also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
9/8/2012 – Michigan 31, Air Force 25 – 1-1
It's been a long time since the first game of Michigan's football season wasn't at home. It was 1998. Michigan headed to South Bend to get annihilated by Autry Denson and the option in the opening game of their title defense. The box score lo these many years later is horrific:
Michigan Notre Dame First downs 24 19 Rushed-yards 38-150 55-280 Passing yards 322 96 Sacked-yards lost 3-29 0-0 Return yards 6 14 Passes 28-44-0 4-10-1 Punts 2-31.0 2-44.0 Penalties-yards 4-30 5-32 Time of possession 29:46 30:14
Michigan led 13-9 before four straight ND touchdowns turned it into a laugher. Michigan got blown out despite outgaining the opponent by 100 yards and allowing the opposition to complete all of four passes. They fumbled all of the balls. They stopped none of the options. That game was 36-13 before Michigan tacked on a cosmetic touchdown at the end.
This was the Michigan-ND rivalry in the 90s. If all you know about it is 38-0, "oh, wide open," and Michigan ripping Irish hearts out in the last 30 seconds, you are fortunate. I know better because I was in college then.
The next week I sat, despondent, in the student section as a group of resilient (and probably drunk) guys in front of me chanted "Cross is Boss" in the waning minutes of Michigan making a blowout loss to Donovan McNabb and Syracuse look pretty on the scoreboard. Donovan McNabb was in college once. I said it was a long time ago.
Walter Cross went over 100 yards that day, all of it racked up long after the game had been decided. Syracuse, too, had murdered us with the option.
Saturday started strangely blank. I wrote this thing two years ago about the opening of football season that I already kind of wrote back when far fewer people were reading this blog and have to force myself not to write again every Friday before Michigan starts playing football again:
I can say that most of the time I like that I find football important. It gives life a rhythm. I think my favorite part happens on the first day of the new year, when I file into the stadium an hour early. It's still mostly empty then. You can spread out in the sun. In my mental picture of this my seats are high up in the corner so I can take in the whole vast breadth of the stadium. Perched there, looking down and across, the future stretches out across the horizon. Anything seems possible, and the wait is over.
I hadn't felt a lack of possibilities since 1998, when Michigan was not going to repeat as national champions even before Donovan McNabb showed up. I went in at the usual time and sat in the usual spot and felt… not that. It turns out getting hammered 41-14 in your opening game restricts dreams of future glories quite a bit. It's like having New Year's Day on the eighth, a week after you found out you're not getting a promotion. You found this out because your boss stapled it to a bobcat he mailed to you. The stitches still itch.
So when the band rolled out, it was weird. I did the thing with the clapping and the raising of the fist. The voice in the head that has been going ermagerd fortbaw ermagerddddd the last 13 years was not there. Alabama had taken it, ripped its pigtails out, stomped on it, and returned it to me. They said "what?" confrontationally. They asked if I was going to do anything about it. I said "no, sir." It sat in the corner, petting itself, maybe whispering ermagerd fortbaw, maybe not. It was hard to make out.
Two plays later, Denard Robinson ripped through the line, cut directly towards me, and was one on one with a safety with an angle. An angle and no chance in hell. Turbo was engaged, and Denard shot into space with the same breathtaking speed he showed after fumbling a his first snap against Western Michigan.
ermagerd ermagerd ermagerddddddd
On the first play of the second half, Denard ran 50 yards in one shoe, making a cut on his sock.
Cross (@ right via MDS) was a freshman that year. He must have thought a hundred yards in his second college game was a hell of a start. Must have thought he would be watching other guys take the meaningless carries pretty soon. But Cross never cracked a hundred yards again. He'd only match the ten carries he had against the Orangemen three more times. Once a year Michigan would blow the doors off the worst team in the Big Ten; Cross would dust himself off to pick up 40 or 50 yards as the stadium emptied and walk-ons made their moms proud.
I liked him, though. I remembered Cross Is Boss whenever he'd hit the field, and how those deranged guys in front of me were taking whatever they could from the game in front of them. If the only thing it offered was an opportunity to ironically root for some guy to rack up more meaningless yards than had ever been gained by a guy in a winged helmet, that's what they were going to do. I was still sitting on those seats as Michigan fell to 0-2, but I was less despondent. Cross was boss. If those guys could be okay with life, I could maybe be too.
So, yeah, Michigan's definitively not elite. The defense got torn up by a triple option team, and the offense got stoned against Alabama, and I guess I'll be okay with that, because if some dudes in 1998 can carve some fandom out of Walter Cross, how can you not be excited about Denard Robinson's final games in Michigan Stadium?
Fortbaw. Let's get it.
Things That Still Aren't Bullets
Honorable mention: Funchess, Gardner, Joe Bolden, James Ross, Jake Ryan(?).
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS:
1: Denard Robinson (Air Force), Jeremy Gallon (retroactively awarded for Alabama game).
Welcome, freshmen. Not really. Hey, remember when this was finally the year when Michigan didn't rely on freshmen all over the place? Yeah… nyet. Michigan rolled out not one but two true freshman ILBs (James Ross and Joe Bolden) on Air Force's penultimate drive—the last one they actually used their offense on. Hoke would later say Bolden played so much because Colerain, his high school, ran the option, but even so… man.
Meanwhile, Ondre Pipkins, Mario Ojemudia, and Keith Heitzman (a redshirt freshman) saw plenty of time on the defensive line and Jarrod Wilson was the guy who came in when Michigan went to nickel. You make shake your fist at Rodriguez's last couple of recruiting classes now.
It wasn't that bad on offense, where the only freshmen to get a lot of playing time were AJ Williams and Devin Funchess. The former is like okay, we'll deal, and the latter was going to play early on damn near any team in the country.
not having shoes is the coolest now (Upchurch)
FUNCHESS. I try not to get all I told you so because I have occasionally not been right about things—like those three solid years when I thought Rodriguez was going to work out—but dang I told you so. Not that this is any great scouting feat on my part. Pretty much everyone who went to that open practice and saw a 6'5" guy with freaky long arms getting sent deep on wheel routes thought "holy crap" to himself and wrote about it on the internet.
I'm not sure if it was wheel one, wheel two, or not-a-waggle deep bomb that was the turning point, but by the time it was over Funchess had 106 yards receiving and was the first guy out of everyone's mouths in the postgame. It doesn't take a keen eye to think that guy has potential.
In Funchess we saw the beginnings of Michigan's Swiss Army Offense. They lined him up as an H-back and sent him on a wheel against a linebacker, who had no chance because he was too slow. They sent him deep against a safety, who had no chance because he was too small. That's the stuff Borges has spent years doing instead of figuring out how to tweak a read option, and in Funchess we saw the future.
Also the present.
…and introducing Chasing Jim Mandich. Is this too early? No. For one, I'd rather put up pictures of Bo and Mandich 20 times than, like, four. For two, it's the internet. This is how we do. Suck it, guy on twitter who told me to calm down and that it was just one game. WOO!
Jim Mandich is Michigan's all-time tight end receiving yardage leader with 1494 yards. After posting Michigan's first 100-yard receiving day by a tight end since Jerame Tuman did it in 1997, Devin Funchess has 106 yards receiving and needs 1389 to pass Mandich. At his current pace he needs just over 26 more games to do so.
That was the best thing, now the worst thing. Fitzgerald Toussaint: eight carries, seven yards. Commence offensive line panic. Do not hold any in reserve. If you end up in a cornfield wearing nothing but a traffic cone holding a sign that says "AIR FORCE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN ARE 260 POUNDS," this is about right, give or take a jockstrap.
I don't know, man. Live I didn't see anything Toussaint could have done except collapse in a pile of bodies. When Carl Grapentine forgot to turn off his mic and told the stadium "they can't do anything with that" after Michigan set another down on fire by running from under center, he was only telling everyone in the stadium what they were already thinking. Most of those plays went right, we're already nervous about Schofield… conclusion… yeah.
NORFLEET. hey drew dileo what's up you're all catching this ball wrong yoinkkkkkkk now I'm going to run over here bad idea getting tackled bouncing back not getting tackled running back over here different way different direction funnnnnnnnn I am the NORFLEEET zip that was like two guys oops here's like three guys awwwwww now I'm on the ground oh drew dileo you look sad let me apologize I am the NORFLEET this kind of thing just happens sometimes go with the flowwwwwwwwwwww
Denard accuracy. Seemed pretty good, right? The interception was zinged too hard—I'll give him a pass on the "high" bit because Vincent Smith—and the third down Gardner catch-that-wasn't was short. But those are MAs in UFR jargon, and if you put college football in your head all Saturday you'll see plenty of quarterbacks make similar errors. The only throws into coverage were a couple at the end of the half when you may as well force it.
I've seen some complaints about Denard not seeing open guys. I'll check for that as far as is possible given the tape, but if the costs of the Borges transition are an inability to make tiny run game adjustments the payoff tentatively appears to be an ability to put the ball where Denard wants it to be, most of the time.
It helps when you're throwing to Funchess and Gardner, too. The Funchess touchdown was short, but given the target that's what you want to do. As long as that guy is jumping for the ball it doesn't matter that you made him slow up, because he's winning that battle every time.
Crazy enough to work? Air Force's combination of triple option with Oregon's tempo and a pro-style-esque formation blizzard was fun to watch in the same way Nebraska's double pitch was last year… except it was far less fun because instead of one seemingly indefensible play it was dozens of probably defensible ones that weren't.
Q: think that could work at a major college level? Georgia Tech is doing it in the ACC, yes, but I think the option + jet tempo combo would be absolute hell to play against if the guys getting the ball were Denards and Norfleets instead of 5'7" academy guys. It was kind of hell to play against even against guys who are going pro in blowing things up. You're getting gashed, you have to substitute to keep guys fresh, you are freaking out and guaranteed to let some guy run free for a 70-yard score…
worst waldo. Upchurch
…unless he bobbles the ball and falls over.
Maybe it wouldn't work against Alabama but pair that Air Force offense, personnel and all, with a quality defense and you're winning nine games in the Big Ten. Falcon total offense against BCS-ish foes the last three years:
- 2012 Michigan: 417
- 2011 ND: 565
- 2011 TCU: 416
- 2010 Oklahoma: 458
- 2010 TCU: 231
- 2010 Utah: 411
- 2010 GT: 287 (in a 14-7 win)
So unless you also run a flexbone triple option or are the 13-0 2010 TCU team that finished first in total and scoring defense and won the Rose Bowl by holding Wisconsin to 19 points (on 385 yards, FWIW), Air Force is going up and down the field on you.
You'd need a lot of breathing room to get that up and going, granted. Troy Calhoun just tweaked the thing Fisher DeBerry had been doing for decades. Implementing it from scratch would be painful at first, but if you're an Illinois or Minnesota or Rutgers or Cal, it might be worth a shot. I'd loathe it if Minnesota gradually became Air Force++ and Michigan had to deal with it annually. Therefore someone should try it.
Calhoun's just 46. If someone can pry him away from his alma mater, I promise to praise that coaching hire up and down. He even releases his Coaches' Poll ballot weekly.
Does that make you feel better? Those ND/TCU/Oklahoma numbers are just like ours. ND finished last year 30th in total D, 18th FEI. TCU was 32nd, 42nd FEI (schedule issues). Oklahoma was 53rd, but a shocking 4th(!) in FEI.
FEI has Air Force's offense 33rd and 32nd in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Last year's mark was better than Georgia, VT, Michigan State, Iowa, Auburn, and Florida State. With guys who are going pro in going Mach 3. This just happens when you sign Air Force up, even when you don't do it the week after playing Alabama.
"No, not really" -you. I hear you. All the rotation and getting zero out of the defensive line and freshmen and etc. What if I bring up last year's game #2 against Eastern Michigan?
We had all of those happen on Saturday. Nowadays "non-Martin" DTs are all of them, so expand that slice of the pie. The coaches worked some things out. They've got a virtual bye next week against UMass, so they'll have two weeks to prep for Notre Dame—this time State takes the bullet and we get the rebound.
I'm hoping we see some progress against the Irish, who couldn't run at all against Purdue and got Everett Golson sacked five times. Yeah, no Cierre Wood, but Purdue's rush defense was appalling last year.
It doesn't look good but hold out a couple weeks before hitting the panic button.
Also, Alabama couldn't run on WKU. LA LA LA NOT LISTENING
Marmot, city. I've heard from a number of people that Air Force mistimed a lot of their plays and ended up having Arena-style guys running at the line of scrimmage before several plays. Here's TTB:
The officials were terrible. Terrible. Air Force's first touchdown should have been called back for illegal procedure. Quarterback Connor Dietz tossed to A-back Cody Getz, who beat everyone to the edge. In the meantime, the wing started moving forward prior to the snap like he was in the CFL and chopped down safety Jordan Kovacs, who was responsible for the pitch. Without that forward momentum, Kovacs - Michigan's best open-field tackler - very well could have stopped Getz before the goal line. Later in the game, Air Force converted on a key third down when both the quarterback and the running back - who were in a shotgun formation - started moving to their right before the ball was snapped . . . and a slot receiver was already in motion. So three guys were moving prior to the snap, and the play was allowed to stand. Those were obvious, blatant non-calls and each one could have had a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
It was hard to tell if that was the case from my vantage point, but the refs did miss a really blatant illegal motion on an AF third and long conversion late. They had a guy moving, and the tailback took off before the snap, and no one noticed. I know they're military, but this is not 'Nam. There are rules.
Adventures in Special K. One: no "In The Big House." That is also two through six hundred. NO POP EVIL~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!!!!atatatat.percentsign.asterisk.
Given how much they ran that into the ground last year, that's either a sign of that thing's merciful departure from our world or Special K's greatest ever troll. I wouldn't put it past him, the scourge.
Instead, Special K put on that Flo Rida song that is not at all about blowjobs, wink wink nudge nudge:
Is that the kind of thing we want to be exposing the youth to? The guy is seen using a Windows phone in that video.
Injuries. Brennen Beyer has a "knee strain" according to Hoke, which means he has anything from a fairy tickling his patella to a Turkmeni flaming crater where his knee used to be. Other than that, Michigan didn't get it too hard from all the cut blocks. Ash's issue seems like a one-week thing, and no one else is publicly injured.
Helmet numbers. I don't miss them.
Paging 2011 Jeremy Gallon. 2010 Jeremy Gallon has started returning punts again. Please report to the maize and blue courtesy phone.
Number stuff. The first Kovacs bullet has been dodged, and I think if they were going to give him someone else's number they would have done it right away. They probably aren't changing a senior captain's number in their second or third opportunity to do so. So, hurrah. Ryan's as good a choice as any, but I was hoping they'd put it on a receiver since Oosterbaan was famous for catching Bennie Friedman's passes and 47 is a distinctive number for a wideout.
Ron Kramer's 87 is next. Hopefully that ends up on a tight end. I'm rooting for Not Funchess because 19 is not a number I have strong associations with yet.
Air Force didn’t turn the ball over, but they only went 2 for 5 on fourth down. They missed a field goal, and were stopped on a fake field goal. That’s six points. That’s the margin of victory. Ugh.
Michigan missed chances to get off the field, giving up frustrating first downs on third and medium-to-long time and again. Brady Hoke missed a great chance at points to end the first half with some terrible clock management, ending up with a TO in his pocket. With Michigan up 14-3, Vincent Smith missed a chance to extend Michigan's drive and possibly their lead by tipping an accurate third-down pass from Denard up for an easy interception; Air Force would score a TD and keep it close for the rest of the game.
Photos and such. Galleries from Maize and Blue Nation…
Media with the main and the stream and the Theo. Funchess named freshman of the week, Denard offensive player of the week by Big Ten. Denard Robinson had more total offense than Michigan did. Michigan up to 17th in the AP. Devin Gardner's still a quarterback in his mind. Give it four more games. Also the media refuses to call people by their last names. That's what they're for! They're names!
Michigan struggled early against Western Michigan and especially Notre Dame, and wasn't exactly pretty against Eastern Michigan. But it improved.
It shut down San Diego State the following week, then shut out Minnesota the one after that, and the Wolverines were in business.
The key to that success was simply getting better every week, especially on the defensive line, and Hoke sees the same thing happening this year.
"I would say there's a uniqueness to the offense, and the schemes -- but at the same time, we're a work in progress," Hoke said. "Quinton Washington is getting better every time he plays. Ondre Pipkins is getting better every time he plays. Keith Heitzman ... Mario Ojemudia ... Frank Clark, having him back.
"We're a work in progress."
Meinke also gives Toussaint a D+, which come on man that guy could have been Barry Sanders and gotten 15 yards on those attempts. BOO THIS MAN. Also, this may be a typo or it may be that DENNIS NORFLEET IS TOO FAST FOR VERBS
Dennis Norfleet is who we that he was
So there's your answer, Michigan fans.
Denard Robinson still is Denard Robinson. And so are the Wolverines.
On days like this, that'll be enough. Just barely enough, maybe, but Robinson, with a little help from his friends, did manage to beat Air Force, 31-25, before a crowd of 112,522 in the home opener at Michigan Stadium.
A week after getting thumped by top-ranked Alabama (then No. 2), the Wolverines needed a late fourth-quarter stop Saturday to avert an even bigger disaster. And they needed every bit of Robinson's dual-threat ability, as the senior quarterback actually managed to account for 101 percent of Michigan's offense.
With 208 passing yards, Robinson is now just 12 yards behind ex-Michigan great Tom Brady for sixth on the school's all-time passing yardage list. Brady had 5,351 career passing yards as a Wolverine.
Brady only started two years, but even so…
Larry Lage gets in another holy crap:
He had his fourth game with at least 200 yards rushing and trails only Mike Hart's school record by one. His 426 yards of total offense ranked fifth in school history, trailing four of his own performances.
Blogz! The flyover:
MVictors has some bullets:
The two Devins: Added to the postgame press conference hall of shame was the fiasco around the media trying to figure out how to address individual questions to Devin Gardner or Devin Funchess, as the Two Devins were trotted out to meet the press at the same time. The Wolverine’s Michael Spath asked the first question and intentionally addressed the question to “Devin” as a joke, but that didn’t help matters. More than a few times the players had to ask for clarification as to whom the question was addressed and it got silly. “The old one,” was offered up at one point to clear up the confusion, making Gardner, who was trying to be a bit stoic, crack up. Props to WTKA’s Steve Clarke who directed the final question to “Number nineteen”. I was going to direct mine to “number square root of 144”.
No one asked why they love bucket hats. Get with the program, media. Get with the program, Heiko.
MVictors also has helmet stickers Hoover Street Rag:
Air Force looked exactly like I would want to see a group of my nation's future military leaders look like as a football team, disciplined, focused, moving quickly, attacking the enemy's weaknesses, and fighting to the last man. They gave Michigan all they could handle and earned the respect and admiration of hopefully every Michigan fan. I had joked earlier in the week that "It's hard playing against Air Force because you can't boo freedom*", but I stand by it. Air Force, along with Army and Navy, are America's teams. Every one of those players made the choice to not only become an officer by going the Academy route. Every one of them has taken on the additional responsibility of being a football player at the Division I level, above and beyond what is asked of them. It was the same reason that I found it so hard to be angry when Air Force beat Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA Hockey Tournament in 2009. The cadets did an outstanding job and I am proud of their service to our country.
I agree with all of that save the "hard to get angry after the 2009 Air Force hockey game."
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
In a game that felt like something out of the Rodriguez era, Michigan showed that while there's great promise for the future, the flaws exposed by Alabama are very real.
The Wolverines edged Air Force, 31-25, and the outcome wasn't decided until Jake Ryan batted down Air Force quarterback Connor Dietz's fourth-down throw with 1:28 remaining. Denard Robinson accounted for all but seven yards of the team's total offense. The defense ceded 417 total yards—290 on the ground—and failed to keep contain all afternoon.
It wasn't all bad, however. Robinson was masterful, completing 14-of-25 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception—one that deflected off the hands of Vincent Smith—while rushing for 218 yards and another pair of touchdowns on 20 carries. True freshman Devin Funchess emerged as a viable threat at tight end, becoming the first Michigan TE to eclipse 100 receiving yards in a game since Jerame Tuman. Devin Gardner looked like a wide receiver, hauling in five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown while running crisper routes.
The offense lived and died with Denard, as Fitzgerald Toussaint found little room to run—seven yards on eight carries, to be exact. The offensive line failed to get a push against Air Force's undersized D-line, doing little to ease concerns from last week's debacle. By the second half, Al Borges had essentially given up on generating yards the traditional way, and he was justified in doing so.
Defensively, Michigan looked ill-equipped to stop the Falcon triple-option attack. The defensive line spent much of the day on their stomachs, unable to evade chop blocks or get any sort of push. Kenny Demens looked positively Ezeh-esque, letting blockers get into him again and again before being pulled in favor of true freshman Joe Bolden. Jake Ryan was all over the field, recording a career-high 12 tackles, but sometimes "all over" can be a bad thing—keeping contain was an issue. The final Air Force touchdown came when Desmond Morgan overpursued. The defensive backs struggled against the run as well, failing to shed blocks and come up to take the pitch.
When the defense needed a big play, odds are it came from an underclassman. Ryan continually redeemed his poorer efforts with critical stops, including two pass breakups on the final Air Force drive. Bolden replaced Demens and displayed the aggressive, instinctual play that made him a high school All-American. Fellow freshman linebacker James Ross spelled Morgan late and acquitted himself well after struggling in his debut against Alabama. Several other freshmen made appearances during the game's biggest moments, including Ondre Pipkins and Mario Ojemudia.
Last season's 11-2 record belied the myriad issues Brady Hoke faced upon taking over in Ann Arbor. After two games in 2012, those issues are at the forefront for the Wolverines. The lack of depth on the offensive line means Michigan must move ahead with the current unit—despite its ineffectiveness in the run game—unless they want to insert a true freshman. The defensive tackles will be a sore spot all year; the players expected to relieve that problem are freshmen or not even on campus yet. The offense still leans heavily on Denard, whose style doesn't always mesh well with the offensive philosophy of Borges.
The Wolverines came away with a victory, a fact that cannot be overlooked, especially against a team with a difficult style to prepare for in a week's time. Denard will still make magic with his feet—his touchdown runs were both exhilarating—and perhaps his arm as well—he looks much-improved from last year even if the numbers don't necessarily bear that out. The future looks bright, too, thanks to the major contributions from a number of young players already gaining crucial experience.
The overwhelming feeling in the aftermath, however, is that this team is still two years away from competing on a national level, the only level of success that matters at Michigan. Today's game had Rich Rodriguez's fingerprints all over it; as we know, that's a smudge that isn't easily wiped away.
Formation notes: Nothing unusual. Here's a kitten in some marshmallows.
Substitution notes: On the line we got a ton of people: the starting four (Roh-Campbell-Washington-Black), Ash, Pipkins, Beyer, and Brink. James Ross rotated through both MLB and WLB, replacing Demens or Morgan on about half the drives. Cam Gordon saw a few snaps in place of Ryan.
In the secondary, Michigan first moved Gordon down to nickel and brought in Jarrod Wilson. After the long touchdown on Avery they brought in Raymon Taylor as a one for one replacement for Countess.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||1|
|Michigan comes out with their nickel, moving Kovacs down into the box. Line is Ryan-Campbell-Roh-Beyer. Campbell(-1) and Roh(-1) get blown a yard or two off the ball Demens(+2) and Morgan(+2) have to flow very hard very fast; they do so, meeting linemen near the LOS before they can fully disengage. Demens gets outside his man and forces it back to Morgan; Campbell is also there.|
|Ryan (+0.5, RPS +1, pressure +2) gets a free run off the edge. McCarron has to throw immediately and does to Lacy; dropped. Floyd looked like he was in okay coverage.|
|O26||3||9||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Ryan||Inc|
|Morgan shows blitz, backs out. Michigan stunts; Ryan(+2) ducks inside the LT and runs through a crappy chip from the RB, getting pressure(+2) right up the middle as Black(+0.5) comes around the outside to contain. McCarron chucks it away.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O39||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter Iso||Demens||9|
|Countess gone now. Kovacs rolled up for an eighth guy. The second TE is lined up as an h-back on the boundary and roars up in a gap. Demens(-2) eats him two yards downfield and lets him outside; Morgan(-1) gets lost on the counter action. Roh(+0.5) had disengaged and tackles; could have tackled near the LOS if Demens hadn't gotten blown up.|
|O48||2||1||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||2|
|Michigan slants away from the play, sending Ryan as they pull Black off the LOS. Roh(+1) ends up slanting into a double and gets buried, but holds up okay and does not allow anyone to get on the LBs. Demens(+1) flows into the hole next to Roh and gets a diving tackle on Lacy as he leaps; Morgan(-1) gets caught up in Roh's trash and cannot help. Otherwise this could be no gain.|
|50||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5?||Waggle hitch||Avery||7|
|I think this was a blitz the PA screwed up. There is no one on the edge(pressure -1) as McCarron turns, and it's an easy pitch and catch for him. Avery in coverage, not that close, does tackle on the catch.|
|M43||2||3||Ace||4-3 under||Penalty||--||False start||--||-5|
|you gonna die now kid saban's gonna eat you|
|M48||3||8||Ace 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||5||Seam||Floyd||19|
|Ryan gets dragged way out in to the slot. Play goes to the other side anyway. Michigan sends both LBs, dropping off Black short. Kovacs(-2, cover -2) goes for a chuck on the interior WR and doesn't get much; the routes are all past Black's little drop-off and the blitz is slow (Demens -0.5, Morgan -0.5, pressure -1); McCarron sees the big gap in the middle of the defense and hits it. Floyd tackles; he really had no choice here but to split the two WRs running in his zone and tackle. Kovacs has to get depth here as his man goes vertical. RPS -1.|
|M29||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Demens||14|
|Floyd rolled up. Michigan slants away from the playside again, which means the line gets sealed inside. The LBs have to be hauling ass. Demens(-1) gets caught up in a lineman who is falling as he releases, but is releasing on the snap so that is tough. Have to have some DL make a play. . Morgan is trying to reach but wasn't done any favors by his DL; Roh(-2) and Ryan(-2) end up getting blown back two yards by single blocks and Morgan ends up in a pile of bodies. Gordon comes up to keep leverage and is kicked by the FB; thanks to Demens there is no one Gordon is funneling to. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) comes up to make a nice openfield tackle to prevent a TD. RPS -1; slant made things tough.|
|M15||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Roh||5|
|Morgan(-1) rushes at the LOS on some sort of blitz and gets chopped to the ground again. Roh(-1) gets blown out of his lane by his blocker. Brink(-1) also chopped to the ground on the backside. Washington(+0.5) actually gets some push and forces Yeldon into a relatively small hole. Demens is one on one with a guard and can't do much more than a helpless dive at feet. Gordon(+0.5, tackling +1) fills well.|
|M10||2||5||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Ash||5|
|Ash at NT. He's blown up(-2); Morgan(-1) is thumped backwards by the FB. Demens had no chance thanks to Ash getting blown up so fast.. They comboed him like it was nothing.|
|M5||1||G||I-Form Big||Goal line||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Heitzman||3|
|Michigan just chucking guys out there, anybody. Heitzman(-2) hurled to the ground and pancaked. This is the gap. Demens(+0.5) gets a good thwack on the FB at the LOS and forces it back inside, would be a no gain if that DE could just not die immediately. Guy who hurls Heitzman to ground then gets out on Morgan(-0.5); Black actually makes the tackle near the goal line.|
|M2||2||G||I-Form Big||Goal line||Pass||N/A||PA TE corner||Ryan||2|
|Ryan(-1, cover -1), loses the TE on the PA, but you can't blame him much.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q. Ugh, turn out the lights. Pick a DL, he got his ass kicked.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O33||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Gordon?||Inc|
|Ross has already replaced Morgan. Wilson playing FS. So much for no freshmen. Coverage(+2) is good off the PA; McCarron can't find anyone, at which point Ryan and Beyer are getting some pressure. He backs out and throws it away.|
|O33||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||16|
|Morgan back. M slants again. This gets the two DL past their blockers; Morgan(+1) flows hard to the cutback lane these guys just vacated. Center comes out on him but he's at the LOS already and has funneled. Demens(-2) sits and waits for the ball, getting blocked by a fullback three gaps away from the play. Campbell(-2) didn't help by getting pushed past the play.|
|O49||1||10||I-Form||4-3 even||Pass||5||PA fly||Avery||51|
|Play action. All day for McCarron (pressure -2); Avery (-3, cover -3) falls on the double move and guy is wide open.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-14, 5 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fly||Floyd||Inc|
|Overthrown and OOB. Floyd might have had a play.|
|M17||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||8|
|Pipkins in. Roh(+0.5) does a nice job to fight upfield of his guy at the numbers and force it back. Michigan has slanted to the boundary; Campbell's(-2) quickness gets him past his guy, and then he takes a terrible angle that is not along the LOS, so when the RB cuts back he's got a lane. Linebackers nowhere near the cutback, which I don't get since the line is slanting. They get swallowed.|
|M9||3||2||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Roh||9|
|Demens(+1) thunders into the FB at the LOS and forces a cut. There is one because Roh(-2) fought out of his gap and got shoved back; Floyd(-1, tackling -1) whiffs on Lacy afterwards. Mattison: "One of the touchdowns, for example, where Floyd missed the tackle in the hole, which would have been a two-yard gain, and he got a touchdown on it. Craig Roh just tried to make the play inside and should have stayed outside."|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-21, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ross||50|
|Nobody takes the C gap to the field. The line again slants to the boundary, and get under their guys. Penetration. Black is containing to the outside. Neither linebacker goes to the hole the line is funneling them to. Ross(-3), Morgan(-2), Kovacs(-0.5, tackling -1) for missing a tough tackle but not keeping leverage, Gordon(-1, tackling -1) for whiffing as he comes up, Taylor (-1, tackling -1) for whiffing, Ryan(-0.5, tackling -1) why am I doing this|
|M31||1||15||Ace 3-wide||Okie||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||-3|
|M seven across the front, and they send six with Ross dropping off to clean up. Ryan gets upfield and forces it back, but he's way upfield, I don't think that's ideal. Beyer(+1) gets a little penetration and cuts off a cutoff lane the RB thinks about. Morgan(+2) beats a block and surges upfield as RB tries to break outside the tackles. RPS +1|
|M34||2||18||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Scramble||Roh||15 – 15 pen|
|Roh(+1) fights inside the tackle and his held, but no call; hold makes him fall. This spooks McCarron and Beyer(+1) coming around the outside flushes him totally. Contain is broken and McCarron gets a bunch of yards, but the missed hold probably made that possible. Bama guy gets a PF for hitting Floyd in the head at the end of the play. Refs -1.|
|M34||3||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Screen||--||26|
|Michigan gets RPSed hard(-3), sending everyone to the same side they blitz on. Yeldon has a free first down.|
|M8||1||G||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Morgan||4|
|Again the slant, again LBs not flowing. Ross(+0.5) at least tears ass. Into a blocker, but okay. He pushes some guys back and makes the hole smaller. Kovacs cuts off the lead blocker and maintains leverage; Morgan(-1) slows up inexplicably and can only make contact from the side. Gordon(+0.5, tackling +1) meets him at the same time, preventing this from getting to the two.|
|M4||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Fade||Avery||Inc|
|Michigan sends the house and gets free rushers(pressure +2, RPS +1). McCarron chucks it away. This should be grounding, as he's in the pocket.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 0-24, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Cross||N/A||Inc|
|No pressure (-2); decent coverage(+2) and a checkdown. With Ryan coming up probably a 4-6 yard gain if caught; dropped.|
|O47||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter||Ross||7|
|Big gap on the backside as the line slides towards the TEs. Alabama pulls one to the back, which neither LB reads, and kicks Black. Brink(-1) is blown up. Ross(-1) and Demens(-1) are gone. Kovacs is nominally in the box and comes down to tackle(+0.5, +1) as Hart breaks into the second level.|
|M46||3||3||Shotgun empty||4-3 under||Pass||5||Sack||Ryan||-6|
|TE standing up a yard or two outside the line points Ryan out but no one picks him up. Ross is sent; Beyer backs out. Ryan(+1) flushes McCarron up into the pocket, where Ross(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) combine to sack.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 5 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone counter||Kovacs||-2|
|Not sure what to call this. Looks like standard inside zone blocking; QB flips the handoff around and gives it to the back going to the other side and he's headed backside from the start. Michigan is totally screwed on this with Beyer(-2) fighting inside and losing outside contain but for Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) shooting up past an attempted WR block and making a TFL.|
|O23||2||12||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||3|
|Ryan (+1) gets into the FB at the LOS to the inside and clogs up the hole; Roh(+1) also fights through a block and ends up taking the pulling guard as well. Lacy slows up, confused, and shows why he'll lose his job to TJ Yeldon by not shooting outside immediately. Michigan should have had a guy there but Demens(-1), unblocked, is just sitting behind the line. The delay allows an unblocked Beyer(+0.5) to tackle near the LOS.|
|We're watching a close-up of JT Floyd for this whole play.|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Quick out||Demens||13|
|A five yard hitch turns into more as Demens(-1, cover -1) overruns the play.|
|O48||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Floyd||12|
|No pressure(-2), WR wide open for about 15 (Floyd –1, cover -1). Easy.|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Roh||11|
|Roh stunts with Beyer and gets into the LT, knocking him back on his heels. LT then tackles him. No call. because Bama needs that kind of help. McCarron scrambles out and dumps it off to Lacy. (Pressure +1, Roh +1, Refs -2) Lacy gets a first down but runs out the clock as he does so. Fumble pops out, because this is when we really need a turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-31, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle out||Gordon||28|
|Coverage is fine here with Gordon prepped to make a tackle after this guy catches it three yards downfield; Gordon(-2, tackling -2) whiffs, turning this into big yards. Morgan(-1, tackling -1) compounds matters.|
|O48||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Pipkins||5|
|Pipkins in at NT. He gets good push(+1), driving the C back a couple yards and constricting any frontside hole. RB has to slow up awkwardly and cut back. Roh(-2) has taken a cut and gets up, then tries to do what he did on the earlier TD by over pursuing and getting out of his lane, opening up the backside. If he's more responsible likely TFL. Ryan then brings Yeldon down after he slices back upfield.|
|M47||2||5||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||15|
|Campbell(-2) ends up shoved two yards downfield and well down the line, opening up a big cutback lane. Pipkins(-1) took an angle too far upfield and helped open it up, too. Demens(+1) does a good job to dodge an attempted cut block and tackles as Yeldon shoots upfield; this is probably a touchdown-saving play.|
|O38||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||5||PA sack||Campbell||-16|
|Coverage(+2) is good, causing McCarron to hesitate. He spooks. Campbell(+2) has blasted the OL's hands down and starts coming around the edge. He has to go even further around as Black is now bull-rushing his guy back, but manages to get all the way around that and run the QB down for a sack. Impressive. (Pressure +2) Washington(+1) also beat a guy and forced a RB up; that's probably the reason for the McCarron spook.|
|M46||2||26||Ace||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA scramble||--||4|
|McCarron has nothing (coverage +2) and despite not getting any pressure just decides to take off. He gets a few.|
|50||3||22||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Kovacs||15|
|Despite only sending four this gets dangerous. The LB to that side is sent and Michigan sends Beyer and Demens to the field; this goes to the boundary. Kovacs attacks this fantastically, getting past an attempted blocker, and... misses the tackle. He does delay the WR considerably, which helps the D rally. I'll give him a pass as this was a tough play. Gordon comes into tackle after a big gain, RPS -2; without that Kovacs play this could have been six. Bama has our screen number in this game.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(52), 7-31, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O47||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone counter||Beyer||12|
|Again the backside DE here fails to keep contain. Beyer(-2) is the culprit. Kovacs is in man coverage and is not very useful; Michigan blitzed Morgan so there is no playside LB (RPS -1). Gordon(-0.5, tackling -1) comes up and misses a tackle but at least slows the guy and keeps leverage. Brink(-1) ended up on the ground, so even if Beyer contains there's a big hole to exploit.|
|M41||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||8|
|Brink(-1) is instantly doubled away and sealed; quick G release on Morgan. Morgan(+0.5) gets to the G about a yard downfield and does get outside of him, funneling back; Demens(-2) is slow to the hole and then misses the tackle(-1). Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) also there and spun through.|
|M33||2||2||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Ash||0|
|Ash(+2) beats a block by swimming under it and coming back behind the OL so that he's still in the hole. He takes on the lead blocker and forces Lacy to slow up. Demens(+0.5) is free and comes up to hit. Campbell(+0.5) helped out, too.|
|M33||3||2||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle flare||--||Inc|
|McCarron doesn't have it long(cover +1) and tries to flip it to the back leaking out but biffs it. Hard to tell if this makes it.|
|Drive Notes: FG(51), 7-34, 2 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Kovacs||8|
|M does not adjust to motion (RPS -1) and Black gets sealed inside by the TE. Demens(-2) runs up in that same gap and is sealed by same TE, so it's Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) on the outside with a blocker and a ton of space. Kovacs damn near makes an awesome play but doesn't and loses leverage, so the minus. Black(+0.5) was actually in position to tackle if Kovacs forces it back.|
|O33||2||2||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||18|
|Campbell(-2) drives his man back, but his angle is way too far directly upfield and then he gets cut, falling over. Morgan(-1) and Ross(-1) both got blown up. Black(-1) ran way too far upfield and opened this gap up even further. I screenshotted this. It's turrible by everyone relevant. Long way to go. Long way.|
|M49||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Ross||5|
|Michigan gets flanked a la MSU last year. Ross(-2) runs straight upfield, eliminating himself. The TE in position doesn't even have to block him, Kovacs gets walled off a bit but does come up to tackle once Floyd provides leverage at the numbers.|
|M44||2||5||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Pipkins||7|
|Pipkins(-2) blown up. Ross(-2) runs into his own OL instead of the FB.|
|M37||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Ross||0|
|Ross(+1) pops the FB at the LOS and shucks inside. Washington(+1) sheds his block around the LOS and provides a guy in the hole. Cam Gordon comes from behind to help out.|
|M37||2||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||PA TE corner||Taylor||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) is unblocked and dodges an RB block to get some token pressure that may see McCarron miss long on his TE; Taylor(-1, cover -1) had gotten sucked up on PA and this was open, but not mega-open.|
|Press coverage, Avery playing inside leverage, gets no chuck, lets slot have a step. Overthrown. Ryan and Roh got decent pressure from the edge, but it's a push.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-34, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O43||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||3|
|Washington(+0.5) holds up to a double decently; Campbell(+1) gives ground on a double at first but comes through it after the second guy releases to block Ross(+0.5), who is trying to shoot the gap and at least a little aggressive. Black comes through a block but I'm not sure if I like this or not because if the back is aware enough to cut outside of this it could break big. Back doesn't, instead grinding for a few yards.|
|O46||2||7||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||5||Waggle TE out||Gordon||16|
|Gordon(-2, cover -2) bites hard on the play action, opening up not only the catch but a ton of YAC. RPS -1.|
|O38||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||11|
|Campbell(-2) gets clubbed to the ground by a double, which is a super quick release on Ross as a result. Kovacs(+0.5) attacks hard this time—makes me think he has not being doing well all game previous—and gets in for a tackle attempt at the LOS. He misses but at least forces the back away from the gaping hole Campbell left. Ash(-1) also got kicked pretty badly. Campbell could make a tackle now if he wasn't on the ground. Ross fights through his block and... misses a tackle(-1). Taylor comes in from the side to finish it.|
|O27||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ash||6|
|Ash(-2) blown three yards off the ball by a single block from the center. Morgan comes up hard and takes on a G near the LOS, forcing it back, but Ash getting blown up doesn't make that relevant. Ross(-1) also got chopped. If he remains up he could make a tackle at about three yards. Pursuit catches up after a few more.|
|O21||2||4||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power||Brink||-1|
|Brink(+2) manages to shoot between the gap left by the pulling guard, aided by the OT's odd decision to flare out on Beyer. He's falling but a couple yards oin the backfield, and tackles(+1) at his feet. Looked well defended otherwise. Heitzman(+0.5) and Washington(+0.5) but like whatevers.|
|O22||3||5||Shotgun trips TE||Okie||Pass||6||Fly||Floyd||Inc (Pen+15)|
|Mattison's zone blitz gets Roh(+1, pressure +2, RPS +1) in unblocked, forcing McCarron to chuck a hopeful one off his back foot. It is of course dead accurate. Floyd(-2, cover -2) is in good position but just gets outrun and ends up hooking the WR's arm, drawing a legit flag.|
|O7||1||G||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ross||6|
|Ross(-1) is sent on a blitz and shoots the gap between two blockers. He goes to the inside, gets shoved, and thus vacates his gap. RB hits gap. Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) gets run over at the five; Morgan has impressively leapt a cut block and manages to get him down before the goal line.|
|O1||2||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||--||1|
|They get it.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-41, 5 min 4th Q. Backups for both teams on the next two drives, charting ceases.|
why are you doing this to me
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME
i'm not doing anything
YES YOU ARE
just leave me alone
|Roh||7.5||8||-0.5||Surprised he came out this well.|
|Campbell||3.5||11||-7.5||Minor downgrade at this position.|
|Brink||2||4||-2||Blown up a couple times.|
|Morgan||5.5||10||-4.5||And this was the best ILB play!|
|Demens||6||12.5||-6.5||Seemed marginally worse than Morgan.|
|Ryan||4.5||3.5||1||I may have not picked up some things he was doing that were bad.|
|C. Gordon||-||-||-||Nothing of note.|
|Ross||2.5||11||-8.5||Welcome to college.|
|Floyd||-||4||-4||Bad PI extended Bama TD drive.|
|Avery||-||3||-3||Big TD on his fall.|
|Taylor||-||3||-3||One long TD on him.|
|Kovacs||4||5.5||-1.5||Poor day by his standards.|
|T. Gordon||1||5.5||-4.5||Missed tackles a plague.|
|Wilson||-||-||-||Did not chart.|
|TOTAL||13.5||26.5||-13||Thanks for being inaccurate, Miller.|
|Pressure||12||8||4||Do I hear bright spot?|
|Coverage||9||13||-4||Could have been worse.|
|Tackling||5||14||26%||This probably could not have been worse.|
|RPS||3||8||-5||Blitzes exploited a couple times.|
So that's a demolition, too. If you want to sanity-check those numbers, Alabama averaged 6.2 YPC while running two-thirds of the time. Other than the Avery fall, Michigan kept the Alabama passing game in decent check, but it doesn't matter when you get crushed that badly on the ground.
I'm shocked that Washington didn't pick up any negatives and can't vouch for that. It may be that there were just other places to run all the time. We'll see what happens this week.
Yeah. He flashed impressive closing speed to track down McCarron on his sack but unfortunately also vacated lanes like whoah. By the time Yeldon hits this hole, he is behind Desmond Morgan, like literally directly behind him on the field:
And, like… come on, man:
The last-second switch on the defensive line seemed ominous when it was made and even considering the opposition I think that disquiet is confirmed now.
So it was all on the line?
The numbers say no but I have to admit this was hard sledding for me as I tried to figure out what was going wrong. On last year's defense, it was usually a single thing, maybe two things. On certain plays against Alabama it became extremely difficult to pinpoint what was wrong because it seemed like everything was.
So take this Yeldon run.
Michigan is slanting away from the playside blocking, which is going to leave a gap to the outside. Alabama has a lead blocker who kicks a charging Gordon, which is fine for Gordon, as he's turning it upfield at the hash.
Everything else is broken. Three Michigan defenders are on the backside of the play with two Alabama blockers. Then there is a cavern. Roh and Ryan are both clubbed off the ball by single blocks. As a result Demens is slashed to the ground because the OL assigned to him doesn't even have to provide a token double. Morgan is trying to flow to the hole but has to jump over Demens because the lineblob has gotten back to him. Once Yeldon reaches the LOS there is no one to even slow him. He hits the secondary, where Kovacs makes an impressive touchdown-saving tackle on a guy who wasn't even touched before he passed the sticks.
Who is at fault here? That side of the line, definitely. Demens? I mean, he's trying to read in the backfield and he's already got a guy in his legs before the ball is handed off. Morgan? He probably could have taken a more conservative angle… and tried to tackle where Kovacs got him. Trying to judge linebackers under these conditions is trying to find out who's the best guy at reattaching limbs in a field hospital stocked only with Elmer's Glue and old copies of Guns and Ammo. When they just single-block the entire line and roar out on you on the snap, life as a linebacker is a sad, sad existence.
BWS said the linebackers were hesitant.
Yeah, he's right. I'm not saying the linebackers were good—they got hammered numerically—and hesitancy is the main problem to my eyes as well. Here's a very similar defensive call on which the line gets excellent penetration:
This leapt off the screen to both myself and Chris, who focused on it in the above-linked post.
Here your slant closes off most of the holes. Campbell gets shoved past his ideal location, and that's a problem, but watch Morgan and Demens mostly. Morgan is aggressive, getting to the hole at around the LOS and funneling to his defensive partner. Demens then gets blocked by an h-back(!) three gaps away from where the play is. Morgan's at the LOS; Demens is two yards behind it. Is Campbell at fault here? Yes, if he is in the right spot there is no gap in the line.
Did Demens screw up? I think so, but this happened with enough consistency that in an ideal world Michigan wants that to happen so Demens can track down that RB when he has to slow up and awkwardly pick a hole.
Here there isn't going to be one so you need to slam hard into that big gap. How do you know this? You probably don't. Your peripheral vision picks it up and you go, because you have instincts. Or don't, as in this case.
These are what James Ross are supposed to have, yes?
Reportedly, yes. It didn't take him long to leap Joe Bolden and become the #3 LB on the depth chart. He rotated in at both MLB and WLB and did a bunch of stuff wrong but at least was damned decisive about it. Here's a replica of the first play above, the lead zone. This one is still a lost down (four yards on first and goal from the eight) but the differences between Ross and Demens are notable:
WOOOOOO IMMA GET ON MY HORSE AND GOOOOOOOOOO
Ross pounds into the guys at the line and gets himself sealed, but at least the POA is still at the LOS and there isn't a huge body in the way of Morgan. Morgan then takes a false step and can't get to the hole despite this being Yet Another Slant on which cutbacks should be doomed. Watch Morgan slow up as the blocker reaches him despite Campbell being obviously unblocked directly in front of his face. Blocker gets into him a bit and instead of meeting the tailback in that hole, he does it three yards downfield from the side.
So what's the point of all the slanting?
This is one of those things that I still need coaching up on, but IME executing that slant where you pick a gap and get in it is designed to force the tailback into a specific gap your DL are not covering by design. This gap is ideally one-person-sized and can be filled by the nearest LB plugging a FB or leading guard at the LOS. This allows the other LB to play it a little cooler. When the gap is big enough that the back can pick either side of the block the fullback laid down then you need that second linebacker to haul ass, beat the block (which is almost always coming from a difficult angle for the offense to get you on the slant), and finish as a free hitter.
Michigan was getting large gaps without free hitters. Is this on the DL? Or LB? Or both? Hand me the glue and the March 1987 edition—you know, the one with that guy using an AK47 on a bear.
Because, man, the linebackers seem clueless. Michigan slants left on this play, leaving Black as backside contain. the linebackers go… left. so you've got a huge hole you were planning on putting there and honey linebackers don't care.
Long, long way to go. For everybody.
Was not a step up or down in this environment. Is that good? If you want it to be, I guess. He did force a cutback by getting good push, something we didn't see much else of:
In general, ask again later.
Any unrelated complaints recycled from last year?
Spread punt plz.
I know Hagerup's kicking the dickens out of the ball, but that's all the more reason to get those interior guys gone on the snap. Most of college football probably isn't wrong about this.
Nobody. I don't trust my Washington number.
Oh hell let's just move on.
What does it mean for Air Force and beyond?
This made me feel much worse than the offense. Denard flashed greatly improved accuracy, we didn't have Fitz, Alabama is Alabama, etc. Here it's just a complete crapfest. You expect to lose the battle against this OL with Michigan's DL but they got so comprehensively owned that I'm worried this ends up being a harbinger.
Campbell was bad. Campbell is playing because Michigan has no other choice. Campbell can remain bad and not get pulled off the field. There is no reason to think Campbell will ever be not bad, etc. I'm expecting the DL causes Michigan to get gashed by Air Force—like, a lot—and we have an uncomfortable outing Saturday.
“Well, first of all, you saw the game, and obviously we weren’t pleased as a defense. A lot of things we stand for and the things we set out to do each year, we weren’t successful in a number of those situations. The biggest thing is missed tackles. We can’t have that in our defense. We had way way way too many missed tackles. And another thing that led to missed tackles as you watched the tape was we had missed techniques. We’re not good enough right now to be able to not play perfect technique, and when you don’t play great technique, somebody’s going to have to make an open field tackle or somebody’s going to have to make a tackle that you hope the ability of everything to stay inside and in front would take care of. That’s really a lot of what happened in the game.”
(After the jump, Mattison talks about the secondary, Alabama's offense, linebacker technique, Air Force's offense, and the defensive line)
|Jake Ryan||So.*||Kenny Demens||Sr.*||Desmond Morgan||So.|
|Cam Gordon||Jr.*||Joe Bolden||Fr.||Brandin Hawthorne||Sr.|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||Fr.||Mike Jones||Jr.*||James Ross||Fr.|
It's step-up time for the linebacking corps. They return every contributor from a year ago and get freshman-to-sophomore transitions from Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan. Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, and Brandin Hawthorne are entering their second consecutive years in a sane defense for the first time in their careers and could/should see larger than average leaps in performance.
They will need to be much better. Mike Martin isn't going to bail them out on six plays a game anymore. Ryan Van Bergen isn't walking through that door. Ryan has to become an elite pass rush threat; Demens and Morgan need to take on blockers and funnel to help far more consistently than they did a year ago.
This is well within reach. Now about getting there.
|SLOWER THAN BLOCKS|
|eats MSU cut|
|eats OSU TE|
|eats him again|
|FASTER THAN BLOCKS|
|flow hard son|
|GOT SOME THUMP|
|Iowa FB denied|
|No Coker part 1|
|line to seam PBU|
In 2010, Kenny Demens was not Obi Ezeh, and this was enough. Expectations were sky-high for Demens in 2011 if only because he seemed so much better than Michigan's incumbent that he had to be pretty good. In retrospect, his somewhat disappointing output was always the likely outcome. Like almost everyone else on the defense, Demens had experienced position-coaching chaos and shifted from system to system on a semiannual basis.
Stepping into an entirely different coaching regime naturally meant hesitation, and hesitation was what we got. I put up this extremely scientific pie chart after Eastern Michigan put up 4.5 YPC despite throwing six times:
We'll talk about the Jake Ryan edge allowance below; here we're fixated on the big red thing labeled "hesitant linebacker play." This was the week after I'd watched Notre Dame's linebackers tear ass after anything that moved, so I may have had a view of proper linebacker play improperly biased towards running your balls off as soon as a guard gives you a direction.
I don't think so, though, as Michigan linebackers were exploited on the edge for much of the year. Blue Seoul captured a Kain Colter option TD in With Pics(!), and while I suppose Carvin Johnson, who Seoul criticizes, could have been more Kovacs-y on the play, he did follow the golden rule of leverage by keeping Colter well inside of him. It's just that there was no one to clean up afterwards:
Johnson's mistake should have been worth a few yards, but not enough for Northwestern to convert. Earlier he was unable to shut down an outside run that got turned up at the numbers:
He's even with Hawthorne, who was the backside LB, and well behind nose tackle Mike Martin in his attempt to shut the play down. This is because he took an angle upfield of a blocker on a perimeter run, which is one of those "you better make the damn play" decisions. Demens wasn't close.
Demens got a –4 in that game and was negative the next week against MSU as the Spartans pounded the edges and found Michigan LBs a step slow. Too often Demens did not do what Johnson is managing above, like on this Ed Baker run against MSU. Watch him eat a block and let Baker to the edge:
I know this is not an edge play, but it's symptomatic of the main issue.
You want edge biff? Edge biff.
State couldn't get out to the second level on Hawthorne and he is free. This is a quintessential example of what you hear about the WLB in the under: he often ends up the free hitter because of the configuration of the DL whereas the MLB has to take on a block. Demens takes on a block, loses leverage, does not funnel to his partner, and off Baker goes. This was 60-70% of all the complaining I did about the linebackers last year and my A-#1 bitch about Jonas Mouton. Michigan linebackers aren't good about keeping leverage. (Yet.)
Before and after that, Demens was pretty good between the tackles. He pounded ND for twelve tackles and a +8.5 and was consistently above average late in the year, picking up three straight +4s against Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska before falling back towards zero in the OSU game. Late he started playing faster. His third-and-one stick of Marcus Coker was hands down Michigan's tackle of the year:
Yeah, Kovacs collapsed Alex Carder's lung. He did not stop that truck dead in its tracks. Demens was also the second key on that Braxton Miller rollout against OSU, tracking him to the edge and forming up at the right spot to allow Black to come from behind.
For Demens, it's about playing fast and going hard. Last year Mattison literally played him at nose tackle because he'd rather have Mike Martin blitz; Demens needs to go when he goes, and decide to go more quickly. That should be in reach. He'll be a solid run defender and decent down the seam, but a lack of raw athleticism probably sees him top out at a bit above average.
[hit THE JUMP for Bolden as Samson, Jake Ryan(!), and Desmond Morgan]
Can you talk about Quinton Washington emerging at nose tackle and moving Will Campbell to the 3-tech?
“What we’re looking for is getting the best four guys to be available to play inside. Q’s had a really good camp. Will’s had a good camp. So you kind of interchange those two to see which one makes that defense better, whether it’s one of them at the three and the other one of them at the nose. With so much trading and shifting and things like that, they both have to play the same position when they slide over, so it gives you an opporutnity to hopefully make yourself stronger rather than just having a true nose and that’s all he can play.”
Brennen Beyer is third on the depth chart. What does he have to do to move up?
“That group of three right there is never etched in stone. Brennen Beyer, I think, started out camp not as -- I don’t want to say tentative -- but not really realy playing as fast as I wanted him to play. Now the last week, though, he showed signs of being the Brennen Beyer of the spring. You’re going to see him play a lot. There’s no question about it. We got a group right there of guys, again, in the opening game, I don’t know how many plays you’re going to play -- you better have guys that can go in there, especially at that position because there’s a lot more running there. That’s a position that’s a defensive lineman sometimes and it’s a linebacker at other times, and he’s always got to run the farthest to chase the ball down … he has to be a guy that can run.”