The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
11/21/2009 – Michigan 10, Ohio State 21 – 5-7, 1-7 Big Ten
Well… that could have gone worse.
Unlike last year, it is possible to construct an alternate universe in which Michigan wins the game. This universe contains 80% fewer crippling Forcier errors; not much else is different. Like last week's admission of crippling ennui after game 11, this is progress of a sort. The sort is still "not very fun progress at all," but it's progress.
Better than the slight competitiveness: now it's over and we don't have to watch the team/roadkill grind its jaw away any more. The focus turns to getting some cornerbacks and other assorted defenders, reviewing what happened, and waiting for what will be a telling 2010.
There should be no more stupid rumors that Rodriguez is getting fired. Bill Martin immediately announced that Rodriguez would be the coach in 2010, which like duh. CRACK REPORTERS then attempted to detect weaselly out words in the Martin statement and got a flat denial. There will be no more stomach-churning on-field events or stupid rumors that Forcier and Robinson are transferring. Maybe that latter is optimistic given the flimsy justifications for transfer rumors to date, but since Forcier and, oddly, Vincent Smith, have clearly denied any transfer intentions recently there's little that could convince them to leave other than Devin Gardner showing up in fall—not even spring—and proving himself God. Which isn't likely to happen.
There will be some sort of NCAA announcement that has a 1% chance of crushing Rodriguez, a 10% chance of actually increasing the heat he is under with the people who decide his fate, and an 89% chance of being either nothing or minor enough that it won't make a difference in a year or two when the wins and losses are likely to make the decision.
And then this two-year period of misery and flailing about will be over. Even if you are a tinfoil hat who wants Rodriguez fired yesterday and thinks the team will be just as bad next year, at least that won't be as bad, because the last half of the season will be talking about the next coach. More likely than that is that a non-freshman, non-walk-on quarterback and 16-19 returning starters and some consistency at defensive coordinator and progress everywhere and roster not operating 14 scholarships short see Michigan get off the mat.
The long dark of the offseason is merciful now and steadily builds to a yes or no answer in 2010. Or, more likely, a "maybe" answer leading to a surely definitive 2011. Either way, this unpleasant limbo existence has ended. Patience is a virtue because it is incredibly frustrating and painful, and we don't have to be patient any more.
- Big post-game news is that Donovan Warren has tentatively announced his return. There is some wiggle in as long as Warren is going to put his name in for an evaluation, but unless that evaluation comes back more positive than he's been told it will he should return for his senior year. That's obviously huge, and may allow Woolfolk or Justin Turner to slide to safety next year.
- In other corner news, Adrian Witty is qualified($) and will be on campus in January. Nice to see Michigan stick with the kid, and hopefully he can contribute. He was just a two-star but Michigan liked him a lot.
- You will not believe this but I will say it anyway: Michigan's corner depth chart might be a little crowded next year. Young, but crowded. Both starters return, Justin Turner will get in on the action, and then you have Witty, Avery, and Talbott coming in with potential/probable commits from Cullen Christian and Tony Grimes coming up. That's suddenly five-deep in scholarship players (Floyd and Teric Jones also exist). Some of those guys will get bumped to safety, surely.
- Many people are talking about the Ohio State fans who showed up en masse. I didn't think it was much worse than 2007, especially not in my immediate proximity. Two years ago there was this pack of Git-r-dones a few rows behind me that would literally say "ain't nothing wrong with that" after every four yard Wells run; this year there were scattered OSU fans but nothing as concentrated and annoying.
But it was worse, and this has caused a lot of muttering about season ticket holders who gave up their seats. I don't think that's the case thanks to an excellent diary on the situation:
…the Athletic Department has been "banking" all of the non-renewed season tickets. With those "banked" seats, the Athletic Department plans to be able to do the aforementioned aisleway widening, handrail additions and (hooray) widened seat-numbering, with a minimum of inconvenience and movement to existing season ticket seat holders. … In the meantime, it means that the Athletic Department has larger numbers of individual and/or package tickets to sell.
If you had wanted to conduct an experiment at the time of the OSU game, all you had to do was ask to see the tickets of any of those OSU fans; I have every presumption that in most cases, the tickets held by Buckeye fans would surely have been small and white, not the larger color photo-background tickets that go to season ticket holders.
This problem will be less and less of an issue in the future, as season-ticket assignments within the bowl get settled after renovations are completed.
… And, for people in Columbus, the Michigan game is the biggest day of the year. They smelled blood in the water this year, and many of them made the effort, got the tickets, and came north. Do not for a moment think that ticket brokers missed an opportunity to purchase a package of tickets that included Eastern and Delaware State, simply to get ahold of OSU tickets, and sell them in Columbus. Those tickets, the package tickets, are quite likely part of the "bank" of tickets that the Athletic Department is holding only until 2010 or 2011, for the completion of the stadium renovations.
This is definitely what happened: brokers snapped up the publicly available tickets and when game time rolled around the double-digit favorites are naturally more inclined to pay the premium to get into the stadium. There were some traitorous bastards who need to be hung by their figgins, but most of it was just Michigan fans not buying available tickets. Which means everyone complaining about how the stadium looked on TV has scarlet and gray on their hands.
Vincent Smith is your tentative 2010 starter after averaging 4 YPC on eight carries to Michael Shaw's 1 on 7. Smith also had three catches and Michigan's only touchdown on a sweet juke after Forcier scrambled himself into and out of trouble and threw back across his body…
…which was awesome but it's pretty easy to draw a straight line from that to Forcier's endzone interception, which was a slow-motion "nooooooooooooooo" moment if I've ever experienced one. The instant Forcier looked to the left side of the field I felt a disturbance in the force, and my main concern was that the guy not score a defensive touchdown.
Forcier in toto: is it crazy for me to suggest that I thought that was sort of an encouraging game? Five turnovers are horrendous and he made some terrible throws into coverage but he also made a number of outstanding plays; if he has the usual leap from freshman to sophomore and cuts down on the errors there's so much playmaking potential there that he could be crazy outstanding. There is also the possibility that he never calms down and he just makes killer mistakes, but most guys get a lot better as they age, especially folks who played crappy high school ball, as Forcier did.
Why the hell doesn't Michigan have That God Damned Counter Draw in its arsenal? Michigan is now a shotgun team that uses a metric ton of rolling pockets and in my experience TGDCD is 80% touchdown, 20% fail. Ohio State didn't even mean to call it and they scored on it.
Anyone talking about "class" re: Mike Shaw's pre-game run-in with some Ohio State player should probably look on his own rhetoric about how hating Michigan because some crazy dead bastard hated Michigan is part of his soul, man, and consider the logical twists and turns taken to arrive at the conclusion that bumping into mortal enemy and then woofing represents a character flaw.
Every time Terrelle Pryor morphed from arm-punter into terrifying tank on the edge, I thought to myself "Jim Tressel is an idiot." He isn't. He is self-evidently a fantastic football coach. He has gotten six straight wins over Michigan—though it's not like Michigan's made it hard the last three tries. But virtually every criticism leveled at Tressel about his neolithic Pryor offense is true. OSU's scoring offense is the zone read, and Tressel didn't even bother hauling it out except on like two drives, one of which was the quick first-half touchdown. The risky scoring offense is running your tank of a QB on the edge, and instead Tressel spent large chunks of the game in the I neutralizing Pryor's legs. What a waste.
MVictors was on the field and got some shots, including one of Brandon Graham walking for senior day. Senior day side note: much better logistically this year than before, with the seniors walking under the banner. Previously they had them along one endzone, which was weird.
- Brandon Minor is still nicked up, but he'll go if he can. Carlos's knee is still bothering him a little bit. Vincent Smith played well, Shaw "did some good things." Backups will be ready if the starters can't go.
- "Legends are made in the Michigan-Ohio State game." Good feel for the rivalry. Doesn't take long to understand it. Don't have to coach or play here to get the intensity of it. What will it take to turn the rivalry around? Having a better team than the opponent. Emotion and passion will carry the team a little bit. The more experienced team (OSU) will be able to stem a tide of emotion. Use the big rivalry factor to help guys focus on preparation during the game. Win over OSU means something special especially for the seniors. Team has overcome a little adversity, that would be important for them. Try to accentuate the positives this week. It's an easy game to get them excited for. Our guys know it's a big challenge. You always have a chance. We have to play really well. Maybe they'll make a few mistakes.
- Hasn't heard from past Michigan coaches about the rivalry. He doesn't need to be lectured on the importance of the rivalry. He gets it. Just because he's not from Michigan doesn't mean he doesn't get it. Everyone gets it. He coaches as hard as he can in every game. Ohio State is just a whole lot more important. College football has the most intense rivalries, none more important than M-OSU. '69 team was one of the best M-OSU games. They'll be honorary captains for the game.
- A couple things different: Senior week. Practice won't be much different. There will be more in team meetings about the importance of the game, etc. Permanent team captains will be voted on this week.
- Senior class. All programs have something special for last home game. Best week of seniors' careers. Devoted 4-5 years to the university & team. Small group of seniors.
- We can play a whole lot better offensively. Defensively, we haven't been playing well. It's not a lack of effort, there are a lot of reasons. Solid on special teams. Have to make a lot of improvement on defense. Hopefully they rise to the challenge in the last game.
- Made D changes, guys played pretty well. Looking for the right combination. Defense maybe moved slower than he thought it might. Last year's team had more experience defensively. Knew we were going to be inexperienced. They might make personnel moves from offense to defense in the offseason. In next couple recruiting classes, add talent on defense.
- All coaches hate to lose. It eats at your soul. "I don't coach football, I live it." He loves what we're doing, so it eats at you to be unsuccessful. He's not used to losing, so it pretty much sucks. Each day is a new opportunity. This year or last year was the most emotionally taxing in his career. We've all fought through this thing together, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When the young guys lift weights, practice, etc., you can see that we're going to be back there. He likes winning too much to not evaluate everything the team does. If adjustments need to be made, they'll do it. Some of the problems are going to take longer to fix. "I feel very good about our staff." Good coaches, family men, recruiters. Scheme and stuff will be where the changes come. Personnel-wise it's tough to overcome. The players know how competitive the coaches are. As long as they're giving their best effort, that's all the coach can ask. This is a good group to coach.
- Not getting back as quickly as he'd like. Only had 1 full recruiting class. When those 18-19 year olds are 20-21, they'll look more like men. There's a group of 4-5 college head coaches he keeps in touch with for encouragement, etc.. Also the assistant coaches he's been with for a long time. Sometimes things come up that aren't in coaching 101.
- On offense, they feel a lot better than last year. Players have a better grasp of the offense. OSU will still be a huge challenge. Not showing up to hope it stays close, they want to win.
- Comparing leagues to leagues is misinformed, there's no reason that a different style of football can't be played in the Big Ten. Every league has a variety of styles, etc. Coaching the pro-style to fit the talent. Our guys that started on offense last year hadn't played in any system yet. No mattter what system you ran, they hadn't played in it. Same with defense this year. Need to recruit guys who can play at the highest level, but experience is a big player too.
- Tate - hopefully learned that you have to compete every week, continue to get better, different schmes and challenges every week. He and Denard are both very good for true freshmen. They'll get better when they have more practice time. Hopes everyone (not just tate) is committed to getting the seniors to a bowl game.
- Koger played some last year. He's played well sometimes, other games he hasn't taken the next step. He'll get better.
- Graham - doing all he can. He knows he's surrounded by inexperience. Still being a team guy and playing within the framework of the defense. Trying to free him up and use his ability.
- Kovacs is a tough guy. It's just his first year playing, so he'll keep getting better. Lack of depth gave him an opportunity.
- Boren: Doesn't do much good to go back in the past. "We pride ourselves on the closeness we have as a family." If you ask the players, they feel the closeness. Hasn't talked to Boren since he left.
- Pryor. He's done extremely well. Started games as a true freshman. Very talented. Won a lot of games. Don't really like to play him because he's a talented playmaker. Nobody on scout team can replicate him (obvs). Denard will play him a bit on scout team.
Ryan Van Bergen
- Scoring the touchdown against Wisconsin was pretty cool. He thought his days of scoring touchdowns were over after high school.
- It would mean everything to this team to beat Ohio State. Bitter taste after last year's game is still there. Want to beat OSU and get the 6th win for the seniors. Looking to stop the streak of 4-5 consecutive OSU losses. There's an external sense that Michigan doesn't stand a chance. A lot of people around the rivalry know that records mean nothing on the field.Practices will stay the same, but in the group preparation "you always do a little extra for Ohio State." Film room, etc.
- Defense is getting close, but they're still making fundamental and technical errors. They're getting better and better, but that's still not good enough. Can't lean on the offense. Mistakes this year aren't sustained drives or anything. It doesn't look better on the scoreboard, but if they can stop 4-5 plays of 60+ yards and TD, it will look a whole lot different. Guys aren't wearing out. Other teams have similar size and frequency of defensive rotation. Got away from scheming other teams, need to execute physically.
- Michigan Ohio State game has an intensity level that can't be matched in other games. It's like you're on the front line of a battle. We enjoy it, and it's great to get after it with passion.
- Never grew up an Ohio State fan. Always got chills watching the big game. "I'm a Michigan man, that's all I'm worried about right now." Roundtree born in Pahokee, big Miami fan. Miami-OSU game in '02. McGahee, etc. "Just can't go for Ohio State, don't know what it is."
- Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson. Great memories.
- Preparation started saturday after Wisconsin. Practice is going to have to pay off this week. Veterans say to go all out. You never know when it's your last play, especially against Ohio State. Have to go harder this week. Put in the hard work all season. Learn from mistakes, prepare for Saturday. Everybody's ready.
- Rodriguez toughest season. Just his second year, how the season is turning out. Roundtree and Hemingway sat together last year watching the game. "This year should be a turnaround."
- Won't have his phone on this week because he needs to stay focused.
- Big 2 weeks: It just happens. Shows the work he put in everywhere. Doesn't worry about how many balls he catches, etc., just worried about running his route. You can't back down in blocking.
- The QBs have to work with each other to improve. Tate has to do more to show what he can do.
- Same feeling against OSU every year (always do everything you can), but each year is different with his role increasing. "It'll be my last game in the Big House, I wanna go out with a win." This week, anything that's wrong has to be corrected Everyone has to be in watching film, everyone has to go hard in practice. Stevie and seniors lead by example. Getting to a bowl and beating Ohio State are linked together, so neither goal is bigger than the other, they're the same.
- Boren - did everything he could while he was here, he'll be the same for them. No personal vendetta, just another O-lineman.
- Pryor throwing it better this year. When the play breaks down, he's able to do things with his feet. Big guy, need to get a secure tackle on him.
- Stevie doesn't try to think about "if we lose, it's over" type stuff. Worries about preparing to win the last game. Doesn't look at beating them in terms of breaking the OSU streak, just want to beat them.
- Whenever we play very well, play together, we can shut teams down. We've shown flashes, just need to come together for 60 minutes.
- Graham provides a lot of vocal encouragement. Leads by example as well. Works as hard as he can, makes plays he's supposed to make. The team doesn't want to let Brandon down. Stevie's not vocal. You can come ask him questions, but he tries to lead by example.
- Hasn't looked at Ohio State film yet. Heard Herbstreit say that this is one of Tressel's best defenses.
- UT-A&M rivalry is the main one where Ortmann's from. The M rivalry is something he knew about, but didn't get to experience it that much.
- The preparation week for OSU his freshman year, their helmets were taped up like OSU, you can sense a different atmosphere .
- Loss= the end has been playing in everyone's mind. We've broken a lot of records and set some new ones the past couple years. Beating OSU would be a great spot to start a new record.
- It's been a while since we've beaten them. Go in with mindset that we are capable of winning. The tackling dummies with the block o are just a reminder that OSU is the biggest game every year.
- Boren - nobody has a relationship with him anymore really. Ortmann has talked to him just a couple times. They had a good relationship before. It was hard to hear him say what he did when he left. He was raised to be a Michigan fan and he loved Michigan. Had some underlying personal issues. What he said on the way out was unfair. People with their own individual reasons. Some statements have been inaccurate. They're entitled to their own opinions.
- Big difference between the OSU games and all the rest. "Growing up, you know that this is one of the biggest rivalries in college football." Big for both programs. Definitely have more intensity this week, get the guys riled up. Help the young guys understand how important this game is.
- Limit big plays. Make them earn everything that they get. Have to come out in practice, get some confidence rolling through the week. Believe in the gameplan, minimize what the opponent will do.
- At safety last couple weeks - do what the coaches ask, and what's best for team. Trying to help the team win. That was for Wisconsin, doesn't know if it will be this week as well.
- Discipline against Pryor. Tougher to stick to receivers because he might need help. Tougher to stick to receivers for longer. Posey - made some big plays with Pryor. Try to minimize that, make them earn it. Sanzenbacher started year as Pryor's go-to guy. Duron Carter is good too. Contain all three of those and the RBs.
- Little things add up and lead to opponents' big plays. Can't let that continue to occur. Have to just keep working on it. Don't let it disrupt your confidence. Confidence - if you can limit big plays, the defense has actually been solid. Hear outsiders talk about how bad the defense is. Can't let it get to you. Continue to work and get better. Do the little things.
- Is it disrespectful for Boren to go to the hated rival. "We're here and he's talking that the family values have eroded. Definitely, the family is still intact." He had to do what was best for him.
- Losing rivalry games is tough. Have to look on the bright side. Don't have anything to lose. Win this one, go to a bowl game. Something to look forward to winning this game. What's in the past is in the past, worry about what you can do in this game.
- Seen some great defenses this year - PSU, Iowa. OU has some solid guys, nobody stands out above everyone else they've seen this year.
- "I don't talk to him, I don't think about him. He doesn't come up in my daily life. I don't have to play against him on defense. I wish I could." Boren
- Tate and Denard don't need to be told things, they need to learn through intensity and preparation of teammates.
- This game is huge, last regular season game, last game of the year. It's everything. Unfinished business against OSU - haven't beaten them in 5 years. This is what we have, we're going practice hard. The context can only mean so much. Don't need a "little brother" mentality. It's Ohio State. Records mean nothing, etc. Don't need more analogies.Just prepare every day. This falls under every category - last game, bowl eligibility, OSU, etc.
- Hopefully we can get a big win, and the reality of never playing in M stadium again will kick in after the celebration.
- Scout team players go extra hard this week. Some guys that normally wouldn't be on scout team go down because they want to practice against the best.
- Omameh - nothing needs to be said to him. They'll watch film together. He'll show him what he needs to do to win. All we can ask is for him to play his heart out - and he will. As an OL, we are looking at their film to see how to attack their defense. I think we can do that.
- 70-80% underclassmen. Always great to see the young guys (tate) take leadership roles.
- Watched Purdue-OSU film. It's going to take our best effort to beat them. Purdue put together a great gameplan, and we've got one this week.
- When the offense goes in, no matter the game situation, they go in to score. The defense goes in to stop them. Our job is to score and win. We want to score more than the other team. Minor's gonna play. He'll play hard and run hard. This is his last game. Concerned about his health, but he'll do what he can. "He's gonna do great, he always does."
- Block-O tackling dummies are going to be in view all week. They have been all year. Lots of motivation to beat Ohio State. "If you can't get jacked up for this one, I don't know where you've been." If he doesn't beat Ohio State, it just wasn't meant to be. "We will beat them... sooner or later. Hopefully it's this Saturday."
- Defense wants to have their best game of the year. Even if old goals weren't achieved you have to set new goals. Time to play their best. They haven't had many games where they could say they played their best and got beat. Showed effort in the last game, but Wisconsin came out with a plan to exploit their weaknesses.
- BG trying to take it in now, since he's got one last game if they don't win. Kinda sad that his college career is done. Dreamt of this moment, now it's almost gone. Realized when he was watching Lamarr Woodley with the Steelers yesterday. Woodley told him to enjoy it, because it's over in a beat. Now he's telling the new young guys the same thing.
- He doesn't want to think about his kids now, but when he eventually has them, he'll tell them he got to play in the greatest game in the country. When his kids go here, it will always be something special when they play Ohio State. Couldn't send his kids to Ohio State "I'm not Justin Boren." He's got a lot of words for Boren. "Just somebody who shouldn't have been here in the first place... We'll see him Saturday." Our front four can get the job done. Boren's got to prove he's still got it. He was good here, but isn't as good there because it's O-State. Family values thing was just an excuse for Boren because he wanted to leave. Never gave the new coaches a chance. "Some people just leave because they feel like they're better than what they is. Not trying to put that much work into it.... a lot of people get lazy and feel like it's supposed to come to them."
- BG has noticed at times that he's a really good player on a bad defense. He doesn't worry about it, and just tries to get to the ball. He wants everyone else to play with the same attitude, they don't all grow as fast as others. Go hard every day. Whoever's in his way, he'll tell them to not come his way. He's in the best shape of his life, and he'll wear the opponent down.
- "It's about to be his last, next year" for Donovan Warren. Does he know Warren plans to stay or is he just saying that?
- Graham grew as a person and was humbled this year - can't take anything for granted. Feels like he could work harder or something to achieve success. My personal goals went OK, but it's about the team. I was happy to be able to help change the game and help my team. Stuff happens for a reason.
- Seniors want to leave with a win "What's a better way than to beat O-State?"
The press conference started of with a 20-minute presentation about Rich Rodriguez sponsoring a child-safety initiative, which sports writers are apparently supposed to care about. Once the actual football talkin' began, there were a few tidbits.
- Injuries: There were no new ones coming out of Illinois, except Greg Banks has sprained his foot. Brandon Minor's injury is expected to limit him through the remainder of the season.
- Purdue is probably a better team than their record. They lost a couple of close games early, and they still have a lot of talent and experience. They start 16 seniors. They looked bad against Wisconsin, but that was partially an abnormally bad game for them, as well as a great game played by Wisconsin.
- Rich Rodriguez is more impatient than any fan could be about the progress of the team. He thought success might come a little quicker, but when he arrived in Ann Arbor and saw what he had to work with, he knew the process would be a little longer. Building a championship-caliber program will take some time. Michigan has had to play more freshmen than he'd hoped over the past two years, and it's likely that will continue next year as well.
- This team has been inconsistent all year, whether it is at home or on the road. The road environment hasn't seemed to rattle the players. They just can't play inconsistently and expect to win. A bad half can't lead to widespread issues across the team.
- Players get too tight sometimes, and worry about making mistakes. Brandon Graham is one of the few guys who doesn't do that. He just gets after and plays. Even if he makes a mistake, he is able to play at a high level. Kevin Leach graded out the highest of any Michigan defensive player, but Obi is still in the mix for playing time. Vladimir Emilien is not currently in the mix for more playing time, but he has a chance to be in the near future.
- Rodriguez re-thinks the play-calling at the goal line, but only because it's impossible not to.
- Mark Ortmann's "punch" was reviewed by Rodriguez with Ortmann. He thinks it was open-hand, and more to push Corey Liuget away than to strike him. There should be no additional punishment for Ortmann. In other offensive line news, Patrick Omameh will probably get more reps this week, as well as Ricky Barnum. Perry Dorrestein has a slight back tweak.
- Winning the Purdue game is important for the program. The players deserve a reward game for all of their hard work, and the coaches would really like to have an extra set of practices for preparation for the future.
- The team needs to stay focused and worry about the upcoming game, rather than the past.
- There have been some missed opportunities and guys not playing up to their ability, but they can't overthink. If guys start to underperform or go into a shell, it's up to their teammates to pick them back up.
- Warren likes playing press coverage, but the scheme doesn't always call for it. He needs to do what will help the other 10 guys on the field attain success as well (reading between the lines: there aren't any safeties capable of providing deep help, so GERG is hamstrung with what he can ask the corners to do).
- The first month of the season was good for the offensive line, but they seem to have taken a step back. Not being able to punch in four tries from the 1 yard line was particularly frustrating.
- The offensive line has plenty of talent, and they should be able to uphold a high standard despite losing David Molk.
- The plane ride back after a loss is pretty depressing. Everyone is frustrated and just wants to get back into the win column.
- The Purdue game is important because it will clinch a bowl game. In his ongoing "vocal leader" role, Graham's going to explain the importance of the Purdue game to his teammates today. He sometimes plans what he's going to say, but a lot of the time he just lets it flow.
- Sometimes guys try to do too much and make plays that aren't their responsibility. When guys don't stay disciplined, that's when the big plays happen for the opponent. The goal line stand may have caused a lot of defensive players to think they needed to step up, but maybe they did more than they were supposed to. It hurt for the offense to be in the red zone so many times and not score touchdowns.
- The defense has to keep working to force more turnovers.
- This team is different from last year's because everyone is more in tune with the coaches. It will keep improving as everyone buys into the vision next year.
Personnel notes: As noted Monday, Michigan had an actual substitution package: on passing downs Williams would be replaced by Cissoko. For obvious reasons, that's unlikely to continue down the road. The rest of it was as usual, with the line rotating regularly and no one else coming out ever. One exception: late in the game Obi Ezeh was yanked twice, first for a play and then for the rest of a drive, in favor of Fitzgerald. Each time he got to the sidelines an exasperated Jay Hopson tried to explain something to him.
Formation notes. My lingo is probably all screwed up now but Michigan did this a lot:
I called this "4-4 under" but here I think this one is an over shift—the line is actually moved towards the TE side of the formation—and that Michigan was not playing this based on where Penn State was but where the ball was. Steve notes that Michigan shifted the line to "field"—the wide side—over 80% of the time in the first half. So under-over is not really the distinction. Michigan is lining up shifted to the wide side of the field with both the LBs and line, relying on the idea that Graham will obliterate Poti so badly that Penn State won't even try to run that direction. This was basically correct.
This eight-man front with Warren playing off allows Michigan to play man or zone with Warren part of your two-deep. This is an obvious response to Iowa's third and 24 conversion: freak out and try to get away with Warren as a part-time safety. This formation was the one in which all the ARGH long handoffs occurred. Burgeoning Wolverine Star picture-paged one of these happening and Steve noted it too: the responsibility on the long handoffs is Williams's, and he kept getting chewed out for the screwups here. On the play linked above Williams looks into the backfield instead of hauling ass for the receiver, but on later plays he just hauls ass and doesn't get there. Maybe this works if you're Taylor Mays, but Mike Williams was evidently incapable of pulling off this assignment. Steve blames Williams; as you'll see below I just think this is unworkable with the personnel Michigan has and go all RPS* –1 on Robinson.
Play ID note: a helpful high school coach illuminated the difference between the "Power O" and the "Down G"; on Power O a backside guard pulls around, usually into a hole between a kickout block from a tackle or TE and the interior down block. On Down G a playside guard pulls around and the play goes further outside, with the guy who's kicking out on a Power O down-blocking instead.
On with show.
*(Rock, Paper, Scissors.)
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||Ace 4-wide||4-3 over||Pass||PA deep hitch||Warren||14|
|Michigan actually shifted to the strength of the formation here. [ed: as noted above, it will become clear why only later.] PSU goes play action, sucking two guys (Mouton and Williams) up into Quarless, but it doesn't really matter since they're going to this comeback route against Warren, which is open(cover -1); immediate tackle afterwards. TE was wide open, too, with Ezeh trailing ineffectually (cover –1).|
|M49||1||10||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Williams||41|
|Michigan shows a true two-deep, not the border-field alignment. Martin is doubled and shoved back on a play that's clearly designed to go inside, but he splits the double team(+1) after they push him back a couple yards, causing Royster to shift his tactics. Mouton(-1) has gotten way too far inside and given up a huge cutback lane that should never be there; Williams(-3) comes up way, way too far inside, losing “leverage” on the ball—i.e. letting the dude outside of him—and turning eight yards into 41. It is possible that Graham(-1) had the responsibility here on the outside and it wasn't Mouton's screwup on the first level.|
|Apparently a straight ahead, man-blocked run designed to go right off tackle. Graham(+1) blows through his blocker, forcing Royster outside; Mouton(+1) has shot into the hole and takes on the fullback two yards in the backfield, tumbling over him and tackling inadvertently; Ezeh(+1) avoided an OL and zooms up to make sure there's no way Royster can keep going if he keeps his feet.|
|M10||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under split||Pass||Corner||Brown||10|
|Michigan shows one deep safety and runs man coverage; this is the sort of thing that Clark was talking about when he said M didn't disguise coverages. No late shifts or anything, so this is really obvious that Brown is not going to be able to cover(-1) Zug on this, given his inside leverage on the guy. He's inside of the player, has no support, and is just going to lose this matchup no matter who he is. Very poor from Robinson(RPS -1).|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 9 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||PA Out||Brown||17|
|Again going to the slot receiver, who is in man coverage against Kovacs(-2, cover -2). Kovacs just bails and bails and has no chance of coming up on this. Kovacs as a deep safety is just not going to work in this sort of coverage, but it's pick your poison. Ezeh(-0.5) could have helped but got sucked up by the play action. Martin(+1) had busted past his guy and clobbered Clark as he threw (pressure +1).|
|M48||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||5|
|Graham(+1) slants inside the TE, beating both blocks and forcing a cutback behind; Mouton's run himself out of the play but that's understandable; Williams(-1) fills late despite having no responsibilities deep because both TEs are clearly blocking Graham, turning this cutback from zero into four.|
|Zone blitz sees Roh drop off as Ezeh and Brown come and Graham/Martin stunt around. This is sufficiently confusing to the OL that both guys get through, basically, but Ezeh(-1) has failed to get to the correct side of his blocker and thus does not maintain his rush lane, opening up an avenue for Clark to escape what would otherwise be a sure sack. I mean, Ezeh is clearly setting up to go around the other way as Graham stunts free behind him and then he just loses his mind, attempting to go up the same hole Graham does. Fail. Just fail. I've got this set up for a Picture Pages tomorrow.|
|M34||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Run||Power O||Mouton||7|
|This is never going to be an I-form, with the two RBs lined up right next to each other. Michigan doesn't read it and when Royster motions out, Ezeh(?!?!) follows him instead of Brown, the obvious choice, after significant confusion. Van Bergen(-0.5) gets downblocked, opening up a hole. Brown is trying to take on a pulling guard and can't do much other than get blocked; Mouton(-0.5) failed to read the play until it was a bit too late and ends up making contact five yards downfield with a guy in his face; the pile falls the wrong way. Michigan got beat by the playcall here, fooled into sucking Ezeh out into space against Royster instead of sending Brown, the logical guy, out there. (RPS -1)|
|M27||2||3||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 under||Run||Down G||Mouton||4|
|Downblock on Graham(-1) by a tight end ends up pancaking him; Mouton(-1) accepts a block from Quarless and can't do anything to prevent this play from hitting it up for the first down.|
|M23||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||-2|
|Graham(+2) slants right by Quarless on the snap, exploding into the backfield and crushing Royster without assistance from anyone else. RVB(+1) also beat his guy and was there to vaguely assist on the tackle.|
|M25||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||Jailbreak screen||Warren||8|
|Royster motions out for an empty backfield. Well executed by Penn State, but Warren is playing ten yards off and wandering back at the snap, which means he meets Moye 6 yards downfield and gets bashed; the first instance of M just giving PSU yards at the snap. (Cover -1) Not sure if Warren or Williams deserves a ding here. –0.5 for both.|
|M17||3||4||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Fade||Warren||Inc|
|Michigan sends both MLBs up the middle and don't get there; Michigan tips this, I think, with the position of the safeties, so Clark knows he has this over Warren, in press coverage. Moye has a step and the size to go over Warren if this is accurate, but Clark overthrows it. I won't cover -1 this, because it was okay. I thought about RPS -1 here, too.|
|Drive Notes: Field goal(34), 7-10, 3 min 1st Q. Penn State's kicker has an enormous head.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Pass||Long handoff||Warren||8|
|I don't know if this is Warren's fault or not, which I'll explain later. [ed: or earlier, as the case may be.] In any case, Warren's playing forever off (cover -1) and has no chance of holding this down. RPS -1. This was the first of these.|
|O45||2||2||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Bubble screen||--||8|
|Wide open from the start; don't know if Mouton has responsibility here or not but they've got bubbles on both sides and neither is really covered. (cover -1, RPS -1)|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||PA Deep post||Warren||Inc|
|Play action zone read on which Clark keeps it, fakes the keeper, and then backs out to pass. Herron eventually looses himself after he realizes it's a pass and hits Clark as he throws; Clark had decent time. The eventual throw is into double coverage that Kovacs is in okay position on, but help from Warren(+1 cover +1) makes this covered; receiver falls of his own volition. Warren in a deep half here, you'll note, and in way better position to actually help on the play than Kovacs.|
|M47||2||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||Scramble||--||1|
|Clark looks for the bubble but the receiver is trying to block; busted play. Clark scrambles for a yard.|
|M46||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under split||Pass||Screen||Van Bergen||1|
|Michigan shows and brings the DEATH BLITZ of seven guys, except RVB and Martin back out, with RVB(+2) making a fantastic play by reading the screen, darting past two blockers and seeing the third take a futile stab at blocking him, and tackling(+1) at the LOS. Warren was coming up and this would have remained short even without the tackle from RVB since he'd killed the blocking, but he didn't even chance it. (RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-10, 14 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Pass||Long handoff||--||8|
|I don't understand this. Warren is ten yards off, basically another safety, and Michigan expects to defend this by shooting Williams into the flat, which might work if Williams immediately runs out there, but he doesn't. (RPS -1, cover -1) Free yards. BWS picture-paged this.|
|O35||2||2||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Fade||Kovacs||Inc|
|Royster motions out; this time it's zone so Warren moves out. Woolfolk(-1) jumps up on the little out route, which opens up a deeper fade route run by Moye. It's open(cover -1), but Moye falls down and the ball ends up hitting him in the foot.|
|TE pulls across the formation to act as a lead blocker; Williams is out there providing some contain but can do little but force the play inside. He does, where no one picks him up because Mouton(-2) sucked inside. It's bad when your linebackers' suckiness is part of the gameplan.|
|O46||1||10||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||--||4|
|Martin(-1) gets blown back by a double, allowing Royster to hit it up behind him; Ezeh(+0.5) reads the play and comes under the blocker attempting to get out on him, tackling with help from Mouton(+0.5) and making this an eh gain.|
|50||2||6||Ace||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||-5|
|Michigan must have called the right thing to murder this play because Graham(+2, RPS +1) shoots into the backfield right by a PSU OL and Martin isn't far behind. Graham meets Royster four yards in the backfield; he escapes but Roh and Martin clean up.|
|O45||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Sack||Roh||-3|
|Roh(+2) is excellent on the stunt here, selling the outside move and then shooting inside with spectacular speed to dart through the gap Van Bergen(+1) makes. Roh is in on Clark and sacks him, albeit tenuously. If Clark escaped he was dead meat anyway with Martin closing in and linebackers close enough to prevent a long run. (Pressure +2.)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-10, 9 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M40||1||10||Ace Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Waggle comeback||Kovacs||Inc|
|Again working on Kovacs(-1), who gives the receiver a ton of time and space (cover -1) as Clark gets the edge without anyone in the vicinity (pressure -1). Clark leaves the throw short and the receiver can't dig out a semi-tough catch (a 2, if you're wondering).|
|M40||2||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Pass||Long handoff||--||7|
|Here Williams takes off to the short side of the field immediately and still doesn't close it down; I don't know WTF this scheme is supposed to be but it just doesn't work. (Cover -1, RPS -1). This was also picture-paged by BWS.|
|M33||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Circle||--||Inc|
|Michigan rushes... two. This works, I guess, as the DTs drop off into the hitches(cover +1) and cause Clark to delay. The DEs are closing in, though Clark can just slip up in the pocket to buy more time and doesn't, causing a throw. It's a bit low and dropped as one of the hitches turns his route into a circle. Warren was drawing up to hit the receiver... maybe not a first down if completed. But maybe yes a first down. The third and final picture-paged play from BWS. (RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt(!!!), 7-10, 5 min 2nd Q. I know it worked. That does not make it right. Penn State sucked out.|
|O40||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||TE Seam||--||60|
|This is just a straight release downfield with Ezeh in man against a guy he can't cover. There is no safety help, because Michigan is in this weird split package they'd run all game that gets people open short for long handoffs and open deep for easy touchdowns. Things and people to blame: Herron –2 for not getting a chuck on the TE. This is something Michigan's done all year and this is just a bust. Ezeh –1 for getting smoked on the coverage. And Kovacs –2 for not getting into his deep half despite not having another deep threat anywhere. (Cover -3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-19, 4 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|Royster motions out; Warren out there on him. Not that it matters.|
|M13||1||15||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Down G||Roh||1|
|Roh(+1) reads the pull and doesn't let the TE seal him, which forces the play outside; Ezeh(+1) blasts into the lead blockers, also forcing the play back inside; Royster's already tripping over Roh when Graham's pursuit engulfs him.|
|M14||2||14||I-Form||4-4 under||Penalty||False start||--||-5|
|Fake the long handoff then give it inside to Beachum; Graham(+1) has penetrated, shoving the OL back three yards and forcing Beachum to cut behind him, where a bunch of Michigan players, some drawn by the PA fake, converge.|
|M11||3||17||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||Delay||--||4|
|Give up and punt.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-19, 2 min 2nd Q. End of half, big kickoff return afterwards.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M43||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Pass||Corner||Williams||31|
|I don't understand this coverage that gets Warren sucked up, covering no one in what appears to be man zero coverage. Quarless beats it easily to the outside, Clark finds him, and it's a big gain. (Cover -2, RPS -1).|
|M12||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Williams||0|
|Williams sent on a blitz that gets him through totally unblocked as Quarless, who motioned to one side, comes back to block the other. Royster runs right into him and this could be a four-yard loss, but Williams can't wrap up and Royster bounces to the original LOS. (RPS +1)|
|M12||2||10||Shotgun empty||4-3 under split||Run||QB draw||Graham||2|
|Mouton blitzing from the outside so Graham(+1) has a rush lane more inside of that; he reads the draw, beats the tackle to the inside, and tackles just as Clark reaches the line.|
|M10||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Corner||--||10|
|Michigan brings the safeties up to the line, showing a blitz well before the snap; Clark checks and Michigan does not check in response. Zug just runs a rounded out in the endzone that Clark knows will be there. Brown, lined up inside, can't get there, and Clark hits him as Michigan blitzes seven (cover -2, RPS -2). Same play as the earlier TD.|
|M3||2pt||G||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||Slant||Banks||Inc|
|A zone blitz from Michigan sees both DTs drop into coverage again, which cuts off Clark's first read on the slant (cover +1). Blitz is about to get home so Clark chucks it anyway to a covered(+1) Moye; Woolfolk(+1) there.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2pt failed) 7-25, 12 min 3rd Q. Clark was right about the coverages. It's clear he knows exactly what Michigan is going to run before the snap and Michigan's personnel can't make up for it. All Zug has to do is run a really easy route against a guy lined up inside of him and woop touchdown.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||13|
|Starts off in Penn State's fake I-form with Royster motioning out, Ezeh goes with him. Failure (RPS -1). Graham(-2) runs himself upfield and out of the play when Williams is blitzing, which means two guys are just running past the backside and there's a huge cutback lane.|
|Clark has some time but not a ton before Graham and Martin get past blockers and start converging; with options downfield covered(+1) he comes to a checkdown; ball is dropped by the FB.|
|O38||2||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||Slant||Ezeh||23|
|Fake I-form, again Ezeh(RPS -1) attempts to go out and cover. His coverage is terrible(-2), as you might expect, as he gives Royster so much room he's not there to tackle on the catch, and then he misses a tackle(-1, Ezeh -1); Kovacs(-1, tackle -1) then misses another one.|
|M39||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-3 over||Pass||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Pass ends up dropped but Woolfolk(+1) had beaten his blocker cleanly and was probably going to tackle this for a minimal gain(cover +1).|
|M39||2||10||Ace||4-3 under||Run||Inside zone||Ezeh||2|
|Ezeh(+1) shoots into the backfield—blitzing—and gets in on Beachum; he misses the tackle(-1), turning a loss into a decent gain.|
|M39||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||Sack||Graham||-8|
|Graham is lined up way, way outside of even the TE. TE releases, Graham(+3) bursts past the tackle's feeble attempt to block him, and sacks Clark with some help from Van Bergen. (Pressure +2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-25, 9 min 3rd Q.This is the dangerous play that should not happen.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||Ace Twins||4-4 under||Run||Down G||Brown||5|
|Center and playside guard pull around as PSU downblocks RVB and creases the line. Mouton(+1) does a good job of getting to one of the lead blockers and closing down the space but Brown(-1) is hesitant, perhaps expecting the TE to release—although he waits way too long after it's clear he won't—and provides a crease outside of Mouton, away from the pursuing Ezeh. Ezeh does continue to flow down the line and tackles(+1) well.|
|Warren(-1) in man coverage against Moye. He turns his hips upfield in anticipation of a fade, does it way too early, and leaves this wide open(-2) for a touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-32, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||Zone stretch||Ezeh||6|
|Banks(-1) gets sealed on this play but the LBs are both flowing down hill very quickly, which means Mouton(+1) doesn't get blocked by the first OL and absorbs the G releasing into the second level. He does a pretty decent job of avoiding the block and being a pest. Ezeh(-1), totally unblocked, sets up outside and lets Royster crease the two LBs. (Tackling -1)|
|O31||2||4||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||Power O||Heininger||1|
|Heininger(+2)(!) is slanting on this play and gets right past the backside tackle into the gap that the pulling guard has vacated. He slants right into Royster and tackles(+1) despite having an OT on his back. Another outside blitz from Williams plus a DE, this time Roh, getting too far upfield, would have given Royster plenty of room had Heininger not made this play.|
|O32||3||3||Ace 3-wide||Nickel under||Pass||Fade||Warren||Inc|
|Warren(+1) in excellent coverage(+1) so Penn State tries to throw it to the back shoulder of the WR, which is tough, especially when Moye's kind of clunky. Pass is well short and inside and incomplete. Six rushers on this play forced an early throw; Michigan fortunate PSU wasn't looking at a freakin' wide open Quarless on a little hitch.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-32, 5 min 3rd Q. Graham(+3) blocks a punt.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Sagesse||7|
|Coupled with an end-around fake; DL does a decent job but Sagesse(-0.5) spins only half way, allowing Royster to hit it up in a small crease; Ezeh(-0.5) and Mouton(-0.5) passively accept blocks and aren't much help except as traffic cones.|
|O27||2||3||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||Power O||Graham||-2|
|Fake I-form; this time Mouton goes out on Royster. Finally. Ezeh has been yanked for Fitzgerald. Graham(+2) blasts into the backfield like a shot, dominating Poti and actually getting into a guard pulling away from him; he then attempts to tackle Royster with two guys draped on him. Can't quite do it but Brown is unblocked in the hole and happy to clean up.|
|Jebus, Graham(+1) is actually a guy they're trying to block and he still almost kills Clark on a screen. Michigan has made the DTs passive, so they're in position to absorb blockers; Mouton(+1), in a short zone, reads the play and forces it back into Martin. (RPS +1, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-32, 2 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Pass||Waggle deep post||Kovacs||Inc|
|Play action rollout on which Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets to the outside on, forcing Clark to pull up and threatening to sack. Clark decides to bomb it deep into double coverage(+1), with Kovacs(+1) in better position to bring this in than the receiver.|
|O20||2||10||I-Form Twins||4-4 under||Run||Zone stretch(?)||Van Bergen||8|
|I don't recognize this blocking scheme. It appears the playside OT and C get to block players lined up away from them, which is like the opposite of a reach block, and get their guys. Graham avoids a cut on the backside and should kill any cutback but for Van Bergen(-1) getting seriously owned by the LG. Brown(-1) accepts a block, delaying everyone, and Mouton(-1) overruns the play, opening up a cutback lane for Royster. Graham(+0.5) does recover to tackle from behind.|
|O28||3||2||Ace Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Graham||2|
|Graham(+1) again beats his blocker well to the inside and would crush this play if he wasn't tackled by the LT. Very frustrating. As it is, there's a couple guys on the ground where doom would have been otherwise and Royster manages to burrow through it and a couple other guys for a first down.|
|O30||1||10||I-Form Twins||4-3 under||Run||Down G||Williams||5|
|Graham(+1) beats a blocker and is into the backfield, forcing Beachum to delay as he passes. Mouton(-0.5) ends up cut by the fullback and passed by; Williams(-1) whiffs a tackle(-1) and turns two into five.|
|O35||2||5||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Inside zone||Van Bergen||11|
|Michigan really selling out on the front side of the play; Van Bergen(-1) is chopped to the ground and opens up a cutback lane. Ezeh(-1) has run himself out of the play after Brown went to cover the TE in motion, and is so out of position he can't even tackle after a gain. Beachum falls before Kovacs can attempt a tackle.|
|O46||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Pass||Long handoff||Warren||3|
|Warren(+1, tackling +1).|
|O49||2||7||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under split||Run||Delay||Roh||6|
|Not exactly sure who or what to blame here. Martin takes a scoop from the C and the backside G so I think this is supposed to go in a gap between Martin and Graham; Martin and Fitzgerald do a good job of closing that hole off, so it's Roh(-1) who fails to close down the backside gap, and Martin(-0.5) who gives a little too much ground, allowing Beachum to plow forward for near first-down yardage.|
|M45||3||1||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Naked boot||--||12|
|Williams(-2) loses contain like whoah and there's no one else on third and short.. (RPS -1)|
|M33||1||10||Ace||4-4 under||Run||Delay||Sagesse||15 (Pen -10)|
|Sagesse(-1) runs upfield and ends up getting pancaked by a momentary double as the C hurls him to the ground. This draws a shaky holding call from the umpire that erases a big gain. Mouton was in the area but Ezeh(-1) ran himself out of position again, and gets yanked, again.|
|M43||1||20||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Pass||TE drag||Williams||Inc|
|Underneath receivers run the “mesh” play that TT likes so much and Michigan has had big problems with so far this year; here Williams(+1) stays home on the one crossing route and is in position to break up and sort of kind of nearly intercept (cover +1)|
|Looks like there's a crease of sorts but Royster delays, hitting it, possibly because Heininger(+1) has shoved the RT back and then come inside, getting he hell held out of him but at least making the hole look closed off. When Mouton hops outside (OMG contain!), Royster darts back in and because of the hold can pick for a few yards.|
|M39||3||16||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||Throwaway||--||Inc|
|Clark has plenty of time (pressure -1) but first and second options are open (cover +2) and a brief scramble results in Clark just chucking the ball OOB to avoid a sack.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, but a roughing call, 10-32, 9 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||I-Form||4-4 under||Run||Zone stretch||Martin||4|
|Good job by all three playside DL, as Graham(+0.5) does pretty well against a double, Martin(+0.5) gets playside of his guy and beats him, and RVB avoids a cut and flows down the line. Williams blitzed, taking out the FB. He fights inside and gets a hit on Royster that should stop him and does; RVB(-0.5) then overruns it and allows Royster to spin behind—great play by him—and turn nothing into something.|
|M25||2||6||Ace Twins Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Delay||Martin||5|
|Mouton does an excellent job to read the play, shoot past the guys doubling Martin(-1), who gets blown too far off the ball, and shoot past the pulling TE into the backfield, but he then overruns the play. So no plus as Royster's not that delayed. Williams(-0.5) stumbles coming to the line, preventing him from hitting Royster with force, and Martin can't stand up to him, allowing Royster to fall forward.|
|M20||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||QB sneak||--||1|
|They get it.|
|M19||1||10||Ace Twin TE||4-4 under||Run||Delay||Warren||3|
|TE motion ends up with Michigan over-shifted to the strong side of the formation. Herron(-1) runs upfield against what's likely to be a run play, opening up a cutback lane when Ezeh(+0.5) fills a small gap between RVB and Martin smartly. Warren(+1, tackling +1) comes up very well to tackle after a minimal gain, partially because Beachum makes a rookie mistake and tries to cut it outside instead of just slamming into a CB trying to tackle him.|
|Ezeh blitzes, absorbing the center and getting playside of him, forcing a cutback. Graham(+1) stunts directly into that, tackling for a minimal gain(+1, RPS +1).|
|M17||3||8||Ace Twin TE||4-4 under split||Run||Zone stretch||--||6|
|PSU clearly doesn't care, and okay whatever now it's FG time.|
|Drive Notes: Field goal(28), 10-35, 5 min 4th Q. End of charting.|
Aren't you Mr. Cranky Pants?
Well, maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. To determine that I think we need a—
|Graham||21||4||17||At some point in the second half I emailed Dr. Saturday that Brandon Graham was an All-American and the rest of the defense hated me.|
|Heininger||3||-||3||…though this suggests that Penn State's RT spot is something of an issue.|
|Roh||4||1||3||Got a sack against the real side of the PSU D.|
|Herron||-||3||-3||One of three culprits on the 60-yard TD.|
|Van Bergen||4||3||1||Also not a great day.|
|TOTAL||34.5||14||20.5||Pretty mediocre day outside of Graham.|
|Ezeh||4||7||-3||Iowa progress gives way to the disappointing usual.|
|Brown||-||2||-2||Zug TDs not really his fault.|
|Fitzgerald||-||-||-||Didn't do much.|
|TOTAL||8.5||17.5||-9||Run filling = very good. Pass defense = very bad.|
|Warren||4||2.5||1.5||Got burned on one TD.|
|Williams||1||5||-4||Plus more bad news if you think the long handoffs are on him.|
|Kovacs||1||6||-5||Just can't play a deep half.|
|TOTAL||7||14.5||-6.5||It gets worse.|
|Pressure||6||2||4||Even when PSU went deep Clark was about to get hammered when he threw most of those.|
|Coverage||13||23||-8||PSU exploited the safeties and the linebackers all day.|
|Tackling||5||5||0||First even tackling day; think that's bad.|
|RPS||6||13||-7||Robinson got pwned.|
[A reminder: RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]
I guess I am pretty cranky.
Why are you such a grump? Iowa put up 30 points and 367 yards of offense to Penn State's 35 and 396 , and Michigan managed to escape that game with way better numbers.
I think it was that all the stuff Penn State was doing came so easy. The Zug touchdowns, the Quarless touchdown, all the long handoffs: all of those plays required nothing more than Penn State not screwing up with wide open receivers. To Clark's credit, he hit all those guys. He then laughed about the primitive defense that Michigan was running, and on review I totally agree: Michigan telegraphed their now-predictable third and long redzone blitzes and got killed. They showed the long handoff was there and got killed. They put Obi Ezeh in man coverage on the edge against Evan Royster and got killed.
That's what the big minus in RPS is there for: I think Robinson got owned by Penn State's offensive brain trust (which is Galen Hall, not Jaypa). This game was slightly reminiscent of the Purdue game a year ago where Michigan switched to a new system and got their brains beaten in by it.
Also, Penn State spent ten minutes of the fourth quarter trying to kill the clock and went on a death march of a drive. It got helped out by a bad penalty on the punter, Penn State successfully strangled the clock. The PSU numbers are basically three quarters of action.
Well, what do you suggest we do?
I don't know. I am sort of mad at Robinson for making it easy by not breaking tendencies with two weeks to prepare. But when you've got Kovacs as your deep safety, what can you do? Kid's smart and can be an effective player in the box but obviously lacks the athleticism to be a deep safety in the Big Ten. This is not a surprise, he is a freshman walk-on. Michigan's not even rolling out third-option fifth-year senior walk-ons like Josh Hull and his Hullstache…
…we're rolling out first-option (IE: no one is injured) freshman walk-ons who are technically redshirt freshmen but didn't even get to be on the team last year because they had a knee injury and so are really just off-the-street hi-who-are-you-get-in-there-Cavanaugh-oops guys. Which makes for cute stories but not good defenses.
And he's obviously better than the other safety! Arrrrgh. I think I need to do me one of those "this is why we suck" lists that shows safety recruiting over the last five years.
Meanwhile, the linebackers remain a disaster and I still think it might be Hopson's fault. Those four spots on the defense are just killing Michigan. They can't cover TEs. They can't have sensible two-deep coverage. They regularly overrun plays on the ground that the DL has destroyed. Williams whiffs tackles and both safeties are totally unsuited for deep coverage to the point where Michigan is trying to use Warren as some sort of hybrid CB/S just so they can run two-deep without a guaranteed touchdown, just a high chance of touchdown.
I guess I suggest we wait and hope things are better next year because eight guys returning should make up for the loss of Graham.
The slightly poorer set of folks not named Graham: Greg Robinson, Mike Williams, Jordan Kovacs, and pick a linebacker.
What does it mean for Illinois and the rest of the season?
Well, Brandon Graham is going to do an awful lot to stop opposition offenses and he needs some help. Kovacs as a deep safety (oddly, in Michigan's system this is the "strong" safety) doesn't work, Williams as a deep safety doesn't work, Floyd as a cornerback doesn't work, Michigan has two Big Ten level secondary members and guys who might not start for a good MAC team elsewhere. There is no hope for that the rest of the season.
I've given up on the linebackers, and it sounds like the coaches are getting there, too. The line is actually pretty good, non-Graham off day against Penn State nonwithstanding.
Notes from today's morning press conference. To get live updates from these events, you can follow me on Twitter @varsityblue.
- Tate Forcier's shoulder is bruised, but he will play this weekend. Denard Robinson might play a slightly larger role as his comfort with the offense improves. The quarterbacks need to be smart about taking unnecessary hits. They're running a little more than Rodriguez might like, and he'd prefer to see 5-6 rushes a game.
- Moosman's snapping issues cost the team about 70 offensive yards, but Moosman is a smart, hard worker, so he'll work with Coach Frey to correct the issues. The quick snap to catch guys offsides resulted in fumbles a lot because Tate (and Denard) and Moosman don't have the comfort level with each other yet.
- The first road game being a rivalry makes it a little tougher, especially for the young guys who have never played on the road yet.
- Though the depth chart lists Cissoko ahead of Floyd and Turner, the competition at the second corner spot will be more open this week. Hopefully, someone will seize that opportunity and step up to win the starting role.
- The media will not be able to watch practice this week. Part of that is just paranoia from the coaches, and the rest of it is to make sure the players can maintain their focus in preparation.
- The Michigan/Michigan State game is a big rivalry, so fans get whipped up into a frenzy. Sometimes they get ahold of the opposing quarterback's phone number and bother him all week, etc. Rodriguez has a good relationship with Mark Dantonio: "I'm friendly with everybody. I'm a nice guy." The two have known each other from Dantonio's days at Cincinnati, and they've come across each other a few times a year since then.
- Kevin's favorite Michigan/MSU moment was watching Chris Perry run the ball 51 times against the Spartans (for 219 yards in 2003).
- Grady knows State fans at home, and even says "I have family members who are unfortunately state fans," including his grandmother. She doesn't talk a lot of trash, but both Kevin and Kelvin know where her loyalties lie.
- The team has to run the ball well in order to beat MSU (the team that rushed for more yardage has won 37 of the last 41 games between the teams). This, like every game, is just another opportunity to prove themselves.
- Kevin doesn't think Tate will falter on the road. If he's able to play in front of 100,000 at home, playing in Spartan Stadium shouldn't be a problem.
- Carlos, echoing his coach, doesn't think that spread teams are necessarily any less physical than I-formation teams: "We can line up and do exactly what they do."
- Coming from Georgia, the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry reminds him of the UGa/Georgia Tech battles. Whichever team wins is the state champion for a year.
- Tate should play well against State. He's a great quarterback, and the supporting cast is going to do what they can to get the win.
- The in-state guys really value the rivalry with Michigan State. Its a chance to win a trophy game, and get back the in-state bragging rights. The Ohio State rivalry might be bigger in the grand scheme of things, but this one means something special, particularly for the guys from Michigan. The team wants to show that last year's loss was more of a fluke than anything.
- Obi is from an area of Grand Rapids that is a little more Spartan-centric than where Kevin Grady comes from. He has 5 or 6 neighbors that fly Spartan flags, and he joked that he's going to sneak out in the night and take them down.
- He definitely avoids wearing Green and White this week - but that wasn't the case when he went to Michigan's summer camp as a high schooler. He was wearing an MSU Engineering shirt, and Lloyd Carr gave him the evil eye. Without Carr saying a word, Obi knew it was probably better off if he didn't wear the shirt.
- Coming from out of state, Donovan wasn't aware of Michigan's rivalry with the Spartans (all he really knew about Michigan was that he could watch them when he woke up at 9am on Saturdays). In his freshman year, seniors like Shawn Crable, Jamar Adams, and Brandent Englemon taught him about the rivalry.
- State might come out desperate to avoid a 1-4 start to their season, but the Wolverines will be able to match their intensity: "It's not a 1-3 team, it's Michigan State."
- MSU has 3 great receivers in White, Dell, and Cunningham, and they can all be big-play guys. The defense will need to communicate better to avoid giving up big plays.
- If the defense plays well enough to win, it doesn't matter if the game is something of a shootout. It's the final result that counts.
Editor's note: sorry this is late. I thought I'd published this around 11 AM, but evidently I didn't hit the button.
9/26/2009 – Michigan 36, Indiana 33 – 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten
Tate Forcier dropped back to throw and Martavious Odoms broke open and Forcier lofted it. I swear to you that on an overcast, steel-gray day a sliver of light slipped through the clouds to linger on the object's parabolic, causing its rain-slicked surface to glitter as it reached its apex. It started to come back down, and Odoms slowed fractionally, allowing the Indiana safety—
Aw, hell. Indiana? No offense to a program the evidently warranted more respect than Vegas or this here blog offered in the run-up to the game, but passages of soaring majesty get ruined when a Hoosier is mentioned. Since Wangler-to-Carter, when Indiana was 8-4, moments of glory against Indiana only come in one form: oh thank God we didn't lose to Indiana.*
So, yeah: thank God we didn't lose to Indiana.
Since we didn't, we should all just breathe a sigh of relief, recalibrate expectations back down a little bit, and move on. Michigan's not at a point where any win against any Big Ten team is one to freak out about. The freshmen quarterbacks remain freshmen and it's becoming clear that the defense has about the same raw talent level that last year's offense had. The only thing keeping them from plunging off a deep, dark cliff is the fact that no position on defense is as singularly important as quarterback is on offense.
A couple may be as undermanned, though. Indiana's potentially-crushing, one-play, 85-yard riposte to Tate Forcier's first attempt at fourth quarter heroics exposed the secondary's talent deficiency in a way even starker than Michigan fans were treated to against Notre Dame. At least when Michael Floyd and Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen were running wild you could point to torched opponents past and recruiting rankings and drooling NFL scouts. Seeing an Indiana freshman zip past not only the walk-on safety gamely pretending he doesn't run a 4.8 but the scholarship, potentially-starting cornerback not named Donovan Warren was alarming. If JT Floyd is going to play corner in the Big Ten he's going to do it ten yards off the line of scrimmage.
This is how bad it is: I'm not even mad at Floyd when a player gets vastly open or he commits a silly, unnecessary pass interference penalty. I'm mad at Tyrone Willingham, metaphorically. It's inconceivable that Michigan would find itself in this situation. There is exactly one junior and no seniors at both safety and cornerback. The 2007 class provides three of the four starters and has lost Artis Chambers. 2006 saw the only two defensive back commitments (Brown and Mouton) move to linebacker. The 2005 class was Brandon Harrison (decent but did not redshirt), Johnny Sears, and Chris Richards. The recruiting malpractice everyone saw on the offensive line last year returned with a vengeance. Hell, even the 2008 class is looking like a disappointment: Brandon Smith is a linebacker; Cissoko and Floyd have been the weak link on a defense that's played three walk-ons extensively. Very little of that is Rodriguez's doing.**
The parallels between this year's secondary and last year's offensive line, on and off the field, are striking, and it's not like linebackers not named Stevie Brown are helping out much. Michigan's recruiting was wildly deficient in more than one area and will be an anchor going forward, basically until such time as the roster is full and the creaky last few Carr classes are no longer weighing down the top of the roster.
We should forestall complaining about Robinson and Tony Gibson and even Jay Hopson, who I've complained about personally, if somewhat obliquely, because there are excellent reasons why their units are performing poorly that have nothing to do with whether or not they can coach. Gibson was the guy who turned Ryan Mundy from a guy with an uncomplimentary stat (Yards After Mundy) named after him into an NFL draft pick. West Virginia's pass efficiency defense in the final few years of Rodriguez's time there: 28th, 63rd, 30th, 20th. There's plenty of evidence that Rodriguez isn't dealing with morons here, and plenty that suggests late-era Carr recruiting was. I'm stashing the torches and pitchforks away, hoping that the rest of the season follows a trajectory similar to that of the offense last year: baby steps towards respectability in the midst of crippling talent deficiency, followed by a second year of growth.
As always, this should be okay. It takes time to dig out from all the reasons 3-9 occurs.
*(The Hoosiers have had a few respectable teams in the intervening years, but Michigan either blew them out, lost to them (once), or missed them. Closest thing to a close win against a respectable team was '91, when Indiana was 7-4-1 and M won 24-16.)
**(Smith and Floyd did commit to Michigan after Rodriguez was named head coach but those players were widely considered locks for months before the coaching transition took place. And please note the criticism here is not necessarily of Smith (or Mouton or Brown) but the recruiting practices that failed to take their likely moves to linebacker into account. Floyd, for his part, might be a functional safety if he wasn't needed at corner.)
- You know, I was sort of coming around to the piped in music but no more. I should never have said anything negative about the band, I take it all back, I believe the piped-in music to be an abomination, and curse anyone who voted in favor of said abomination during this site's earlier poll. The end of the first half was close to my idea of hell, with the evil homunculus responsible for the ear-piercing noise pollution blasting something stupid in-between every play. During the video review, I found myself so enraged at the piped in music that I fruitlessly gave the bird to the idiot playing Bob Seger at painful volume. I went to a concert later that night and the volume level there was considerably less ear-damaging.
It's just unpleasant to hear a probably-terrible song at volume levels 130% of what the speaker system can actually handle. Turn it down. Turn it off. Stop alienating the people who really care about Michigan's traditions and stop catering to the folk who can't distinguish Michigan Stadium from an ECHL arena. It does not help anything.
In fact, it actively stops cheers. The students were chanting "Go Blue" at each other during one point and the evil homunculus played over it. The evil homunculus plays AC/DC over what used to be a bass drum pounding out a beat to which the stadium chanted "Let's Go Blue." It has gone from somewhat tolerable to Michigan State in four weeks, and must be destroyed. I'm disappointed but not entirely surprised that the marketing wing of the Michigan athletic department would be so deaf to tradition. Mostly, I'm appalled. Piped-in music is a disaster and should be stopped immediately. (Note: MVictors mentioned it too, though Greg's not as ready to draw and quarter people. That is because he is soft. I am the Dwead Piwate Woberts, I have come for your souls.)
- Didn't expect the official site to out a guy on the 85-yard Indiana touchdown but here you go:
On Indiana's 85-yard touchdown run to take the lead in the fourth quarter, defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen came off the field distraught after a blown assignment. He was taken aside by defensive coordinator Greg Robinson and then sat on the team bench with his head sagging. "You flush it and you come back and play," Robinson yelled down the line. "You don't need to be a hero."
As I recall it I watched a 215 pound Indiana tailback outrun not only a walk-on safety (depressing that guy has to play but understandable) but a scholarship cornerback; if Van Bergen had problems he wasn't the only one. Also, Van Bergen was the backside defensive tackle… it's hard to imagine what his assignment was that could have prevented Indiana from running outside the other OT.
- Interception or not, why the hell did Indiana throw at Donovan Warren? Why the hell would anyone throw at Donovan Warren the rest of the year? Opponents have now lost two close games because they threw at Donovan Warren. Sooner or later they will stop doing this, I think.
After the game, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson confirmed that Cissoko’s absence was a coach’s decision. “Yeah, it was,” Robinson said. “I thought, J.T., at first, was a little nervous but as the game wore on he grew more and more comfortable and did a good job, really held his own.”
I thought that Cissoko had gotten pulled because he had picked up an injury. He did come out for a play or two earlier, and when an Indiana receiver ran straight past him without so much as a head fake I figured it was a hamstring pull or something. Apparently not. Er. That's not good. I'd rather there was some explanation for Cissoko getting smoked other than… well… you know. Not being good at football.
- Attn: Tate. Plz stop doing this plz:
It reminds me of Ryan Mallett and makes me want to die a little. Please continue all of your other activities except running around in the pocket too much.
Maize 'n' Brew has some Zapruder-quality "I took pictures of my TV" stills of the aforementioned Warren interception. They make a decent case the call was correct, if spectacularly close and improbable. I'm waiting for the HD video before I make any proclamation either way.
Doctor Saturday notes that Michigan and Notre Dame aren't exactly establishing themselves dominant powers in the wake of their entertaining week two matchup:
the question after Indiana's 467-yard, 33-point barrage Saturday is "Who isn't going to put up huge yards on the Wolverines?" The Hoosiers -- dead last in the Big Ten in every significant offensive aspect last year -- went on long marches and hit big plays alike (an 85-yard touchdown run and a 56-yard completion to set up another score) and might have been on their way to more points if the officials had seen Donovan Warren's clinching interception differently on IU's final drive. The Wolverines are 89th nationally in total defense and 92nd against the pass, slightly worse than last year's numbers for the year and significantly worse than their 2-2 start in September. There is no comparison between the offenses, but the progress of the Michigan D (or lack thereof) puts a real crimp in the prospective rise in the Big Ten. The fact is, resetting expectations after the first month, neither of these teams has put much separation between preseason expectations and their prospects for the season.
It's hard to dispute; even if Michigan's offense is ahead of preseason projections I don't think anyone had them giving up almost 500 yards to Indiana on defense. Michigan may be slightly ahead of what seemed like a universal 7-5 preseason consensus, but it's mostly because they've turned one coin-flip game in their favor and the Big Ten has looked slightly more moribund than even their recent standards.
Mike DiSimone has his weekly comprehensive picture roundup.