The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.
You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.
Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.
This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.
Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.
In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.
The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.
I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.
This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.
Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.
There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.
We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.
*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:
ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]
Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.
On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.
Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:
- Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
- Losing Rich Rodriguez.
- Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]
On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:
In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.
I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.
I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.
The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:
- Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
- 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
- Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.
Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.
I guess no turnovers is a bummer.
The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.
Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.
Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.
If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.
Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.
Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.
Des Moines Register
Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.
Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.
That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez
Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.
Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.
Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:
What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…
Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes. TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.
I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.
The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.
Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.
But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Bull. I mean:
Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.
So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.
I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.
Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.
BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.
I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.
I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.
Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:
Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)
Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.
I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:
So that happened. I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome. I could feel the disappointment coming all week. Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house. Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already. There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that. No surprise: it did.
Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.
And the Denard slide started a long time ago.
Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:
My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm. He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three. He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated. Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.
Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels. Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge. I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst.
The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:
but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.
the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.
When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.
There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.
Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.
It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.
Formation notes: At this point it's less about looking at all the new stuff like the offense and more about figuring out what Mattison does with his base against various formations.
Mostly it's "bring in the nickelback," but not always. Here's Jake Ryan flared out over the slot:
This will not be a surprise since you've seen a zillion Big Ten cover-two-always teams run this against M's spread the past few years. Michigan uses the stack over the slot to spring some surprises:
That's basically the same thing; Ryan blitzed off the edge here. Tipoff is the depth of the FS, but not by much.
This is slightly more novel:
That's a pass-rush set with a couple standup ends and just one guy truly in the box with a couple guys hanging out over the slot. Guy truly in the box: Mike Martin.
This is Purdue's long touchdown as Michigan sent the world and left the middle even more open than it looks now. They shelved this for the rest of the day.
Substitution notes: DL was about how you expect with a little bit more Brink and a little less Black. Maybe a little less Campbell, too.
At LB, Morgan played the whole game until Hawthorne came in for garbage time. Demens was out for a series or two in favor of Fitzgerald; in the presser this week this sounded like a desire to get Demens some rest but Michigan hadn't been on the field much when he came in. Maybe it was part of a plan or something. Ryan played most of the game at SLB; Beyer did get some playing time early and did okay.
In the secondary it was Countess, Floyd, Woolfolk, and Gordon the whole way. Avery was the nickelback. These guys didn't really come out even in garbage time. Thin, thin, thin.
|O33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Reverse||Roh||7|
|I don't see many reverses and am not sure what the issue is here. I don't think it's reasonable to expect Morgan to deal with this; by the time the second handoff is made he's way out of position and heading the wrong way. Roh(-1) could do better here; he's crashing down the line and ends up getting blocked by the QB. If he reads the reverse and gets upfield he's got a shot at a big play; instead the guy gets outside without delay. Floyd is out on the edge; he gets blocked inside by the WR who was initially running him out of the play, which gives up the edge. Gordon escorts the WR out of bounds after a decent gain.|
|O40||2||3||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||WR screen||Floyd||12|
|This is the shot above, w Ryan off the line and the line shifted to the short side (boundary). Purdue throws a quick screen to the outside receiver; Roh(-1) is dropping off into the play as Ryan blitzes. He starts chasing it down; I think he gets ambitious and goes too far upfield. The bigger problem is Floyd(-2) getting chopped to the ground and giving up the outside, allowing the WR to dance down the sidelines for a big gain. RPS+1; this was two guys on one and should have been killed dead. With pics'd.|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||0|
|Ryan flanked over the slot, not on the line, despite a TE. Purdue runs a zone that I think they want to get outside since they have a numbers advantage on the line but Martin(+2) drives his man into the backfield, forcing a cutback, and pushes back to tackle himself. Heininger(+0.5) also came through to help after the guy doubling him released. With pics'd.|
|M48||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||Inc|
|This is open for about five; WR drops it. Coverage is a push: short route, probably no YAC.|
|M48||3||10||Shotgun empty||Split 4-3||Pass||5||Tunnel screen||--||48|
|Michigan splits out over the slots so there are only five or six in the box with Woolfolk a single deep safety. They then blitz Martin, who was laying back a couple yards off the LOS as a quasi-linebacker. The five guys in the box are gone. And that's all she wrote. Countess can't beat a cut block to make a diving tackle; he comes close. Avery and Gordon are buried by OL. I do think Gordon(-1) needs to realize he's not going to run through this OL and take a deeper angle. Floyd(-1) takes an angle too shallow and is outrun to the endzone; Woolfolk had to take on an OL block and keep leverage just to give Floyd a shot. He avoids the cut and starts pursuing but can't catch up in time to tackle. RPS -3. Blitz + alignment = dead. With pics'd.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 13 min 1st Q. Goodbye, Purdue offense.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Brink in at SDE for RVB. Martin is doubled; Brink(-0.5) single blocked effectively. Demens(-1) gets pounded in the hole by the FB and spills the play outside instead of allowing Morgan to be a free hitter. Beyer(+0.5) peels to tackle.|
|O25||2||5||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||WR screen||Roh||0|
|Michigan still getting set when the ball is snapped, which fortuitously gets Roh running straight at the WR screen here. WR decides to duck inside of the charging Roh; Roh(+0.5) forms up and tackles with help from Morgan(+0.5). The RPS meter just exploded. Call it zero. With pics'd.|
|O25||3||5||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inverted veer||Ryan||-4|
|Wildcat type formation with Siller at QB; Michigan runs a play that seems specifically designed to crush the inverted veer. Morgan flares out along the LOS and blitzes from the outside as Ryan(+1) stunts around Martin, showing up in the hole Siller thinks he has because there's no WLB filling it. He pulls, Ryan is there, RVB(+1) beats a block to provide more pressure, and then everything caves in. Ryan(+1 again) gets another plus for making an excellent tackle(+1) in the backfield. RPS+2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Gordon||4|
|Gordon starts creeping down when Purdue motions a TE to the wide side. He comes up further on the jet sweep action and bursts upfield to cut off the outside(+1). Ryan(+1) has held the edge, taking on a double and holding up enough allowing both LBs to flow unimpeded to the ball. Demens's tackle was a thump he fell off of. The tailback manages to fall forward for a decent gain.|
|O42||2||6||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||4|
|Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in good enough position to make a play on the ball if it's not low and to the outside, which it is. Receiver makes the catch; no YAC.|
|O46||3||2||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||FB Dive||Martin||0|
|Martin(+1) shoves the center back into the intended path of the RB, forcing a cutback into Roh(+0.5), who tackles for no gain. Heininger(+0.5) held up to a block at the LOS and provides the restricted space that prevents Crank from falling forward.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Martin(+3) drives the LG back, chucks him, starts driving into TerBush, gets a holding call, facemasks a little, and ends up safetying the dude. Pressure +2.|
|Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 14 min 2nd Q. Is this a missed call or the sort of flag they got rid of when they got rid of the five yarders? I don't know.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O28||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||5||Waggle out||Ryan||15 + 15 pen|
|Marve in for Purdue. Ryan(-2) sent on a blitz right at this (RPS +2). He's in, Marve's not that mobile, this should be doom. Unfortunately Ryan goes for a pump fake and leaps. His hand comes down, grabbing the face mask, and he still misses the tackle. Marve is now outside the pocket and lofts one to a wide open tight end. Not sure who this is on, but it is either Countess or Woolfolk. Guessing Countess. (Cover -2, Pressure +1, Countess -1).|
|M42||1||10||I-Form||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||6|
|Ryan off the LOS as the WLB, Roh SDE, etc. They're flipped from normal. Roh(+1) drives the TE back, making the FB useless; Morgan(+0.5) takes on the outside shoulder of the fullback, funneling to the unblocked Demens in the hole. Demens(-1, tackling -1) has this lined up for a nothing play and glances off the tailback, allowing him to fall forward for a significant gain. Heininger(-1) blown off the ball by a single block didn't help but this is an easy play for Demens that didn't get made.|
|Tape does not have this play.|
|M36||3||4||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel under||Pass||4||Scramble||--||6|
|I'm probably supposed to ding a DL or two for opening up a lane right in front of the QB, so minus half points for Martin and RVB for getting too far upfield in their pass rush. Morgan does a fairly impressive job of tracking Marve down but it's not enough.|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Trap||Heininger||14|
|Martin(-1) gets upfield aggressively and is trap-blocked as the RG pulls around into Heininger(-1), who was similarly too aggressive. This kicks both DTs out and gives Crank a lot of room. Both LBs have OL to deal with; they set up to one side and force the play back into... nothing. Beyer(-1) ran uselessly upfield and got sealed off by a slot receiver. Yerk.|
|M16||1||10||Shotgun trips bunch||4-3 under||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|Hitch opposite the bunch. Floyd(+0.5, cover +1) is there to tackle on the catch after about four but it's dropped.|
|M16||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Throwaway||Demens||Inc|
|They roll the pocket. Roh(-0.5) gets cut to the ground; Demens(+1, pressure +1) reads the roll and shoots outside into it. Marve has nowhere to go because good coverage(+2) from Avery(+1) and Countess(+1) and chucks it OOB.|
|M15||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Avery||INT|
|Michigan much better prepared. Avery(+3) not only splits the two defenders coming out on him and is in position to tackle if this is complete but manages to make a tough diving grab on the ball when the receiver bats the poorly-thrown screen up. Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) were flowing out from the line to deal with this as well; it was going nowhere. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 12-7, 8 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Pass||4||PA FB Flat||Floyd||4|
|Fitzgerald in for Demens. Campbell and Brink also playing a bit on this drive. Waggle action and Marve has to take a checkdown(cover+1). Floyd is there to tackle after about two and gives up a couple more by almost missing.|
|O24||2||6||Shotgun 2-back TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||4|
|Martin(+1) drives the playside G back; RB has to wait up as he is in the path. No help coming though with Campbell(-1) blown up and Fitzgerald(-1) doing the sit and wait; Ryan(+1) is over the slot, reads the handoff, and has time to get to the hole between Martin and Brink to hold the gain down.|
|O28||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Down G||Roh||5 (Pen -10)|
|M shows man free and blitzes Fitzgerald(-1) up the middle; he trips over a guy who ducked to cut Martin. Martin stays up; guy who's not even getting blocked goes down. Once that happens it's tough for M to do anything on the edge because they don't have any LBs flowing. Roh(+1) fights through the TE's down block and is held; flag. Gordon(+1) gets into a block and comes through it to the outside as Bolden passes the first down marker. He can't tackle but he forces Bolden into two other defenders. He had a tough job and did it well.|
|O18||3||12||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Martin||-2|
|Roh(+1) gets enough of a speed rush to spook Marve up into the pocket, whereupon Martin(+1) beats the center and blows back a tailback to complete the sack. (Pressure +2) Covered in With Pics(!).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 19-7, 3 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Doh. Martin -1.|
|O6||1||5||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Morgan||2|
|Michigan appears to be slanting away from the POA. RVB(+0.5) gets under a tackle and ends up taking a puller. They may be trying to go A gap here. Ryan(+0.5) quickly gets into the FB and cuts off the outside; there is a crease because RVB got hit and Martin is slanting away from the gap. An OL has released downfield into Morgan(+1) but doesn't have much of an angle because of the RB hitting a gap that is farther inside than Purdue wanted; Morgan plays off it, shoving the OL away and making a solid tackle(+1)|
|O8||2||3||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ryan||3|
|Ryan blitzes late, timing it excellently. He gave nothing away before the snap. As a result the lead back runs right by him. Ryan(-1) then runs right by Crank, missing an arm tackle(-1). He does knock Crank off balance but that was a free run for a loss (RPS +1) RVB(+1) slants under the tackle and forces the RB backside, another reason Ryan should have killed this dead. This allows Morgan(+0.5) to run away from a block and scrape to the new POA; Gordon(+0.5) also came up well to restrict space.|
|O11||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Pass||4||Waggle out||Woolfolk||Inc (Pen +5)|
|RVB(-1) jumps offside. Play continues. Purdue runs a waggle with a TE running an out at about the sticks. Terbush comes up to fire at him; pass is accurate but Woolfolk(+2, cover +2) is there to put his helmet in the TE's chest and dislodge the ball.|
|O16||1||5||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||0|
|No one gets out to the second level; Campbell(+0.5) does an all right job with his double and Heininger(+1) drives his man back a yard or two, which ends up absorbing the fullback and forcing a cutback. Demens(+1) does have an OL releasing into him late; he is too quick for that guy to get anything useful and tackle(+1) in the hole effectively.|
|O16||2||5||I-Form 3-wide||4-3 over||Pass||4||Out||Floyd||Inc|
|Quick out—too quick—against Floyd as a hard cover two corner. Floyd(+2, cover +2) jumps the route and may have a shot at a pick if the ball isn't thrown way too high. As it is he gets a PBU.|
|O16||3||5||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Morgan||18|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets a speed rush around the RT and nearly has a sack; he ends up flushing TerBush up into the pocket. Morgan(-1, cover -1) ends up in the same spot as Demens on their zone drops because he's looking in the backfield; this opens up a three yard drag Siller can turn up for big yards. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) whiffs a tackle after about six yards; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) whiffs another tackle; finally Siller goes down as multiple M players, including both DTs, track him down.|
|O34||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Trap||Van Bergen||1|
|Both DTs remain responsible, diving inside on the snap and eliminating the hole; they both get inside of the guys trying to trap them as they rush upfield. RVB, Martin +1. Morgan(+0.5); he did a good job of getting to the hole to help tackle.|
|O35||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Gordon||12|
|Simple zone blitz gets Morgan(+0.5, pressure +1) in unblocked but someone screws up their zone and allows the hitch right over Morgan to come open. This looks like Gordon(-1, cover -1)|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel 4-3||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||4|
|Gordon walks down as an extra LB as M goes one high. DTs Campbell(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job of constricting this hole, forcing the RBs to dance through it gingerly. Morgan(-1) pops to the wrong side of the FB—he's at MLB in this formation and probably doesn't know where his hitter is—which allows Edison to dart through a small gap between the FB and Campbell.|
|M49||2||6||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Pin and pull zone||Heininger||0|
|Heininger(+2) does not get sealed; he does one better than that by chucking the OL blocking him to the inside and popping up into the hole, taking out a second blocker and forcing the RB to slow. With Beyer(+0.5) holding the edge the cutback is the only thing left; Ryan(+0.5) has that handled in pursuit.|
|M49||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Campbell||Inc|
|Zone blitz from Demens and Avery doesn't have time to get home; TerBush throws a quick hitch in the middle of the field that Campbell(+1, pressure +1) bats down. Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) was going to be there on the catch to make this tough.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 22-7, 5 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O26||1||10||Diamond screen||Nickel even||Pass||4||Transcontinental||Floyd||18|
|Double pass with two options, one a TE running deep that Gordon(+1) covers. The other is the transcontinental, which is the only real option because linemen are releasing downfield. Floyd(-2) doesn't realize this and comes up late, then lets Siller outside of him without even touching him (tackling -1), turning a first down into a big gain. RPS -1.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Gordon||3|
|Beyer forms up on the QB; handoff. Nothing playside with RVB(+0.5) driving his guy in to the play and ditto Heininger(+0.5); the cutback is there until Gordon(+1, tackling +1) comes up to make an excellent open field tackle as the RB cuts back behind everyone.|
|M43||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) beats the right tackle, and though it looks like TerBush can step up he bugs out for the corner. Martin(+0.5) is pursuing out there and TerBush has to chuck it OOB.|
|M43||3||7||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Scramble||--||2|
|More double pass stuff; Michigan covers(+1) the first read and then Siller starts running around aimlessly, picking up a few yards. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 29-7, 1 min 3rd Q. Clark, Hawthorne, and other backups start rotating in after M scores to go up 36-7. Seriousness: declining.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||5||PA Quick seam||Demens||23|
|Oh noes is less fun when it happens to you. Avery is over the slot; he blitzes. Demens(-1, cover -1) is dropping off in response, it seems, and is staring down the QB but not getting sufficient depth on his drop. The seam opens up. Woolfolk's tackle is a dodgy one but he does rope him down after a few extra yards given up. Call it a push.|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Clark||41|
|Michigan in man free with Woolfolk as the deep guy, except he's not so deep, he's moving forward at the snap less than ten yards off the LOS. This becomes a problem when Clark(-2) ignores the QB contain, causing a pull. Everyone else is headed to the playside and Floyd(-1) moves up too quickly, allowing Terbush to run by him before he can angle him into the help that doesn't really seem to be coming. Woolfolk(-1) never figures out the pull and ends up going derp on the playside; Floyd eventually runs it down.|
|M6||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Marin||1|
|Martin(+1) passes off the RG and gets into the center in the backfield, forcing the same cutback he forced a few times earlier. Van Bergen(+1) holds up against a double well, so no hole; Clark(+0.5) comes down to tackle on the cutback.|
|M5||2||G||I-Form||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|M10||2||G||I-Form||46 bear||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||Ryan||-5|
|Late move to the line by Morgan into the bear spot. Ryan is sent to fly off the edge. He's past the TE before he can get out on him, submarines the FB, and sends the tailback flailing skyward with a diving arm tackle. +3. Even if he whiffs here—a strong possibility—he's gotten a two-for-one on the FB and TE and Morgan should be able to force it back into unblocked help.|
|M15||3||G||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||3||Quick post||Morgan||12|
|Michigan drops eight, and I think it's either Ryan (who doesn't get over to the center of the zone fast enough, instead dropping too far into a post route in the center of the field that Gordon has) or Morgan (who's lined up over the guy and gives him inside position despite starting with inside leverage). Given the way the play looks—it appears to be man with three deep behind it—I think it's Morgan (-1, cover -1)|
|M3||4||G||Shotgun trips 2-back||Goal line||Run||N/A||Yakety sax||Demens||2|
|Slot covered, so pretty obvious run. What that run was supposed to be we'll never know because the two tailbacks run into each other. TerBush tries to improvise but gets chopped down short of the goal line by Demens(+1), who did beat a block to get to this quasi-hole. Ryan(+0.5) scraped way over to help, too.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 36-7, 9 min 4th Q. It's total scrub mode from this point on. Charting ceases.|
"Total scrub mode?" A bunch of starters were out there!
"Total scrub mode if Michigan had available scrubs they weren't trying to redshirt," then.
What about Talbott? Taylor? Robinson (Marvin Edition)? Furman?
Hmmm. Taylor's hurt, I think. Meanwhile I'm guessing they're in maximum-snap-acquirement mode for freshman Countess. I'm not sure about the other guys.
But anyway I'm not charting that stuff. It is not representative of the football game. You know how I know?
I ask the questions?
Because Purdue acquired yards. On the ground.
At least give me that I exclaim chart!
You exclaim chart!
[Note: with Purdue unable to stay on the field and the last 13 plays excised for uselessness, this is only 43 snaps. IE: less than half some performance-type-substances from last year. Adjust expectations accordingly by multiplying by ~1.6 to get relatively normalized numbers.
You can also look at the +/- ratio, which is hovering around 3:1 for the DL (dirty) and 60% for the DBs (quality), with the linebackers hovering around planet okay.]
|Van Bergen||5||1.5||3.5||Somewhat quiet day.|
|Martin||11||2.5||8.5||Two sacks and a number of plays he forced away from blocking.|
|Roh||6.5||2.5||4||Got some useful speed rush; half sack in uncharted time.|
|Heininger||5||2||3||Played pretty well; seems to turn in a play or two per week.|
|Campbell||2||1||1||Not getting a ton of push.|
|TOTAL||29.5||10||19.5||Clark also –1.5. Solid performance from the starters.|
|Demens||3||3||0||Not much got to him thanks to Martin.|
|Ryan||8.5||3||5.5||No argh moments, a couple wow experiences.|
|Fitzgerald||-||2||-2||Behind Demens for a reason.|
|Beyer||0.5||1.5||-1||Michigan working in their depth a bit more.|
|Hawthorne||-||-||-||Only garbage time.|
|Morgan||3.5||3||0.5||An improvement on Hawthorne, but still a work in progress.|
|TOTAL||15.5||12.5||3||Decent play from most, no real standout plays save Ryan's.|
|Floyd||3.5||6||-2.5||Best cover guy now so keep that in mind; tackling struggles do not outweigh his contribution to the cover metric below.|
|Avery||4||-||4||Mostly the INT.|
|Woolfolk||4||-||4||Played well at safety. Not as solid a tackler as Kovacs but good in coverage.|
|Kovacs||-||-||-||Come back soon.|
|T. Gordon||4.5||3||1.5||Solid tackling day.|
|Countess||1||2||-1||No one was really tested back here.|
|TOTAL||17||11||6||Very good save Floyd's tackling issues.|
|Pressure||9||1||8||Most of this a four man rush.|
|Coverage||11||6||5||Excellent number given the ratio.|
|Tackling||4||4||50%||Floyd on the edge can be not so good.|
|RPS||8||4||4||Didn't give up much schematically after the first drive.|
That is a quality day from the secondary, albeit one racked up in limited opportunities against a team that hardly goes deep, if they ever do. I didn't chart the final two drives, during which the Boilers were 6/9 for 47 yards. The drive before that was also pretty whatever and it featured two completions for 35 yards, both of them seemingly on the linebackers.
In time that can be described as meaningful, Michigan gave up 140 yards on 16 attempts, 48 of those on the screen. That's 6.1 YPA on the other 15 attempts. Aside from Floyd missing some tackles they did a good job. I wouldn't take too much out of it since Purdue is the most relentlessly dinky opponent Michigan will face.
More impressive than that was the rush defense, which gave up essentially nothing until Clark blew his contain on the zone read. Removing four sacks for 20 yards and Purdue still had just 109, 41 of those in garbage time thanks to a true freshman who's got two guys in front of him on the depth chart. Bolden averaged 2 YPC. Runs that don't heavily feature Clark making a mistake he won't get to make in a real game were barely better at 2.8.
Mike Martin is back!
Yeah, after getting blown out on a number of doubles against MSU Martin rebounded with a strong performance both statistically and when it came to the sorts of things that Don't Show Up In The Box Score. A large portion of the Bolden futility was Purdue trying to single block Martin and getting their angles blown up in return:
Forcing the cutback is 80% of the battle there; coming off to tackle yourself is just a bonus. You try running a fullback dive when the center is two yards in the backfield.
You are aware that Martin essentially threw the left guard into TerBush for a safety, but it remains a good example of his day:
This is what I like to see from my Mike Martin. That and rag-dolling a tailback like he is not present.
If he can do this against Iowa Coker will have a hard time. Dude is surprisingly agile for a truck but cutting in the backfield is doom for anyone his size. I imagine Iowa will do more doubling of him—Purdue wanted to get out on the linebackers so quickly they never really gave anyone help on Martin. Even Heininger got in on some of the single-blocked action.
Jake Ryan is living up to the promise implied by Sixteen Candles!
I do think we should slow our roll a little bit here. At this rate Ryan is going to be hyped to the moon over the offseason and when he's only pretty good as a sophomore everyone's going to be disappointed. He is learning, he is destructive, I still want to see him put on another 20 pounds and absorb Ryan Van Bergen's tao of weeble-wobbling before I start penciling him on the next three All Big Ten teams. One of his big plays was manufactured by Mattison, after all.
The other was not, though:
That is MAKING PLAYS. That's a +3 all the way, what with beating a tackle and submarining another blocker and tackling the dude in the backfield.
I dislike JT Floyd!
I've seen a couple of the educated football folk in the blogosphere and my twitter stream grouse about JT Floyd this week, and the numbers above do back that up. Getting chopped to the ground by an outside WR on a bubble is pretty bad, and Floyd's eh speed will always be an issue.
HOWEVA, I still think he's the best corner Michigan has right now. I base this off plays when opponents run twinned routes and I can see a Woolfolk or Countess cover the same slant on the same call; almost invariably Floyd is hugging the receiver tighter. This is not the best example because the QB set him up for this one but whether it's in man or zone Floyd seems to get more plays on the ball than anyone else in the secondary:
Meanwhile, count the long receptions Floyd's given up this year… I've got one, an undefendable Michael Floyd fade on which he had a rake at the ball. When they go after Michigan deep it was Woolfolk and Countess getting most of the exposure. That's good enough for me when trying to figure out who's good in an area of the field you only see when someone hasn't been good (or one of Michigan's quarterbacks has decided they're tired of being on the field).
Floyd's not going to go down as a great or probably even get drafted; he's still Michigan's best corner until Countess takes that mantle from him.
Morgan is the WLB forever!
I think he's the long-term solution on most downs. I like it when linebackers can shed and form tackle, even if it's on a kickoff:
I still see a place for Hawthorne on the defense in a nickel package. Many of his plusses this year have been in tight, instant-tackle coverage on third and medium. Morgan had a not-so-much moment over the weekend:
Froshbits that will get better with time, yes. I still think if you've got a safety/LB hybrid who's shown an aptitude for playing underneath coverage on medium-length third downs there's a place for that guy on your D. When the run you're worried about is a draw I wouldn't mind seeing Hawthorne out there.
How plausible is this? Well, BWS caught a nickel blitz late that again showed Mattison's desire to have one of his linebackers bug out to an unexpected place on a zone blitz. Check #7:
They tried this earlier in the year with Herron and it didn't go well. They didn't bring it out until Hawthorne came in against the Boilers, and it seems like if there's anyone on the roster who can run like an NFL linebacker in coverage it's him. I wouldn't put it past Mattison to start using Hawthorne like a dimeback to give his zone blitz schemes a little more terror. He's an interesting player.
Martin in particular but the rest of the line as well—constant harassment of the QBs and the opponent had no running game at the same time your MLB had one solo tackle.
Floyd's edge tackling was a source of problems. Pretty much the only one except a bad playcall on the first drive.
What does it mean for Iowa and the future?
I stole my own thunder above talking about Coker, but to reiterate: the key in the ground game will be to get the penetration they were getting today and slow Coker in the backfield. He takes time to get up to speed and is a one-cut-and-go type guy. If Martin/RVB can make him a one-cut-and-stop type guy they'll go a long way towards… uh… holding most of his runs to like four yards because you can't stop the guy from falling forward. I don't have faith in Michigan's linebackers to be able to stop that guy in his tracks. Kovacs's health will be important here—the downgrade in tackling from him to Woolfolk is obvious.
As for Iowa's passing game, prepare for a stiff test. Michigan hasn't faced a player of McNutt's quality in an environment that will allow for throwing instead of hoping since Notre Dame, and they escaped from that mess by the skin of their teeth. McNutt isn't on that level… quite.
LT Reilly Reiff, hyped up as a possible first rounder, struggled alarmingly with Minnesota DEs; if Michigan can get the same kind of pressure with their front four Iowa fans have been bitching all year about a certain deer-in-the-headlights quality to Vandenberg when he gets pressure.
News bullets and other important information:
- Kovacs ran around last night. Hoke says he's day to day. Van Bergen said Kovacs is expected back for Iowa. Who knows.
- Barnum injured his other ankle and is now "day to day."
- Lewan practiced. Has a knee injury on top of the ankle injury. Might get fewer reps in practice this week.
- Fitz Toussaint is -- surprise -- the number one running back.
- Desmond Morgan would have played more earlier but had a hamstring injury at the beginning of the season.
- McColgan is healthy but has been surpassed by Hopkins at fullback for those of you who were wondering. (Just me probably.)
Opening remarks: “Obviously we have a great challenge in going to Iowa City and play a very good Iowa team. Undefeated at home. That seems to be the way this conference is to some degree right now. They play awfully well and they’re a very well coached football team and have been for many many years. It will be the most physical game to this point for us as a team. When you watch them, personnel wise you look at Coker and what he’s done leading the league in rushing, and Vandenberg has done a tremendous job in there at quarterback. They have a great set of wideouts, but McNutt obviously gets a lot of the exposure because of what he’s done out there on the field. It’s going to be a great challenge for us and you play these last four, and when you get in November, you play for championships in the Big Ten conference, and that’s kind of how it’s been for many years. We look forward to it, we’re going to have a great week of preparation, and it’s going to be fun.”
How did the defense respond to the coaching during the off week, and where do you think you are on that side of the ball? “I think they responded well. When you look at it and you grade it and you look at it position by position, I thought up front the gap integrity that goes along with playing team defense and the appraoch that the guys played with and the demeanor they played with -- Mike, no question, was a factor in the game, not just in the middle but with his making plays down the field and those kind of things. Linebacker wise I thought we played downhill. I thought Desmond really did a nice job. I thought Kenny, I could feel those guys out there. Jake Ryan made some plays. Sometimes they’re unorthodox, but he’s a football player. In the back end, the two corners -- J.T. had the one penalty late that hurt us a little bit on that last drive, which was disappointing for us, but I think those two guys are settling in. Courtney’s done a nice job at nickel. Troy, for his first start back at the safety position, did some good things. I think there’s more that we can get from him there. I thought Thomas Gordon played up from where he did two weeks ago.”
What’s the status of Jordan Kovacs? “Day to day. He ran around, did some stuff last night, so we’ll see.”
How much of an adjustment did you have to make without Kovacs? “We didn’t do anything different without him to be honest with you. I think there’s some leadership there that he brings. I think there’s some football instinctiveness that he brings that is something that I don’t know if you ever make up for, whoever’s in there. He ran around and did things last night, so I was pleased with him.”
(mehr nach dem Absprung.)
So it's been seven games and it's a bye week so TACO PARTY—
this is a thing you can purchase at "Fine Art America"
or steal from your crazy Aunt Betty in Pensacola
—also generic bullety midseason-type post.
BEST DEVELOPMENT. Confirmation of the offseason's Greg >>> GERG theory.
he's like defensive coordinator Zooey Deschanel.
There are still obvious weaknesses and no obvious stars past a slightly disappointing Mike Martin, but it turns out having a coherent defensive philosophy is a lot better than running around screaming "we're all gonna die but at least my hair is fantastic!!!"
Pick a metric, advanced or not, and the improvement is incredible. The advanced ones are even more enthusiastic than the regular ones: Michigan is actually a top-20 FEI defense. Top 20! They were 108th last year! Excuse me, I have to go list this pool of razorblades, despair, and misery on Craigslist! Where an Ohio State blogger will purchase it to talk about their offense!
You can apply every massively-deserved caveat you can think of and the author will nod sagely about how that is a concern and the end result is still something that should approximate giddiness. When the turnovers stop coming in droves and a smaller percentage of games are played in a trash tornado, Michigan will backslide. But, like… backslide into the 40s or something. IE: the offseason's best-case scenario that didn't involve installing robots from the future at key spots.
RUNNER-UP, BEST DEVELOPMENT. Jordan Kovacs ending the debate about Jordan Kovacs.
If you strain your memory you can think back to a time where it was very warm and people had heated debates about whether Jordan Kovacs was any good or not. This was summer, and it was a silly time. A major reason the defense is scraping the ceiling of the ceiling above its best-case scenario is the near-total absence of big plays. Michigan still hasn't given up anything over 40 yards. Kovacs and (to a lesser extent) Thomas Gordon are primarily responsible for shutting down the Wolverine Free Touchdown Factory and shipping it to Thailand. WOO OUTSOURCING JOKE
WORST DEVELOPMENT. Denard's inability to hit Charlie Weis in three tries.
Even if you ascribe to the theory that Denard's passing success last year was largely a mirage when it came to Actual Big Ten Defenses*, his numbers against the two actual-seeming defenses on the schedule thus far have been horrendous. At least half of that can be ascribed to Denard just missing dudes.
Even running in place would have been disappointing after the quantum leap it seemed he made last year. He was still raw as sushi and could still be expected to move more towards quarterback-dom than a guy who'd had the slightest amount of polish. Instead the Al Borges-Denard Fusion Cuisine has shoved him back to being that guy who heaved it up against Iowa when he had a wide open Odoms running underneath. I didn't like that guy as much as the one from last year, warts and all.
*[Which I don't, FWIW. I UFR this stuff for a reason, and that reason is "so I can do something more than wave my hands in the air and say 'nuh-uh' when I would like to dispute someone else's assertion." I charted all of Denard's throws before the dismal end of the RR regime and there's a definite backslide.]
RUNNER-UP, WORST DEVELOPMENT. What happened, offensive line?
Last year you were all like blocking your way to an insane YPC and hardly giving up anything on the ground and this year you can't pull to save your life; the impregnable wall of no sacks was punched into smithereens by Michigan State. Now it's hard not to look at next year without a sense of panic.
MOST MIDDLING DEVELOPMENT. The tailbacks. It's still Vincent Smith and increasingly less Fitzgerald Toussaint (for reasons that are opaque to me). They're not awful. I still covet any tailback who wanders by to break a tackle or two.
MOST MISLEADING DEVELOPMENT. The defense's turnover-fu. It is not sustainable. Repeat this in your head a thousand times in a futile effort for its lack to be tolerable.
MOST DEVELOPING DEVELOPMENT. Special teams. They've been bad so far but the sample size is small. Brendan Gibbons made three(!) field goals against Minnesota and is 4/6 on the year. His two misses were both blocked. He might be serviceable. He might be benefiting from a bunch of chip shots—he still hasn't made one past 40 yards.
Meanwhile, the starting punter was suspended for the first four games and is averaging under 34 yards a kick because he was a nonfactor against Minnesota and Northwestern and seven of his punts came in a howling windstorm, six(!) of those from the Michigan State half of the field.
They can't cover kicks and can't return them, either. So… yeah. The jury is still out.
OFFENSE: FOCUS: OFFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jeremy Gallon cloaking device engagement.
The play that followed it was pretty sweet, too, but that thing took Michigan from dead in the water to fightin' chance in The First Night Game Evar.
100% WORST THING EVER. Fourth and inches play action pass from the nine against Michigan State. I assume this needs no explanation.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Run inside zone.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Throw deep.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Use stretch blocking and deploy the quick screen with the wide receivers to force a third defender to live outside the tackles. Michigan hasn't attacked the outside enough, allowing Michigan State's double-A-gap blitzes to be ludicrously effective.
BEST PLAYER. Well… Denard, despite obvious issues.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been near-flawless in pass protection, and has generally done well when the run game has come his way, which hasn't been often given their inability to pull left.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Michigan hasn't been able to pull left largely because Patrick Omameh can't get to the hole before the tailback, which is not so good.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Vincent Smith. He's a third down back and useful player who's not a guy you want to give 20 carries.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. Denard. Please, baby, please.
DEFENSE: FOCUS: DEFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jordan Kovacs depositing his head into a ball Alex Carder happened to be carrying.
That sack is like the awful Nick Sheridan interception that kicked off the Rodriguez era and made its way into the Worst Plays of the Decade more for what it symbolized than the actual impact of the play. It heralds a sea change in Michigan's fortunes.
Caveats, caveats, caveats: Michigan is now deploying a zone-blitz heavy 4-3 under that will draw valid NFL comparisons and will hopefully start playing like Michigan defenses of old, and by "Michigan defenses of old" I mean "Michigan defenses of very old or more recent Ohio State outfits."
100% WORST THING EVER. It's a tribute to Michigan's safeties and Greg Mattison that the only long-ish touchdown they've given up was the no-safeties formation that handed Notre Dame a freebie right before the Gallon cloaking device play. But, man… that was kind of not good right there.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Zone blitz.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Let guys outside the tackles.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Uh… you got me. /shakes fist at format established by himself
BEST PLAYER. Ryan Van Bergen, I think. It's close between RVB, Martin, and Kovacs, but Martin had a tough outing against Michigan State. Van Bergen played well. Kovacs had a storming game the first time out and is a major reason for the lack of long touchdown but has not has as much down to down impact. Maybe that's just the nature of being a safety. If Michigan gets through the rest of the year without getting bombed deep he'll win by default.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Kovacs. I don't hate Michigan's safeties except from time to time when Johnson is missing tackles.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Weakside linebacker du jour. Woolfolk hasn't been good but that's obviously an injury thing. I've been leery about Jake Ryan from time to time but he's turning in enough good plays with his bad ones to nose above even most days.
But whoever's been at weakside linebacker has had issues. Brandon Herron started the year, had two defensive touchdowns, and got benched. Brandin Hawthorne came in for him, played okay for a bit, made some mistakes, and has rotated in and out with true freshman Desmond Morgan the past couple weeks.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Will Heininger. Heininger hasn't been a disaster or anything but he is single blocked often, rarely makes plays, and is pretty much what you'd expect a walk-on to be at defensive tackle.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. There are two: Jake Ryan and Blake Countess. Both are freshman starters* turning in promising plays amongst the youthful head-vs-wall moments. Ryan in particular has cut down his blatant errors to getting cut to the ground a few times per game.
*[Countess is not technically starting. He is getting the bulk of the playing time.]
THE BIG TEN
THE WORST. Minnesota. We have a GopherQuest dedicated to their badness.
THE SECOND-WORST. Everyone else. This league is not so good. The team leading the East division starts Matt McGloin at quarterback and is coached by a guy without a headset who isn't on the sideline. The team leading the West division is Michigan State. There are no undefeated teams, no national powers, and it's inevitable that the league's bowl record is going to be 2-6.
FUTURE OPPONENTS IN ORDER OF CONCERN.
- @ Iowa
- Ohio State
- @ Illinois
BALLPARK RECORD AGAINST THOSE FOLKS. 3-2.
WHO'D TAKE 9-3. That's everyone.
WHO'D WHIMPER AND HIDE AT THE BOWL OPPONENT IN THAT EVENT. Also everyone. Okay, not you, message board hero who spent the last week calling Michigan fans whiners. You will say unreasonable things about the prospect of beating…
Wait. There are only two good SEC teams this year. Am I going to tremble at the sight of Arkansas or Georgia or South Carolina? No. Nevermind.
FIVE GUYS WHO SEEM PRETTY GOOD WHOM INSUFFICIENT DISCUSSION IS HAD ABOUT.
Bryce McNaul, Northwestern LB. (Heady, quick the hole, part of Northwestern's good run defense, injured too much, can do nothing about the nonexistent Wildcat secondary.)
Marcus Rush, MSU DE. (Rush has been overshadowed by the Gholston controversy but is actually a better player. Gholston does nothing once he is blocked; Rush will shed guys. Gholston would be on the bench if Tyler Hoover was healthy.)
Devon Still, PSU DT. (Still may be a reach since he is reaching tongue-bath levels but I was all about Still last year.)
Kawaan Short, Purdue DT.
Da'Jon McKnight, Minnesota WR. (Winner: most futile B1G existence.)
Does this game feel different for you because it’s SDSU? “Well, looking at that part of it, I guess is different. We’re obviously more familiar with this team because we just coached the team. It’s nothing to do with any of that stuff. It’s about San Diego State against Michigan. Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.”
Rocky Long said you have advantage because you know the SDSU players and their signals. How much does that come into play? “No. I really don’t get caught up in that too much. Signals and all that stuff, it’s overrated. Way overrated. There are 17 teams in the NFL that run the same offense. They use the same terms. Nobody changes -- they may change a little bit here and there, but not significantly enough to where it scares people.” Do you use the same signals here at Michigan as you did when you were at SDSU? “No we don’t. A lot of ours is sent in on wristband calls anyway, so it’s difficult for anybody to get what we’re doing because they’d have to have the wristband.”
Were you involved in recruiting Ronnie Hillman? “Hillman was already committed when we got there. Our job was really just hanging onto him.” Did he look good back then? “Oh yeah. The kids that we kept, we thought were pretty good players.”
Are you surprised by how prolific they are offensively? “No. No. Not at all. Not even a little bit.” Does that make you feel good? “No. We have to play them. Made me feel great last year. They’re a good team and they deserve respect, and we’re going to give it to them. Our kids are well aware of what they’re dealing with here. We’ve made it clear that this is going to be a tough contest. We better come ready to play.”
(more after the jump)
HEY TOMMY REES
CHECK IT OUT I'M ALL GONNA BLITZ YO
LOL LOOK HOW CLOSE I AM TO THE LINE
WHY IS EVERYONE LOOKING AT YOU?
HEY MAN… I'M NOT BLITZING BE COOL
LOL JK YES I AM. HEY… THAT GUY IS OPEN
IF I WAS NOT BLITZING I MAY HAVE BEEN IN THIS AREA
TOMMY REES IS A JERK
I HOPE HE THROWS A BALL BACKWARDS FOR NO REASON LATER
This happened a lot. Michigan would line up, show something unsound, and Rees would check into something that would punish the defense. Blue Seoul highlighted another instance where Michigan tipped its blitz:
Also a result:
Michigan would line up in its okie package on plausible running downs like third and five, which caused Rees to check to runs up the middle. With no linebackers and Mike Martin dropping into coverage these went for about 20 yards.
Hell, even when good things happened this was going on. Look at this dude on Kovacs's interception:
That is a 65-yard touchdown waiting to happen if Rees's brain isn't going FLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYD. The difference between a great call and an idiotic call is Rees not being a true sophomore in his fifth start with deep man love for Michael Floyd.
Seriously. Michigan's defensive RPS is going to have huge numbers because Mattison is doing all sorts of crazy stuff. This defense is the philosophical opposite of the bland 4-3 cover twos of Iowa, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
They show a bunch of different fronts, blitz from everywhere, don't bother to cover guys in the seam when there are no safeties… it's a freak show out there. Sometimes it works. When it doesn't it's ugly. ND's last touchdown is especially galling because Michigan had to know ND would see this massive bust on the Kovacs INT and check into "free seam touchdown" when Michigan checked to cover zero. In this instance there was at least a guy vaguely in the area, but they've got a lot to work on.
Blitzing is not such a good idea when you wave your hand and say "sir: I am blitzing." In the first half Michigan tipped their blitzes a lot. Matters improved when Hawthorne came in—I watched him blitz without so much as taking those anxious shuffle steps, let alone going LOL I'M AT THE LINE—but it's disconcerting to watch the Michigan defense freak out on a QB handclap so consistently. They should know by now that the clap often leads to a check, because the offense did that a ton last year.
So… where is Michigan's check after ND checks? You can't check all the time because then ND's check will be "let's change their play without changing ours" but you have to check some of the time, particularly early.
Avery could have done better here. He's beaten to the inside too easily and can't tackle on the catch. He is not capable of dealing with Mike Floyd. Not many are, but predictions in this space of a bust-out year are not off to a good start. It's early yet.
Not that it would have mattered: Avery can run his slant for Floyd and Eifert is still hand-wavingly wide open. Dude could have gone for 150 against us if Tommy Rees's brain wasn't going FLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYD.
Another reason for worry. This defense is unsound. Does Mattison want it to be unsound because it makes Kovacs pop up for turnovers or does he have little choice in the matter because he's starting a walk-on (Heininger—Kovacs has graduated), a couple freshmen, and only 2.5 non-walkon seniors (RVB, Martin—Woolfolk is the half)?
I don't know, but I'm betting it's the latter. I am glad they've got a week to practice not leaving guys wide open all day. They're busting coverages every other play.