"...don't believe something because an "expert" is saying it. Believe it because of the evidence."
News bullets and other important things:
- Vincent Smith has earned a start at RB
- New NCAA rules mean that Rawl's redshirt is not completely burned yet.
- Herron and Cam Gordon are expected back next week, but must compete for their jobs.
- Gallon might get time as kick returner, but not because V. Smith is slow.
- Hoke tried getting Dave Brandon to buy out the SDSU game.
- Raymon Taylor played in nickel because Woolfolk got beat up a bit, but did not necessarily surpass Courtney Avery.
- Taylor doesn't have the Desmond patch.
- David Molk hates people in general, not just the press.
Press Conference (filmed)
Did you talk to the players about being in the rankings? “Does it matter?” Well, no. “Exactly.”
Opening remarks: “A couple things about last Saturday. It’s good to win a football game. I thought we started a little slower than we’d like to. I don’t know if there’s a magic answer for that. We talked about that as a team. The first six possessions offensively, I think we were three-and-out three times. We were driving the ball and then we threw an interception. That hurts you when you look at tempo and fluidness you want to have offensively. And obviously your defense is back on the field. We struggled a little bit with the jet series plays, but after that I think our guys really made some good adjustments on both sides of the ball. I thought the kids played fundamentally maybe more sound. The time of possession, obviously, became a big factor. We play good defense when we’re watching our offense, and we were able to do that in the second half a little more.
“The running game, I thought, came on as I saw it. We still don’t want to run Denard 26 times a game. That’s a good way to get him beat up and hurt. So we have to keep plugging away. With Vince’s production, [and] Fitz gave us some good runs in there, it took a little bit of load off [Denard], but we have to make sure we’re a healthy football team as we continue forward. We need to complete a couple balls if they’re going to load the box and play man coverage, which they did, and that’s smart. We have to be able to complete a couple of those things to loosen some people up.
“Defensively, Thomas Gordon made a critical a play in the game with the interception and the fumble recovery. Both of those were hustle plays. On the interception it was Thomas doing his job. [He] didn’t get fooled, didn’t get sucked in, and I thought that was a nice play by him. We felt our defensive front during the course of the game a little more. Craig Roh played his best football of the year so far. Jibreel played a pretty productive football game. You could feel Mike [Martin] a little more in there. I thought Will Campbell gave us some really good snaps.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us with a very good San Diego team coming in. They’re undefeated. They’re 3-0. Beat Washington State last week. Very talented team, a team that’s going to play with a lot of toughness and a team that’s well coached. We have our hands full.”
(more after the jump)
News bullets and other important items:
- Eastern Michigan is 2-0 and is averaging 331 yards rushing, which is scary to Hoke. Fear level now up to 2.
- Fitz Toussaint (shoulder) will likely return this week.
- Brandon Herron (unknown), and Cam Gordon (back) are questionable. Will need good week in practice to return.
- Woolfolk had a bit of a nose injury, but re: his ankle -- "He's fine." Period.
- Marell Evans still working on eligibility. Currently operating as scout team linebacker.
- Jake Ryan playing with hand down primarily in nickel package.
- Need to see more from Will Campbell in practice for more playing time.
- Odoms working his way back into rotation.
- No student-body tryouts until January.
- No. 21 jersey will likely go to wide receivers in the future. Unknown whether Raymon Taylor is wearing the Desmond Howard patch.
Press Conference (filmed)
"Does that make sense? It does to me ..."
Opening remarks: “You guys ready? Thanks for coming.
“Saturday was obviously very exciting in a lot of ways. The crowd, the passion, how both teams played 60 minutes of football. It was a neat environment, fun, all those things. Obviously a record crowd to see a college football game, and it was good to have the outcome the way it did. It was hard fought, not a perfect game. When you look at it offensively and defensively, things that we need to get a lot better at before we’re going to be any kind of a football team -- we need to focus in on those things, and as a team, we’ve gotta do a good job of coaching, number one, and teaching, and then playing. Our expectations are high, and we won’t get that way if we don’t possess the ball offensively to help the defense, and if we don’t do a better job in third-down conversions from a defensive standpoint.”
What did you see from Brandin Hawthorne and Will Campbell? “I thought Brandin got in there and did a nice job and made some plays. I think it was good to see him be productive in that role. Part of it [was] he did a nice job reacting and seeing the ball and focusing in on keys and finishing plays. And that was good to see from him. He had been banged up about the last week of camp. He practiced, but he had an ankle problem and still does to some degree, but it was good to see him play full speed.”
Overcoming adversity, was it especially hard trying to overcome a 24-7 deficit or trying to score with 30 seconds left? “Probably both. Our team stayed together. At halftime, we went in, and we just talk about -- asked a pretty simple question, ‘Have we played our best football?’ … ‘Are we playing our best football?’ and ‘Are we coaching our best football?’ and it was a unanimous ‘No.’
“Al and the offensive staff did a good job in some adjusting that they did. You’ve got to get Notre Dame a lot of credit. They’re a pretty good football team. Their biggest Achilles heel is they’ve turned the ball over, and you can’t do that. I’m not coaching them, but I’m sure Brian is sick about that. I thought the guys complement each other as a team, and they stayed together.”
What did you say to the team yesterday to get them to move past Notre Dame? “We were going to spend Sunday talking about the things that we did [well] and didn’t do [well]. Eastern -- they’re 2-0. They’re a confident team. I think Ron’s done a nice job. They’re averaging 331 yards per game rushing the football. That’s pretty impressive -- I don’t care who you’re playing. I think you’ve got a staff over there of guys -- with Mike [Hart] and Kurt Anderson, Steve Morrison, who are all products of this program as players -- that understand about coaching hard and doing those things, and you know just from being around those guys that’s how they coach their kids. And you can tell, with Ron’s influence as a defensive coach and defensive minded guy and an aggressive personality guy -- that’s the way they’re playing football. They’re impressive. They’ve got 10 sacks in two games. They’re doing a lot of good things.”
Did Denard have a rough game, great game, or little of both? “Probably a little of both. Obviously he made some plays when we needed to have some plays made, which a guy of his capability and caliber can do, but we also needed to make better decisions at times. He was the first one to come off the field after one [bad play] and say, ‘My footwork was bad.’ So that’s good to see. The whole thing is a process to some degree, and we’re learning everyday.”
What is Fitz Toussaint’s status, and are there concerns about repeated injuries to him? “I don’t know much of his history. I think he’ll be okay. He just bumped up his shoulder a bit against Western. Didn’t see as much as we’d like to for him to be ready for the Notre Dame game.”
You’re blitzing a lot. Are you concerned that it’s taking the linebackers out of the running game? The middle of field did look pretty open. “Well … honestly it shouldn’t have been. It’s open for a second, and then we’ve got to execute a little better at closing it off. You can get hurt, no question. If they want to take that gamble depending on who they are, depending on down and distance, they can check into a run, and sometimes you want them to. But you got to execute the defense when you want them to.
“Does that make sense? It does to me …”
Do you need to blitz more based on pressure (or lack thereof) from the front four? “I think yes, we have had to be more aggressive. At the same time, you’ve got to look at your match-ups pretty hard, and what you want to do with your guys in the back end, and how you feel about that.”
What was postgame like for you? “I have a lot of family in the Midwest, believe me. We had 35 or 40 people at our house. Nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, and in-laws -- the whole deal. Everybody found a place on the floor and went to bed, but it was late. 3:30 maybe by the time you say hello and talk to everybody and be as gracious as I can be.”
Other health updates? Anybody definitely out for Saturday? “We’re pretty healthy. We’ve got some nicks and those kind of things, but I’m trying to think if, uh … Cam is gonna see what it feels like tomorrow. He feels better. Brandon Herron felt better but we’ll see what he’s like. I think Fitz is going to be fine. I don’t think we’re in too bad of shape.”
When you were down 17 points, was the offensive play-calling based more on Borges’ offense or 2010-Denard’s offense? “One of the key plays in the game was McColgan’s catch. Coming off the play-action, and we didn’t run a whole lot of play-action with I-backs and all that. A lot of the stuff was just being basic third-down offensive stuff and being in the gun anyway on third downs. It was a good mix, I would say.”
How much of last couple drives was within framework of offense, and how much of it was Denard making rainbows? “The rush lanes kind of went like this. And he did what he’s coached to do. Step up, step up in there, and keep pushing the pocket up when you feel it on the perimeter. It was pretty open. They were spying at times – one of the linebackers – but in that situation, they were playing pretty far off, so it bought time for Gallon. It really bought time for the sail routes, the cross, to take and suck their secondary that way, and Gallon was there by himself.”
Are you still trying to identify playmakers on defense? “I think we still are. Practice is one thing. Game time stuff is a little different. I think who plays with the lights on … we’ll see. It was good to give Will [Campbell] some snaps against good competition. Like I said, they’re a good football team, they’ve got good personnel. Right now the difference for them probably is turnover margin.”
What’s going on with Brandon Herron? “He’s got a little bit of a leg problem.”
Linebacker rotation/competition … how many linebackers are you comfortable with? “I think J.B. [Fitzgerald], all those guys, we feel pretty comfortable. I think it’s who you identify as taking most of the snaps. You work through. Kenny is pretty solid in what he does. J.B. has an opportunity to get in there and rest Kenny a little bit, which is important in the fourth quarter. There will be a rotation, and it really depends some on what package we’re in, if we’re playing out of our base front, or if we’re in our dimes and nickels.”
How would you assess D-line play? Are there things you see in practice that aren’t translating onto the field? “We’re not near to the expectations that we have. I think the kids feel the same way at that position. I think there are things that Ryan Van Bergen has done at times that are really well. I don’t want to get specific, but I think we have to feel those guys. We need to get a little big more pressure with four guys rushing the quarterback, so you don’t put J.T. or Courtney Avery out there on an island. I think we’re a work in progress in a lot of degrees. Some of it is because it’s a little different schematically, and how you attack the line of scrimmage, take on blocks, and get off blocks. We would think we’d be further along.”
Talk about efficiency of red-zone offense (Michigan was 5/5). “I think we’ve got a pretty good package down there, and the kids are executing. I don’t think it’s anything more than that. Certain teams, defensively, always are going to have certain teams they like in the red zone, and I think the kids have been executing what the plan has been.”
(we're bringing back the jump. so ... more after the jump!)
Brandon Herron picked up a lot of minuses yesterday but it could easily have been Kenny Demens if he was the guy tasked with hauling ass to a far, far away zone coverage instead of making Alex Carder spit blood. He was given a tough job.
But he didn't execute that tough job, and we remain a results-based charting service. The good news is that he did get better at not executing his tough job. If you're looking for evidence that this coaching staff is better than the last one at teaching people how not to be terrible defensive players, here's some hope for you.
I found two plays that were exact replicas of each other. It's third down on one hash in both. WMU is in a four-wide shotgun while Michigan deploys its Okie package. Michigan will send wide-side blitzers and Brandon Herron will be directed to drop into a zone on the other hash—IE, run halfway across the field. WMU completes both passes, but Herron gets better.
Play The First
You are focused entirely on Herron, who is on the near hash in front of Demens, threatening blitz:
On the snap Heron pivots as Demens comes; RVB drops in to a short zone as Michigan sends five:
Herron crosses the hash marks three yards off the LOS:
Still three yards:
Now he's maybe three and a half yards deep and not even to the midway point as Carder cocks to throw the hitch to the slot.
Two other things to note:
- Gordon got a free run at Carder but slips as he moves in for a killshot. If he doesn't, he's likely to bat the pass or sack Carder.
- RVB is totally cutting off the other inside hitch, though his back is to the QB.
As the ball goes over Herron's head he's four or five yards deep, still not to the other hash, and not facing the quarterback:
Play The Second
This is going to be the exact same play by both teams. WMU runs the same all-hitch; Michigan runs the same zone blitz behind it. It's third and four on WMU's first drive of the second half. Herron is below the bottom hash this time.
As the snap reaches the QB Herron is pivoting…
…and on step two he's already got a yard of depth:
By the time the WR cuts off the route he's at the spot he was when the ball went over his head last time:
Important: this hitch is seven yards and the previous one was ten. The extra two steps the WR would take to get to the depth on the previous play would also get Herron all the way to the hash, whereupon he could give that WR the business. He's closer and a bit deeper earlier in the play.
You can see the improvement in the zone drop in the next frame, when the ball is halfway to the WR. Herron is right there:
Unfortunately he's had to run hash to hash with his back to the QB and never turns around.
First down again.
A primary disadvantage of zone blitzing is having to haul ass so hard you can't look at the QB. You can see this in RVB's drops both times, too: when you're dropping into a surprising zone far away from where you start the play in order to facilitate QB pressure you can't just shuffle backwards like a linebacker, keeping your eyes on the QB and the receivers in front of you. To even get in the area you have to turn your back to the world and then whip around when it seems like the right time.
This seems hard. (Todd Howard is nodding his head right now.) Certainly we don't see it happening on either of the plays above. This is probably easier in the NFL when everyone's more athletic—and it may be an argument for the fastest, whippiest WLB Michigan can throw out there.
If your zone blitz works the pressure you get is often coming from the same area the open guy is. On the first play Thomas Gordon is in free. If he keeps his feet he's got a great shot at batting the ball skyward. A guy leaping at the QB may cause a delay. In a normal blitz package this might not get you much, but with Herron rotating over lateness is dangerous for an offense.
It doesn't take much for late to be late. Carder is late on the second play. You can see that on the frame where he's in his throwing motion: the WR has already settled and is looking for the ball. If he's on time the argh about Herron not turning around in the next frame is considerably reduced.
If offenses execute perfectly there's not much you can do about them, but offenses do not execute perfectly and defense is all about giving little margin for error. Michigan did a much better job of that on the second play than the first.
They're learning. This is good and bad. You could see the confusion on the first drive, the big errors that got a little smaller as the day went along. But if we're looking for evidence that this year's coaching staff is more adept at doing things other than preserving their meticulous hair, we've got a couple examples.
Gratuitous video of the week: is obvious. Sorry about the weird audio delay. (Anyone know why compressing a ts file into a WMV would do this and how to fix it?)
Substitution notes: Massive in the front seven. After the first few plays there was no SDE; he was lifted for a safety. Martin, RVB, and Roh were frequently replaced by Heininger, Brink, and Black respectively. Campbell got a little time and didn't do well. The SLB alternated between Ryan and Beyer. MLB was Demens and Fitzgerald. Herron started at WLB and got most of the time; Mike Jones was the only other guy to draw in.
The secondary was consistent: Avery and Kovacs the whole way, Woolfolk until he got hurt then Floyd, Johnson after the first few plays until he was pulled in favor of Marvin Robinson late.
Formation Notes: Michigan's first few plays were in a 4-3, after which they lifted a defensive lineman for an extra safety (Johnson) and moved Gordon down to the nickel. Frequently they would put a nominal SLB, either Ryan or Beyer, in a three point stance as another down lineman.
As the game progressed, Michigan got more aggressive. This is what I called "Nickel press"—you can see the one deep safety with press coverage on the outside WRs and a 3-4 front. This was blitz-heavy:
And right at the end of the first half Michigan showed a something I called "Nickel eff it"…
…which was 11 guys within five yards of the line. This ended with Kenny Demens running straight up the middle at Carder both times it happened.
On passing downs we saw the return of Scot Shafer's "Okie" package, which is a two-deep shell behind a zone-blitzing 3-4 like so:
And that was it. Will be interesting to see what they do when ND tries to manball these guys.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O26||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||6|
|Michigan comes out in a 4-3 with no one over the slot receiver and WMU probably has an auto-check into a bubble. I can't tell if what Woolfolk does is good or bad: he comes up hard and gets cut easily. He does force the WR inside of him—over him, actually. He manages to leap up and grab his ankles as he passes. Still a good gain. (RPS -1. I guess +0.5, tackling +1 for Woolfolk. ) Martin(+1) had torn through the center and hit Carder on a bubble screen. I be like dang.|
|O323||2||4||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Hitch||Herron?||3|
|Soft corner from Avery means Herron is stretched horizontally. He drops into the inner route, opening up a short hitch near the sticks. Should have been seven or eight but Carder's throw was upfield, taking the receiver off his feet. RPS -1, cover -1.|
|O35||3||1||Power I||Base 4-4||Run||N/A||Iso||N/A||2|
|This was the chaos play Blue Seoul noted. They did get set eventually in a 4-4 with six guys on the LOS, including Kovacs and Herron and Demens as MLBs. They run at the gap in the shifted line between Martin and Roh, doubling both. Both hold up; Roh manages to slide inside the LT and restrict the hole but can't get any penetration. He's kind of being held but no way they call it. Herron (-0.5) reads the play maybe a hair late or is lined up too deep, meeting the FB at the first down marker instead of the LOS. That's a stalemate and the RB can fall down across the line in a heap of bodies.|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||13|
|First DL backups in; I won't be able to track the comings and goings efficiently, I don't think. Doesn't matter here. Michigan again aligns to give the bubble and WMU throws it. Ryan(+1) is tearing out at it quickly and may be able to hold it down for minimal yardage but Woolfolk(-2) commits the cardinal sin of the bubble screen by losing leverage and letting the play bounce outside of him. Ryan still almost gets him on the sidelines but does not make the play; Gordon escorts him OOB after the sticks.|
|50||1||10||Shotgun diamond||Nickel||Run||N/A||QB draw||Martin||2|
|Intended to go off tackle until a Michigan stunt gets Ryan(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) enough penetration that Carder has to cut behind everything into the unblocked Black and RVB recovering from a cut. RPS+1|
|M48||2||8||I-Form twins||Nickel||Pass||4||Deep hitch||Herron||12|
|Michigan is in a quarters zone that has four guys in short zones, or three guys in short zones and Brandon Herron(-2) running man coverage on a shallow crossing route, opening up a hitch between Gordon and Demens that should be exactly where he's sitting. (Cover -1) Martin stymied by a double; Black had fought through the RB's block to provide some token pressure. Still (Pressure -1)|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun empty TE||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||5||Flare||Woolfolk||2|
|DL: Brink/Heininger/Black. Mike Patrick: “now they're back to more of a traditional look” instead of the odd stack they're in on this play. Michigan sends Ryan and Gordon and gets nothing, but this spooks Carder into a nothing dumpoff that Woolfolk(+1, tackling +1) reads and levels for no gain.|
|M34||2||8||Shotgun 2-back trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||N/A||Triple option dive||Demens?||9|
|Beyer in for Ryan. Unbalanced formation w/ covered slot. Michigan is ridiculously misaligned (RPS -2). Black charges upfield as the tackle releases and has to form up to respect the option. Beyer(-1) drops into coverage. Demens(-1) is originally lined up outside of the tackle and starts to come back inside but that just makes him a sitting duck: he's moving backwards as the OL impacts him and gives huge chunks of ground because of physics. Running back cuts behind him into gaping space because Beyer is still looking at the bubble screen.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||N/A||Tunnel screen||Gordon||1|
|This confusion might actually have helped M: they shift late with Woolfolk getting out on the outside receiver just as the snap is arriving. If they have an autocheck into this screen we may have dummied them into it. As a result the inside WR takes Woolfolk(+0.5), who does a good job to stand him up near the LOS, and the tunnel guy is running right into Gordon(+0.5). Gordon gets beat to the inside but slowly enough for the cavalry to rally. RPS+1.|
|M24||2||9||I-Form big||Nickel 4-3||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||2|
|I think it's inside zone but might be wrong. Nickel personnel; Gordon as an OLB. RB takes the handoff to the side opposite to where the FB goes and will look to cut back. Martin takes a double and sits at the LOS. Gordon takes on G and gets annihilated but the RB cuts back. Probably a bad move. Demens(+2) is sliding playside, reads the cutback, and gets to the POA in a flash, making a diving tackle despite a lunge from the backside G, who fell trying to get out. He was supposed to be blocking Herron(-1), who ran so far to the playside that by the time the RB had cut back he'd passed Demens. I think RVB and Ryan are stunting and sort of think Ryan is doing a bad job but I'd like some outside opinions. This one is confusing.|
|M22||3||7||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie||Pass||5||Deep hitch||Gordon||14|
|Michigan sends five, dropping RVB and Herron. This gets Gordon(-1) in clean (RPS +1, Pressure +1), but he takes an angle too far outside and slips. He should be in the QB's face leaping at him and forcing him to bring this down. He's not so Herron is given the tough job of hauling ass across the field to hopefully cover the slot on the other side of the play. He doesn't, and he gets a (-1) for running away from the QB and letting the pass get over his head. He will do this better later. I have Picture Pages to show it. Cover –1.|
|M8||1||G||Shotgun 2-back trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||N/A||Triple option dive||Demens||1|
|They figure it out this time with men tight over the WRs and one deep safety in an obvious run-prevent D as discussed by Blue Seoul. This time Ryan(+1) blitzes at the snap and drives past the G into the path of the RB; cutback. Demens(+1), now properly aligned, hits the LT while moving forward and pushes him back this time. Black(+0.5) forms up and crashes after the handoff; he and Demens tackle (RPS +1)|
|M7||2||G||Shotgun empty TE||Okie||Pass||5||Hitch||Johnson||6|
|RPS -2; Carvin Johnson(-3) leaves Avery on an island with two receivers. Avery(+1, tackling +1), does as good a job as possible in the situation he's put in, splitting the WRs and smashing the short hitch they complete short of the goal line. Too bad, too, because the blitz had gotten Demens straight up the middle untouched. Johnson aligning properly might make this a sack.|
|M1||3||G||Wishbone||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||Van Bergen||0|
|RVB(+1) times the snap perfectly, shooting through the G assigned to him and nailing the FB at the two. RB hits FB. Martin has made a pile at the one and the delay allows the massive pile of meat to not end up in the endzone. Whoah: actually, they messed up the handoff and Carder followed it up. Same result.|
|M1||4||G||Power I||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso squared||--||1|
|They get it this time by running everybody on their offense straight up the middle.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Jones in at WLB; they send him while dropping Roh. WMU picks it up and hits an out in front of Avery(-1, cover -1). No chance for the D to get there if it's going to be first read three-step stuff.|
|M48||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Run||N/A||Counter||Demens||25|
|Mattison is sick of this crap. Michigan goes into bump and run on the outside receivers and brings Kovacs into the box, leaving one-high. WMU gets a big gainer on a counter. Beyer(-1), unblocked on the backside, does not read the pull and rushes too far upfield. He's easily kicked out. That DE is critical on a power play like this; he needs to get into the puller and force a bounce or restrict the hole. He does neither. So it's a tough job for Demens against the pulling TE, but Demens(-2) pulls a Mouton by losing leverage. If he gets outside the blocker there's a decent chance RVB(+1) , who has given a little ground to get playside of his blocker, makes a great play to prevent this from going a long way. He'd have to do that because Johnson(-1) sucked up on the counter step and got lost in the wash. Picture paged.|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Gordon||-2|
|Gordon(+2) reads, attacks, and destroys.|
|M25||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||6||Fly||Floyd||Inc|
|Demens's delayed blitz gets him in free(pressure +1, RPS +1) but I wonder if he didn't time it quite right. Another step and Carder is seriously harried. As it is he gets off an accurate deep ball on Floyd's guy, who's got a step. Floyd runs his ass off, starts tugging jersey early, and... I'll be damned. He strips the ball loose(+2, cover +1). That was textbook. Gibson -1.|
|M25||3||12||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie||Pass||5||Slant||Van Bergen||2|
|Van Bergen(+2) slants past the G before he can react and is up the middle on Carder before his receivers can even get to the sticks(pressure +2). Carder dumps it off on a little in at the LOS that takes the receiver off his feet; Kovacs(+0.5) likely had it covered for minimal gain anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(40), 7-7, 12 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||N/A||Yakety sax||--||3|
|Looks kind of like a QB draw but this is a busted play. RB thinks it's a speed option; Carder extends for a mesh point. Then he runs. Frontside has a totally unblocked Fitzgerald because of the bust; Carder cuts it back. There's room because Campbell(-1) gave a lot of ground fighting playside. Fitzgerald(+0.5) chases Carder around RVB, who held up to a double, and tackles with help from Ryan(+0.5). Ryan flew upfield and recovers with a flying squirrel tackle.|
|M44||2||7||Shotgun empty 2TE||Nickel||Run||N/A||QB power off tackle||Fitzgerald||6|
|Poop all around, I say! Campbell(-1) is blasted back by a double. He gives a couple yards and that's two too many. Roh(-1) runs too far upfield and almost doesn't have to be blocked; G peels at the last second when Roh finally starts coming down. Big hole. Fitzgerald(-2) doesn't read a single key ON A PLAY WITH PULLING OL and starts dropping into coverage, whereupon a TE cuts him. Carder's about to be one on one with Johnson for the endzone when Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) cuts him down after taking the exact right angle to get there.|
|Someone's got to win an individual battle here to prevent this from happening and no one does. Martin holds up to a double; Fitz takes the FB, and Herron(-0.5) hits the RB after a yard. I think he can get to the hole more efficiently.|
|This is tough for Avery since he's in press man. Hard to read this quickly. Herron would be the guy who could diagnos this early since he's dropping while looking straight at the QB; he reacts just as fast as Avery. Herron(-0.5) takes an angle a bit too far outside and allows the RB to spin through for an extra couple yards. Not terrible but he could have done better. Beyer did do a good job of recognition and helps tackle, FWIW. Tackling -1.|
|M29||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Penalty||N/A||False Start||--||-5|
|M34||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||6||Improv||--||17|
|Michigan sends six and gets picked up (pressure -2) until Black(+0.5) worms his way through on a stunt. Too long; Carder rolls away from the pressure and hits a receiver. Kovacs(+0.5, tackling +1) is there immediately.|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Run||N/A||Counter||Beyer||11|
|Beyer(-2) can't win for losing here: after getting burned by going too far upfield on the last counter he does squeeze down this time... way too far. He needs to thunder at the pulling guard and cut his ass to the ground in the backfield in a spot where the other lead blocker will run into the pile. Instead he just gets sealed and allows everything to bounce outside. Herron(-2) compounds matters by also getting sealed, not that it would have mattered much because Fitzgerald(-1) took a counter step and then got sliced to the ground on a cut block that also took out Johnson. Kovacs(+0.5) cleans up. It's like these guys don't have OL keys. Picture paged.|
|M6||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide?||Nickel press?||Pass||6||Out||Kovacs||2|
|Some technical difficulties. As we come back six guys are rushing Carder including Avery(!). Brink(+0.5) is running free (pressure +1). Carder dumps it off into the flat, whereupon Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) tackles immediately for little gain.|
|Ryan(+3) lined up as a standup DT next to Martin. He rips through the RG like he isn't there and leaps at Carder as he tries to get the ball out, deflecting it into the air. Herron(+2) makes the easy interception and then runs a long way for points. Should I give Ryan more here? I've never given more than +3 for any play. Picture paged @ TTB.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, defensive TD, 14-7, 7 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun 2-back trips||Nickel||Run||N/A||Triple option dive||Heininger||0|
|Heininger(+1) takes a double; Jones(+0.5) moves to fill quickly, causing the RB to hesitate as he nears the LOS. This is a bad idea, and Heininger(+1 again) eats him.|
|Looks like Carder is going to zing it on a hitch near the sticks that Mike Jones(-0.5) got a little out of position on; Heininger(+1, pressure +1) bats it down.|
|Blitz does not quite get home but RVB(+1) is pushing through the line just as the routes break; Carder has to throw to his first read. This is against Kovacs(+1), who is in good coverage(+1) against the outside guy as he breaks his route at ten yards. Carder's throw is downfield and the WR has to stab at it one handed; Kovacs hits him and breaks it up. Live I thought M got lucky here; on tape Kovacs's coverage is good enough to require a perfect throw. If this is just a little upfield he tackles short of the sticks.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7, 6 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Seam||Johnson||20|
|Zone blitz sees RVB drop into a short screen-killing zone. Blitz does not get home (pressure -1). It's hard to tell who's at fault for the seam coming open but if I had to guess it would be Johnson(-1, cover -2), who is the deep center in a three deep and is way late, overrunning the play. Floyd comes from the outside to tackle.|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||3||Hitch||Van Slyke||7|
|Martin(+1) bowls over the center and then fights past the guard to get pressure(+1) up the middle pretty quickly on a three man rush. Van Slyke gets a chuck on the slot receiver, who sits down in between him, Herron, and Demens; he immediately tackles. (Cover -1)|
|Five man rush gets there(pressure +1) with at least two guys; Carder throws a quick out as Demens(+0.5) flies up the middle on a well-timed stunt past two guys doubling Martin. Johnson(-3) is late reading the little out and has already given up the first by the time he forms up; he then whiffs the tackle(-1), turning five yards into 15.|
|M19||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel Eff It||Pass||7||Fly||Avery||Inc|
|Sends: house. Obviously something gets through(pressure +1); Carder chucks it deep to a fly route Avery(+2, cover +1) has step for step. He's right in the WR's chest as he goes up for the ball. WR leaps, then reaches out and low in an attempt to stab the ball. Avery rakes it out. Gibson -2. Demens(+1) leveled Carder, BTW.|
|M19||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||6||Corner||Gordon||Inc|
|Demens(-1) comes on the same blitz untouched (pressure +1); Carder dodges him. He sets up and chucks it unsurprisingly, the corner route was long. Gordon(+1, cover +1) was step for step with the slot.|
|M19||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel Eff It||Pass||7||Corner||--||Inc|
|Demens(+0.5) charging again(pressure +1); this time the corner is more open but Carder chucks it way long off his back foot. RPS +2 for this sequence, which clearly got in the QB's head.|
|Drive Notes: FG(36), 20-10, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O13||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||N/A||Zone read counter||Martin||3|
|At first I thought this was a stunt by the DTs but not so much after I look at it a while; RVB(-1) just got bashed inside by a double while Martin(+1) read the G pull and fought through his downblock to flow down the line. Demens(+0.5) takes on that G about a yard past the LOS—not ideal—but does turn the play inside with an assist from Gordon(+0.5), who plunged down from the slot. Herron(+0.5) is about to tackle but Martin beats him to it.|
|O16||2||7||I-form 3-wide||Nickel?||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Floyd||3|
|Jebus, Michigan is begging for a bubble in its face on this play. There is one player within ten yards(!) of the twins side, that being JT Floyd. Autocheck to bubble is autochecked to, whereupon Floyd(+3) dodges a cut block and tackles the bubble by himself for three yards. (RPS -2.) Great play on an island.|
|Part II of “they can learn”: This is a very similar blitz and play to the previous Herron hitch that resulted in a first down. This time Herron's steps are better, as is his angle, and he's in position to make a play if he'd just look for the ball/get his hands up. He doesn't and Carder hits the small window provided. I guess Herron(-0.5), cover -1. Pressure -1 as well; Carder would have had time to go to a second read.|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Run||N/A||Yakety snap||N/A||-2|
|Who knows what this was going to be; the snap is high and Carder manages to bat it forward to his tailback, but then he's submarined. I think it was going to be a QB power off tackle, FWIW.|
|O24||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||5||Scramble||Kovacs||3|
|Carder's first read is a hitch around the sticks that Kovacs(+1) has dropped right into from a blitz position(RPS +1) and is bracketed over the top by Avery. Late movement and a blitz by Demens(+1) flushes Carder up in the pocket, where RVB and Martin combine to tackle after an eh gain. (Pressure +1, cover +1.) Picture paged @ BWS.|
|Avery(-1, cover -1) gets no chuck on the WR at the line in press and does not protect the sticks with his break despite having deep help; Carder hits his WR with a nice rhythm throw. Not horrible but you could do better.|
|O41||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Penalty||N/A||Illegal Snap||--||-5|
|O36||1||15||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||N/A||Inverted veer||Demens||1|
|Late shift sees Kovacs run down into the box as Herron blitzes. Herron is blown up by the RT, but that takes some time and prevents any release downfield. Beyer's upfield blitz convinces QB to hand off and takes the pulling G. Reason you run this is so that Beyer does one or the other, not both. The blitz means Kovacs(+1), who is now in the box, nails the FB near the LOS and turns it inside. Demens(+1) got a free scrape because of the blitz (RPS+1) and tackles with authorita.|
|Yeah, that play that instantly changed everyone's opinion of Kovacs? Four man rush. NT Heininger backs out and two guys take Brink; Kovacs, who has been backing out on these so far, lines up outside of Herron, who also comes, and adjust his route after a beat. This allows those two guys to occupy themselves with Brink and gives Kovacs(+3) a free run at Cader, which he takes LIKE A BOSS, depositing his helmet on the ball and knocking it free. Herron(+2) gets more credit this time for the presence of mind to scoop and score. Kovacs. Like a boss. Picture paged @ BWS as well.|
|Drive Notes: Defensive touchdown, 27-10, 9 min 3rd Q. Do you know what I love? The camera settles on Carder after this play; as this happens the replay hits the scoreboard and the stadium goes “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH." That is what I love.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||M. Robinson||11|
|Marvin Robinson still in for Johnson. Here there are two keys. Black(-1.5) is unblocked and scoots upfield fast. He does not read the jet action until it's too late and runs by it without forcing the WR to orbit around him. He's never going to make this tackle but he can delay the opposition; he does not. By not blocking him WMU can double Demens, who read and flowed with aplomb but can't do anything about an OL and another dude blocking him. Gordon(+0.5) fills to the outside, forcing a cutback. Robinson(-1.5) is filling until a WR slices him to the ground. RB leaps over MRob and rumblestumbles for a first down.|
|O48||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Penalty||N/A||False Start||--||-5|
|YOUR PARENTS ARE ASHAMED|
|This does go one high because Kovacs is sneaking down, kind of telegraphing his blitz. Martin moves left, taking the G, as Jones moves up the middle. RG shoves Martin and moves to Jones; RB shoots up the middle, leaving both Martin and Kovacs(+2) unblocked. Kovacs has the agility to cut inside Martin and nail Carder again. By the time this happens Martin is already peeling back to the LOS in case this doesn't work out. Kovacs has this, ese. (Pressure +2, RPS +1)|
|YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE TO MICHIGAN STATE LOL|
|Stunt seems harmful here as by the time the four rushers realize what their lanes are and what's going on the screen is already happening. Martin(-1) should read what it is faster, I think, and peel back. Avery(-0.5) comes up a bit too hard and lets things in front of him; safeties are way off. Jones(+0.5) gets hit by an OL but recovers to make a diving dodgy ankle luck tackle. Dangerous. Demens(-1) also slow reading. RPS -1|
|O43||3||15||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Out||Kovacs||Inc|
|Despite what Patrick says, blitz not actually coming; four guys. Martin backs out. Roh(+0.5) threatens to split a double and Ryan(+0.5) does the same, spooking Carder. Probably for the best since because of these things if Carder delayed Demens was going to annihilate him. Carder throws an out short of the sticks that Kovacs(+2) has dropped into and breaks up. Wasn't getting the first anyway. (pressure +1, cover +1) Picture paged @ BWS.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 27-10, 6 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||I-Form tight||Nickel 4-3||Pass||4||PA Out||Ryan||Inc|
|Ryan(+2) swims past the LT like he's not there and gets in on Carder just after he gets the PA fake off (pressure +1), causing him to throw his out wide. Good thing. Either Avery(-1) or Herron had biffed his zone drop (cover -1) and this would be open. I think it's Avery, but your guess is as good as mine.|
|O37||2||10||I-form||Nickel 4-3||Penalty||N/A||False Start||--||-5|
|O32||2||15||I-form||Nickel 4-3||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||4|
|Martin(+1) splits a double and threatens to tackle in the backfield, forcing a cutback. He just misses a TFL. Herron(+0.5) reads the backside cut and does fend off a free-releasing tackle to get to the RB and begin the takedown. Kovacs arrives in time to take him down.|
|O36||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||6||Rollout out||Gordon||12|
|They're finally tired of getting destroyed by Kovacs and roll the pocket away from him. Martin(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) still bust through blocks and force a throw (pressure +1). This is in front of Gordon(-1), who can't react quickly enough to tackle on the catch(cover -1) on a third and long, allowing the WR to fall forward for the first.|
|O48||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Beyer||9|
|Martin(+1) slants past the backside G, getting playside and rapidly flowing down the line in the backfield; Black(+1) also gets good position and helps close down the POA for what should be a TFL... if not for Beyer(-2) tearing after the QB on his boot fake and Herron(-1) not reacting to the cutback as quickly as I'd hope he would. May be harsh on Herron.|
|M43||2||1||Ace 3-wide||Nickel press||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Fitzgerald||4|
|A 3-4-ish look with press on the WRs leaves six in the box. Black(-1) gets banged inside as blitzers come from the edges, leaving a big hole for the RB. Fitzgerald(+1) takes on a block and bounces out to help contain, eventually making contact just past the sticks. MRob helps clean up.|
|M39||1||10||I-Form||Nickel 4-3||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Brink||14|
|Brink(-2) at NT nailed inside, blown behind Heininger at DT. Really cannot give that much ground. Herron(-0.5) and Fitzgerald(-0.5) both have tough jobs and don't really do them, getting cut and not being able to slow the RB. This is really on the lack of impedance through the hole, though. Kovacs(-0.5) comes to fill and misses his tackle(-1); his angle did drive the RB into Gordon, who's angling back from his duties over the slot.|
|M25||1||10||I-Form||Nickel 4-3||Run||N/A||Yakety snap||--||0|
|Fumbled snap that M recovers.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 34-10, 3 min 3rd Q. Game is called on next drive.|
How was that?
That was kind of like watching last year's Michigan offense.
WMU's offense was like Michigan's offense last year insofar as they drove the ball down the field consistently but only got ten points because they missed field goals and shot themselves in the face with turnovers. The touchdown returns were a zesty bonus on top of the turnover sundae, but it was basically the same.
So we made Western look like Denard Robinson was their quarterback?
Er… not exactly. The Broncos had a distinct lack of explosion in their giddy-up, averaging just five yards a play. They were only on yardage parity with Michigan because of the two defensive touchdowns and their drives only got as threatening as they did because of some crappy special teams on Michigan's part.
- 16 play touchdown. Bad.
- Drive starts at midfield, basically, and after a long run we discussed earlier WMU is booted off the field. They miss a FG. Correctable.
- WMU drives from midfield to the Michigan ten, whereupon Herron INT TD.
- Three and out.
- Two-minute drive starts at 40 and gets to the Michigan 19 before Mattison goes blitz nuts. FG.
- WMU finally has bad field position (their 13) gets a couple first downs, and then Kovacs fumble TD.
- One first down, then punt.
- Drive starts at 40, moves to Michigan 25 before fumble.
Carder started off hot and Michigan's defense was a confused shambles for the first drive. After that it wasn't too bad.
How about that Herron?
Er, it's just that…
[Introductory section for new people and those who need reminding:
UFR points are handed out to players who seem to have a direct impact on the success or failure of a particular play. The system has historically favored linemen, who are put in a position to Make A Play frequently, and been tough on defensive backs, who have usually screwed up when they are in your picture. I can't fix that without putting a crippling amount of time into grading players not directly affecting the play and frankly I am an amateur, so I might not do it right. By focusing on the directly involved I can used Results Based Charting: I can hand out things based on the success of the thing that actually happened.
Points usually range from –3 to +3 with half-points available. When particularly incensed I have given out bigger minuses.
There are also four metrics:
- TACKLING: Points handed out for good open field tackles that cut down on YAC. Subtracted for whiffs that do not serve a purpose. (It's okay to whiff outside because you know there will be gang tackle when the guy cuts back.)
- PRESSURE: Points handed out for getting to the QB, subtracted for not getting there. As a general rule when the QB is not able to get to a second read that's a plus. If he's able to get to three that's a minus. Pressure is graded on a curve: it's easier to get a plus rushing three than rushing six.
- COVERAGE: Points handed out for covering a guy and subtracted for not doing so. Running a guy's route for him is a +2, being in position to do something about it is a +1. Usually you will have to be far enough away to allow YAC to get a –1. Huge minuses are possible here when you DON'T COVER THAT GODDDAMN WHEEL—ahem.
- RPS: "Rock-Paper-Scissors." This is a proxy for the coordinator battle. When Michigan does something that the opponent can't deal with, like blitzing Kovacs into the QB's chest, they get a plus. When they send seven and get a screen on their face they get a minus. End section.]
So I completely screwed up the RPS. The rest I'll vouch for.
|Van Bergen||5||1||4||Not as much pass rush as you might want but did get a litte push.|
|Martin||6||1||5||Not really seeing the criticism. He made a few plays in about a quarter and a half of time and was often dropping.|
|Roh||1||1||0||This, on the other hand, was disappointing.|
|Brink||0.5||2||-1.5||Blown up on a run late.|
|Heininger||3||-||3||Made a few plays on a second half drive.|
|Campbell||-||2||-2||This is not happening.|
|TOTAL||17.5||9.5||8||Uninspiring. Mitigating factors: heat, lack of 4th Q, zone blitzes, mega pressure number.|
|Demens||7.5||5||2.5||Kind of a rough start but played in odd conditions.|
|Herron||5||9.5||-4.5||Not good when ball wasn't finding him for touchdowns.|
|Ryan||8.5||-||8.5||Can really get to QB. Most consistent rusher on the day.|
|Fitzgerald||2||3.5||-1.5||Slow to react.|
|Jones||1||0.5||0.5||Not much to go on.|
|Beyer||-||6||-6||Highly irresponsible against the run. Doubt we see much of him this week.|
|TOTAL||24||24.5||-0.5||Schizophrenic day; will get better with more Demens, less Beyer. WLB a concern.|
|Floyd||5||-||5||One great play on a bubble, one endzone PBU.|
|Avery||3||3||3.5||Another endzone PBU but not so hot underneath.|
|Woolfolk||2||2||0||Mostly bubble action before injury.|
|Kovacs||13.5||0.5||13||Impeccable. Some of these points might belong to Mattison.|
|T. Gordon||4.5||2||2.5||I like him.|
|Robinson||-||1.5||-1.5||Also not much to go on.|
|Pressure||15||5||10||Alex Carder is still coughing up blood.|
|Coverage||6||11||-5||A lot of this was Herron, frankly.|
|RPS||10||9||1||A bit more on this later.|
I think that's mostly on point. While the corners gave up some short plays they coped well with the bubble and both had endzone PBUs. Our first tenuous suggestion that Tony Gibson may be an evil spy has been achieved.
Meanwhile, Carvin Johnson had a rough day that ended with him getting pulled for Robinson, Jake Ryan was excellent, about which more later, and Michigan got very little out of the WDE spot. I'm not that worried about RVB or Martin since they didn't get much action and still had a few plays to their name; extrapolated across an entire game they'll be fine.
And then there's Kovacs. That is a record-shattering performance for a member of Michigan's secondary and it is absolutely deserved. Kovacs led the team in tackles, only half-missing a couple of those. He led ballcarriers into other defenders, which is why Western had to go on long marches—they couldn't bust it past Kovacs. He annihilated Carder on two sacks, one of which produced a game-sealing fumble. While Mattison got him those runs at the QB, his execution was flawless. On the first, he had the agility to slash back inside of Herron and the technique to put his helmet directly on the ball. And he added two PBUs for good measure.
But he's a walk on and not very good.
Screw it: Kovacs is good now, no qualifiers. I have just doomed him to awful play against Notre Dame, but whatever.
What about that RPS?
Obviously that should not be right when the QB has been forced into two turnovers and has been eating linemen all day. I think Mattison was brilliant, at least as far as you can be against a MAC team, and have to adjust my grading to account for these "blitz" things he's introduced.
Yeah, how about those?
Last year I started tracking the number of rushers M sent at the quarterback because Greg Robinson kept sending three, which I defended as not totally insane at the time. Like everything else, it was totally insane.
The number of three-man rushes against WMU? One. That stuff about being aggressive that every defensive coordinator says? 100% valid. The really cool thing about being aggressive? Mattison is doing it while often getting seven guys into coverage by bringing zone blitzes.
This kind of stuff isn't anything new to NFL watchers or teams that deploy a non-GERG as a DC. But being able to do it well is a massive advantage because it makes life hard not only on the opponent's bodies but their minds. There were points in that game when Carder was just dumping the ball out of the endzone so Kenny Demens wouldn't hurt him so much, and Mattison confused the hell out of the Bronco OL.
Brandon Herron's two touchdowns make him awesome. /national award thingy guys
Er… no. I generously gave Herron four points for not dropping the world's easiest interception and doing the scoop and score on the fumble, and the fourth point is really just for running 100 yards without passing out. Outside of those plays in which other folks did the work Herron was –8.5 on the day.
A typical play follows. On it, Kenny Demens makes a tackle in the hole as Herron, who was lined up closer to the eventual hole, actually passes Demens halfway through the play:
That sort of slow reading was rampant.
Did anyone impress you, sourpants?
Apparently Jake Ryan can do what he did to a freshman walk-on in spring to backup JUCO MAC guard and an actual starting MAC guard, too. You've probably seen him rip through the line on the INT TD plenty but there was also this:
I have him down for a couple additional pressure and one hell of a debut. It sounds like Cam Gordon's out this weekend too; he might have lost his job by the time he gets back. Or maybe they'll move stuff around to get more production out of the WDE and WLB spots.
This was a very black and white game: Kovacs and Ryan were awesome.
The black: Herron makes me very worried about WLB, Beyer shouldn't have been on the field, and the lack of production out of WDE is alarming.
What does it mean for Notre Dame and beyond?
That nickel package is probably going to be on the field a lot against ND's passing spread. Rees is not mobile and they seem mistake-prone so we could see a fair share of helmets deposited in to ribcages in the backfield.
Downfield they'll chuck it up to Floyd a lot, which means Woolfolk will need to be back and healthy and he'll need some help. Though Avery and Floyd did well against Western, ND is a whole additional ball of wax. If Woolfolk does end up fully back—sounds like it—I wonder if Michigan will put all three corners in and drop Gordon back to the other safety spot. That will be key, as will getting a better performance out of WLB. And Craig Roh's got to step up.
Last time on Picture Pages we saw how hopeless n00b Brennen Beyer made life very difficult for Michigan on a 25-yard counter play Western ran in the second quarter. Poor linebacker play from Kenny Demens and Carvin Johnson contributed.
A bit later in the half, Western would go back to the well. How would Beyer react?
It's first and ten at the Michigan 17 on Western's third drive. They've taken the ball from the Michigan 47 to get here. Western comes out in the same look-ma-spread-in-shred formation and will run the same counter play they ran before. Michigan is again in an aggressive one-high press look:
A lot of backups are in. The DL is Beyer/Heininger/Brink/Black. LBs are Herron, Fitzgerald, and Johnson walking down into the box.
On the snap it's the same business, with the backside G and H-back pulling around. This time Beyer's got it figure out, though. You can just see his head popping out from behind the tackle who is releasing downfield:
All right, now we are in the business. Or not. You can read the title.
Beyer disappears in the above frame because he is making contact with the G at about the LOS. Also look at the linebackers. Fitzgerald has not moved; Herron is starting to run at the play.
Beyer has run inside and gotten sealed at the LOS approximately where the center started the play. The fullback sails outside no problem. Instead of making a pile he's just created a huge hole by removing any leverage available.
Meanwhile Fitzgerald is getting cut to the ground. He's hardly moved despite a guard pulling in front of his face, and thanks to that Johnson can't flow. Neither can Brink, who is giving ground to pursue but just gets cut.
Herron, for his part, is going to blow the leverage again…
…but it wouldn't have mattered much because there's hardly anyone behind him.
Kovacs cleans up again.
Video with dramatic pause:
Someone took Beyer aside and told him how he'd screwed up on the first power and what to do. If you look at the comments on the last one there is some debate about whether or not Beyer was absolved because of a blitz. I don't think that's entirely possible; if you're blitzing and no one's blocking you off the edge while the QB executes a mesh point you need to slow your roll and adjust. Beyer didn't; someone told him he should do that.
Beyer took that advice and overcompensated a la Cam Gordon playing safety last year. I'm still not sure if they were playing to squeeze or spill. I'm guessing squeeze. This is the cost of playing freshmen. This kind of thing will get better.
I do wonder why he's even on the field. If they're going to run a four-man line I'd rather have Brink and Heininger out there than Beyer, since at least they've played football in college before. I guess you have to chalk that up to the heat and the necessity to play the walk-ons on the interior, which means just terrible things about Ash/Campbell/Washington. If Cam Gordon returns next week it wouldn't surprise me to see Ryan in Beyer's role.
Yet more indecisive linebackers. A guard pulling is a dead giveaway as to the direction of the play and twice we see Michigan players not reacting to it at all. If they're not reading the G whatever they are reading is not giving them a heads-up quickly enough.
This may be four defensive systems in four years with three coordinators; it may be a talent issue. Demens suggests it's at least some of the latter. Either way, Fitzgerald sits entirely still until he's chopped to the ground by a Western OL, which eliminates not only him but Johnson and Brink thanks to the location of the block. Meanwhile, Herron has a tough job that he does poorly with, losing leverage on the play.
I assume days that aren't blistering hot will see Demens on the field for every snap, but if he's hurt we're screwed and WLB is a real problem. Herron had two touchdowns and is going to end up significantly negative on the day.
Heininger does not accomplish what RVB does. He gets sealed away and is trying to spin free when the LB-FB contact occurs; he's in no position to help if Herron turns it inside, which he doesn't because no one turns it inside ever. This may be a slight exaggeration born of frustration.
News (and other important items) bullets:
- Hopkins will be major contributor, can compete for starting position at RB
- Borges wants to use less shotgun -- Saturday wasn't representative
- Mattison does not plan to put any one cornerback on Michael Floyd all game
- Woolfolk is healthy and practicing at full speed
- Woolfolk will remain on special teams
- Barnum will be back this week
- <3 Kovacs
Coach, you look great. “Well, thank you.”
How would you assess Denard’s performance? “He managed the offense very well first time out. He had very few errors. A couple of deals, but nothing catastrophic, which is really all you ask for the first time out. He didn’t create the big plays that he’s used to, but our tailbacks did. So as long as somebody does, we’ll be fine. Eventually that part of his game will surface.”
Did you get use enough plays on offense you wanted to? “Oh, it wasn’t even close. We ran 39 plays. I mean, we didn’t even scratch the surface. There was so much left in the bag, just the way the game went, which is kind of good. Didn’t even begin to approach our menu.”
The one play where Denard scrambled and almost threw a pick, did you use that as a teaching moment? “Of all the plays he had, that was the only play that was a little higher risk. After the fact, he realized he should have probably checked the ball down to the tight end in the flat, but he got a little greedy on that one. But for the most part his decision-making was fairly accurate, other than a play or two.”
Is it hard to get a gauge of your offense with only 39 plays? “Yeah, a little bit. But you have 39 to judge, [so] judge and go from there. It was incomplete in so many ways. But it was a win, and we’ll take it, and we’ll go from there. We got another week to practice.”
This horse isn’t dead yet. Let’s beat it some more. Fitz vs. Shaw? “Both of them showed up. We ended up playing them both, probably Fitz a little more than Shaw, but Shaw did some nice things.”
Can you comment on Notre Dame’s defense? “They’re legitimate. Their third-down percentage -- [USF] got two or three third down conversions on them. If you look at their numbers, South Florida didn’t move the ball very well on them. And just because of the circumstances of the game, they lost, but the defense, I thought, was outstanding. Te’o the linebacker was as active and as physical a player I’ve seen in a while, and that’s quite a statement. He is a good football player. They get pass rush with only four guys. They don’t have to blitz, which is disconcerting. They’re good on the back end -- Harrison’s around the ball all the time. Ball hawk, physical, well-coached. They use their hands real well up front on the line. They’re good.”
What do you see in Harrison Smith? “I think he puts himself in position real well. He doesn’t get out of position a lot. He’s got a feel for where the ball’s going. It looks like he plays smart. He’s physical. He’s just one of those guys I’m sure they count on.”
Passes were distributed pretty evenly between receivers against Western. Is that going to be how you do it for the rest of the season? “Not necessarily, no. I think there’s going to be games where you’ll see one guy catch a bunch of balls, and the other guy won’t catch as many, and vice versa. Once you get into the battle, you don’t know how it’s going to go, so you’re never sure exactly who’s going to get it. Now you design certain plays to go to certain guys, but because of the nature of the defense you’re not going to get it to those guys. You always want a degree of distribution, but I’m not obsessed with [the idea that] everybody needs to catch x amount of balls. I could care less about that. What I care about is taking what the defense gives you, and if that means one guy catches ten passes, then so be it.”
How did Denard do under center going through his reads? “I thought he did a pretty darn good job. For his first time, his under center play was really good. His shotgun play was -- that’s kind of his power zone, and that’s why we’re going to use that and do that stuff. His under center play was solid. His mechanics in terms of exchange, tracks and things -- had a couple of errors on some tracks, but for the most part was pretty reliable.”
Only two of Denard’s runs were scrambles. Were you pleased with patience in pocket? “He did a nice job on one scramble particularly. I think he got a first down. He came off one of his receivers a little quick -- but for the most part, what you have to understand is you want him to give the pass a chance, but you don’t want to be so obsessed with him always wanting to check the ball down, because he is the best checkdown you could have. So what could be perceived as impatience is sometimes a little more designed than you might think.”
Talk about that NFL pass to Grady? “That was the second option. That was a good play. They jumped the slide play, and he threw the ball. That was a nice play by him. He reset his feet, got his hips set, and he hit [Grady] right in stride. That was totally designed. And no scramble there.”
How would you assess O-line play re: Schofield vs. Barnum? “Mike had a good game. Mike did a good job. He was very solid in there. And now this week, we’ll see how the thing goes [between Schofield and Barnum]. It’s nice to know [Schofield] can, if that makes any sense.”
Is Barnum back in the lineup for Notre Dame? “Oh yeah. Absolutely.”
Talk about going for it on fourth and one. Whose call is it? “It’s my playcall, but it’s [Hoke’s] decision.”
Do you coach Denard on his scrambling or do you allow him to improvise? “When the protection breaks down or the pocket gets pushed or for some reason he can’t see, he has to go to an improv mode. All our improv has structure, but Denard does a lot in there that I don’t draw on the board. The one thing you don’t want to do is inhibit a playmaker. A guy that can do some things, you don’t want to make him so that he’s so robotic he’s not doing what he’s capable of doing. Yeah, there’s structure within our improvisation, but his ability to create -- I always talk about create without doing something stupid. He’s living by the law pretty good, knock on wood.”
Would you have gone completely vanilla if there had been a fourth quarter? “Had we scored on the last drive, we probably would have gotten a little more physical. It’s hard to say, but when we get ahead, we like to run the football if we can without being too conservative.”
Is the ratio of shotgun vs. under center what you’ll stick to the rest of the season? “No, no … no. The game had no balance to it with regard to that. If we had played a fourth quarter, we would have been right about where we wanted it.”
Would Devin Gardner have gotten some snaps? “I don’t know. We’ll see. I couldn’t tell you. That’s up to Brady.”
Is Hopkins going to have a role this week? “Oh, absolutely. You bet. He was in the fold big time. Before he couldn’t play, but now that he’s back, he’s going to be a factor. He’s a good player. He brings something to the table. He’s a big back that you like to have.”
Is he competing for the starting job? “They’re all competing still. I’m not counting him out of the mix.”
(more after the jump)
A photo of the elusive Greg Mattison in his natural habitat.
Can you share what it’s like to have coached on both sides of rivalry? “It’s a great rivalry. I mean, you’re talking about two of the greatest schools in college football in athletics. I don’t think there are any better when you look at the whole package of it. I know it’s a huge rivalry for everybody involved in it. It’s Michigan. It’s Notre Dame. That’s what it is.”
Was it weird when you went from Michigan to Notre Dame? “Yeah, it was hard. I can tell you that was hard because it was Michigan … you know, I can’t honestly say if I even really knew what a big rivalry that was. I never grew up being a Notre Dame fan. I’m a Lutheran, not a Catholic. When you do that decision based on family, once you’ve made that decision, you kind of go, ‘Whoa.’ But I had a great eight years there. Got to see my family through school and my daughter in collge there, so that made it a really, really good deal.”
Assess defensive performance early in the game and how you adjusted later? “The thing that happened is what you kind of worry about happening when you have so many guys that haven’t played a lot of football. You probably got the toughest scenario you could get because it was a very fast paced -- they were switching personnel groups in and out without us really being able to see what they were, and you got defenses that you’re playing for certain personnel groups that you hadn’t against a different group. This young group needs to see everything.
“Then it goes down to when a team hurries like that and speeds up the pace, communication is everything, and that’s something we’ve been harping on. With a young group of guys and young linebackers that haven’t played a lot, the communication is the first thing -- when it all happens -- it goes. [During] that [first] drive, there was a number things that we weren’t aligned correctly on. And we’re not good enough to do that. We’re not good enough to not be perfect at what we’re doing. Once they came off the side and we settled them down, and we just said, ‘Hey listen. There’s a whole ball game ahead of us. If we get these things corrected we’ll be fine.’ And then we get the interception, and [we] let them pick back up again.”
Hoke wasn’t happy with D-line play. “Neither was I.” What stuck out to you? “I wouldn’t just single out the defensive line. When we looked at that tape, I knew what I would see. That is not how we want to play defense. Our whole thing is stopping the run. Some of those runs were me -- I’m calling pressures to try to get after the quarterback and he runs a draw, and we didn’t fit our gaps right. That kind of thing happens. Others they weren’t. We have to be able to stop the run. Anytime a team runs the football on your defense, you can’t have a great day. I think a lot of our fits, our backers fitting, our defensive line knocking them back, playing real physical every snap, all those things have to improve.
“The one positive thing in the entire game, though, was we kept the ball inside and in front for the most part. We can’t allow a big play [to become] a homerun play, and that quarterback is a big time quarterback, and that wide receiver is a great wide receiver. So our guys did keep the ball inside and in front, so we could get more guys on the tackles.”
Rees vs. Crist? “Well, I think that they’re both very good quarterbacks. The one thing that you have to understand with Rees is he was the starting quarterback the last four games [of 2010] and they won all four. And then he goes in this game in a half and throws for 300-some yards or whatever. So obviously he’s a guy that when he goes in ball games, he does a great job. I think both of them are very talented. You wouldn’t be at a school like Notre dame or Michigan if you didn’t have talent. I think they both have good arms, and they both appear to be very intelligent, and they both have a great wide receiver."
How do you get D-line up to where you want it to be? Will you keep blitzing as much? “It depends if a team is going to throw as much as [Western Michigan] threw. It all depends on what the team does. We won’t sit back and play zone coverage until we have the ability to get a rush with a four-man front. And that comes from technique -- that comes from a lot of things. It’s not fair to that secondary and it’s not fair to that underneath coverage to let a quarterback like that hold it. I’m not going to say I’m a guy that’s going to blitz every down, but when it dictates it, then I think you have to.”
Do you need to get more production out of Craig Roh? “Definitely. He has to play better. One of the things we addressed is that we had too many players in that defense that did not get production. We have a big chart up in our hallway [where] you get points for tackles, for assists, for caused fumbles, all those kind of things, and then you also get minus points for missed assignments, missed tackles, that kind of thing. [Ed-M: Mattison keeps a UFR!!!] On our defense we had too many guys that didn’t have a lot of points. You had one guy that had 47 points: Jordan Kovacs. So we gotta get more guys get production. And Craig’s one of those guys. We’ve gotta get more out of him. I think he knows that, and he understands. He saw the film himself. He understands he’s a better football player than that.”
What makes Kovacs so special? “He’s a football player. He’s a Michigan football player. If you had a team of eight of those. I’m not going to say 11. Eight of those. You might sit on a lawn chair and watch the game. That hit that he came on one of the pressures -- you all saw the picture. It was what you tell and what you coach. Put your face right through his chest. Wrap him up. Eyes up. And he put his helmet right through the football. The thing that people didn’t see on that was he was in the endzone almost the same time as Herron after he had caused a fumble and made the hit. That’s what Michigan defense is about. The same thing happened that was a positive -- Jake Ryan on his tipped [pass]. He hit the gournd after he tipped it, [and] he was the first guy down there next to Herron. And that’s what we’ve been talking about. That’s a great sign. Now we gotta keep doing that all the way through a ball game.”
Did Herron just happen to be in right place at right time or was he actively doing things right? “He was where he was supposed to be. He executed the defense and good things happen. Thank goodness he’s fast. He never looks like he’s running that fast, but not many people catch him.”
Kovacs said he expected to have fewer tackles in this new scheme. But he led the team in tackles on Saturday. At what point is that going to change? “I hope soon. You hit it right on the head. When your safety is making a lot of tackles, that’s not a good thing. It’s a good thing we have Jordan Kovacs, but that’s not a good thing [for him to be making all the tackles]. That happened a number of times -- if a linebacker were where he was supposed to be, he would have made that tackle. The great news though is Jordan was where he was supposed to be, and I think at times when I’ve watched, he’s been up in there too far, because he’s been trying to make [the tackle], and all of a sudden if he misses the tackle, [the other player] is gone.”
Does having a guy like Kovacs allow you to do more with the defense? “Well it allows you to call it without wincing. No no … I have confidence in the entire defense. I wasn’t pleased with our performance. I was pleased with the win. I was pleased with the turnover margin, but as a defense I can’t say I was pleased because I really, really believe in my heart we can be much, much better than this. And we have to be. We have to play better defense than what we did. “
How do you defend Michael Floyd? “You better make sure, number one, that you’re playing with great technique on him. If you don’t -- in the back end -- if you don’t play with perfect technique, you’re going to get exposed. I think the second thing is you can’t allow the quarterback all day to throw to him, and I think you have to give him a number of different coverages so he doesn’t know all the time what you’re getting.”
Are you going to play one cornerback on him the entire game? “No.”
Was Woolfolk on pace for Kovacs’ level of production before he left the game? “He made some very physical hits on those bubble screens, which was great to see. I would love to see him play that game. He needed that. I would have loved to have that thing go four quarters. We needed it. We need every second of playing under pressure that we can get. But I’m glad that we got out of there like we did, and we got a victory, and now we just got to improve more.”
Was Woolfolk going full speed in practice today? “Uh huh.”
Will you lobby to keep him off special teams? “No. No I won’t. honestly, I will not … special teams play is a huge, huge part in our defense -- if you saw where we started on defense after a number of those kickoffs. There’s three equal parts to the game, and I’ve seen too many coaches that will say, ‘I gotta have that guy.’ Okay then put another guy [on special teams] that doesn’t do as well and you’ll see how fast that ball comes back. We really believe in that here.”
What do you and Hoke talk about on headset? “He doesn’t have it on, does he?” But he said he did! “Oh I don’t even know. I tell you what, to be honest, he probably can hear everything I’m saying without the headset on, so I don’t know. Brady is -- he is tremendous on the sideline. After that first drive -- because he’s a great defensive coach -- He was over there saying the same things I was saying to those guys. A lot of head coaches might not have reacted like he did. And that pays dividends, because we trust these guys. We believe that they’re going to try as hard as they can. Now we gotta get their tehcnique better, we gotta get a lot of thigns better as coaches, but they’re going to try it, and they’re going to do it. Just like today’s practice. There was a whole bunch of mistakes … but you know what? They went hard. And we’ll get those corrected. We just gotta keep on eliminating those mistakes.”