Jordan Kovacs and Kenny Demens
Kovacs: “Coach Hoke let me know early in the week that I’d be wearing No. 11. He asked me how I felt about it, and of course I felt it was a huge honor. I’ve worn 32 for quite some time. I think I’ll always be 32, but I think it’s a great opportunity to recognize our legends. That’s the approach I have. I did a little research on the Wisterts and I actually had the opportunity to meet Albert yesterday, and he said that when he was first given 11, he was just so humbled and so excited, and it was a huge honor for him. He said he prayed before every game that he put it on that he’d be worthy enough to wear it, so that’s kind of my approach. It’s a huge honor and I just hope I’m worthy enough to wear it.”
Kenny, were you 100% assigned to Colter on those last few plays, and what was it like to be able to make that play at the end?
Demens: “Well I just have my reads. The coaches, they give us bullets to come out with and to make that play, I just felt so proud of myself, but not for me, but for my teammates. The defense, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to, and just to come up and make a play and to finish strong how we did, it means a lot.”
“All right, let me ask [you] a question. Who started writing the article before the game was over?”
[Multiple hands are raised.]
“Yeah. Exactly ... I should have picked you out.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot that we didn’t do well, but we did do well when you win the football game. I thought it was two teams that played hard. I have so much respect for Pat and how he runs his program and how his guys come to work every day and how they come to play. We knew it would be a dog fight. We missed way too many tackles. You’ve got to give Kain Colter some of that respect, because he made us miss him. We have to do a better job there. I think offensively, moving the ball pretty consistently. Still need to rush for more yards from the backfield, which means we still have to continue to improve up front. How we’re blocking the line of scrimmage. We missed a couple cuts, but Devin did a tremendous job really managing everything, staying into the game, extending some things, and then his athleticism obviously helped in some of the first downs -- we were seven of 10. That’s all I have to say.”
Is that the kind of game where you just say you find a way to win and build off that?
“Well, yeah. There was a lot to build from and a lot to learn from. Our seniors play their last game at Michigan Stadium next week. That’s significant and if we want to send them out the right way, we have to play better. That always starts with the coaching side of it. That has to be paramount for us.”
Can you talk about the concentration on Roundtree’s catch and then Demens’s tackles to win the game in overtime?
“Yeah, and Roy really I think on a couple balls had really great focus and great intensity in what he was doing. The last tackle there, I think number one I like the call that Greg made because it was one where we may have talked them into running the football because of some of the space inside. And then Kenny just did a nice job of really working inside out to the ball, where maybe a little earlier we were maybe getting too far ahead of it.”
How much do you believe that your team’s experience in tight games in the past helped today?
“Yeah … I think that’s a great question. I think when you look at them on the sideline and you communicate with them and talk to them, never a doubt that they weren’t going to win the football game in my opinion. I think all that helps. I think experiencing anything in life helps you get through it the next time. I think the same thing [applies] in the game of football.”
What did Devin improve between game 1 and game 2?
“I don’t know if I could do that right now. I think he managed the game well. I thought he had two throws that probably weren’t the best throws. Did a nice job getting rid of the ball in the end zone. He made some good decisions.”
How differently do you run your offense with Devin in there? What strengths do you try to use?
“I think the biggest thing is there’s a little more two-back. There’s a little more vertical run, there’s a little more power play to some degree, lead play, iso … From that standpoint, there’s still the zone read and all those things from the gun, too.”
What were they doing on third down to have so much success, and how did you come up with stops late in the game?
“Yeah. What were they doing? I think they converted and they were a little more accurate in some of their throws on their seven routes -- smash routes. We needed to do a little better job in the seam part of our defense when they were throwing it. And I think he scrambled at times, and either we missed a tackle, which we did a couple times on a scramble, or we didn’t force the ball enough as far as when you talk about your lanes and compressing the pocket from the outside to the inside.”
Resolve of your team?
“These kids have been great. It didn’t surprise me. It really didn’t surprise me that -- there were 18 seconds left when they punted the ball or something like that. Dan Ferrigno did a nice job all week because they would rugby punt if you want to call it that -- it wasn’t a full on rugby -- but lining up Gallon where he lined him up, because that’s where, if you charted a year of punts, that’s where they were going if they rugby punted, and it was perfect. It got us great field position and got us the throw.”
Take us through Devin’s pass to Roundtree. Was that his first read? Second read? What was he looking at?
“Well I really can’t describe it at all for you, but we knew we had to get to a certain point on the field. We knew from the 35, 38 in is where we wanted to kick the field goal, tie it up. And it just so happened that the post part of the route, the combination was where we needed to hit it, and Devin threw it well, and Roy made a football play.”
If Devin somehow could not have continued in the game, would Denard have played?
“Maybe. He was dressed, right?”
What has Roy done to step up?
“I think Roy’s been like that. Roy’s always been focused. Prepares well and gets himself ready for a game.”
Have you seen a change in him the past two weeks?
“No, not really.”
You said you missed a lot of tackles, but from a schematic standpoint, how were you trying to stop Northwestern?
“Well scheme-wise was really good. I thought Greg and the defensive staff -- you’ll go back and look and [say], ‘Maybe I should have run this more,’ or whatever it might be, but I thought scheme-wise, especially some of the things we were doing -- I’m not going to explain them, obviously -- it was very effective. It kind of got them into one formation. When you can get someone into one formation or two formations, then you don’t have all the other problems.”
Just to follow up on Denard --
“Day to day.”
He didn’t do much in warmups.
“Day to day.”
If you were in our shoes, wouldn’t you have started writing the story before the game ended?
“No. Because of those kids. No way. My wife just asked me that on the way in. ‘Did you know you were going to win?’ I said 'yes.'”
They had a lot of success running outside --
“Perimeter of the defense. Need to play better on the perimeter of the defense. Need to get off blocks better.”
Were you surprised they went away from that late?
“No, because I think he got beat up a little bit there for a minute. Siemian’s a very good quarterback, but he’s not the same quarterback. Then when he came back, they went to their bread and butter on the fourth down play. Tried to go option again.”
Talk about how hard Fitz ran and what the offensive line needs to do to help him?
“We have to finish on blocks better combination-wise, to answer the second part first because that one I can remember. I really thought they were getting some movement. Probably not as much as we would like, because it never is, and I did think he ran extremely hard. You could hear football on the field.”
Would you say this win keeps your Big Ten title hopes alive?
“Well. We can’t worry about what other people do. We have to worry about what we do. We got Iowa.”
When Denard is healthy enough to come back, what do you do with the quarterback situation?
“I think that’s something we’ll figure out.”
Faith in Brendan Gibbons to make that kick and the job Drew Dileo did to pick that ball off the ground?
“Well, that combination’s a pretty good combination. You know, they work so much together because we kick every day, but they’re two -- and don’t tell Gibbons I ever said this -- two football players.”
Devin was in a lot of pressure situations. What did you see out of him in terms of commanding the huddle?
“Well he’s realy done a nice job and always has. I thought the way he’s gone about his business, the maturity and the growth has been, I guess, expected.”
Why can't Michigan run the ball without Denard? As with anything in football, the answer is "it's complicated" but against Nebraska the pendulum swung decisively towards an inability to block anything.
There were two primary ways in which things went unblocked, one of which we'll cover in two posts.
Ain't Nobody Trying To Block Important People
The first were either busts, play design errors, or combo blocking errors that left totally unblocked linebackers in the hole. A here's a third-quarter iso on the penalty fiesta drive that resulted in a field goal:
The highlighted guy is Nebraska's WLB. No one even tries to block him.
Unsurprisingly, this doesn't go well.
I'm not sure who this is on. I don't get the blocking. If Mealer releases directly downfield in the second frame in an attempt to get that WLB he does not have much of an angle and probably doesn't do much. I would expect Michigan to double that DT, leave Mealer behind on the DT, and then have Omameh pop off.
That doesn't happen. Did someone screw up? Is the play design bad? Is it Schofield moving to the second level poorly? Things are so confused I don't know.
If this was a one time thing you could chalk it up to a guy busting. It wasn't.
[AFTER THE JUMP: more unblocked guys! Like, so many you'll freak! They're coming out of holes in the ground like the Viet Cong!]
10/27/2012 – Michigan 9, Nebraska 23 – 5-3, 3-1 Big Ten
Well, it finally happened.
Pundits and opponent fans have been predicting the demise of Denard Robinson ever since he picked up that snap against Western Michigan, but the series of bumps and bruises that frightened Michigan fans every third game had never really cost Michigan anything. In 2010, Tate Forcier came off the bench to lead Michigan to a frenetic victory over Illinois and nearly did the same against Iowa. Last year, Devin Gardner shepherded Michigan through the second half of the Illinois game. When Denard's boo-boos knocked him out for halves instead of plays, Michigan got through just fine.
They were always tempting fate, though, and upped their bet that the football gods' vast malevolence was laser-focused on the Iowa running back situation by moving Devin Gardner to wide receiver in the fall. That seemed like a risk worth taking.
Unfortunately, the containment field is down.
yes, it's true. this man has no elbow.
First it leaked from the Iowa running backs to their offensive line, which suffered two season-ending injuries minutes apart last week. This week, the Big Ten set to murdering football in the morning and afternoon, then this happened to Marcus Lattimore's knee:
By the time Friday night rolled around the ambient malevolence levels in college football were so high that Notre Dame won a marquee matchup to enter the national championship shortlist.
So of course Denard would be knocked out of a potentially fun, definitely important game by falling harmlessly to the turf, thus turning the rest of it into a death-march trudge. AIRBHG is no longer contained. The forces of wheeeee that (mostly) preserved Denard through three years of running at top speed into Manti Te'o have been overrun by the forces of grinding doom football. Now we're all boned. Hail Saban.
And so it came to pass that words never before spoken—words so impossible CFL teams who don't even think it's weird they're all named "Roughriders" cock an eyebrow at their assemblage—came to pass.
Tate Forcier isn't walking through that door.
I don't know, man. I felt ill for most of the second half but it's not like anyone is at fault other than everyone. I mean, if RR doesn't implode or Forcier is a normal person who goes to classes or Michigan doesn't hire Hoke three weeks before signing day, maybe the guy backing up Robinson has a prayer of moving the ball forward. Maybe the wide receiving corps is not so awful that it must include Devin Gardner.
In the aftermath you've got the columns declaring Gardner's move to WR a stupid idea, but I haven't seen anyone reference the column questioning it they wrote before last weekend. It's easy to be a backseat driver after whatever that was. Meanwhile, Gardner is this crappy receiving corps' #2 WR, #1 if you discount Jeremy Gallon's 150-some yards on screens.
Gardner's not good. The alternative is throwing more than four balls in the first half to Jeremy Jackson. They've needed their crappy, crappy receiver who is also a quarterback even if he is dropping a 50-yard pass in most games. Whether Gardner is worth an extra three scores against Nebraska is… debatable. His performances to date suggest he is not.
Michigan was always rolling the dice on Denard's health, and that was the move to make. Didn't work. That's life as a rickety program that's endured two coaching transitions in three years—when you have to go to the bench you get tumbleweeds.
We're now entering the period of time when most program shortcomings can be blamed on Rich Rodriguez's recruiting, which is only a slight transition from the period of time when most program shortcomings could be blamed on Lloyd Carr's recruiting fade and represents very little improvement when the one completely awesome guy at the most important position is removed from the equation. It turns out that Michigan 2012 minus Denard Robinson is pretty much Michigan 2008, and that the only thing saving us from the abyss was Denard staring down a decision to stay or go and not pulling the Mallett.
He stayed, but in the game that probably decided if he would be a champion or not he watched from the sideline because his elbow hit the turf the wrong way. Malevolence is out of control these days.
Injury item. So the thing is this:
It's the same thing that knocked him out briefly against Illinois.
"He's got that nerve (injury), he hits it the wrong way (or) gets hit (and it's hard)," Hoke said. "The difference (today) was he didn't come back in. But, he gets better as the game goes on." …
Asked whether or not he was concerned Robinson wouldn't be available next week, Hoke replied "No." He also said the normal rehabilitation process for this type of injury is mainly rest and time.
He'll probably be fine by Tuesday and start against Gophers. Every time his elbow brushes up against the softest kitten in Minnesota the collective intake of breath will be audible. Sounds fun, and by "fun" I mean "paralyzing."
Frank Clark is also expected to be back next week, which is good because Mario Ojemudia limped off the field Saturday and was spotted in a boot today. He's probably sprained his ankle and won't be available.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Craig Roh. Beastmode sack, generally unblockable, got a number of those stat things for himself instead of everyone else, as he usually does.
Honorable mention. Quinton Washington, Desmond Morgan, Kenny Demens.
Epic Double Point standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Drew Dileo (Michigan State), Craig Roh(Nebraska).
We won time of possession! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Time of possession is a garbage stat.
That said, there is a clear narrative of decline in the defensive performance. Nebraska's first eight drives gained a total of 148 yards. Their last four gained 178. It's not easy going out there after a blizzard of three-and-outs. This would be better measured by plays instead of TOP.
BLAME BLAME BLAME BLAME. Why are we here at QB? LET'S BLAME PEOPLE WOO
- Rodriguez's horrible recruiting at the skill positions: 40%. If Michigan has a decent deep threat at WR, Gardner is playing QB and Michigan may salvage that game. Instead, RR recruited receivers are… 2011: nobody. 2010: Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Jerald Robinson, DJ Williamson. 2009: Je'Ron Stokes. The only one of those guys to see the field is Jackson, and he's essentially a skinny tight end. That 2011 class may not be RR's fault, because there were…
- Unavoidable transition costs: 10%. RR's WR recruiting would look slightly better if Sammy Watkins was included in that group, but once he got fired Watkins was gone.
- Darryl Stonum's inability to just do what the court tells him to: 10%. Relevant to previous two bullets: we're desperate for a guy who has three catches for Baylor. Baylor's offense is pretty good, but he can't even get on the field.
- The Process: 20%. Maybe Michigan gets a guy more ready to play if they're not scrambling with three weeks left. Maybe Michigan recruits one dang WR in 2011.
- Hoke not taking a quarterback last year: 10%. Always take one every year. If Michigan has another freshman around maybe he's better than Bellomy.
- Hoke inexplicably passing on Devin Lucien: 10%. Lucien has 10 catches as a sophomore for 6-2 UCLA and their #12 offense. He still wanted to commit to Michigan after the transition, and Michigan said no by saying they wanted him to play DB.
There. It has been blamed. Seriously, though, the Lucien thing drives me nuts.
I'm not there. As soon as Denard went out and it became clear that Bellomy was light years away from readiness I was pretty much like whatever. There's not much you can do when you already can't run without your QB and the guy you put in is overwhelmed and throwing moonballs.
Before that happened, Michigan was moving the ball decently and poised to score to go up 10-7. That's okay I guess—but we're also talking about a team that is 90th in the country in run defense, so…
I saw this: after Nebraska got torn up by Hundley and Miller it seemed clear they went back to the drawing board and were going to play it safe. When Michigan put 4 WRs on the field, Nebraska responded with two high safeties and 5.5 guys in the box. Michigan ran the ball and got five, six, seven yards virtually every time. That's stealing.
I mean, when I was learning about the spread some years back I watched the videos Rodriguez put out about his offense. When he talked about making a run/pass decision based on the safeties, his general rule was one deep safety was a run, cover zero was pass. The idea that someone would maintain two high safeties against his offense never even crossed his mind. Nebraska was doing it, and Michigan didn't force Nebraska out of it. I don't get it, man.
The truly crappy thing is it's going to be four or five years before we have any real read on whether Borges is any good. At this point, year three is going to be Michigan rolling with a true freshman QB—probably, anyway—and four new OL starters—probably, anyway—with what's likely to be a horrible WR corps. Anything other than an awful offense next year is a point in Borges's favor. Hurrah transition.
But Auburn? No. 2004 Auburn had the following guys on that team: QB Jason Campbell (first round pick), RB Ronnie Brown (first round pick), RB Cadillac Williams (first round pick), OL Ben Grubbs (first round pick), OL Marcus McNeill (second round pick), Ben Obomanu (seventh round pick, still in league, had 37 catches in 2011), Devin Aromashodu (seventh round pick, still in league, had 26 catches in 2011), and Courtney Taylor (sixth round pick, now in CFL after 2008 multiple sclerosis(!) diagnosis). When you can call anything and have future NFL players on both ends of the exchange that doesn't say much either.
First Nebraska touchdown: where is that? Nebraska's first touchdown was a route that exploited Michigan's man coverage. An inside receiver ran a little hitch designed to pick the outside guy, the outside guy ran a post to eliminate the safety over the top, and the inside-inside guy used the pick to get open by yards. It didn't really matter if the receiver who ended up targeted was able to get separation naturally; the play got it for him.
Where is that from Michigan? I can't recall a wide open downfield guy that got open strictly by the play design. Gardner's been open some when DBs fall over or suck up on a double move or something; not so much the play bits.
This wasn't actually a problem last year, when Michigan quarterbacks made sport of ignoring the the wide open guys Borges was machining downfield. Is it just Junior Hemingway's absence?
I think they watched film. Congratulations, Nebraska: you are apparently the only Big Ten team to ever watch tape of the Michigan offense and leap on the throwback screen. It's not exactly hard to find, since the first time Michigan goes under center in any game is virtually guaranteed to be the throwback. It's pretty bad when everyone in the room I was watching said "throwback screen" as soon as Michigan lined up in ace.
Q: why is that play consistently run from under center? There doesn't seem to be anything about it that would require it to be.
Bellomy. Well… that wasn't very good. The most disturbing thing was probably one of Bellomy's few completions—a ten yard wheel-ish route run by Kerridge that picked up a first down and took just decades to get where it was going. Accuracy issues and a tendency to scream in horror during plays themselves (@ right by Upchurch) can be fixed with time. The arm strength deficiency probably can't.
That particular throw made me wonder why Michigan recruited the guy at all since it seems like the #1 thing on Borges's radar screen is the ability to laser it in just inside the sideline. Hurrah Process/unavoidable transition costs. Boy, is next year's offense going to be a wow experience or what I tell ya.
Offensive line. I'm not entirely sure how they did since once Bellomy came in it was open season and Michigan settled into a routine that exposed them to the same "eight of them, five of us" problems that Michigan experienced against MSU. Hoke was not impressed.
Ryan got edged. When Michigan gave up some yards it was often on the edge when various Nebraska players broke contain. The most spectacular incident was when Abdullah broke Cam Gordon's ankles…
…but it happened to Ryan a few times. When Nebraska was not bouncing it outside they were getting very little; excellent day from the interior DL and the LBs.
Roh beastmode. Also Roh, who took the opportunity presented by Abudullah being assigned to block him to destroy Martinez in a hilarious beastmode sack. If you've ever wondered why tailbacks always cut block guys on pass protection, that's why.
Where is Rawls? I don't know what happened to Toussaint but at this point I'm not even irritated at Vincent Smith carries because it's not like Toussaint is consistently making yards past what the blocking gets him. Meanwhile, Rawls ends up watching, even when Michigan deep into Bellomy panic time and trying to run from under center.
I'm sure there's a reason they don't trust him yet; whatever it is it must be pretty bad. If you're down to running power from the I-form—and Michigan was—you might as well find out if your backup guy can break some tackles.
Defense: stepping towards elite. Nebraska entered the game averaging 512 yards and 42 points a game, leading the league in rushing yardage, pass efficiency, total yardage, and points per game. Michigan held the Cornhuskers to 326 yards and 23 points. Six of those points were field goal drives of two and five yards in length. Without turnovers, that's 17 points.
Relative to the quality of opponent, that's their best performance of the year by far and a major step away from criticisms that Michigan's defense hasn't actually stopped anyone. If the offense doesn't implode with Denard out those numbers are undoubtedly better, probably under 300 yards for the game for the Huskers.
Not relevant but worth it. This happened after Northwestern's win over Iowa:
Bo Cisek, walk-on DT and new internet legend
It speaks for itself except for the fact that guy's wearing #1.
Michigan + Nebraska == refereeing atrocity. The Roundtree catch that was overturned was one of those plays where it's not clear either way because of the goofy fuzzy catch rule and should be left to stand, and then you've got that terrible terrible late hit call and some terrible terrible pass interference calls both ways. This combination of teams is not good for ref sanity.
Cats! So hey like if you follow me on twitter I'm sort of sorry for retweeting like 30 cats into your timeline except not really. People started sending them to me, so clearly there was a need. Here is another cat if you are not satiated.
* As bad as we played, the first downs were close, 20-18 in favor of Nebraska. Of course, 6 of our first downs came from Nebraska penalties.
* Nebraska's 20 1st downs translated to 326 total yards, we managed 188 total yards. At least we were efficient with our first downs. Why get 20 or 30 yards when you only need 10?
* We won the TOP, 31:36 to 28:24. Yippee. We did control the clock early, and I was expecting that to pay off in the fourth quarter when we should have been able to grind down their defense, but then, you know, Denard got hurt.
Edit: I forgot the main silver lining, BELLOMY CAN AUDIBLE!
Yeah, what was with that?
Yeoman scans Massey, comes back with Michigan having a 30% shot at winning the division now. Let's go Spartans.
Blog stuff. Sap's decals hand out nothing to the offense. Nebraska fans are far too enthusiastic about snuffing Bellomy out. TTB. Maize and Go Blue. The M Block considers what happens next year at QB.
Duct tape. It's was held together with duct tape, hope, and rolling dice. And now the questions will come for the coaching staff, although any questions to Greg Mattison will likely consist of "Why can't you guys score too?" But we caught a glimpse of a future we will need to face all too soon, a future without Denard Robinson. That future consisted of three field goals total output on offense.
You watched the second half perhaps with some hope that Spring Game Bellomy would emerge but save for a few late first downs it wasn’t really even close. I swear I caught Jeremy Gallon staring off into space after the RS freshman was calling a pass play early in the second half and remember thinking, “Gallon knows this ain’t happening…”
Also, Denard's jacket was old school split M style now verboten.
Probably got it off Jon Falk's back.
Regular stuff. CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. AGGRESSIVE DECISION TO FALL ON HIS ELBOW GENTLY COSTS DENARD ROBINSON. RUSSELL BELLOMY MAY NOT HAVE DONE TOO WELL. ROBINSON'S EXIT REVEALS THAT MICHIGAN IS NOT GOOD AT ANYTHING AND SHOULD PROBABLY JUST DIE. RUSSELL BELLOMY WAS NEVER GETTING PULLED.
Three Bellomy interceptions rushed the defense back onto the field and into quick-change situations. Nebraska started drives in Michigan territory, including one on the four-yard line. There’s a good excuse.
“No,” Kovacs said. “We take pride in that. Our motto is: ‘Spot the ball.’ It doesn’t matter where the ball’s at, just put the ball on the field and we’re going to go play defense and not let them get any yards.”
That's a Rodriguez-era phrase that remains as mysterious today as it was when it was introduced and probably should have gone in the bonfire with GERG's playbooks and stuffed beavers and hair. I guess that's appropriate for the reappearance of the 2008 offense. If someone says "hold the rope" any time soon I'm going to hide under the bed.
Michigan-Nebraska: The Sick Man of Europe
By HoldTheRope on Oct 29, 7:00a
The red balloons floated upward, little harbingers of doom dotting the night sky. I didn't know what to make of it, but it could not have been anything else but that. Or, maybe they were just balloons.
By HoldTheRope on Oct 29, 7:00a
/hides under bed
Formation notes: MSU's defense is very simple, with few substitutions or wacky formations. They spent most of the game in a 4-3 even with linebackers shaded to the slot. Like so:
Shotgun 2TE twins for M
They would go into an okie package with two deep safeties on passing downs:
Shotgun 3-wide for M
When Michigan split their WRs this was the preferred look:
Also shotgun 3-wide
MSU screwed their corners down into press man and walked their safeties up to about nine yards deep, ready to roar downhill at any run action. You won't get any bubble complaints from me in this game—it wasn't there.
This is "Ace Triple Stack" as a reminder:
Yes, throwback screen obvs.
Substitution notes: Few surprises here. Line all starters; TE rotation about as it has been. No RBs other than Toussaint and Smith made appearances; Gardner was not announced as a starter and got a lot fewer snaps than he has previously. Speculation is he's carrying some sort of injury. Joe Reynolds got his first snaps in a heated situation—all were runs. More about that later.
[……IS BEHIND THE JUMP! There are lot of embeds this week and I've gotten some complaints that UFRs bog people's browsers down—hmmm wonder why—so taking most of the junk off the front page should help in that regard.]
oh good this again
The great unresolved question we batted around Monday on the podcast was the perpetual great unresolved question of the last year and a half: "quien es mas falto, Denard o Borges?"
I'm not done with things yet but am I leaning Borges, except since Michigan went into a shell against a good defense and won the game instead of throwing five interceptions and losing it, by "blame" I might actually mean "credit." Michigan won, and outgained the other offense by about 50 yards, and was only about 50 yards short of the output spread genius Urban Meyer managed against the MSU D. In terms of the OH MY GOD TOTAL DEBACLES that have speckled the Borges/Denard partnership, this ranks much lower than having under 200 yards of offense before you're forced to chuck the ball all over the field. See: Iowa, ND 2011, etc.
That said, a quarter into the game, Spartan safeties have made tackles at the line of scrimmage twice, Chris Norman is regularly meeting lead blockers two yards in the backfield, and the only significant gains Michigan has acquired are on a Gallon throwback screen on which it looks like Norman busts hard and the ten-yard Kwiatkowski out. Here's an example of the first two phenomena:
This is a super-aggressive quarters defense that Indiana exploited against both MSU and Ohio State—which is attempting to run the same scheme—with various cover-4 beaters. Michigan elected for the shell, and won.
Even so, man. Michigan has spent weeks setting things up as they played Bye, Virtual Bye One, and Virtual Bye Two; Michigan State is coming off three consecutive hard-fought games. I'm not sure if Spartan Overpreparation is a real thing or not—I hope so. Otherwise we're putting all our chips on the idea that Borges really doesn't have the faintest clue how to run a spread offense and that things will get better once a Real Quarterback™ is in place*.
*[If you've ever made this assertion I hate you.]
Okay. So here's Michigan's end-around version of the veer that they've been putting on the field for a few weeks now. It looks different; it's really just the same thing as the veer, though.
[Please forgive the crappier than normal image quality—the BTN was taking wide shots, which is generally good for this sort of thing, but this week's torrent is bleah for whatever reason.]
Anyway: Gallon in the slot, Michigan in a Borges-standard three-wide pack. The alignment of Gallon hints at the end around motion, BTW. MSU is in their standard 4-3 even. The guys at the top of the screen are going to be the relevant ones. Gholston is the DE, Denicos Allen the LB.
As Gallon goes in motion, Allen—and only Allen—moves to the LOS outside of Gholston. Live this gave me a sense of disquiet. That's not sliding some linebackers over. That's an awfully specific thing to do.
A couple of moments later, the snap has been made and Denard is in a quasi-mesh point with Gallon. I say "quasi" because the action here is so fast that it's hard to believe there's any real read component.
Anyway. Four MSU players are relevant here.
- The boundary corner blitzes. He is the contain guy if Gallon gets the ball.
- Allen is now the End Man On The Line Of Scrimmage—EMLOS(!). His goal is to get the two-for-one that allows Bullough to be the free hitter, or at least foul the hole and thus rob whoever gets to Bullough of his burst of impetus.
- Gholston is the main cutback defender. Once Allen is the primary hole he's got to prevent anything from cutting behind it.
- Bullough is the guy MSU would like to be the free hitter a la Demens. Bullough's ridiculously good at football and sheds blocks like whoah; having him as a free hitter is a luxury few teams have.
On the Michigan side of things, Lewan is adapting to the play as it develops and pulls out some of the old zone playbook. When Gholston dives inside of him he goes with it, using his momentum to take him past the point where he wants to go. Toussaint also reads the funny business going on and heads straight for Allen. Omameh is pulling; his eventual destination should be Bullough.
This is hard to see in the next still, so watch for it in the video: the legs you see poking out here like the Wicked Witch of the West with a house on her…
…are in fact the remnants of a killer cut block on Allen by Toussaint. But Allen has still gotten his two for one:
Omameh is literally hopping outside that block. A moment past this and the two players will be even, which means Denard can't follow him, which means he's not blocking anyone, which means two for one, which means Max Freaking Bullough is a free hitter.
Michigan's one saving grace on this play is the Lewan-Gholston matchup. Denard gets a cutback lane because Lewan has blasted Gholston to a point on the field even with the playside and backside DTs. Bullough is surprised by Denard's attack angle, as is Norman, and both have a tough time cutting back as fast as Denard can.
They're unblocked, though, and there are many of them. Denard can only squeeze out four yards…
…as Gholston lies pancaked underneath Lewan yards from the play.
On separate run-throughs check out:
- Toussaint chopping Allen
- Lewan dominating Gholston
- Denard picking through traffic
- Michigan getting four yards off of two great blocks.
Things And Stuff
UNLEASH THE EPIC RABBLING COMMENT THREAD. Guys, I'm totally sorry, but sheeeeeeeeeeeeit. This is happening all the damn time. The play above is MSU knowing what's coming as soon as Gallon goes in motion and having a plan to combat it. The plan works—pretty much, anyway—despite the playside defensive end ending up on his stomach eight yards away from the play.
Michigan's not getting anything of the sort in kind, and the first play on which Joe Reynolds makes an appearance features this defensive formation:
filed under "lol 100% run" in the MSU playbook
That wasn't a fakeout, man, those jakeryans came at the snap, leaving one corner anywhere near a simple curl/flat or smash combo with the twinned receivers.
This was a run. A –3 yard run. Yeah, sure, opposing defensive coordinators don't know about Michigan's substitution patterns. Probably just a coincidence.
That cannot happen. You cannot allow the opposing defense to align like that. Michigan allows it all the time.
Okay, okay, is going away from all run all the time a danger that makes Denard chuck interceptions? Possibly. I watched Denard make those curl/flat throws as a clueless sophomore, though, and you just can't let the above happen. I'm finding lots of wins for MSU based on their prep for this game, and few for Michigan. The throwback screen that worked was more Norman busting hard than anything schematic working.
I know they got some stuff later, so I'll probably be less peeved about this when the UFRs come out. I am pretty disappointed that M spent the first quarter running absolutely nothing new against Michigan State of all teams.
Lewan vs Gholston is no contest. It was no contest a year ago, it's no contest this year. He made a couple plays that didn't show up on the scoresheet when he was well-schooled on Michigan's sweep play and used his athleticism to shoot a gap—and Funchess took out Schofield in the process—but once he gets locked up, game over man. He did himself a disservice by not playing for a 3-4 team. He'd be a terror in ND's scheme. As a 4-3-even DE, he's the third-best player on his own defensive line.
Toussaint got a win here. This went a lot worse for him when he was trying to lead Denard into iso runs and Chris Norman was tearing ass at him. The lack of Rawls was pretty weird given the context.
Players don't really matter here except at the margins. Gholston got annihilated and Michigan got four yards. That was MSU's worst case scenario on this play.
Michigan's counterpunches to this sort of thing are not even really the Dileo completions. Dileo catches his first two balls on second and eleven and third and six; the last one was clearly not a play action situation, so all you've got to show for this is the single catch and run from the second quarter.
You should be able to punish the level of aggression shown by the MSU defense in some way. Michigan could not last year and could not this year—at least not in the structure of the offense. Last year, Roy Roundtree broke a tackle to turn a slant into a touchdown. This year, Denard juked and juked and juked to get his 44-yard run towards the end on a QB draw that had absolutely nothing to do with the base rushing offense.
The most alarming thing so far: Michigan's first pass on first down is three drives in. It has a play action mesh point of the sort MSU has been tearing after all game, and no MSU linebacker takes a step to the line of scrimmage. Why? The line sets up to pass block immediately, without anyone pulling. Michigan has not had a run play yet without a pulling lineman.
Denard doesn't have anyone open and ends up throwing his worst pass of the day, a near-INT that was so bad two MSU players had a better shot at it than any Michigan guys. Clearly he has not gotten through all his bad decision mojo, but I'm mystified that Michigan would not even try to draw those linebackers up by running plays that look like the ones they've already put on the field.