The D-League as petri dish for weird basketball concepts.
greg mattison must break you
10/6/2012 – Michigan 44, Purdue 13 – 3-2, 1-0 Big Ten
For three hours on Saturday, October 6th, 2012, a rapidly-expanding event horizon engulfed the Indiana town of West Lafayette. Inside, gold chains were cool, Playboy featured natural breasts, you could lose four-year-olds in your carpet, and mass colorblindness reigned. Hair erupted from everywhere. Do not talk to central Indianans about storm drains.
A Jed Smithson from nearby Frankfort found his balding pate mysteriously replaced with a resplendent afro. Leaping atop a teal Chevy the size of a city block, he proclaimed a quest to fornicate with every hot broad in the county. He was a half-dozen hot broads into this project when the effect dissipated as mysteriously as it had arrived; the aftermath was even more appalling than that of the average middle-aged central Indiana sexual congress. Do not talk to Frankfort residents about what you can find in storm drains.
Unfortunately, due to the remote location of the event the only video evidence of this supernatural phenomenon was a foot-ball game between the University of Michigan and Purdue University in which the former team ran on every down for six yards a carry and the latter meekly accepted its place in the college football firmament. Up eighteen points at halftime, Michigan's head coach groused about his offensive line and said "you can't win football games like that" in reference to a fumble at the end of the first half. His team won by thirty-one. They ran for 300 yards and grudgingly passed for 100.
It was the greatest three hours of Jed Smithson's life, and pretty all right for Michigan fans watching on TV.
Michigan stewed for a week after intercepting away the Notre Dame game and came back resolved to boringly suffocate opponents. Thanks to Greg Mattison's ability to turn anything more coordinated than a tube sock into a functional defensive tackle and those things on Denard Robinson that aren't arms—leargs or something—their first experiment in 1970s death football was a resounding success. There were no interceptions, and one lost fumble. Michigan won by many points.
Iowa fan Adam Jacobi crashed in the guest room en route to and from Blogs With Balls 5; at some point he complained that his job required him to actually watch that incredibly dull game from start to finish, and the two halves of my brain high-fived each other. I have taken walks to the other end of sanity where Michigan beats Illinois 67-65 or loses to Penn State 41-31 and feel like settling down with a vacuum cleaner repair manual for a while just now. There are worse things than boredom.
Call it Lloydball or MANBALL or Every Michigan Game Before 1986 or whatever. The plan was obvious, and executed, and would have resulted in a resounding victory even if Purdue hadn't thrown in a free touchdown. Lloydmanbopigball it was, and it was beautiful for being so ugly.
After Michigan's first drive, a 17-play Viking saga that ended with a one yard plunge into the endzone, I told twitter that was the second half of the Notre Dame game continued. As that expanded into the whole game it seemed like Jesus had indeed been come to by both Al Borges and Denard Robinson. Borges put his head down and rammed various players into the line; Robinson threw the ball away once and pulled the ball on the read option lots.
How long will it last? Ask again later. This was an easy game to get away from your comfort zone as a playcaller, what with the enormous lead and the instant success and the 9.8 YPC from the quarterback. When things get tight and boredom threatens to send Michigan into a grim Big Ten loss with both teams in the teens, will Borges and Denard be able to find a middle ground that does not lead to crippling interceptions? Will folks be blocked, will throws be on, will anything be anything?
We've seen these moments before, moments where Michigan dials it back for Denard. Once that works and everyone's feeling good about themselves, the playbook sets to exploring the exact contours of Denard's competency, usually with slate gray results. Trash Tornado. Iowa. Etc.
At some point this year Michigan may be forced into dropping back and throwing over and over again; let's make sure we give the leisure suit offense every chance to succeed before flinging the doors open to this modernity business. Given the state of the league there's a pretty decent chance that gold chains and chest hair are all you need to make reservations in Pasadena.
Boring, Boring Bullets
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point of the week. This could go to Denard Robinson, obviously, but in the aftermath of a 213 yard performance by the opposing offense it feels more appropriate to hand it to Jake Ryan, whose sack leads this column. He picked up a second TFL, as well; more importantly he was tasked with sitting out on the perimeter against trips sets and annihilating anyone who took a step backwards in preparation for a WR screen.
Purdue was so discombobulated by this their WR-screen-heavy offense was reduced to a series of short passes in front of JT Floyd that were unsustainable as a method for driving the field. Ryan's performing at an All Big Ten level, easy.
Honorable mention: Al Borges (running the damn ball), Brady Hoke (for establishing the tone on the first drive by going for it on fourth down and likely for sitting Borges down and saying "get the gold chains, Al, and run the damn ball"), Denard Robinson (for running the damn ball), Kenny Demens (six solo tackles including the key stuff on Purdue's first three and out), defense in general.
Epic Double Point standings.
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass), Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama)
I be like dang. When you only throw 16 times, your freshman tight end is not going to get a ton of looks but um guys I think he's pretty good anyway.
That's Funchess's third and long catch that set M up on the goal line, which was impressive on the TV and more so in that shot. Mandich watch still won't return this week—may not return until Michigan has completed the Denard era if the ground game keeps this pace up—but I'm pretty sure he'll get there even with a freshman year detour into a 1970s offense.
Funchess did get pushed out of bounds on a long wheel route later, but I'm not sure if that's on him or just excellent coverage by the Boiler safety checking him.
Shoeless Shoelace. I don't remember more than one or two incidents in Denard's career where his shoe actually came off until this year, when it seems there's a 50-50 shot that any long run will feature one of Denard's socks. Tighten up that velcro, man.
Denard given time. …makes better decisions, and he's often given time because of his legs. Your nervous "oh God is Denard going to throw an INT" sickness was finally—at long last, sir—unnecessary, as on third and long Michigan just dropped back and threw, no funny stuff. The Funchess catch above saw Denard step forward in the pocket and shoot that ball in between three defenders:
Rollouts probably can't be dumped entirely but reducing them, as they were reduced in this game, is a good idea.
If someone on the schedule can stop Michigan's offense from the Purdue game and put up enough points to win, tip your cap and say "well done." I'm not sure anyone in the Big Ten eligible for the postseason can do both.
The Fitz issue. I don't know, man. I think some of his ineffectiveness was on Denard, who gave when he should have kept a couple times. Some of it was on the line, which was not getting creases except when the veer made it easy to do so. And some of it was on Toussaint, who got impatient and started going BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.
There was a particularly egregious instance in the second half where the line had gotten decent push and he could have gotten three to five by running up the backs of his linemen; he decided to go backwards around a Lewan kickout and got a yard for his trouble. He is getting impatient.
I'm not sure Rawls is going to be much of a solution because the veer is Michigan's best play and a moose like that is not going to be much of a threat going laterally as that play demands the RB do. I wouldn't mind seeing Norfleet get some cracks at that, though.
As for Rawls, Michigan can fit him into the spread offense. Think Brandon Minor: a lot of plays that go right upfield. Michigan tried a couple belly plays against ND and got defeated by shifts into the 3-4; that shouldn't be a problem going forward and is a way to get a power back going straight downhill at the snap.
Where is the stuff that fits with the other stuff? The one lingering issue with the offense was a lack of play action off the plays Michigan actually runs. I count two first down passes in the entire game(!), one of them a bubble to Gallon, the other a long bomb also to Gallon that was IIRC run from under center. Michigan's other attempt to get a big gainer was a shot at Funchess down the sideline that played off the throwback screen that always works (even when it's deflected).
That was covered pretty well, and I get why. After watching Borges for a year and a half he has a tendency to iterate through different things you can do with a new (or recycled from a while back) package. He runs that fly sweep off the veer look, then runs the veer, then runs play action. He runs the throwback screen, then runs play action off that throwback screen. He runs an iso from the gun, then runs play action from iso from the gun. He runs a pitch play, then runs a halfback pass off the pitch. The pattern may be too obvious to get guys wide open downfield.
If you're running play action off stuff you run a lot, not just once, it become a lot harder to say to yourself "okay, this time they're going to fake it." As long as Michigan's staple plays don't have ways to dick with the safeties built in, there will be a lot of Epic Viking Saga drives and not much of the five-play, 80-yard stuff. That could come back to bite M against the better teams in the league.
Here's hoping that Michigan has it but decided to keep all that stuff under wraps for another week since there was no point at which Michigan needed to do anything other than choke the game out after the Taylor INT. I'm still waiting for Michigan to get a wide open dude way downfield.
Speaking of that bomb to Gallon. I'm just like man you gotta be a half-foot taller there, Jeremy Gallon. No excuse for still being 5'9" as a redshirt junior.
Raymon Taylor entered a "free touchdown" coupon code. The game swung from plausible matchup to laugher on the fourth and two on which TerBush throws high and the WR deflects it directly to Taylor's meh coverage for a touchdown—that's 14-7 or 14-3 versus 21-0 and kind of a big deal. Given the yardage disparity, not enough of a big deal that it could have flipped the game but it is a big swing.
Holy pants defense. Film necessary to be sure but the DL kept those linebackers clean and kept contain, which led to a lot of nice sticks in or around the LOS. Kenny Demens set the tone when he shut down an outside run that looked like it was going to pick up a first down for the Boilers; he was allowed to do so because the DTs didn't allow anyone to get to him on the second level. Funny how he looks like a better player when he's not getting cut by multiple 260 pound Air Force guys on the same play.
Purdue's rushing output in this game was awe-inspiringly terrible. Restore seventeen yards lost on two sacks and Purdue still only gets to 73 yards on the day, barely over three yards a carry.
Purdue's only other relevant datapoint comes against a Notre Dame defense that's looking elite after a 41-3 stomping of Miami. Remove sacks and Purdue averaged 4.3 yards an attempt there—point Michigan.
Illinois hasn't put up more than 14 against a BCS opponent yet and have only managed to crest 300 yards once, that thanks to an 87 yard drive at the end of the Penn State game while down 35-7, so expect another outing like the last two before the Michigan State and Nebraska games define Michigan's season.
Kickoff WTF. The wind was not a factor Saturday so why did Wile cease booting things deep into the endzone? Did he get tired? Is he inconsistent? Is Michigan doing this on purpose for some reason, like maybe forcing a turnover when a returner tries to make a tough running catch?
We saw Michigan start screwing around with kickoffs in the UMass game, put all available into the endzone against ND, put all available into the endzone against Purdue until Michigan was up 14, and then more screwing around. Tentative guess is that it's experimentation with the new rules and that wind permitting we won't see anything fancy tried against MSU or Nebraska unless they've got something in their pocket.
A shorter version:
Bryan Fuller's full photoset can be found in a previous post.
Denard didn’t throw any interceptions, and actually threw a ball out of bounds. Whoo-hoo!!!
Remembering the Touchdown Rabbit.
I think it was easy to believe that "Bad Denard" was going to show up because we only tend to remember the last thing we have seen. But Denard's apology after the Notre Dame game, and all of the right things we heard from the team and the coaches during the bye week* brought me to the conclusions that this was going to be an OK day. It didn't make me any less fearful about the game, but I had staked out my position ahead of the game on that ground.
I'm all like man how do you even get Bad Denard when he throws 16 times. It's a lot harder, at least.
Also I can't agree with this bit from Touch The Banner…
Denard Robinson zone read anger. Twice in this game, Robinson held onto the ball too long before pulling it out of the running back's stomach. The first time it worked okay for him because he gained a bunch of yards, even though his running back (Toussaint or Smith, I can't remember) got smoked. The second time it was disastrous because he got Smith crushed and, oh yeah, Robinson fumbled the ball in the process. He gains a lot of yards because he's a dynamic runner, but he's never been adept at running those plays.
…when yanking the ball from his running back was something he did three times for huge gains on the veer. Michigan stayed away from a lot of reads when he was a sophomore and then de-emphasized them when Borges came in; we haven't been given a chance to see what would happen if he is put in a situation where he's doing it all the time. Probably too late now, but declaring anger after ten yards a carry against a DL featuring a first round pick that held ND to like 50 yards rushing… uh.
JAKE RYAN – After watching #47 do his thing again, one word came to mind – MANSTER. In the late ‘70s, Bob Ufer recalled how UM D-Tackle Chris Godfrey was called “manster” by fellow wolverine Ron Simpkins. Why manster? He was half man, half monster. Jake Ryan – ‘nuff said!
Michigan came out and did exactly what I hoped it would do: run, run, run. In my preview post for this game, I predicted (hoped, really) that Borges would call a run-heavy game, something to the tune of a 65:35 run-pass split. The Gorgeous One blew that figure away, with Michigan running it 51 times (not including the kneel downs) and passing only 16 times, good for a 76:24 run-pass split. It was the perfect gameplan for a team like Purdue: good tackles and good corners (with good playmaking ability) but not much else, particularly at linebacker, is basically a flashing neon sign saying RUN DENARD.
This game was also another building block in the not-so-straw house of Michigan's defense. This Boilermaker offense, while not prolific, is still the most recent team to score an offensive touchdown on Notre Dame and had properly rolled the cupcakes you would expect from a good offense (48 against Eastern Kentucky, 54 against Eastern Michigan, and 51 against Marshall). Putting aside Raymon Taylor's gift pick-six* Michigan held Purdue to just 56 yards on 26 carries (2.2 YPC) and only 157 yards through the air on 23/35. Perhaps the most promising stat of the game is that Michigan's top four tacklers were all front-seven guys (Kenny Demens, Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, and Craig Roh). Michigan was controlling the line of scrimmage and hitting Purdue ball carriers at the point of attack. When Jordan Kovacs only makes one tackle in a dominating defensive performance, you know things are looking up.
Linking this just for the bizarre headline:
Pur"don’t": A Gravy Train With Biscuit Wheels
iseewhatyoudidthere.jpg AND lolwutpear.jpg in the same headline: well done.
Purdue POV. As you might imagine, the Purdue folk are not taking Saturday well. Purdue: Saturday :: Michigan : Alabama game.
From the opening drive by Michigan yesterday Purdue was simply outmanned, outclassed, and quite frankly outcoached. Purdue looked lost on offense for much of the game and seemed completely baffled that Denard Robinson was running with the ball. Everyone knew coming in that Robinson was THE GUY that Purdue needed to stop in order to defeat Michigan. Purdue failed miserably to do that. Robinson ran for 235 yards in the game. That’s more yardage than Purdue had on offense. Wrap your head around that.
That was an embarrassing display in Ross-Ade Stadium this afternoon. Truly shameful. There's simply no way Michigan is that much better than Purdue. And to lose like that at home? In the first conference game of the season? When there are high hopes and getting off to a good start could quite possibly catapult you into the Big Ten title game? Much more easily than in most years? To come out like that and just stink up the joint so disgracefully?
Aaand Boiled Sports:
If you didn't watch it, congratulations. Those hours that you spent coaching your children, watching better football, gardening, painting, napping or hunting for the perfect pumpkin were hours well-spent. But the three hours that I spent in one of my favorite places in the world, I'll never get back.
Postgame thread from Hammer And Rails:
I love Purdue football and basketball like a battered spouse loves their abuser, which is why I continue to spend my hard earned money to watch games like Saturday’s debacle. I am more disappointed for the program and students than anything. This was a chance to get some fans back. This was an opportunity to win some hearts and minds. No such luck. The fact the game wasn’t sold out was sad. The michigan fans sitting behind me were semi-mocking the stadium and number of fans and I could say nothing because they were right. …
I don't know why some of you guys have to hit the special ed kid in the face. BE NICE.
MSM stuff. Michigan is ranked in the AP poll. I'm not sure where but probably first. Air Force and getting pounded by Alabama still distorting Michigan's pass D stats. Michigan had lots of time of possession, so therefore they outgained Purdue 2-1. I'm pretty sure that's the direction it goes.
Hoke is grumbling about penalties in the manner of an affronted walrus:
"We had some bad penalties, really three dumb penalties," Hoke said. "We don't want to play football that way."
This is a good sign when you have four penalties all game.
Grades of A for everyone! Except you, Fitz. Angelique suggests that maybe the defense is okay. Denard ties Ron Dayne for most B10 offensive player of the week awards. M-MSU won't have a set gametime until October 20th. Also Joe Rexrode should explore the "rotate" option in his friendly local paint program.
ESPN predicts M to the Rose Bowl.
9/22/2012 – Michigan 6, Notre Dame 13 – 2-2
Lloyd Carr coached every game like he had a fantastic running game and great defense. He usually had an okay running game and a good defense, so this caught up to him from time to time. When Jim Tressel arrived and showed the men of manball what manball really was, Michigan's downward spiral began. In time, Tresselball would come to signify the exact same thing Lloydball did except without the oh and we lose the most important game of the year every time.
I grew to hate Lloydball.
The moment I threw in the towel is crystal clear in my memory, and by this point probably many longtime readers: punting from the opponent 34 against Ohio State in 2005. It was fourth and four. The clock read 4:18. Michigan had a two point lead. They'd recently had a nine point lead, but OSU ripped off a five-play touchdown drive in under a minute to change that. Michigan's defense had faced four do-or-die drives* already that year and failed on all of them. Faced with third and eleven, Michigan threw a screen to Antonio Bass for seven yards. They punted out of a field goal formation, which was so obvious to Tressel that they put a guy back there to field it. He would have had a shot at a touchdown if the punt hadn't exited the field at the twelve.
Just minutes before—literally in the same quarter—Lloyd had taken his frenzied quarterback's advice and gone for a QB sneak on fourth and one on his own 40. This caused everyone in the stadium to pick a partner with whom to share an incredulous look. This was not the way things went. The fourth down was successful; one bomb to Manningham later Michigan had staked itself to a two-score lead. That only made the knife cut deeper when in the moment of truth Carr reverted to form.
Michigan punted once Saturday.
I'm not sure if it's football in general that has shifted or if it's just Brady Hoke, but when Michigan had a fourth and two around the same area on Saturday, eyebrows were only slightly cocked when Michigan went for it. While Michigan was down 10-0, this was still the third quarter.
Lloyd wouldn't have even thought about it if his defense had given up 139 yards to that point. But he wouldn't have been down 10-0 in the first place. He would have squinted at his quarterback, wondered where the six-six artillery piece had gotten to, shrugged, and told his offensive coordinator to thud out a ten-point win based on Michigan's superior ground game. Only he would have had that faith, because he always had that faith.
But it was true. Take out a knee and ND averaged 3.2 yards a carry. Take out three sacks and a bad snap for Michigan and they averaged 5.1. That's a cavernous gap, one that a dinosaur coach would have driven through to a boring, field-goal-heavy victory.
Instead, we got several more entries in our database of what happens when Denard Robinson gets unblocked rushers in his face.
Is it good? No. Does it make any sense at all to run play action from under center on passing downs? No. Is it ever going to stop? No.
Well, maybe. Michigan did not throw a pass before third down on their two grinding second-half drives before the hurry-up was called for. Do that for the next eight games and run play action off plays you actually run and then Denard might get back to the things he was doing in an offense that was not trying to jam him into a hole he clearly does not fit. I thought maybe we'd learned that lesson after Iowa, but apparently not.
When stressed, people making decisions find it very hard to move away from habit. Everyone reverts to their comfort zone unless they are making a concerted effort to get away from it. Even then, you fall back into old patterns. Lloyd punted. Rodriguez installed a 3-3-5 defense. Borges starts calling plays from a long-ago offense helmed by a guy who was a better passer than runner. Denard throws the ball somewhere, anywhere.
Over the bye week, Michigan will refocus on what they're good at. This will get them through some games. They'll get comfortable with this, think they can install more stuff, and we'll get another Iowa, one they might pull out since the defense might be good and the Big Ten is definitely bad. And Denard will soldier through it, taking barbs from people who don't realize he could be in his first of two years at Oregon now, doing what he was born to.
He's not. He's doing this. This is "this": Al Borges has been Michigan's offensive coordinator for 17 games now. Five were against non-BCS opponents. A sixth was against Alabama and will be set aside. Of the remaining eleven, five were out-and-out debacles: both Notre Dame games, MSU, Iowa, and the Sugar Bowl. That Junior Hemingway rescued two of those doesn't change the fact that in about half of Michigan's games against real competition, the combination of Borges and Denard can't put up 200 yards until bombed out of the gameplan by events on the field.
You can blame Denard if you want. Sure, that happened in 2010, when Denard was a true sophomore and the second-leading rusher was Vincent Smith. I'm more concerned about the guy who isn't gone after this year, the offensive coordinator who vows to never work with a quarterbacks coach again and can't stand it when anyone dares to scream "RUN THE GODDAMN BALL" at him over and over and over and over and over, except whatever the press conference version of that is. Asking about bubble screens and stuff.
One day Borges will have a shining golden hammer of a quarterback, six-four, carved from marble, jawline for days. This man will coolly survey the field after faking a handoff to a two-hundred-thirty-pound bowling ball with knives sticking out of it. No one will run up in his face, because they are afraid the bowling ball has it. He will throw it to another six-foot-four man, this one long and graceful, built for escaping packs of hunters. This will be a good day. Nails are so dead.
Until then, here's to running, punting, and humility.
[Wisconsin: 52 yard, 11 play, four minute TD drive to win. Minnesota: eight play, 75-yard FG drive to win. Penn State: 13 play, 81-yard drive to wi—OH MY GOD MANNINGHAM. Iowa: 9 play, 74-yard FG drive to tie; Ferentz played for OT once in FG range, because he is Ferentz.]
All the INTs:
Bullets Yes More Bullets In The Head Please
Sanity check. I know I may not be entirely reliable on this matter, but stuff coming through my twitter feed from the folks I respect most as college football observers helped me think this was not just a mania. Smart Football:
Nice call Borges. Denard struggling? Let's run some kind naked waggle pass from under center where we let Denard throw vs unblocked DEnd
An Al Borges cooking show would be great if you like seeing someone throw everything into a blender even if it makes no sense at all.
Blaming it on "execution" is horseshit, plain and simple. When the offensive coordinator flat-out refuses to take free yards on the outside and has not once used the devastating play action on which Denard is moving towards the line scrimmage before throwing, it is on his shoulders for not using the tools he has in the way they are most effective.
A third of the way through the ND game, Michigan had run Robinson three times. Instead Michigan threw the ball all the time against a rampant DL. The first INT was a running back in the redzone. On the second, Michigan rolled the pocket and told a redshirt freshman fullback to block Prince Shembo. On the third an unblocked Te'o roars straight up the pocket. On the fourth he ran a waggle on second and seven, which got an unblocked Tuitt in Denard's face after having thrown INTs on back to back passes.
This is a consistent theme. They go into games doing something other than making their running QB a runner, and then are surprised when it goes poorly. They have the guy turn his back to the line of scrimmage and are surprised when 1) opposing defenses prioritize getting a guy out on him and 2) he reacts poorly. The exception was last year's OSU game, during which Denard threw all of 17 times.
Robinson failed, sure, but he was put in a position to do so by a guy who puts three tight ends on the field on second and goal from the twelve yard line and fools no one with the subsequent play action. Coaches have to execute too. Borges's gameplan was a disaster, again.
Come on Denard. Let's ask Peyton Manning to be Pat White stuff aside, at some point you've got to just eat the ball, or not throw it at a guy so covered you're trying to throw it through the chest of not one but two opponents. That first Te'o interception was probably the worst throw of Denard's career; if one of the two guys underneath it didn't get it a safety in coverage on the corner had a shot at a PBU.
I bet a dollar that someone else was open on that play.
The fumble was the real killer, though. Michigan has just taken their first drive of the half 71 yards and Denard has just made it first and ten at the ND 11, boom ball out drive over everyone thinks of 2010 when Michigan put up scads of yards and usually had ten points to show for it. Down two scores and suddenly running all the time, Michigan really needed that drive to pay off.
Blame Gardner? Some people on the twitter and then Ace suggested that the slant INT was on Gardner instead of Robinson. I don't think that's the case. It looked to me like he ran a fine route and was open and Robinson just missed.
Gardner does have to catch that bomb on the last drive.
When to go for high risk trick plays. When there is a payoff commensurate with the risk. The Gardner pass is fine. You've got a play that is potentially 70-some yards if everything goes well. The Smith pass gives you at most ten and is less likely to get a guy wide open just because there's far less space. Last year's Smith TD pass was 30 yards out, which gives the WR room to break past the safeties and the RB room to throw it long. Doing that in a constricted space is asking for it when Manti Te'o is raging his way into a running back's face.
The only time I can recall Michigan running a trick play like that inside the red zone was during the 2007 Illinois game when both teams were actively conspiring to lose. With Henne shuttling in and out of the game and Mallett insane, trying the Arrington end-around pass after a muffed punt was a defensible decision. At the end of an 11-play, 78-yard drive maybe not so much.
What is this huddling business again? There's a case that you shouldn't be doing it at all; not only is huddling a useless anachronism but going away from it locks defensive personnel on the field and gives you easier looks as the opponent struggles to keep up. See Oregon, of course.
But even if you're intent on huddling the time to do so has passed when you're down two scores with 6:46 left. There's something to be said for the idea that an offense should be using tempo as much as possible so that in situations like that they are naturals at it. It's a lot easier to slow down than speed up.
Anyway, I had bad flashbacks to that Iowa game as Michigan took 3:19 and used a timeout on their last drive.
OTOH, didn't mind the end of the first half playcalling since in that situation you're worried about giving ND a possession they can use and you've just thrown interceptions on three straight plays. Why throw a Hail Mary with 16 seconds left, though? And what was Roundtree even doing there?
Defense! Woo defense! Also filed under "if you told me before the game…" with "Michigan would punt once": "Notre Dame would have under 200 yards of offense with three minutes to go." Before Floyd stumbled on that third down bomb to Eifert, Michigan had held two ND QBs to 5.6 YPA and two interceptions, with the only completion over twenty yards another tough fade on the sideline.
From way up in the stands I had a great view of the routes developing and nobody was open basically all day. Combine that with Quinton Washington problems like "is not tackling when he bursts into the backfield on three consecutive plays" and you have a soothing balm to apply as you look forward to the rest of the season. I'm actually eager to get to the UFRing just so I can see how the guys on D did. Live I saw Ryan make plays, Campbell make plays, Washington make plays, and that allowed the linebackers to flow freely, with the 3.1 YPC results mentioned above. Kenny Demens looks a lot better when he's not trying to fight off two different blockers on the same play.
If Washington can translate those plays against UMass and Mattison hype into an impact day on the interior line against a real opponent, Michigan's biggest question that isn't "how will Denard fail to be Peyton Manning this time" is a lot closer to resolution.
Potential caveat: ND's interior OL may not be very good. They got annihilated by Purdue (Riddick: 53 yards on 15 carries, five sacks on Golson, two by Kawann Short) and ND didn't do much against MSU that wasn't deception (counter draw) or Wood getting cutbacks similar to the one he busted for ND's only big run of the day.
Caveat caveat: "only big run of the day." The shot above is Michigan corralling the play I started calling "That Goddamned Counter Draw" after DeAndra Cobb staked MSU to the lead they'd give up during Braylonfest. I call it TGDCD because Michigan has never stopped the thing (except once, I think). They did it up there.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point of the Week. I have no idea yet, but it's obviously someone on defense. There is a weird lack of stats for such a dominating performance, with no sacks and just two TFLs, one for Kovacs, another split by Morgan and Washington.
For now, Jake Ryan gets the nod for most impactful-seeming impactfulness, but I reserve the right to switch this to Kovacs or Washington pending review.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama), Jake Ryan(ND)
Freshman linebackers. They're basically co-starters at this point. I'm still nervous about them but if the D continues to perform like that in the Big Ten season, expectations for that crew will be enormous next year with four-ish returning starters, all of whom will still be around in 2014.
Demens did rotate in during the second half. He was in on six tackles, Morgan seven. Ross had one and Bolden did not register. IIRC Demens was the preferred option on passing downs, which makes sense since zone drops are often a struggle with young linebackers.
Norfleet. Please do not jump like that again. The air up there is dangerously low on oxygen and people are trying to kill you. Stay low, where you are under the radar and can execute deep infiltration missions.
ND future. I wouldn't get too worried about a full-on return to glory. If that interior OL is what it seems to be and they're flipping between Rees and Golson against the rest of their schedule, they'll drop some games. They'll still probably get that BCS bid so they can get stomped on by someone a lot better.
Funchess. Didn't really have much impact; I'll pick up the Mandich thing the next time he takes a significant step towards it. Did feature in this picture:
This is my ball. Do not take my ball.
In the week preceding this game, some random internet poster guy asked what was the worst performance you’ve seen by a QB. I ran screaming from that post, but couldn’t escape the images of Demetrious Brown throwing seven interceptions – SEVEN INTERCEPTIONS!!! - in a game against MSU many years ago.
WHY DID YOU DO IT RANDOM INTERNET POSTER GUY, WHYYYYYY
When I was 16 and learning how to drive, my Dad, trying his best to impart some constructive criticism without being overly harsh, said, “ST3, your driving lacks a certain smoothness.” I think it’s wonderful how Devin Gardner has moved over to WR to help the team, but at this point in his career, I think his route running lacks a certain smoothness.
The results of this game and a record of 2-2 are not indicative of the abilities of this team, and it would do every Michigan fan good to forget about what has happened and to concentrate instead on what can be accomplished in the BIG. I rest easier after seeing the O and D-lines gel and play very well. Denard will bounce back.
The rest of the BIG continues to look shaky, to say the least, and Michigan should be licking their chops against the likes of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and I dare say Michigan St at this point. Ohio has obvious problems as well, letting UAB run wild on them. Michigan should have distinct talent advantages against Northwestern and Purdue.
I'll skip all the articles about how Michigan turned the ball over a lot, since I think you probably know. More photos from Maize and Blue Nation. Sad Panda at MVictors. MVictors on the press box atmosphere:
It’s well known that the media is prohibited from cheering in the press box but it’s not just a collection of writers upstairs at Notre Dame. After Denard connected with Gardner on a third down conversion in the first half some dude belted out, “DAMN IT!”. When Denard took off on a run later in the game, I heard, “GET ‘EM!”. And so on. I’m actually glad this happened because it created some much needed lighter moments on the glass.
Maybe it was the guy in seat 652:
Also, that Webb tweet that looked like it was from my account? Not on purpose:
Speaking of tweets, after another turnover (I think Denard’s fumble?) this came from Sam Webb’s feed. It was retweeted 28 times instantly:
The beauty – it wasn’t a case of Sam grinding the keyboard in frustration. It was a legit accident as his phone went sideways and spit out Matrix code. Love it.
…unless the phone is also a Michigan fan.
The Daily has a great article about Denard's family in the stands:
The group sat in the family and friends section of Notre Dame Stadium. Steve wore his best friend’s varsity jacket. The two girls wore “Shoelace” and another Robinson-themed shirt.
This section is different. Here, the hits sound louder. The mistakes sting more.
From here, you can reach out and touch the bass drums in the Michigan band. When a Notre Dame wide receiver was open on the goal line, the parents shouted and pointed, so Thomas Gordon bumped over and covered.
Robinson’s supporters sat in the fifth row, tucked in between friends and family of freshman linebacker James Ross III and the family of fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd.
Robinson’s parents come to games “very rarely, very rarely,” J.T.’s father, James, said. Normally the Robinson clan gathers in Robinson’s grandmother’s house in Deerfield Beach, Fla. around a television.
“Every Saturday,” Durrel said. “Everybody (goes). I can’t even tell you who don’t go.”
Would you like frustrating losses scored? Of course you would.
1. Is the defensive line going to survive?
Son of a bitch. I told you not to ask that. I don't know, man. I don't know.
On the face of things it's not completely dire. Michigan starts two seniors and two juniors. They're big. The backups aren't freshmen, for the most part, and when Michigan's in the nickel package they'll lift the dodgiest parts of the line for what promises to be a stunting, slanting, pressuring Ryan-Roh-Black-Beyer/Clark group. The starters are all touted recruits save Black. Meanwhile, Michigan has three DL coaches and coached Will Heininger up like whoah last year. BONUS: If you squint it kind of looks like "QWash" looks like "quash."
They're unproven, and the lack of playing time last year is a cautionary note. Defensive linemen rotate, and rotate a lot if their coaches have faith in them. Washington hardly existed last year. Campbell did, though, and to a lesser extent so did Black.
A potential problem is the swing in strategy Michigan has to undertake as they transition away from the best penetrating nose tackle at Michigan since NTs ballooned into the 300 pound range. Quinton Washington may turn out all right; he's not going to be Mike Martin. This means the linebackers have to take big steps forward, beat guys who are (hopefully) releasing late after Washington and Campbell shove them back, and fill impeccably. The linebackers' jobs should actually get easier since Michigan has a pair of guys who can demand doubles (hypothetically); they'll have to make a quantum leap in consistency if the rushing defense is going to tread water.
Add to that a non-nickel line that looks like it's not going to get anywhere near the quarterback and you've got a recipe for frustration, or at least a lot of bending as Kovacs and company make tackles to extend drives and the front four tries to put opponents in passing downs.
Verdict: meh, but no worse.
[After jump: more defense, more Mattison, more PANIC?]
Have you ever ridden on the tandem bike with Taylor Lewan?
“Yes. It was a magical experience.”
Does he prefer to be in front or in back?
“He usually takes the front. It’s his bike, so he takes the front. Taylor’s back is the most amazing thing to look at. I’ve only done it once. I mean, it was magical but I don’t know how many more times I want to ride it.”
Did he have one in high school as well?
“He just bought the tandem bike actually. I think it’s a good purchase on his part. It goes with his persona -- the mustache tattoo, the tandem bike, just all fits in with it.”
Was it your idea to move to the strong side?
“They initiated it, but Greg Mattison was very avid on explaining that that’s really the best fit for me. I truly believed it, too. I’m more of a guy that’s a point of the attack, explosive guy. I just need to put the weight on. From what I’ve done so far in spring, I really like the position because the ball’s coming to you a lot more and it seems like you have the opportunity to make more plays. Plus you don’t have to run as much to get to the ball, which is nice.”
(more after the jump)
Formation notes: They did the usual 4-3 under stuff and went to a nickel package against spread sets. On passing downs the seven-guys-on-the-line okie package was a frequent deployment; on short yardage we saw the return of the Beyer/Ryan 4-4 under.
Then they did some weird stuff. If this looks a bit like a 3-3-5, yeah, sort of :
That's clearly a pass defense D with the ends lined up outside of the tackles and both the spur/bandit-type dudes on the strong side of the formation, ready to drop into man coverage.
This is another exotic pass defense featuring nose tackle Mike Jones (serious) and DT Craig Roh (also serious):
Illinois ran at this; Jones and Roh actually forced the play behind them into tacklers; pile fell forward for five.
Personnel notes: Secondary was Floyd/Countess/Kovacs the whole way and mostly Woolfolk but Gordon did pop up from time to time; I'm pretty sure Woolfolk left permanently on the Scheelhaase touchdown since he seemed to aggravate one of his many available injuries. Avery was the nickelback; when Floyd cramped up briefly he moved outside onto Jenkins and Gordon came in at nickel.
Demens and Morgan went the whole way at LB; Ryan played most of the game but gave way to Beyer a little.
The line was mostly the usual RVB/Heininger/Martin/Roh setup with cameos from Black, Clark, and Campbell. Brink got some plays at the tail end.
Show? Show. W00t.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|O15||1||15||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA scramble||Woolfolk||1|
|Iso fake draws heavy attention but Scheelhaase only has two options in the route and they must both be covered(+2). I find that hard to believe but I'm guessing Woolfolk(+2) jumped the corner route behind Countess and convinced Scheelhaase to scramble. Ryan(-0.5, tackling -1) misses a tackle that would have been a sack, giving up three or four yards.|
|O16||2||14||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|M shows a blitz from Morgan on the outside. Illinois checks, Michigan still runs it. It's picked up. All short routes; Scheelhaase goes to Jenkins on a five yard out that Floyd(+2, cover +2) breaks up. Prelude to ownage.|
|O16||3||14||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +2) dives inside on a stunt that gets the Illinois OL. He gets held a little and ends up falling just short of the QB's feet (I might be done typing Scheelhaase); Martin(+0.5) runs after to contain, forcing a throwaway. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Triple option keeper||Van Bergen||3|
|Kovacs rolls down for an eighth guy. M gets lucky here. RVB(+1) stays on QB throughout the play; Ryan(-2) dives inside the slot receiver and gives up the corner. He's got to have the pitchman here. This should be a pitch for a big gain. Instead QB tries to beat RVB one on one and can't do it. Still a decent gain because M had destroyed the dive, which fine.|
|O17||2||7||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Long handoff||Countess||6|
|Countess(-1, tackling -1) comes up a little hard and to the inside and ends up getting stiffarmed as Jenkins breaks to the outside. He does manage to delay Jenkins long enough for Ryan(+0.5), flowing hard from the inside, to tackle before the sticks.|
|O23||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||-1|
|Beyer/Ryan package. Heininger(+1) drives his OL a couple yards into the backfield. Martin(+2) takes a pop from the center and still does the same to the backside G, putting him on his knees at the LOS and forcing a cutback. This screws up the blocking angles and forces Ford back into Ryan(+1, tackling +1), who came down to the LOS on the snap and took a good angle into the backfield; RVB(+1) beat a block and comes into help prevent any YAC. RPS +1 for the slant forcing the play back into an unblocked player.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 8 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun 2back trips||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option dive||Heininger||0|
|Covered slot receiver. Michigan aligns differently than normal with DTs over the guards and Illinois runs a triple option. QB hands off since DE is on him and Countess is hanging on the pitch. Dive goes nowhere thanks to Martin(+1) and Heininger(+1) blasting single blocks back; Roh(+0.5) comes in from the side to finish Pollard after he confirms the give was made.|
|O23||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Roh||Inc|
|Roh and Black your DEs. Kovacs rolls down. Straight dropback. Illinois looking for the drag; Roh(+1, pressure +1) beats the tackle to the outside and is held; no call. This along with Black(+0.5) falling at the QB's feet causes some shuffling and a back-foot throw that ends up going wide of Jenkins. Completion likely if accurate but Gordon(+0.5, cover +1) seemed to have this locked down for a not so big gain.|
|O23||3||10||Ace 3-wide||Okie||Run||N/A||Down G||Van Bergen||5|
|Scheelhaase checks from a shotgun formation to an inside run out of ace. They're trying to run at the middle of the line as Morgan drops out into a zone; Martin(+1) fights inside a pulling guard—mismatch—and RVB(+1) comes off a block when the second guy moves downfield. Those two combine to tackle for a meh gain.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA curl||Woolfolk||7|
|Beyer in. Illinois runs PA. Play develops with no LBs underneath the Jenkins comeback; QB fires it to him. Immediate tackle from Woolfolk(+0.5, tackling +1) and Countess(+0.5). Coverage push, pressure -1.|
|O27||2||3||I-Form||4-3 under||Penalty||--||False start||--||-5|
|O22||2||8||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||14|
|Kovacs rolls to a slot receiver as M shows one high. Floyd(-1, cover -1) is beat on a ten-yard hitch and can't tackle on the catch. He has to set up and gives up a few more in the name of being safe.|
|O36||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Stop and go||Floyd||Inc|
|RB motions out into the slot. Michigan sends Beyer off the edge, dropping Roh; stoned. (Pressure -2) QB has all day to pump and then chuck deep. He ends up throwing it away because Floyd(+2, cover +2) was over the top of a double move to the point where throwing it was stupid.|
|O36||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Ryan||0|
|Ryan(+2) momentarily dives down but recovers impressively to force Scheelhaase outside, outside, outside. Floyd(+1) beats a Jenkins block to slow him, whereupon Ryan tackles from behind.|
|Okie package gets the Illinois OL to bust (pressure +2, RPS +2). Martin(+0.5) gets a free run. Scheelhaase actually gets a pass off and completes it but it's off and takes the WR off his feet. Demens(+1) was there to tackle if necessary.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 9 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O5||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||7|
|Not entirely sure what the problem is here. Both DTs only take single blocks; Martin fights through his to almost kill this in the hole but can't quite. Morgan takes on the FB basically at the LOS and does funnel to the inside but Demens is getting blocked out of the play since the DTs have not absorbed an extra guy between them. I think this is on Heininger(-1) as the playside DT he's not absorbing a double and doesn't even get an arm-tackle attempt. You would like Morgan(-0.5) to get this closer to the LOS and Demens(-0.5) to not get sealed away totally but they both have tough jobs. RB into the secondary, where Kovacs(+3, tackling +2) puts his helmet on the ball and gets Michigan a turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-0, 5 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Hitch||Countess||Inc|
|Scheelhaase clearly late on a lot of these by now but Countess(+2, cover +2) is still there for a quality PBU on a pass that could have been intercepted.|
|O32||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Drag||Countess||Inc|
|This may be batted but there's no replay so can't be sure. Demens(-1, cover -1) does get way out of position on another WR's route, dragging well into Morgan's zone. Countess(-1, cover -1) appears to make the same error he did against Iowa, and if Jenkins catches this it's a first down and maybe a bunch more. Jenkins has to delay because the umpire gets in the way; incomplete. Lucky.|
|Okie set gets Ryan(+1) and Demens(+1) roaring at the QB with one guy to block them (pressure +3, RPS +3); Van Bergen(+1) comes off a block to help sack when Scheelhaase understandably bugs out. QB overwhelmed by three guys on a four man rush == +3.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 3 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O21||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Morgan||7|
|Good time on a four man rush (pressure -1). QB has time to survey and fire to a TE for about nine; Morgan(+0.5, tackling +1) puts him down immediately. Given situation coverage fine.|
|O28||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Yakety snap||--||-14|
|O14||3||17||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Down G||Van Bergen||1|
|RVB(+1) shoots inside a downblock and gets enough penetration to force Ford well upfield; Roh is out there on the bounce but gets shoved past the play. Still, that took a long time. Martin flows down the line and forces Ford behind; Avery(+0.5, tackling +1) makes a nice low tackle that takes Ford to the ground immediately. Fumble is ruled but overturned, which costs Michigan seven important seconds. Irritating.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, EOH.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA out||Kovacs||12|
|Kovacs(-1) hesitates on the play action and only belatedly shoots out on his zone; with the outside WR going deep Countess has other responsibilities. Out open, easy pitch and catch (cover -1, pressure -1)|
|O32||1||10||Pistol twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Martin||11|
|Reading RVB; he stays responsible and the handoff is made. Martin(-1) fights to the wrong side of his block and Heininger(-1) gets penetration too far upfield, so Illinois gets a crease without doubling any DL. This means LBs are getting thumped; Morgan(-1) is the guy on the playside gap and he starts moving to the LOS before actually stalling and taking a step back before being engulfed. RB into the secondary. Demens(-0.5) also caught a block.|
|O43||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Down G||Campbell||2|
|QB checks into an ace from the same pistol set they just ran. Campbell(+1) takes the guy downblocking him and ends up driving him into the backfield, forcing Pollard away from blocking; the playside G is pulling around outside but Pollard isn't going out there. Live I thought this was a missed cut; on tape it's clear this would be a ++ move from the back to cut up and then immediately back out. So Morgan(+2, tackling +2) gets credit for powering through his blocker and decleating Pollard.|
|O45||2||8||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Kovacs||-4|
|Ryan(+2) reads the option action and tears ass for the QB, leveling him just as he pitches. FB makes a mistake, peeling back on Ryan in a hopeless chase, and this opens up Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) to do the thing he does by taking a good angle at speed; Pollard cuts inside and gets TFLed. Martin(+1) had blown through blocking and was there to help if necessary, which is crazy impressive.|
|O41||3||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-12|
|RVB(+2) splits two blockers confused by the okie package; Clark(+1) gets a good drive on a tight end to prevent any lane to move upfield, and Ryan jumps on the QB's back for very large sack. This was a six-man protection on which the QB had zero chance to even look at read one. Pressure +3, RPS +3.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 12 min 3rd Q. Riley O'Toole gets the next Illinois drive.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Pass||6||PA TE Flat||Morgan||7|
|Roh ends up free on the edge and gets some decent pressure; this means a TE has released behind him and O'Toole hits him for a decent gain; Morgan(+0.5) reads it pretty well and escorts the guy OOB to prevent a significant one.|
|O32||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||RB flat||Martin||Inc|
|Martin(+2, pressure +2) beats two blockers and roars up the middle of the pocket, forcing a terrible throw Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in a better spot to catch than the RB flaring out.|
|O32||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide tight||Nickel even||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||Inc|
|Quick throw does not allow time for pressure; Floyd(+1, cover +1) is there with a play on a well thrown ball (but not a great one); Toole's ball is too far outside and not caught.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Martin||12 (Pen-10)|
|Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) pressure(+1) Scheelhaase, forcing a scramble up into the pocket that picks up some yards but probably would have been a sack but for Martin(+1 again) drawing a holding call. Demens(-1) gave up the outside here and turned this from a few into a hypothetical first down.|
|O15||1||20||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Martin||8|
|Here Martin(-1) gets shoved out his lane without actually getting to the QB; Black(-0.5) gets shoved way upfield, albeit by a double (pressure -1); Scheelhaase can find no one (cover +1) and runs for a good gain. This time Demens is blocked out of the play.|
|O23||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Dime even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Jones||5|
|Mike Jones lined up as the NT. Yeah, I know. Roh the DT. Yeah. Daring Illinois to run; they run. Jones(+1) actually drives the center back(!), forcing a cutback into Roh(+1), who slanted inside and gets a tackle attempt. He's getting blocked and the attempt is run through; it gives Michigan time to rally to the ball and hold the play down. RPS -1? I don't even know. I guess not.|
|Scheelhaase looking for an out Avery(+1, cover +1) has covered well enough to dissuade; Countess the other guy over there on the deeper route. Zone blitz is coming through now to the outside with Demens(+1) beating a block; Ryan(-1, pressure -1) is out of his lane and allows Scheelhaase to run straight upfield. Martin and Morgan are there to catch him after about five but the pile manages to surge forward just over the line. Impressive power by Scheelhaase.|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Fly||Floyd||Inc|
|Plenty of time (pressure -1); Illinos goes four verts and everyone is covered(+3); Floyd(+1) is step for step with Jenkins and would have a play on the ball if it was accurate. It's not.|
|O35||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Avery||14|
|Plenty of time (pressure -2) without Martin in the game; Avery(+0.5) is actually in pretty good coverage here, forcing a throw high and to the sideline that is executed. Made it tough.|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Back shoulder fade||Floyd||Inc|
|Too much time (pressure -1), though the pocket isn't as clean on this outing. Floyd is in press and they test him deep; he is step for step. He can't quite adjust to the back-shoulder fade but this is still a +1, cover +1 because it required a DO and tough catch to complete. This is basically unstoppable if you can execute it. Illinois thinks they do but on replay it turns out they do not—Jenkins juggled it.|
|O49||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||6||Slant||Floyd||Inc (Pen+8)|
|Michigan sends six and is getting there but not in time to prevent a throw here. Floyd(-1, cover -1) picks up a legit PI call for arriving too early but I don't mind this. Much better than arriving late and you don't always get this call on you.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||6||TE out||Morgan||11|
|Late blitz from a very deep Kovacs; Morgan(-1) gets a chuck on a dragging WR but does let him past into open space since this is raw man coverage. Scheelhaase hits the guy and he can turn up for some YAC. Pressure -1, cover -1. Morgan does make a good tackle(+1).|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Martin||0|
|Kovacs rolled up for a seventh guy in the box. Martin(+1) surges through the line and forces it outside. Roh(+0.5) forces it further outside by getting inside and diving at Ford's legs; Kovacs(+0.5) is out there containing. Ford turns it up directly into a scraping, tackling(+1) Demens.|
|M32||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack?||Pass||7||Slant||Avery||Inc|
|This is kind of stack-y but not really with two pass-rush aligned DEs, three guys in man on the WRs, and both overhang safety types to the same side of the field. M sends every damn body. QB is about to eat Kovacs(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5, pressure +2) as he chucks. He's got a WR on a slant in front of Avery(+1, cover +1), who's tackling on the catch and making life difficult. He may rake the ball out. We can only say may because the WR runs into another Illini WR and goes down as if he'd taken a shot from Reggie Nelson.|
|M32||3||10||Shotgun empty||3-2-6 dime||Pass||5||Tunnel screen||Morgan||19|
|Michigan gets RPSed here with five guys blitzing and no one thinking to peel back. Line is Campbell, Demens, and Roh... so... yeah. Morgan(-1, cover -1) doesn't read the WR screen quickly at all and gets easily blocked; Floyd(-1) is getting blocked but shouldn't let the WR outside like he does. Big gain. RPS -2.|
|M13||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Clark||13|
|Clark(-3) forms up, then decides Ford has the ball after Scheelhaase pulls it. This opens up the corner; DBs are in man and not in any position to help. Woolfolk(-1) may be able to tackle before the endzone but pulls up gimpy and can't make it.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-7, EO3Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Comeback||Floyd||Inc|
|Scheelhaase has this open for a first down and just misses it. Floyd(-1, cover -1) beaten. Pressure was getting there.|
|O38||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Penalty||--||Offsides||Martin||5|
|O43||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Martin||3|
|Martin(+2) drives his guy so far into the backfield that he impacts the runner three yards behind the LOS; this delay allows Black(+0.5) to flow down and tackle after keeping contain on Scheelhaase. Wish the LBs did a little more here.|
|O46||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Black||8|
|Black(-3) does the same thing Clark did on the last play, diving down on the back after the mesh point. Juice Williams ninja ballfake reprise.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Morgan||2|
|Belly play where the backside DT is getting doubled off the ball. RVB(+0.5) does an okay job holding up; Demens(+0.5) and Morgan(+0.5) react quickly enough to remove creases. Martin(+0.5) flows down the line to tackle after his second blocker releases into Morgan.|
|M44||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Roh||4|
|DT stunt gets Martin(+0.5) in thanks to RVB(+0.5) threatening to dart past the G. Roh(+1) beats the tackle straight up and Scheelhaase is about to get destroyed(pressure+2) and has to let it go. He's got a quick drag from his TE that Demens(+1, cover +1) is there for an instant tackle on.|
|Kovacs late blitz; he is moving right into Scheelhaase's face as he throws but may get blocked. Pressure push. Floyd(+4, cover +3) is breaking on the ball as the WR cuts his route off and picks the ball off; he is one avoided Scheelhaase tackle from a pick six. Monster play.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 17-7, 10 min 4th Q. M scores and Illinois gets it back with 10 minutes left down three scores, which informs Michigan's defensive style. I'll keep it in mind as I chart Comeback Ishtar.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle scramble||Roh||9|
|Roh(+0.5) cuts off the corner but gets pushed past the play. QB can't find anyone (cover +1) as he rolls up and scrambles; Demens(-0.5) is not reacting very well and ends up running into a guy trying to block Martin as Scheelhaase cuts behind. RVB tackles from behind.|
|O29||2||1||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Improv comeback||Heininger||12|
|Heininger(+1, pressure +1) beats an OT around the corner(!) and is held; no call. This does flush Scheelhaase up; Ryan tries to disconnect from his guy and is held as well, so Scheelhaase can fire to a Jenkins comeback for the first. Instant tackle. Cover -1. Refs -2.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Morgan||3|
|Morgan is over the slot; w/ Roh tucked inside the TE there basically is no backside DE. Scheelhaase pulls as Morgan(+1) comes down on the run. Morgan jukes the TE coming out on him, sliding past the block and forcing the QB to cut up into Demens(+1, tackling +1), who puts him on the turf in space.|
|O44||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Floyd||6|
|Illinois lets 27 seconds run off the clock after the play. RT falls; Roh gets a free run. Martin(+1) and RVB(+1) have again stunted and get in Scheelhaase's face (pressure +2). He has to throw hot. That's to the RB leaking out of the backfield. He catches it; Floyd(+0.5) and Morgan tackle(+1) the guy short of the sticks in bounds.|
|50||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Campbell||0|
|Cambpell(+3) in at the nose. He drives the center back and does not give ground when the FB impacts the block. RB cuts back and he sheds, making impact in the backfield. Heininger(+2) beats a blocker as well and is there to help; Roh(+0.5) is getting his body in the way as well. Dang third and one. Dang Campbell.|
|50||4||1||Goal line||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Down G||Demens||1|
|Roh gets sent inside by the TE as M's interior line prepares for something in there; Illinois is going outside the tackle. Not a big problem and he does have awareness to spin back outside. Beyer(+0.5) takes on a kickout block in a pretty good place; Morgan(+1) gets the pulling G at the LOS and forces it back inside. Demens(+0.5) scrapes over and makes contact with Ford in the hole but can't get square to him and Ford just manages to fall forward. Even when they make it it's not easy.|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Floyd||1|
|Happy feet; no immediate pressure for the line but Scheelhaase goes to the RB dumppoff; Floyd(+1, tackling +1, cover +1) is there on the catch to tackle in bounds for a meh gain.|
|M48||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Kovacs||Inc|
|Scheelhaase fires OOB; seems he didn't have an immediately open guy and I think he does not trust his OL to go to the next read. Kovacs(+1, cover +1) over the top as this s again Floyd vs Jenkins. Another cover +1 for good stuff everywhere else.|
|M48||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Improv comeback||Martin||12|
|Martin(-1) gets a free run but for the peeling back, who chops him to the ground. This lets Scheelhaase outside the pocket, where he can wait and zip it to Jenkins in a lot of space (cover -1, pressure -2).|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dig||Gordon||Inc|
|Backups on the DL give Scheelhaase a lot of time (pressure -2); he steps into a deep in to his tight end that Gordon(+2, cover +2) breaks on and nails on the catch. I think this is complete but it's ruled to not be so; in any case this is a safety making life as hard as possible for a WR.|
|M36||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Improv comeback||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Okie business gets RVB(+1, pressure/RPS +1) through the line, whereupon he jerks back as if held; no call. Scheelhaase has to scramble and gets the corner; Roh is coming hard and he has to throw. It's back across his body to Jenkins with Floyd coming hard but not quite there to make a play; ball is too far out in front and eventually dropped. Floyd cramps up and has to come off briefly.|
|M36||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Roh||-16|
|Four man rush annihilates, with Roh(+2, pressure +4) roaring around the corner as Clark(+2) does the same and a stunt gets RVB(+1) up the middle; with nowhere to go Scheelhaase tries to back out and is engulfed.|
|O48||4||26||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Clark?||32|
|Scheelhaase has time and steps through the line, which is bad because it makes this into fourth and 16 instead of fourth and 26 (pressure -3). RVB(-2) and Clark(-2) get way outside. Martin does too but he is stunting and supposed to. Would like Mattison to have a guy close to the LOS on a delayed blitz to prevent this; no dice. Scheelhaase steps up and rifles it to Jenkins in front of Kovacs(cover -2); this is really all about letting Scheelhaase through the line and not pressuring him at all.|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE Drag||Demens||5|
|Michigan in man so this is a tough cover with a sort of pick route taking Demens a little off an ideal path. He still gets in position to force this OOB after an okay gain. Cover push, Demens +0.5.|
|M15||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Morgan?||11|
|Scheelhaase keeps and sees Clark has kept contain this time; he screwed up. So he just runs the RB's play. This works so well I think M should put it in the playbook. Michigan defends the RB fantastically but this pulls RVB out of the middle of the field as he tackles his assignment. Morgan(-1) takes on a block and doesn't shed it; he's really the only guy with a shot at holding this down and can't do it. Scheelhaase into the secondary, where Kovacs forces him into a good tackle from Countess(+0.5, tackling +1). RPS -1?|
|M4||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||N/A||3|
|Going backside and with no scrape it is really hard to hold this down without giving up contain on the QB. Clark keeps contain and then comes down, making a good play to tackle as the guy passes the LOS but this can't prevent him from picking up three. I won't RPS this but I kind of want to.|
|M1||2||G||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB sneak||Martin||1|
|They don't get it. RVB(+1) and Martin(+1) are basically the whole play. Illinois does get a yard, but they needed slightly more than one.|
|M1||3||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||N/A||1|
|They get it.|
|Drive Notes: Pyrrhic touchdown, 24-14, 3 min 4th Q. Oh, all right, I'll do the last one because it's fun.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-8|
|M stunt gets Martin(+1) and RVB(+2) through (pressure +3) and RVB gets there first. Two guys block air and one tries to block Martin.|
|O12||2||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE out||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets driving pressure that forces Scheelhaase out of the pocket; Scheelhaase has a TE breaking open but has to float it because underneath coverage(+1) is there and overshoots.|
|O12||3||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Scramble||Martin||1|
|Avery comes from the corner; Martin(+1, pressure +1) shoves a tackle into him and then bursts upfield. Scheelhaase can scramble out because of some dudes falling and stuff, but cannot find anyone open(cover +1); Avery comes back to tackle. Would be a sack but the guy manages to fall over the line.|
|Drive Notes: Punt. 31-14, EOG|
So who do we pick up next?
We have Woodson. Now we need to go back to medieval Europe or ancient Greece to pick up babes and/or Socrates.
Wouldn't it be better to go get other people who can play football?
Do we need any?
I don't know. I just don't know what to do with myself when there's a three play series on which:
- Morgan decleats the RB in such a way as to get Craig James hootin'.
- Ryan decleats the QB on a speed option in such a way as to get the stadium going "ohhhhhhhh I hope he's not dead."
- Later on that same play Kovacs makes a textbook tackle in space.
- Ryan Van Bergen roars up the middle of the pocket and jumps on Scheelhaase's back like he expects to round up cattle on the sideline.
It almost can't be real. By the time the punter hit the field I was afraid I would wake up to someone rubbing a beaver in my face.
No… no… NONONONO… It was all a dream… no… no… I want to go back
So we're totally getting ahead of ourselves, right?
We have to be. I mean, last week's performance was exactly acceptable and we were happy with this. We are not the '86 Bears. We must not get hopes up. Illinois couldn't score on Purdue until there were 10 minutes left.
Hopes are totally up.
I can neither confirm nor deny that statement. I can only point you towards the most insane, ridiculous, beaver-pelt-laden congregation of numbers I may have purveyed in the history of doing this. I present
|Van Bergen||14.5||2||12.5||To be fair, two points in garbage time. HAHAHAHA|
|Roh||9||-||9||Oh… oh wow.|
|Heininger||5||2||3||Didn't get in on the sack explosion largely because he's lifted in the nickel.|
|Clark||3||3||0||Zone read WTF was kind of magnificent. More later.|
|Black||1||3.5||-2.5||Other guy to WTF a zone read.|
|Campbell||4||-||4||Time to get excited about him again until next week.|
|TOTAL||55.5||13.5||42||That is nuts.|
|Morgan||5.5||4.5||1||Step forward from last week; still freshman.|
|Demens||7.5||3.5||4||Second consecutive solid game. Pretty good in coverage.|
|Ryan||6.5||3.5||3||Showed the guys above how to do it on the zone read.|
|Jones||1||-||1||Charts as a DT. HAHAAHAH|
|TOTAL||21||12.5||8.5||I'll take it from two freshmen and a junior.|
|Floyd||14.5||3||11.5||You think the DL is nuts, Floyd thinks. I'll show you nuts.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Good day. Quality option as a third guy.|
|Woolfolk||2.5||1||1.5||Floyd made him not entirely necessary. May still be hurt.|
|Kovacs||7||1||6||Forced fumble, good tackling, is Kovacs.|
|T. Gordon||2.5||-||2.5||Thumping hit forced technical incompletion.|
|Countess||3||2||1||Also had a jumped Jenkins PBU.|
|Pressure||31||18||13||Stunts and okie annihilated OL.|
|Tackling||13||2||87%||I can't even remember a broken tackle.|
So… yeah. There is something seriously wrong with the Illinois offense. There has to be, because you can't do the above without the offense helping you out quite a bit. I think Scheelhaase is perpetually late on his throws, and that they're tipping their passes, and that their offensive line is a total sieve. All that makes their offense really, really bad.
Even so… good gravy. Michigan had two DL at Brandon Graham levels of performance and a third not far off. I can't remember any cornerback ever hitting double digits before, and I can't remember a near 75% coverage day. I'm usually happy when coverage is a push. On Saturday, this is what they did to four verts:
There's a dude behind the one slot guy that you think might be open. He is not open. No one is open.
That is easily the best performance since 2006.
Word. Guy may not be the fastest player in the world but has he been beaten deep once this year? Not really. Michael Floyd got a 30-yard fade on him but even on that play he was there making life difficult and I +1ed him. He's had problems in run support… okay. He just spent a day breaking up a ton of short stuff, never getting threatened deep…
…and putting the cherry on top:
Even when Jenkins did get something on him it was often tough:
That guy is right on the sideline, which contributes to the overturn when he juggles it. If that's what Floyd's giving up, okay. I'll take that and a PI on which you broke for the ball too early.
These posts have started off cautious, moved towards "I know you won't believe this but…," and are now at a crossroads. People: JT Floyd is a legitimately good Big Ten corner. If he maintains this level of performance the last two weeks he should get consideration for All Big Ten.
TONY GIBSON MINUS ALL OF THE POINTS
Minus all of the points.
Are we at Alan MFin' Branch levels on third and one yet or what?
Not quite, but sort of yes. Alan MFin' Branch levels:
You can see 6'6", 330 of angry New Mexican hauling the tail end of that graph down like a black hole in spacetime. That's Alan Branch. 33 percent! On third and one! Six of eighteen! SIX OF EIGHTEEN!
Seth did the legwork for this year on Tuesday and came up with 44%, which isn't quite Michigan 2006. It is, however, insanely good. What's more, when he chopped out the MAC opponents from this year the numbers were six of… nineteen.
If you look at a third and one as an opportunity to boot the opponent off the field Michigan is literally doubling an average success rate and doing better than that against the meat of the schedule. The entire front seven shares in this accomplishment, as does Mattison, but IME the main guy in this success is Mike Martin.
The guy is the center of most of these plays. He gets doubled and he still gets penetration; the tailback cuts back and meets unblocked dudes.
I mean… we're talking about comparing this defense to 2006—the very best part of the 2006 defense—and saying "not quite as good except against real competition." My jaw has made it halfway to the Orb of Zot. Big Ten Wonk has authorized use of the word "stunned." THIS IS SURPRISING.
Remember last year when sometimes we'd line up with a three man line on third and one? And not even blitz anyone? HAHAHAHA
Aren't you a little harsh on those zone reads that got outside?
No. I mean, seriously:
This is cool. We've got this.
That's a nothing play—maybe a loss—turned into a touchdown because Clark's not looking at the ball, which is literally right in front of his face. This is how it is done:
Run at the guy with the ball.
That okie package was lethal, wasn't it?
Check BWS for a breakdown of the different blitzes run from it. Chris identified six, seemingly all of which ended with Scheelhaase running for his life or losing it. Por ejemplo:
Now that Michigan is keeping a deep safety on these things and not offering free touchdowns—Mattison learned that lesson in one try—they are increasingly difficult to deal with as new players and stunts get added to them. It's almost like Scot Shafer was on to something.
This is the week we get excited about Campbell again, isn't it?
Yeah. Check that Morgan decleater and see who forces the cutback into death: Campbell. On a late third and one that Michigan stuffed it was Campbell, not Martin, who blew the play up:
Get push, take on a fullback, shed and tackle… that's a good play right there. Illinois OL caveats apply; we'll probably be back to fretting next week.
What went wrong on the fourth down play?
The main problem was the fact that it turned into fourth and 18, not fourth and 26, when the line split like the Red Sea and allowed Scheelhaase to run up in the pocket:
With another ten yards to close the distance Kovacs probably gets there. I'd like to see a delayed blitzer in there to prevent that from happening.
Have any random notes for Borges he will roll his eyes at?
This botched decision by Scheelhaase worked out well:
Man, I think we should do that. We should run a fake inside zone that Robinson ostentatiously keeps on with the intent of pausing and then running up in the same hole the tailback is hitting. The ol' fake inside the fake.
Everybody. Especially Martin, Van Bergen, and Floyd.
WTF, get out of here with your goats.
What does it mean for Nebraska and the future?
I think we're in for a bit of a letdown; Nebraska's wacky option system does a lot of stuff that Michigan has not seen before—last week they turned the inverted veer into a speed option and I was like "oh that is so cool"—that attacks Michigan's still-youthful edges. I can see Nebraska effectively attacking the outside and making the Martin/Heininger/RVB axis a smaller factor than it's been the past couple games. Also that just can't happen again. My heart has already burst out of its little box; if Michigan holds Nebraska to 30 yards rushing it will emerge from my chest.
That said, it's suddenly hard to envision Nebraska having much success in the air even if Taylor Martinez is on a relative tear. They'll probably pick some stuff up on play action and the like, but Nebraska's had a hard time moving the ball against… quality defenses… like Michigan has. /faints
Anyway: 270 yards against MSU and victory only because they did to the MSU offense what Michigan did to that of Illinois, 331 against Penn State, 335 against Wisconsin. They did put up some points and yards in the frenetic final quarter against OSU; other than that it has been tough sledding.
As for the future… man. Woolfolk and Gordon seem like a push, so if Michigan can find some defensive linemen they are set for next year. Come on, Campbell.
Opening remarks: “Well. We have another big one ahead of us. This next one, I guess you’d say that every game is really really big, but I think this one will pose a real challenge to our defense because they’re like three offenses in one. They’re a power attack -- their running back is a really good downhill runner. They go from that to being able to be an option attack with the quarterback. I think they have 4000-some yards, and 3000 and some of those are the quarterback and the running back. You see where their offense is. It makes the defense have to be sound in all phases. You can’t load up and play the power because you may be getting optioned. You can’t go in there with an idea of being a finesse or assignment totally or you’re going to get the power run right at you. This is going to be a big test. And he can throw it. He’s put some yardage on people. The last thing they do that challenges your defense is they have a fast pace, so they do that to try to get your defense so they’re not in great alignments. Just to be a little sloppy because they hurry up and if you’re not a real disciplined defense, you don’t get set correctly, and you know as well as I do that we’re not good enough to not be perfect in our assignments and our alignments.”
After rewatching film, are you still as happy with your defense? “Yeah. I watched the film and we were very very cirticial while we were watching film, but Michigan defense is built on … up front, you play aggressive. You knock them back, you are physical, you rush the passer. [In the] secondary, you challenge receivers. As a defense, you swarm and tackle. For the most part our guys did that during the game. It’s never perfect. Obviously coach always wants us to have a number of clips good and bad to show the whole group on Sunday. Yeah, I probably could find some bad ones to spend more time than he gave us. There was improvement. I just really was proud of how hard we played and to be able to go back out there and stop them again and stop them again. That’s what Michigan defense does, and that’s what we’re going to be called upon to do if we’re going to be a Michigan defense.”
How big of a concern is tempo with Nebraska? “That’s a concern. Any time a team tempos you, you have to find out how mature your defense is. You have to be a very disciplined defense, and you have to be a tough-minded defense to know that you’re going to get the call at the spur of the moment, and you have to line up at the spur of the moment, and you have to play. That’s something our guys have already addressed with them.”
Does chasing Denard in practice prepare you for Taylor Martinez? “Yeah, it’s a different deal, though. Chasing Denard around is really -- that’s after the fact. It’s a different play. For us, it’s going to be getting set, play your assignment, and then if you have to chase him around, chase him around. That’s why it’s different. Brady does drills with our guys every Tuesday after practice -- chasing the rabbit drill with our defensive linemen. That’s emphasizing what you have to do, but that doesn’t happen in the game like that all the time. It’s a lot better playing against a Denard than it would be playing against a drop-back guy all day for sure.”
(more after the jump)