Formation notes: Much of the game was spent with Michigan in 2WR looks, leading to a lot of 4-3's like this with the linebackers shifted over the slot and a cornerback overhanging. When the receivers were split instead of twinned Michigan either got a straight up 4-3 even with two deep safeties or a shifted 4-4 look.
When Michigan spread the field, Nebraska defenders would go with them. Against three wide looks you got this:
And against four wide looks it was usually this:
Occasionally a safety would screw down but there weren't enough snaps with Denard on the field and M in a true spread to test it. Interestingly enough, I saw both Oregon and Arizona run double stacks last weekend like Borges does, except when they ran double stacks those stacks were damn near the edge of the field.
Substitution notes: Nothing new except for the obvious switch at QB. Rawls still can't get a snap. Funchess is playing all over the field, but rarely as an in-line TE.
[After the jump: it's okay and then DOOOOM.]
Why can't Michigan run the ball without Denard? As with anything in football, the answer is "it's complicated" but against Nebraska the pendulum swung decisively towards an inability to block anything.
There were two primary ways in which things went unblocked, one of which we'll cover in two posts.
Ain't Nobody Trying To Block Important People
The first were either busts, play design errors, or combo blocking errors that left totally unblocked linebackers in the hole. A here's a third-quarter iso on the penalty fiesta drive that resulted in a field goal:
The highlighted guy is Nebraska's WLB. No one even tries to block him.
Unsurprisingly, this doesn't go well.
I'm not sure who this is on. I don't get the blocking. If Mealer releases directly downfield in the second frame in an attempt to get that WLB he does not have much of an angle and probably doesn't do much. I would expect Michigan to double that DT, leave Mealer behind on the DT, and then have Omameh pop off.
That doesn't happen. Did someone screw up? Is the play design bad? Is it Schofield moving to the second level poorly? Things are so confused I don't know.
If this was a one time thing you could chalk it up to a guy busting. It wasn't.
[AFTER THE JUMP: more unblocked guys! Like, so many you'll freak! They're coming out of holes in the ground like the Viet Cong!]
Notre Dame has a very good defensive line, possibly great. If they still had Aaron Lynch holy pants man. They don't, but Tuitt is a 300 pound pass rusher, Nix is hard to move, and their Kapron Lewis-Moore/Prince Shembo combo at the other DE is a quality option. They've been making a lot of plays so far, and some of them against Lewan, who has a bunch of NFL hype and has shut down virtually every DE he's ever gone up against, including guys like Adrian Clayborn.
So Michigan was up against it against the Irish. They compounded those troubles with a spate of seemingly bizarre play calls that made it even harder for Michigan to execute since they often left key players unblocked, with the results you saw.
Here's a two yard run in the second quarter. It's first and ten on the first play of Michigan's first drive after the Smith interception. ND comes out showing a four-man front with one-high coverage, but will shift into their standard 3-4. Zeke Motta, currently 16 yards off the LOS, will approach the LOS for an eighth run defender against eight players in the box.
Post-shift, this is about standard for ND. Note that the secondary is showing extremely soft man coverage on the receivers, which is par for the course when you are in cover zero with three converted offensive players. Or at least, I'd imagine it's par for the course if anyone else ever did this.
Now, you may be thinking "AAAAAH DAMN AAAH BUBBLE." I am too. The defense is allowed to align like this because Michigan won't take a shot at that gooey soft edge. Constraint plays constrain what a defense can do, simplifying life for QBs. Here we've got a play, and it's a run despite the D showing a cover zero look.
On the snap it's revealed to be an inside zone play…
…but Lewan does something unusual by flaring out to go block Shembo as Denard reads Lewis-Moore. Meanwhile, look at Toussaint's upfield angle of attack:
This was supposed to be a midline type read. When ND showed a four-man front, Nix was shaded outside of Mealer. He would hit the frontside A-gap, allowing Barnum to release into the second level. Instead he's head up on the center and fights back, forcing Barnum to try and deal with him.
What Michigan thought it was doing
Meanwhile, Lewan's flare out on Shembo was supposed to be useful. Instead he's blocking a contain guy on a run up the middle. Lewis-Moore is not tearing up in a gap like a one-gap DL would but coming upfield under control.
So instead of a quick hit that got Michigan past the DT they get this:
Which is two yards thanks to an unblocked LB in the middle of where your belly is supposed to go.
This Looks Familiar
Denard's second interception is a terrible throw helped along by a totally unblocked Te'o as Barnum tries to help on Nix.
Terrible throw and all that but also not a shining example of coordinator mastery. This is a position to fail in, when you can't step into your throw because you'll get hit if you do so.
Things and Stuff
RB angle gives you the intended hole. Look at how vertical Toussaint is going. This is designed to go backside.
Checks: none. Once ND shifts to the three-man front, this play is in trouble, and once Motta slides down you're up against zero safeties. This would be a nice time to check. To what? Well, you are maybe probably getting some yards if Lewan changes his assignment and releases directly into that LB, or, you know…
…that OLB has eyes only for the backfield, so you've got one guy within twelve yards of the slot receiver. Who isn't a slot receiver, sure.
Since this was the first play of the drive I assume there was time to do this after the shift; nothing comes. This might be on Denard, or there just might not be a check for this. Rodriguez took that check burden onto himself with those plays where Michigan would call for a snap and then everyone would look to the sideline.
Constraints: none. A little later Michigan will block a QB sweep well but Motta will show in the hole as an unblocked eighth guy. Denard will abort and get three. ND again went cover zero with pudding soft outside coverage:
They're sitting out there waiting to give you their money! It's not the stupid little bubble itself that helps—though the yards from 2-8 averaging about 6 aren't bad—but the things that the defense can't do because they can't align with their secondary in Bolivia and bring down a run defender that erases your numerical advantage.
This alignment cannot be allowed to exist without a quick easy throw that invalidates it. Have we mentioned that both corners are converted offensive players? And one is a freshman?
Oy OL. Note that Nix not only drew a double but ripped through it to the backside hole, and that Tuitt has gotten inside of Schofield with ease. It may have been possible to get some yards here by getting Nix sealed and hitting a gap further to the playside, but none of that happens. I haven't gotten to the bit where Michigan just grinds on them yet, but so far there have been a lot of plays like this where Michigan OL get nowhere with their guys.
Why are we running a play that seems designed to go at a 4-3? ND will go to it but they are a 3-4 at heart and when they show a four man line it's usually short yardage or a passing down. I would expect an incoherent play like this to fire off when ND is giving Michigan a 4-3 curveball instead of the 3-4, especially after Michigan spent two weeks preparing exclusively for this defense. That Lewan flare-out is deadly to this play because Barnum has to help on a NT who is not shaded—and is rarely shaded. Meanwhile that guy on the edge is not a threat to Toussaint. RPS –1.
Brief position paper on hanging a banner on the other team's stadium. It's better than not doing it. It involves scaling a locked fence and risking a night in not just any jail, but a Northern Indiana jail. Judging from the billboards you pass to and from Chicago, the very bars of said jails are made from child molesters righteously imprisoned by the local sheriff.
So, like, what's up, SI? Not one but two of their CFB folks have dumped on the above. Aunt Stabby:
Son, I am disappoint. So here’s the thing: You travel from Ann Arbor to South Bend. You get close to the stadium, circumventing students guarding its iron and concrete honor or whatever. You hang what looks, from a distance at least, like a very well-made banner on a stadium gate. And that banner says … “BEAT THE IRISH”??
We'll discuss the changing fan culture at Notre Dame in more depth later, but Michigan may also want to embrace a new, snarkier age. How could the same fan base that gave us MGoBlog -- one of the best, most irreverent college football sites on the web -- embark on anOcean's Eleven-style caper to infiltrate Notre Dame Stadium only to hang a banner that says "Beat The Irish?" You're traditionalists? Fine. I get that. But in bygone days, college football fan bases also committed better pranks.
Flattery gets you nowhere, Staples. Yeah, okay, it would be a lot better if the sign said simply "RETURNING TO GLORY SINCE 1993" right under "University of Notre Dame. But did Clemson students scale something or other at Doak? Did Notre Dame students set Sparty's head aflame? Bah, bah on you and your bahing. Bah. I bah at you.
ATTENTION STUDENTS THINKING ABOUT DOING SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN THE FUTURE: I am now available for snarky consultations on these matters.
I can post this again, I think. If Special K hauls you-know-what out again this will be in error, but since I believe we have dumped you-know-what for good, it's Freekbass time on mgoblog again:
That feels amazing.
BONUS GRATIUTIOUS YOUTUBIN':
2010 from the field from Ryan Terpstra:
Unfortunately the original Yakety Sax went up in flames thanks to Thought Equity Motion.
Holy crap! Mike Rothstein profiles Roy Roundtree and drops a fact that I can't believe no one knew already:
The first major change in Roundtree's life might have set everything else in motion. When he was starting school, his maternal grandmother died and his mom, Sheila, took the Roundtrees from Pahokee, Fla., to her hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
Roundtree is originally from the Muck. Small world. Also read that, it's good and not paywalled.
Previewland! Hey, guess who forgot to link to everyone's previews in the preview post? This guy. Here you go:
- BWS: "Arbitrary percentage that Michigan wins: 43.79%"
- MNBN: "I have no earthly idea who is going to win this game. I don't even have any criteria in which to make an educated guess. I got nothing."
- M&GB: has an average score of 30-28 M. Also preview.
- TTB: not exactly out on a limb with "Denard Robinson has his worst career performance of the Notre Dame series," predicts 24-20 ND.
- HTR: "This is essentially a greatly scaled down version of the Alabama game," predicts 27-17 ND. Also Who Are You, Why Do We Care.
- Tremendous breaks down the ND defense.
- Know Your Foe from the MZone.
- Meinke predicts the spread, the crafty dog, with ND 31-27.
Auerbach on Mealers. Go:
"After all the bad things, it's been hard to push through that and continue to believe that good things are going to come our way," Brock said. "I just love being able to see him succeed in something he's worked so hard for. He's put in that time and effort for the last four years, and he inspires me the same way so many people tell me I inspire them."
I don't even want to know you. Bacon hears these people on the radio and has written about it in the News:
So, the day after Michigan slaughtered UMass, I was not surprised to hear fans complain about quarterback Denard Robinson's performance. Mind you, Denard ran for 106 yards and a touchdown, and passed for almost 300 yards and three touchdowns.
And that, to one caller, was the problem: "I'm tired of living and dying with Denard." In other words, Robinson was too good for that fan's taste.
hate you hate you hate
Etc.: Ugh, enforced know-nothing user content highlights plague Baumgardner's life. Let's all keep him in our hearts. Also from him are Michigan coaches' first trips to South Bend. Infante on the O'Bannon case documents.
News bullets and other important items:
- 7 walk-ons got scholarships yesterday: SDE Nathan Brink, OL Joey Burzynski, LS Jareth Glanda, FB Paul Gyarmati, WR Joe Reynolds, QB Steve Wilson, TE Mike Kwiatkowski
- Still no decision on Fitz or Frank Clark
- Chris Wormley had his ACL surgery yesterday. It went well.
- If Fitz is out, there might be a running back by comittee situation. Super.
“Thanks for coming out. It’s always nice to visit with you. We’re getting a little closer to game day obviously. That’s probably an understatement. First thing I want to say is that we put seven guys on aid for the semester or for the year. They’re seven guys who have given a lot to Michigan and Michigan football. I think it’s only fair when we have them available at the time to reward those guys. Nate Brink and Joe Burzynski and Jareth Glanda, Paul Gyarmati, Kwiatkowski, Joe Reynolds and Steve Wilson are all guys that we wanted to make sure that we acknowledged. When you have the opportunity, every year’s different depending on what you have and what you’re going to do at mid terms and mid year and all that. We’re all happy about that. It’s an expensive dealing for some of them. Burzynski’s from Carlsbad or San Diego, California, out of state, and that’s -- you can imagine the price that he’s paying to be a guy who loves Michigan and wants to be part of Michigan football. That being said, that was fun. It was fun because we announced it in front of the rest of the team. There were hugs and kisses -- not kisses -- but hugs and excitement and all that kind of stuff. So that was good.
“Yesterday’s practice was okay. Not as sharp as we wanted, I wanted. We got a lot done, but at the same time you’re into a Tuesday. It’s a big workday. We’ve been working on Alabama for at least four days now. There’s a couple formation things, a little bit of communication from a defensive standpoint that we need to do a better job with. Still don’t have any decision for you on Frank or Fitz. You can ask me when I’m going to make that decision, and it’ll probably be before the game. It’s sometime before the game. With that, any questions?”
“Thomas Rawls is fine.”
Why was he held out of practice this weekend?
“That’s injury information that’s not my area. Thomas Rawls is fine. That’s all that matters.”
How much are you emphasizing to the rest of the offense that they need to take the pressure off Denard so that the offense can succeed?
“Well, we don’t really put it that way. But that’s kind of the effect of how we approach it, is that when we came here, it became real apparent that he was the centerpiece of the offense, but we didn’t want 90 percent of the offense based on his production for obvious reasons because if you lose him you lose too much. We’ve been sending out the message since we got here is that we have to have other people involved, with our run game, our pass game, all that. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that. I hope like heck we can do the same thing this year. Yet at the end of the day, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that he is the centerpiece of the offense. When push comes to shove he’s going to play a big part in whether we win or lose.”