. To make any hard and fast assessments of where we are is really hard to do right now. It is. I’m not copping out, I’m just telling you this. We know more about the offense, but we kind of knew that before we even lined up. That part is better.”
Does that mean Vince is just a third down guy?
“No. Not necessarily. Vince is going to pretty much play the same role as he did a year ago, and that wasn’t always on third down. So he was in there sometimes to spell backs, and we’ll just see how it shakes out, but Thomas is going to get a good chance, and Vince is going to get a good chance. Justice Hayes is in the fold, too. So we’ll kind of see, and again these next few days -- not few days, but really this next week or so, when we start and the full contact takes hold, we’ll learn more about that situation.”
Have you talked much to Fitz?
“A little bit. As much as I ever do, ya know. ‘Hi Fitz, what’s going on, how ya feelin.’ Yeah, I mean. I talk to all offensive players at one time or another. But yeah, that’s about it.”
You’ve been around Rawls. What do you like about his style and what he brings to the table?
“He’s reckless. He runs with a demeanor that’s aggressive. Suffice to say, aggressive would be the best word -- he looks like he’s mad when he runs sometimes. But he’s a tough guy, and if you hit him you’re going to feel him, I promise you that. You are going to feel him, because there’s times when he’s just simply not interested in avoiding you.”
In your offense, how do you choose where to place your X and Z receivers? Does it make a difference?
“Yeah, it does make a difference, but optimal thing is you’d like to have a guy that plays the position. But the X receiver tends to draw a little more single coverage depending on the team. Some teams that’s not true, and he’s on the line of scrimmage most of the time, so he’s going to draw tighter press coverage, too, whereas the flanker’s not going to draw quite as much tight coverage. The X is a guy that’s got to be kind of rangy because he’s got to be able to get some jump balls. The Z does sometimes, too. The Z’s got to be a guy that moves around a lot more. He’s going to be in more formations than the X is, so he’s got to be on the ball with regard to that. But the skill set in terms of being able to catch, run, and jump, it’s very similar. But once we get them there we try and kind of fit the guys that look like they can handle those things I talked about better.”
What role do you envision Jeremy Gallon to be in?
“Pretty much more the same, with a little bit more seasoning, if that makes any sense. He’s a tough guy. He plays much bigger than his size. You just don’t see a lot of guys his height that can go up and get jump balls like he does. He’s a very good blocker. But what I’d say in answer to that question is that every phase of his game should be a little better simply because of his overall understanding of what we’re trying to do. But he’s a reliable kid, and the quarterbacks have faith in his ability to go get the ball. They know they’ll get his best effort every time he goes up. I would look for him as well as Roy, who’s really [had an outstanding spring] -- both of them have taken that next step. Now I hope we get some carryover once we start playing.”
How much do you think you can use Devin at receiver?
“Well, that’s going to be a lot by game plan, but we’re developing him at two different positions, and let me tell you that’s a challenge. For a kid to be an occasional player is one thing, but to be a guy that you’re really kind of splitting time with, that’s a challenge, but we’ll just see how that shakes out. That’s still kind of in the embryonic stages. As we go, we’ll decide how much of it we’re going to use.”
Do you expect to use him more at one position or another?
“He could -- it depends. I can’t commit to that because you don’t know. At the end of the day, maybe, but we’re trying to exploit every option at this point.”
Does the decision to play Devin at wide receiver mean you have more confidence in Russell Bellomy’s ability as a backup quarterback?
“Yeah. I have more confidence in all their abilities. Any way you cut it, Russell Bellomy’s going to have to take the next step, just like we’re asking everybody else to do. So yeah. I think that’s the key point. You have to develop three quarterbacks. At this point, anyway. Now once you get into the season and you decide how you distribute all that, you’re really working just with two quarterbacks, but we have to see how this whole thing shakes out. Right now we’re still an open book, but we do have some nice options, and right now that’s all you can ask for.”
Have you consulted any other coaches who have dealt with players splitting time between two positions?
“Uh, no not really. No, I tell you what we did do when I was at UCLA is we came here when [Michigan] had Charles Woodson. We came for a spring. Just curious because we had a kid there who we were talking about doing some of that stuff with. But that was different. It was a little different because Charles was playing in a defensive and offensive position. He had this completely different deal. You have to learn two different systems. But Devin’s … in the same system. Learning, hearing the same words all the time. But I can still remember doing that.”
Have you done this with many players in the past?
“A few. A couple over the years, yeah. One time or another you’re forced to do some of that. Sometimes you’re just short on depth, particularly when I coached lower levels when you didn’t have all the scholarships, you know. You had to have some kids that were versatile, so it was through necessity.”
“Oh god, I don’t even remember anymore. God I’d have to walk in the room -- I don’t remember.”
How hard is it for a kid to split time?
“It’s tough because there’s not that many reps. You get X amount of reps and you have to figure out how to get them those reps without killing them. It’s hard. It’s not easy to do.”
You said you’ll see “how it shakes out.” Can you determine that by the end of fall camp?
“Well we determine it before we get to a game situation because we have a game plan, right? You have to make some hard and fast decisions before you get to game time because you have to have a plan going into the game. You can’t do that experiment. And I will say this, too: once you get into the game, it better work out at least in part how you wanted it to, or you’re gonna have to make some adjustments, but at one point in time, we have to have an idea how many reps everybody’s going to play. You know what I mean? Not just him, but everybody -- where and when and what situations. That’s part of game planning.”
Does it help Devin that he’s practicing at two positions that have to work together so closely?
“I think so. Yeah I do.”
Are Devin and Bellomy 1A and 1B?
“No, Devin’s still the second quarterback. That part of it doesn’t change.”
Any impressions of the freshman receivers?
“Eh … nah. I ain’t doin’ it. Nah. I could [say], ‘This guy’s great, that guy’s great,’ then tomorrow you put pads on and go, ‘Oh my god.’ No. Ask me in a week and I’ll probably have a better assessment.”
Does Devin’s switch to receiver show off his athleticism more?
“Yeah. Yeah, and that’s why we did it. Some quarterbacks are quarterbacks and that’s all they are. We’re fortunate in that we have really a couple good quarterbacks that can probably play [receiver] … and he’s one of those guys. You know, he’s a big guy that can run and has good hands. So I mean it’d be bad coaching if he’d be standing next to me the whole game when you have a guy who can really help us. Last year we were pretty deep at that position so it wasn’t as critical, but I think this year he can play more of a part.”
Thoughts on offensive line chemistry?
“Eh, again, it’s just so hard to call, but I know that those kids worked their butts off in the offseason. They did. And they worked together as much as they could. I think that’s something that if it’s not there now, it’s going to come because I know how important it is to those kids.”
MGoQuestion: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the deuce package, and will you consider using it again this season?
“Well I had my analyst do a -- I believe we were eight-point-something yards [per attempt]. I’m not sure exactly. I don’t have it in front of me, but it was good. And even the plays that weren’t good set up plays that were good. You know what I mean. There were guys we’d run a play that wouldn’t yield much, only to be set up by another play that did. It’s not always the play, sometimes It’s the residual effect of the initial play. So it was good. Now how much we use of it? I don’t know. That’s a game plan deal. As we get through the install and we see where we are, we’ll decide on that. But we’re not doing any of that stuff now. That’s not what we’re about right now. We’re about teaching the system and getting our valuations straight. And once we do that, then and only then will we start playing with some of the more I guess cute phases of our offense. I hate using that word. Why’d I say that.”
You mentioned starting Denard off a little too quickly with the pro-style concepts. How do you approach it this year?
“Well we have a lot better feel for what we are. You know what I mean. We knew Denard was a good spread quarterback. I mean, anybody could see that. It was a matter of how much he could do of what we’d done in the past -- because we were always going to have some of that in our offense. We decided that when we came here. We decided that when I took the job. So once we decided what percentages that was, then we could proceed accordingly. We have so much better feel for that now because we’ve been through a fall, a spring, we know basically how much we want to be of both. It’s different now. It’s different without a question.”
Can you make a determination on certain position battles -- like left guard -- by a certain date? Do you have a timetable?
“I would never put a date on it because it could change the day before the game, you know what I mean? But there is a point in time when you have to narrow the field down to how many kids you’re going to practice in scout teams. And that’ll be sometime within a couple weeks to the game -- within at least a week and a half to the game. We have not set that date yet, but at that time it’s fish or cut bait. You have to take the 18 to 20 players that you’re going to practice with every single day, then kind of go from there.”
Sponsor note: SPORTS POWER WEEKENDS will get you to a road game with POWER. /Herbstreit
Check them out to help the blog.
Pro combat. Via Tremendous, freshman OL Erik Magnuson and Kyle Kalis in a dorm hallway:
Magnuson should wear that on gameday. DEs would speed rush the wrong way.
Liveblog status update. I've checked out the comments left on the Liveblog Conundrum post and things seem split 60-40 in favor of CIL, but a couple of misconceptions may have swung that. To clarify:
- The embedded twitter feed hypothesized in the previous post would not be unmoderated. We would not be relaying the results of a hashtag. We would create a separate gameday twitter feed that would be part of the list that would exclusively retweet comments sent to it, a la CIL. There would be a base set of feeds like Ace, Heiko, Seth, myself, and Grant Wahl that would be in the list, and then various people who wanted to contribute to the list as commenters would send tweets to the gameday account.
- Kickstarter requires a deliverable, so their platform doesn't work for raising money for a service like this. We could do a generic donation drive for these things, but… it's moderated chat software. Paying these sorts of prices seems insane. Various people have brought up the idea of spinning up our own version, and I agree that is an attractive long-term solution but it's August and that is not an option for 2012.
- I don't see the "I might annoy people following my feed" and "I might not be as anonymous as I would like to be" issues as real problems. If anything, that kind of drag on posting would be beneficial to the over-stressed moderators. If you'd ever been in a CIL trying to figure out what to give an approve to you'd know. Caring about that sort of thing seems like a benefit.
- A commenter mentioned P2, a wordpress theme that turns a front page into… well, SB Nation comments. This would be great. It does not have a Drupal equivalent. I could try to incorporate it as a subdomain (live.mgoblog.com) but again, it's August and at this point it's time to embed or die.
Does that change any opinions?
Mattison in for the medium haul. I don't think it's a surprise that Mattison is planning on retiring at Michigan…
"The good thing that happens when you're older and you've been a lot of places is, a lot of (coaches) want to win so they can move on," Mattison said. "Me? Hey, this is my last stop. I just want to win because it's Michigan."
…but maybe Borges saying the same thing is news:
"Now that I'm here, not really -- not like I did 10, 15 years ago," Borges said in a recent interview when asked if he still hoped to be a head coach. "I never say never, but by the same token, I don't go looking for them. Used to be I did, but I'm done hunting down head coaching jobs. I'm in a place where I'm very happy and I just want to make this job the best job I can make it.
"This is a great place to coach and to be, and for someone to leave here, you better be able to justify it. And I just don't see any scenarios that could justify me leaving the University of Michigan."
How long would these guys be in place? Well, Mattison is 62 and Borges 56. Norm Parker just packed it in at 69 due to health issues and Mattison says he'll keep going as long as those don't prevent him from doing his job:
"At first, I thought I might do this for a few years," he said. "But after this last season ... my wife, she said it me, 'What else are you going to do? You are going to go golfing for about two weeks, and then you're going to go crazy.'
"'I said, 'You're right. I'm going to coach, as long as my health holds up, and as long as they want me, and as long as I can still keep doing the job.' "
So this staff will probably hang together until someone gets poached to be a coordinator elsewhere or Mattison retires.
We're serious now you guys. Glad to see that John Infante, the Bylaw Blog guy, also had a problem with UCF's wrist-slap penalty for its athletic director paying a street agent(!) and that I'm not a bloodthirsty maniac. Or if I am I'm not a lone bloodthirsty maniac. Infante:
What UCF was accused of was, on its face, one of the worst packages of NCAA violations in recent memory. Not only were both of its revenue sports using a runner (among others) to help recruit athletes and that runner was providing benefits to student-athletes, but all of this was with the knowledge, encouragement, and even active participation of the athletic director.
For all that, UCF got off relatively light. Twin postseason bans, scholarship losses and major recruiting restrictions are not a slap on the wrist. But considering the conduct, it could and should have been much worse. The NCAA would have been justified in laying to waste both of UCF’s most prominent sports for the rest of the decade
Infante hypothesizes that the COI is waiting for the new enforcement structure coming down from on high before doing anything serious to someone. Well, it's here:
A program found to have made a "serious breach of conduct" with aggravating circumstances could face postseason bans of two to four years. In addition, the program may have to return money from specific events or a series of events or the amount of gross revenue generated by the sport during the years in which sanctions occurred - fines that could cost a school millions of dollars.
If this sounds familiar, it should. After the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State, the NCAA barred Penn State from playing in a bowl game or the college football playoff until after the 2016 season and levied a $60 million fine - the rough equivalent to a year of gross revenue from the football program.
Coaches, too, would face new guidelines. They would be presumed responsible for any violations committed by their staffs. If they cannot prove they were unaware, the head coach could be suspended from 10 percent of the season to the full season.
The board also approved a provision that would publicly identify individuals responsible for the violations if there is a finding of lack of institutional control or failure to monitor.
It won't be real until October, but it should be real then. Hopefully UNC and Miami are first on the chopping block.
I can foresee no problems with this. This is part of a generally sensible move towards slashing out big chunks of NCAA rule minutia:
Boosters would be allowed to contribute directly to the compensation of coaches, potentially controlling more of the terms under which coaches are paid, if a new NCAA proposal is adopted.
Under the plan, described in a 12-page NCAA document obtained by The Chronicle,boosters could come up with their own bonuses instead of giving their money to the athletic department and hoping that they would have the influence to get it written into a coach’s contract, one NCAA rules expert says.
I'm not sure who thought the problem with booster influence was that it was too restricted. I would like to tell this person that they're not right. The rest of the proposal seems fine by me: removing a bunch of recruiting restrictions implemented to maintain a "level playing field," including the contact restrictions men's basketball has already dumped.
Here's a person who is sane:
“The playing field is not and has never been and never will be level,” said James F. Barker, president of Clemson University and chair of the NCAA working group that came up with the proposed changes. “To say the NCAA should try to create a level playing field is impossible and is not a wise path to take.”
Here's a person who is not:
“I do not know if the proverbial ‘level playing field’ can ever be had,” Bill Zack, head women’s rowing coach at the University of Portland and president of the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association, wrote to the working group through an NCAA feedback form. “But I think it is problematic to outright acknowledge that it is OK to have institutional financial advantage."
There's a place for that, and it's called DIII.
shooters are shooting in code
Irvin hype. Rod Beard checks in with 2013 basketball recruit Zak Irvin and in doing so touches on the most remarkable aspect of Beilein's recruiting thus far:
"Irvin is probably the most improved kid in the state this year. He had a great year in high school and he's carried it over to AAU. He can really shoot, he's athletic at 6-7 and he's a lot like Hardaway," said Dan Dakich, who coached at Indiana University and now coaches an AAU team in the state.
"He's a better shooter than Hardaway coming out, but he's got that kind of length and can handle the ball and is comfortable on the perimeter. Beilein likes length and shooting ability and certainly those two kids can do that. I think they got two really good ones."
Over at ESPN, a couple of analysts confirm Dakich's assessment($). Paul Biancardi votes for Irvin as the best player he saw across two dozen AAU events…
His long-range jumper is accurate and if a defender gets too close, he will drive to the basket with a long first step. Plus, he has the size to score over defenders in the painted area. … Overall, he is a clutch performer, arguably the best player in the state of Indiana and the best player who helped his team win I saw all summer.
…and John Stovall plugs him as the guy most likely to rise in ESPN's rankings:
The Michigan commit has improved to the point where he is the best player in Indiana and one of the very best in the Midwest. He can play either wing position (SF or SG) and is a solid athlete who is much better off the dribble now with his improved handle. He can create space off the dribble and hit shots from midrange all the way to 22 feet. He is also better as a defender. He has nice length and athletic ability. Irvin is easily a top 50 player now and should be ready to play immediately at Michigan.
Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Glenn Robinson III, and now Irvin have all seen surges after their commitments as they pass various players Beilein has not recruited. (Hardaway and Burke had to wait to arrive on campus before getting the bump.) That's quite a streak. Talent evaluation: Beilein has it.
BONUS: rumble has it that Scout, the lone remaining Irvin skeptic, is about to come around whenever they update their rankings next.
We'll be seeing you in Michigan Stadium this fall. Congrats to Tyler Clary, the former Michigan swimmer who nailed down a 200M backstroke gold medal by beating favored Ryan Lochte last night-ish, then live-tweeted the replay.
We might not be seeing you in Michigan Stadium this fall, at least not early. Frank Clark's pretrial date is September 11th, which is after the Alabama and Air Force games. If Hoke goes by the Josh Furman precedent Clark will be out at least that long, but hopefully he won't since having Furman sit out spring practice for a piddling offense that was eventually dismissed seems detrimental to everyone.
Requirement: three people should have this jersey. The Wisterts' #11 is back in circulation as a legends jersey. Don't give it to Kovacs. Or Denard.
Minor hockey rule changes. Hand passes are now illegal everywhere, and defensive zone hand passes are subject to a no-change rule similar to icing. Deflecting a puck into the net with your skates is now cool as long as it's not kicked. (This rule will be changed within five years, because it always changes.) And defensive players slightly dislodging the net will not cancel goals like Michigan's second against Cornell last year. Which, like, finally.
Thumbs up on all of these. I think they should move the kicked-puck rule to a bright line: if the skate stays on the ice for the whole process, it's legit. If it comes off, it's not.
BONUS thing: Canadian university Simon Fraser is the NCAA's first international member. They'll enter at DII and will hopefully wrangle themselves a DI hockey program as soon as possible.
Etc.: NCAA widens bowl eligibility to 5-7 teams if they have a top five APR, which, just… come on man. Every bowl that would ever consider taking such a team is stealing money from college football with ticket guarantees to games that will have no one at them. Countdown To Kickoff kicks off. Also counts down.
[Ed-H: Bump. There, I did it. No more Urban Meyer.]
I got a little busy at work during the winter, and then recruiting magic was happening, and then I figured it was too late for this post. But finally I got a day off, and it's raining, and I've had these screencaps online for 6 months, and I've got literally nothing better to do for a few hours on this sunday. So here is the Nebraska game wrap (with pics!)
That was kind of unexpected. AND AWESOME! It was without a doubt our best game of the year. Heck it was our best game IN YEARS. It was maybe the best team performance since the 1997 PSU game, although I'm probably forgetting some good ones in between.
During the game, I remember thinking the score was pretty close and anything could happen until the turnovers made it a laugher. But after watching it a few times since then, we really did dominate in all phases of the game.
By the end of the 3rd, the stat sheet was pretty one-sided. They really only had 2 great plays all game. (Two plays that I highlighted in the preview post.... so maybe I'm not completely stupid. Still, I did rag on MSU's O-line which gelled pretty strongly by mid-season. ooops.)
Defending the option
Like most of the Michigan fan base, I have huge man crush on Mattison. The things he and his staff are doing, and the performances they're getting from our players are out of this world. I would love to just sit at his feet, follow him around, and absorb as much football knowledge as possible.
If you've accomplished as much as this man, people won't make a big deal out of you using your moobs to signal the playcall. (This GA knowns that peripheral vision is sometimes a weird thing.)
Defending the option is so simple, yet so hard. You need your players to know their assignments and play with decisiveness.Here is Jake Ryan demonstrating the textbook definition of "forcing the pitch".
Nebraska has this play blocked pretty much as you would draw it up. Ryan is the 'optioned' man who is unblocked. Martinez doesn't see the whole open up on the backside, but he's running to where the play is called. He's supposed to read Ryan and "make him wrong".
Jake's first step is lateral as if he's going to squeeze the zone on the slot receiver. But when he sees the option motion coming towards him, he cuts upfield with authority. Martinez reads him correctly, and it looks like this should be a decent gain for the Huskers.
Meanwhile, Mike Martin has beaten his block and is pursuing to stop cutbacks, and the secondary is coming up in run support.
Ryan's change of direction is so fast that Martinez can't get a good pitch off with his left hand. Burkhead managed to fall on the loose ball, but if he hadn't we had two guys coming up quickly and there would have been no way for Martinez to get it with his face planted in the ground. The moral of the story is that one way to defend the option is to make those options keep the ball and get killed, or pitch the ball and get killed.
Another way to stop the option is to get an unexpected defender free. Nebraska comes out in a 4-wide set to try to get a good personnel matchup. But we just stay in our base 4-3 so it doesn't matter when the TE comes down to the line of scrimmage.
Mike Martin explodes through the line and forces the pitch FROM THE BACK SIDE. That's impressive.
Meanwhile, Kovacs is up in run support and all over his assignment as you would expect from a player of his intelligence. He reacts so quickly that the blocker whiffs on him. And the pursuit isn't giving Burkhead anywhere to go.
Getting a 5 yard TFL on first down against your opponent's bread and butter play ... that's a good a thing.
Getting off blocks
One of the stark differences between last year's defense and .... uh ... others... was how well they were getting off blocks and getting to the ball. I don't want to disparage former defensive coaches...BUT the improvement was remarkable.
We're in our zone blitz package with Martin dropping and Demens rushing. Demens gets doubled. That's a pretty big weight disadvantage for him.
So he squares up and gets some arm's length separation from the defenders, one of whom starts looking for someone else to block.
Martinez decides the coverage is too good and thinks he can squirt through that passing lane. But both Demens and Ryan see it, react to it, and clamp down on that hole.
Ryan slaps the ball out. Check out how far away from the ball Van Bergen is. But he's got his head up, he's disengaged from his blocker, and he's pursuing the ball.
One funny bounce later and it's in RVB's hands. Brian keeps saying that fumble recoveries are just luck and 50-50 propositions. I would disagree and say the fumble recovery percentage is more of a function of the number of each team's players near the ball when the fumble happens. In this case, we were a little lucky because Nebraska had more guys near the ball. But if RVB isn't hustling and getting off his blocker, our chances of getting that ball go from slim to none. So yes, luck plays a part, but I don't believe it's JUST luck or that it will always regress to the mean..
And lets not forget the good hustle and technique which caused the fumble in the first place. Strip that ball!
(The other 85% after the jump)