and... i like them? I think I like them.
11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.
You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.
Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.
This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.
Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.
In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.
The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.
I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.
This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.
Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.
There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.
We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.
*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:
ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]
Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.
On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.
Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:
- Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
- Losing Rich Rodriguez.
- Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]
On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:
In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.
I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.
I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.
The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:
- Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
- 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
- Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.
Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.
I guess no turnovers is a bummer.
The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.
Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.
Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.
If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.
Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.
Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.
Des Moines Register
Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.
Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.
That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez
Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.
Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.
Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:
What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…
Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes. TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.
I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.
The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.
Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.
But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Bull. I mean:
Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.
So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.
I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.
Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.
BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.
I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.
I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.
Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:
Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)
Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.
I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:
So that happened. I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome. I could feel the disappointment coming all week. Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house. Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already. There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that. No surprise: it did.
Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.
And the Denard slide started a long time ago.
Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:
My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm. He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three. He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated. Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.
Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels. Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge. I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst.
The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:
but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.
the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.
When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.
There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.
Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.
It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.
Formation notes: At this point it's less about looking at all the new stuff like the offense and more about figuring out what Mattison does with his base against various formations.
Mostly it's "bring in the nickelback," but not always. Here's Jake Ryan flared out over the slot:
This will not be a surprise since you've seen a zillion Big Ten cover-two-always teams run this against M's spread the past few years. Michigan uses the stack over the slot to spring some surprises:
That's basically the same thing; Ryan blitzed off the edge here. Tipoff is the depth of the FS, but not by much.
This is slightly more novel:
That's a pass-rush set with a couple standup ends and just one guy truly in the box with a couple guys hanging out over the slot. Guy truly in the box: Mike Martin.
This is Purdue's long touchdown as Michigan sent the world and left the middle even more open than it looks now. They shelved this for the rest of the day.
Substitution notes: DL was about how you expect with a little bit more Brink and a little less Black. Maybe a little less Campbell, too.
At LB, Morgan played the whole game until Hawthorne came in for garbage time. Demens was out for a series or two in favor of Fitzgerald; in the presser this week this sounded like a desire to get Demens some rest but Michigan hadn't been on the field much when he came in. Maybe it was part of a plan or something. Ryan played most of the game at SLB; Beyer did get some playing time early and did okay.
In the secondary it was Countess, Floyd, Woolfolk, and Gordon the whole way. Avery was the nickelback. These guys didn't really come out even in garbage time. Thin, thin, thin.
|O33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Reverse||Roh||7|
|I don't see many reverses and am not sure what the issue is here. I don't think it's reasonable to expect Morgan to deal with this; by the time the second handoff is made he's way out of position and heading the wrong way. Roh(-1) could do better here; he's crashing down the line and ends up getting blocked by the QB. If he reads the reverse and gets upfield he's got a shot at a big play; instead the guy gets outside without delay. Floyd is out on the edge; he gets blocked inside by the WR who was initially running him out of the play, which gives up the edge. Gordon escorts the WR out of bounds after a decent gain.|
|O40||2||3||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||WR screen||Floyd||12|
|This is the shot above, w Ryan off the line and the line shifted to the short side (boundary). Purdue throws a quick screen to the outside receiver; Roh(-1) is dropping off into the play as Ryan blitzes. He starts chasing it down; I think he gets ambitious and goes too far upfield. The bigger problem is Floyd(-2) getting chopped to the ground and giving up the outside, allowing the WR to dance down the sidelines for a big gain. RPS+1; this was two guys on one and should have been killed dead. With pics'd.|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||0|
|Ryan flanked over the slot, not on the line, despite a TE. Purdue runs a zone that I think they want to get outside since they have a numbers advantage on the line but Martin(+2) drives his man into the backfield, forcing a cutback, and pushes back to tackle himself. Heininger(+0.5) also came through to help after the guy doubling him released. With pics'd.|
|M48||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||Inc|
|This is open for about five; WR drops it. Coverage is a push: short route, probably no YAC.|
|M48||3||10||Shotgun empty||Split 4-3||Pass||5||Tunnel screen||--||48|
|Michigan splits out over the slots so there are only five or six in the box with Woolfolk a single deep safety. They then blitz Martin, who was laying back a couple yards off the LOS as a quasi-linebacker. The five guys in the box are gone. And that's all she wrote. Countess can't beat a cut block to make a diving tackle; he comes close. Avery and Gordon are buried by OL. I do think Gordon(-1) needs to realize he's not going to run through this OL and take a deeper angle. Floyd(-1) takes an angle too shallow and is outrun to the endzone; Woolfolk had to take on an OL block and keep leverage just to give Floyd a shot. He avoids the cut and starts pursuing but can't catch up in time to tackle. RPS -3. Blitz + alignment = dead. With pics'd.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 13 min 1st Q. Goodbye, Purdue offense.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Brink in at SDE for RVB. Martin is doubled; Brink(-0.5) single blocked effectively. Demens(-1) gets pounded in the hole by the FB and spills the play outside instead of allowing Morgan to be a free hitter. Beyer(+0.5) peels to tackle.|
|O25||2||5||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||WR screen||Roh||0|
|Michigan still getting set when the ball is snapped, which fortuitously gets Roh running straight at the WR screen here. WR decides to duck inside of the charging Roh; Roh(+0.5) forms up and tackles with help from Morgan(+0.5). The RPS meter just exploded. Call it zero. With pics'd.|
|O25||3||5||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inverted veer||Ryan||-4|
|Wildcat type formation with Siller at QB; Michigan runs a play that seems specifically designed to crush the inverted veer. Morgan flares out along the LOS and blitzes from the outside as Ryan(+1) stunts around Martin, showing up in the hole Siller thinks he has because there's no WLB filling it. He pulls, Ryan is there, RVB(+1) beats a block to provide more pressure, and then everything caves in. Ryan(+1 again) gets another plus for making an excellent tackle(+1) in the backfield. RPS+2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Gordon||4|
|Gordon starts creeping down when Purdue motions a TE to the wide side. He comes up further on the jet sweep action and bursts upfield to cut off the outside(+1). Ryan(+1) has held the edge, taking on a double and holding up enough allowing both LBs to flow unimpeded to the ball. Demens's tackle was a thump he fell off of. The tailback manages to fall forward for a decent gain.|
|O42||2||6||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||4|
|Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in good enough position to make a play on the ball if it's not low and to the outside, which it is. Receiver makes the catch; no YAC.|
|O46||3||2||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||FB Dive||Martin||0|
|Martin(+1) shoves the center back into the intended path of the RB, forcing a cutback into Roh(+0.5), who tackles for no gain. Heininger(+0.5) held up to a block at the LOS and provides the restricted space that prevents Crank from falling forward.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Martin(+3) drives the LG back, chucks him, starts driving into TerBush, gets a holding call, facemasks a little, and ends up safetying the dude. Pressure +2.|
|Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 14 min 2nd Q. Is this a missed call or the sort of flag they got rid of when they got rid of the five yarders? I don't know.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O28||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||5||Waggle out||Ryan||15 + 15 pen|
|Marve in for Purdue. Ryan(-2) sent on a blitz right at this (RPS +2). He's in, Marve's not that mobile, this should be doom. Unfortunately Ryan goes for a pump fake and leaps. His hand comes down, grabbing the face mask, and he still misses the tackle. Marve is now outside the pocket and lofts one to a wide open tight end. Not sure who this is on, but it is either Countess or Woolfolk. Guessing Countess. (Cover -2, Pressure +1, Countess -1).|
|M42||1||10||I-Form||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||6|
|Ryan off the LOS as the WLB, Roh SDE, etc. They're flipped from normal. Roh(+1) drives the TE back, making the FB useless; Morgan(+0.5) takes on the outside shoulder of the fullback, funneling to the unblocked Demens in the hole. Demens(-1, tackling -1) has this lined up for a nothing play and glances off the tailback, allowing him to fall forward for a significant gain. Heininger(-1) blown off the ball by a single block didn't help but this is an easy play for Demens that didn't get made.|
|Tape does not have this play.|
|M36||3||4||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel under||Pass||4||Scramble||--||6|
|I'm probably supposed to ding a DL or two for opening up a lane right in front of the QB, so minus half points for Martin and RVB for getting too far upfield in their pass rush. Morgan does a fairly impressive job of tracking Marve down but it's not enough.|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Trap||Heininger||14|
|Martin(-1) gets upfield aggressively and is trap-blocked as the RG pulls around into Heininger(-1), who was similarly too aggressive. This kicks both DTs out and gives Crank a lot of room. Both LBs have OL to deal with; they set up to one side and force the play back into... nothing. Beyer(-1) ran uselessly upfield and got sealed off by a slot receiver. Yerk.|
|M16||1||10||Shotgun trips bunch||4-3 under||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|Hitch opposite the bunch. Floyd(+0.5, cover +1) is there to tackle on the catch after about four but it's dropped.|
|M16||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Throwaway||Demens||Inc|
|They roll the pocket. Roh(-0.5) gets cut to the ground; Demens(+1, pressure +1) reads the roll and shoots outside into it. Marve has nowhere to go because good coverage(+2) from Avery(+1) and Countess(+1) and chucks it OOB.|
|M15||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Avery||INT|
|Michigan much better prepared. Avery(+3) not only splits the two defenders coming out on him and is in position to tackle if this is complete but manages to make a tough diving grab on the ball when the receiver bats the poorly-thrown screen up. Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) were flowing out from the line to deal with this as well; it was going nowhere. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 12-7, 8 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Pass||4||PA FB Flat||Floyd||4|
|Fitzgerald in for Demens. Campbell and Brink also playing a bit on this drive. Waggle action and Marve has to take a checkdown(cover+1). Floyd is there to tackle after about two and gives up a couple more by almost missing.|
|O24||2||6||Shotgun 2-back TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||4|
|Martin(+1) drives the playside G back; RB has to wait up as he is in the path. No help coming though with Campbell(-1) blown up and Fitzgerald(-1) doing the sit and wait; Ryan(+1) is over the slot, reads the handoff, and has time to get to the hole between Martin and Brink to hold the gain down.|
|O28||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Down G||Roh||5 (Pen -10)|
|M shows man free and blitzes Fitzgerald(-1) up the middle; he trips over a guy who ducked to cut Martin. Martin stays up; guy who's not even getting blocked goes down. Once that happens it's tough for M to do anything on the edge because they don't have any LBs flowing. Roh(+1) fights through the TE's down block and is held; flag. Gordon(+1) gets into a block and comes through it to the outside as Bolden passes the first down marker. He can't tackle but he forces Bolden into two other defenders. He had a tough job and did it well.|
|O18||3||12||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Martin||-2|
|Roh(+1) gets enough of a speed rush to spook Marve up into the pocket, whereupon Martin(+1) beats the center and blows back a tailback to complete the sack. (Pressure +2) Covered in With Pics(!).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 19-7, 3 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Doh. Martin -1.|
|O6||1||5||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Morgan||2|
|Michigan appears to be slanting away from the POA. RVB(+0.5) gets under a tackle and ends up taking a puller. They may be trying to go A gap here. Ryan(+0.5) quickly gets into the FB and cuts off the outside; there is a crease because RVB got hit and Martin is slanting away from the gap. An OL has released downfield into Morgan(+1) but doesn't have much of an angle because of the RB hitting a gap that is farther inside than Purdue wanted; Morgan plays off it, shoving the OL away and making a solid tackle(+1)|
|O8||2||3||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ryan||3|
|Ryan blitzes late, timing it excellently. He gave nothing away before the snap. As a result the lead back runs right by him. Ryan(-1) then runs right by Crank, missing an arm tackle(-1). He does knock Crank off balance but that was a free run for a loss (RPS +1) RVB(+1) slants under the tackle and forces the RB backside, another reason Ryan should have killed this dead. This allows Morgan(+0.5) to run away from a block and scrape to the new POA; Gordon(+0.5) also came up well to restrict space.|
|O11||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Pass||4||Waggle out||Woolfolk||Inc (Pen +5)|
|RVB(-1) jumps offside. Play continues. Purdue runs a waggle with a TE running an out at about the sticks. Terbush comes up to fire at him; pass is accurate but Woolfolk(+2, cover +2) is there to put his helmet in the TE's chest and dislodge the ball.|
|O16||1||5||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||0|
|No one gets out to the second level; Campbell(+0.5) does an all right job with his double and Heininger(+1) drives his man back a yard or two, which ends up absorbing the fullback and forcing a cutback. Demens(+1) does have an OL releasing into him late; he is too quick for that guy to get anything useful and tackle(+1) in the hole effectively.|
|O16||2||5||I-Form 3-wide||4-3 over||Pass||4||Out||Floyd||Inc|
|Quick out—too quick—against Floyd as a hard cover two corner. Floyd(+2, cover +2) jumps the route and may have a shot at a pick if the ball isn't thrown way too high. As it is he gets a PBU.|
|O16||3||5||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Morgan||18|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets a speed rush around the RT and nearly has a sack; he ends up flushing TerBush up into the pocket. Morgan(-1, cover -1) ends up in the same spot as Demens on their zone drops because he's looking in the backfield; this opens up a three yard drag Siller can turn up for big yards. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) whiffs a tackle after about six yards; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) whiffs another tackle; finally Siller goes down as multiple M players, including both DTs, track him down.|
|O34||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Trap||Van Bergen||1|
|Both DTs remain responsible, diving inside on the snap and eliminating the hole; they both get inside of the guys trying to trap them as they rush upfield. RVB, Martin +1. Morgan(+0.5); he did a good job of getting to the hole to help tackle.|
|O35||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Gordon||12|
|Simple zone blitz gets Morgan(+0.5, pressure +1) in unblocked but someone screws up their zone and allows the hitch right over Morgan to come open. This looks like Gordon(-1, cover -1)|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel 4-3||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||4|
|Gordon walks down as an extra LB as M goes one high. DTs Campbell(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job of constricting this hole, forcing the RBs to dance through it gingerly. Morgan(-1) pops to the wrong side of the FB—he's at MLB in this formation and probably doesn't know where his hitter is—which allows Edison to dart through a small gap between the FB and Campbell.|
|M49||2||6||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Pin and pull zone||Heininger||0|
|Heininger(+2) does not get sealed; he does one better than that by chucking the OL blocking him to the inside and popping up into the hole, taking out a second blocker and forcing the RB to slow. With Beyer(+0.5) holding the edge the cutback is the only thing left; Ryan(+0.5) has that handled in pursuit.|
|M49||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Campbell||Inc|
|Zone blitz from Demens and Avery doesn't have time to get home; TerBush throws a quick hitch in the middle of the field that Campbell(+1, pressure +1) bats down. Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) was going to be there on the catch to make this tough.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 22-7, 5 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O26||1||10||Diamond screen||Nickel even||Pass||4||Transcontinental||Floyd||18|
|Double pass with two options, one a TE running deep that Gordon(+1) covers. The other is the transcontinental, which is the only real option because linemen are releasing downfield. Floyd(-2) doesn't realize this and comes up late, then lets Siller outside of him without even touching him (tackling -1), turning a first down into a big gain. RPS -1.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Gordon||3|
|Beyer forms up on the QB; handoff. Nothing playside with RVB(+0.5) driving his guy in to the play and ditto Heininger(+0.5); the cutback is there until Gordon(+1, tackling +1) comes up to make an excellent open field tackle as the RB cuts back behind everyone.|
|M43||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) beats the right tackle, and though it looks like TerBush can step up he bugs out for the corner. Martin(+0.5) is pursuing out there and TerBush has to chuck it OOB.|
|M43||3||7||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Scramble||--||2|
|More double pass stuff; Michigan covers(+1) the first read and then Siller starts running around aimlessly, picking up a few yards. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 29-7, 1 min 3rd Q. Clark, Hawthorne, and other backups start rotating in after M scores to go up 36-7. Seriousness: declining.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||5||PA Quick seam||Demens||23|
|Oh noes is less fun when it happens to you. Avery is over the slot; he blitzes. Demens(-1, cover -1) is dropping off in response, it seems, and is staring down the QB but not getting sufficient depth on his drop. The seam opens up. Woolfolk's tackle is a dodgy one but he does rope him down after a few extra yards given up. Call it a push.|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Clark||41|
|Michigan in man free with Woolfolk as the deep guy, except he's not so deep, he's moving forward at the snap less than ten yards off the LOS. This becomes a problem when Clark(-2) ignores the QB contain, causing a pull. Everyone else is headed to the playside and Floyd(-1) moves up too quickly, allowing Terbush to run by him before he can angle him into the help that doesn't really seem to be coming. Woolfolk(-1) never figures out the pull and ends up going derp on the playside; Floyd eventually runs it down.|
|M6||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Marin||1|
|Martin(+1) passes off the RG and gets into the center in the backfield, forcing the same cutback he forced a few times earlier. Van Bergen(+1) holds up against a double well, so no hole; Clark(+0.5) comes down to tackle on the cutback.|
|M5||2||G||I-Form||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|M10||2||G||I-Form||46 bear||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||Ryan||-5|
|Late move to the line by Morgan into the bear spot. Ryan is sent to fly off the edge. He's past the TE before he can get out on him, submarines the FB, and sends the tailback flailing skyward with a diving arm tackle. +3. Even if he whiffs here—a strong possibility—he's gotten a two-for-one on the FB and TE and Morgan should be able to force it back into unblocked help.|
|M15||3||G||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||3||Quick post||Morgan||12|
|Michigan drops eight, and I think it's either Ryan (who doesn't get over to the center of the zone fast enough, instead dropping too far into a post route in the center of the field that Gordon has) or Morgan (who's lined up over the guy and gives him inside position despite starting with inside leverage). Given the way the play looks—it appears to be man with three deep behind it—I think it's Morgan (-1, cover -1)|
|M3||4||G||Shotgun trips 2-back||Goal line||Run||N/A||Yakety sax||Demens||2|
|Slot covered, so pretty obvious run. What that run was supposed to be we'll never know because the two tailbacks run into each other. TerBush tries to improvise but gets chopped down short of the goal line by Demens(+1), who did beat a block to get to this quasi-hole. Ryan(+0.5) scraped way over to help, too.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 36-7, 9 min 4th Q. It's total scrub mode from this point on. Charting ceases.|
"Total scrub mode?" A bunch of starters were out there!
"Total scrub mode if Michigan had available scrubs they weren't trying to redshirt," then.
What about Talbott? Taylor? Robinson (Marvin Edition)? Furman?
Hmmm. Taylor's hurt, I think. Meanwhile I'm guessing they're in maximum-snap-acquirement mode for freshman Countess. I'm not sure about the other guys.
But anyway I'm not charting that stuff. It is not representative of the football game. You know how I know?
I ask the questions?
Because Purdue acquired yards. On the ground.
At least give me that I exclaim chart!
You exclaim chart!
[Note: with Purdue unable to stay on the field and the last 13 plays excised for uselessness, this is only 43 snaps. IE: less than half some performance-type-substances from last year. Adjust expectations accordingly by multiplying by ~1.6 to get relatively normalized numbers.
You can also look at the +/- ratio, which is hovering around 3:1 for the DL (dirty) and 60% for the DBs (quality), with the linebackers hovering around planet okay.]
|Van Bergen||5||1.5||3.5||Somewhat quiet day.|
|Martin||11||2.5||8.5||Two sacks and a number of plays he forced away from blocking.|
|Roh||6.5||2.5||4||Got some useful speed rush; half sack in uncharted time.|
|Heininger||5||2||3||Played pretty well; seems to turn in a play or two per week.|
|Campbell||2||1||1||Not getting a ton of push.|
|TOTAL||29.5||10||19.5||Clark also –1.5. Solid performance from the starters.|
|Demens||3||3||0||Not much got to him thanks to Martin.|
|Ryan||8.5||3||5.5||No argh moments, a couple wow experiences.|
|Fitzgerald||-||2||-2||Behind Demens for a reason.|
|Beyer||0.5||1.5||-1||Michigan working in their depth a bit more.|
|Hawthorne||-||-||-||Only garbage time.|
|Morgan||3.5||3||0.5||An improvement on Hawthorne, but still a work in progress.|
|TOTAL||15.5||12.5||3||Decent play from most, no real standout plays save Ryan's.|
|Floyd||3.5||6||-2.5||Best cover guy now so keep that in mind; tackling struggles do not outweigh his contribution to the cover metric below.|
|Avery||4||-||4||Mostly the INT.|
|Woolfolk||4||-||4||Played well at safety. Not as solid a tackler as Kovacs but good in coverage.|
|Kovacs||-||-||-||Come back soon.|
|T. Gordon||4.5||3||1.5||Solid tackling day.|
|Countess||1||2||-1||No one was really tested back here.|
|TOTAL||17||11||6||Very good save Floyd's tackling issues.|
|Pressure||9||1||8||Most of this a four man rush.|
|Coverage||11||6||5||Excellent number given the ratio.|
|Tackling||4||4||50%||Floyd on the edge can be not so good.|
|RPS||8||4||4||Didn't give up much schematically after the first drive.|
That is a quality day from the secondary, albeit one racked up in limited opportunities against a team that hardly goes deep, if they ever do. I didn't chart the final two drives, during which the Boilers were 6/9 for 47 yards. The drive before that was also pretty whatever and it featured two completions for 35 yards, both of them seemingly on the linebackers.
In time that can be described as meaningful, Michigan gave up 140 yards on 16 attempts, 48 of those on the screen. That's 6.1 YPA on the other 15 attempts. Aside from Floyd missing some tackles they did a good job. I wouldn't take too much out of it since Purdue is the most relentlessly dinky opponent Michigan will face.
More impressive than that was the rush defense, which gave up essentially nothing until Clark blew his contain on the zone read. Removing four sacks for 20 yards and Purdue still had just 109, 41 of those in garbage time thanks to a true freshman who's got two guys in front of him on the depth chart. Bolden averaged 2 YPC. Runs that don't heavily feature Clark making a mistake he won't get to make in a real game were barely better at 2.8.
Mike Martin is back!
Yeah, after getting blown out on a number of doubles against MSU Martin rebounded with a strong performance both statistically and when it came to the sorts of things that Don't Show Up In The Box Score. A large portion of the Bolden futility was Purdue trying to single block Martin and getting their angles blown up in return:
Forcing the cutback is 80% of the battle there; coming off to tackle yourself is just a bonus. You try running a fullback dive when the center is two yards in the backfield.
You are aware that Martin essentially threw the left guard into TerBush for a safety, but it remains a good example of his day:
This is what I like to see from my Mike Martin. That and rag-dolling a tailback like he is not present.
If he can do this against Iowa Coker will have a hard time. Dude is surprisingly agile for a truck but cutting in the backfield is doom for anyone his size. I imagine Iowa will do more doubling of him—Purdue wanted to get out on the linebackers so quickly they never really gave anyone help on Martin. Even Heininger got in on some of the single-blocked action.
Jake Ryan is living up to the promise implied by Sixteen Candles!
I do think we should slow our roll a little bit here. At this rate Ryan is going to be hyped to the moon over the offseason and when he's only pretty good as a sophomore everyone's going to be disappointed. He is learning, he is destructive, I still want to see him put on another 20 pounds and absorb Ryan Van Bergen's tao of weeble-wobbling before I start penciling him on the next three All Big Ten teams. One of his big plays was manufactured by Mattison, after all.
The other was not, though:
That is MAKING PLAYS. That's a +3 all the way, what with beating a tackle and submarining another blocker and tackling the dude in the backfield.
I dislike JT Floyd!
I've seen a couple of the educated football folk in the blogosphere and my twitter stream grouse about JT Floyd this week, and the numbers above do back that up. Getting chopped to the ground by an outside WR on a bubble is pretty bad, and Floyd's eh speed will always be an issue.
HOWEVA, I still think he's the best corner Michigan has right now. I base this off plays when opponents run twinned routes and I can see a Woolfolk or Countess cover the same slant on the same call; almost invariably Floyd is hugging the receiver tighter. This is not the best example because the QB set him up for this one but whether it's in man or zone Floyd seems to get more plays on the ball than anyone else in the secondary:
Meanwhile, count the long receptions Floyd's given up this year… I've got one, an undefendable Michael Floyd fade on which he had a rake at the ball. When they go after Michigan deep it was Woolfolk and Countess getting most of the exposure. That's good enough for me when trying to figure out who's good in an area of the field you only see when someone hasn't been good (or one of Michigan's quarterbacks has decided they're tired of being on the field).
Floyd's not going to go down as a great or probably even get drafted; he's still Michigan's best corner until Countess takes that mantle from him.
Morgan is the WLB forever!
I think he's the long-term solution on most downs. I like it when linebackers can shed and form tackle, even if it's on a kickoff:
I still see a place for Hawthorne on the defense in a nickel package. Many of his plusses this year have been in tight, instant-tackle coverage on third and medium. Morgan had a not-so-much moment over the weekend:
Froshbits that will get better with time, yes. I still think if you've got a safety/LB hybrid who's shown an aptitude for playing underneath coverage on medium-length third downs there's a place for that guy on your D. When the run you're worried about is a draw I wouldn't mind seeing Hawthorne out there.
How plausible is this? Well, BWS caught a nickel blitz late that again showed Mattison's desire to have one of his linebackers bug out to an unexpected place on a zone blitz. Check #7:
They tried this earlier in the year with Herron and it didn't go well. They didn't bring it out until Hawthorne came in against the Boilers, and it seems like if there's anyone on the roster who can run like an NFL linebacker in coverage it's him. I wouldn't put it past Mattison to start using Hawthorne like a dimeback to give his zone blitz schemes a little more terror. He's an interesting player.
Martin in particular but the rest of the line as well—constant harassment of the QBs and the opponent had no running game at the same time your MLB had one solo tackle.
Floyd's edge tackling was a source of problems. Pretty much the only one except a bad playcall on the first drive.
What does it mean for Iowa and the future?
I stole my own thunder above talking about Coker, but to reiterate: the key in the ground game will be to get the penetration they were getting today and slow Coker in the backfield. He takes time to get up to speed and is a one-cut-and-go type guy. If Martin/RVB can make him a one-cut-and-stop type guy they'll go a long way towards… uh… holding most of his runs to like four yards because you can't stop the guy from falling forward. I don't have faith in Michigan's linebackers to be able to stop that guy in his tracks. Kovacs's health will be important here—the downgrade in tackling from him to Woolfolk is obvious.
As for Iowa's passing game, prepare for a stiff test. Michigan hasn't faced a player of McNutt's quality in an environment that will allow for throwing instead of hoping since Notre Dame, and they escaped from that mess by the skin of their teeth. McNutt isn't on that level… quite.
LT Reilly Reiff, hyped up as a possible first rounder, struggled alarmingly with Minnesota DEs; if Michigan can get the same kind of pressure with their front four Iowa fans have been bitching all year about a certain deer-in-the-headlights quality to Vandenberg when he gets pressure.
Michigan pull out the inverted veer for the first time in the Hoke era over the weekend and got a couple of nice gains off of it.
I suspect that this was an effect of playing Purdue, which has made the veer a staple of its offense ever since Perry the ACLephant started striking down their quarterbacks left and right. When Michigan ran the veer in the Rodriguez era it was invariably against Illinois, which was veer-mad at that point. The theory behind that is Michigan's practicing against it as a defense, it works a bit, it moves from the scout team to the first team, and hey—this thing kinda works good. Let's use it.
But that's another post. This is this post. This post is about the opponent running the veer (sort of, anyway) and Michigan scheming it to death.
It's third and five on Purdue's second drive, and Purdue screams both "run" and "doom doom doom" by lining up Justin Siller at quarterback.
Michigan is in its nickel package with Ryan as a DE and Avery hanging out over the slot. You'll note the odd positioning of the DEs: Roh is standing up and Ryan is a yard or so behind Martin. BWS has pointed this out before. It's a tip as to what Michigan will do. They're going to drop Roh and stunt Ryan.
On the snap they… drop Roh and stunt Ryan, except Roh is reading the mesh point and flying out on the edge. Morgan blitzes from the backside:
At the mesh point Siller makes his read, which is keep.
Why does he keep? It looks like he's reading Demens, who is bugging out for the tailback. With no other linebacker to read and two guys headed out for the tailback Purdue should have numbers to head up the middle.
But Purdue has problems. Van Bergen is in a spot where he ends up taking two guys and Demens is not going to get blocked so that spot inside the playside DE that the veer attacks is not open. Ryan is now stunting through the gap. So you've got two guys getting doubled and one guy blocking air.
When that happens you can option off a guy and still find another in your face. Van Bergen helps out by beating a block. Roh reads the pull and forms up.
One block beaten plus one RPS+2 playcall results in a zillion unblocked guys in the backfield.
That is all she wrote.
Items of Interest
I might lack a name for this or it might be a screwup, but probably the former. So usually on this veer play you see a pulling lineman get outside the playside DT and block whoever shows up. Here the guard pulls and ends up inside of the playside tackle, which is not how things are supposed to work normally. This could be a variant, a screwup, or an improvisation once the G sees the center release into air.
If I had to guess I would say variant intended to hit it up inside of the tackle. Siller appears to be looking at Demens to make his decision, not the playside end.
This is the ideal result from a stunt/slant. So we talked about a slant Michigan ran against Eastern Michigan on which Hawthorne did not get the message and ended up getting blocked by a guy. Here the center ends up blocking air and the pulling G ends up doubling a guy because of Michigan's playcall.
The difference in the linebackers is in the reaction and angle. Hawthorne vs Demens fight:
Hawthorne doesn't know where to go and sits until he's blocked; Demens moves out decisively. This puts him in a position where no one can block him. That is the kind of instant movement that defenses like this depend on to remain gap sound.
Ryan is also unblocked but that's just an effect of the stunt call that was inevitable once Purdue failed to pick up on it pre-snap. Speaking of failing to pick up on it pre-snap…
I wonder if this alignment is coached or a freshman mistake. As noted above, BWS has previously caught Michigan defensive ends lining up well off the LOS, thereby tipping pass drops. Here Roh isn't even in a three-point stance and Ryan is a full yard behind Martin.
Purdue is advertising run. Michigan is advertising a zone blitz paired with a stunt. Purdue does not recognize this and gets it in the face.
If random bloggers are catching it, opposing offensive coordinators are catching it. If Michigan does this in the future and gets stoned after extensive pointing by the QB or OL, you'll know this has migrated from the brain of the coaches to the field. These things are subtle, but not subtle enough to go unnoticed, I think.
Some player did some things well. RVB beats a block to provide a not-strictly-necessary third guy in the backfield and Ryan tackles. This is a rock-paper-scissors win, mostly, but you still have to execute.
Michigan did several things like this over the course of the day. Purdue's run game was basically nonexistent (just over 70 yards at less than three yards a carry, sacks removed) until Frank Clark came in and busted a zone read huge. Whatever Purdue tried they got nowhere with thanks in part to Martin dominating but also thanks to excellent edge play(!) from Ryan and Mattison putting his players in positions to succeed. After the screen touchdown Mattison pushed all the right buttons.
10/29/2011 – Michigan 36, Purdue 14 – 7-1, 3-1 Big Ten
At some point, Michigan will find out what it is this year. I have no idea when that point will come.
We know they're better than they were last year. How much better remains frustratingly murky. You think you have the answer when Michigan is punked in East Lansing, but then the Spartans get throttled and Michigan beats Purdue and there they are again in the national rankings…
10. South Carolina
11. Virginia Tech
15. Penn State
…and you wonder what happened to the rest of college football. This team is transparently flawed, incapable of going ten pass attempts without throwing the ball to the other team, and one year removed from having a defense that couldn't slow down a band of coked-out lemurs. So of course they are on the cusp of the top ten, hanging out with Houston, South Carolina's dumpster-fire offense, and Penn State's bold experiment into quarterback-free football. College football 2011: contagious and 100% fatal.
With one loss and seven wins everything is on the table as long as Sparty manages to biff it once down the stretch (don't get your hopes up)… and no one knows if they're any good.
This must be what it felt like to be a Minnesota fan in the middle of the Glen Mason era. Consider: you were a national power, and then you were wretched forever. One 3-9 year counts as "forever" to Michigan fans. We are sheltered, sheltered people.
You start showing signs of life. One season you get off to a great start, and collapse. Okay. We got off to a great start! It's better than being wretched!
The next season you get off to a great start, and collapse slightly less. Okay. We are building something here.
The next-next season you get off to a great start, are ranked in the top 15, have an unstoppable ground game, and… well… is there going to be anyone on the schedule? No? No teams at all?
Ah, Michigan. Here we go. /dies
It wasn't like this before. Michigan was Michigan, fergodsakes. All victories were expected and all teams were inferior and all losses were inexplicable or unjust and there wasn't a question about any of this. Michigan was just better.
Evidence to the contrary was suspect and invariably proven—or at least argued to be—false. There was this call or this mistake or this thing, and if the game had continued until a victory was well and truly certain, the opponent would have left shattered into a thousand mournful pieces*. This mentality was so pervasive that Michigan fans still have a reputation for the above thought process even after the last five years.
I don't think like that anymore. At first I was like the materialized whale from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.
"Big Ten? What's that? I wonder if it will be friendly."
Now I'm trying to figure out whether I am the bowl of petunias…
The only thing that went through the bowl of petunia's mind as it fell was Oh No, not again.
…or if something novel is happening, something like not plummeting to my doom after materializing in an area where gravity is not my friend.
The Big Ten is not helping out here. At all. Michigan's conference wins are over Minnesota, Northwestern, and Purdue, teams which have lost to North Dakota State, Army, and Rice, respectively. Meanwhile, where is the proverbial other shoe? The nearest proximate shoe just lost to the Gopher team so bad they inspired GopherQuest. Gopher blog Fire Jerry Kill shows how this is possible by splitting out various quarterbacks' stats when they are playing Iowa vs Not Iowa. Here's MarQuies Gray:
OPPONENT CMP/ATT YDS CMP% Y/A TD INT RATING
Not Iowa* 9/19 125 47.3 6.6 .5 .7 104.3
Iowa 11/17 193 64.7 11.3 1 0 179.5
And here's Steele Janz:
This is not much of a shoe.
The next potential shoe lost to the Purdue team Michigan just outgained two to one. They didn't score against the Boilers until there were ten minutes left. And they're coached by Ron Zook. Comparative scores are a dumb way to do anything because football is weird, but it kind of seems like football will have to be weird for those shoes to drop. There is a strong possibility that Michigan reaches ten games this season without playing a decent team other than 1) the one they beat thanks to a fluketasm and 2) the one they lost to in a trash tornado.
Then it's just Nebraska and Ohio State. Just.
The stakes here are simple and vast as the ground that may or may not be rushing up to meet us: a satisfying season. That's something Michigan hasn't had in almost a decade. 2006 left a nasty taste because of the way it finished. Michigan hasn't beaten Ohio State since 2003, hasn't done that and won a bowl since 2000. Expectations keep deflating but we still haven't hit the point where they cross the actual accomplishments of the football team.
I want to believe. I miss the days when accusations of Michigan arrogance were accurate. I just don't know, man. I don't feel the air rushing past my face, but it turns out I'm not very good at identifying certain doom rushing up from below.
*[Unless it was from the Pac-10 or Florida, in which case please take your 30-point victory and GTFO before we have to alter our mentality.]
Via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:
Bullets That Hope To Be In Orbit Or Something
Kovacs. I sort of had the Kovacs information but it was only one unconfirmed source so I held it and hoped it was not true. Now that it is obviously true I can tell you a couple things about it:
- It is supposed to be an MCL sprain, which means he can barely move his leg at the moment and will be out a few weeks. When the coaches say he's "questionable" for Iowa they're in all likelihood…
- …lying their boo-boos off. Kovacs did not practice Tuesday but no one noticed this because they threw Matt Cavanaugh out there in #32.
The Cavanaugh thing is the clincher after a season of mysterious fake-seeming injuries that conveniently explain things like why the national defensive player of the week immediately ate bench. Hoke will bend the truth for better PR or gamesmanship purposes. It's back to the Fort. This is a 180 from the injury-report-issuing Rodriguez, though IIRC Rodriguez would occasionally surprise by leaving off a guy who was not already known to be dinged up.
Anyway, the plan going forward is to take any Hoke statement about the injury status of a player with a grain of salt. So no, I don't believe Woolfolk was moving to safety before this happened.
We have to talk, scoreboard person. An artist's impression of the replays on the brand new scoreboards at Michigan Stadium:
The scoreboards are very big. The replays are even bigger, to the point where they are useless unless you're a helmet fetishist. Widen your shot, good sir, and the blessings of Bo will be upon you.
The next defense. After years of being an untenably young defense, Michigan has reached average-ish. Despite that they're slated to lose only four players next year, one of them a walk-on. With the swap at WLB and the seemingly permanent insertion of Blake Countess into the starting lineup the breakdown is like so:
- Three freshmen (Ryan, Morgan, Countess)
- A sophomore (Gordon)
- Four juniors (Roh, Floyd, Demens, Kovacs)
- Three seniors (Martin, RVB, Heininger)
And then there's Woolfolk, who is a starter as long as Kovacs is out. If only Rodriguez had recruited some dudes in the middle of the line you could project the returners to be non smoke-and-mirrors good. Even as it stands you've got a senior Campbell and hope for decent play from Washington, Rock, and a bunch of freshmen. They should be able to maintain their play next year.
The one true tiebreaker. Everyone's talking tiebreakers in the West division because it was looking like a bunch of cats in a sack at the end of the year before Iowa went out and ended GopherQuest. The Big Ten's are typically goofy, prioritizing head to head over a better measure of superiority: the record of your conference opponents.
The first tiebreaker should be the conference record of your opponents in the other division, which works for two- and three-way ties. Right now that looks like this:
- Nebraska: 9-4 (Wisconsin (2-2), PSU(5-0), OSU (2-2))
- Michigan: 6-7 (Purdue (2-2), Illinois (2-3), OSU (2-2))
- MSU: 4-9 (IU (0-5), Wisconsin (2-2), OSU (2-2))
If the season does end in a three-way tie here* any system that would give the nod to the team that played Illinois and Purdue or IU and Wisconsin instead of Wisconsin and Penn State is a broken system. Instead the tiebreakers are all head to head and divisional record, which makes no sense. You've all played eight conference games and proven yourself equal—it's time to figure out who played the tougher schedule.
*[Say M beats Nebraska, loses one other, MSU loses to… uh… Iowa, Nebraska wins out with exception of M loss.]
Jake Ryan edge update. I have negative complaints this week. This is also known as praise. There were no sections confused by my "AAAARGH JAKE RYAN" outbursts because the most notable thing that happened in This Week In Jake Ryan's Edge Play was Ryan annihilating a sweep in the backfield by submarining a blocker on a blitz and tackling. +3, Mr. Ryan.
Quite a find there, especially considering that Michigan picked him up because he was an effective blitzing OLB in a 3-3-5 in high school. He could be a fish out of water in this scheme.
Michigan under-center running update. It… worked? Somewhat. I have no idea how to classify things like Fitzgerald Toussaint taking a toss play opposite that Denard jet action and motoring 59 yards. That's not really manball. It's not spread 'n' shred. It's gimmickball.
It worked, though. It looked like Michigan finally got that pin and pull zone operational, possibly because they identified an issue with Purdue's DEs. If they're easy to seal the pin and pull gets you the advantages of an outside sweep in a faster-developing play. The pulling linemen have less distance to cover.
The I-Form stuff did work to some extent. As we'll see below, the extent was such that every newspaper in the state is running a piece on how
1: Lo, Bo looked down from Football Valhalla and said "I am pleased, my son." 2: "It is the will of Old that the quarterback shall taketh the ball from the center by hand and turn his back to the line of scrimmage." 3: "Motion of the ball through the air, whether forwards or backwards, is an abomination to Old." 4: "Pitches are excepted."
Judging the effectiveness of the base offense will have to wait for the UFR to break down the yardage. I'll probably have to categorize the gimmickball separately.
Inverted veer. Rodriguez played with it some but never really put it in the offense for realz; Borges whipped it out against the Boilers to good effect.
That's a play that gets Robinson going north-south with a pulling lineman if the defense doesn't force a handoff, which Purdue didn't. That was to their detriment.
I probably won't complain about showing it against a weak opponent if/when it doesn't work down the road. Purdue was nowhere near the baby seal that Minnesota was. The game remained in contact until the third quarter. This is a different thing than knowing you can name your score after the first drive.
Taylor Lewan. @mgovideo tweeted "Taylor Lewan is undead" and I have nothing that can top that. Shoot him in the head, Gholston, or he's coming for you next year. Make sure to double tap.
Students who are not reading this: you suck. Weekly complaint about student section is lodged. No one reading this is included. It is your slothful classmates who must feel the lash.
Now, there are some extreme bottlenecks upon section entry that mean a lot of student who show up on time spend 15 minutes waiting in line before actually getting into the stadium. Vitriol towards the student section up to halfway through the first quarter should properly be directed at the athletic department's crappy logistics.
HOWEVA, when half of the upper reaches remain empty throughout a Big Ten game that's on various students who don't know what MGoBlog is. There's no reason to sell those people tickets at discounted rates if they're not even going to show up and be loud. The carrot and stick:
- Assign points to students based on ticket scans. 5 for 20 minutes before the game, 2 for before kickoff, 1 for showing up at all. Validated tickets do not score.
- Reduce the size of the student section by 10%.
- Prioritize renewals based on points, not seniority. Also prioritize bowl lotteries based on this. Top 10% get half off. Anyone below some crappy cutoff gets no tickets.
I'd love to see a similar policy enacted for regular season ticket holders but that's infeasible since they're already pressing them for maximum cash and cannot easily replace people pissed off by something like that with other super rich dudes.
This is the cost of luxury seating: seeing the most expensive seats in the building half-full at best. This is most obvious at Yost, where the club seats are literally 40% full for every game.
Special K: die in a fire. I've linked to various Penn State blogs complaining about the environment at Beaver Stadium to provide ominous warnings about what our future is like, but I thought that would be in five years… not five games. Volume: ear-splitting. Choices: inane. Seven Nation Army: played one dozen times, including before opening kickoff. It's bad when I am tired of 7NA. I once listened to 7NA for a half-hour straight until someone yelled at me to stop.
HSR suggests another White Stripes song:
That works. He probably would have gotten one that does if he had chosen at random. There are more Stripes songs that are plausible than ones that aren't. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground. You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told). Fell In Love With A Girl. Icky Thump. Conquest. Blue Orchid. Never has a local band had a better collection of killer opening riffs plausible for pump-up purposes. If the athletic department prioritized having their own thing instead of having the same thing everyone else does they might look into this.
Meanwhile, we're treated to "GET LOUD" and an animated train exploding on the videoboards. (Instead of replays, of course, because who wants to watch a football game anymore?) We are Michigan State. It took less than a season. I was all like "you go girl" to this Bando Calrissian comment:
Yesterday was the closest to a minor league baseball game experience I've ever had at Michigan Stadium. The RAWK was out of control(and more often than not earsplittingly loud), the Rocket Man deal struck me as an unnecessary gimmick (play the Space, Bitches PSA and call it a day), that train graphic on the scoreboards, everything felt extraordinarily cheap and generic. Very un-Big House-esque.
And, here' s a fun fact: One of the highlights of Homecoming has always been the alumni cheerleaders doing gymnastic tricks in the end zones during stoppages in play. It's fun, and always gets the fans really into things during lulls in the action. They were told this year they were not allowed to do flips and such on the field, or so one of them told a few of us in Alumni Band. And it was true, they basically just sat and did nothing for the entire game.
A little bit at a time, the uniqueness of Michigan is being chipped away in favor of a generic, corporate, sterile experience. Seems to me "revenue streams" and marketing gurus rule the day in DB's Athletic Department, and it really doesn't need to be that way.
Corporate ass-covering and focus-group research, all of it. What's happening to Michigan Stadium is reason #1 this site will always remain independent. This is what you get for hiring someone who made his living sending people things they didn't want in the mail.
Yeah, guy who doesn't care about any of this and complains about people who do, you're cooler than those who do. Pop that collar.
THE ONE GOOD THING: No dog groomers except once before the band came out.
ST3 goes inside the box score:
With apologies to Denard, this section belongs to Fitzgerald Toussaint this week. In fact, I will refer to him as Filthgerald. Filthgerald gained 170 yards on 20 carries, scored 2 TDs, had a long of 59 yards, and averaged 8.5 YPC. Can someone explain to me again why he only got two carries against staee? Forget that last comment, I’ve moved on.
There is also a way-too-early BCS standings look. No Hoke for Tomorrow, unfortunately.
Yes, I'm so damn scarred by the previous three seasons that, after Purdue's initial drive, I felt a flash of deju vu all over again. But Michigan stayed the course and eventually put Purdue away, pretty much by halftime and certainly before the 3rd quarter was over.
TTB on Toussaint:
Fitzgerald Toussaint is hitting his stride. Finally healthy after two years of long-term injury issues, Toussaint is showing what he can do. He had 20 carries for 170 yards, including a spectacular 59-yard touchdown run (Michigan's longest run of the year). He's averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the season. Perhaps the best part of Toussaint's game is the way he finishes runs. Despite not being particularly big, he always seems to churn his legs for an extra couple yards after contact. His yardage total was the best by a Michigan running back since Michael Hart had 215 against Eastern Michigan back in 2007.
At this point, Michigan is grabbing wins like items at an Old Country Buffet; these things might not be of high quality, but this is America and MORE is better than anything else. Yes, I am comparing the quality of Big Ten competition to the lukewarm comestibles of a buffet chain.
The Purdue point of view is unenthused or bizarrely optimistic. The former:
Purdue's execution, especially when it was really needed was atrocious. Conversely, UM shored-up the issues that had been exposed v. MSU following their bye week...and played soundly all game.
Michigan seemed to want to test Purdue physically in the trenches and Purdue failed as they looked pensive, slow and soft when popped in the mouth. The end result was a sound defeat for Hope's squad, 36-14...but it felt much worse than that score.
Yes, the final margin was 22 points, but we were close through three quarters and the difference of a few plays swung the scoreboard wildly in their direction. Things got wildly out of control after a few key mistakes, as often happens in college football.
I'm just all like… it was 36-7 at the start of the 4th and Purdue had 200 yards of offense to Michigan's 510. That's not a game that swung on a few plays. Elsewhere in his post Hammer and Rails's T-Mill gives Michigan plenty of credit, so this isn't a lol delusional homer thing. I'm just surprised anyone could do the point-at-critical-plays thing after that.
Media, as in dying legacy organizations (and ESPN). Before we get into the scoffing, the Daily covers the jetpack flight in column-length detail.
The scoffing! Man, does everyone want to seize upon this as proof Brady Hoke Gets It, This Is Michigan, and This Is Not Last Year:
Just like that, Fitzgerald Toussaint proves the Michigan football team can resemble its old self
Sometimes I wonder if my brain has mutated to the point where I'm not even watching the same game as some of these people. This is about the MSU game:
With the backs providing little to no punch offensively, Robinson was forced to become Michigan's exclusive run threat. Partly because of that, he was also subject to immense pressure in the passing game, as he was sacked four times and eventually forced to leave the contest early due to injury.
My version of this paragraph is "With Al Borges inexplicably enthralled with the passing game, Robinson only got twelve carries to go with Toussaint's two. Because of something entirely unrelated that also impacted the ground game, he was also subject to immense pressure in the pocket. Later he left with an injury caused by a late hit."
Yes, this is the usual mumbling about media narratives that have no relation to reality. You're like 3000 words into this post and are clearly addicted. Suck it up. This is the point in Requiem for a Dream where your arm is a mass of black veins and you're still shooting up.
Martin leads resurgence of traditional Michigan defense against Purdue
…against… yeah, them.
This is a different Michigan team
…than the one that beat Purdue last year.
Wolverines' 'old-school' whipping of Purdue would've made Bo Schembechler proud
This one is a wow experience. I mean:
[Toussaint] transforms into a sledgehammer when he runs between the hash marks.
He's not Carlos Brown but come on, dude. And I challenge you to distinguish this from a seventh-grader's B- paper:
Even against a powder-puff Big Ten team such as Purdue, the Wolverines regrouped after surrendering a 48-yard pass on a simple slant-screen that shredded the defense for a touchdown in the opening minutes of the game. No one panicked on the sideline. Instead, the much-maligned unit discussed it and agreed the appropriate response called for equal parts inspiration and perspiration, but no more excuses.
Holy pants. Someone agreed this paragraph should be set down in print and copied thousands of times so its wisdom could spread throughout the land, no more excuses.
Even Wojo fell prey to some extent:
In finding running game, Michigan re-joins Big Ten title race
Ann Arbor— As the day's events unfolded, one thing became clearer and clearer. Michigan is back in the running, and it got there by getting back to the running.
The Wolverines pounded a weaker foe Saturday, which isn't a big deal unless you acknowledge how it happened, and what happened elsewhere in the Big Ten. Michigan bashed Purdue, 36-14, and did the job without everyone waiting around for Denard Robinson to do the job.
Michigan's rushing offense before playing Purdue: 12th nationally. Rich Rodriguez: not involved with the decision to throw two-thirds of the time against Michigan State.
Strategy matters, simple things unrelated to hearty grit toughness can provide huge swings, coaches make mistakes frequently, and no one at a newspaper ever watches a game a second time. Facts.
Picture Pages on a bye week? Sure. I generally take more snapshots than I can reasonably cram into one week of posting what with all the other whatnot that goes on in this space, so this is a perfect spot for some reheated leftovers.
Yesterday I tagged Whoever at WLB as one of the main trouble spots on the defense; last week I criticized the linebackers for a particular Edwin Baker run that popped big despite Michigan seemingly having it covered. I caught some criticism myself for not being harsh enough with Mike Martin on that particular play that I'm still not sure about.
In any case, I pick the individual plays after the game (or season) has developed enough for me to identify a trend, and I grabbed that specifically because of the WTF behavior of the linebackers. Here's a play from earlier in the season that got in my thought processes and may have compelled me to pull that baby out of the bathwater. Metaphors not guaranteed.
It's late against Eastern. The starters are still mostly in; the Eagles have been driving a bit. It's first and ten. They'll run a power play to the strong side of their formation*. Michigan is in their usual under.
*[People have told me this is a "Down G", not a Power O, because the guard blocks down—I see what you did there—and it's actually a frontside tackle pulling, along with the center.]
USUAL UNDER IS USUAL
Ryan to bottom of screen, Frank Clark to top.
The key guy to watch is Hawthorne, who is the topmost of the MLBs.
On the snap everything happens!
By this I mean three things.
- the center pulls
- the frontside tackle pulls
- Michigan slants away from the play
You can see the entire line headed inside away from the playside. Brink, Ryan, Martin: all are oblivious to the idea of containment. This is fine.
wsg Slanty, the football-playing, jean-vested gecko who is inexplicably the first hit in Google images for "line slant football."
Why do it? To get a free hitter. Your slant should make life difficult for anything run to its side. The downblocks are key in the power. They're the easy bit for the offense. If one gets beat your play is going to not work very well. In all likelihood your pullers are going to take defensive linemen in the backfield, leaving linebackers free to run up and smash face.
If the opponent runs away from your slant it should be okay because the linebackers know there's a slant on and can chase playside as soon as the offense gives any indication there is a playside. This gets the backside tackle/guard/whoever—the guy assigned to the WLB—blocking air. The WLB gets to scrape down the line to tackle.
This gets the backside tackle… guard… whoever…
…awww, come on, Hawthorne.
In the wider view you can see huge numbers of players on the backside:
Cutback == doom. Hawthorne has no responsibility but to get down the line to the POA. Note the difference in the disposition of the linebackers. Demens is hauling for the frontside; Hawthorne is in full block-catching mode.
Now, Michigan's D can bottle this up without needing a WLB if Ryan gets a two for one on these pullers. He's the guy currently inside of #68. The other puller is running right by him. He's already given up the bounce because of the slant; if he gets into the other blocker Demens has a free run.
Ryan doesn't. He gets knocked to the inside and pancaked, which erases backside help. The other puller gets out on Demens:
Demens has maintained outside leverage, forcing it back to his help, which is three yards downfield and getting farther away.
First down on a basic power run.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
Hesitation is a killer here and it does not seem explicable. Hawthorne does not quite know what he's doing yet, especially earlier in the season. The hesitation gets a little more explicable when you look at the previous play, when one Brandin Hawthorne got burned on a counter:
Even so, with the line slanting in front of him he should know to take off playside at any hint of a pull or any hint of a guy releasing to block him. Slanting should make LB decision processes easy.
This play is one of the archetypical examples of why the WLB is hard to block and can get away with being a slight fast guy… so don't get blocked.
This is especially bad for a player like Hawthorne. Hawthorne looks like Leo Messi out there. He has a hard time getting off blocks and has basically no chance if he's not thundering at whoever is coming out to block him. At least in that situation his momentum can pop the guy back and he can come off to tackle. He's done if he pulls the [REDACTED] Memorial Block Catching Dance.
Ryan missed an opportunity to MAKE PLAYS. The other thing a slant like this can do is take the playside DE/LB and make two guys block him. You see Ryan dive inside the first puller. This means the RB is going to bounce, which means Ryan's basically done. Also done is Ryan's blocker.
Ryan has one way to impact the play left: try to pick off that other puller, leaving Demens unimpeded on the edge. Here he takes the block and appears to try to fight back outside, which ends with him in a heap. This isn't the worst thing in the world but great defenses that swarm these kinds of plays with two guys get both the 2-for-1 and the WLB in the hole.
This is one of the reasons I'm looking owlishly at the WLB whenever something goes wrong. Picture Pages are attempts to thematically summarize trends I see as I'm UFRing, so when I pull a play to illustrate something it is a complaint/credit I've seen quite a bit of. That may mean I focus on the linebackers on a particular play that may or may not be Mike Martin's fault for not shedding his guy and tackling for loss.
Google images can be weird sometimes.
So it's been seven games and it's a bye week so TACO PARTY—
this is a thing you can purchase at "Fine Art America"
or steal from your crazy Aunt Betty in Pensacola
—also generic bullety midseason-type post.
BEST DEVELOPMENT. Confirmation of the offseason's Greg >>> GERG theory.
he's like defensive coordinator Zooey Deschanel.
There are still obvious weaknesses and no obvious stars past a slightly disappointing Mike Martin, but it turns out having a coherent defensive philosophy is a lot better than running around screaming "we're all gonna die but at least my hair is fantastic!!!"
Pick a metric, advanced or not, and the improvement is incredible. The advanced ones are even more enthusiastic than the regular ones: Michigan is actually a top-20 FEI defense. Top 20! They were 108th last year! Excuse me, I have to go list this pool of razorblades, despair, and misery on Craigslist! Where an Ohio State blogger will purchase it to talk about their offense!
You can apply every massively-deserved caveat you can think of and the author will nod sagely about how that is a concern and the end result is still something that should approximate giddiness. When the turnovers stop coming in droves and a smaller percentage of games are played in a trash tornado, Michigan will backslide. But, like… backslide into the 40s or something. IE: the offseason's best-case scenario that didn't involve installing robots from the future at key spots.
RUNNER-UP, BEST DEVELOPMENT. Jordan Kovacs ending the debate about Jordan Kovacs.
If you strain your memory you can think back to a time where it was very warm and people had heated debates about whether Jordan Kovacs was any good or not. This was summer, and it was a silly time. A major reason the defense is scraping the ceiling of the ceiling above its best-case scenario is the near-total absence of big plays. Michigan still hasn't given up anything over 40 yards. Kovacs and (to a lesser extent) Thomas Gordon are primarily responsible for shutting down the Wolverine Free Touchdown Factory and shipping it to Thailand. WOO OUTSOURCING JOKE
WORST DEVELOPMENT. Denard's inability to hit Charlie Weis in three tries.
Even if you ascribe to the theory that Denard's passing success last year was largely a mirage when it came to Actual Big Ten Defenses*, his numbers against the two actual-seeming defenses on the schedule thus far have been horrendous. At least half of that can be ascribed to Denard just missing dudes.
Even running in place would have been disappointing after the quantum leap it seemed he made last year. He was still raw as sushi and could still be expected to move more towards quarterback-dom than a guy who'd had the slightest amount of polish. Instead the Al Borges-Denard Fusion Cuisine has shoved him back to being that guy who heaved it up against Iowa when he had a wide open Odoms running underneath. I didn't like that guy as much as the one from last year, warts and all.
*[Which I don't, FWIW. I UFR this stuff for a reason, and that reason is "so I can do something more than wave my hands in the air and say 'nuh-uh' when I would like to dispute someone else's assertion." I charted all of Denard's throws before the dismal end of the RR regime and there's a definite backslide.]
RUNNER-UP, WORST DEVELOPMENT. What happened, offensive line?
Last year you were all like blocking your way to an insane YPC and hardly giving up anything on the ground and this year you can't pull to save your life; the impregnable wall of no sacks was punched into smithereens by Michigan State. Now it's hard not to look at next year without a sense of panic.
MOST MIDDLING DEVELOPMENT. The tailbacks. It's still Vincent Smith and increasingly less Fitzgerald Toussaint (for reasons that are opaque to me). They're not awful. I still covet any tailback who wanders by to break a tackle or two.
MOST MISLEADING DEVELOPMENT. The defense's turnover-fu. It is not sustainable. Repeat this in your head a thousand times in a futile effort for its lack to be tolerable.
MOST DEVELOPING DEVELOPMENT. Special teams. They've been bad so far but the sample size is small. Brendan Gibbons made three(!) field goals against Minnesota and is 4/6 on the year. His two misses were both blocked. He might be serviceable. He might be benefiting from a bunch of chip shots—he still hasn't made one past 40 yards.
Meanwhile, the starting punter was suspended for the first four games and is averaging under 34 yards a kick because he was a nonfactor against Minnesota and Northwestern and seven of his punts came in a howling windstorm, six(!) of those from the Michigan State half of the field.
They can't cover kicks and can't return them, either. So… yeah. The jury is still out.
OFFENSE: FOCUS: OFFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jeremy Gallon cloaking device engagement.
The play that followed it was pretty sweet, too, but that thing took Michigan from dead in the water to fightin' chance in The First Night Game Evar.
100% WORST THING EVER. Fourth and inches play action pass from the nine against Michigan State. I assume this needs no explanation.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Run inside zone.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Throw deep.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Use stretch blocking and deploy the quick screen with the wide receivers to force a third defender to live outside the tackles. Michigan hasn't attacked the outside enough, allowing Michigan State's double-A-gap blitzes to be ludicrously effective.
BEST PLAYER. Well… Denard, despite obvious issues.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been near-flawless in pass protection, and has generally done well when the run game has come his way, which hasn't been often given their inability to pull left.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Michigan hasn't been able to pull left largely because Patrick Omameh can't get to the hole before the tailback, which is not so good.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Vincent Smith. He's a third down back and useful player who's not a guy you want to give 20 carries.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. Denard. Please, baby, please.
DEFENSE: FOCUS: DEFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jordan Kovacs depositing his head into a ball Alex Carder happened to be carrying.
That sack is like the awful Nick Sheridan interception that kicked off the Rodriguez era and made its way into the Worst Plays of the Decade more for what it symbolized than the actual impact of the play. It heralds a sea change in Michigan's fortunes.
Caveats, caveats, caveats: Michigan is now deploying a zone-blitz heavy 4-3 under that will draw valid NFL comparisons and will hopefully start playing like Michigan defenses of old, and by "Michigan defenses of old" I mean "Michigan defenses of very old or more recent Ohio State outfits."
100% WORST THING EVER. It's a tribute to Michigan's safeties and Greg Mattison that the only long-ish touchdown they've given up was the no-safeties formation that handed Notre Dame a freebie right before the Gallon cloaking device play. But, man… that was kind of not good right there.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Zone blitz.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Let guys outside the tackles.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Uh… you got me. /shakes fist at format established by himself
BEST PLAYER. Ryan Van Bergen, I think. It's close between RVB, Martin, and Kovacs, but Martin had a tough outing against Michigan State. Van Bergen played well. Kovacs had a storming game the first time out and is a major reason for the lack of long touchdown but has not has as much down to down impact. Maybe that's just the nature of being a safety. If Michigan gets through the rest of the year without getting bombed deep he'll win by default.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Kovacs. I don't hate Michigan's safeties except from time to time when Johnson is missing tackles.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Weakside linebacker du jour. Woolfolk hasn't been good but that's obviously an injury thing. I've been leery about Jake Ryan from time to time but he's turning in enough good plays with his bad ones to nose above even most days.
But whoever's been at weakside linebacker has had issues. Brandon Herron started the year, had two defensive touchdowns, and got benched. Brandin Hawthorne came in for him, played okay for a bit, made some mistakes, and has rotated in and out with true freshman Desmond Morgan the past couple weeks.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Will Heininger. Heininger hasn't been a disaster or anything but he is single blocked often, rarely makes plays, and is pretty much what you'd expect a walk-on to be at defensive tackle.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. There are two: Jake Ryan and Blake Countess. Both are freshman starters* turning in promising plays amongst the youthful head-vs-wall moments. Ryan in particular has cut down his blatant errors to getting cut to the ground a few times per game.
*[Countess is not technically starting. He is getting the bulk of the playing time.]
THE BIG TEN
THE WORST. Minnesota. We have a GopherQuest dedicated to their badness.
THE SECOND-WORST. Everyone else. This league is not so good. The team leading the East division starts Matt McGloin at quarterback and is coached by a guy without a headset who isn't on the sideline. The team leading the West division is Michigan State. There are no undefeated teams, no national powers, and it's inevitable that the league's bowl record is going to be 2-6.
FUTURE OPPONENTS IN ORDER OF CONCERN.
- @ Iowa
- Ohio State
- @ Illinois
BALLPARK RECORD AGAINST THOSE FOLKS. 3-2.
WHO'D TAKE 9-3. That's everyone.
WHO'D WHIMPER AND HIDE AT THE BOWL OPPONENT IN THAT EVENT. Also everyone. Okay, not you, message board hero who spent the last week calling Michigan fans whiners. You will say unreasonable things about the prospect of beating…
Wait. There are only two good SEC teams this year. Am I going to tremble at the sight of Arkansas or Georgia or South Carolina? No. Nevermind.
FIVE GUYS WHO SEEM PRETTY GOOD WHOM INSUFFICIENT DISCUSSION IS HAD ABOUT.
Bryce McNaul, Northwestern LB. (Heady, quick the hole, part of Northwestern's good run defense, injured too much, can do nothing about the nonexistent Wildcat secondary.)
Marcus Rush, MSU DE. (Rush has been overshadowed by the Gholston controversy but is actually a better player. Gholston does nothing once he is blocked; Rush will shed guys. Gholston would be on the bench if Tyler Hoover was healthy.)
Devon Still, PSU DT. (Still may be a reach since he is reaching tongue-bath levels but I was all about Still last year.)
Kawaan Short, Purdue DT.
Da'Jon McKnight, Minnesota WR. (Winner: most futile B1G existence.)