in town for free camps
News bullets and other important things:
- The team will have practice today, tomorrow, and Saturday mainly to show off for the high school coaching clinic and to work on fundamentals.
- Chris Bryant is practicing primarily at right guard.
- Hoke seems high on Joey Burzynski. He's been mentioned several times throughout the spring now.
- Hopkins has put on some bad weight, but Hoke thinks he's done a nice job regardless. Thomas Rawls is also taking some snaps at fullback.
- Justice Hayes was mentioned as a pleasant personnel surprise so far this spring.
- Cam Gordon seems to be pushing Jake Ryan at SAM linebacker.
“This will be our seventh practice, which is -- you start finding out a little more about your team. Anytime you can get in pads is a plus, so we’ll find out a little more as we go through it. It’s kind of a busy weekend because our coaches’ clinic will have over 500 coaches here sharing ideas, talking football, some tremendous guys who have been very successful at the high school level. That’s good, but it’ll be busy. It’ll be good. We’ll get a lot done from our perspective. Practicing Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will help us a little bit, the consistency we need to play with. I like the energy. I like the energy of how we’ve come in a meeting atmosphere and out there on the field.”
Are you feeling better about your defensive line?
“I feel better because I think each one of those guys is improving. Probably not at the rate that we’ll ever be satisfied because of the expectations, but I think Will has really matured, which is a big part of it. [He] understands the expectations of how we expect him to play. Jibreel inside and Craig at the strongside end or the 5-technique is a plus. The competition with Beyer and Clark. Competition with Jake Ryan and uh, daggone it -- Cam Gordon. All those things are real positive. You look at a guy like Richard Ash. He’s getting a little better every day. As coaches you want him to get better faster. Him and Quinton Washington and Kenny Wilkins are doing some better things. We’re not where we need to be. Glad it’s not September 1st, but I think they’re really motivated to try and play the position the way we’d like for them to play it.”
What has Elliott Mealer done that you like, and is Chris Bryant being looked at for either guard position?
“When you look at Elliott, I think his confidence level is better, and that’s a big part of it. I think guys feeling confident and guys being in the system obviously helps. I think Chris has mainly taken snaps at right guard, but that doesn’t mean we can’t flip flop him. For a young guys, you’d like to keep him on the same side, the same stance. I think Joey Burzynski is a guy who’s made some real movement in how he comes out every day either at center or guard. I think we’ve got a pretty good group of guys competing.”
(more after the jump)
NOTE: it proved impossible to communicate what OL coaches were like without swearing more than I usually would in a post not about backboards in the immediate aftermath of last year's Wisconsin game. Keep children and the mad away from this post.
Faced with a difficult choice between seeing the head coach give his stump speech and talk about defensive line coaching and Al Borges talking about creating a play sheet and Michigan's passing concepts, I split the difference: one hour each. If I'd known I was going to get an excellent event recap from the Hoke presentation in my inbox that night I would have gone 100% Borges, but better to have it 3/4ths covered than half.
The emailer's notes follow. I was in the room for the first half of this and will interject some asides where appropriate; first a few general impressions from me.
loafs = bad; offensive line coaches, basically
My first exposure to the football coaching subculture was sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring, and full of swearing.
To a certain extent all football coaches emphasize the same things, and they tell you about these things every time. I get it: "loafs" are not tolerated. They are to you as scrubs are to TLC. [blank stares] I would like to move on from this because I have never tried to teach anyone and do not understand that without relentless consistency you do not get the results you want. Football coaches know you would like to move on but the relentless consistency is so ingrained in their nature that they can't help themselves.
Hoke was the most explicit example of this amongst the coaches I've seen over the past couple weeks. His presentation is on proper defensive line technique* and he says "I respect guys who just get into football and won't do all that philosophy stuff," he does a large section on philosophy stuff, and then sort of apologizes for it—only sort of because Hoke has a friendly bravado to him. Very few coaches can escape it.
Most of those guys are offensive line coaches. In a field of insane, profanity-prone sticklers for detail, OL coaches stand out. Collectively they have an air of weary acceptance. The best way to communicate this: a couple of the guys who presented in Grand Rapids have their own OL-specific clinic. Their logo is a mushroom because they're "kept in the dark and eat shit all day."
Funk was the first OL coach I took in so I didn't know how much of an exception he was. He may be the most businesslike individual I've ever perceived. No jokes, no swearing, just explanations.
What Funk shares with the other guys is an arcane language that's half signing, half jargon, half grunting, and I know that adds up to more than 100%. Jets consultant Jim McNally spent an hour talking about where a center's first step should be against a one-technique. He'd put his foot somewhere, say that was horseshit, put his foot somewhere else that you could just perceive was different, and tell you that this would prevent the motherfucker lined up across from you from putting you in a world of shit as long as you did six dozen other things right. But then some other motherfucker would put you in a world of shit some other way so you had to STEP [GRUNT] in this other particular way. A ballet eventually emerged in this quarter-full room as McNally scribbled his hieroglyphics on an overhead projector: step, grunt, swear. Step, grunt, swear. And so on.
So… yeah. Offensive line coaches.
*[Again it's worth mentioning here that Hoke is an outlier amongst head coaches. He still coaches a position. Meanwhile, he seems to have relatively little input on the coordinator-level duties. He is high and low and nowhere in between.]
Brady Hoke commands a room. I'd been in The Presence once before, when The UM Club of Ann Arbor invited me to be a panelist for their season kickoff Q&A. He started off with the same call and response he gives the team:
He then jovially mocks you for being meek little things and asks you to do it again. It's probably the oldest motivational/attention gathering technique in the history of man. He did it to the infinite coaches in the room by saying "GOOD EVENING" until the response was involved enough for him to continue. He does this with the team, obviously.
Over the course of the hour I took in he grabbed a half-dozen people out of the crowd to demonstrate certain things, told everyone to get up and actually get in a stance—this did not work well since the room was packed—and used a former Ball State player he called by a stereotypically defensive line nickname I forget as a proficient dummy. He got his points across, kept attention to him, and tossed off laugh lines with the casual air of a guy in complete control of a room. Which he was. As I noodled on my phone in certain other talks, Hoke's charisma became a more notable thing.
A couple days later eight four-star recruits would agree.
Now on to the email report.
Last night I had the opportunity to hear Coach Hoke speak for 2 hours at a Glazier Clinic in Grand Rapids. Hoke took the first five minutes to talk a little program philosophy and motivational stuff, he then launched into a very detailed 110 minute talk about D-Line rules/technique/drills/responsibilities. I thought I would share some various bullets from the night.
Roh move. Although already mentioned on the Blog, Craig Roh is definitely moving to the 5 tech! Coach hit on this a couple times while discussing drills. Seemed to hint at Beyer and possibly Ryan moving to WDE?! [Hint means he mentioned these guys as he was discussing WDE position...again nothing for sure, but just passing along info.]
[ED: I assume Ryan isn't moving to WDE. He probably gets mentioned amongst them because the SLB has a lot of responsibilities similar to the WDE. At the previous clinic Mattison mentioned that M has a defense in which the SLB and WDE essentially swap responsibilities that they ran 80 times last year. As always, SLB and WDE in the 4-3 under aren't that different. Also Ryan was a DE in the even-front nickel package last year.]
Campbell. Big Will came in for a little praise for his size and strength and it sounds like he is a "tremendous" individual, but Hoke didn't make you feel great about Will's chances to contribute at a high level.
Jake Ryan. Came in for some high praise as Coach Hoke called him "an unorthodox football player" and also said he will be a key to the success of the defense here at Michigan. They showed the clip from the Sugar Bowl where Wilson tries to bounce at the goal line and runs 20 yards backwards then Ryan cleans up.
This was one of two late-season plays on which Ryan's shocking upfield acceleration resulted in a big loss. A Taylor Martinez zone read keeper that ended up a TFL was the other.]
Hoke smiles and says, "That's just fun, isn't it?" Hoke went on to tell a story about a connection to the Ryan family and that Jake was interested in SDSU, but Hoke and his staff there never offered. He then said something to the sound of, "times like this make you feel like a fool, glad we got him now!"
Obviously. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen came in for high praise as men who worked hard and set the tone as important Seniors on team #132. RVB was credited as one of the smartest players on the team, Hoke then said, "Mike is really strong!" That received a roar of laughs. (Quick side note: Hoke is a great comedian and has a natural feel for comedic timing. [ED: It's true. He called a guy up to the front of the room to get in a stance, started adjusting him, and then asked if his feet were square. The demonstrator said "more or less"; Hoke repeated it in just the right way and got a roaring laugh from the room. Comedy without a punchline is hard.])
Hoke talked specifically about Martin not getting enough push earlier in the year and how, once he was attacking more, he was unblockable.
Nathan Brink got a lot of love from Coach Hoke. He said, "he is a limited athlete, but a tough sucker." Maybe he can add some valuable depth?
Desmond Morgan received some high praise. However, every time they showed D-Line clips from game film, Des seemed to be out of place or getting killed! Coach Hoke talked about his smarts, strength, and instinct.
[ED: Morgan fared better in the clips from the Mattison session. I figure the bad bits are freshman being freshmen and they expect he'll be a lot better this year. Morgan will not go easily into the night what with the new kids around.]
Quinton Washington got some love from Coach. He talked about his strength and good feet. The only set back for Quinton is he is a "pincher bug!" Meaning he doesn't get his hands inside and get extension. With three D-Line coaches on staff, you have to get technique right or you will not see the field. He said "we need Quinton to get this right before September 1st!"
Stories and Comments
Cross is boss
The McNabb game. Coach Hoke talked about the 98' Syracuse game and mentioned that, "you guys know a guy by the name of Donovan McNabb? He is just a little bit of good!" He went on to say, "I told Coach Carr that I take all responsibility for the loss." Hoke talked about the fact that he didn't prepare his linemen properly and he let them down. Some of this is coach speak, but he is so effectual with his speaking that I felt like he let me down too. It was salt in the wounds man, salt in the wounds.
[ED: This was presented in the context of returning nine starters from the 1997 defense, which you may remember as pretty good. Hoke was discussing the algorithm he has his players go through to get to the ball and how he thought his guys had it down after '97; now he teaches it every year without fail. Again we got back to coaches repeating everything for a reason.
Jabs. Hoke kept throwing out light hearted jabs at his assistants. Gave you the feeling that these guys really like each other and work well together.
[ED: as I tweeted out, Borges was talking about how few people were in his clinic and Hoke was telling him "no one cares about offense" before they went on. In actuality both sessions were packed to the gills.]
T-Bone. I was surprised by how detailed he was in all the drills/technique portion. One of his GAs from Ball State was in attendance, so he had "T-Bone" come up and be his personal dummy for the night. Hoke repeatedly gave this guy huge shots on every demonstrated punch and extension. T-Bone was tough, but by the end, he was grimacing each time. I only include this to show how much Hoke is still a D-Line guy at heart. He can't hold back and was working up a sweat demonstrating this.
[ED: T-Bone. Of course.]
Ohio. Following the clinic someone was asking him a question about the "Akron State Golden Bobcats" and this gentleman used the full given name of that said team. Quickly Hoke corrected him and said, "You mean Ohio?" questioning which team the man meant. I know it might seem played up with the whole "Ohio" thing, but that little interaction made me a bit more proud that he is our coach.
Tremendous. Overall, there were 11 counts of "tremendous."
I was very much on the fence about Coach Hoke until his introductory press conference. Then I remained skeptical throughout the summer and even fall. After getting to witness this talk on a Thursday night in February with a bunch of overweight D-Line coaches, I am thankful that he is our coach. You can see why Mattison wanted to coach with him.
So that's Hoke.
So I hit up a Glazier Clinic last week. I'm not sure what the etiquette is about actually talking about this stuff since the atmosphere in the room was not at all similar to press conferences in which carefully evaluated non-statements are provided. For instance, at one point Greg Mattison said that "I've never seen such awful technique" than that of the defensive line upon his arrival.
Mattison didn't say anything offensive, but he was very blunt. If he knew someone would be posting about it on the internet he might not have spoken like that, which means I probably shouldn't be in the room. But being in the room was exceedingly useful for me as I try to figure out what people are supposed to be doing on the field. So here's a mostly paraphrased recap that I don't think anyone could possibly get mad at.
I also listened to an hour of Funk after Mattison was done; having missed two hours of table-setting and lingo I had a hard time grabbing anything that I could relate to you. FWIW, Funk's presentation was three hours of inside zone minutiae—I don't think we're dumping zone any time soon. Craig Ross took in the whole thing and provided a few notes that I'll post Friday.
Mattison. Very personable, obviously a veteran of the clinic circuit. At points reminded me of a folk singer in one and only one very specific way: after explaining this formation or this coverage or this defense, he would fire off some zingers, get everyone to laugh, and then continue with business. I can see why he's regarded as a great recruiter.
His interest in teaching was also clear. Occasionally it felt like it was a college class as Mattison asked the room what player X would be doing in a particular situation. That lent a lot of credence to his assertion that one of two primary reasons he came back to college was a desire to "influence young men—that's what we do." (Brady Hoke was the other.)
On message. Mattison kicked the session off with about 30 minutes describing Michigan's philosophy, goals, and motivational techniques before getting into Xs and Os. He started by talking about Hoke; that "the one thing Brady did was bring back what made Michigan what it is." Michigan hasn't been "one of those teams loaded with unbelievable stars" but plays fundamentally sound, tough defense with maximum effort. Etc.
There were then the usual bits about Hoke's "Years: 133, Championships: 42" call-and-response and a statement that the Sugar Bowl was "fine" but he would trade 100 of them for a Big Ten Championship. The rooms say "THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM," of course. The program is on message.
Position switches. As I wrestled with how to handle this various coaches in the room told every-damn-body that Mattison said Brennen Beyer was moving to WDE and Craig Roh to SDE. This was explicitly stated. Adjust the wiki pages.
Helmets to the ball. A major theme: "loafs" are not tolerated and Mattison wants to see the jersey of 10 guys at the end of every play. When he catches a defensive lineman getting passed by another one he asks the kid how fast he is, and when they say "4.7" he says "well that guy must be a 4.3 then."
At the end of the session Mattison was discussing a corner blitz they didn't run much because the corners didn't come hard enough. One of the cut-ups was from the end of the third quarter against OSU. This play:
The coaches' film is a wider shot and emphasized the huge distance Floyd had to make up to catch Miller before the touchdown. Mattison took the opportunity to point out that this was an example of the corners not coming hard enough and gush over Floyd ("I love this kid") in general and specifically as an exemplar of the Michigan philosophy. Floyd's effort led to this:
And that led to a field goal.
Bonus: For those looking for a reason other than blind luck that Michigan recovered 80% of opponent fumbles this year, in practice all incompletions are live balls. Mattison credited this practice for getting players moving towards the ball at all times and being in position to scoop up live balls in actual play.
Technique a priority. This was a feature of both the general philosophical section and the chalk talk. Mattison did not select the cutups himself—that was delegated to a video coordinator—and didn't know exactly what would come up. This made for an interesting dynamic as he evaluated each play live. He repeatedly digressed from his main topic to note the footwork of his linemen: Van Bergen is getting distance with his first step. All of these guys have identical footwork. There was also a long discussion about why your rush end needs to start with his outside foot back when he gets a tight end to him*. Etc.
In the philosophical section he noted that Michigan was probably the only team in the country with a head coach who coaches a position, that nose guard. It was at this point he told the story about Hoke coming to him fuming, saying he "wasn't going to be one of those head coaches who just walk around" and demanding a position group. He took the nose. Zinger: "now… I question why he coached the best player on the team."
Here he also noted that everyone hits the sled every day and that this was not something the previous coaching staff did frequently, if ever. This is where the bit about "I've never seen such awful technique" came in. Pretty much the only thing negative Mattison said was about the state of the team he was handed. Everyone who's surprised raise their hand. That's no one.
The final bit on this: "don't go be a scheme coach, focus on technique."
*[The reason is the biggest threat to the rush end in this situation is getting reached and if the tight end flares out to do so that first step needs to be one that gains him distance, something you can't do while remaining square if your outside foot is to the LOS. Disagreement with this appeared to be a pet peeve of Mattison's.]
Big plays. Obviously a priority just from the play on the field. Section on this concentrated on the secondary, declared the biggest problem with big plays. Hates it when safeties "look like blitzing linebackers" when there is a pile. He wants a cup around the pile and safeties to make tackles at least six yards downfield.
Now, that doesn't mean Jordan Kovacs needs to make a tackle six yards downfield. In this context a safety is a player in a deep zone. This is most often the corners and Gordon/Woolfolk.
Rotation. This is a Hoke thing Mattison was skeptical about: Michigan rotates the entire defense on every play of practice. Run on—snap—run off. This is "not pretty" when your 21st and 22nd best defensive players are going up against the first team offense but builds conditioning and depth and was credited for "saving the team" in the Sugar Bowl when injuries whittled down available defensive linemen to dust. Think Martin and Van Bergen in the third quarter.
Goal line philosophy. To Mattison it's simple: one zone "you run perfectly" and an all-out pressure.
When they're backed up. Mattison asked the crowd to think of what they are thinking when they've got the other team backed up, and then said "how many of you are thinking 'don't give up a big play'?" Mattison's been there and tries to fight that. Now if you're backed up, "if we have a great run pressure, we're coming after your ass."
This goes here.
Not exactly a run pressure but Michigan is sending all five guys on the line there. "When you have a chance, when they're backed up, go after their ass."
Third down. "For us, we're gonna pressure." Mattison on the end of the Akron State game:
You saw the Ohio game, you probably thought 'this guy is the dumbest sonofabitch in the world' He turned a wide receiver loose against Ohio a couple minutes left in the game.
But we intercepted it on the next play. Did we win? Yes. So we were aggressive and we won. [laughter]
So they'll be aggressive come hell or high water, that's clear.
4-3 versus 3-4: THE FINAL WORD. "We'd be here for hours" if someone tried to argue him away from playing the 4-3 under. Said something along the lines of "if you've got that 330 pound nose tackle and your ends and your linebackers, okay, God bless you." I thought of Pipkins—what is Mattison going to do with a 330 pound nose?
Anyway, Greg Mattison will never run a 3-4. End of story.
4-3 under assertions from the man himself. These aren't too different than the things you'll hear about the under when you read up on it on the internet but just to confirm, the basis of the defense:
- Rush end: "The whole thing is predicated on the rush." Must be a great player, and athlete who can spill power (ie, get into a pulling guard and stop him in his tracks), drop into coverage, and win one-on-one battles with the tight end. All that and he's got to be a ferocious pass rusher. More similar to the SAM linebacker than the SAM is to the ILBs.
- SAM linebacker. Must not be outflanked either in the run or the pass game. Hugely important not to give himself up one for one on the edge. [Editor's aside: that's something we were talking about a ton early in the year. It got a lot better as the season progressed.]
- Inside linebackers. The usual: the mike has to be a little bigger, a little stronger, and the will has to be able to adjust to coverage outside of the box. An important difference between the two is the WLB has to be able to run vertically down the seam whereas the MLB can pass his guy off; IIRC this year the guy running down the seam was Demens, not Morgan. Adjustment based on Demens's surprising ability to stick with guys downfield?
- Nose tackle. Also hugely important. "You cannot win with a weak nose." We should start calling our incoming five star "No Pressure Pipkins" right now.
- Corners. "Corners are corners" but the field corner (Countess) is not involved with "heavy work" and usually just has to clean up plays that have been strung out. The boundary corner (Floyd) has to be a bigger guy better in run support. It's a seven man front; if you go eight you'd "better have a war daddy" at field corner because he's got to cover an outside receiver with little additional help.
Michigan does not align to strength but rather aligns to field—ie, if you're on the left hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field and if you're on the right hash the SAM will be to the wide side of the field. You can flip your tight ends all around and Michigan won't flip in response. I assume the flipping from earlier in the year was a necessary evil as Michigan tried to get everyone up on the new system.
The most important thing. One of the line shifts Michigan runs is called "pirate technique."
Kyle Kalis. Mattison saw one of the St. Ed's guys and mentioned that Michigan had recruited a "real man" out that school, one that "may just maul some of our guys."
Jake Ryan. Mattison said Michigan was "blessed" at SAM linebacker—probably including Beyer in that assessment—and that Ryan was a major player. A major player they probably wished they didn't have to run out as a freshman, but a major player.
Mattison referenced a particular play against Nebraska on which he lined up on the wrong side of the field. I remember that but I don't think it was against Nebraska; there's no mention of it in the UFR. "Still a lot of coaching to do" with him but it's clear they think he has vast potential.
JT Floyd. As mentioned, Mattison seemed enamored with him. "Love that kid."
Desmond Morgan. Came up on a couple of clips where he ended up clubbing offensive linemen. Mattison said something along the lines of "think he'll hit you?" And "is that good or what? For a little freshman?" It is unknown whether he has ever said "freshman" without preceding it with "little."
Morgan tipped one of the blitzes they run; Mattison mentioned that he told Morgan he'd play three technique if he kept it up. This is a common threat, as…
Kenny Demens. …they literally did this with Demens, playing him at nose so they could have Martin run the blitzes he wasn't coming hard enough on. In contrast, the SAM (Ryan) was called out as a guy who does come hard.
Some secondhand reports that the implication was Demens's job is under threat have filtered out to premium message boards; I did not get that vibe.
Jordan Kovacs. Michigan's "down safety" or "close safety"—I'll stick with strong, FWIW—was "tremendous."
Departing DL. Heininger "really became a football player." Seems like they think they'll miss him. Van Bergen "really, really played" for M and Martin was of course the best player on the team.
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE
Van Bergen and Martin, Heininger
- NT Mike Martin. Penetrating, active nose tackle a major factor in Michigan's massive improvement in run defense; forced a pitch on a speed option; late-season run was absolute dominance; backed up by air, hope, and freshmen.
- SDE Ryan Van Bergen. Crafty veteran and iron man was less explosive than Martin but not by much; turned in huge OSU game; consistent production in UFR even if the actual numbers aren't that amazing; backed up by walk-on.
- DT Will Heininger. Walk-on evolved from liability against MAC teams to solid, maybe even better than that, Big Ten DT; made a play or two every game after the nonconference schedule; replacement will be Will Campbell and the hope he can finally play some football.
CB/S Troy Woolfolk. Bounced from CB to S throughout career; basically a NEVER FORGET poster all to himself after series of injuries robbed him of all or much of his senior year twice; marginalized by injury and burned by Posey; did not start Sugar Bowl.
- JB Fitzgerald. Touted recruit never managed to see the field except on occasional snaps spotting Demens or playing DE under GERG.
- Brandon Herron. Scored two touchdowns against WMU and was never heard from again.
- Jared Van Slyke. Saw some snaps due to injury over the course of his career.
Kovacs, Ryan, Roh
- SS Jordan Kovacs. Never going to be a great deep half guy but the best damn tiny linebacker there's ever been; great tackling in space; great angles; huge part of Michigan's lack of big plays given up; best safety since at least Marcus Ray and probably further back.
- SLB Jake Ryan. Explosive edge athlete with a burst opponents are unprepared for; did get confused sometimes as a freshman; outstanding flow; nickel DE.
- WDE Craig Roh. Solid, but did not provide the explosive edge rush Michigan was hoping for. May end up moving to SDE, but his size and body type seemingly disqualifies him from that.
- CB Blake Countess. Touted recruit stepped into the starting lineup when Woolfolk was struck down and played very well; crappy edge tackling needs work; had tough close to the season against OSU and VT.
- CB JT Floyd. Resurrected his career and even turned in a big play or three along the way; jumped a route against Illinois to salt that game away; best technique amongst cover guys; still not that fast; also crappy edge tackling.
- MLB Kenny Demens. Ate a lot of blocks after move to new system; hopefully will get more decisive in year two; highly underrated cover guy; not much of a blitzer; may seem a lot better if the NT in front of him is a space eater instead of a penetrator.
- FS Thomas Gordon. Also a big part of Michigan's excellent big play prevention; largely exempted from secondary criticism after OSU game because he was not on the field for the worst of it; sweet-ass interception against EMU; probably a better fit at SS.
WLB Desmond Morgan. Wrested the job away from a couple veterans once he got healthy, whereupon he was okay for a freshman; problems in coverage; problems with misdirection; a big chunk of Michigan's outside vulnerability; will either improve or see someone yoink his job.
- Nickelback Courtney Avery. Diminutive but quality underneath cover guy; PBU and INT sealed OSU game; also a crappy edge tackler; fine option as a third corner.
- WDE Jibreel Black. Spotted Roh, could not take his job; may be a candidate to move to SDE if he can put on the weight; emergence of Frank Clark threatens to cut into playing time.
- DT Will Campbell. Alternates tossing his man into the quarterback with passive acceptance of blocks. Conditioning and effort an issue.
- WLB Brandin Hawthorne. Tiny safety-sized LB a man without a position after Michigan ditched the 3-3-5.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
please don't be our DT.
Most of the DL. YAYAYAYAYAYAYYYYYYYYY. The best unit on the team is strip-mined by eligibility expiration, leaving the next generation to… oh, right, the next generation doesn't exist. Fantastic.
Michigan's options at SDE are redshirt junior walk-on Nate Brink, who saw occasional snaps this year and was blown up on 80% of them, guys no one has seen or heard from like Jordan Paskorz, or true freshmen. At defensive tackle they've got two spots to fill and two guys who have seen meaningful snaps, Quinton Washington and Will Campbell. Kenny Wilkins and Richard Ash exist, Chris Rock will be coming off a redshirt, and there are some freshmen arriving. The most prominent is 330-pound tank/battleship/Hoke impersonator Ondre Pipkins.
I'll wait for you to finish retching.
All right! We retched it real good! Anyway. Massive dropoff is all but inevitable here. I'm betting Brink, Pipkins, and Campbell are your opening-day starters with Washington a guy who rotates in on the interior; Godin, Strobel, and Wormley will all play immediately due to necessity, leaping past Wilkins and Ash. Rock may also get some PT.
Nothing else. So we've got that going for us. Except…
Maybe WLB. Desmond Morgan is far from invulnerable at WLB, especially with Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer enrolling early. James Ross is extensively praised for his play identification ability and should be a candidate for early playing time. Teeny-tiny Antonio Poole is coming off a redshirt and is presumably less teeny-tiny.
That is a lot of guys vying for a single starting spot, many of them more athletic than Morgan at a spot that puts a premium on athleticism. Meanwhile, Kenny Demens is backed up by Mike Jones and more freshmen. Like Omameh, displacing him from the starting lineup provides an ancillary benefit by creating a quality backup where there is none already.
WHAT'S THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Sanity. O Mattison, without whom we are naught, yea, verily doth we bring these burnt offerings to your lustrous feet. May they keep your pecs jiggling as they command our forces to do something wondrous.
Experience. Michigan has it with eight starters back. For the first time since Carr's final season Michigan will go into the year running the same thing they did the year before. Run and tell that.
Depth at linebacker and quasi-linebacker. Michigan may have to pirate one of the three valid options at WDE to help out on the other side of the line but right now you can have decent confidence in any of Roh, Black, and Clark. At SLB, Ryan is a bust-out star, Brennen Beyer is coming off a freshman season with some promise and a role in short yardage, and Cam Gordon's still hanging around. In the middle, a flood of touted freshmen arrive to back up returning starters; Poole is also around.
Bending but not breaking. Kovacs and Gordon gave up vanishingly few big plays over the course of the season; both return.
WHAT'S THE LAST SEASON OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
The line, obviously. There's some talent there but if Michigan doesn't experience a massive backslide it's time to assume that Michigan's DL will be great as long as Hoke and Mattison and Montgomery are around.
okay, but what about, like, teams other than Western Michigan?
Getting to the quarterback. Roh did not blow up as we hoped and most of the options to replace other guys are ponderous. Campbell and Washington and Pipkins are going to be the sorts of guys who shove a couple dudes at the LOS on passing plays. Michigan got away with a lack of pass rush from the outside last year because a couple of their inside guys were great penetrators; next year Michigan needs their outside LB types (WDE and SLB) to MAKE PLAYS or opposing quarterbacks will be able to grow small businesses in the pocket.
Secondary athleticism. I love Kovacs with all of the hearts and think whatever athleticism he lacks is more than made up for by his smarts. At this point I'm not sure athleticism is even an issue. I can't remember the last time it came up in a game.
The rest of the secondary… we don't know about. Sometimes you're going to get burned over the top. When you have great recovery speed you can live. When you don't you die, which happened to Michigan time and again against Devier Posey. JT Floyd is much better but isn't likely to get a sniff from the NFL; Countess and Avery are faster but little buggers ill-suited to take on the Michael Floyds of the world. Thomas Gordon has decent to good speed; he still got burned over the top big time by Nebraska.
There are no blazers and the big guy in the secondary is almost kind of maybe outright slow. Yeah. So… could be an issue.
WHAT'S INEXPLICABLE JIMI HENDRIX
Can these coaches salvage the line? Tell me lies, baby.
How ready to play are some of these freshmen? If Bolden comes in and rips Morgan's job away from him that's probably good, but we're really talking about Ondre Pipkins, Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel, and Matt Godin here. Pipkins all but has to start from day one and two of the other three will be frequently-used depth guys.
Are the cornerbacks for real? They seemed fantastic over the first 11 games but the results against OSU and VT are alarming.
MANDATORY WILD-ASS GUESS
I'm torn. There is a case for a backslide despite returning eight starters. For one, the fumbles will not be as plentiful. For two, a lot of Michigan's weakness was covered up by Mike Martin being essentially unblockable the back half of the season and Van Bergen being so reliable. I'm worried that without those two, Michigan is going to have issues. In the best case scenario the new guys prevent OL from getting to the second level, making a lot of plays available for the linebackers that the linebackers might not make. I also don't see where the heat comes from.
But they do return eight starters and go from year one to year two in the same system. They seem pretty injury-resilient at spots that aren't Jordan Kovacs and bring in a lot of talented freshmen. They will be much older at just about every spot.
It's mandatory, though, so… yeah, they'll be worse. The lack of consistent pressure will be a year-long problem that exposes some of the issues in the secondary and the linebackers are not at the level they need to be to benefit from planetoid DL.
Sacks backslide into the bottom half of D-I after finishing 29th, total defense slides into the 30s, and the scoring defense does not repeat its top ten performance from a year ago.
Programming note: Tomorrow will be somewhat lighter than usual but the Game waits for no man, so expect a UFR, an interview with Laquon Treadwell, and probably a UV type thing, along with Midweek Metrics. The timing of these things may be all wacky because of family obligations but UFR should be up relatively early. Recruitin' hits Friday.
Formation notes: The usual 4-3 under against plays with two guys blocking in the backfield and nickel against one or zero. They had a couple snaps in what looks like a 3-4:
This only came out a couple times and may just be a tweak to get the WDE in a pass drop. They didn't passively two-gap anything.
As for Nebraska, they spent some time in the shotgun above, ran a lot of pistol…
…and on their late touchdown drive they ran some I form pitches and broke out the flexbone:
Gratuitous okie shot:
Top to bottom: Kovacs, Martin, Van Bergen, Morgan, Roh, Demens, Ryan.
Substitution notes: Michigan is all but settled. Secondary is Countess/Floyd/Kovacs/Woolfolk with Avery coming in for nickel plays and Gordon subbing in for Woolfolk from time to time. Kovacs missed the rest of a drive after his immensely fake injury; Gordon came in for that as well.
At linebacker, Demens, Morgan, Ryan 95% of the time with occasional snaps for Brennen Beyer spotting Ryan.
On the line, RVB, Heininger, Martin, Roh most of the time with scattered snaps for Black and Campbell. Brink had a very brief cameo; when they got to the nickel they lift Heininger and put Ryan's hand down.
Last year this section would be discussing the 16 position changes made at midseason.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Roh||5|
|Roh(-0.5) isn't far enough upfield on this to prevent a keeper from being a good choice so Martinez pulls and heads for the sideline. He's not going Clark here—he does run out on the edge—but he could have done better. Floyd(+0.5) comes up quickly to escort OOB after a modest gain. He didn't have to beat a block because the WR was anticipating the inside zone.|
|O45||2||5||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ryan||-5|
|Ryan(+1) on the edge here. He does a good job of getting width and forming up on the LOS, forcing a pitch that Gordon(+0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) seem to have contained w/ some help from Countess. We don't find out because the pitch is crappy and fumbled. Demens(-1) got cut to the ground alarmingly.|
|O40||3||10||Pistol trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Comeback||Floyd||Inc|
|M flips Ryan and Martin and then backs Ryan out into a spy zone. Martin is one on one with the LT and gets decent pressure; Martinez throws. Floyd(+2, cover +2) is step for step with the WR and has as good of a chance to catch it as his opponent, but it's not well thrown and hits the ground.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O9||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Ryan||11|
|Ryan(-1) is in better position than Roh and is a bit faster on the edge and so almost tracks Martinez down before he can get to the LOS but stumbles a bit. Floyd(-1) has a tough job but ends up sitting a few yards downfield with a WR trying to block him; his move to tackle is late and futile. Could have shot upfield to force it back to Ryan. Martinez is on the sideline and picks up a first down.|
|O20||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||-3|
|Second TE is an an H-back spot over the strongside tackle. Martin(+3) annihilates the center and eats Burkhead in the backfield; RVB(+1) had beaten a block by sliding inside and was there to help clean up; Demens(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) also slid past blocks to make this a gang tackle in the backfield. RPS +2; Mattison got all the backfields. Worthy of screenshotting at BWS.|
|O17||2||13||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||5||Quick out||Countess||5|
|Mattison sends five, dropping Ryan into a short zone and sending Morgan hash to hash as Demens(+0.5) and Avery(+0.5) come. They time it well and get in on Martinez(pressure +1), forcing a quick throw that Countess(+1, cover +1) is there to tackle on. RPS +1.|
|Roh gets a free run but forms up, afraid of overruning Martinez and opening up a scramble. Not sure how I feel about that. Martin(+0.5) is coming around to hit from behind as Roh decides to close; Martinez still gets the ball off without issue. It's a seam to a TE lined up in the slot that Demens(+2, cover +2) is running step-for-step with. He never gets his head around but when the receiver goes for the ball he gets his arm in the dude's chest and breaks it up. Example of NOBODY CARES coverage tech. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 6 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Pin and pull zone||Morgan||8|
|Heininger(+1) and Roh(+1) do a great job of slanting outside their guys and absorbing the two pullers. Burkhead has to cut back, which he can do because Martin(-1) got sliced to the ground a la Campbell, Morgan(-2) overran the play, and Demens(-1) ate a block well downfield. Morgan is running free here and should chop this down at the line even with the two guys who got blocked; instead this is a good gain.|
|O43||2||2||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||3|
|Martin(+0.5) beats his man to the inside and threatens to tackle for loss. RVB manages to fight through a double and falls at the feet of the RB, causing him to leap; Morgan(+1) takes on a block and comes through it to tackle the leaping Burkhead. He still picks up the first, but good play from Michigan. If RVB can keep his feet this is a minimal gain.|
|O46||1||10||Pistol Diamond||4-4 nickel||Pass||N/A||PA post||Gordon||54|
|M very confused, w/ motion up to and including the snap. Avery in the box functioning as a sort of playside LB. UNL goes with the same sweep fake Blue Seoul picked out in their game against OSU and sucks the linebackers up. Floyd(-3) is beaten and tries to tackle the WR; Thomas Gordon(-3, cover -5) sucks up way, way too much and we've got a Worst Waldo situation on our hands. Gordon and Countess wiping each other out is very yakety sax but ultimately irrelevant; this guy wasn't getting caught. RPS –1… Michigan got beat here but there was a deep safety on the play who biffed. Not really on the coordination.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-7, 1 min 1st Q. Denard screen INT sets up next drive.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M34||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Martin||-5|
|Mike Martin(+3), who is the nose tackle—THE NOSE TACKLE—forces a pitch on the speed option. He leaves the backside guard in a crumpled heap as he does so. Demens(+1) is flowing hard from the inside and Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) beats the WR to the outside. Burkhead has no choice but to try to bounce it. Kovacs puts him down.|
|M39||2||15||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Tunnel screen||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) leaps to bat it down. Roh(+1, cover +1) had dropped off and impeded the WR so this was either incomplete or dead anyway. RPS +1.|
|M39||3||15||Shotgun empty||Okie||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Demens||5|
|Demens(+1, tackling +1) and Martin(+1) combine to tackle here; Demens was dropping into a convenient short zone and Martin peeled back from pure pass rush.|
|Drive Notes: FG(52), 10-10, 12 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||Pistol offset||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Kovacs||16|
|FB and TE in this pistol set. Kovacs rolls down late and Nebraska does what I've always wanted M to do: FB comes down like he's going to attempt to kick out the DE. Black forms up to take the hit, expecting that he will have to get the backside gap on a handoff while Kovacs takes the QB. FB then jukes outside and gets a great block in space on Kovacs, opening up the edge. Martinez gets the edge and a big gain until Floyd vaguely forces him OOB. RPS -2; opposite of a Zook RPS. I do need to minus Kovacs(-1) for getting thoroughly owned on the block. Picture paged.|
|O34||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Countess||23|
|Roh does a mediocre job of stringing this out but it's not too bad. Morgan flows out hard and while he gets chopped he drew the attention of a blocker and this allows Gordon a free run at the ballcarrier. Unfortunately Countess(-3) executes the cardinal sin, losing leverage and letting the guy outside. There is a bit of a hold here; it shouldn't have to come to that. That turns the play from a decent 4-6 yard gain, assuming a Gordon tackle, into a big play.|
|M43||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Down G||Beyer||0 (Pen -10)|
|Unbalanced. Total OL ownage by the DL. Beyer(+2) gets into his blocker in a good position, causing the pulling G to run into his block. RVB(+1) comes under his blocker and takes out the fullback. Martin(+1) destroys the C and flows. Burkhead has to bounce; an unblocked Demens(+1) scrapes and flows to tackle for nothing. Beyer's guy picks up a holding call to compound matters.|
|O47||1||20||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Ryan||-7|
|Ryan(+2) sets up on the edge well; Martinez makes a mistake by pulling. Even so he seems shocked by Ryan's upfield acceleration. Ryan tackles five yards in the backfield... Martinez escapes. He's still doomed. Martin(+0.5), Gordon(+0.5), and Avery(+0.5) are the effective pursuit. The missed tackle actually costs Nebraska two yards. (No minuses for missed tackle attempts that effectively end plays.)|
|O40||2||27||Pistol 2TE||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Ryan||2|
|Martinez with good time; he goes to two reads and finds nothing (cover +2, pressure- 1). At this point he bugs out; Ryan(+1) comes off a block to tackle just as he passes the LOS.|
|O42||3||25||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Martin||6|
|First read not there; not really enough time to get the necessary depth by the time Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) flush Martinez. He scrambles, which like whatever. Demens(+1, tackling +1) does a good job to cut his gain down in space. (Cover +1, Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 3 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE out||Martin||Inc|
|Martin(+2, pressure +2) through the line instantly, forcing a quick throw. He's got a TE in front of Demens for a modest gain; dropped. Coverage push. Decent coverage on a short route.|
|This is a pass but Martinez bugs out immediately, scared of the pressure. Kovacs comes up to shove him out after a modest gain. RPS +1 for Martinez happy feet.|
|This is the same blitz that Kovacs annihilated Alex Carder on in the first game of the year but Ryan(-1) screws it up by not ducking inside a la Kovacs. This gives Martinez a couple seconds when he should rightly be taking a helmet to his chest. Coverage(+2) is good, at which point the unblocked dude is relevant even if he took a crappy path(pressure +1) and Martinez bugs out into the arms of RVB(+1). RPS +2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 1 min 2nd Q. This first half is the long touchdown, one good RPS play, a freshman screwup, and jack else.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-4 base||Run||N/A||IVSO||Gordon||9|
|IVSO = inverted veer speed option. Nebraska runs the veer; Martinez keeps and Burkhead gets in a pitch relationship. Martinez heads to the line where Demens(+1) takes on a lead blocker and is reaching out to tackle along with Martin(+1) who did his usual jet through the line. Morgan(-0.5) reads it late and Gordon(-1) sucks in when he needs to have the pitchman. This is a Cool Play and therefore that is a little less harsh than I would otherwise be; Michigan does have this on film so it shouldn't be a total mystery. Beyer(-1) also could have helped out on the pitchman instead of sucking in. RPS -1.|
|O29||2||1||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inverted veer give||Demens||16|
|Campbell in for Martin. Nebraska runs the veer at a two WR side and there is no contain, so give. RVB is optioned off. Now four blockers on three M defenders. Ryan(+0.5) does a good job of getting the edge, pushing his man back and forcing the play inside the hashes. Demens(-2) is cut to the ground way too easily; Abdullah is breaking past the secondary and threatening a big gainer one on one with Floyd when Kovacs manages to ankle tackle him. RPS -2; Nebraska attacked the perimeter here and by optioning RVB got a big numbers advantage.|
|O45||1||10||Pistol offset||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read belly||Morgan||4|
|Inside zone blocking with the FB headed to the back. Morgan(+1) makes a good read this time and cuts backside to tackle; Gordon was creeping down and is also there. Burkhead gets a couple YAC.|
|O49||2||6||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inverted veer keeper||Martin||0|
|Two playside DL are slanting outside so Martinez keeps. This looks pretty dangerous as Demens is left backside and gets swallowed on the second level but Heininger(+1) gets sufficient penetration to narrow the lane here and Martin(+2) beats the center and flows down the line to nail Martinez at the LOS. Morgan(+0.5) had gotten outside his blocker and may have been some help; he got held but it wasn't relevant at that point.|
|O49||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Run||N/A||QB draw||--||1|
|Nebraska had it big time as M has three guys to one side and just one to the left of the center. That's three free blockers against air. Martinez inexplicably runs to the side where RVB and Martin are to get tackled. Let off. Martin(+0.5), RVB(+0.5), I guess. RPS -1. Hypothetical Nebraska UFR just gave Martinez -3.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-10, 8 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inverted veer keeper||Van Bergen||1|
|Martinez keeps when he should give; there is no contain up the field and Abdullah will be running at blocked guys on the edge. As a result, RVB(+0.5) gets inside and forces Martinez away from his blocking, as he alters the pulling G's path. This makes him useless and gives Demens(+0.5) a free run. Martin(+1) has beaten a block and also enters the picture; Ryan(+1) blew the slot receiver up with an explosive burst and there are four guys converging on Martinez at the LOS.|
|O27||2||9||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|Martinez is a little late here and the ball gets out as the WR is turning. He's got a crap arm so the ball floats, allowing Floyd(+2, cover +2) to jump it. It's two yards short of the WR or this is a pick six. Floyd tries to dig it out; he cannot. Normally I would give a jump like this three but this was easy pickings.|
|O27||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Skinny post||Avery||Inc|
|Martinez has time but happy feet also; he starts scrambling up in the pocket despite decent blocking. RVB comes off a blocker to force a throw, which is to a post route Avery(+2, cover +2) has dropped right into. He's in the WR's chest as the ball arrives; WR awkwardly backs off and bats the ball skyward; it falls incomplete. RPS +1; no routes open.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-10, 4 min 3rd Q. Bad punt and good return sets the next drive up deep in M territory.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA seam||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Time(pressure -1); Martinez throws too early to a guy who Woolfolk(+2, cover +2) has blanketed; Woolfolk bats it down.|
|M31||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-4 base||Pass||4||PA improv||Martin||12|
|Play action inverted veer catches M slanting away from the play and is either a brilliant call based on inside knowledge or damn lucky. Either way, Campbell(+1) and Martin(+1) slant through the OL and force Martinez to scramble. As he nears the sideline he chucks a ball you're certain is doomed that a WR plucks out of the air on the sideline. Well played? I guess. If they're going to do this, fine. Pressure +1.|
|M19||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Morgan||7|
|Roh(+1) doesn't get sealed; he flows out onto the edge with his blocker and drives him back, picking off the fullback. Kovacs(+0.5) is the outside guy and he maintains leverage inside the numbers, forcing Burkhead into a narrow crevice without a lead blocker. Morgan(-2) has no job but to flow to this (on a pitch) and has help behind him; he slows, actually briefly stops, and by the time he resumes his path outside he's too late to crush Burkhead at the LOS like he should. Floyd(-0.5) comes up and makes a dodgy ankle tackle that gives Burkhead a few extra yards.|
|M12||2||3||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Kovacs||2|
|Beyer/Ryan package. Looks like the exact same play but it develops differently; RB just runs into the back of blockers this time instead of trying to get to the edge. Beyer(-0.5) is cut to the ground on the edge; he does contain. Morgan(-1) is again late in case there's a cutback when the entire defense is behind him, which gives Nebraska some yards despite the lack of a FB again; Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) thunders down into the hole and crunches Burkhead after two yards, setting up third and short.|
|M10||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Kovacs||2|
|Seems to want to go inside since the FB does, taking out Morgan. Burkhead doesn't like that pile at the LOS and bounces outside since Beyer(-1) gives up the edge. He gets in the backfield but he does not maintain outside leverage. Bounce available and taken; Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) again shoots down to the LOS at great speed to tackle, but he can't prevent the first.|
|M8||1||G||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Outside toss||Beyer||5|
|One of the flexbacks goes in the looping motion flexbacks do and takes an outside toss pitch. Gordon(+0.5) keeps the edge well; Beyer(-1) is chopped to the ground by a WR. Demens(-1) took a block and got blown into the endzone; this would near the goal line but for the pursuit of Martin(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5).|
|M3||2||G||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inverted veer triple pitch||--||3|
|Tip of the hat. RPS -1. Picture paged at BWS, because someone had to do it.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-17, 1 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Demens||7|
|In front of Demens(-0.5, cover -1); WR falls down or would have a YAC opportunity.|
|O32||2||3||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Morgan||-1|
|Mild zone blitz sees Roh drop off and Morgan(+2, pressure +2) sent. Morgan does not get a free run; he gets the RB blocking him. He deftly steps around and threatens to sack, forcing Martinez up into the pocket, where Ryan(+1) peels off a block and steps up to sack.|
|O33||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Demens||-1|
|Zone blitz is picked up; Martinez has happy feet again and scrambles into Demens(+1) and Ryan(+2), the latter of whom rakes the ball out for Michigan to fall on.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 38-17, 7 min 4th Q. Michigan scores on the next play and it's garbage time. Charting stops. The starting D does get the next drive but Taylor Martinez forced to throw is bloodsport, not useful.|
So… this happened two weeks in a row. Something approximating total domination.
It did. It's almost as if one-dimensional teams who can't throw and only have one receiver, if that, are totally screwed against this defense.
Does this remind you of anyone?
Was it as dominating as it seemed?
Almost. When Nebraska picked up yards I found myself not irritated with players or frustrated with the defense's playcalling but, well, like this.
I was annoyed because WTF was that? About half of the negative RPS points in this game I'm not even mad about. When that wasn't happening Michigan was strangling them.
The one issue that may have made things look a little better than they were were Taylor Martinez errors—give or keep, run into Martin and Van Bergen or away. Nebraska had some openings they failed to take advantage of. But not many.
So are we legit? Legitimately legit?
I still have a slight fear of what happens in the event Michigan goes up against a truly good offense. I don't see any of them on the schedule save Notre Dame, against whom Michigan struggled. Iowa is okay, MSU is okay, Nebraska is okay.
But dang, man, put them up against anything short of excellent and you're dead meat. Some of the issues from earlier in the season may be an effect of not having Mike Martin performing at an insane level.
Insane level you say?
You have to see this—
Note that a paucity of plays charted—only 40—means you should multiply numbers by about 1.5 to get an average day's work. I am going to work on something that fixes this variability for next year.
|Van Bergen||5.5||-||5.5||The usual production adjusted for time on field.|
|Martin||18||1||17||No foolies. I mean, the guy forced a pitch on a speed option.|
|Roh||3.5||0.5||3||Didn't get much action his way and is frequent dropper in blitz packages.|
|Heininger||2.5||-||2.5||Has established himself an asset.|
|Clark||-||-||-||Garbage time only.|
|Black||-||-||-||Don't blame him for the Martinez run.|
|Campbell||1||-||1||Also crushed face.|
|Morgan||4.5||5.5||-1||Still a bit slow reading plays.|
|Demens||9.5||5.5||4||Three straight +4s. Surprisingly good in coverage for MLB.|
|Ryan||8.5||2||6.5||First real impact game.|
|Beyer||2||3.5||-1.5||Nebraska went after him in the 4-4 package and got rewarded.|
|TOTAL||24.5||16.5||8||Improvement here is palpable from beginning of year.|
|Floyd||4.5||4.5||0||Two route jumps, one big error.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Excellent coverage on a post.|
|Woolfolk||2||-||2||Joined PBU party.|
|Kovacs||6||1||5||Some excellent tackling.|
|T. Gordon||1.5||4||-2.5||As guilty, potentially moreso, as Floyd on the long TD.|
|Countess||1||3||-2||Lost leverage on big run.|
|Van Slyke||-||-||-||Garbage time.|
|TOTAL||18||12.5||5.5||Check the coverage.|
|Pressure||9||2||7||Doesn't even count lets kill Martinez time|
|Tackling||5||-||100%||I can't even remember a broken tackle.|
|RPS||9||8||1||Ain't even mad.|
So you're probably like "LOL WUT MIKE MARTIN" and yeah. I cannot emphasize enough that he forced a pitch on a speed option. I don't… I…
…I mean… how does that even happen? Just look at the crumpled heap the backside G is in.
I should have checked whether the above statement is the literal truth or not. Martin's day is in the UFR hall of fame.
Jake Ryan candle count?
Getting up there. If 16 is the maximum number of candles Jake Ryan can have I'd say he's gone from a 4 or 5 early in the year to 10 around now. He's already made about as much improvement as he will over the rest of his career. This does not mean he's going to top out at not awesome. When Taylor Martinez pulled on first and 20 late in the first half Ryan had sucked in a bit and you could make a case he made the right read, especially with a WR forming up for a pitch relationship outside.
Then Ryan leapt on his face.
That is great technique combined with great athleticism. He even cleverly misses the tackle to induce Martinez to give up another two yards. ("All in the game," he tells Martinez afterwards.)
Ryan with another couple candles is All Big Ten.
Did we all get too excited about Floyd last week?
Maybe a little but I'm not that down on the guy when he jumps two different routes in the same game, one of which would have been a pick six if Martinez throws it well, even if he did get sucked up on play action and help give up the long one.
Yeah, help. IME, Thomas Gordon is as much or more at fault since he is in a deep centerfield role and biffs hard.
That is not cover zero. Watch Countess on the other side of the field give up inside position on the post; he expects deep help and has none because Gordon's gone. If Gordon does not bite harrrrrrrrd on the play action this is much more difficult and possibly not a touchdown even if complete. Floyd blew it; Gordon blew it harder.
Anyway, Floyd isn't perfect. One big mistake in 11 games makes him good, though.
[SIDE NOTE: apparently Worst Waldo has not entered the vernacular here yet. An explanation: a Worst Waldo play is one like the above on which the receiver is the worst Waldo ever because he's the only one in the frame (or at least would be if the throw was any good). Some receivers, like Manningham, can generate these on their own. Usually it's the effect of a bust or a secondary overreacting to play action.]
What of Morgan?
Morgan is about where Ryan was halfway through the season. This makes sense because he's had about half the playing time and was reportedly laid up with a nagging injury of some variety. As a result he's still missing some plays available. When Nebraska started their pitch series on their final touchdown drive Michigan had the first one thumped but for #44:
While he's clearly getting better, linebacker hesitancy remains an issue with the D that may bite them if they ever face a team that can throw again.
By the way, the back to back pitches here are a great way to contrast the fill skills of Floyd (above) and Kovacs:
Floyd is bad, Kovacs elite.
What's the point of those wacky pass defense formations that have Martin as a quasi-linebacker?
I was wondering this myself, and then the answer came to me when Nebraska decided they would
get Martinez killed try to make the score look nicer. When he is a delayed blitzer many teams will treat him like a linebacker, which means deploying the running back to block him. Here's how well that works:
This is also a reason Michigan's okie package flares him outside the tackle, I'm guessing.
Martin. The secondary as a whole except for that one play—take out the cover –5 on that one and the day is 17 to 1 positive, which is nuts. Ryan, RVB… take your pick, really.
Floyd, sort of, and Thomas Gordon. Basically for that one play.
What does it mean for the Game?
Michigan's tackling in space will get a test against Miller, who's liable to say "eff it" and do whatever he wants as soon as his first option is not there. What's more, Michigan's defensive line is going to see their level of competition take a big step forward.
I know OSU fans just grunted derisively at this statement, but it's true. When not snapping it into his ass, Mike Brewster is an NFL prospect at center worlds better than the fools Martin has been pwning the last three weeks. Ohio State has shown it can move guys off the ball with frustrating regularity and we may see our Will Heininger renaissance disappear into some frustrating Dave playcalls. Michigan's linebackers have been iffy at getting off blocks and will continue to be iffy this weekend.
In the air? If Posey doesn't blow up they aren't moving the ball except in erratic chunks that won't make drives. Michigan's blitz packages seem like a perfect fit here; if Miller gets spooked and scrambles there are usually seven guys in coverage. Michigan can go with a delayed blitz/spy package without making too many compromises downfield.
OSU's not going to get crushed like the last two opponents. It is not possible. They are going to have a hard time moving down the field without hitting big plays, of which there will be a couple. Miller's a scary dude like that and Posey may provide some deep passing OSU has not had to date.
After the biff by Gordon on the deep pass I'm not sure I'm totally comfortable with him in that role. Woolfolk may be less prone to breaking down and I expect to see him most of the day. Kovacs will be roving around the box for 60 minutes.
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.