(Audio for transcription courtesy of WolverineNation)
vs. EMU / I don't think this was a very good day for Fitz.
How is the spring going, and how are the running backs competing?
“It’s just like last year. We’re all trying to get the No. 1 spot. We all do a pretty good job of learning things equally, and I think the coaches are doing a good job teaching it.”
Have you approached it differently this spring considering all the experience you got last year?
“A little more aggressive in doing what I have to do and everything.”
What did last year teach you about competing for that No. 1 job?
“Just to keep competing because somebody could be right behind you trying to take your spot.”
Have you been able to see any of the young guys a little more since the coaches have said they’re going to give them more snaps?
“Yeah, those guys are doing good. I feed off them and they feed off me. I think that’s really where the competition comes from, and we’re able to work off that.”
Which of them has impressed you the most?
“They’re all different, but equal. They all have different styles. Rawls is a little speedster, and Hayes has a little power. It’s kind of like the opposite.”
Opposite of what we think of them?
“Yeah. Rawls has a little more power, but I think both of them are equal.”
What did Saturday show about yourself personally and your team?
“That I’m willing to do anything for my team. I can be put in any position and handle it well.”
What do you mean by that?
“Just in terms of pressure things like that. Able to work out, just play my position, play my role.”
Borges said that you needed to work on certain things to stay on the field for every down. What have you done to work towards that goal?
“Just off the field things -- working on blocking right, proper techniques. Coach J does a good job of teaching us that.”
What are you doing to work on your blocking?
“Just things like bags, blocking with the other fellas, just working on proper technique. Sometimes we look at the linemen and see how they do it and try to translate that and do our thing with it.”
Do you watch film on Vincent Smith at all?
“Oh definitely Vincent. I think Michael Shaw did a pretty good job of picking [up] stuff like that, so I kind of watch film from last year and see how those guys [did] it.”
Can you explain why an effective and experienced offensive line is key?
“They’re feeding off what those guys did last year, and the expectation for the position -- I think those guys can handle it well.”
Where do you think you have made the most improvement?
“I’d say my blocking skills. Working on that -- I think that’s really heavy in this offense. You really have to pick up pass protection. I think that’s key.”
We saw a bunch of big runs from you on the Saturday scrimmage highlights. Can you describe some of those plays?
“It’s more the offensive line doing their job. I was able to go off of that and make big plays.”
Have you been making more of those plays this spring than last spring?
“I think it’s kind of the same.”
Borges talks about your vision having improved over last season. Do you feel like it’s still improving?
“Definitely. I think it’s just coming off of being more comfortable, not trying to hold pressure on myself. Just comfortoable, laid back, and doing my job.”
Do you feel yourself recognizing the play and anticipating where to go much quicker?
“Definitely. I can analyze more and just be patient.”
How much are you working on catching balls out of the backfield?
“I think I work on that equally as I do with anything else.”
How’s that going?
“Pretty good. I think I have pretty good hands and catch the ball well.”
Have you noticed that being a greater emphasis in the offense this spring, i.e. running backs catching ball out of backfield?
“I think that’s pretty important. We have to come out of the backfield and catch the ball pretty [fluid? fluent?]. I think coach really put the emphasis on that this spring, and we work with that well.”
You’re getting fewer reps this spring. Do you have to do anything to stay sharp?
“Just take advantage of the plays I do have … just do my job.”
Would you rather have more reps?
“I think that’s good for the young guys to be able to get in and do what they have to do to show the coaches something.”
Is it hard for you, though?
“Not really, because I can coach those guys up. I feel that my experience will go higher with that.”
Have any of the young linebackers impressed you?
“Desmond Morgan. But I mean we saw that last year.”
How has it been different this spring vs. previous springs when you had veterans ahead of you?
“It’s a lot different, but of course just like every spring, we’re working towards that goal, working towards getting better in every aspect of the game, so in a way it’s different because I’m expected to step up in my position. It’s also just the same because I’m just working towards getting better each and every day.”
How much further along do you feel compared with a year ago? Do you feel more responsibility on your shoulders?
“Of course there’s more responsibilty on my shoulders because I’m a veteran. I’m a senior, and this is our team, so of course there’s pressure right there. As far as my development, I feel like I’m getting a lot better and playing with a lot more speed because I’m more used to the offense. It’s not so much thinking within the offense. It’s just playing rather than thinking about what my assignments are.”
What part of your game has grown the most in spring camp so far?
“I would have to say my blocking. I’m thinking a lot less now, and I’m able to go out and make the blocks rather than thinking [I have to] make sure this guy doesn’t get over me and stuff like that. Definitely my blocking and thinking less and just playing.”
What do you feel like you need to improve most September 1st?
“Every part. I want to get better at catching the ball, I want to get better at blocking, I want to get better at running routes. There’s not a part that I don’t want to get better at.”
What do you mean when you say you’re thinking less?
“As far as just knowing how the offense works. Knowing where the play’s going. Knowing where the running back’s going. Not really worrying about the defensive lineman’s getting inside of me or outside of me. Just worry about knowing where I have to block.”
Borges emphasizes the tight end position. How confident are you that the current personnel on the roster can get the job done?
“I’m definitely confident with [the guys in] our room. We have a lot of great players in there. We have Ricardo Miller, Mike Kwiatkowski, and we have a couple freshmen coming in. I’m really excited about our offense and the tight ends. All of us are making progress every day.”
Last year there was open competition at running back. Do you see the tight end position similar to that situation?
“Of course, there’s competition at every position. There’s no position that’s set with a player. I don’t really see a difference between my position and any other position on the field.”
Do you feel more comfortable at the U or the Y position?
“I feel I can play either. Anywhere I can help the team out.”
What have Miller and Kwiatkowski done so far in spring practice? What kind of personality do they bring on the field?
“Ricardo, he’s a really good athlete. He moved from wide receiver, so he has the wide reciever skills at the tight end position. He runs fast. He runs really great routes. He has great hands. There’s a lot of things Ricardo brings. Mike is a big, strong guy, and he moves guys on the line of scrimmage, so he does a great job blocking, and he does a great job running routes, also.”
How hard has it been to wait your whole career to have this chance?
“Um, man … how difficult has it been … I want to say it’s been difficult because I’ve been working to this chance my entire career. Of course it’s been difficult to be behind great players like Kevin Koger and Martell Webb and Steve Watson, but I’m ready to have my chance.”
Can you talk about some of the guys who have switched to tight end recently, like Jordan Paskorz and Chris Eddins?
“They’re definitely adjusting to the position. They’re trying to learn the plays, understand the playbook and things such as that. Of course there’s a little learning curve as far as learning the position, but they’re working hard to get better each and every day.”
How is the chemistry between the tight ends and the quarterbacks?
“We have great chemistry. We’ve been coming in here on our own like throwing passes with the quarterbacks. There’s a good chemistry. He knows where we’re going to be at when we’re in our position, and stuff like that.”
What did you learn from guys like Kevin Koger?
“I was behind Kevin my entire career, and he’s a great player, but he’s an even better person. He’s a great leader, he knows how to get the team motivated. He kept a set of the playbook year round, and what I learned from him was just play like a professional. Just going out there each and every day and get better each and every day. Just doing everything to your greatest abilities.”
Kevin had to wait to be featured, too. Does some of his patience rub off on you, too?
“Oh yeah. Of course it did. Just being with him -- we’ve been together a long time. I knew him before we got here. Our personalities rubbed off on each other a little bit.”
He’s kind of a loud guy, right?
“Yeah, he’s a loud guy. I’m more of a quiet guy. I’m probably one of the more quiet guys on the team.”
As the team comes to understand the offense more, has the tight end role been changing at all?
“Yes, of course, because once everyone learns the offense they can play multiple positions. A tight end can move out to wide receiver, or a wide receiver can move to tight end. Just learning the playbook and knowing what everyone does on the field, you have a chance to play different positions.”
Does it help to have someone on the team that you went to high school with?
“Yes, of course. Coming here with Roy and Shaw, those were my two best friends. Those were my brothers. Having them here as support was one of the best things that could happen for me.”
Has Roy walked you through anything this spring now that you’re in this elevated role?
“I don’t want to say he really walked me through, but we’ve been going through this together for a long time. It’s not necessarily him walking me through it or me walking him through it. We’re just walking through this together.”
Do you think this offense will be more explosive than a year ago, and why?
“More explosive? Well yeah, we can be more explosive. Of course we want to be more explosive, and we have a chance of doing that because we understand the offense a lot better and we’ve been in this offense for another year now.
The king of tight camera angles was really feeling it this time around, so we don't get a whole lot of detail, but it's April. Events are not thick on the ground.
Play 1: Denard fires a TE out to Brandon Moore, immediate tackle by Kenny Demens and Jake Ryan. Ricardo Miller comes into the frame late: 2TE set from the shotgun, or Miller's splitting his time between TE and WR.
Play 2: What looks like an inside zone from the shotgun breaks big. Ryan is coming around the backside and gets butt-blocked by Lewan, and that's all she wrote. Where is the SDE?
Play 3: Similar but Toussaint hits his gap closer to the frontside between Omameh and Barnum. Black gets handled one-on-one by Barnum and Toussaint jukes a filling safety I can't identify to dance into the endzone. I think that was probably Marvin Robinson since he was not a white guy and Gordon comes into the frame at the end of the play. Bolden and Talbott are also in with what seems like the first unit.
Play 4: Denard zips a deep slant just over the outstretched hand of Brennen Beyer that Jeremy Gallon snags impressively:
That's Countess to the left. He's concentrating on the interception instead of the tackle and gives up a bunch of YAC as a result.
Play 5: Marvin Robinson clubs a quick TE out for little gain. Second unit there: Ringer and Mike Jones are on the field.
Play 6: More 2-on-2s action as an inside zone to Rawls is well defended on the front side; Rawls cuts back behind Quinton Washington for a big gain. Washington is a three-tech next to NT Ash, so it's not really his fault. Where is the WDE?
Play 7: Denard under center. Iso handoff to Toussaint goes nowhere as Ryan makes a nice play. Campbell beat Barnum and forced Toussaint behind the A-gap where Hopkins was leading into; Morgan thumped the FB at the LOS. Bolden now running with the first team. probably because this is after Demens did this:
He took the opportunity to claim he'd be out for the season as an April Fools joke before revising that down to a few weeks and then a couple days.
Play 8: Vincent Smith power from under center goes nowhere. Bolden ends up tackling near the LOS. He does not bring his feet, causing someone to cry out "bring your feet!"
Play 9: Gardner launches a deep fly to Gallon; Countess is all over it, knocking it away.
Play 10: Under center power is pretty much stuffed until Ryan can't quite make a tackle on Toussaint as he breaks outside containment. He did a good enough job of stringing him out and slowing him down that Countess and other members can rally and hold it down. Michigan still can't run power from under center.
It is possible that Toussaint had a decent gain if he slammed it up in the hole.
Play 11: Denard sits in the pocket, getting no pressure, then runs around being all fast and stuff.
Play 12: Gardner waggle does not meet pressure on the edge. Gardner lofts a nice touch pass over Frank Clark to walk-on former DE Chris Eddins.
Interlude: Man, is Elliot Mealer's forehead red.
Also he has a great mountain man beard going on. Some potential here for Mealer to be Mike Hart's Pet Viking down the road.
Play 13: Another under center run should be consumed until Toussaint makes it into a decent gain. Toussaint has to dodge Beyer in the backfield. Campbell is stunting behind this and overruns the play a little bit; he's got help to the frontside and lets Fitz behind him. He gets enough of Toussaint to put him to the ground but not before the play gets six or seven.
Play 14: Denard hangs in the pocket and zings it to Gallon; ball is well behind him and Gallon has to make a moderately difficult catch. I don't think this is that bad of a throw—at the coaches' clinic Borges said he wants his QBs to hold the receiver up when throwing against zone, which this is. He doesn't want the QB to lead the WR into a defender. So this is somewhat intentional.
Talbott still out there with the first team.
Play 15: Another TE out, this one from Gardner to Jordan Paskorz and a bit deeper. Jarrod Wilson appears for the first time.
Play 16: Denard zings a TE in to Moore for a first down. Gordon tackles.
Play 17: Taylor Lewan blocks Ryan. We don't see the ball.
Play 18: Unidentifiable leaping guy (probably Ryan or Beyer) dissuades Denard from throwing the throwback screen. Instead he takes off and is fast and stuff.
Any takeaways here? It feels like the offensive line depth chart is approaching ink: Barnum has won the center job and Mealer is the guy at left guard. We haven't seen a snap that would suggest otherwise yet. Things can change when the cavalry arrives in fall; for now it looks like the veterans have the edge.
There are a lot of plays featuring tight ends, which is kind of odd since everyone's claiming their tight ends are a major issue and won't feature much during the year. Eddins, Moore, and Paskorz all feature. This may be the Johnny Sears move where you promote the weakest link on the team in an effort to keep spirits buoyed.
Other bits: Bolden passed Mike Jones the minute he showed up. Terrence Talbott could be a viable option at corner and may be pressing for some time. Also he has six arms and an FTL drive. /BOOM FredJackson'd. Campbell isn't getting blown up by Barnum. They've got some edge issues. Big ones, issues where you wonder if they weren't playing with ten guys on the field.
Denard is fast. Their under center running game is still poor. Jeremy Gallon is making some nice downfield catches, and Toussaint is on another level from Rawls and Smith. You can see the difference immediately in these tight-frame closeups.
ED-Seth: With the regular season over Heiko's opponent watch feature transitions to Opponent Recap, where he looks back over M's foes in detail so you can put the season into better perspective. Op met de show:
Rainbows: Denard still makes them.
Kovacs for Heisman.
- @ Michigan, 34-10 (L)
- Nicholls State, 38-7 (W)
- Central Michigan, 44-14 (W)
- @ No. 24 Illinois, 23-20 (L)
- @ Connecticut, 38-31 (W)
- Bowling Green, 45-21 (W)
- @ Northern Illinois, 51-22 (L)
- @ Eastern Michigan, 14-10 (L)
- Ball State, 45-35 (W)
- @ Toledo, 66-63 (L)
- @ Miami (OH), 24-21 (W)
- Akron, 68-19 (W)
Rank/Standings: 3rd place MAC-West
|Total||456.3 ypg, 22nd||434.1 ypg, 100th|
|Scoring||35.6 ppg, 18th||28.0 ppg, 72nd|
|Rush||127.4 ypg, 87th||215.9, 107th|
|Pass||328.8 ypg, 8th||218.2, 53rd|
Season recap: Western Michigan finished their season third in the MAC-West division. Their 5-3 conference record was two wins behind that of division champs Northern Illinois and Toledo.
That’s not a bad mark considering that the Broncos were a one-dimensional team. Their one strength was a pass-happy offense featuring a fearsome duo in QB Alex Carder and WR Jordan White (who led the FBS in receiving yards with 137 ypg, btw) that could score on anyone, but their inability/unwillingness to run the ball and stop the run cost them several games. RB Tevin Drake did average 5.5 yards a carry, but he had just 505 yards on the season; their rush defense rank was in the triple digit club.
The Broncos lost Carder for the better part of the last two games due to a separated shoulder, but his replacement Tyler Van Tubbergen was a serviceable next-guy-in. Carder should return for the bowl game.
I wish I knew more about the MAC so I could talk about Western Michigan’s ups and downs throughout the course of the season. I don’t, so I won’t. That Eastern Michigan game, though … man. Who knew the Eagles had that in them.
Best Win: @ Connecticut, but maybe not so much now that the Big East has formally declared itself a joke.
Worst Loss: @ Northern Illinois, in which their defense stopped playing after the first quarter. If Western Michigan had any chance of competing for their division they needed to beat the Huskies, and they fell way short. Northern Illinois incidentally ended up winning the conference on a late field goal to #BeatOhio (not that Ohio).
When Michigan played them, we thought they were as frightening as: The original week one post got overwritten so I don’t remember, but I think I set their fear level at a 3 and compared them to the MAC version of Ben Chappell-era Indiana.
But now we know they are as frightening as: The MAC version of this year’s Northwestern. 3. Their offense gained legitimacy throughout the season, and Carder even showed off some dual-threat ability. Unfortunately, their defense went the other direction.
What this win meant for Michigan: Though Western Michigan wasn’t your typical MAC-cake this season, Michigan sure made them look the part thanks to a couple favorable bounces, Jordan Kovacs, and weather.
The Wolverines had enjoyed exceptional opening day mojo for the past two years, and this game wasn’t any different. By luck and by Mattison, the defense got into Carder’s head, and the Broncos played like crap after their first turnover. Michigan did whatever it wanted for the remainder of the game.
The remainder of the game came to an unsatisfactory end, however, due to the great Midwest Monsoon of 2011. Fans wanted to see the fourth quarter to gain more confidence in this mysterious product Brady Hoke and company had been working on, capitulated opponent or not. Instead, everyone was sent out of the stadium, invited back in, then sent home and told to wait for next week.
There was also a window of confusion after the second weather delay during which everyone wondered whether a curtailed game could be recorded as a Wolverines victory, whether the game had to be rescheduled, or whether none of this happened at all and we would be told that we had just imagined it.
Finally a frazzled Dave Brandon informed the media that an agreement had been struck with the Western Michigan AD, once DB's pimp hand convinced her to be enough of a sportswoman to concede the Michigan win.
Hoke talked about how it was good to win a football game, Denard gave his teammate props for usurping his place as the team's top rusher, and Brandon Herron got his 15 minutes of fame.
Did you imagine your first game happening like this? "No I don't think so. It was kind of wild. Wet and wild."
Get well soon.
And it totally felt as awesome as: Rediscovering sex after nine months of pregnancy, and hey, it’s still pretty good!
Little Caesars Pizza Motor City Bowl vs. Purdue, Dec. 27 at 4:30 p.m. EST
11/26/2011 – Michigan 40, Ohio State 34 – 10-2, 6-2 Big Ten
Odoms via the Detroit News. Koger/Fitzgerald and Denard via Eric Upchurch.
Slightly more than a week ago, people better-prepared than I commemorated the fifth anniversary of Bo's death. I remember where I was, sitting in the room I was renting in a house that would be foreclosed on as Tom Orr, a Buckeye fan whose wife still worked for the TV station Bo did a show for, emailed me the things I didn't want to hear.
I had a thing I'd mostly written the night before about that year's Game, the one I did and still call Football Armageddon. It was an overdramatic thing based on a Sufjan Stevens song about the apocalypse. I wasn't sure about it. As I read it, panicked because I had to say something and what would I say, two things occurred to me. One, that the overdramatic thing was now on point. Two, that the part I hadn't written the night before about my father burning into coal—because it was impossible to—now sat there, obvious.
Ryan Van Bergen was in high school. He'd committed to Lloyd Carr months before. He was going to Michigan, fergodsakes. David Molk had ten thousand zits on his face. He was going to Michigan, too. Neither had the slightest idea.
Four years and two coaches later, the two of them sat in a room. They decided. What they decided was: that was not happening again. They decided they would stay. They loved Michigan, and they weren't going out in a disjointed mess. Their new coach reinstated an old tradition and they became captains unlike any in 40 years. They found their own way. There was no one save Brandon Graham to learn from, and there's only so much Brandon Graham can do.
I'm not really sure how or why but Denard Robinson stayed, too. It's possible Molk threatened to kill him.
In these decisions, in these moments, in these actually-kind-of-idiotic thought processes that led all of these players to stay here for a second or third coach, in a place that too easily booed them when they failed to live up to the expectations set for them, Michigan became Michigan again.
What is Michigan but a succession of players who chose the winged helmet and spent their four or five years in it trying to perform to the level previous players had? And how difficult would that be when your predecessors had either not lived up to that standard or abandoned you? Who was Ryan Van Bergen supposed to look up to?
By the time everyone else came back, Molk and Van Bergen and Martin and Koger and Woolfolk and the rest of the roster had already decided. Amongst themselves, for themselves.
This program needed that to pay off. It needed to stop feeling sorry for itself, being at war with itself, sabotaging itself, stop hopping on the radio to trash this that and the other, stop needing to be trashed on the radio for this that and the other. It needed to finally bury Bo, and move past the strife caused by his absence. Only one thing could do that: beating Ohio.
They did, and now there are legacies.
That picture is David Molk to me. Hugging his quarterback and killing a press conference. Sealing a blitzing linebacker on a second-half stretch. Piloting one of the best rushing attacks in Michigan history.
That picture is Ryan Van Bergen to me. Destroying that Indiana drive after botching the call on the line; leaving OSU with his winged helmet thrust as far in the air as his 6'6" frame would take it.
Amongst the tackiness, that was real. That's what I waited for. One story of redemption from someone who did nothing wrong. I've sneered at the "Michigan Man" concept ever since it became a cudgel to use against the wrong head coach. The idea there was anything particularly special or deathlessly loyal or kind or mature about the program's alumni was ridiculous after the way the last three years played out. But no more.
These are Michigan Men; this is their season.
After the game I loitered at my family's tailgate until the champagne was gone and then walked home. These days I make the walk to and from the game by myself. The people I used to walk with aren't around anymore.
At first this seemed lonely. I remember walking down Packard behind a father and his kid after The Horror. An elderly guy who kind of seemed stoned came out onto his elaborately flowered lawn and asked "they didn't really lose, did they?" The father nodded ruefully; the elderly guy shook his head. I remember getting body-checked into a car after last year's State game. I remember shivering the whole way after Northwestern '08.
On Saturday the sky was slate, the gunmetal November sky that goes with head coaches in shirtsleeves and sleet and the grim reconciliation with the elements via which the Big Ten footprint acknowledges both winter and mortality. Being outside, in Michigan, in late November, is usually a defiant variety of stupidity—a last taste of being outdoors before December closes in and the world becomes a thing briefly tolerated between heated areas. In the Midwest, football is to winter what spit from a condemned man is to a firing squad.
Saturday was also warm, warmer than any Ohio State game in memory. As I walked, alone, past the lurid green turf the field hockey team plays on I watched fathers play with sons. A tailgate across the tracks provided play-by-play as I passed by: a speed option the kid playing quarterback turned into a trick play by going out for a pass after he pitched. He was open; he dropped it; I filed it (CA, 3, RPS +1). The tailgate burst into sympathetic "awwws."
I kind of lost it passing behind the bleachers, just then. I came out the other side, and looked back, and saw two #16s and a #1 running around, catching and throwing, four-foot-five at best. Mottled clouds passed overhead. Two shades of gray were pushed by wind. It seemed to me like the closer, darker ones were giving way to the lighter background.
It felt like spring.
Photoset from Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:
This is a great shot you might see in next year's season preview:
Molk brought his trident:
WE MUST EAT
Pregame hype video:
Give it to Old Hat Creative. Two consecutive years these have been great. Aaand JBrons provides a panorama:
BRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. 14/17 for 10 YPA, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 170 rushing yards at 6.5 YPC and two more touchdowns… uh… yeah. It was Denard Robinson's day. If he'd played like that week-in, week-out he's in New York and Andrew Luck is asking for his autograph. Alas, it was not to be.
Robinson didn't eat up passing yards with screens or long busted coverages, either. His long on the day was the 28-yarder to Dileo that CJ Barnett jumped. That's a disaster if it's even a little bit off; Denard made an NFL throw into Dileo's outstretched hands. The post TD to Hemingway was a 20-yard dart and the Odoms touchdown was thrown into space so tight I'm not even sure you could call it a "window." It was more like a keyhole.
Hypothesis: do you think Borges did something to Denard's throwing motion? That might explain his progression from inept in the nonconference schedule to decent, if limited, in the Big Ten to assassin against OSU. If Denard can extend that performance across a season… holy pants. The scrambles and draws have opened up for him the past couple weeks because his passing has been enough of a threat to demand attention.
Honorable mentions: Brady Hoke (for reasons discussed below), Al Borges, Fitzgerald Toussaint.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
3: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Ohio State)
2: Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue, Nebraska)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).
Future annoying conversations may be (unsuccessfully) pre-empted by "Ohio State 2011." On the podcast last week we talked about Hoke's natural aggression and how there would be a point in the future when it does not work out, thus spawning a week of extremely annoying conversations. This game is an uzi in the math camp's arsenal.
Hoke went for it on fourth and one on the OSU 40 in the first quarter. Hopkins got it easily and Michigan punched in a touchdown. Ohio State punted on fourth and four from the Michigan 36; Michigan moved the ball to midfield before the disastrous Hagerup non-punt set Ohio State up with the same field position they'd have had if they'd picked up the first down. Later, Fickell kicked on fourth and goal from the Michigan four down six.
I punched all these decisions into Advanced NFL Stat's fourth down calculator; it spat out that Hoke was right and Fickell wrong with a total margin of 3.2 expected points and a total shift in win percentage of 7%*. And their assumptions are based on NFL models where four yards to go is an automatic passing down; taking the game situation into account (it's spread mad college and both quarterbacks are unstoppable on the ground) it seems like much, if not all, of Michigan's final margin of victory came from the decisions the head coaches made.
How much more of a travesty is the Toussaint overturn if it puts Michigan in fourth and goal from the 25 down four? Orders of magnitude. How confident are you that Michigan wins that game without the offense ripping down the field in the fourth quarter? Not at all. Michigan does not win this game without…
*[I know you can't just add WP differences up like that but the differences are small enough that it shouldn't matter.]
Controlled aggression. How would you characterize the first year of the Hoke era if given only two words? I don't think you could do better than sniping a couple Hoke used to describe Denard's game:
"Denard went out there as a quarterback of Michigan and went out there to help his teammates and be accountable to his teammates. He couldn't do it by himself and no one ever does, but I thought he played an aggressive, controlled football game."
Controlled aggression. From Mattison's okie blitzes that get an unblocked guy while dropping seven to Borges going for points in the fourth quarter Saturday to Hoke's decisions to go for it on fourth down to Hoke's ability to not strangle Hagerup (better man than all of us), "controlled aggression" is the story of Michigan's 2011… and its future.
I could not have been more wrong about Hoke. He's not the milquetoast win-by-not-losing sort. He's not even average. He has a gut feel that is on par with every RPG minimaxing engineer out there. Forged by the fires of MAC defenses, Hoke has learned to push when he should and pull back when he should. I would not want to play poker against him.
I know Hoke talks about toughness and physicalness even if the latter isn't really a word, and that's fine and important. It's half of the equation. The other half is putting your guys in position to take advantage of that. Hoke does that. MANBALL: pretty much not pejorative anymore.
Speaking of the Toussaint overturn. So the overturn at the end had the stadium baying for blood. Mike Pereira on that:
Why they even considered overturning this as a touchdown, I’ll never know. There were two definitive replays that the booth had to look at, and in my opinion, one showed that the ball might have been a foot short and the other one looked more like it was a clear touchdown.
This decision seemed to be based on the first angle only. Even that, to me, was not conclusive, because when the video was stopped it was not clear whether the knee was down.
Pereira also tackles the Odoms catch/recatch that got Michigan down to the six, saying it was the right call. Myself, I'm not sure why they reviewed it or why it took so long. I do wonder how you align this logic with the Junior Hemingway 49% touchdown against Iowa:
The fact the ball hit the ground does not make the pass incomplete. It becomes a question of maintaining possession. Odoms’ hands remained on the ball, and though the ball moved a bit, he did not lose possession. In order to reverse this ruling, I think you have to see the ball come out of his hands after it hit the ground.
I think ball hitting ground should be no catch unless you've already made the proverbial football move. That's clear. What we've got now is ambiguous.
And, then after the game, the fans just like, start banging their hands together. Michigan's grenade celebration caught the ire of Zach Boren:
"I lost so much respect for michigan after they won [and] threw the ball in the air acting like it was a grenade.
This is a great rivalry, and to take it to that level of disrespect is just so uncalled for. Act like you have won before [and] treat this rivalry like it should be treated."
Their family would never participate in anything so crass as celebrating amongst their teammates. They are a respectful bunch.
A stoic group of respectful people, those Borens.
[HT on the bolded zinger to MichFan1997.]
To get the bags of urine thrown at you you have to be in Columbus, though. Atmosphere skeptics will not be cowed, but this is high praise from a guy who would know:
The OSU-Michigan game today was the closest thing to a big soccer game I've ever been to. Kept thinking of USA-Mexico in Mexico.
Carey has been to USA-Mexico in Mexico, which… whoah. That is a hell of a comparison to make.
Weekly Borgeswatch. Beat up or not, that was an Ohio State defense that entered the game 16th in total defense and 12th in FEI*. Michigan rolled them. Eliminate the Hagerup disaster, a sack, and the kneeldown and Michigan averaged 6.4 YPC. Denard hit 9.8 YPA. They should have scored 44. They won that game with a functional turnover margin of –2—the Hagerup disaster is a 60-yard loss of field position and the Avery INT was superfluous—and their defense giving up 34. That's fantastic.
Borges's last three weeks have been superlative. It's still frustrating that a couple of poor gameplans cost Michigan against MSU and Iowa but Borges corrected course and lit up defenses ranging from excellent to okay the last three weeks of the season. Before the season I predicted that Michigan's YPC would drop by a yard; with the bowl game to go it's only down about a quarter of that. Passing efficiency has dropped (23rd to 39th) but YPA is actually up a couple tenths of a yard. The interceptions are the major issue, and a decent chunk of those featured wide open receivers the QBs ignored.
Some regression was expected even if Rodriguez stuck around, so the net transition cost on offense kind of seems like… zero. Fumbles have been a huge factor (last year: 29, 14 lost; this year: 17, 6 lost) and I don't think there's a whole lot of coaching in that, but at this point there's no denying Borges has kept the offense humming.
Imagine how good they could have been with bubble screens! [kidding! srs.]
*[Although… I'm getting suspicious of that metric when it has Rutgers #1 in defense and Miami(!!!) #2 in offense. Miami hasn't gone over 20 points since beating Duke; they lost to FSU 23-19 and to BC 24-17. They beat USF 6-3 and are 73rd in total offense, 64th in scoring. There is no combination of circumstances that could make them the #2 offense in the country. FEI is failing sanity tests this year.]
BCS hootenanny. Michigan actually fell a slot in the BCS standings this week thanks to Wisconsin turning Penn State into paste. They're 16th; they need to creep up two spots* to be eligible for hypothetical Sugar Bowl against Houston. One of those is a given since the Big Ten title game loser will fall behind them. The next is likely as long as Georgia loses the SEC title game.
If Georgia doesn't things get dicey. Then you're hoping for Iowa State to beat KSU or Oklahoma State to annihilate Oklahoma to the point where disgusted voters drop them immensely. With KSU a 12 point favorite and Oklahoma State a 3.5 point favorite, neither of those things seem particularly likely. Baylor is also a threat to jump Michigan if they beat Texas—if it's close the computers will likely side with the Big 12 team. Baylor's favored by around 3. MFan_in_Ohio has a complete rooting guide.
The only scenario in which Michigan feels entirely safe is Georgia and Baylor both losing. Anything else and it's going to come down to the margins. Not getting the BCS game would be disappointing, but mostly from a program prestige point of view. The likely opponent would be better in the Citrus: Arkansas, Georgia, or South Carolina. Also, New Orleans vs Orlando is a blowout.
If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then the Bowls can select as an at-large team any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings,
Otherwise it's top 14.]
Fitzkrieg* III. If Brady Hoke gets It, Fitzgerald Toussaint has It. Fitz is averaging 5.8 YPC this year and that's with a majority of his carries coming against Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State. That is tied for the 14th best YPC in a single season (100 carries minimum) since 1949 and the second-best since Biakabutuka's 1995 campaign. (Denard's 2010 beats him out at an incredible 6.6 YPC. Tyrone Wheatley's 1992 season stands alone as the best in Michigan history. Wheatley picked up 1357 yards on 185 carries—eleven more than Toussaint had this year. He averaged 7.3 YPC. Holy pants.)
[active players bolded. also players from the last 15 years.]
Adjust that for schedule strength, and… well, Toussaint is pretty good, especially when Denard Robinson is taking a lot of attention for himself. If Michigan can find a tight end (possible) and adequately replace Huyge (likely) and Molk (er…), an Al Borges with a year of experience dealing with these guys could put up some silly numbers.
Have to keep that line healthy, though.
*[Now spelled right and everything!]
I'm just sayin'. Fitz did bust a long one on I-Form power late, but it didn't exactly go as planned:
That cuts behind something that's supposed to be a downblock. Usually that's doom, though not when you've blasted the DT five yards downfield.
With Denard and Toussaint propelling Michigan to its best running game since the Big Ten was only vaguely competitive, can we assert that running quarterbacks do work in the Big Ten and that the spread is a pretty good system for running the ball? After all was said and done, Michigan beat OSU—put up more points on OSU than they ever had—by running a shotgun centered offense that tore it up with the inverted veer. Kudos to Borges for adjusting; I hope we don't say "that was interesting" and go back to statues for the next decade.
I say recruit 'em all and let Borges sort 'em out. Mobile QBs who don't pan out can turn into Marvin McNutt; I don't think M should turn down Shane Morris but if there's a Devin or a Denard around… man, this stuff really works.
Everyone's spent the last year comparing this offense to RR's last one, and saying there's no dropoff. That's true. Now let's compare it to the Carr offenses featuring oodles of NFL draft picks. Hmmm.
Facepalmin': THE REVERSAL. Facepalm guy after the OSU game:
That's goddamn right.
Epic photobomb. Via the internets, here's Josh Garnett, Jake Long, and Eric Magnuson* plus a Heisman-level photobomber:
The wife saw this picture and said "why does Jake Long look strange" and I said "because he's next to people approximately his size."
*[Hockey fans will appreciate that I almost called him "Kevin." #hardcore]
Where are the safeties? So the disturbing thing about the game was Braxton Miller trashing the secondary. It could have been a lot worse than it was, but Miller's accuracy rating is still in the 50s so he overthrew a bunch of dudes.
No one was exempt: Floyd, Countess, Woolfolk, and Gordon each got burned (Kovacs was mostly used in the box and did not have an opportunity.) Some of that is Michigan showing a consistent one-high and Bollman exploiting that with receivers that, for the first time all year, seemed way more athletic than Michigan's secondary. Other parts were just inexplicable, like whoever the free safety was on the first touchdown sucking up on a covered Posey instead of covering the deep guy. I'll have to check the tape; I'm kind of concerned this is an '06 situation where whoops we have this huge throbbing vulnerability.
Floyd getting suckered on a double move on OSU's last drive was the worst. Have to stay over the top then and make Miller execute his way down the field.
Special K's magnum opus. Piping in "Build Me Up Buttercup" during Ohio State's final drive. Well done, you flatulent twit. Eleven Warriors:
"Sweet Caroline"? "Don’t Stop Believin’"? Nice traditions you’ve got there. I didnt think anything could make the car keys thing less embarrassing. I stand corrected.
Chris Grovich of BSD:
Note how lame the Big House is with Journey blaring? That's you, Penn State gameday experience. A million times over.
Apparently Hunter Lochmann openly admits he's courting casual "families of four from Grand Rapids." Court casual fans and you get casual fans. Michigan's athletic department has no understanding of how to build long-term loyalty. The concept does not occur to them.
I would like to point you to Those Who Stayed, the post-Minnesota game column, again.
The play of the game, or at least one of them, is not recorded in the boxscore in a meaningful way. After Hagerup’s failed 4th down conversion, osu took over at our 31. They got down to our 5 yard line, and had 1st and goal. A couple strong defensive efforts lead to 3rd down.
On the next play, according to Chris Spielman (we were never shown this,) osu tried their TD pass to Stoneburner play, the one that got him TDs on ~ half his receptions this year. Only this time, Kovacs stayed with Stoneburner, and forced Miller to keep it. Jibreel Black (Jibreel Black? Yes, Jibreel Black) kept outside leverage, wrapped up Miller and forced the FG.
At the other end of the field, we did the same thing, only their 3rd string strong safety, Storm Klein, bit on the playfake leaving Koger wide open for the TD. (It may not have been Storm Klein, but for the purposes of this narrative, I’m going with Storm Klein.)
It was Zach Domicone, and it only serves him right for being such a tool on special teams. More than once I saw him attempt to goad Michigan players into personal foul penalties, but no sale.
I am also tweaked for the option fumble when they finally ran it with Odoms in motion, which fair enough. Denard got instant pressure which made the pitch a difficult one and the corner was wide open. Hopefully they get that straightened out eventually. Also we totally need to add the Braxton Miller speed option-whoops-seeya play.
Fitz Toussaint - Denard is light-years more effective with a true home-run threat in the backfield with him. The read option becomes almost impossible to stop if read correctly. Only having 2 negative yards against Ohio in 20 carries is remarkable. It is a crime that the zebras took your TD away, go get 3 next year.
There is narrative about the point that doesn't work with a blockquote but is worth clicking through for. Also more Hagerup hilarity.
[escape pauses gifs]
And MichiganMan2424's cool story bro about meeting Fitzgerald Toussaint's mom on his way home from the game spawns other cool stories on the board.
Media, as in unwashed blog masses. Hoke pointing from Hoke Points and the AP:
MGoVideo provides a Hoke Nyan Cat:
We need one of these with a Denard head and football body, I think.
Michigan fans had hoped for an easy victory over Ohio State. A blowout. A cake walk. But that's not how good stories are told. Even ones written not on the page, but between the lines of a college gridiron. For after 7* consecutive losses, the task was too important. After three years staring into the football abyss, the final push toward the mountain top demanded it be the hardest.
The hero's journey must never be easy.
For future reference, reasonable Joseph Campbell reference == autolink.
Sap's decals. TWB bullets. MVictors bullets plus cookie photo. Maize and Go Blue recap. TTB bullets. MZone autopsy. Holding the Rope gets the word "gyre" in there, one-upping Maize and Blue Nation's "whirlwind." Smiling Kovacs hug leads The Michigan Fanatic. BWS column.
The HSR is all in my head with their theme:
If you're a Michigander, you know that winter is miserable. As much as the first snow fall of the season might be entertaining and even maybe a little bit pretty, while snow days may be a nice respite from the daily grind, the reality is that it's cold, dark, wet, and miserable. You stay inside, you may get seasonal affective disorder, and you wait for spring. You may be so desperate for any sign of spring, you seize false hope, only to see the snow return with a vengeance, the darkness fall. No matter what the calendar says, the end of winter is a feeling and you know it when it happens.
Forever Saturday leads with the Van Bergen photo above:
I was briefly concerned yesterday that I would wake up at some point and realize that it was all just a dream and Michigan had in fact not beaten Ohio State for the first time since shortly after I graduated high school. It's Sunday now. It's really over.
The words: I do not have them. I just keep telling people "Michigan beat Ohio State!" and making weird sounds that apparently are some combination of exhilaration and relief. That's all I can do after that.
The national view comes from Jacobi:
WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan beat Ohio State. Wait, let's try that again: MICHIGAN BEAT OHIO STATE. The 10-win season is absolutely nice for the Wolverines, but they've been circling this game on their calendars since time immemorial, and to get a win in this rivalry after eight years of futility is a major, major accomplishment for Brady Hoke and his charges.
LOSER: Michigan's classless fans
Look at them, rushing the field and celebrating after Michigan beats a 6-6 team. Act like you've been there, guys, right? The nerve of it all!
We're kidding, of course, because the cathartic value of a win like that, erasing eight years of misery and futility hard-wired into to Michigan's identity as a football program, would be off the charts even if Ohio State were coming into the game 0-11. But we're still talking about a bowl team here in OSU, and one that gave Michigan all sorts of fits over the course of the game. You have our full blessing on this field-storming, Michigan. And if anyone says otherwise, well, haters gonna hate. Feels nice to have haters again, doesn't it?
Yes. Exactly. Boren butthurt tweets == Tears of Unfathomable Sadness. So sweet.
In the context of the entire season, though, it was an exclamation point on a legitimate return to form. Unlike 2007 and 2008, the Wolverines didn't endure an embarrassing flop against a major underdog. Unlike 2009 and 2010, they didn't blow their fast start with a depressing November fade against the meat of the Big Ten slate. They were never blown out, and after their dramatic comeback to beat Notre Dame in September, none of their subsequent wins were close. Last week's evisceration of Nebraska was Michigan's best game in five years, a complete win over a real opponent, and the first unmistakable line of demarcation between Brady Hoke's first team and Rich Rodriguez's last.
Media, soon to expire variety. Dispatch, you disappoint but do not surprise:
You tools should have the MANBALLS to reverse your cute little counter, but since you don't have the resources to find out anything about OSU's compliance, or lack thereof, it's not a surprise you don't. You suck.
It probably was tougher and crazier than they expected, but when the Wolverines finally beat the Buckeyes 40-34 Saturday and the fans swarmed the field, one thing was clear: It's back on, mercifully and manically.
Reset the clock. Reset the rivalry. After seven straight losses and 2,926 days, Michigan ended the agony against Ohio State and took another big step back to national relevance.
Michigan had just ended an eight-year drought — it was 2,926 days, to be exact, as coach Brady Hoke's sign not-so-subtly reminded his players inside Schembechler Hall — by beating archrival Ohio State. And Michigan's senior class had just ended a perfect home season the way few, if any, of them could've imagined.
So as the students came streaming onto the field to celebrate in Michigan Stadium, and the Wolverines started running off it to do the same in their locker room, a trio of defensive linemen — Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger — lingered just a bit longer.
Mienke assembles facts about Denard Robinson's day:
Robinson's five touchdowns are the most by a Michigan player in one game against Ohio State.
Robinson is the first Michigan player in the modern era to score at least two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns in back-to-back games, and is the first Big Ten quarterback to accomplish the feat since Iowa's Brad Branks in 2002. He had two of each against Nebraska.
More at the link.
The Daily's Tim Rohan:
Those who stay will redeem themselves.
Ryan Van Bergen stayed.
While his teammates mobbed Courtney Avery, whose interception for the Michigan football team sealed the 40-34 win over Ohio State on Saturday, Van Bergen slowly walked to the sideline, his hands on his head.
He flipped off his helmet, collapsed on the blue bench and wept.
The crowd’s roar was deafening as Jake Ryan pulled Van Bergen close, whispering in his ear. Then Craig Roh did the same. They told Van Bergen how much his leadership meant, how much of an impact he had on them.
Formation Notes: HAI GUYS I'M BACK
Been back for a few weeks now, but whatever.
Substitution Notes: No Smith, who was apparently laid up with a shoulder injury, and no Barnum. Odoms is getting more and more run as the seasons winds down. Other than that, the usual.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Power sweep||Toussaint||-4|
Odoms goes in motion to the weak side to be a potential pitch man as M runs a stretch one way w/ an option look on the other side. If this is a read Denard(-1) screwed up because he can get the corner easy and has a pitch guy. Meanwhile on the handoff, Michigan pulls Omameh and Huyge around the two TEs. This leaves the playside DT unblocked; he rushes into the backfield for a TFL. This has to be a bust but by who? I assume Watson(-2) but that is admittedly a guess; if he blocks down and Koger blocks down on the end this will get some yards. Omameh gets a minus for not doing what we saw Molk do on a previous mediocre outside run; that was a nine-yard difference.
RUN-: Watson(2), Omameh, Robinson
|M27||2||14||Ace twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||5|
This does open up decently; Huyge(-1) whiffs an open-field block to get Gallon tackled after a modest gain. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)
|M32||3||9||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel even||Pass||In||Grady||Inc|
|Late moving safety to the LOS. Nebraska sends six; OL does a great job picking it up and giving Denard a lane to step up into. He finds Grady somewhat open for a first down and throws it way behind him for a potential INT. Dropped. (IN, 0, protection 4/4)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||3-2-6 nickel||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||16|
|LB over the inside slot receiver and five guys in the box with a safety creeping down weakside. Backside end gets crushed inside by Lewan(+1) and backside LB flows down the line; edge wide open so Robinson pulls. Dileo kicks the slot LB, though he was pretty far outside and didn't have much of a chance to get Robinson(+3) anyway. Robinson jukes the safety and is one step from a 79 yard touchdown when David recovers to tackle from behind. Robinson pounds the turf in frustration. Zookian RPS+2 here—WTF is Nebraska thinking?|
|RUN+: Robinson(3), Lewan||RUN-:|
|M37||1||10||Pro set||2||1||2||4-3 over||Pass||Flare screen||Toussaint||7|
|Dive fake to Hopkins as Toussaint runs a flare. Gallon(+1) cracks down on the playside LB as Schofield(+1) gets out in space; Toussaint sets up the Schofield block very well but his inside-outside juke does slow him enough that the safety can get over to chop him down after a good gain. (CA, 3, screen)|
|RUN+: Gallon, Schofield, Toussaint||RUN-:|
|M44||2||3||Shotgun twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||3|
|Straight inside zone here with no doubles. Omameh(+2) gets a little help from Molk but not much and ends up pancaking his DT; Molk(+1) peels off on a linebacker. Toussaint is cutting through the hole provided; Huyge(-1) couldn't get enough push/control of the playside DE, who comes off to tackle as Toussaint moves through the hole.|
|RUN+: Omameh(2), Molk||RUN-: Huyge|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun empty 2TE||0||2||3||4-3 over||Run||QB inside zone||Robinson||2|
|Odoms will come in jet motion on all these plays. Another double from Omameh(+1) and Molk on the just pancaked DT knocks him well out of the hole but Schofield(-1) has lost control of his man. Robinson jukes backside and the DT puts himself on the other side of the block; Robinson now has a hole. Unfortunately, Molk(-1) whiffed on David and he tackles in the hole.|
|RUN+: Robinson, Omameh||RUN-: Molk, Schofield|
|M49||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel over||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||Inc|
|Molk gets his head up for a beat before snapping and picks up a blitz up the middle. David comes delayed and Toussaint basically misses him, forcing a throw to a covered Roundree. It's an okay throw and could be complete if not for obvious PI the refs miss. (CA, 0, protection 2/3, Toussaint -1) Refs -1.|
|M49||3||8||Shotgun triple stack||1||0||4||3-2-6 nickel||Pass||Fly||Roundtree||46 + 2 pen|
|Toussaint motions out for an empty look. Nebraska rushes three with a fourth guy delayed; line picks it up and Denard has all day. He bombs it deep to a single-covered Roundtree, who slows down as is his wont; DB bangs into him and falls; momentum propels Roundtree into the path of the pass, which he catches. While the catch wasn't hugely difficult the setup was. (CA, 1, protection 3/3) Nebraska gets a PF tacked on.|
|O7||1||G||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Speed option||Robinson||0|
Nebraska line stalemates M line, providing no obvious creases; Robinson bails on the play, cutting all the way back behind the line and into an unblocked contain guy. He manages to make that guy miss, seems like he's about to make another guy miss and get the corner, and then just goes straight into guy #2. IME: should have kept it to the playside, sucked in David, and pitched to Toussaint to see what he can do with the safety.
|O7||2||G||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA cross||Gallon||7|
|PA fake with Toussaint shooting outside; Toussaint beats the LB outside, sucking up a safety. Robinson looks at Toussaint then pulls up, gets square, and zips a dart to Gallon running free behind the Toussaint route for a touchdown. (CA+, 3, protection N/A)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 8 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M45||1||10||Ace||1||2||2||4-3 even||Pass||PA Scramble||Robinson||16|
|Waggle action gets Robinson all day as NU's DL doesn't get anywhere near Denard. Two fly routes take both safeties deep; Koger releases on a wheel that takes one linebacker and Toussaint releases into the flat, taking another. No one open, Denard finally runs. His breathtaking acceleration is just barely matched by David, who chops him down after a good gain. (SCR, N/A, protection 3/3)|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel stack||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||9|
|Koger H-back action. Nebraska has three down linemen and a LB over Koger, with apparently just six in the box. I again think this can be a keep read with a DE coming down and Koger coming around to block David; Robinson one on one with a safety. Denard hands off. Both playside linebackers hit inside gaps quickly, cutting off creases. Toussaint(+2) bounces. His outside bounce is quick but he's got the safety coming down and a corner containing. He takes a couple stutter-steps that fool the safety and shoots inside of the Grady block on the containing corner for a solid gain. Omameh(+0.5) picked up a stoning block on a LB entering his zone.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(2), Grady, Omameh(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O30||2||1||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||5|
|Doubles on both DTs are extended; Hopkins heads backside to hit the unblocked DE on that side. Hopkins(+1) gets a good thump on that guy but DE is shuffling down the line and Hopkins can't kick him out. Lewan(+1) releases and then flares to get the scrape exchange linebacker; Toussaint(+1) reads the blocking—Nebraska is slanting playside—and cuts back, where David hacks him down.|
|RUN+: Hopkins, Lewan, Toussaint||RUN-:|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||3-2-6 nickel||Run||QB iso||Robinson||7|
|Three man line and five in the box is asking for this; M gives it to them. Molk(+1) blows up the NT. Omameh(+1) and Schofield(+1) also get good push. Robinson just has to run up their backs for a nice gain. RPS+1.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Molk, Schofield||RUN-:|
|Nebraska kind of confused as to what they're doing here; chalk it up to multiple advantage. M runs same play, basically, with Hopkins lead and Toussaint running. Molk(+1) helps blow up the NT and then blows up David; Hopkins(+1) nails the other LB; Schofield(+1) ends up pushing the NT almost to the first down line. Toussaint hits it up for the first.|
|RUN+: Molk, Schofield, Hopkins||RUN-:|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||2|
Stupid tight shot. This looks wiiiiide open on the corner after Denard pulls but there might be a slot LB plunging down. No one mentions this so I assume not. If not, jeez Denard. DE is shuffling down the line in an attempted defense of the belly and Koger is about to seal the backside LB. Run for the corner and it could be a huge gain. Instead Denard pulls the Scheelhaase last week to poor effect. Still could have worked but for Huyge(-1) not being able to maintain his block but there are no blocks to maintain outside. Picture paged.
RUN-: Robinson(2), Huyge
|O12||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Seam||Grady||Inc|
|Another blitz up the middle, this one not timed that well. It's picked up. Toussaint's coming off the mesh fake and runs right by the delayed blitzer, who is about to light Robinson up. He lets it fly to Grady on a quick seam that is a dangerous but does get through, clanging off a diving Grady's hands. (CA, 2, protection 0/2, Toussaint -2, RPS -1)|
|O12||3||8||Shotgun double stacks||1||0||4||Nickel even||Pass||Sack||--||-12|
|Hemingway motions from a triple stack to a double. Nebraska reveals man and sends seven. WRs are not open and Toussaint's cut block is not a Smith cut block, letting his guy through; Denard is under quick pressure with no options and tries to keep the play alive, taking a sack. Torn between asking him to throw this away and thinking about what happens if he dodges this guy. Six points, probably. (PR, protection 1/3, Toussaint -2, RPS -1). Where's our third down back?|
|Drive Notes: FG(42), 10-0, 2 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun empty 2TE||0||2||3||Nickel even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Robinson||0|
The jet sweep would have been a huge gainer as the D sells out on Robinson. I mean, Nebraska doesn't even react to the jet motion. Unfortunately, no read here so it's a straight run all the way. Koger(-1) loses his fight with the playside DE badly, Omameh(-1) does not delay the backside DT at all and leaves Huyge to chase him futilely, and the playside corner runs right by everyone to tackle. RPS -2. No chance structurally.
RUN-: Koger, Omameh
|M20||2||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Zone read trap||Toussaint||3|
|Safety rolled up hard and an overhang corner is eight in the box. Schofield pulls behind Molk to trap the other DT; Michigan splits them but the MLB reads the trap immediately and runs past Huyge. Tackle attempt is broken but delays Toussaint. David, over the slot, does not even look at the WRs and scrapes down to clean up. Screw it: this is a play that should have been bubbled and it cost Michigan a gain after a broken tackle. RPS -1.|
|M23||3||7||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel press||Pass||Rollout out||Hemingway||27|
|ESPN has a crazy tight angle on third and seven. Derp. Odoms motions out of the backfield. Nebraska plays tight man on the WRs and walks a safety down. They back him out and blitz off the slot to the side Michigan is rolling to. Hopkins gets a cut that delays the blitzer long enough to let Robinson set up and zing it to Hemingway on an out that's there and a lot easier because of the moved pocket. Caught, first down. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, Hopkins special mention.) RPS +1; Hemingway on some white dude.|
|50||1||10||Shotgun twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Jet stretch||Odoms||0|
|This is essentially a WR stretch play that Odoms(-2) screws up immensely. Playside end is not reached, which means go inside. He goes outside; this takes forever and a safety hacks him down at the LOS. Huyge(+1) had chopped the backside DT and Schofield(+1) driven the playside guy back yards so any back used to a zone would have cut inside and gotten something between five and a crapton of yards.|
|RUN+: Schofield, Huyge||RUN-: Odoms(2)|
|50||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-4 even||Pass||Screen||Toussaint||INT|
|Oh, man. This is not Robinson's fault at all, really. Someone's got to cut this guy because the ball is headed directly to Toussaint and that guy has two blockers and air in front of him. It's gotta be Lewan, who's feebly pushing this dude as Schofield releases to block the screen. His dude leaps, bats, intercepts, and returns. (BA, 0, protection 0/2, Lewan -2, RPS +1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 10-7, 13 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||9|
|This works out for Fitz but it's not as great as it seems on first viewing because he misread the play, started cutting back into unblocked guys, and then burst back to the hole that was open the whole time. Omameh(+1) beat up and controlled the playside DT, forcing him off the line. Toussaint stops behind a mediocre block from Schofield(-0.5) and thinks about going backside, then decides not so much. When he goes back the the original hole it's still there thanks to good extended blocks from Huyge(+1) and Hemingway(+1!) Toussaint then does earn a plus by dancing past a peeling DT to add three or four to his run.|
|RUN+: Omameh, Huyge, Hemingway, Toussaint||RUN-: Schofield|
|M35||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Run||Zone read belly||Toussaint||2|
|Extended doubles here as Michigan adapts the zone to short yardage. Lewan(+1) and Schofield(+1) blow the backside guy off the ball and provide a lane as they cut off a linebacker. Safety coming down fills just past the LOS.|
|RUN+: Lewan, Schofield||RUN-:|
|M37||1||10||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||1|
Denard misses a must-pull with the playside DE diving down hard. There is no one containing him; DE gets underneath Koger and the way-off-LBs converge to crush this.
|M38||2||9||Shotgun twin TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Hopkins||3|
Nebraska shifts the LBs with the Odoms motion and Denard again misses a keep read. Yeah, there's a contain guy. There are two of you on the edge. The defensive end isn't even thinking about Denard, instead hugging the LT's hip as he releases downfield. When the MLB slants hard under Lewan to force a cutback that DE is there to tackle.
|M41||3||6||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel even||Pass||Comeback||Hemingway||8|
|Good route and good placement by Robinson to take it away from the defenders; coverage wasn't bad but the throw and route here beat it. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2) RPS +1 as Hemingway again got defended by scrub.|
|M49||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 even||Pass||Waggle comeback||Hemingway||Inc|
|This inexplicably works well enough that a pulling Schofield has no one to block on the edge. All day for Robinson. He pulls up and fires to a wide open Hemingway. Total whiff. Should have set up instead of throwing on the run. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|M49||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel even||Pass||PA Scramble||Robinson||4|
|Stretch action fools no one—M does not run stretches, really—and Robinson has no one. When pressure comes he jukes it and gets outside for a few yards. (TA, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)|
|O47||3||6||Shotgun triple stack||1||0||4||Okie||Run||Speed option||Robinson||8|
|Okie at first and then Nebraska checks. They're still looking at the sideline when Michigan snaps the ball... and the blocking is really weird. Molk pass blocks, like it's a draw. This works. Odd. Huyge(+2) reaches the playside DE so Robinson heads outside. Omameh(+1) pushes David past the play; Robinson(+1) cuts back and jets upfield for the first. Lewan also got a block that pushed a player past the cutback.|
|RUN+: Huyge(2), Robinson, Lewan, Omameh||RUN-:|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read belly||Toussaint||16|
|DONKEY HATING. Too little of this this year. Inside zone with a probably designed cutback; Schofield(+1) pushes the backside DT out of the hole. Lewan(+2) destroys his DE, driving him four yards downfield. Hopkins(+1) kicks the contain guy after he contains. Molk can't quite get the MLB but the Lewan block gives Toussaint(+2) a lane he jets into. He jukes a safety for an extra five yards and bonus point. The replay on this is why I like Spielman no matter what anyone says.|
|RUN+: Lewan(2), Schofield, Toussaint(2), Hopkins||RUN-:|
|O28||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 over||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||0|
Denard actually checks to this. Lord knows why. Nebraska has three relevant linebackers because the backside guy scrapes past Lewan before he can get out; not really on Lewan since the DT buried himself and made it impossible to get out to the second level. Michigan has two lead blockers. Toussaint(-1) tries to bounce and gets eaten up for nothing when just slamming it up in the nonexistent non-hole maybe gets a couple. RPS -1.
|O28||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Scramble||Robinson||9|
|A rollout that is intended to turn into a throwback screen that Robinson thinks isn't there... because it isn't. There's a DE in front of Toussaint. He's got a lane because Roundtree(+1) thumped a linebacker, who fell, and caused a DL to fall over him. (SCR, 0 (target: Toussaint), protection N/A)|
|RUN+: Robinson, Roundtree||RUN-:|
|O19||3||1||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||19|
|Late movement from Nebraska to get a guy over the slot. Four DL, five second level players. Koger(+1) kicks the playside DE and a blitz takes the playside DT out of the picture; Schofield does wall him off. Blitz also takes a LB away from the play out. Big hole, three on three in it. All three get outside of Lewan, with Lewan's guy beating that block; Omameh(+1) wipes him out. Robinson(+1) cuts behind that and is gone. RPS +1|
|RUN+: Robinson, Omameh, Koger||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-10, 6 min 2nd Q. Next drive starts with 3:21 left.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M11||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||7|
|Schofield and Molk pull to give Denard three lead blockers. Toussaint(+1) forms up to kick a charging LB past the play. Koger(+2) kills the playside DE, driving him five yards downfield. Huyge(+1) seals the playside DE. Robinson's lead blockers have no one to block until five yards downfield; Robinson follows them. He should really bust outside for a big gain; instead one guy submarines the whole pile.|
|RUN+: Koger(2), Toussaint, Huyge||RUN-:|
|M18||2||3||Shotgun twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||-2|
Another obvious blown read. The backside DE is let go and charges down Toussaint. There is no scraper and the two TEs are flaring out to clean that edge. Robinson must pull; he does not. MLB reads the mesh point and charges straight upfield at Toussaint, getting through the line about a second after the mesh. He bounces, which isn't a good idea, but he has no good ideas. RPS -1.
|M16||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||2|
|Omameh(+1) crushes his DT out of the lane and to the ground, giving Robinson a lane. Schofield(-0.5) does a meh job. Molk heads downfield into a linebacker; that linebacker rushes outside as he thinks Robinson is going there, and Robinson should read that and cut behind that block so David can again tackle him by the ankles after ten yards. Instead he continues outside and gets chopped down by the LB.|
|RUN+: Omameh||RUN-: Robinson, Schofield|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 1 min 2nd Q. This is three straight Denard running screwups.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Dime even||Run||Inverted veer give||Toussaint||5|
|With no apparent contain this is the right move but they blitz off the corner and Roundtree(-1) doesn't read it fast enough, letting his dude by. Toussaint(+2) is confronted by a corner in the backfield, he jukes past a la Hart. This allows a defender to come from the backside and tackle but it's still a +7 yard effort. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(2)||RUN-: Roundtree|
|M48||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Scramble||Robinson||3|
Robinson drops back and finds no one. Protection is excellent and he has a lane, so he takes it. Toussaint realizes what's going on and sets up to block the one linebacker in the area; all Robinson has to do for a big gain is cut to the correct side of it. He instead bounces outside, where the LB is keeping leverage, and turns a big to huge gain into very little. Arrrrgh. (SCR, N/A, protection 2/2)
|O49||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||-2|
|Nebraska seems to be looking for this; Omameh(-1) and Huyge(-1) lose their guys inside and Robinson has nowhere to go. He bounces but has to weave around guys and David tracks him down. RPS -1.|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 17-10. Argh. Terrence Robinson blasts a dude for the next drive.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Pin and pull zone||Robinson||2|
|This thing again, oddly to the short side of the field. Koger(+1) blows the end off the LOS; Omameh(-1) loses his guy. Robinson has to bounce as the playside LB does a nice job of getting to the POA quickly and taking out Huyge in an inconvenient spot. Robinson gets to the sideline but a safety is there and he has no room to string it out to the corner. RPS -1.|
|RUN+: Koger||RUN-: Omameh|
|O31||2||8||Ace twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-4 even||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||24|
|I mean, seriously, Nebraska? You have zero guys within ten yards of this play. Have you watched Michigan ever? Huyge(+1) gets a block on the charging safety; Omameh(+1) picks off the backside LB, who bit hard on the play action. Gallon jets straight upfield for a big gain. RPS +2.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Omameh, Gallon||RUN-:|
|O7||1||G||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read belly||Toussaint||0|
Obvious pull is obvious; not made. Backside DE is shuffling hard and Hopkins is headed backside into the scrape linebacker. Safeties are an issue but the kind of issue that's “four yards or TD?” Denard hands off and the shuffle DE stops hugging Lewan's hip; he nails Toussaint at the line.
|O7||2||G||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Speed option||Robinson||2|
|Oof. Schofield(+1) does a good job of ripping through the playside DT and heading out to the second level; at this point Molk(-2) should have an easy time of sealing this guy and Robinson shoots upfield near the goal line. He runs by the dude. Robinson sees the lane and hits it; DT ropes him down and Robinson plows into Molk to add insult to injury. If Molk makes this block touchdown is distinct possibility.|
|RUN+: Schofield||RUN-: Molk(2)|
|O5||3||G||Shotgun double stacks||1||0||4||Nickel even||Pass||Cross||Roundtree||Inc (Pen +3)|
|Nebraska tips a blitz and still sends it. Michigan picks up six but cannot get a seventh because there's literally no one to block him. Robinson backs out and lofts one to Roundtree, who is one on one with their scrub DB. It's decently accurate but a little short; scrub DB is in Roundtree's chest, making this tough. It's dropped. Michigan is bailed out by a crap flag. Refs +2. (CA, 1, protection 3/3)|
|O2||1||G||Power I||2||3||0||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||-2|
Nebraska DL just submarines on the snap, leaving four guys running at the ball. DE gets in on Hopkins well and blows up the play; Watson can't get over to block David as he shoots a gap, Toussaint tries a bounce and gets swallowed. RPS -1. What's wrong with calling an iso? Why always the slow developing stuff we suck at?
RUN-: Watson, Schofield
|O4||2||G||I-Form big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||Speed option||Robinson||3|
|No creases on the line; no one comes through as everyone does a decent job and Robinson manages to squeeze out three yards by diving forward as he nears the sideline. Unfortunately, this is run from under center, which means Robinson can't see the backside chop by Schofield that would open up a TD.|
|O1||3||G||Goal line||2||3||0||Goal line||Run||Bootleg||Robinson||1|
|Huyge(+1) gets outside the playside DE and puts him to the ground. Koger releases downfield as if he's a pass option but when Robinson turns the edge is clean and he walks in. Omameh had pulled but didn't even have to block anyone. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-10, 11 min 3rd Q. Nebraska derps a punt on the next drive.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|50||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||11|
|Linebackers are expecting the belly, which is dumb since the shuffling DE has it; they suck backside. Hypothetically this should be okay because the line is slanting and Omameh can't seal his guy but when Molk(+2) sees the linebackers moving away from the hole he holds up and seals the backside DT. Toussaint through the line. Hemingway(+2) then gets an excellent block in space as he cracks down on the safety. Stands the guy up and ends him. Toussaint(+1) darts past the corner and is ankle tackled by that dude and David.|
|RUN+: Molk(2), Hemingway(2), Toussaint, Schofield||RUN-:|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||11 + 14 Pen|
|Same deal but oddly Molk doesn't make the same seal, instead moving out to the second level only to see David hit a gap in the line; he blocks nobody. Toussaint has to bounce playside, where the safety who got cracked on the last play is flowing hard downhill so he doesn't have that happen again. He's past Roundtree before he has a chance in hell of getting a block. Toussaint(+3) bounces outside the tackle, gets the corner, and picks up a first down. Lewan(+2) got a good block that shoves a leveraging DE past the LOS and helped get that corner. DE picks up an uber dumb late hit.|
|RUN+: Toussaint(3), Lewan||RUN-:|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Hopkins||14 (Pen -3)|
|Nebraska DL slanting hard playside; Omameh(+1) escorts one gentleman past where he wants to go, creating the crease. Koger(-1) biffs by not blocking down on the end, who almost tackles Hopkins as he attacks the back of the D. Instead he flares out on a guy who is uselessly containing. Hopkins(+1) runs through the arm tackle attempt; Molk(+1) gets a block on David, and Hopkins(+1 again) heads straight upfield, plowing the last five yards carrying a defender and Jeremy Jackson, who gets his hand caught in the defender's facemask.|
|RUN+: Hopkins(2), Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Koger|
|O17||1||13||Pro set||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||Flare screen||Toussaint||-3|
|Defense looking for this; Lewan can't cut the relevant DE because he is alert for this play; Gallon(-1) whiffs as he cracks down on the playside LB. Toussaint makes a guy miss but can't even approach the LOS. (CA, 3, screen, RPS -2)|
|RUN+: Toussaint||RUN-: Gallon|
|O20||2||16||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||PA Out||Dileo||15|
|Stretch action into a rollout, which doesn't really fool anyone but there's either a bust or a huge hole in this coverage because a simple out to Dileo is wide open for YAC. Pitch and catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|O5||3||1||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||4-4 even||Run||QB power||Robinson||0|
|Schofield pulling short as M goes into the A gap. Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) blow dudes up thanks in part to a slant. Huyge(+1) adjusts his release to pop a blitzing David; he only gets a piece but robs him of his momentum and creates a pileup. Denard sees the crease just in front of Omameh and seems to decide to go into it, then inexplicably runs right into David and another LB when he had a a crease for the first and possibly a TD if arm tackles don't get him.|
|RUN+: Huyge, Omameh, Molk||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|O5||4||1||FG||1||4||0||FG block||Run||Down G||Dileo||4|
|Opens up wiiiiiide. This is not part of the offense and is not charted but +1 Hoke.|
|O1||1||G||Power I||3||2||0||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||1|
|EMLOS on the playside dives down hard, getting inside of Hopkins (not his fault) and threatening major cloggage. Toussaint(+1) reads and smoothly bounces outside without losing much momentum. Nebraska doesn't have anyone on the edge like you would expect given the EMLOS giving up the edge (bust?) and Schofield(+1) adjusts his path to get outside of the two guys trying to adjust to their new reality. He impedes them enough and Toussaint walks in.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-10, 5 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M4||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||2|
Denard refuses to pull. Here he's got Koger blocking the contain LB and will be alone with the safety. Instead he hands off. Schofield(-0.5) gets beat but it's not really his fault since the DT is slanting; still you'd like to see him get more movement on the DT. Toussaint has to cut behind, where the shuffle DE eats him.
RUN-: Robinson, Schofield(0.5)
|M6||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||3|
|The Nebraska blitz with one LB up the middle and a delayed guy. Molk(+1) blows the blitzer out of the hole as the playside guys run themselves out of the play. Schofield(-1) releases but keeps his eyes to the backside, failing to adjust to the playcall. He misses an opportunity to block David and give Toussaint a big crease. Toussaint dances around and makes a few yards before David tackles.|
|RUN+: Molk, Lewan||RUN-: Schofield|
|M9||3||5||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Rollout fly||Roundtree||Inc|
|Blitz picked up and Michigan gets the corner easily. Robinson has all day. He finds no one open and unleashes the dragon to a double covered Roundtree. Terrible decision; scramble. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-10, 2 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M14||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel press||Run||Zone read stretch||Toussaint||3|
|Safety fully in the box as Nebraska gets aggressive. Michigan runs an actual stretch. Omameh(-1) just rides his guy down the line ineffectively when it seems a cut gets him to the ground or delayed. Nebraska strings the rest of the play out and Toussaint(-1) is hesitant when one hard upfield cut may get him past that backside DT. Instead he gingerly cuts behind Lewan and runs up the back of a couple OL until the DT runs him down from behind. Good push from Molk(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) gets the yardage.|
|RUN+: Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5)||RUN-: Omameh, Toussaint|
|M17||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel even||Run||Zone read trap||Toussaint||3|
|Insert bubble complaint here. Nebraska slants under the blocking and blitzes off the corner; there isn't a prayer in the world of covering Hemingway on a bubble. Toussaint appears to screw this up by not hitting it up in the trap area, which does crease, but he'll just get nailed by David anyway if he does and he manages to dance around for three yards on a totally dead play. RPS -1.|
|M20||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Run||Speed option||Robinson||-3|
|All Nebraska players within five yards of LOS. M lets a DE go on the speed option; he forms up; Denard runs right into him. Pitch the damn ball. This is a huge gain if he does. Instead it's a loss because the QB guy hits the QB when he's still got the ball.|
|RUN+: Hemingway, Koger, Huyge||RUN-: Robinson(3)|
|M17||4||7||Punt||1||2||2||Punt return||Punt||Punt||--||Pen +15|
|Nebraska roughs the punter. You touch the plant foot in the air, automatic. Nebraska bitching about this is ludicrous.|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||14|
|Same deal as a previous play: both LBs backside, Molk(+1) comes off his release to seal the backside DT, Toussaint hits the gap and there are no LBs. This is to the RPS +1 point because Nebraska's scheme to deal with this is getting torn up. I won't minus him but Toussaint should have cut outside for even more yardage.|
|RUN+: Molk, Toussaint||RUN-:|
|M46||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Penalty||False start||Molk||-5|
|Molk messes the snap up. -1. That's okay, though, this was going to lose five anyway. At least we get to keep the down. I keed, I keed.|
|M41||1||15||Ace twins twin TE||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||8|
|Three different Nebraska LBs fill the intended gap. Uh. Cutback? Cutback. Molk(+0.5) manages to shove David a bit. He can't come from behind. Omameh(+0.5) does okay with the backside DT, but eventually does give ground and get pancaked; Huyge(+1) helped push him a bit and then comes off to get a LB. Toussaint(+2) somehow manages to squeeze through three arm tackles into the secondary, where he's tackled from behind. RPS -1. This should have died at the LOS.|
|RUN+: Molk(0.5), Omameh, Huyge(0.5), Toussaint(2)||RUN-:|
|M49||2||7||I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||3|
|Oh, my god, it works. Koger(+2) destroys the playside DE. Schofield(+1) pulls around and seals the MLB. Hopkins(+1) gets an excellent kick on the SLB. Toussaint has a hole... that a safety fills with authority and thumps him to the ground as he tries to cut past him. Stupid power.|
|RUN+: Koger(2), Schofield, Hopkins||RUN-:|
|O48||3||4||Shotgun double stacks||1||0||4||Nickel even||Pass||In||Odoms||9|
|Odoms cuts inside against man coverage; good protection; Robinson stands in and zings an accurate one. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read belly||Toussaint||0|
Nebraska switches their defense of this play, sending the playside DE underneath Lewan and a LB behind that block. They send a LB off the slot, pulling Koger(-1) upfield on that guy (I may be giving him minuses when I should RPS minus but that is unknowable; I assume that blocking the guy optioned off by the zone read is not the play design). Scrape LB hits in the hole. RPS -1.
|O39||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel press||Run||QB iso||Robinson||1|
|Opens up as Molk(+1) takes a blitzing LB and shoves him out of the play. Omameh(+1) escorts a DT well outside as well. Big hole up the middle filled by Hopkins, Robinson, David, and a safety. Hopkins(+1) gets a good block on David; Robinson cuts the wrong way into the safety and is tackled for a meh gain. He dances instead of either cutting behind or just testing his speed against the safety.|
|RUN+: Hopkins, Omameh, Molk||RUN-: Robinson(2)|
|O38||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Pass||Fly||Odoms||38|
|Michigan sets Roundtree and Hemingway up to the short side with Odoms alone in a lot of space to the other. With all day, Robinson sets up and absolutely nails Odoms in the back of the endzone for six. Double coverage my ass. (DO, 2, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 38-17, 10 min 4th Q. Nebraska fumbles ensuing kickoff.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 even||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||-3|
Backside blitz has no thought of containing Robinson; sellout to stop the run. This probably isn't going anywhere even if Toussaint hits it up but he sees the backside guy in his peripheral vision and bounces, which is a mistake. RPS has been turned off with M up 21 and less than 10 minutes left.
|O26||2||13||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||1|
Molk(-1) blocks a blitzing LB up the middle but needs to pass him off to Omameh and continue on; he does not and an unblocked dude tackles Toussaint in the hole.
|O25||3||12||Shotgun trips bunch||1||0||4||Nickel even||Pass||Rollout out||Odoms||Inc|
|Rollout gets the corner but no one is open; Robinson throws a dangerous ball into coverage to Odoms that is deflected and could be intercepted. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(42), 8 min 4th Q|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Zone read dive||Toussaint||31|
|Same blitz; Molk(+1) kicks the LB. Contain DE flares out to cover Koger as the playside DT contains the read. Big hole, useless Huyge. Omameh(+1) gets out on David; Toussaint jukes a charging safety. Molk pushes the LB past Toussaint again as he peels back, eventually banging the other safety. Grady(+1) blocks a corner into that mess and Toussaint(+3) bounces outside of it, accelerating with fantastic agility to burst past everyone for six.|
|RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Grady, Toussaint(3)||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 45-17, 7 min 4th Q. Backups on next drive; charting done.|
Hurray points. This game exemplifies why points are not independent of the defense and special teams.
I SAID HURRAY POINTS.
If you cut out runs from inside the opponent 4 you've got this in the under center category:
- 2 iso for 12 yards
- 3 power off tackle for 0 yards
The sub-trend from under center is that we can get motion against certain bad DL and Hopkins is actually a pretty good fullback; meanwhile we suck uproariously at running power. Shotgun runs averaged a hair over 5 YPC excluding Denard scrambles.
So, the usual. Except not quite the usual because Michigan left an absolute ton of yards on the field from the shotgun. But for that we'll need a—
Chart… but this is not the order of chart.
No, but does it really matter what order the charts are in?
What's next, Blog Brandon? Are you going to have maize stripes for one game a year?
Fine, fine. QB chart.
[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation. Screens are in parens.]
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||44%|
|Notre Dame '11||6||7(1)||1||6(1)||5||1||1||1||-||50%|
A trend: it is sensed. Denard again hits the mid-60s that has been his domain for much of the Big Ten season. Three of the last four games he has been at exactly 66%.
The DO was the inch-perfect Odoms throw…
…and I was tempted to bump one of three or four CA+ throws up. He had his traditional Unleash The Dragon moment when he threw to a bracketed Roundtree on third and medium when a scramble held promise and he could have thrown a more dangerous interception on his other BR. Other than that he had a pretty good day. I don't really blame him for the INT:
He's getting pressure, it's wide open, and he's got every right to expect that Lewan will get into this dude's legs, preventing him from getting his arms up. Not so much:
Too bad, because that thing was going to be a big gainer. Note that this isn't a Denard height issue since the guy deflecting the ball is seven yards away. If he threw it in such a manner as to miss him it would also miss Toussaint.
There were a couple other throws that shoulda/coulda been intercepted, so don't take this as a declaration all is right in the passing world. Just this particular item.
Overall, it was further proof that Denard is not the guy we saw in the nonconference schedule. He even added some scrambles, which the entire diaspora said "finally" to. Those were opened up by Nebraska playing man two deep. On the one linked in the previous paragraph watch the replay: man with two safeties bracketing on two deep routes, two guys out to cover Michigan players on the sidelines, four rushers, and Lavonte "Goddammit Ankle Tackle" David. They must be really dedicated to man coverage to run it against Denard.
It's just… you know… I mean…
You're going to do it. I'm going to put my fingers in my ears. LA LA LA LA LA
This does not prevent you from reading.
|Lewan||9||-||9||Finally some productive donkey hatred. Belly helps him produce; also got Toussaint the edge on a play that would have gone badly otherwise.|
|Molk||12||5||7||Adaptability helpful on a couple of Nebraska slants.|
|Koger||7||3||4||These numbers are eerily similar to last week.|
|TOTAL||61.5||25.5||71%||Numbers last week: plus 61.5, minus 28.5. Weird.|
|Robinson||9||21||-12||If refusal to pull the ball because it's not actually a read, migrate a bunch of those to Borges.|
|Toussaint||22||4||18||Dang, son. Caveat: –5 pass blocking.|
|Hopkins||7||-||7||Turned into a solid fullback quickly.|
|TOTAL||38||25||13||Copious discussion later.|
|Hemingway||4||-||4||Probably got a lot of stick in practice this week.|
|TOTAL||8||3||5||There's a weird role reversal for you.|
|Protection||33||7||82%||Toussaint 5, Lewan 2.|
|RPS||14||17||-3||Robinson execution probably pushes this way positive.|
Before we talk about Denard, yes, Toussaint really is the man and yes, he bailed Michigan out a lot. This is despite good play from the OL, Hopkins, even Hemingway—other than Watson (the assumed culprit on the busted first play from scrimmage) it is hard to find anyone who had a bad day other than a point or two from the WR corps.
Wow. Don't you think that's a little rough on a guy who averaged 4.5 YPC and had an efficient day throwing?
No. No I do not. The numbers are the numbers and there is a system. When someone makes a mistake that makes a play end after a yard, they get a minus. It's possible I'm not giving sufficient plus points when something goes right but the minuses are the minuses. Given the performance of the rest of the team Michigan should have had a dominant rush offense, not just a pretty good one. Repeated screwups on zone reads and option plays prevented this.
When I cut the clips the striking thing is just how many of them I had taken because they were crap gains when Denard refused to make blindingly obvious reads. Meanwhile, the screencap folder is full of images titled "denaaargh" and the like. Setting aside the three plays already covered in the Argh Denard Picture Pages (here's a clip of the missed Odoms triple option), these are my screenshots:
Handoff for zero yards as Hopkins flares to block the backside LB and the shuffle DE makes the play.
Hesitates and then cuts to the side of the Hopkins block where the extra player is for one yard.
Denard ran this directly into David for no gain, forcing the fake FG. Notice in both of these shots his weight is shifted back, indicating he's stopping when the hole is obvious.
Denard did not pitch this and lost three yards, setting up the punt on which Hagerup was roughed.
Actually a good gain by Toussaint as Lewan donkeyed Toussaint the corner.
And then there are the clips I took.
Aaaaaargh araaarghg aaargh. That looks like a play designed to pull.
There are two separate issues here. One is Denard making crappy cuts. Those are frustrating but that's life. I don't think you can do anything about that—at some point Denard just has to be a Football Player and cannot be coached to slash the right way. Mike Shaw. QED. I do hope someone took him aside this week and told him to go upfield whenever possible and if he runs out of bounds against OSU it had better be after he crosses the goal line. Get yards. Make touchdowns. Don't dance. Just make your decision and go:
That decisiveness has been lacking. See air: go.
The other is Denard consistently making bad reads. These come in two varieties. On the speed option he never pitches. Like… I don't think he's pitched once this year. In the zone read game he almost never pulls.
The one time he did pull the backside tackle blocked the end inside and nobody scraped, which makes me wonder if I am putting all of this on his shoulders when Michigan has abandoned the zone read in favor of making it look like the zone read but not actually giving Denard the option.
Man, I wonder if that guy who tediously claims you are incapable of being objective about Denard Robinson on half of your posts says that about this one.
That guy clearly cannot read, so probably.
[Passes are rated like so: 0 = uncatchable, 1 = very difficult, 2 = moderately difficult, 3 = routine.]
Not too much of interest save Roundtree getting his bump-and-extend technique on the money this time:
Never in the history of this guy watching football have I seen a wide receiver get flagged for interference without shoving a receiver with his hands, so that seems like a a safe way to eliminate the cornerback and get a reception without risking a flag. He just needs to judge the ball a little better. We saw him try it against Iowa on a ball that was perfectly thrown; the ball escaped his fingertips because of his delay.
Anyway, "1" reception awarded.
Toussaint… so silky.
Yes. He was a major reason Denard's consistent lack of pulls did not destroy the offense. Here he misses a hole but his Hart-like ability to weave in traffic still gets him nine:
I'm not even kidding anymore. That run is full on Hart déjà vu. He is quality.
There is a significant caveat. Vincent Smith is the third down back for a reason.
Denard didn't "panic," he is used to that linebacker getting sliced to the ground and knows if he gets outside the tackle he has seven rushers and man coverage behind it. Toussaint picked up all of the actual pass-rush minuses (Lewan's came when he did not cut block the eventual interceptor on the screen).
Hemingway had a bounce back, didn't he?
Yes. Difference between this:
And last week makes me wonder if Hemingway spent practice getting chewed out. Also on this play: check the subtle adjustment Molk makes. When he sees that both linebackers have headed backside he stops releasing into the second level and seals the DT slanting past Omameh, giving Toussaint the crease. He did this on another successful run that probably should have been a pull. Smart.
The previous section was not really about Hemingway.
On a day where virtually everyone played well Toussaint was first among equals, consistently making more yards than the plays had set up for him. The offensive line was all but perfect in pass protection and had a solid day against the Nebraska DL.
Denard's reads on the read option and the plain ol' option, or Borges calling a bunch of plays that look like the read option but actually aren't. It's not like they were saving Denard—he had 23 carries.
What does it mean for the Game?
With Andrew Sweat questionable, it's looking like the Ryan Shazier show at the critical OLB slot that will be scraping over to contain Denard on zone read type items. This is a good matchup for OSU unless it's really not. "Really not" will consist of Borges getting the freshman running very fast in the wrong direction with various trickery. If he's just allowed to hang out on the edge, Denard won't be able to keep at all and it'll be more of the same this week except OSU's defensive line will be better than the mediocre Nebraska outfit.
OSU's safeties are crap tacklers and mediocre players so getting past that linebacker level may produce the big plays that have not been around on the ground for Denard so far this year. Just have to do it. I wonder if they'll try to stretch Hankins, who's kind of a tub, and hope Shazier's run fits are iffy.
As far as passing goes, Denard's level has been established. When not pressured and allowed to set his feet he is pretty accurate; he'll still throw a ball or two in a dangerously inaccurate place. He will still unleash the dragon once or twice. He'll be able to move the chains, I think, but expect a lot of rollouts away from Simon if they line him up over Huyge.
I think it'll be a frustrating struggle, but I also think this is not a department in which I can be particularly objective given the frustrating struggles past.
11/19/2011 – Michigan 45, Nebraska 17 – 9-2, 5-2 Big Ten
In the aftermath of Saturday's flamethrower job, everyone from the coaches down to emailers is saying that felt like Michigan, usually with emphasis. Picking one at random:
Great game Saturday - I think it was at least partially Nebraska-fueled, but man that FELT like Michigan.
Quick, it's any game from 1998 to 2007 against a spread offense or mobile quarterback. How do you feel? Good? Bad? Have you stopped reading this column to shiver in a corner at the idea of Carlyle Holiday? Troy Smith? Donovan McNabb? Armanti Horror Edwards?
Yes, you have. For the Ohio State fans who persist in reading this column because it's willing to send Michigan fans into catatonic seizures, Michigan fans felt pretty damn bad about going up against mobile quarterbacks during the Carr era. They also felt this during the Rodriguez era but it was a lot harder to parse out a specific mobile-quarterback-related fear when Indiana's putting up more than 30 every year.
Quick! It's any game in which Michigan has an 18 point lead against a mid-level Big Ten team from 1998 to 2007. Nevermind. You're still having a seizure.
Quick! It's a team with Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, Steve Hutchinson, Mo Williams, and Jeff Backus. How many yards per carry do they average?
No, seriously. I'm asking this one. How many yards per carry did the Orange-Bowl-winning, Tom-Brady-featuring, three-NFL-OL-including-a-hall-of-fame-guard-deploying 1999 Michigan Wolverines average?
Seriously. Michigan finished 79th in rushing offense, 24th in passing offense, and ran more than they passed. Tom Brady—Tom Brady!—averaged 7.2 YPA. In the Orange Bowl they fell behind 14-0 because they kept running their awful run offense at Alabama's #2 run defense. They'd finish with 23 carries for 27 yards.
Quick! Fourth and four from the Ohio State 34 up two with three minutes left. What does Brady Hoke do?
I was wrong. I was mad when Michigan hired Brady Hoke because I though it was a capitulation, that it was Michigan returning to the things that made it such a frustrating team to root for once Lloyd Carr stopped having the best defense in the universe.
Carr coached his team like they had an awesome run offense and an awesome defense no matter the facts on the ground, which led to the most frustrating stat anyone's ever compiled. From Vijay Ramanujan's article in your copy of HTTV 2007:
Michigan's fourth quarter woes from 2000 to 2005 … have been the thing holding it back from truly elite status the last several years. Alarmingly, Michigan entered 18 games over that period of time with a lead smaller than 10 points and went 8-10 in those games. They were under .500 when entering the fourth with a small lead! When tied or facing a similarly small deficit, Michigan was 6-1. In all games in which Michigan trailed by any margin they were 8-8.
That is the kind of thing that gets you pawing at the air in your sleep, moaning "no… not again." It's incontrovertible evidence of terrible game management. Hiring Hoke felt like returning to that, like returning to debates about "scoring offenses" and looking at every mobile quarterback on the schedule like it was a loss waiting to happen.
This is not the case. It turns out as I was sitting in the stands burning up inside as Rocky Harvey scatbacked Illinois to victory or Michigan punted itself into oblivion against OSU, Brady Hoke was standing on a sideline burning up inside, whether it was at Michigan Stadium or somewhere in the MAC. Hoke does not want to lead by 17. He wants to lead by 21, dammit. If anything, the playcalling this year has been too aggressive what with the constant unleashing of the dragon.
Al Borges wears a t-shirt with this on it every Casual Friday
That made me mad in the immediate aftermath, but what happens when you put a Michigan program together and… like… use it? What happens when you're Lloyd Carr without the crippling fear of something going wrong? What happens when you go from weak-tight to loose-aggressive?
For one, you leave the desiccated corpses of Nebraska strewn around you as you leave the field. Afterwards, Bo Pelini sits in his locker room shaking like Don Cheadle in "Hotel Rwanda." When you win games, you win games comfortably. No one gets nervous in the fourth quarter of San Diego State. The offense is pretty much the offense; when its horns get pulled in it's because you're on your own four up 21 and that's the move. Sometimes you do the audacious thing in the important game, not the tomato can before the important game. Mobile quarterbacks don't automatically rack up a billion yards. And when the right move doesn't work out and someone asks you about it, you say "that's how it's going to be."
So when people say this "feels like Michigan," I agree and disagree. In the immediate post-hire column featuring Will Smith robots I said "to me, getting back to being Michigan means going 9-3 and losing to Jim Tressel." Since 1993, Michigan has lost at least three games every year save '97, '99 and '06; since Jim Tressel's arrival Michigan has beaten Ohio State once.
If this feels like getting back to Michigan, it's the Michigan of your dreams, the Michigan you left back in Peoria when you shipped to Saigon. You've got one good picture of her and she's that pretty every day in an ugly place.
"This Is Michigan" is about the idea, not the reality—at least not a reality from the last 20 years. So far. Days like Saturday inch us closer to the picture in our heads.
There were enough videos to warrant a VOAV, which was posted yesterday. This from Boyz in the Pahokee is worth a repost, though:
Via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer, our Nebraska photoset:
As always, the above photos are Creative Commons licensed.
I'm just sayin'.
via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer
BRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. I'm tempted to hand this to Lavonte David for 17 tackles, 14 of them solo, 2 of them Y U SO FAST ankle-grabs on a Denard Robinson one step from engaging turbo. But he plays for Nebraska and we only talk about players who play for Michigan.
If we can't give it to David, it's again Fitzgerald Toussaint's to have and hold. He's got his own bullet below explaining why. Runners up: Mike Martin, Denard Robinson, and Jordan Kovacs.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue, Nebraska)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).
Fitzkreig continues. 138 yards on 29 carries and three monster games in the last four. The exception was a 16-carry, 58-yard performance against Iowa when many of his attempts were run from under center.
As a result, I saw Toussaint compared to the following tailbacks over the weekend: Mike Hart (this was me but not just me), Tim Biakabutuka, and Chris Perry. Except fast! I went with Hart because the way Toussaint dodges guys in a phonebooth is reminiscent of #20 and his cuts in narrow areas are what makes the zone game work. Toussaint doesn't have Hart's pile-pushing power but he compensates with Except Fast! He's also been very secure with the ball. (Knock on wood.) I don't recall any fumbles from him this year; that's pretty good for 143 carries.
It took longer than everyone wanted, but I declare him broken out. He needs 191 yards against OSU and in the bowl to crack 1000 for the season; I bet he gets that and enters next year in the conversation for best back in the league. I'll have to go back and check how Northwestern held him to 25 yards on 14 carries. That's nuts.
Weekly Borgeswatch. It's to the point where the scattered –1 yard power plays from the I don't even bother me anymore. They're like old friends reminding me of the spread's superiority for this personnel and how our offensive coordinator has also come to this conclusion, albeit grudgingly.
I thought this was another strong game from Borges. He debuted a pro set that saw Michigan bust a couple of big gains; the flare screen got blown up the second time he went to it but it was effective overall. Outside of that he largely let the offense do what it was recruited to do: run zone from the gun. It worked to the tune of 238 yards.
While the averages for Denard (4.4 YPC) and Fitz(4.8) aren't electric a lot of that is due to Michigan's struggles near the goal line. Those two had eight carries from within the Nebraska seven on which they gained 7 yards total; carries outside of goal-to-go situations averaged 5.3 between the two main weapons. Without Lavonte David who knows what they would have been.
Unfortunately, goal to go is kind of important. Those struggles combine with last week's goal line stand by Illinois* to create the closest thing to a worry possible coming off a 45-17 win. Michigan got lucky on a dubious pass interference call and had to resort to a fake field goal to punch in short touchdowns; on both short yardage TDs Michigan had to bounce to the sideline. Going up the middle was futile.
I wonder why Michigan has never tried to replicate** the virtually unstoppable Gator Heavy package that was Florida's go-to short yardage package during the Tebow era. This was a complaint I had during the RR years, too. I like the idea of giving the D seven gaps to defend and providing Denard two lead blockers that can attack any of them, plus a tailback.
*[I guess you could toss in Iowa's successful goal line stand but that was executed in adverse conditions.]
**[Michigan did briefly feature a double H-back set in 2009 that was kind of like Gator Heavy but they never used the full-on heavy. They always had two WRs.]
Weekly Denardwatch. There were a couple of scary throws I'll have to see on replay to determine whether they were bad ideas or fit in narrow windows—guessing the former—but 61% completions and 10 YPA are pretty good. Yeah, a big chunk of those was a chuck-and-pray to Roundtree but at least that wasn't into double coverage. The safety couldn't get over in time. Roundtree also had a step on Dennard… it wasn't in the same class some of the ND armpunts were. Meanwhile, the Odoms touchdown gets an "I be like dang."
I thought the INT was fluky; some people on the twitters disagreed. I'm not saying the batted ball was fluky, but the dude knocking it to himself and catching it… eh… doesn't happen so often. That's more on the playcall than Denard. Asking a short guy to float it over a tall guy has resulted in two interceptions this year that I'm not sure Denard can do much about other than be six inches taller or eat the ball on a screen that seems open.
There was progress.
The above was part of that. When Denard pulled up to throw to a short dude streaking across the endzone my Michigan rolodex flipped to the first interception he threw against MSU last year, where he had the exact same route open and chucked it well behind his guy.
I'm guessing Denard's DSR is in the mid-60s range he seems to have established as his Big Ten baseline. That's a step up from the days when he was struggling to complete anything against the Eastern Michigans of the world. Transition costs here seem mostly paid. Now it's about getting him that extra increment.
The rumors are not true. Do not listen to Heiko: I had nothing to do with the lack of power in Michigan Stadium. I did not make a commando raid Friday night after seeing the image of Pop Evil in the stadium and Do What Had To Be Done. I have an alibi—I was at the hockey game—and if I had done it I would have taken out the north scoreboard, where Special K's speakers are.
Way to go, whoever you are. Excellent work by random student who I assume is an engineer to start counting down the playclock after M took a false start penalty near the goal line in the first. Note that Hoke stepped forth to take blame for the penalty:
"That's on me," he said. "I should have called timeout. For me to not do that, that's bad coaching."
Second Zookian clock management incident. Coaches are always too conservative with their last timeout and this tendency bit Michigan after they ran a couple times at the end of the first half. After Robinson biffed by trying to get to the sideline instead of reading the block Toussaint had made on the closest defender, the clock burned 30 seconds before the third down snap.
I know you want to have that timeout for a field goal attempt but in a situation like this you know the clock is going to run and you're not sure that will be the case down the road. A spike is a quality option with five seconds left; not so much with 48.
This is a nit. I'm going to name my firstborn "Hoke Gametheory."
Helmet to ball. Yes, people who keep telling me about fumbles, the last few have been Michigan's doing. Not so much the ones where people just drop the ball. Terrence Robinson may have just earned a fifth year—it looks like Michigan will have room for him even if they take 28.
Fluck. Michigan's still recovering an inordinate number of the fumbles caused. No, this is not coachable.
I don't always talk about game theory*, but when I do I prefer it to be about going up 17 or 21. Last week I was totally cool with Michigan running a QB draw with Gardner on third and goal from the ten to go up 17; I was similarly cool with the field goal team running out for a chip shot on the fourth and one.
It's a similar situation: up 14 about halfway through the third quarter against a team that's struggling to move the ball. Getting that third score is all but game over. That said, Hoke made it clear in the postgame presser that they had scouted that particular situation and got the look they wanted:
Can you talk about picking the spot to fake the field goal? “We had put it in. It’s the one Penn State used against us in ’95? I think it was ’95 up there. [We] wanted it on the right hash, [and] they gave us the look that we wanted. Even if we had kicked the field goal, Drew Dileo -- having him as a holder, he’s such a smart football kid. He did a tremendous job with it. You got it, you might as well use it.”
Until he runs a fake field goal against the same team he ran a famous fake field goal the year previous—and takes a timeout before doing so—it's all good.
Less than a season into the Hoke regime it's clear his natural inclination is to be aggressive in close situations. That should pay off down the road—it hasn't so much this year because when Michigan wins they win by a lot.
BCS watch. Saturday night's events all but guarantee Michigan a spot if they take care of business on Saturday. They're now ahead of the Big 12 runner-up, which will either be a three-loss Oklahoma or an Oklahoma State team coming off back-to-back losses, one of them to Iowa State. Pecking order:
- Houston (auto)
- Big 12 runner up
- ACC runner up
You can flip Stanford and Michigan if you like. There are no scenarios that see a 10-2 Michigan left out; even if the SEC can put a third team in because of an all SEC West title game, Michigan is an easy pick over a 10-2 Arkansas. To be safe you're rooting for Okie State in Bedlam.
Now, about getting to 10-2…
[UPDATE: a reader informs me that this is misunderstanding of the way three teams get into the BCS from a single conference. #1 and #2 have to not win the conference, so LSU would have to lose to Georgia and Alabama and LSU would still have to be 1-2. That is… not impossible, actually.]
Inside the Box Score has cat photos and commentary:
In the first half, with us up 10-7, Denard threw an INT on a screen pass. I’m starting to think he’s too short to throw middle screens. Anyway, the defense responded with a Kovacs TFL, a Van Bergen pass deflection, and Demens and Martin tackling a WR on a screen for minimal yardage. It wasn’t quite the three-play sequence that bursted impetus against Illinois, but it reminded me of that. Neb had to settle for a 51 yard FG. Our defense basically said, we’ve got our O’s back.
The announcers thought Kovacs was acting a little when injured to slow down Neb’s hurry up offense. For the record, he stayed out for the duration of that series, so I don’t think he was faking. Screw you Urban Paschman for suggesting such a thing.
Are we really at the point where a team that has two injuries in a game gets accused of slowing the game down on purpose? This wasn't the Michigan State defense's fainting couch act against Iowa.
When I think of NU, I think of Northwestern. Since they have B1G seniority over Nebraska, they should get the NU acronym. That leaves either UNL or Neb for Nebraska.
Blog policy is to bestow "NU" on the winner of the NU-NU game. When not in possession of "NU," Northwestern shall be "NW" and Nebraska "UNL." It is my hope this eventually spawns a rivalry trophy: large block N and U letters that the winning team paints their colors after a victory.
Hoke For Tomorrow on various people who had good days:
Denard Robinson - The best game in a long time for our leader and best. Denard looked completely in control of the offense. He was patient, waiting for plays to develop before zinging a TD pass to Gallon or cutting behind his blockers for a TD on the ground. Best of all, Denard finally hit a receiver perfectly on an endzone bomb. He made some more questionable reads on the read option, but overall it was a great performance.
If you hit up Blue Seoul's OSU/Nebraska scouting report the Cornhuskers' long touchdown probably looked familiar:
So there you go: the coaches don't read the blog.
Unwashed blog masses. Maize and Go Blue has a newspapery recap. Schadenfreude can be had at Corn Nation's game thread and post-game thread. TTB runs down the recruiting visitors. MNBN has a wrap up. BWS talks about Rich Rodriguez. I only talk about coaches who coach for Michigan. M&GB gives thanks. So does the HSR. MGoFootball bullets.
Want a little more perspective? In its 13 games last year, Michigan gave up 458 points. Through 11 this season, they've surrendered 172. In other words, to equal the punchline that was 2010, Michigan would have to give up 144 points -- in EACH of its remaining two games (OSU and the bowl).
I am annoyed that this is followed by a reference to the scoring offense as if the defense doesn't have anything to do with putting said offense in a position to succeed. The offense has dropped off a bit, and criticisms leveled at Borges after MSU and Iowa are still valid.
Meanwhile, Touch The Banner officially enters haterz territory:
Obligatory discussion of J.T. Floyd. Nebraska's one huge play was a 54-yard touchdown bomb to Brandon Kinnie, who torched Floyd so badly that all Floyd could do was grab onto Kinnie and hope for a pass interference flag. Prior to that play, Kinnie had 19 catches for 192 yards and 0 touchdowns on the season.
This is true. Also true: that was the first 50 yard play Michigan has given up all season and the first time Floyd has been burned deep on a pass, complete or not, all year. Even Woodson got burned by Boston that one time. JT Floyd is a good corner.
WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan's bid for an at-large BCS bid is still alive as the Wolverines begin preparation for Ohio State. We're told that's a rivalry. What Michigan proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the defense is legit. Nebraska managed just 11 first downs and 254 total yards on the day, and while that's partly a function of the turnovers, it's also a function of Michigan's performance; the Wolverines forced 10 4th downs on 13 opportunities.
And it was, if not exactly the kind of vintage "This is Michigan" mashing Brady Hoke invoked throughout the offseason, at least as close as this particular team has come to its own platonic ideal. Denard Robinson took every significant snap at quarterback, carried 23 times, looked sharp as a passer and accounted for four touchdowns. Tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint went over 100 yards on the ground for the third time in the last four games, adding a pair of scores of his own. The offense as a whole held the ball for almost 42 minutes. The defense held Nebraska to a season-low in total yards and matched a season low in points. The 'Huskers didn't convert a third down until the end of the third quarter.
In a matchup of apparent equals, the only aspect of the game Nebraska "won" — or came close to winning — was average yards per punt. And that doesn't include the punt Michigan blocked.
Media, conventional. My man Nick Baumgardner on the lopsided time of possession:
One of the residual effects of Michigan's stellar defensive day was a lopsided time of possession battle.
The Wolverines held the ball for 41:13 while Nebraska had possession for just 18:47.
"Residual effects." My man.
Jerry Palm has placed us back in his BCS predictions in an odd place:
New Orleans, La.
SEC vs. at-large
8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
|Comment: With both SEC teams in the championship game, the Sugar Bowl will need a replacement and Michigan will be very attractive. It ends up taking an undefeated Houston over the Big East champion.|
Palm has the LSU-Bama rematch as the title game, which opens up a weird slot for M. I'd rather play a running team than Case Keenum. BONUS WEIRDNESS: Palm puts Penn State in the Hawaii Bowl in place of someone else who can't fill a commitment. No idea why he thinks the #3-5 Big Ten team isn't locked into an actual Big Ten bowl. SIDE NOTE: Adding Nebraska makes the Big Ten's bowl matchups far more palatable.
This wasn't the final piece of evidence, but it certainly was the most compelling. What happened Saturday in Michigan Stadium is what used to happen. A big, physical foe rolled into town and ran smack into a wall of pads. The Wolverines' 45-17 rout of the Cornhuskers was their best game of the year, by far, and the loudest statement of the Brady Hoke era, by far.
As the final minutes ticked away, the crowd began an old-new chant. "Beat Ohio!" cascaded from the student section, in homage to Hoke, whose personal homage to the rivalry is to refer to the Buckeyes simply as "Ohio."
Beat Ohio? Uh, that's a good idea. After seven straight losses in the rivalry, Michigan (9-2) has a great chance to do it, with Ohio State (6-5) in complete disarray.
I quote him because he's the only columnist in a 500 mile radius who doesn't compulsively hit enter after each mark of punctuation. Also he had cake.
The defensive improvement is perhaps the most shocking element of Michigan's renaissance. The Wolverines did not sign a bunch of five-star freshmen who raised the talent level. They have succeeded largely with the same players who finished 2010 ranked 110th in the nation in total defense (450.8 yards per game) and 108th in the nation in scoring defense (35.2 points per game). We knew coordinator Greg Mattison could coach, but we didn't know he could work miracles. Through 11 games, the 2011 Wolverines have allowed 312.6 yards per game and 15.6 points per game. "Fundamentally and technically, they're playing what they're coached to do, and they're playing together," Hoke said of his defense. "It's been fun to watch."