so much for that
11/24/2012 – Michigan 21, Ohio State 26 – 8-4, 6-2 Big Ten
In 1997, Michigan had a multidimensional weapon they'd take out of the garage for a couple dozen plays a game. His name was Charles Woodson, and I distinctly remember the disappointment that would wash over me 70% of the time he came in for an offense snap. This disappointment was because Woodson didn't get the ball. He ran a route, and something else happened.
Despite the disappointment, I got it. You can't just give the ball to the dynamic guy every time he comes in the game because if you do putting him in the game is tantamount to holding up a huge sign that says THIS IS THE PLAY WE ARE RUNNING. You can't flip up your hole cards before you bet.
Al Borges disagrees. If you've poked around the flaming wreckage of the Michigan internet in the aftermath of Saturday, you have undoubtedly heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth because of that. But the thing is so stark it has to be marveled at again: when Denard Robinson entered the game against Ohio State, every play but one was Denard Robinson doing something. Once it was fail to chip Ryan Shazier and try to get out for a screen; all other times it was run the ball, sometimes with a pitch included. The fakeout was a six-yard completion to Mike Kwiatkowski in the first quarter, and there ended any attempt at deception.
Devin Gardner was at quarterback for three of these plays. Michigan held up a sign that said RUN or PASS, and didn't even try the token fakeout where Robinson goes over the top when the safeties suck up. Gardner ran three times. Denard passed zero. Ohio State figured it out. Surprise!
Denard got a dozen snaps and watched from the sideline as Gardner tried to drive Michigan 70 yards for the win. There were six minutes left, and Michigan was reduced to throwing every down as a guy who might break the all-time rushing record for a quarterback watched.
What can you say? It's indefensible. It's a failure without any possible explanation. It caused legions of neutral observers to laugh or fume or sit slack-jawed as they watched it unfold. Sean McDonough was dumbfounded. Orson, in the stands, marveled. Twitter burst at the seams with furious mockery from people who don't care about Michigan but do hate to see Denard Robinson end his final Ohio State game on the bench, having averaged 11 yards a carry on ten attempts.
Here is a list of things Denard Robinson could have productively done on Saturday that did not necessarily involve him getting the ball.
Be a running back on the inverted veer.
Stand in a two-back set, then motion out a la Vincent Smith on a pre-emptive flare route.
Run a flare from the backfield
Line up in the slot and get a fake jet handoff, then run a wheel.
Line up in the slot, run a bubble.
Run a route you ignore but the defense cannot.
Fake a screen to him and screen to the other side.
There were ways to work around the fact that Denard can't block, primarily running your best play with your best two players. What can possibly be so hard about telling Denard "now you're the other guy on the play we run all the time"? Even if it's play action, it draws everyone. If he's on the field, one to three people are concerned with him, and if that's at the edge of the field that's as good as a block. It's a fantastic block. It is a much better block than most of the folk on Michigan's offensive line were capable of.
And nothing. Nothing. Here is a sign that says whether we are running or passing.
“They were a little bit predictable in the first half,” said Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers. “You know, they put 16 (Robinson) back there, he was gonna run it. And they put 12 (Gardner) back there, they were gonna throw it. And after a while that became something that we keyed on.”
On the other side of the ball, things made sense. Ohio State's offense is a coherent whole that ruthlessly exploits every edge it can. Michigan spent the first couple drives unable to substitute as Ohio State went up-tempo. Afterwards they started running on right after the play; Michigan struggled to get set at times. When OSU slowed it down, they made a playcall after seeing how the defense lined up. They took every advantage the game gives them.
Once JT Floyd got turned around by Devin Smith on OSU's first drive, Michigan was faced with the prospect of repeating last year's festival of deep bombs or giving Floyd help. They chose the latter, and chose to contain Braxton Miller at all costs. To do this they had to give up two things: the underneath flats and the guy in the box that can be a free hitter.
The results: Miller was 14 of 18. Avery blew a deep corner route on a third and long early and there was the bomb. There ended downfield passing. Miller's other 12 completions averaged 9.8 yards a pop on a series of screens and quick throws in the soft outside section of the field. Carlos Hyde surged up the middle over and over again, picking up 146 yards on 26 carries with no Michigan player available to hit. Stat of the game: Will Campbell had ten assisted tackles.
The dispiriting thing is watching that and not being frustrated with anyone in particular when the other team moves the ball. There was no screaming some guy's name, no rolling your eyes and saying "come on make a tackle." When Michigan stopped them, it was a good play by someone. When they did not, it was because you can't play the wide receivers one on one so everyone's got a blocker.
Michigan was lucky not to give up 30 or 40 points. Ohio State is rickety. Botched snaps, penalties, and some heroic individual plays—Ryan checking Miller in space, Jibreel Black and Frank Clark combining to get Miller down on third and goal when Michigan had put four guys against three to the field—prevented that, but it was there. It will be there next year, and the year after, and the year after that. They will not be as rough as this outfit in its first year.
Michigan can only beat it by winning one-on-one matchups, lots of them. That's tough to do. Possible—see Stanford—but tough, and sometimes even if you're Stanford the Oregons of the world blitz you for 40.
Most of the time, actually.
One mistake is all it takes.
The Hoke hire was alarming to me (for about two weeks) because it seemed like waving a white flag and going back to the Carr era philosophy that had seen Michigan slip definitively behind Ohio State over the last six or seven years of Carr's career. In a lot of ways, those concerns have proved unfounded. Carr was a puntosaur; Hoke is amongst the most aggressive coaches in the country. Mattison is as modern as defensive coordinators come. Whatever his flaws, Borges is a far cry from DeBord. He wants to score, for one.
There are two ways in which those concerns have been true, one tiny, one large. The tiny one is the spread punt. You've seen the coverage, seen what everyone else is doing, heard me complain about it, etc. I asked Heiko to bring it up a couple times over the past few years, and we did get an answer of a sort as to why Michigan doesn't run it:
MGoFollowup: Were you aware that they could run a fake out of the spread punt formation?
“Sure. Yeah. They had done it before, right up the middle.”
MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?
“Uh, we don’t use it.”
MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?
“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”
That is a dull, unthinking answer. Heiko shot it to me as soon as he transcribed it and it depressed both of us.
Here is where the comparison to Beilein goes. Beilein, who has discovered the alley-oop and ditched the 1-3-1 except when it wins a game against Pitt, and wiped out his coaching staff to start anew. Beilein took his comfort level and chucked it out the window. We all stand to benefit. In the wake of this loss, I hope the football staff takes a similarly stark look at itself.
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that huddling is an archaism destined for the dustbin. I say it’s a slight exaggeration because there is a value to huddling, primarily when you have a great leader at quarterback as a huddle is an opportunity for him to show his leadership skills. But otherwise, it’s inherently inferior to going no-huddle. It’s slower, which is a problem both in games but also in practice where your offense gets fewer reps, and, maybe most importantly, the safety net of a huddle leads coaches to transform plays that can be communicated in just one or two words into multi-syllabic monstrosities.
The Patriots don't use it, Ohio State doesn't use it, Oregon lol huddle, etc. And I see Michigan get out of one with 15 seconds on the playclock having determined what they're going to do without getting information from the defense and with little time to change what they're doing. And I think about comfort, and how dangerous it is to slip into old habits just because they are old.
It feels like Michigan is on the wrong side of history here. After Rodriguez the spread offense is anathema. It's the one thing that keeps Nick Saban enraged at night, and it feels like Michigan's going to ignore it because Rich Rodriguez's defense couldn't stop a six-year-old child, instead of for any defensible rationale. I'm not sure that's going to cut it against Urban Meyer.
OSU guy did this one but it's got all the important stuff:
A shorter but HQ reel from mgovideo:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Well… this is close but since Jake Ryan saw something like 60 snaps instead of a dozen, his nine tackles two TFLs, sack, and impressive non-tackle of Braxton Miller get him the nod. One on one, he won his matchup. Now we just need five to six more of that guy.
Honorable Mention. Denard(obvious), Roy Roundtree (touchdown), Jeremy Gallon (six catches), possibly Will Campbell (ten assists!).
Epic Double Point Standings.
4: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois, OSU)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1.3: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama, 1/3 Minnesota), Drew Dileo (Michigan State, 1/3 Minnesota), Roy Roundtree (1/3 Minnesota, Northwestern)
1: Craig Roh(Nebraska), Devin Gardner(Iowa)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Obvious.
Honorable mention: Roy Roundtree uses one man-Dileo convoy to score 75-yard touchdown, Frank Clark levels Braxton Miller a couple times, Denard turns not much into 30 yards on Michigan's first snap.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
11/10/2012: Mattison baits Fitz, Kenny Demens decleats Northwestern, game over.
11/17/2012: Denard WOOPS Tanner Miller in Big House finale.
11/24/2012: Denard uses PHYSICS to score a touchdown
Rawls lacks YAC, so what's the point? Michigan ended up in fourth and three on their first drive of the third quarter after a one-yard Rawls carry, a six yard Denard carry, and a zero-yard Rawls carry. The third down attempt was pretty much stuffed but Rawls could not manufacture even one yard after contact, something that has been a pattern after he got everyone's hopes up by running over some Purdue safeties.
But the real killer was the first down play, when Michigan successfully blocked everyone and got Rawls the edge. One on one in space with cornerback Bradley Roby, Rawls ran straight into him and went down. One yard.
Rawls's five carries netted two yards. Since he started picking up non-garbage-time carries against Minnesota this brings him to 68 yards on 32 carries, 2.1 per carry. Yeah, the line has something to do with that and Rawls is getting goal-line carries, but since he's getting so many goal line carries because he's bouncing outside the tackles or going down on first contact I don't think that's much to hang your hat on.
Yeah, he'll probably get better as he ages but at this point it would be a shock if he ever ends up anything but a short-yardage back. Chalk another one up to the Fred Jackson Hyperbole Curse.
This is a reason I'm skeptical about Drake Johnson making an impact. Guys Jackson personally campaigns for have a poor track record.
Bad time to get beat for the first(?) time this year. Michigan's first drive ended with a blindside sack and fumble yielded by Taylor Lewan, which was like… that can happen? I think Alabama got a blindside sack in the first game; since then nothing. Bad time for a bad play.
This of course means that he will slide down draft boards and return. That's the ticket.
Devin flaws exposed. It was coming, and it came: against a more talented defense than Gardner had seen so far he was hesitant. His throws were off, mostly deep, and throw after throw was a second late. Against Iowa and Northwestern and Minnesota it didn't matter, but Ohio State's defense is a really good unit that implodes to yield long touchdowns twice a game; when they were not doing that they're pretty good about closing down space.
All that's understandable. Hopefully we see a more polished version in the bowl game and go into 2013 with some confidence under center.
The stuff they got. Ohio State is a defense that is good, and then explodes spectacularly, and that's what they did on the Roundtree touchdown, which was just CJ Barnett making a terrible play. Good for Gardner to recognize that coverage; not a huge credit to the play itself. And then Denard used science(!) to burst through two tacklers on the 67-yarder.
That play was a credit to Borges as it was pretty much exactly what OSU ran some last week, a fake veer that turns into an outside play with a convoy of blockers. Michigan ran it to good effect in the first half, and then died in the second half because OSU adjusted.
"boy I hope this guy spends most of the second half on the bench" –nobody (Fuller)
Speaking of that play… find me the Michigan fan who was not in full FFFFFFUUUUUUUU mode the instant before after Michigan got the ball back with 1:30, ran for eight yards on first down, and then spent 30 seconds lining up. You can't even put it on Denard this time since there was the option to go to Gardner. Denard bailed them out of another hack job of a two-minute drill.
Rodriguez comparison point. That game was reminiscent of early Rodriguez offensive forays that worked fairly well for a half—think introducing MINOR RAGE against Penn State en route to 17-14 halftime lead—and then evaporated when the opponent took the fancy new stuff away and Michigan had no other way to move the ball. They came in with a couple things that worked, and then Ohio State said "we are not letting Denard run" and that was that.
Speaking of that concept… on the fourth and three to open the second half Michigan ran that same play again. The above picture is from the touchdown; on the stop, Barnum's guy shot outside and upfield, forcing a cutback, and Lewan didn't have an angle to get on an equally hard-charging Shazier. It's almost like they spent halftime preparing to stop it.
“My comment was, after I saw Denard Robinson sneak outta there for a long run, stop the quarterback run,” Meyer said. “That’s the input I had. Probably the same — I think 107,000 people said that as well.”
The most baffling thing… hmm. Not running your extremely fast guy who can actually throw the ball makes the top 20 of baffling decisions Saturday. What are you saving him for?
2013 peek ahead. I'm drafting a "22 Tickets for Team 134" feature that'll tackle this in more detail, but for now Michigan loses the following folks after the bowl:
- WR Roy Roundtree
- TE Mike Kwiatkowski
- OL Taylor Lewan (probably), Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, and Patrick Omameh
The likely replacements:
- WR Amarah Darboh(?)
- TE AJ Williams
- OL Ben Braden, Kyle Kalis, Jack Miller, and Chris Bryant
Bryant is admittedly speculative; Fitzgerald Toussaint may not make it back. How do we feel about this? On the one hand, four new starters on the offensive line. On the other, the interior guys are probably going to be better even if they're young. Possibly a lot better. While Schofield isn't Lewan he was a solid pass protector this year and should be able to cope.
The most important thing is getting those tight ends in shape. Funchess was a crappy blocker this year; more alarmingly, AJ Williams was hardly better. I don't know much about OL technique but Williams has stood out as so spectacularly unrefined that even a layman like myself can look at him and think "that doesn't look right."
Story of the season. Defense hangs in against good offense as offense curls up and dies, putting them in bad spots time and again, eventually cracks a little, and fades late as exhaustion sets in. Ohio State neared 400 yards and put up 26 points but I'm not even a little mad at what happened. It was all so obvious.
this was an actual tackle (Fuller)
Most impressive non-tackle of the season. Jake Ryan in space against Braxton Miller was a little different than Jake Ryan in space against most people, but he did hold Miller up long enough for the cavalry to rally. On the day, nine tackles, a TFL, and a number of "oh thank God you are large and fast" moments. All Big Ten, surely.
I am going to hit you very hard now. Frank Clark was the main beneficiary of multiple all-out blitzes Mattison sent on third down.
A couple of these threatened to send Miller out of the game or dislodge the ball; most other times Michigan didn't even bother to rush him.
2013 peek ahead. I'm drafting a "22 Tickets for Team 134" feature that'll tackle this in more detail, but Michigan loses the following folks after the bowl:
- SDE Craig Roh
- 3TECH Will Campbell
- MLB Kenny Demens
- CB JT Floyd
- S Jordan Kovacs
- SDE: Jibreel Black/Tom Strobel
- 3TECH: Matt Godin/Chris Wormley
- MLB: Effectively James Ross since the bet here is Morgan slides over.
- CB: Blake Countess
- S: Jarrod Wilson
That's a lot of youth, with Black the only upperclassman mentioned. It is at least highly-touted youth. Wormley was going to see the field as a freshman, Countess had a breakout freshman year before the injury that cost him 2012, James Ross is a summer in the weight room away from being awesome, and… well, Wilson is not going to be Kovacs.
2013 will probably be just as good as this year, if not a little better, and then look out in 2014: the only projected starters to graduate after next year are Thomas Gordon and Quinton Washington. (Nickelback Courtney Avery also departs.) Washington will be replaced by a fully groomed Ondre Pipkins; Michigan has a few options to replace Gordon.
Fourth and three from the forty-eight. My thought at the time was that was a coinflip decision, statistically, and yup:
Those are NFL numbers, of course, and can't be taken as gospel. Whatever adjustment there is to the college game it's not going to push it into slam dunk territory either way. That decision is all about feel.
From my perspective that feel includes information like "interior line cannot block these guys" and I was more nervous than happy when Hoke went for it, but it's right on that line. OSU blew up the playcall, which was a fine playcall since it involved Denard having the ball, and Michigan gave it up. Oh well.
Live by the sword, die by the sword. Since it's hard for people to get away from their base urges I prefer the guy who will be aggressive, even excessively so, since the vast majority of decisions to be aggressive will be correct, and even ones that seem weird like Saturday's are a push.
Yup. If you were wondering if the shirtsleeves would come off, nope:
If it's sleeting I think the guy should put a jacket on just because it's hard to think when you get cold to your bones.
Just the right amount of shoving. Football games are at their best when there is harmless shoving on a half-dozen plays a game, and M-OSU delivers on this count.
This was immediately after Mike Jones became "that guy who got the dumb personal foul in the 2012 game" to Michigan fans, and never threatened to escalate past this business. They've done this for years now, and I approve.
Weekly Devin Gardner lookalike photo. Recycled from last week because Bryan didn't get a shot of it, but Devin definitely went Mr Burns after the long touchdown to Roundtree.
I enjoy this being a thing.
* The leading tackler was WLB Desmond Morgan with 11. Last week's leading tackler was also the WLB, James Ross III. I guess they are not kidding when they say there is an expectation for the position.
* Will Campbell had one of the craziest defensive stat lines I've ever seen: 0 solo tackles and 10 assisted tackles.
* Jake Ryan was back making plays all over the field, 9 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles. On Thomas Gordon's sack, Ryan jumped on Gordon's back and tried to sack Gordon and the QB. It's been said of others, but I don't think it applies to anyone better than Jake Ryan, he plays like his hair's on fire.
Best: MGoMeltdowns are awesome
So as is the custom around these parts, the traffic to the site after a loss follows the same trajectory as general internet traffic does whenever illicit pictures of some starlet are “leaked” to the the web totally-unexpectedly-but-right-before-my-new-movie-Crushed Blue Velvet Girlfriend 2-is-released. For a graphical representation, here is a screenshot of the site about 4 minutes after the game ended
Click for full size
It will never approach RCMB or anything in the SEC not related to Vandy, but TWO redundant posts sarcastically “thanking” the coaches for losing the game, one out-and-out “Fire Borges” thread and one claiming he merely “sucked”, one thread already set for deletion, and about 1,100 posts in a game thread, 50% of them berating Al Borges and the team for a poor second half, is nothing to sneeze at. Subsequent posts included petitions to fire Al Borges, a couple crying out for sanity, and one inferring a discussion about iCarly and Larry Hagman that felt appropriate for an 8th-grader’s “MySpace” profile. Then Ace showed up with his usual quality summary and solid reasoning, which is like, Booo this man!
LSAClassOf2000 puts yardage for and against in a table.
Figure you don't want to read crowing so right on to the other stuff…
Blog stuff. Hoover Street Rag:
In the end, I'm never going to understand this, I'm never going to understand them, I'm never going to understand that feeling. Jim Tressel is honored during the first quarter break of the Michigan/Ohio State game for his 2002 National Championship season, and he is carried off the field by his players to a standing ovation at the Horseshoe. Ohio proceeds to get its act together and win 26-21 to complete a perfect 12-0 season. A season in which they are ineligible for a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions related to Jim Tressel's failure to report what he knew about illegal benefits being given to his players to his superiors. A season in which they are ineligible for the B1G championship game next weekend because of the post-season sanctions. But it doesn't matter, a standing ovation for what Tressel did, not how Tressel got caught.
Borges complaint section follows. Maize and Brew:
WHAT ARE YOU DOING RUNNING UP THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD WITH A RUNNING BACK BUILT LIKE A WATER BUG? WHY DID WE DO EXACTLY WHAT OHIO STATE WAS EXPECTING ON SECOND DOWN, AND THEN DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY EXPECTED ON THIRD DOWN AGAIN?! WE HAVE NOT ONE, BUT TWO EXTREMELY TALENTED AND MOBILE QBS, AND THESE ARE OUR PLAYS ON SHORT DOWNS?! WHERE ARE THE TRICK PLAYS TO ROBINSON AT TAILBACK?! ARGGGHHHHHH.
While Hoke never really talks about injuries, it’s not like there’s some gamesmanship required here—the bowl game is five weeks away. And let’s say he was dinged up and couldn’t run the ball for some reason–toss him in the backfield as a decoy, no?
Other than the lack of Denard down the stretch, the other frustration was how he was used in short yardage. He showed no indication that he was ever going to pass it and really didn’t throw in warm-ups. So if you aren’t going to have him throw it–at any point–then on short yardage put him in the backfield with Gardner and hand it or toss it to Denard, or fake it to #16 and have Gardner run it, or toss it to Gallon or ARGH.
After the 2001 Michigan State Spartan Bob game Lloyd Carr summed up how he felt about his team, when he said, “They deserve better.”
In the moments after the game, when I snapped this photo, the air was rich with the smell of marijuana, wafting down from the student section were people, from seemingly every direction flooded the field in a frenzy of drunken euphoria.
Between the Buckeye fans posing for photos in front of the team leaving the field with their heads hanging, and the idiots stupid enough to try and mix it up with Michigan players, it was all I could do to keep my composure and just walk away. I had to remember that I'm a credentialed media member and it's not my place to get involved. Just walk away. Props to the Michigan players for doing the same.
What a mess.
Papery stuff. Chantel Jennings scours instagram for Game photos. This one is from Channing Stribling:
Rothstein game story:
A week ago, the Wolverines appeared to have a devastating offense with two quarterbacks, including Denard Robinson, moving one of the most electrifying players in football all over the field. Not only did Michigan short-circuit on Saturday, the devastation was all their own unraveling.
"Yeah, we kind of knew what was coming when Denard was in and knew what was coming when [Gardner] was in," Ohio State defensive lineman Adolphus Washington said.
If Robinson was in the game, Michigan was going to run the ball without question. If Devin Gardner was in, there was a little bit more of a surprise, but more than likely the junior was going to throw the ball or try to.
Nowhere did this show up more than in the second half, when Ohio State adjusted to put nine players in the box when Robinson was in, essentially daring him to throw. Whether he couldn't or wouldn't, Robinson didn't. And that decision cost the Wolverines.
"Coach called the plays and we went with it," Robinson said.
I'll have to look at the fourth down to be sure but Robinson put it on himself after:
"I've got to come a little tighter and get outside a little more (there)," Robinson said after Michigan's 26-21 loss to Ohio State. "I made a bad read on the run, that's my fault."
Hoke as well:
"(Robinson) maybe should have been in a gap wider," Hoke said. "And, he had broken three (long plays) from that same run."
My initial take was that to do that he'd have to bounce into the backfield and the result may have been the same; I'll picture-page it.
The play-calling went from scintillating to stubborn to baffling, and against a good defense, the quarterback combo of Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson was snapped in half. Gimmicky rotations are effective for a while, but in a game like this, in Urban Meyer's rivalry debut, lessons get delivered harshly.
"You know me, we want to run the football and we want to do a good job stopping the run," Brady Hoke said. "We didn't do either."
11/10/2012 – Michigan 38, Northwestern 31 (OT) – 7-3, 5-1 Big Ten
College sports are a rich-get-richer kind of operation. American pro sports reward their best teams with crappy draft picks and salary caps that make it hard to keep successful operations together. Yes, successful operations can keep their heads above water for periods, and the Lions can be awful for 50 years. A relentless gravity still pulls everyone towards .500.
In college, success adds to success. You can tell recruits they'll go to the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl instead of, like, Nashville or wherever. Your pile of money is larger than someone else's pile of money and you can put up buildings where every brick is an XBox. You can point to some guy making millions in the NFL and promise recruit X will as well. You can tell recruits that you're not going to be fired and replaced by some guy from the Sun Belt, unlike every other school recruiting Derrick Green. The more you win, the higher your draft picks are.
Gravity has no place in college sports, just entropy. Entropy: the tendency of things to move from ordered states to disordered ones. Entropy: the gradual decline and fall of the Carr era. Entropy: Greg Robinson. Entropy: Northwestern football. With 18 seconds left there's a fifty-yard pass on the way, and things are about to get disordered.
I mean, what can you say when your glorious victory is so clearly a gift from the cosmic random number generator? I have seen many things in my time as a sports fan. None of them have been an opposing safety taking a pass that is about to sail into the turf 10, 20 yards further downfield and flailing at it in such a way as to send it into the arms of the Michigan receiver he'd battered to the ground, gently. Feather-like. After all of that… easy.
Meanwhile, that event had been immediately preceded by a Northwestern fourth-and-one conversion on which the ref had to make sure every chain was ramrod straight and get his nose down to the field level before awarding the Wildcats a first down they probably didn't get but could not be overturned from above. Fitzgerald Toussaint's only decent run of the day ended with a bizarre pop-up fumble. Trevor Siemian came in and tore Michigan's secondary to shreds.
I like it better when the randomness is under a nice ol' narrative. When it's in your face so spectacularly, it's like the gods of math are taunting you for daring to care about anything they have their fickle fingers in. Go home, get a pen, and root for Fibonacci psuedo-randomness, they are saying. What you are doing is the equivalent of rooting for 3, they say. The number. The literal number. Woo 3. Go 3. You are so much more prime than 4. That's so 3! Oh god those people who like 4 are just animals. They poop in coolers, you know, and drive trucks. They're so… divisible.
Stripped of the narrative bit the mind goes back to a game of partial information, high stress, and plain evidence that worshipping the gods of math gets you nowhere. Big stacks matter in tournament poker, too. With many chips you can lean on people, play with the numbers on your side, and force people to decisions for all their chips. You get to be the gorilla. You get the good recruits.
Back in the day when laws were unclear and jerks hadn't yet banned online poker by attaching a rider to a bill about port security, I played a lot. I was pretty good. I played online satellites until I'd gotten a buy-in to the World Series of Poker, and went. I made the second day in rough shape, and started repairing my busted stack by chopping off preflop raisers. While I'd risk more, I'd be in fewer hands, give off a tight image and get 5-6 blinds instead of 1.5. I would have no illusions about whether I should GTFO if someone played back at me. It was working, and I caught a couple hands. I was on my way to day three.
I'd done this to the guy to my right two or three times already, and his frustration was evident the last go-round. He raised preflop again, and I looked at kings. Long story short, we ended up all-in, he turned over aces instead of anything else, and I did not suck out. Short-stacked after, it was a matter of time.
Brady Hoke hasn't had kings, but he has sucked out, and sucked out, and sucked out.
With 11-2 and a BCS win in the rear view, Michigan picked up the kind of momentum that saw them lock down a top-five class by March. Getting there took a series of desperate heaves to Junior Hemingway. This year the heaves have been a little less desperate but twice Michigan has had 18 seconds and needed big chunks of yards to set up do-or-die field goals and got them. They're not getting every break—see refs in all Nebraska games—but with a combination of skill and fortune Hoke is building quite a stack for himself.
The latest chip is a 2013 starting quarterback out of nowhere, a guy who had looked basically awful in any extended playing time before Denard's elbow injury forced Devin Gardner into the Minnesota game. And even if Saturday was too transparently chaotic to go down as an all-timer, it's another step through this rough patch as Michigan waits for the large, mean cavalry to arrive.
In the meantime let's all just stay here on the floor breathing heavily and slathering narrative over the terrifying randomness of the universe.
Football looks hurty sometimes, and by sometimes I mean all the time.
Also, here's Gardner chucking that TD to Funchess:
Brad at Maize and Blue Nation had a day with his shots. He's the guy who grabbed the shots that lead the post and then this is pretty great too:
Also, nightmare fuel!
Full gallery here.
The News got a great shot of Gardner:
That's Bryant in the extremely large track jacket BTW.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Roy Roundtree, come on down. Not only did you spawn a strange and likely short-lived meme when the Larrys, about whom more later, made a bizarre joke about how he would be better at catching the ball if his name was "Squaretree"—because square things are good at catching I guess—but you also put up 139 yards receiving, including the game-saving deep miracle. Also on 'Tree's docket: a beautiful corner route catch, getting run over on third and seventeen, and a critical hitch-and-run in OT.
Honorable Mention. Devin Gardner (at this rate will be Vince Young by next year, too bad about plateaus and such), Jeremy Gallon (hitch/bomb/punt return/let's ignore those other punt return opportunities), Kenny Demens (a close, close #2 with back to back OT TFLs).
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois) deytikerjerbs
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1.3: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama, 1/3 Minnesota), Drew Dileo (Michigan State, 1/3 Minnesota), Roy Roundtree (1/3 Minnesota, Northwestern)
1: Craig Roh(Nebraska).
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW
This must be awarded to the play that spawned it, which is Demens decleating Northwestern to end the game. In the future awarded to the BOOM YES play of the week.
Honorable mention: Kenny Demens stones Northwestern on third and one too, Treezy to the rescue, Devin Gardner kind of balletically flings a ball way high except it's to Devin Funchess so it's on the money, Jibreel Black forces a Colter fumble, Jordan Kovacs implodes Colter's back.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
11/10/2012: Mattison baits Fitz, Kenny Demens decleats Northwestern, game over.
Our hipster quarterback. WHICH ONE OF THESE DUDES IS DEVIN GARDNER
you've probably never heard of me
Probably the one on the left. PROBABLY
Open contempt. Northwestern fans were pretty hype on Nick Van Hoose as the cornerback who might rescue their secondary from its overwhelming Northwesternness; Van Hoose did not play. The Northwestern secondary was overwhelming in its Northwesternness.
This manifested on second down after second down when Michigan generally followed up a one yard run by going with a 2TE I-Form set and throwing a hitch in front of a helpless cornerback, or a corner at a helpless cornerback, or a hitch and go well past a helpless cornerback. I get pretty irritated when Michigan, which cannot run from under center even a tiny little bit, goes OOPS POW SURPRISE PLAY ACTION on obvious passing downs, but in this game it worked because every hitch route came with either a first down or some YAC baked in.
I have no idea why Northwestern didn't just bracket Michigan's single WR hard and dare Michigan to make them pay by getting to the second level—something it seemed they were four or five blocks from on every play. But they didn't. So, yeah.
RUUUUUUUUUUUU—oh you are nevermind. IIRC, Michigan did not have any called runs for Gardner except the goal line rollout (and that did have a pass option). He got sacked once. That means his seven other rushing attempts were all scrambles. That's more than Denard has acquired in eight games. They were also effective—an average pickup of almost seven yards without any of those coming on fruitless third and longs.
Yeah, that is Vince Young-like. The combination of effective deep balls and a willingness to take off is potentially deadly. Covering four verts and containing Gardner seems hard, and add in dumpoffs to space players like Norfleet and Hayes, and that's a nice recipe. Hopefully Michigan explores that once they don't have to minimize QB impact at all costs.
[UPDATE: After checking out the Gardner errysnap video, Michigan did have another called QB run in a goal-to-go situation that went for five or six yards, so six scrambles.]
not always pretty, but so far so good / Upchurch
Air check. We should erase the desperation bomb to Roundtree, which was a throw Gardner had to attempt, missed, and got a miracle deflection to complete it. That excised, Gardner was 15 of 28 for 8.3 YPA, two touchdowns, and a turrible interception. Add in the scrambles and that's good in a vacuum. Your context: Gardner was playing a poor defense minus its best cornerback and on an offense that can't run the ball even a little.
Those probably balance out, leaving Michigan with a good performance from a guy who'd been playing WR two weeks ago and has eligibility next year. That is huge.
Unlike last week, I can't remember anything particularly outlandish that happened to alter Gardner's stats since we've already set aside the desperation heave at the end of the game. Gardner actually lost a long completion to Jerald Robinson, and there was nothing on the order of Roundtree, Dileo, and Gallon going all circus for their QB in the Minnesota game. When Gardner missed, it wasn't by much. Minnesota was some good throws interspersed with a lot of shaky ones on which the receivers were great; Northwestern required a lot less heroism from the WRs.
You'd expect rapid improvement from a guy getting almost his first extended playing time and transitioning back to reps at QB from reps at WR; Gardner leapt even that high bar.
Y'all be jumpin'. Michigan has now pulled opponents offsides five times in two weeks with Gardner under center, with Northwestern threatening to go three or four more times.
That's a credit to Gardner's hard count and evidence of how much more comfortable Borges is with an offense that operates from under center. To run those freeze plays you have to be under center quickly enough to try it and then try something else if it doesn't work, something that has not often been the case for most of the year when Michigan was struggling just to get plays in. Against Northwestern, how often did you think "GET OUT OF THE HUDDLE" to yourself? For me, it was zero times. That's down a half-dozen from most games this year.
SIDE NOTE: I've seen a lot of credit going to Gardner for having the awareness to fling those fades when guys go offsides. That's a misunderstanding of what's going on. The way it works is this:
- Gardner huts his hut real hard, and then waits.
- Guy jumps or does not jump.
- If guy jumps, Mealer snaps it, free play.
- If guy does not jump, Michigan checks into something else.
So if Gardner gets the ball he knows someone is offsides and he has a free play and just throws the fade. He only gets the ball if he has a free play. The credit should go to Borges and Mealer.
SIDE SIDE NOTE: Yeah, Michigan did try to do similar things under RR from the gun. Bizarrely, what seemed to happen is that Michigan would get a guy to jump but he would get back before Michigan could snap the ball, leaving Michigan to burn a down on a low-percentage play.
Hello, Fitz. Not that Fitz. Hey, three broken tackles en route to a touchdown on a nothing dumpoff: that is a play. I enjoy Fitzgerald Toussaint making plays. he also picked up a bunch of bonus yards on his 50-yard inverted veer give, and then fumbled. That's his first fumble, right? I guess he gets a pass for it. Even Mike Hart finally broke.
A tip, I say, a palpable tip. Did anyone else notice Michigan removing AJ Williams for Devin Funchess on the third and goal in OT, and think to themselves "rollout to Funchess's side"? Lo, it transpired, and Northwestern covered Funchess but had no one else on the edge once a playside LB tried to shoot inside Omameh and got walled off.
I require more Dileo. Michigan finally had enough of seeing punts hit the ground and put Dennis Norfleet back there in place of Gallon; Norfleet let the next punt hit the ground. Dileo fair-caught the next one. Meanwhile, balls are being tossed at the thus-far ineffective Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson as Dileo watches from the sideline. I humbly request more targets for Dileo, who gets separation and catches passes, instead of larger receivers who do neither of these things
Maize and Blue Nation
Kenny Damn Demens. Remember when he was getting lined up two inches behind a nose tackle on a three man line and obliterated by guards releasing clean? Yeah. Demens isn't going to be a guy who makes every #25 in the future wear his name on the chest, but any time he walks into a bar for the rest of his life sporting that mustache of his someone is going to be like "CONSECUTIVE TFLS TO WIN 2012 NORTHWESTERN" and buy him a beer, and I love it when that happens. See also: Jerome Jackson, 2005 Iowa.
Demens did get beat by Northwestern's #1 WR on their last touchdown, but that's an RPS thing and a function of Michigan's LB slide plus Northwestern consistently gashing Michigan on the corners. Projected % of Michigan fans instantly reminded of Chris Graham against Anthony Gonzalez: 37%.
So sexy. Michigan came out with a a weird three man line featuring Jibreel Black as the NT that all but begged Northwestern to run up the middle on their fourth down, with the results noted above: Ryan gets cut off by the backside G, Black shoots playside of the tackle and forces a cutback on the handoff NW was baited into, BOOM.
That was exactly the plan:
“The last tackle there — number one, I like the call that (defensive coordinator Greg Mattison) made because it was one where it may have talked (Northwestern) into running the football because of some of the space inside,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “And then Kenny just did a nice job of just working inside out to the ball, where maybe a little bit earlier he was maybe getting too far ahead of it.”
Michigan's defense finally got gashed, but man did they dial it up at the end.
Will it happen again? Ohio State is going to be checking out the Northwestern film quite a lot, but I'm not sure they have a Mark-like back to hit that edge. They've got a couple thumpers who will challenge tackling skills more than speed.
Linebacker switching. I didn't notice this live but a lot of people have said Desmond Morgan had a rough game, which seems logical since after a couple weeks of limited linebacker swapping we saw a lot of James Ross, including on the final two Northwestern drives. Ross was the guy who came an inch away from stuffing the Northwestern fourth and one. I'll get to the bottom of what went down in the UFR.
Pipkins comes on. Also receiving a lot more PT: Ondre Pipkins, who had a rough few plays against Minnesota before getting the hook. Again not sure why but probably based on Northwestern being one of those hurry-up outfits that puts a heavy demand on opposing defense's depth. Insert usual desire to be a team that puts that kind of pressure on the opponent.
Getting edged. Michigan's really got to do something about their option scheme, probably. I'll have to check it out to see if it was much different than what happened against Air Force.
Oblig. Kovacs number switch bitching.
Me = Dude (obvs)
Car = Kovacs
Flame = #11
Nihilists = Brandon (obvs)
He's still JKovacs32 on twitter, at least.
“I’ve worn No. 32 for quite some time, I think I’ll always be No. 32,” Kovacs said
Yes. Dammit that needs to be the walk-on-who-plays number. Does no one understand how to make things? /wireseason2
Oblig. game theory bit. Big points to Pat Fitzgerald for going for it on fourth and short with around three minutes left. That is a spot in which it's easy to go NFL and derp your way to shrugging postgame coverage, but the obvious play is going. One yard and you've got the other team trying to complete a 50-yard miracle to tie. Punt and even Michigan's languorous two-minute drill still has time to ease down the field.
Northwestern got it by a few molecules thanks to what seemed like a favorable spot, albeit not one that is ever going to get overturned by the Big Ten's milquetoasty replay officials. (After the Penn State TD debacle they are now the Rod Gilmore Memorial Big Ten Replay Officials.)
Fitzgerald gives back about half of those points on the punt. You hate variance if you are Northwestern punting the ball back with 25 seconds left. NW…
- took a delay of game penalty instead of using a timeout
- ran out their rugby guy to bash a line drive into Gallon's chest
- got a net of 11 yards as a result
Rugby punts are generally effective but tend to be more unpredictable than regular stuff: shanks are easier, and if the returners are positioned correctly they get an opportunity like Gallon got. The play there was to take a timeout and hang one in the air to force a fair catch. The upside of that is about equal to the rugby punt and the downside is nil.
Michigan didn't really face any major decisions. They could have taken a shot at the endzone after the Roundtree completion but chose to kick. The difference between that decision and the end of last year's ND game was one second on the clock and a timeout, which they had against ND but not here. The Roundtree completion took six seconds, and it's easy to see that last one slip off the clock for any number of reasons.
FWIW, Michigan played their TOs right by taking all of them immediately once they were facing do-or-die time on defense.
Git R Done, for values of R that equal racism. If you don't follow me on twitter you missed the saga of the Larry The Cable Guy clan in my immediate vicinity, a group of redneck yahoos that said a lot of things like "LEZ GO CUMONG" and "GIT EM CUMONG," which was annoying when they did that really loudly after a four yard run—now my hopes are all up and it's second and six—but mostly harmless.
That ceased on a Norfleet kickoff return on which one of them screamed "run like you stole it" and I was processing the I am somewhat uncomfortable with the racial overtones that statement displays thing when one of them almost certainly dropped the n-word. I looked at the MGoWife, and she looked at me to confirm, and then I just really hoped that it wouldn't come up again because if that happens a second time, well… words will be exchanged and I'm trying to panic myself to death at a football game thanks, please let's not get in a screaming match.
It did not come up again. Hurrah. There's no real lesson here except it's not very fun to be surrounded by Larry the Cable Guy.
BONUS BONUS BONUS: a Larry next to me left after the Gardner INT, which lol. I moved over because there was a tall guy in front of me… directly into the path of a woman with four pom-poms whose thought process in relation to those was:
I bet if I shake these really hard they're invisible.
If only, lady. If only.
* NW ended up with 431 total offense yards. That's the same amount that Alabama,
the greatest team ever assembled, a pretty good offense, had against us. I never would have guessed that Alabama and NW would be equivalent at anything. After the Alabama game, I wrote, "If we can hold everyone else under 431, I’ll be happy." NW didn't get more than 431, so I'm not unhappy, I'm just confused.
* Thomas Gordon led us in tackles with 11, not a good sign. Demens and Morgan were next with 9 apiece. Considering Mattison substituted freely with the LBs, that's a lot of tackles.
I bumped Best And Worst but in case you didn't click through:
…this week’s game definitely felt like the first one to showcase Al Borges’s “preferred offense.” It was a number of shorter passes, a dedication to running the ball with the RB, and play-calling that couldn’t fall back on a Dilithium-fueled QB if the first and second reads were not open. Minnesota showed this a bit in the first quarter, but that game felt over at halftime and so I’m not sure what you could glean from it except that the offensive line still couldn’t get a push inside.
Does it need to be said much more than that? Inches decide ball games, particularly close ball games. Against Nebraska inches separated Northwestern from a clinching interception and a devastating blown lead and loss. Against Michigan, those inches mattered even more.
You can slake your schadenfreude needs if you're weird and hold some sort of grudge against Northwestern at the SoP postgame thread.
Blog stuff. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has a photoessay documenting everyone recording the football game. Meta.
not actually photos of the Roundtree catch
KENNY DEMENS – He didn’t play a perfect game but he did make the tackle of his life – TWICE! It’s a play and situation you dream of as a kid growing up playing Pop Warner Football. Demens not only made the big stop to win the game on 4th Down, but he also made the stop the play before on 3rd Down! OUTSTANDING!
Michigan struggled on defense in this game for a number of different reasons. Jake Ryan and Frank Clark both lost contain frequently which gave Northwestern big gains on the ground. In addition, and I think Mattison figured this out before the fourth quarter, but Michigan was defending the speed option in an unsound manner. The playside linebacker was always playing the quarterback, forcing a pitch to the running back who had nothing but blockers in front of him. I think Mattison assumed his corners and safeties could get off of their blocks on the outside the help contain the rushing attack, but Michigan's corners aren't very good at doing this. By the fourth quarter, Michigan started forcing the runs back inside.
I cannot agree with Maize and Blue Nation about this:
The running game. It showed signs of life this week. I think the more pro-style offense that Gardner runs suits Michigan better on offense. We're still trained to run the spread-option, but I don't think it's working for Fitz. He's a downhill runner. I really like that Rawls can come in and compliment Fitz...although, it might be the other way around, actually. I thought the line blocked better this week. Hoke stayed with the same lineup he's had all year across the line, so it was encouraging to see the interior especially, play better.
Michigan got a 50-yard gain on an inverted veer give—blocking not relevant unless you're a WR—and 41 yards on six Gardner scrambles. They also lost six yards on a Hayes jet sweep that's now scouted by opponents. Their other 23 carries went for 49 yards. Death. If Michigan finds itself trailing against OSU there's going to be a point at which it'll be time to run the quarterback from the shotgun even if it's Gardner and the backup option is Jack Kennedy. Michigan just can't move the ball on the ground without the numerical advantage provided by using the QB.
U-M Student Section Sucks
And I thought the key play nonsense was bad.
The empty seats are past the point of ridiculous now. Michigan has been reduced to having its football players make videos begging fans (read: students) to show up on time for the games. WTF?! This isn't Ball State. Bo's probably rolling over in his grave.
I'm not sure what more can be done since the athletic department already instituted the points system. But seeing all those empty seats up there after the game starts is a slap in the face to Hoke and the Michigan players.
That should be "30% of the student section sucks." 70% of them are there. The solution is to give out t-shirts.
FWIW, the key play thing has not been done in probably ten years.
It wasn't a perfect day. The Toussaint fumble was maddening, but a great play by the Wildcat defense. Special K remembered where "In The Big House" was on his hard drive. There weren't enough holes in the offensive line to run through, things of this ilk.
But it was sunny, warmish for a November day. Al Wistert got a tremendous ovation from the Michigan Stadium crowd, the MMB put on a funny show, Devin Gardner continued to look good, Roy Roundtree remembered that he's a heck of a receiver, Gibbons is still money, and in the end, Michigan was victorious, Really, that's more than we should be able to ask for from the football gods. After all, you need to stay humble.
Warmish? High standards over at the Hoover Street Rag.
For Michigan, it's never over until the last pass is thrown, and tipped, and cradled, and caught. For Devin Gardner, same thing — it's not over even when others think it is.
Nothing is over for the Wolverines, and it's just getting started for Gardner. How many times can a game, or a season, or a young career twist? Gardner was a receiver a couple of weeks ago, hoping to be a quarterback again. Now he's directing a team contending for the Big Ten title.
The Daily on Brady Hoke's magic:
The last time Brady Hoke and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald were at Michigan Stadium together was Oct. 7, 1995.
Hoke was a first-year defensive line coach on the home sideline. Fitzgerald was Northwestern’s burly junior middle linebacker, wearing a white No. 51 jersey and terrorizing Michigan quarterback Brian Griese.
With the Wildcats leading 19-13 and just 1:40 remaining on the clock, Griese and the Michigan offense were 41 yards from the end zone facing a third-and-15. Fitzgerald had ended the previous drive by tipping a pass out of harm’s way.
Nesbitt FTW; great great angle there. Hadn't even thought about it. Also Estes on not saying sorry.
Gardner saying the right things:
Gardner on Denard Robinson : "This is Denard's team, and this is always going to be Denard's team. He's done way too much for two games to change that."
10/21/2012 – Michigan 12, Michigan State 10 – 5-2, 3-0 Big Ten
Denard Robinson is 13 of 29 for 143 yards; he's run 20 times for 96 yards. His team is down a point and has managed to turn 120 seconds into eighteen without moving the ball anywhere near plausible field goal range. A few drives ago Jeremy Gallon was as wide open as you can be on third and goal and Denard blasted it hard and behind the guy—if it was to keep it away from a defender it was because the throw was late—or Michigan would lead by three.
Behind me, some Michigan State meathead has spent the better part of four quarters screaming "throw it, Denard, huh huh huh." Juggalo Nation, reprazent.
"Is this guy really a QB I'll say my mans vento is a better QB lol. S/O to my boy vento by the way."
-Denicos Allen, MSU linebacker, on Denard and MSU walk-on QB Tommy Vento, 9/1/2012
Michigan has second and eleven but more importantly they have seventeen seconds to get in field goal range. State shows a three man rush but also sends Denicos Allen; Allen stunts inside Will Gholston, who Lewan has nerfed, and hits Ricky Barnum at full speed. Barnum gives ground—a lot of ground. Allen is flying up into the pocket, where Denard would be.
Denard has started to roll.
"DENARD IS SOOOO BAD! And it makes me feel so good."
-Kyle Artinian, MSU safety, 9/1/2012
The roll is bad. The roll takes out most of Michigan's routes, spends time Michigan doesn't have, removes downfield possibilities Michigan desperately needs. In the stands, my heart sinks. I have seen this script before, not just watching Michigan, but watching everyone. Michigan's win probability is sinking like a stone with every step Denard takes outside the pocket.
Denard stops. The roll steps have gotten Roy Roundtree a bracket, and made the middle of the field lonely.
Barnum has continued shoving Allen past everything. Gholston, lined up against Lewan, is as relevant to the play as I am. Denard sets his feet.
"I can play quarterback for the school in blue."
-Jamal Lyles, MSU linebacker, 9/1/2012
Denard decides setting his feet is not for him. He starts moving up in the pocket as the State nose tackle sheds Elliot Mealer.
Dileo's head is in a better spot to tackle someone than Gholston
As all of this has occurred with half the people on the field, the other half have been fighting hand-to-hand in remote locations. Drew Dileo has started outside, then come inside of MSU safety Isaiah Lewis. Lewis is tracking, in decent position. Dileo is entering a window between two underneath defenders. It's huge since Denard's temporary roll has caused Max Bullough to chase Roundtree—the roll truly was doomed.
Denard is moving up in a pocket that is less a pocket and more a space occupied by a no-longer-blocked Michigan State defender by the moment. He has not rolled. He is stepping into the future, whatever it brings.
Denard cocks, and throws. The stadium stops. The throw has to be on a line, at Dileo's chest. It's 20 yards downfield. As each frame ticks by, universes begin and end.
"Even a blind squirrel can get a nut ever once in a while...,"
-Nick Hill, MSU running back, 9/1/2012
It's in the number—not numbers. Drew Dileo only has one. It's #9. Denard uses the enclosed space in that number as a bullseye.
Michigan rushes to the line to spike the ball. Mark Dantonio watches Michigan execute a maneuver that cost him a game last week when his team went all John L Smith on it.
I keep thinking about how this clown beat us in the clutch. Sure, we beat ourselves, but for all the times we've shit on him for his arm or lack of, what did he do in the final minute?
Pride comes before... DAMN IT!
-Venomous G. Duck, 10/21/2012
…I mean, the guy knows. He's heard it all, whether he'll admit it or not. In this game the defenses dominated as both quarterbacks struggled to about 5.6 yards per attempt. The difference: Denard outrushed MSU's offense by himself and threw a meaningless interception on an end-of-half Hail Mary while Maxwell chucked one into Kovacs's chest after Michigan State had been set up with good field position. Run and armpunt that, homeboy.
"We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?"
-Mark Dantonio, 4/18/2012
The remainder of Michigan State's season is a choice between not going to a bowl game and helping Michigan make the Rose Bowl.
Michigan State found a few nuts when one Michigan coach hung on too long and a second employed Greg Robinson, and couldn't wait to tell everybody every day all day. In the aftermath, they're asking Brady Hoke if they're as important as Ohio State and saying it's a real rivalry and it's level footing now, because Michigan is apparently also busy cutting off recruiting coordinators for no apparent reason and talking trash because Michigan State is losing a game. The little brother thing keeps getting brought up because it is the truest thing anyone has ever said about a 100-year-old football program.
Whatever. Michigan is rounding up a selection of ass-kickers and has its sights set on bigger things than one game against a program that's never been in a BCS bowl and hasn't seen Pasadena in 25 years. It doesn't matter if MSU or Iowa is Iowa. What matters is in Schembechler Hall, and MSU players watching Michigan play Alabama know it.
After the game, DenardX tweeted something about walk-on quarterbacks.
Me and the rest of the QBs after the game with our home boy Paul Bunyan!!! #GoBlue @teamdgizzle @rbellomy
As of press time, Denicos Allen has not given a shoutout to his boy Tommy Vento.
Other highlights from a guy named noonkick. Field level end of game video:
Honorable mention: Jake Ryan (obvs), JT Floyd (they tried but could never bust him), Greg Mattison (I mean, my God), Denard Robinson (HEYYYY COLUMN LADY), Taylor Lewan (Tom Lolston), Kenny Demens (LeVeon Bell, welcome to 2.6 YPC), Jordan Kovacs (ditto).
Epic Double Point standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Drew Dileo (Michigan State)
DEE-FENSE. That image above is just perfect. LeVeon Bell crapped out 2.6 yards a carry against OSU… and 2.6 yards a carry against Michigan. That's all DL stuff and while the Michigan State line had the services of Dan France, they were out two of their three starters for most of the OSU game and did not have Treadwell much; Treadwell went the whole way against M and AFAIK Ethan Ruhland did not make an appearance. Dion Sims was gimpy; other than that it's basically the same performance against the same team.
Bell never got caught behind the line, which makes the 2.6 YPC even more impressive since Michigan didn't RPS their way into any TFLs. Michigan won the battle on third and short against LeVeon Bell. Thumbs up.
CLOCK MANAGEMENT. That was verbatim tweet I sent out Saturday and holy pants, WTF. Some of that was crappy luck and crappy decisions—Toussaint catching the Butterfield/Breaston memorial DON'T YOU DARE CATCH THAT pass, Denard checking down in the first place, but at one point the entire stadium was on its feet screaming SNAP THE BALL at once after Michigan let almost 20 seconds run off the clock for no apparent reason. Michigan had already burned nine seconds before the review on the Denard third-and-two lunge; they burned off a few more before snapping the ball.
If this was a one time thing it would be a one-time thing; after last year's Iowa two-minute debacle it's an issue. I don't think this is much on the players when they're looking to the sideline for a call, especially after Michigan burned two timeouts in this game just trying to get the playcall in.
Michigan huddling for half the playclock is killing me. There's no reason to do it, it doesn't seem to help their attempts to audible out of obvious blitzes, and their lack of practicing at tempo is an obvious detriment when they need to go fast.
Jake Ryan crazy thing of the week. This is not actually the Maxwell sack pictured at right, which came about after Ryan went around the 250-pound Bell like he was not there for Michigan's only TFL of the week. Though that was pretty awesome, you guys.
Even so, the crazy thing Ryan did this week was facing down three blockers on a screen that MSU had set up like whoah, trashing the guy who peeled off to deal with him, and holding Michigan State to seven yards. Michigan booted state off the field on the subsequent third and short.
Totals: 10 tackles, 8 solo, Michigan's only sack. HE'S SLIGHTLY GOOD YOU GUYS SRSLY
JT Floyd. It was clear once MSU started taking regular shots downfield that they had identified JT Floyd as the weak spot on the Michigan defense, but he held tough. The catch-and-YAC five yard hitch first downs from the Purdue game were eliminated entirely; he got beat deep by a step or two each time but was in good enough position that the throws had to be perfect lest he pull the press Michael Floyd and live (or "trail") technique.
The throws weren't perfect, and the only long completions Maxwell managed were against Thomas Gordon (bad play by him on a ball he would have had a play on if he found it) and Raymon Taylor (got an interference call and gave up an admittedly spectacular completion late). Floyd got off without issue.
What's more, MSU's big idea to get a touchdown on short yardage was to line up a fullback over Floyd and run Bell at him. Floyd held up, got the edge, kept leverage at the numbers, and prevented Bell from getting outside, whereupon Desmond Morgan helped him tackle. The guy had a target on his back all day and came through with flying colors.
Fumbles. Are a bitch.
Somehow Michigan did not recover this one, nor the other one, despite having nothing but Michigan players surrounding the Spartan who clutched the ball like it was a nugget of gold.
NOW DO YOU BELIEVE ME NOWWWWWW
Denard, my man. I am totally down with the whole "not getting torn limb from limb by defenses" thing, but…
…dude, there is a time and place to put your body on the line and turning your 44 yard run late in the fourth quarter into 50 is it.
Denard's bad throw to Gallon. Eric got a great shot of it:
Watching the replay, Denard is throwing it in the heart of the window between the two linebackers. Gallon should be sitting between the two guys; he overruns it a bit. My thinking here is influenced by seeing Borges at that coaches clinic, where he mentioned that he wants his QBs to hold up his receivers against zone coverage.
Still, probably at least 75% Denard. He's rifling that at a guy barely ten yards downfield so his margin for error is extremely small; he doesn't read the fact that he is wide, wide open and he can just soft toss it to him.
Matt Wile: most useful backup kicker ever. Matt Wile may not have displaced Keith Stone Sasquatch Brendan Gibbons as Michigan's starting kicker but he's the best third-most-important kicker since I've been watching Michigan football. He:
- kicks most kickoffs into the endzone
- is a pretty effective pooch-punter
- had a good plain-old punting record last year when Hagerup was jittery
- nailed a 48-yard field goal that, along with all other field goals, was the winning margin.
If either kicker got injured he'd step into their shoes. Michigan should be fine on the kicking stuff for a while now. Note foregone pun.
Hagerup confidence : 2012 :: Gibbons confidence : 2011. Whatever happened with Hagerup last year to tack a four-game suspension on to his OSU suspension from 2010 led to a lot of shanks and mortifiedpunter.gif. After a couple of Sugar Bowl shanks, Wile displaced Hagerup for the rest of the game.
At that point it was writin' off time, like Gibbons after 2010. When Hagerup was still atop the depth chart in September, that made people suspicious. It wasn't alarming like Gibbons since Wile was around and fairly established, but it was only 50-50 to stick. Stuck it has. Hagerup's averaging 47.5 yards a kick and would be fourth nationally if he had enough punts to qualify.
Special teams coach: do we have one or not? The fake punt was… frustrating. Michigan's trying to set up a return, which you can't really do against a spread punt anyway, and they're playing a team that loves nothing more than faking punts and field goals. Somehow this combination results in three guys leading the punter and blocking no one at all. Michigan's even got a designated special teams/TEs guy, but they can't cover or block on punts and they got gashed for 30 yards by a punter. WTF.
Michigan did get a big return out of Gallon at the end of the first half but even that emphasized the difference in punt coverage. Gallon had to split two unblocked guys and then run laterally past a second wave. Meanwhile the one Hagerup punt that was not a 48-yard, five-second-hang unreturnable moonball was a free 15 yards for the punt returner since MSU doubled a gunner and no one else on that side of the ball got downfield.
Whatever they're doing with the kickers is great… but is that anything other than hot babes visualization exercises? I'm not sure. Everything else is questionable at best.
Game theory bits. There wasn't a whole lot of interest from my eyes but a couple of decisions have sucked up post-game airtime.
- MSU threw on second down on their last drive. Not even close: right call. LeVeon Bell was averaging 2.6 yards a carry and had just been stuffed for nothing. Maybe you want some slants or a hitch or something instead of what they threw but you can't assume Michigan is going to run the worst successful two minute drill ever. All running on second down accomplishes is spending a Michigan timeout; getting the first down ends the game.
- Michigan punted on fourth and seven from the MSU 42 early. Did not have a problem with this. Not in true no man's land, yardage pretty big, and if you're in the kind of game that ends 12-10 puntosaur technology is the right tech.
- MSU attempted a 38-yard field goal on fourth and one from the 21. This was debatable—one of reasons puntosaur tech makes sense is that even if you get the first down you're probably kicking anyway. Is MSU going to score a TD? Eh… probably not. A 38-yarder is well within the range in which you expect your established PK to hit it. Even so… that was fourth and capital-S Short. If MSU is intimidated by Michigan's short yardage defense… well, I get that. Probably a mistake but in a puntosaur game I get it.
The assumption you're making on those early calls is that you are in a puntosaur game. IME, that was clear from the get-go.
Oh for crap's sake. Dollars to donuts this is new LSJ beatwriter and slappy Graham "Alex Carder Best Quarterback In The State™" Couch:
I don’t know if you guys saw after the game, but I almost got trampled out there. [MGo: -_______-] Have the fans ever trampled the field like that after a Michigan State win? Is this rivalry getting to the level of Ohio State?
[update: Heiko says it was a photographer, not Couch; stuff below stands.]
No, and no.
Couch derided Junior Hemingway—yup, Junior Hemingway—for his classlessness after the game in a tweet, going so far as to hashtag his tweet "#classless," because he interpreted Michigan's rush to get a Paul Bunyan trophy that was on the sideline last year but not this year as taunting. He's since deleted the tweet, because nothing goes better with stupidity than cowardice.
BONUS: This blog already has a "Graham Couch's laughable homerism" tag from his days covering WMU.
Pom poms. I thought I was good when the guy three rows in front of me was an Air Force veteran—so said his hat—who would clearly rather eat glass than wave a pom-pom, but then some Ladies who Just Wanted To Have Fun ended up two rows in front of me. At some point I had to say "please don't wave those so high" because I couldn't see the field, at which point they said "it's a football game" and I said "I KNOW I WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT."
I don't know, man. This isn't an old man thing, it's just… if there are pom poms it is a guarantee that some dip in front of you will forget that there are people behind them and act affronted when you say there are people behind them. This is amazingly consistent in my and my friends experience: ask the kind of person who waves a pom-pom during actual football plays to not do that and you will be subjected to a "whateva, I do what I want" style rant and petulant extra-vigorous pom-pom shaking. And yet if I was to take the pom-pom and stuff it down the pom-pom waver's throat, I would be the one removed from the stadium.
Pom poms suck, because society.
Special K. False hope is worse than death.
What the incentive program should be. Any student who wasn't in the stadium at kickoff shouldn't be allowed to buy tickets next year. I mean, seriously: a 3:30 kick for the only decent home game all year and the upper 20 rows of the student section are half-full means the student section is too big.
We had Witvoet's crew for the game. After calling a penalty on State, he let Hawthorne have it. I'm not sure what Brandin did, but I'm just glad he didn't draw an unsportmanlike penalty call.
* The officials let it be known early that they weren't going to stand for any shenanigans this year, calling Lewan for a somewhat touchy late hit. I wish they would have sent a message by calling a penalty on the team responsible for all the shenanigans last year, but they kept things under control, so no complaints.
bronxbblue has a new thing called Best and Worst:
I’m sure this is a bit of coach-speak, but it is also something that needed to be said. Since, oh, the Eastern Michigan game, I don’t think most people saw MSU as a legitimate Big 10 championship team. The offense was too crippled by a porous line, poor WRs, and a somewhat-shaky QB to keep pace with teams like Wisconsin, UM, OSU, and Nebraska. The Iowa game cemented their ceiling for the year at 7-8 wins, even with an elite defense.
Outside of the Alabama game, though, UM’s ceiling was never defined. Notre Dame was a tough loss but one that felt more self-inflicted than the team meeting a superior opponent. Purdue and Illinois proved only that UM was probably as good as Louisiana Tech and and Marshall. MSU, frankly, was not going to validate UM’s season, but only give them another breakpoint from which to calibrate their potential.
And that’s what Hoke encapsulates in this statement. He recognizes that MSU is a rival and the game mattered, but this wasn’t the season.
Spartanfreude section. The "Post Your Big (Jail) House experience" thread is pretty good from an M standpoint—no one reports much untoward aside from some verbal sparring, and even that is pretty tame.
I was in Section 8 and saw some arguing going on. On the way back to the car had 3 assholes walking in back of us talking shit like everyone above said, "Little brother put back in his place again", "Leveon Bell for Heisman....", "130 seasons of football and 900 wins", "UM is back in their rightful place". This yapping went. on for the whole walk thru the golf course. Mind you that I took my 74 year old dad to the game. I finally blew. Stopped in my tracks and had a few words. That slightly shut them up.
A 74-year-old man had to listen to people describe how many wins Michigan had acquired, and was exposed to the opinion that Michigan State is not as good at football as Michigan. #thugs
Cut my hand open, Michigan fans threatened to "throw me out of the stadium" for cheering, got my backpack stolen, bought macaroni salad on the walk home. Typical saturday. Also I got called ugly a lot. I'm like a 6 let's be real.
Edit: in retrospect, I probably swore around children a lot more than I should have
Also This Guy:
It's an awful place. Will never return after my last visit in 2010, when I had to be retstrained from attacking Walvies who kept telling me to go back to jail. Nothing about the experience is fun, no matter the result.
And this guy made TWIS but you get a taste early:
Rolled out of bed today more upset and sick than last night
This sucks. Facing the world this week with every UM drag sporting that cocky arrogant grin, wearing their colors -unwashed.
I hate this.
Many if you rcmb'rs are too you to remember all the games from late 80's until Dantonio era.... I hate this week. I can't wait for the first one to offer some sort of mild apology or winning with fg's... Kill.
That is the same This Guy who complained about the Michigan fans who had the audacity to tell him the game would be close and Michigan wasn't good last week. If this man was ever exposed to a real taunt his head would disintegrate into a fine mist.
Blog folks. HSR:
Spock: Well, Michigan was quite fortunate to have won that game.
Kirk: Woooo! Don't care! Wooooo! Woooo! Woooo!
Spock: Four field goals is hardly the offensive output necessary over the long term to win the Big Ten Championship.
Kirk: Don't care! Don't care! Woooooo! Woooo! What the Dileo?!? Wooo!
As J. Lehman was interviewing Hoke during pregame (above), I heard a woman on the sideline (with a sideline pass mind you) gesture over to Hoke and ask, “Is that the coach?”. I gave the Jim Halpert stare to anyone who wanted it. And a lot of guys wanted it.
BWS points out that Michigan passed on 7 of 26 first downs, and only 5 of 22 before the two-minute drill. The lack of a reliable play action option really hurt in this one. I'm not sure why Michigan can't throw outs to their slot receivers.
The Only Colors has postgame react from the MSU perspective:
There aren't going to be any four-game winning streaks in this rivalry again for a long time. ("It takes four years. Of course it will be a long time." Shut up, guy). MSU will get the favorable schedule U-M has enjoyed for the next two years, and both teams are starting to stockpile talent. (If you bring up recruiting rankings, I'm going to punch you).
MSU fans are still clinging to the recruiting-rankings-are-meaningless thing. They're in for a harsh reality check once Michigan's recruiting rankings are paired with something other than crippling attrition, lackadaisical talent evaluation, and crappy coaching. Maybe not next year, when Michigan's breaking in a new quarterback and the upperclass talent levels are still relatively even, but after that… back to the salt mines, Sparty. Or maybe Alabama, OSU, and USC are only good because of their helmets.
SBN's Bobby Big Wheel was randomly at the game and randomly ended up on the field and wrote a thing defending being on the field:
…most college kids use "if it feels good, do it" as their main decision-making rule, not a six-factor test. Thus, a few jumped on the field. At first, I smiled and wondered how I'd get out of the stadium, but more people started jumping the fence. Michigan Stadium goes out instead of up, and the student section seems to run 100 rows deep. So, I learned that when you have a mile of drunk, yellow-clad college kids behind you and someone says you're rushing the field, you're rushing the field.
That's how I, a 28-year-old, job-having person, rushed the field at Michigan Stadium. And I did it con gusto. I joined in the chants, yelled "wooooo!" a lot and got my picture taken with the band. It might have been the rum and "Coke" (I suspect that the mixer was either another type of rum or a non-poisonous brand of varnish) that I'd been taking swigs of during the game, but it was still a fantastic experience. Please keep in mind that I have no ties to the University of Michigan beyond a sister in grad school there. Never mind that; running around a football field makes you feel alive.
I have to admit I rolled my eyes at the field-rush, which was epic in its half-assery. The first students over the wall waited for the team to leave the field, basically, and then it was a slow trickle as only 30-40% of the people in the front row at any particular juncture actually wanted to get on the field. The contrast from last year's OSU field rush to this one was appropriately vast.
Q: I can't remember anyone ever rushing the field outside of the 1997 OSU game before the two incidents mentioned above. Can anyone else?
The HSR is figuring out what's going on in the game based on Ace's ability to keep all of his veins in his head. Dr. Sap's decals go to Dileo, Floyd, and Gibbons, plus others. Brady Hoke's Pet Viking reprazent. MVictors did this:
MVictors is pretty cool, yo.
Moments after Michigan's 12-10 win over Michigan State on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Lewan, teammate Roy Roundtree and a host of other Michigan players rushed the field and sprinted toward the Spartan sideline.
They were, of course, searching for the famous Paul Bunyan Trophy. But the effort was futile.
"This was my first time beating Michigan State, so I don't know how this works," Lewan said, believing Michigan was supposed to receive the trophy from MSU after the game. "I ran over there to get the Paul Bunyan Trophy, because I remember (MSU having it on the field once before).
"I didn't see him until I went into the locker room. ... I think they were upset about it."
The Michigan victory brings the trophy back to Ann Arbor for the first time since 2007, even if it wasn't brought onto the field Saturday.
After beating the Wolverines for a fourth straight time last season, Michigan State players were seen celebrating with the massive trophy on the field at Spartan Stadium. On Saturday, though, the exchange was more low-key -- it was done somewhere inside the stadium tunnel, and the trophy was waiting for the Wolverines in their locker room after the game.
More classless behavior.
Past Jake Ryan, hopefully not future MSU
Snap jumping. Not again?
Please address Sparty jumping the snap. What can be done to prevent it or even use it to the Wolverines' advantage?
Please, please, please use all your influence to prevent Sparty snap jumping from successfully occurring this Saturday. This is an important key to Michigan's offensive success.
I AM USING ALL MY INFLUENCE MAN YOU JUST DON'T KNOW. Unfortunately, that influence consists of squinting really hard and making "wahwahwahwah" noises to project psychic sound waves about me. I have no influence.
I do think that we will see that snap jumping significantly reduced in frequency, possibly almost eliminated. One of the hidden transition costs last year was a coaching staff that had not endured Jerel Worthy's sometimes-offside-but-usually-just-eating-your-heart dance party and did not spend big chunks off the offseason fuming about it and scheming themselves a plan to defeat it. This year everyone is well aware that snap timing blew up the Michigan offense in all different ways and that changes must be made. We have seen Michigan vary their snap counts—they did it last week—and with a home game Michigan should be able to use audible signals if they want. Meanwhile, Worthy is gone and I haven't seen the Spartan replacements be able to replicate that maddening skill of his.
Unfortunately, this prediction about the snap jumping has reached the status of turnovers under Rich Rodriguez: logic says it can't happen again, and then it happens again. At this point I'll have to see a Michigan coaching staff enter a Michigan State game as prepared to play as the Spartans are before I believe it.
If not this year, though, when? Michigan State's coming off three straight nail-biters that required them to dump everything they had on the field in an effort to win the game. Michigan's coming off a bye and two laughers. MSU is shuffling guys on their OL, has benched a senior captain LB, and is trying to find two tight ends to rub together.
They don't have the depth to do much other than what they've done already. They don't have a changeup like Baker they can go to; they don't have the tight end depth that threw Michigan off; they are trying to find anyone who can catch a ball. Please, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, yea the most powerful of all fictional supernatural football deities, hear our plea.
Bellomy on the goal line.
I am a little confused by the play calling after Denard went out with his "boo-boo".
1) Why is Toussaint in the "jumbo" (unsure if package name is correct)? Rawls just seems to have the short yardage figured out a little bit better i.e. size and running style: see 6:35 Q2. (I know my example comes after and did not have 6/7 on the line and all 11 within 5 of the LOS and inside the tackles but still). Was Rawls insertion later a sign that he may now have the short yardage job?
You've got me on this one. I have two theories, neither of which seems that convincing.
Theory one: Fitz is in a funk and rusty and getting flack from people and some cheap touchdowns will help his morale, maybe get him driving harder at the goal line.
Theory two: Rawls is fumbling a lot in practice or going BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.
Pick one or make one up yourself; I think either explanation is going to quickly fall by the wayside as Rawls becomes a preferred option inside the five. He probably would have scored on one of the two attempts. I do think the BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE theory has some credibility behind it since I just watched Rawls look at this…
…and decide to bounce that outside the TE instead of slam it up at the gaping cutback lane like he was born to do. Amazingly, the guy seems to have some Michael Shaw to him. Go north-south, young moose.
2) Why the vanilla play calls? It was clear later that they trust Bellomy with some measure of the offense that is clearly larger than watching the RB run into some ineffective down-blocks. With the alignment of weak-side DE, LB, and FS, why not run a PA boot with the TE rubbing off and going all Funchey in the back of the end zone? Is this just a manball fundamental that we must live with this year while the donkey punchers are being groomed?
There's a big difference between trusting Bellomy to run around and fling stuff once you're up a billion points and having him take his first meaningful snaps in a rainstorm in a game that could still go either way.
Personally, I wanted him to hand off come hell or high water—when you're the silverback you want to lower variance, and having Bellomy think about all the stuff he's going to do after the snap could lead to bad news. Bellomy fumbled a snap later, after all, and Michigan doesn't want to open the door for anything cheap for the Illini because that's the only way they lose.
In general I don't think there's much to criticize either way about goal line playcalling. The defense is selling out one way, you pick one or the other and succeed or don't.
[After THE JUMP: clock management, Afghanistan face-off, Legends logistics, Jake Ryan of the past.]
10/13/2012 – Michigan 45, Illinois 0 – 4-2, 2-0 Big Ten
Six games into year two of the Hoke and Mattison defensive regime, Michigan stands 10th in total defense. Last year they finished 17th. The year before that they languished in the triple-digits, unsure of who they were, what they were doing, and how life was supposed to have any meaning. Now, they know.
The flow thing is no coincidence.
RYAN THE BARBARIAN
Yeah, you can use the advanced numbers to push the exact measure of Michigan's improvement to and fro—Michigan is 16th in S&P+ with FEI pending—but who cares? The exact magnitude of the improvement is difficult to measure in the same way an exploding volcano is. It is organized and has long hair and will hit you very hard. Volcanoes. Dig it.
Michigan has not quite swept across the steppes, burning all in its path yet. They're still waiting for a real test after they got run over in the opener and had to survive an option attack they were ill-prepared for. Since those two games they've played UMass, a Notre Dame team that seems to score 13-20 against any opponent more competent than Miami, Purdue, and Illinois. Competent quarterbacks have exited. Chaos reigns even before Michigan gets involved.
But but but, by whatever measures you care to look at Michigan is providing novel horrible experiences to the hapless in their path:
- Illinois was held to under 150 yards of offense. In blowout losses against Arizona State and Penn State, the former without Scheelhaase, they racked up over 300 and scored. They neared 300 against Wisconsin last week.
- Purdue's worst yardage output of the season was versus Michigan; they've played ND and Wisconsin.
- Michigan held Notre Dame to under 250 yards, also their worst output of the season.
When life gives you lemonade stands, all you can do is pillage five-year-olds. Nickels in hand, Michigan faces a recent nemesis this weekend. They've got a real nice stand set up. Would be a shame if something happened to it.
It's mostly lemonade stands from here on out. Only two of Michigan's remaining six opponents squeeze into the top half of the total yardage rankings—Ohio State (34th) and Nebraska (12th). Hypothetical Big Ten Championship Game foe Wisconsin is cooling its heels at 87th. Thanks to the BIG TENNNNNN nature of the Big Ten, Michigan's defense can get along despite being rickety in parts.
Six weeks in it's getting hard to figure out what those rickety parts are. Kenny Demens has just spent three weeks attacking third and one with abandon and dropping into all the deep seams. He's been able to do that because the defensive tackles are keeping him clean. Raymon Taylor is being avoided by opponents who would rather go at JT Floyd. Craig Roh's move to strongside end has been successful beyond all reason.
The big hole on the defense is…
…weakside end? Maybe Floyd himself? It's unknown, really.
We do know now what we hoped—maybe suspected—at the beginning of the year: the GERG to Greg turnaround was 10% fumble fluke, 90% sustainable development. I watch Michigan play defense and think about watching Greg Mattison get distracted by an endzone shot of his four DL making the exact same step on a particular cutup at a coaching clinic. The line moves with perfect choreography and Mattison's supposed to be talking about higher-level stuff but is simply incapable of looking at that beautiful synchronicity and not stopping to talk about it:
Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork.
The tape winds back and forth; Mattison beams like a proud father. He fumes at imaginary people who would not direct their weakside end to put his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him. He passes the geek test.
The same folks who made Will Heininger a key piece of a top 20 defense have reconstituted Michigan's defensive line from a converted OL, a five star at the bottom of the sea, and a 250-pound weakside end. When not battered by a once-in-a-generation outfit in Tuscaloosa, they've stoned everyone they've come up against*. That line is not where Michigan's going, but it's good enough to be amongst the best in the conference.
That is the brick on which Hoke's program is built. They will take whatever they've got and turn it into a well-oiled machine. Some years they will be undersized and coping well. Some years they will be rampant. The next ten years will feature an endless procession of mashing defenses. There will be one blip to the downside and two units that put Michigan in national championship contention.
Year in, year out, lemonade stands across the Midwest will burn. Toddlers in Elmo t-shirts will weep. Winged helmets will look on impassively, knowing what is best in life.
*[Air Force's success was not on the DL, at least not much.]
Highlights from parkinggod:
The Ford presentation:
Upchurch photos went up this morning.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point of the week. Jake Ryan, come on down. Obviously. He's got a bullet down the page, but: 11 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, and a number of plays made that didn't even show up on that statline.
Honorable mention: Denard Robinson (7/11, > 10 YPC, no turnovers), Patrick Omameh (seems to be destroying Akeem Spence on a few of Denard's long runs), Kenny Demens (INT, two third and short thumps), Greg Mattison (knows what is best in life).
Epic Double Point standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama)
I know, man.
My God, It's Made Of Funchess note of the week. From my vantage point in the stadium, I thought the play-action rollout that eventually turned into the Funchess touchdown had been defeated by coverage. I thought that Denard saw this too and was chunking the ball out of the endzone, which I was pleased with—WOO NO INTERCEPTION—as I saw the ball soar into the stands… at least the dance team… well past Devin Funchess's outstretched… oh.
Ace made this. ESC to stop it, unless you're on Chrome.
Wow. Is that legal? Should I clap now? Is touchdown? Is touchdown. Clap. Smile. Turn to wife and console her that the Illinois people are probably used to this anyway and she shouldn't feel bad for them because… um. Return to clapping, wait for day when Michigan throws more than 15 passes and Jim Mandich Watch returns.
norfleetwatch. hai guys here's this punt i should probably fair catch this syyyykkkkkkeeeee hey i'm going this way syyyyyyykkke I PUT OUT MY HAND AND YOU STOP BECAUSE I HAVE POWERS goodbye tackler goodbye tackler goodbye tackler hello sideline i am sorry i will never touch you sideline i just don't feel like that about you ZOOOOOOOOOOOOM wait wat is punter
wat is punter wat is
Kicking from the one. Michigan pooted in the shortest possible field goal late in the first quarter, which normally would have driven me bonkers. IMO that was a close enough call that I wasn't super peeved. The situation:
- Denard is out so you've got a freshman at QB.
- Barnum is out so you've got your 6'1" walkon at LG.
- You've just been stuffed twice consecutively since Illinois knows you're not throwing, not least because…
- It's a rainstorm that could easily degenerate into an MSU-Iowa-ish slopfest in which points are at a premium.
If an 18-yard field goal in the first quarter is ever going to be the right move, it's there. It was really hard to disentangle any emotions about the kick from the momentary dread experienced as I watched Michigan's season circle down the drain in an injury deluge, but before it was a laugher it seemed like the kind of game where the first team to 17 wins and the field goal is defensible.
This is an extension of my being fine with a similar chip shot field goal in last year's Illinois game; that one came later and extended Michigan's lead from 14 to a probably-insurmountable 17. Early in this game any points seemed like a good idea in case the skies truly opened up.
Not that it mattered, but this wouldn't be MGoBlog without minute dissection of every possible game theory decision.
Even if you didn't like the kick you should note with approval that Michigan tried to take their two-minute opportunity at the end of the half only to be foiled by a bad snap after they'd moved the ball 19 yards.
Never again. Hey, guys, we're past Annual Denard Versus Illinois Injury Scare, and this one was the best of all because Denard came back and Illinois scored no points anyway. High five.
Michigan has now survived half the season with only one major injury, that to Blake Countess. While Wormley and Brink being out strips Michigan of some of its DL depth, neither guy was playing much or projected to play much—hard to imagine Wormley being a major step up from Michigan's current three-tech/SDE production.
That's getting off relatively light. Anyone glancing at Iowa City or East Lansing will get quick confirmation of that. Brady Hoke poops magic, still going strong.
Everything is not a bubble screen. I got a half-dozen tweets after the Gallon touchdown about bubble screens, and I knew that there had been a disturbance in the force due to announcer incompetence. Watching the highlights, I found out: the PBP guy thinks any throw to a wide receiver behind the line of scrimmage is a bubble screen.
That's not true, obviously, and the Gallon touchdown was the Always Works Every Time Except That One Time Against Iowa throwback screen. That play has little to do with the various critiques leveled around here about the lack of edge pressure applied by the Borges spread. It works by getting the playside tackle out on the edge without blocking that DE, and that gets you a chunk of yards. Michigan's broke huge as Michigan picked up +++ downfield blocks from Schofield and Kwiatkowski:
Schofield got a piece of the safety 20 yards downfield. That's a throwback to his days as a guard and a reason Rodriguez was so hyped on acquiring him. Michigan's OL can still get downfield like a boss.
Anyway, the throwback screen has been a strange disconnected bit of the offense that Borges pulls out once a game that picks up between 15 and 70 yards without fail except that one time against Iowa. It's always run from under center; it's obviously a pretty awesome play but it isn't yet anything more than a dime store novelty because the core of the offense remains spread.
Lewan injury scares. Taylor Lewan wasn't the first choice in warmups and again exited before the rest of the offensive line; a couple of people have mentioned to me that he seemed to have a limp as he went back to the locker room at half-time. This is fine, because Lewan is in fact powered by injury. Tom Gholston will rip his leg off, laugh evilly, and turn around only to be faced with a being of unimaginable power created by his very own hands.
PROTIP: let's not try to throw screens over that guy.
Fitz vs Rawls vs Hayes vs Norfleet fight. The Toussaint Job Threat watch is still on after his YPC was the worst of anyone who got more than one carry—and the guy who got that one carry also almost took a punt return 90-some yards.
Rawls has earned some more playing time—if he's not taking over short yardage duties posthaste I'll be surprised—and will be given an opportunity to take some chunk of the carries, but Fitz is going to remain the starter, I'd imagine. Michigan did hand it off to Rawls on an inverted veer, FWIW.
Rotation. Michigan had more of it in this game, especially one Pipkins:
That started early on Illinois's somewhat annoying early successes straight up the gut. I'll have to see what was going on there in the UFR; live it seemed like a thing that Michigan was not quite expecting but quickly got fixed. Think early Rodriguez offenses in the first half versus the second.
Moore return, maybe not so much. Brandon Moore was back and still apparently behind Kwiatkowski and Funchess, possibly also Williams. I saw him whiff a block badly on one of his limited snaps. I don't think he's getting much playing time back.
Everybody Hates Russell. It was bad enough that Michigan receivers reacted to Russell Bellomy's passes like they were radioactive, but does the media have to pile on? Daily:
Bellomy struggles in spotlight
Apparently the offense couldn’t move a single yard without Robinson under center, and the Wolverines settled for a field goal…
Fans’ expectations for the quarterback position could be a bit exaggerated because they’ve been spoiled by the exhilarating play of Robinson, but Bellomy didn’t do a great job of living up to any expectations in his brief role on Saturday.
On the following drive, he tossed a pair of incomplete passes — granted, the second was dropped by fifth-year wide receiver Roy Roundtree — before Michigan punted on a three-and-out.
Russell Bellomy wasn't exactly sparkling in mop up duty for Robinson. He took over with the ball inside the five in the second quarter, and couldn't get Michigan into the end zone. He also lost a fumbled snap in the second half.
Michigan's backup quarterback situation is shaky. Russell Bellomy struggled somewhat. He let a snap squirt right through his hands, and he completed just 1/3 passes. I'm not a huge fan of what I've seen out of Devin Gardner as a quarterback, and I do think Bellomy has potential down the road . . . but boy, does he look shaky right now. He wasn't helped out by his receivers, though, who had their hands on both incompletions; but Bellomy looks afraid to push the ball down the field, and he's not very crisp running the plays.
Come on guys, he handed off a couple times and threw a few passes that were dropped. Given the conditions, the fumbled snap is not a huge surprise—I file Bellomy's performance under incomplete.
Hoke likes him. Yeah.
Another lost shoe. An epidemic. This never happened before. What's the deal?
Roh pretty damn good. Two of Michigan's WDE's switched positions in the offseason, and that was pretty worrying. At least one of those seems to be working out pretty well: SDE Craig Roh. Check out Michigan's first third and short stop. Watch 88, the DE to the top of the screen:
Shift a step before snap to line up right over the TE, get under the TE, move upfield and pop the pulling guard. That's why Demens is free to tackle. That's a full point in UFR that doesn't show up at all in the box score, and Roh has been doing that consistently for the first six games. There's a stretch at 2:14 that's similar: Ryan gets a TFL because Roh beats his guy playside.
Also on that first play Jake Ryan pops his guy back and disengages to make that Demens tackle a matter of stopping an already-falling guy's momentum. Funny how Demens is a lot better now that he's not eating guys on a free release. Speaking of…
JAKE F RYAN. Ryan needs no explanation, and in this game he put up the kind of stat line that makes even distant observers sit up and take notice: 11 tackles, 7 solo, 3.5 TFLs, a sack and a half. He also got some of those Roh plays—the stuffed fourth and inches was Ryan getting the two-for-one with a slant under the tackle and letting Demens roar up into the hole untouched.
Repeat of all things previous about all Big Ten, verge of—the next two weeks will either solidify that or delay it.
A screen worked, to a running back and everything. That's an everything's coming up Milhouse moment.
Scheelhaase out. At least one team in the Big Ten is willing to remove a guy with a concussion. Terry Hawthorne didn't play, either. Objection from UV withdrawn.
OL doing stuff. Big Robinson runs resulted from:
- Omameh blowing up Spence one on one.
- Lewan blowing up a DE on the easy Denard draw TD.
- Omameh blowing up Spence again on the 49-yarder
Student section fight. Michigan State:
Difference is that Michigan was up by a billion in a noncompetitive game, and they look to have about twice the people. Win for Michigan.
Yakety sax pending. THE KIDS ARE PLAYING THEIR TAILS OFF AND THE COACHES ARE SCREWING IT UP
FURMAN DESTROY. My only disappointment with the above highlight reel is that it leaves out a fifteen-yard penalty on Michigan, when Josh Furman went Fresno State on an Illinois punt returner. A personal reaction:
OHHHH HE'S GONNA LIGHT THAT GUY UP
/ball hits ground
That punt had ridiculous hangtime, is what I'm saying.
Damn you, Special K. Damn you. You know, you get through two full games without hearing the Dog Groomers play "In The Big House" and you think you're out of the woods and then they bring it back. False hope is worse than death.
I am so with you HSR:
Really, I could have like six anti-Special K bullets here, but will it really do any good?
The weirdest thing was the soulful acoustic guitar thing they played for like an entire commercial break. YEAH I'M FIRED UP HIT ME WITH THE JOSE GONZALEZ I CAME HERE FOR WARRRRRRRR.
Now you can't do it. Ace mentioned the on-field proposal after everyone had cleared out Saturday, and now the gentleman who totally one-upped you passed along the event itself:
Jonathan San declares "I've never made that many girls scream before," and he's got you topped. Unless you're Steve Breaston—in which case respext, you are good at football.
Dang big gap. The MSU line opened at M –11.5 and currently stands at M –10.5.
After watching the Spartan fan-fail, I was curious to see how UofM's students would approach the game. Even though the weather was basically the same - rain - the stands looked full to me. There were a few who left the game in the 2nd half, but I'm sure if we would have gone to double OT, the stands would have been full. So even though State may have won the last four games in the series, they have a long way to go to match the University of Michigan on the field, in the classroom, and in the stands.
Also, ST3 goes to badminton practice. MICHIGAN MENZ.
Turd Ferguson kicks off a rivalry week with a dossier of Michigan State's recent achievements, as well:
Michigan State athletics programs have become pioneers in 21st-century teambuilding. Concerned about the rapid decline of face-to-face contact, MSU athletes have repeated come together, in large groups, to contact the faces of their fellow athletesand classmates.
Spartans are known to generously extend a hand to those in need. They’ve developed a prison-to-work program seen by many as a model for how to reduce to an absolute minimum the time between prison and work. Their athletic director moonlights as avolunteer career counselor and their football coach as a public speaking coach, offering their time even to supposed athletic rivals. When one of their neighbors could use help just stretching his neck, scratching his eye, massaging his arm, or bludgeoning his face, a Spartan is always there to assist.
As I mentioned a moment ago, I was lucky enough to play football, first on Ferry Field and then in the stadium. And I was lucky enough to start a few games in the football season of 1934–and that was quite a year. The Wolverines on that memorable occasion played Ohio State, and we lost 34 to 0. And to make it even worse, that was the year we lost seven out of eight of our scheduled games. But you know, what really hurt me the most was when my teammates voted me their most valuable player. I didn’t know whether to smile or sue. [Laughter]
It’s seems like a simple expectation but you forget, especially in the aftermath of the Alabama and Notre Dame games, that these coaches have a track record of making players better. You are seeing it. The defense confident and fun to watch and they’ve retooled the gameplan with Denard and it’s clearly working. I’ll take this stat line 24/7: 7-11, 2 TD, 0 INT.
If yesterday was a heavyweight title fight it was over in the first round. The only drama came when the champion hurt his hand because he was hitting the challenger's face too much. TKO Round 1 - UMass played harder in the Big House.
One thing we do know is the defense put in an amazing performance against Illinois. They were held to 3.3 yards per carry (with a standard deviation of 5.1 yards). These two stats indicate that not only did the D hold the Illini in check, but that they kept them from pulling off many big runs; in fact, Illinois only had one run of over ten yards all day, the Nathan Scheelhaase dash that knocked him out of the game. If you calculate the standard error about the mean, it's 0.14 yards, suggested that if U-M and Illinois face of again and again, Michigan would hold them to under 3.5 YPC again and again and again. That's consistency. That's dominance.
Al Borges continues to pare down his play calling to suit this team, and it has worked the past two weeks as Michigan has run for just under 330 yards per game and thrown the ball only 27 times total. The
When Odysseus* returned home, he was met with a cohort of unruly suitors. Like those suitors, Illinois simply did not have the strength to string the bow and fire.
RAMROTH FINNEGAN declares Michigan by far his best visit. I know the kid is destined to end up at Cincinnati, where all the best names go, but let's savor this moment when it is just fate, not fact.
In our last nine Big Ten games, we’ve scored 7, 14, 7, 14, 17, 7, 7, 14, and 0 points. 9.7 points per game. Has to be the worst such stretch since the 1970′s, right? We had huge offensive failings in 2005 and 2003 and 1997 and even 1993. But we’ve never had a stretch like this, have we? I mean, since the days of 0-0 ties with Northwestern and such in the 70′s. Can anyone remember anything this bad?
Less than two years ago, we scored 63 points at Michigan. With Nathan Scheelhaase at quarterback. How could we fall that far in 24 months? Yes, Michigan’s defense has improved tenfold over RichRod’s 2010 defense. But from 63 points to zero? How is that even possible?
Mainstream folk. Grades are somewhat good from Meinke. Daily game story. Smith sat out with a hamstring issue, "boo-boo" resurfaces as nonspecific Denard injury term. Helfand on Michigan's defense. Estes on Kenny Demens. Meinke on MSU week. Baumgardner on lack of turnovers.
Formation notes: I called whatever the heck this is "Nickel rush". The two DT types next to each other stunted, FWIW:
This was "okie one": man to man on the outside with a free safety and six guys on the LOS. Okie was rare.
Substitution notes: Roh and Clark went the whole way save for a drive or two on which Ojemudia spotted Clark. Washington and Campbell got the large majority of the snaps on the interior; Black was pretty marginalized. He seems to only be playing in the nickel package, of which there wasn't much.
The usual ILB rotation went down with Demens and Morgan getting a solid majority of playing time but Ross and Bolden featuring as well. Ryan played every snap, I think. Secondary was Taylor/Floyd/Kovacs/Gordon the whole way with scattered nickel plays featuring Avery.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O9||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 even||Pass||4||Fade||Taylor||INT|
|All day; Taylor jams his guy and ends up losing him deep a little. Golson leaves it short and Taylor(+2, cover push) snags it as he recovers. There was a window here between Taylor and Kovacs that was missed, but it's not the easiest thing in the world. Taylor is sinking in cover two, and you never want to throw over a sinking corner.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Cutback zone||Floyd||8|
|End around fake to the boundary and the WR headhunting Kovacs from the start of the play implies this is a designed cutback. Clark(-1) gets pushed way too far down the line and opens it up. Floyd(-1) again totally fails to read a WR cracking down on a block a la Air Force and the corner opens up after Kovacs tries to fill the hole Clark left and gets blindsided by the WR.|
|O33||2||2||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Clark||5|
|Campbell(+1) takes a double and doesn't move, or get sealed, and takes two guys all the way to the end of the play. They're also doubling the backside end, bizarrely, so no second level guys. Wood has to go all the way outside. He gets the corner and I'm not sure if it's Morgan slowing up instead of hauling for the outside or Clark getting sealed inside that's the culprit. I think Clark(-1) since I haven't seen Michigan not use the end as the contain guy.|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter||Demens||2|
|This looks grim for a moment as Clark gets sealed inside (ND's game plan is clear) and a tackle pulls around, but a couple of nice LB plays save it. Ryan(+1.5) delays, then jets past a center who got a free release. He comes around him in a flash and shoots up into the interior gap, taking the lead OL. Demens(+1.5) reads it, shoves a slot WR past him, and fills near the LOS.|
|O40||2||8||Shotgun 2TE||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Sack||Ryan||0|
|Yeah, they didn't credit Michigan with a sack, but I don't care. ND has one guy in this route, and it's not there as Avery(+1, cover +1) drops pack into the slant Eifert is running. Golson starts scrambling. Ryan(+1, pressure +1) grabs him by the ankles as he threatens to break into space and scramble a bit.|
|Golson has a hitch route right at the sticks that is going to be 50-50 depending on whether Taylor can stick the guy right on the catch, but Golson airmails it. Probably a first down.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 7 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ross||5|
|Ross in at MLB. He gets a free run as ND goes at Clark(+1) again. This time he stands up to a double and gets a little push, forcing a cut up. Campbell(-0.5) is flowing down the line, too, but eventually gets sealed. Ross can't quite get to the hole and impacts from the side, riding Atkinson to the ground but giving up 3 YAC. Like his decisiveness but not quite there on this one.|
|O25||2||5||Ace 3TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Clark||6|
|ND combos Campbell(+0.5) and gets out on Ross; Campbell comes through the block and shows in the hole, but it's too big and Ross(-0.5) does not funnel to help, but the real issue is probably Clark(-1) getting kicked out too far. He ends up way outside, so even though Ross does get outside of the G eventually he can't shut it down because of the big gap. Floyd and Kovacs fill after the sticks.|
|O31||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Clark||4|
|Michigan seems to be running a run blitz here as Clark(-2) pops outside immediately and Kovacs and Ross shoot into a backside hole. Campbell(+0.5) prevented anyone from getting out on Ross(+1), who saw the gap forming and flew up into it. Kovacs(+0.5) also there, and he didn't have to pick a gap. Michigan has this stoned until Clark is pancaked on the edge and the bounce opens up.|
|O35||2||6||Ace 3TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Roh||2|
|Roh(+1) slants outside past the T and gets into the backfield, picking off H-back Eifert and forcing a cutback. Campbell(+0.5) appears to block the guy supposed to get to Morgan on the second level. Morgan has a free run as a result. Bolden(-1) again gets tentative and then fights inside the blocker, momentarily giving Atkinson a lane outside that Morgan(+1) shuts down with a flash of speed. Could have been no gain and a thumping Morgan hit if this doesn't open up outside. Picture-paged.|
|O37||3||4||Shotgun empty||4-3 even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Ryan||1|
|Ryan(+3) is sucked out to the edge by the formation. He runs up hard to the outside of the TE, gets that TE moving out to block him, then pulls up short and dives back inside, making a tackle(+1) in space on Riddick as the DL recovers to cut off angles further inside. Great, great play.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 12 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M17||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Washington||1|
|Washington(+2) shoots under the center and forces a cutback into an unblocked Ryan(+0.5). Campbell(+1) had also gotten push and effectively two-gapped his blocker if the play went playside.|
|M16||2||9||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||TE seam||Demens||Inc|
|Eifert does beat Demens down the field and is separating as he reaches the endzone, but he's close enough to force a very tough throw out of Golson, who has to drop it over Demens's head before Gordon can get over. He misses. Cover +1.|
|M16||3||9||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 even||Pass||4||TE seam||Demens||Inc|
|Roh(+2) roars off the ball and plows over the LT, hitting Golson from behind as he throws (pressure +2). Pass is still amazingly accurate, but Demens(+2,cover +2) is step for step with the TE and there is literally nowhere the ball can be that will be a catch.|
|Drive Notes: FG(33), 0-3, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||4-3 even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Demens||13|
|No pressure(-2) as Roh oddly makes a fake pass drop before rushing on a a four-man pressure. Clark got off the ball late. Coverage downfield is good but they run everyone off and Demens gets stuck in space with Riddick and that doesn't go great. Considering the situation, Demens(+0.5) does well to hold Riddick relatively stationary until the cavalry arrives. (Cover -1, RPS -1)|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 even||Pass||4||Dig||Bolden||10|
|Bolden(-1, cover -2) slides out of his zone, opening up a dig route before the safeties. Again little pressure(-1) but it was better this time.|
|M10||1||G||Ace 3TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power||Campbell||0|
|Campbell(+2) slides over on the snap, moving past a couple of DL, one of whom falls. He takes on Eifert head up, sheds him to the inside, and hits in the hole. Roh(+1) had slanted all the way from the backside of the play to help close the hole. Washington(-0.5) ended up blown up a bit but I don't think that's too bad since he got doubled and downblocked.|
|M10||2||G||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 even||Pass||4||Improv||Gordon||INT|
|Clark(+1) gets a bull rush that spooks Golson even though it's pretty harmless. He gets held so maybe that's why it ends up harmless. Roh(+0.5) also gets held on the edge as he's trying to contain the rollout; he still manages to cut Golson off before he can reach the LOS. Golson makes a decision as bad as Denard's first INT, chucking up a moonball Gordon(+2, cover +2) is in coverage on and intercepts. No one open at all. WTF.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 0-3, 8 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||TGDCD||Morgan||-3|
|Morgan(+1) reads this all the way and shoots up into the intended hole unblocked, forcing a bounce. Ryan(-1) allowed that to happen by trying to close down and giving a ton of ground; Kovacs(+1) flows up quickly to cut off the outside, at which point Atkinson hesitates and is lost. Kovacs with the open-field TFL(tackling +1). RPS +1; Michigan did not bite on the action.|
|O49||2||13||Shotgun empty TE||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||Improv||Roh||16|
|Dig in the middle of the field is open but Rees doesn't like it for some reason; Campbell(+1) bulls his way into the pocket and spooks Rees out; Roh(-1) loses contain and allows that to happen, at which point the zone has been dragged open by all manner of things. It seems like Bolden is running vertical with a TE, opening it up, FWIW. (Cover -2, Pressure -2)|
|M35||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Bolden||2|
|Line makes a very shallow slant away from the play that ends up preventing anyone from getting to the second level. The DTs get sealed away by three guys and Roh ends up taking on two. Bolden(+1) sees the gap forming in front of him and starts flying up into it before the handoff is even made, forcing a bounce; Gordon(+1, tackling +1) fends off a block from a WR, tossing him away, and tackles near the LOS. I'm not even sure which ND player is hypothetically supposed to block Bolden. RPS +1.|
|M33||2||8||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Roh||3|
|Exact same play. This time Roh is not banging into two guys as M plays it straight. G releases into Demens, single blocking on front. Roh(+0.5) gets some push and comes off to tackle; Washington does the same(+0.5); Demens(+0.5) gets outside of the G and the RB runs right into him thanks to the narrow crease.|
|M30||3||5||Shotgun empty TE||Nickel even||Pass||4||Fade||Taylor||24|
|RT moves a hair early but no call. Taylor(-3, cover -1) is in the right spot to make a play on this ball if he turns around or could just play NOBODY CARES coverage, but when the WR slows up he overruns it a little bit, getting out of position and drawing a PI flag. Catch is made.|
|M6||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 even||Pass||4||Angle||Ryan||5|
|Roh chucks the TE as he comes out of his stance, which slows any pass rush from him considerably. This play looks like a guaranteed quick hitter to the RB, which is caught in front of the zone picket-fencing the endzone. Ryan(+0.5) does get a hit on the RB to make it short of the endzone. (Cover -1)|
|M1||2||G||Ace||Goal line||Run||N/A||Dive||Kovacs||0 (Pen -5)|
|Kovacs(+1) blitzes inside of the tight end and into the middle of the formation, which takes away any lanes there, forcing a bounce. Morgan(+1, tackling +1) and Demens are moving hard to the bounce at the snap, with Morgan chopping Riddick down for no gain. RPS +1. Illegal motion takes it back a little.|
|M6||2||G||Shotgun empty||Nickel under press||Penalty||N/A||False start||N/A||-5|
|M11||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||3||Corner||Avery||Inc|
|LBs threaten double A blitz, back out. Michigan's dropping eight into coverage; Avery(-1, cover -1) does not get depth as he's trying to drop to the corner of the endzone with the slot WR and ends up beaten. Ball is overthrown; M escapes.|
|M11||3||G||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dig||Wilson||Inc (Pen +9)|
|Wilson(-2, cover -1) gets beaten by Eifert in man and holds, drawing a flag. RPS -2, why is M in man coverage with no deep safeties from the eleven? And why is a freshman safety one on one with ND's best WR?|
|M2||1||G||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||N/A||2|
|Just one LB in the box and he's too far away; RPS -1. Five guy box against six blockers from the two is not going to go well very often.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-10, 1 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Kovacs||0|
|I'm not sure about Clark here. He gets a big push on the RT and forces the back to change directions but does so outside, where Morgan is cut off and Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) is dealing with a WR crackdown. Seems like this is what they want to have happen and Clark needs to flare out to force it back away from blocking. OTOH, Kovacs gets a jump outside early that gets him past the block because Clark forced a quick decision from the back. Okay, +0.5. Kovacs in space, TFL, the usual.|
|O25||2||10||Shotgun empty||4-3 even||Pass||5||TE out||Ryan||Inc|
|This TE out is going to be open as Morgan was tasked with coverage and is way far away from Eifert; an unblocked Ryan(+1, pressure +1) is in the throwing lane and leaps to bat it away. RPS push, I guess? Open guy, blitz did nerf it, kind of risky.|
|O25||3||10||Shotgun empty||Okie zero||Pass||3||Hitch||Floyd||7|
|Michigan backs everyone out; Rees hits a hitch a few yards short of the sticks that Floyd escorts OOB. Cover +1, RPS +1 as Rees ended up throwing this way faster than he had to as he assumed blitz.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-10, 13 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O8||1||10||Ace||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Floyd||15|
|Campbell(+0.5) drives single blocking back, but this is always going way outside so his angle is not tested. Floyd(+0.5) does recognize the crack down this time and comes hard, cutting off the outside and forcing it back; he also gets an ankle tackle in; Kovacs(-0.5), Morgan(-0.5), and Ojemudia are each coming off blocks to hold it down. Would like Ojemudia(-1) to hold his ground better to maybe get this down to minimal yardage, and definitely want him to keep his feet and actually tackle. He ends up on his knees as Wood manages to stay on his feet (tackling -2) and burst for a first down.|
|O23||1||10||Ace||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ojemudia||4|
|Morgan blitzes and threatens to shoot a gap, causing the ND LT to pull off of Ojemudia(-2) just as the TE releases outside to block Taylor. This leaves Ojemudia alone in space with Wood; he gets juked and beat to the outside(tackling -1). Taylor contains. Gordon(+1, tackling +1) fills well.|
|O27||2||6||Ace||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||2|
|Washington and Campbell(+0.5 each) get playside of their guys and don't give ground; no creases. Roh(+0.5) also makes this true. Ojemudia(+0.5) is in the cutback lane, forcing Wood to feint outside. He hops outside. Morgan(+1) has blown past a block now to show up in the hole and tackles at the LOS.|
|O29||3||4||Shotgun empty TE||Nickel rush||Pass||6||Hitch||Ross||Inc|
|Formation explained above. Michigan sends six, getting Ross(+1, pressure +1) in basically clean and forcing a crappy inaccurate short throw from Rees that's wide of a decently covered WR.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-10, 5 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||4||Swing||Gordon||8|
|Ryan(+0.5) reads it and gets outside the slot TE trying to block him, forcing the play inside to Gordon(-1, tackling -2), who comes up hard and whiffs; Bolden(-1) tries to go upfield of a block and does not get there so there is no support to the inside.|
|O33||2||2||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ryan||4|
|Washington(+2) blows this play up by slanting and getting under the C. He's into the backfield. Ryan(-1) is not holding the edge well—he's downfield of Roh and not prepared for a bounce and Floyd(-1) is late reacting. He tackles, but really this should be a TFL after Washington forces the bounce.|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter||Bolden||5|
|Roh(+1) dives under the G and ends up absorbing the pulling T. That seems like a bust by the T but results based charting. Bolden(-1, tackling -1) is unblocked in a big hole that rapidly constricts and misses a tackle. Morgan(-0.5) got blocked out of the play but he was going to have a hard time with this guy's angle.|
|O42||2||5||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Washington||6|
|ND flips both TEs, M flips in response. Washington(-1) gets penetration but this is a stretch and he gets too vertical, opening up a seam. Campbell(-1) got pushed down field and let a blocker into Morgan. That makes cutback lane that is hit up for first down yardage. If you go upfield of a blocker I will minus you unless you make a play. UFR guarantee.|
|O48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 over||Pass||4||Rollout hitch||Floyd||12|
|Actually pretty good coverage by Floyd(+1, cover +1), who breaks on the hitch and has a play on the ball. Unfortunately it's high and he can't quite rake it out. A lower ball and he's got a PBU coming. Great throw or lucky, you make the call.|
|M40||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Washington||2|
|Washington(+2) is again boom gone past the center and directly into the frontside hole. He can't quite make a tackle as Wood runs through him as the C pushes him past the ballcarrier. Kovacs(+1) shows up in the cutback hole and puts him to the ground.|
|M38||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 even||Pass||4||Flare||Gordon||5|
|No response to Eifert motion and M's soft zone gives up a lot of room on the edge. This time Gordon(+1, tackling +1) comes up well and tackles. RPS -1.|
|M33||3||3||Shotgun trips TE||Okie one||Penalty||N/A||Offsides||Washington||5|
|M28||1||10||Ace twins||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Clark||1|
|Heaps of bodies, no holes. Washington(+0.5) holds up to a double. Campbell(+0.5) flows down the line. Roh(+0.5) holds up. Clark(+0.5) gets under a blocker and tackles from behind.|
|M27||2||9||Ace twins||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||5|
|Morgan inexplicably starts moving to the field right before the play. M is in full nickel with Roh/Black as DTs and slanting hard to the playside. This does force a cutback; Black(+1) got good penetration; Ryan(-1) ends up buried. LBs both come under blocks as the slant has fouled angles; Demens(+1) does a good job to do this and tackle as Riddick threatens to cut behind this into space. Still a little dangerous because Riddick didn't have to cut it as outside as M wanted with the Ryan fall.|
|M23||3||4||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||1|
|Again the TE flip again the front flip. M seems lucky or prepared this time with Gordon(+1) blitzing off the corner and Ryan(+0.5) slanting inside to pick off a second level guy and get a two for one, allowing Demens(+1, tackling +1) to flow. Gordon forces Riddick inside at the hash and Demens tackles. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: FG(39), 3-13, 7 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3TE||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Power||Morgan||2|
|ND doubles Washington(+0.5) and moves him out of the hole but no one releases, so good job Washington I guess. G pulls around for Demens. Morgan(+0.5) is unblocked in the hole and tackles.|
|O27||2||8||Ace twins||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||4|
|Campbell(-0.5) gives a little too much ground in his quest to keep Morgan clean, which ends up opening up a cutback lane; Morgan gets blocked by the other guy as the RB comes back. Kovacs fills. There's too much space to shut it down entirely and the block on Morgan prevents him from holding this another yard or two shorter.|
|O31||3||4||Shotgun empty TE||Nickel under press||Pass||5||Fade||Floyd||38|
|Floyd(-2, cover -2) tries to chuck and ends up stumbling as Eifert moves past him, which opens up the fade for an easy completion. Too bad.|
|M31||1||10||Ace 3TE||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Gordon||-1|
|Gordon(+0.5) walks to the line and blitzes past Eifert; Riddick tries to pop outside of him and is slowed by the tackle attempt. By the time he moves outside, Demens(+0.5) and Morgan(+0.5) have converged to tackle.|
|M32||2||11||Ace twin TE||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Demens||2|
|Gordon again just flying up; Demens(+0.5) also flows into the same hole with a tougher assignment; cutback handled by Washington(+0.5), who got a free pass from the line but did take a good angle to close down the cutback lane.|
|M30||3||9||Ace 3TE||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Power||Washington||9|
|Washington(-1) ends up giving up way too much ground on this double, which forces Morgan to hold up in case of cutback and gets him chopped by the center. Campbell(-1) also got pushed back, which gets Morgan's blocker out on him and prevents a scrape. Morgan(-1) does get cut and ends up out of the play. Demens takes on a lead guard and funnels, but to no one.|
|Drive Notes: EOG, 6-13.|
That was rather delightful.
It was. Michigan was one stumble away from holding Notre Dame to under 200 yards of total offense. ND drives started at the Michigan 17, 39, and 48 in the first half and Michigan still gave up a total of 13 points on nine drives (ND had a tenth on which it was not trying to score, FWIW.)
How did that happen?
Well, this ND offense probably isn't very good. Michigan forced a QB switch after Golson's second horrible interception, and neither Purdue or Michigan State had too much trouble shutting down the Irish.
You'd better have a "but…"
Okay: but Purdue gave up nearly 400 yards on 11 drives. ND had 314 on the nose against MSU on 12 drives before kneels took away 14; even if you chalk that long Goodman TD up to punt chuckin' Michigan is about even with what was supposed to be the league's best D, and their performance was on the road instead of at home. Michigan blew up the counter draw MSU fell victim to and the rush yardage comparison goes to M. MSU gave up 4.9 YPC once a sack and some kneel-downs are excised. Michigan gave up 3.3 after taking out a zero yard not-quite-sack on Golson and a knee. Purdue did even better but gave up nearly 300 yards passing to the guy M chased from the game.
It was a bit of a downer that the D couldn't hold at the end when Michigan pulled to within a score twice, but that Michigan was even within striking distance after six turnovers was a little miracle.
You still haven't said how.
I think I need a—
probably pretty dang good CHART
--chart to answer that question.
|Roh||7||1||6||I call him mini-RVB. /self high five|
|Campbell||8.5||3||5.5||whoah whoah whoah|
|Washington||8.5||3.5||5||what what what what|
|Black||1||-||1||Hardly got a snap.|
|Clark||3||5||-2||Targeted extensively, got smashed a bit.|
|Ojemudia||0.5||3||-2.5||Miss in space on Wood.|
|TOTAL||28.5||15.5||13||Take the money and run.|
|Morgan||5||2||3||Solid tackling day, looked pretty athletic.|
|Ryan||8.5||3||5.5||Great tackle on screen.|
|Ross||2||0.5||1.5||Hard to get a lot of PT when the vets play so well.|
|Bolden||1||4||-3||Work in progress.|
|TOTAL||23||9.5||13.5||Combo the DL numbers with the ILB numbers and that's the run D.|
|Floyd||1.5||4||-2.5||Stumble unfortunate, edge softness frustrating.|
|Avery||1||1||0||Rarely appeared since ND so TE heavy.|
|Taylor||2||3||-1||Had a play on the fade he gave up but didn't make it.|
|Kovacs||5.5||0.5||5||Excellent on edge. No deep stuff on S.|
|T. Gordon||7.5||1||6.5||Also quality.|
|TOTAL||16.5||11.5||4||Safeties got a workout and passed.|
|Pressure||5||5||0||This was a little bit of a downer for the DL.|
|Coverage||8||11||-3||Close enough to even.|
|Tackling||9||6||60%||Most of the minuses on two bad runs.|
|RPS||5||5||0||The Wilson PI does grate.|
So, like, yeah. I pulled out that Picture Pages on the linebackers because that was night and day from Air Force, when poor Kenny Demens was picking OL out of his teeth on every play. ND hardly ever got a release and when they did their blocks got beat fairly often.
Defensive tackles! We has them?
Okay, I think ND's interior OL sucks. Sucks pretty hard. Let's put on our caveat berets before we wade in here. Secured? Have your baguette of skepticism prepped? Let's go.
Dang, ND could not single-block these guys. When they tried it Campbell two-gapped dudes and Washington flashed into the backfield. This could have happened last year:
All DL there. Both get penetration and Washington forces a cutback into an unblocked Ryan. A Riddick spin manages to prevent a loss; I'll take it. So ND doubled, and we got results like the ones we saw in the Clean Linebackers picture pages. Occasionally one DT or the other would give too much ground, like on the last run charted. Most of the time they held their ground well enough to make cutbacks awkward and allow linebackers to flow. Like so:
No crease, forced cutback, OL is robbed of his blocking angle, and Morgan gets around him to make the play. There were a lot of half-points handed out for this sort of thing where PLAYS are not MADE but the tailback has nowhere to go. After getting shredded by Alabama, anything approximating quality against a BCS level opponent—one with a veteran line—is welcome.
Washington in particular was impressive with his repeated penetration. He's probably as shocked as anyone about this, so he's continually overrunning things, but whatever, man, he's blowing up blocking. I told you this would happen after UMass! (Pay no attention to the Robinson prediction behind the curtain. Also I didn't really.)
So we're back on the immediate post-Ezeh Demens-is-a-god thing I see.
Hey, man, find a tackle he missed or hole he didn't fill and I'll fire up my minus machine. It's possible his coverage on that Riddick dumpoff was subpar but I chalked that up to RPS because he was one man in all of the space. He managed to hold Riddick basically in place for two moves to limit the damage there.
Meanwhile, Kenny Demens is sneaky good in coverage. This is perfect:
And he flung dudes past him (along with Ryan) to impressively shut down a dangerous looking counter:
Ryan's ability to get around that OL is a squee moment.
Michigan kept guys off their LBs and they responded well. The hesitation was gone, the tackles were made, and everyone said a little prayer of thanks.
Caveat: against a team more likely to screw with your linebackers in a play action game this may go more poorly. ND quickly committed to the run in this game. Teams that can throw a bit are going to make it harder on these guys.
Speaking of Ryan, I'm about two games from declaring him All Big Ten caliber. There's that above and then he shows the same ability to change directions faster than a guy his size should as he comes under the TE on this screen:
I have developed certain rules for grading these things as we've gone along. One is losing leverage == minus… unless you make a play. Ryan would get away with a zero here if he just forced the guy inside of him; instead he gets +3 because of his ability to charge and redirect, which both keeps contain and makes a play. Sometimes he goes a little too far in the "make a play" direction, but M has another 2.66 years out of the guy.
I'd like a bit more pass rush on the edge, please. Other than that, would recruit again A++++.
Little stingy on the Taylor INT, no?
Ah, man, I'm not giving three points unless the coverage is actually blanketed. Golson had room to drop it over the corner. He is sinking and it is a tough throw to get it over a guy, but this was not exactly Woodsonesque.
Later Taylor would blow a coverage on a similar play in which he was in man press on a fade like that, thus his minus, but so far he hasn't been a big problem. Tentatively hoping he'll get through the season well and we get to be pumped up about Michigan's starting corners going into next year. He certainly looks the part athletically.
What about our corners this year?
Floyd stumbling out of a break sucks but it'll happen. I'm more annoyed by the guy is still not coming hard on outside runs on which the receiver is booking for a block along the LOS:
Now, Clark—this is part of ND's Kill Clark gameplan at the beginning of the game—gets blown way down the line and this forces Kovacs to come further inside than is ideal on his contain, because otherwise the RB is going upfield. Okay. That's some yards ceded already.
Floyd is still eight yards downfield when he breaks down to tackle. He should be reading run a lot quicker. At this point I don't think that's in the cards consistently, though he did make a couple good reads late. One was on the 20 yard Wood run, but that wasn't his fault.
Let us all say a prayer of thanks that we can be annoyed about this kind of thing from cornerbacks these days.
Kill Clark, you say?
Clark was obviously IDed as a weak point by the Irish and they spent most of the first quarter running at him. He got blown up a lot. He ends up even with Campbell in the video above, which is bad. (SCIENCE!) In this one he ends up pancaked:
That's a loss thanks to Ross and Kovacs hitting the hole lickety-split if Clark can just hold the corner; he ends up buried. He took a bunch of minuses for that and then ND went away from it because they weren't getting much more than you see on the play above. Also, Clark started getting some upfield push to rescue his day a little bit.
If that's going to be the cost of running him out there you'd like to see some pass rush from him; Michigan did not in admittedly limited opportunities. He got one kind of good rush on which he persuaded Golson to exit the pocket and drew a hold; other than that he was not much of an impact guy. Youth, etc. He's a guy to keep an eye on as one of the remaining wildcards on the D.
Kickoff thinkin': do you have some?
I've gotten some questions about what I thought about Michigan's kickoff strategy at the beginning and end of the second half. To the answermobile!
At the beginning of the half, Michigan is kicking from the 50 after a PF on Notre Dame. Q: should Michigan onside kick? Probably. You're giving up 15 yards of field position for a shot at a turnover. ND had not aligned in a way to discourage that so your chances are pretty decent. Even if they've been told to watch for the thing, the punishment is slight.
Now I have a Q: what would have happened if Michigan booted it out of bounds? The rule says it's 30 yards from where you kicked, which would be the 20. Which is better than a touchback. mindblown.gif
At the end of the game, Michigan has 3:27 on the clock and two timeouts. ND aligns to prevent an onside, and M kicks it deep. The ball hits at the three and squeezes into the endzone. Q: onside? Probably not. With the rule change you have to commit an Iowa-level boner to not recover onside kicks and you have a pretty good setup to get the ball back. ND ended up throwing a bomb on third and four. I'd rather take my chances on that than try to drive from the ten.
Anyone in the front seven other than Clark (and Bolden was iffy). Also safeties.
Stretching: Clark was exploitable on the edge.
What does it mean for the Big Ten season?
Increment your hope meters a good chunk, as getting this kind of play out of the defensive tackles was way above expectation. If they can continue that into league play all of a sudden this defense looks plausible or better, if lacking certain components that would make it truly elite—like a big-time pass rusher.
Meanwhile, the linebackers played well, the safeties played well… I mean, 190 yards of offense before final drive. ND got a couple of chunk runs when Wood was improbably not tackled and a couple of fades were completed; other than that ND got essentially nothing. The line was all but impeccable save for some Clark stuff that only gave up 4, 6, 7 yards a pop. The LBs got to the ball and tackled, and Gordon and Kovacs had one and a half missed tackles between them as they cleaned up.
I'm trying to keep things in check… that performance relative to MSU and Purdue's plus the in-season improvement we saw from a lot of players last year makes it difficult. That game was so far beyond the reasonable best-case scenario that it shifts hopes upward.
Offense? Never heard of it.