"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
Formation Notes: Oh, the humanity.
This is an I-form. Sweet. Air Force started out motioning the outside WR into the gap between the two backs, FWIW.
This was called "near 3-wide unbalanced" because I think NCAA calls formations with RB alignments like that "near" and "far". Yes, large sections of my nomenclature are lifted from EA Sports. It is the closest thing to a lingua franca we have for footballing jargon. Note the covered-up slot WR. That's the unbalanced bit. You discovered this in the Picture Pages.
This is "flexbone big," which means there's a TE on the line. Just flexbone means the two wingbacks and two WRs.
This was "near half-flex."
As for Michigan, they spend most of the game in a 4-4 with a three-deep shell. They would shift the line towards the field side. I called it "under" even when it was technically "over" because Michigan aligns to field and Air Force doesn't really have a declared formation strength because of all the motion they do.
Substitution notes: The humanity continues. Michigan started Roh-Campbell-Black-Beyer on the line, rotating in Clark, Heitzman, Pipkins, and Brink extensively. Ojemudia also got time, mostly after Beyer went out with his "knee strain."
At linebacker, Ryan got the most playing time; he was spotted by Cam Gordon on a couple drives. Michigan started with Demens-Morgan, then started rotating in Bolden and Ross. Demens did not appear in the second half; the final AF drive in their base offense featured Ross and Bolden both on the field simultaneously.
In the secondary, Gordon, Kovacs, and Floyd took every snap. Avery started out as the other corner and was replaced by Taylor midway through the second. Gordon moved down to the nickelback spot and Jarrod Wilson came in when Air Force was stuck in passing downs, which was rarely.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form 3-wide tight||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Floyd||12|
|Wingback motions to backfield before snap, creating Maryland I. I am going to be guessing a lot here. Dive doesn't get it; QB and RB head out with the wingback as a lead blocker. Gordon(-1) motions inside of the tight WR on the AF motion and looks in the backfield, getting sealed away by the WR easily. Floyd(-2) doesn't know what he's looking at for way too long; Gordon's getting plowed for steps before he finally commits to a run fill. He ends up trying to dodge a cut block eight yards downfield; I'm guessing he probably needs to be turning this inside at the numbers five yards further up. RB gets the corner. Morgan had good pursuit and Kovacs makes a good tackle at the sticks, FWIW.|
|O37||1||10||Near 3-wide unbalanced||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Black||4|
|AF did this a lot: line up the slot on the LOS. This should scream run at that slot defender. Here they motion towards that and hand it off on the backside, aiming for the hole between NT Campbell and 5-tech Roh. Campbell(-1) gets blown up by a downblock; Black(+0.5) blasts a G trying to pull across his face. This prevents the G from getting out on Demens, but then Black gets confused and starts chasing the QB. FB blasts into the G, who is now blasting Demens, and can fall forward for a few yards.|
|O41||2||6||Flexbone Big||4-3 over||Run||N/A||FB power||Beyer||4 + 10 Pen|
|Power == pulling guard. This is not a true option as the QB is not looking at anything but the FB as he gives. Beyer(-1) is unblocked for a moment, thinks he has to get down on the dive back(?--I thought M used DEs for the QB) and then gets nailed by the guard. He's sealed inside, FB bounces out. Morgan(+1) is getting blocked, sheds to the outside, and tackles. He's just catching the guy because of the blocker and everyone falls backwards. RPS -1; this took a pretty good play from Morgan to not hit the first down. Campbell(-1) gets a flag for tackling an AF lineman [BWS] trying to get to the second level.|
|50||1||15||I-Form 3-wide unbalanced||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Speed option||Gordon||-1|
|They motion a guy to the field and run to it. He goes for Kovacs. FB goes for Demens. Morgan(+1) forces the pitch and then pursues well; Gordon(+1) gets the edge on the WR and should force it back inside the numbers but seems to get held and falls; no call. Getz is at the sideline and has to delay to get around the falling Gordon; he falls at the LOS. Morgan was there for a minimal gain even if he keeps his feet.|
|O49||2||16||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||QB draw||Ryan||7|
|Acceptable given situation. Demens(-0.5) reacts quickly enough to get past a blocker and force a bounce but ends up falling; Ryan(+0.5) forces it back and trips the QB. Demens not being on his feet gives up some extra yardage. Morgan was pursuing and helps finish.|
|M44||3||9||Ace 3-wide||Nickel under||Pass||4||Scramble||Demens||9|
|Dietz comes off first read as Avery(+1, cover +1) gets depth to carry a seam to the safety. Morgan(+1, cover +1) is on the other slant and the outside guys are covered; Demens(-1, cover -1) is nowhere near the RB release, which could go for the first; Dietz doesn't bother to throw it and takes off; Black(-0.5) and Ryan(-0.5) can't make shoestring tackles(-1), and Demens's late reaction gives Dietz a first down.|
|M35||1||10||Flexbone||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Kovacs||1|
|Washington(+0.5) gets nice push, and there's nothing on the dive, so a pull. Ryan is sitting on the edge and takes the QB. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) was not blocked on this play and so does what Kovacs does when you don't block him, which is plaster the ballcarrier.|
|This is ludicrously bad refereeing. Two Air Force OL release downfield on a pass play. One of them cut-blocks Demens! By the time Dietz releases the ball these two guys are six yards downfield. Anyway. Beyer(-1) gets cut by an RB and allows Dietz outside, where he calmly hits a little drag that Ryan is in meh coverage on. Pressure -1, Refs -2.|
|M28||3||3||Offset I-Form||4-3 over||Penalty||N/A||Offsides||Washington||5|
|M23||1||10||Near 3-wide unbalanced||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Kovacs||3|
|AF motion man moves back and then starts moving towards the LOS pre-snap, no call. He ends up falling to the ground, possibly on purpose, as he blocks Demens along with another Falcon. Ryan on the edge with QB; Dietz fakes keeping it and draws him, in then pitches late. Kovacs is a bit late on this one, but it's a three yard gain so call it a push.|
|M20||2||7||I-Form 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Roh||2|
|Campbell(+1) gets under his guy and pushes him back, which forces the RB to alter his flight path in the backfield a bit. Probably needed a little better angle but this was still good. Roh(-1) got blown out, though, so when RB alters path there's still a hole. Demens avoids one block only to eat the FB; Morgan(+0.5) and Ryan(+0.5) close to tackle in the hole. Call it a push for the LBs.|
|M18||3||5||Flexbone||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter option||Ryan||-1|
|Roh(+1) does not get faked out by the dive action and is there to force a quick pitch; Ryan(+2) is on the edge one on one and makes the open-field TFL(+1)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(36), 0-0, 9 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||N/A||-1|
|Gordon rolled down with three deep across the top. AF fumbles the dive exchange.|
|O24||2||11||I-Form 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Morgan||-1|
|Motion to Maryland I. Man, they have this as again Gordon(-1) get sealed inside way too easily but Dietz does not make Morgan(+2) commit; he shoots out on the edge and makes a TFL in space (tackling +1). Floyd(-1) ended up on his face five yards downfield; if Morgan is forced to take the QB this could have been a big gain.|
|O23||3||12||Ace trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Corner||Taylor||15|
|Taylor(-1, cover -1) does not get enough depth on his drop; he's seven yards downfield, sucked up on third and twelve when a corner route is going on behind him. He recovers well but the ball is a foot over his hand and AF's big leapy guy can bring it in in front of an immediate tackle from Kovacs. C. Gordon(+0.5, pressure +1) was in the QB's feet as he throws; without this being open a likely scramble and three and out.|
|O38||1||10||Flexbone 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Outside pitch.||Floyd||9|
|No back; guy comes in motion and gets a quick pitch to the outside. C. Gordon(-1) gets crushed inside by a WR and ends up going upfield of him, which never works. This knocks a pursuing Roh out of the play as well. Downfield, Demens avoids one cut block only to take a second block as he's still trying to find his balance. Floyd(-2) again ends up on his face eight yards downfield. Morgan flows about as fast is as reasonably possible and manages to make contact from the side a ways downfield. Floyd needs to get on his horse as soon as he sees that WR crack down on the LB.|
|O47||2||1||Flexbone Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Washington||1|
|Dive. Washington(+1) actually does a good job of getting under his guy and pushing him back into the runner but he's got no help since Roh gave ground to a double. That's tough.|
|O48||1||10||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Floyd||11|
|Kovacs again is supposed to have the pitchman; this time the WR releases downfield a bit, then cracks down on him. Floyd(-1) doesn't read this until it's way too late. RPS -1.|
|M41||1||10||Flexbone big||4-4 under||Pass||N/A||PA waggle drag||Gordon||18|
|This looks like a flood play but really there's just one WR this ever goes to. The guy who took Avery deep on a fly route is blocking the whole way. This is part structure(RPS -2), part Gordon(-1, cover -1) sucking way up. Fundamentally he was screwed, though, covering one of two guys.|
|M23||1||10||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Campbell||4|
|Campbell(-1) gets cut to the ground and the immediate release of the guard is not punished. Demens doesn't do great here but I'm not sure what he can do. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, the freshmen are doing better.|
|M19||2||6||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Campbell||5|
|Same thing. When your NT is just falling to the ground on the FB dive that goes right behind him the linebackers cannot do anything about it, because they are getting insta-OL in their junk. Campbell -1. Brink(-1) also blown back.|
|M14||3||1||Flexbone Big||Goal line||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|M19||3||6||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Taylor||7|
|Same thing: Block Kovacs, exploit crappy corner support. This time it's Taylor(-1) who gives up the corner.|
|M12||1||10||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Washington||8|
|Washington(-2) gets blown down the line; Roh(-1) is easily locked out by the LT. Big hole. Demens reads the play and tries to get to it but he's basically screwed. He gets blocked by a guy with a great angle. Morgan(-2) ran himself way out of the play and it's only a superior play from Kovacs(+2, tackling +2) to avoid a block and make a diving ankle tackle that prevents this from being six points.|
|M4||2||2||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Roh||1|
|Roh(+1) gets under his guy and pushes him into the running lane. This forces a cutback into Ryan(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5), who tackle for no YAC. Washington(-1) had gotten blown up, FWIW.|
|M3||3||1||Flexbone 3-wide||Goal line||Run||N/A||Outside pitch.||Avery||-1|
|AF blows this as the WR to the playside is headhunting Ryan, who's on the LOS and moving upfield at the snap this means he takes a bad angle that 1) immediately tips Avery that this is a run and 2) picks off the flex guy assigned to him. Avery(+1) moves up, forms up, and makes contact two yards behind the LOS. Ryan(+1) flattens the guy assigned to him and flows out to make sure there is no funny business. RPS+1. Putting Ryan on the line made AF go all crazy.|
|Drive Notes: FG(22), 7-3, 3 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O10||1||10||Flexbone unbalanced||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Bolden||3|
|Bolden(+0.5) in. He does do better than Demens on this dive, hitting the guard about a yard from the LOS. He loses the battle a bit but does hit the FB directly before falling over backwards. He saves Michigan a yard over Demens, so here's a half-point.|
|O13||2||7||Ace 4-wide unbalanced||4-3 even||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|Service this time.|
|O8||2||12||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle out||Floyd||6|
|I think. He's the CB on this side and he is not even in the frame as this completion is made. Hard to tell if it's a good idea because they had to go deep or not. Still... suspicious. Floyd -1, cover -1. Fortunate AF does not execute better here, they could have turned this upfield at the sideline for first down yardage easy. Beyer(-0.5) gave up the corner, FWIW. Pressure -1.|
|O14||3||6||Flexbone tight||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Scramble||Ryan||4|
|They fake that effective quick pitch and shoot three WRs the opposite way. Taylor(+1), Bolden(+1), and Ryan(+1), cover these guys... it's dodgy for the former two but they are enough to dissuade a throw, and then they attack at the right moment to prevent Dietz from running for the first. (Cover +3). Taylor came up late, leaving the deeper guy to Gordon and preventing AF from going over the top of these LBs.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 12 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Bolden||4|
|Bolden is staring right at this and gets no blocker so he just runs right up in the hole, making contact after a yard. That contact is won by the FB, who pushes Bolden over backwards. Clark comes to help finish. A push; Bolden could have done better here but did not screw up an easy play.|
|O29||2||6||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Roh||-2|
|Roh(+1) shoves the LT inside and releases into the QB, who has to pitch early. CGordon(+1) is the guy on the edge here and makes a nice open field TFL. AF RT stumbled here, making this easier for Roh.|
|O27||3||8||Ace trips||Nickel even||Pass||5||Throwaway||Black||Inc|
|Blitz sends Avery and Bolden with Gordon backing out; Black(+1) stunts around and gets through as the RG blocks air. Roh(+1) is coming up the edge as Black chases Dietz out of the pocket and he's all like F this I'm outie. This was a jailbreak [BWS]. (Pressure +3, RPS +2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 6 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O45||1||10||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter power||Demens||3|
|RT is pulling inside of the G here. Ojemudia almost tracks this down from behind but can't quite get there. Black(+0.5) constricts the hole, causing the RT to stumble. Demens(+0.5) is there for a tackle near the LOS.|
|O48||2||7||Flexbone||4-4 under||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|Fake pitch into a fake option to the other side and then into a pass attempt. Avery(+1, cover +1) isn't biting on that stuff and the deep route is not immediately open. Roh(+1, pressure +1) then chucks the LT and gets pressure—probably gets held—forcing a throwaway.|
|O48||3||7||Flexbone||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Roh||14|
|DTs split too much and give up a running lane; contain should be the name of the game here. Roh, Campbell -1. Now there's trouble as the LBs are pass dropping against blockers. Demens(-1) can't do anything; Morgan is trying to flow into the gap and may be able to make a tackle but one of the downfield blockers for Air Force literally tackles him, reaching out to grab his ankles. RPS -1. This opened up big. Just play it straight when they're in the bone, it's not like their passing game is forcing you into the nickel on third and seven.|
|O34||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Morgan||3|
|Heitzman(-2) gets scooped really badly. Insta-second level means Demens has to fight off a cut block, which he does. Morgan(+1) beats up the blocker on the edge and Gordon(+1) shoots past his, forcing a cutback. Demens could be there but for the DL. Beyer(+0.5) is there, but giving ground; momentum carries Getz for a few yards.|
|O31||2||7||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||Ryan||7 – 15 Pen|
|Ryan(-2) chopped to the ground by a cut block, back goes outside of him, no chance for anyone else to do anything about it. Brink was pursuing and may have had a shot. Demens again ate a block from a guy releasing right away; he kept his feet; not sure if there's anything at all he can do to prevent himself from getting hit there. Kovacs(+0.5) beat a block to get to the edge and prevented this from breaking even bigger. At the end of this play, the AF guy who took out Ryan gets up and clearly talks smack to him. Good on you, flexback. AF gets a call for tripping as that OL who cut Demens puts his legs up when Morgan jumps over him. Not relevant to the play.|
|O40||2||16||Flexbone Big||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Floyd||6|
|I think Floyd(-1) blows a coverage on the TE here as he is headed for the corner and Floyd turns around and chases him; Gordon(+1) has his back, dropping into that route and preventing it from being thrown. With both of those guys focused on a deeper route the swing underneath opens up for good yardage.|
|O34||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Speed option||Kovacs||11|
|RB moves simultaneously with snap; legal. They get out on the corner quick. Ryan is unblocked and optioned off. Morgan(-1) is slashed to the ground. He takes two with him as AF ends up doubling him. Three guys on the edge now: Avery, Kovacs, and Demens. Demens(+0.5) takes a good angle past the guy trying to cut him and is in the area ready for action about four yards downfield; Kovacs(-2) goes upfield of his blocker and loses leverage; Taylor(-1) is aggressive but puts himself right on the sideline and doesn't keep this hole small. Demens flows to tackle, but too late.|
|O23||1||10||Near half-flex twins||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Ryan||4|
|Roh shucks past a tackle and then eats a cut block. Demens also gets hit with a block right away, he stays on his feet but he's been shoved away from the POA. Ryan(+2) is alone on the edge with both guys and splits them such that Dietz turns it up and Ryan can tackle him. Washington was coming from behind but fell, Clark pursued from the other end to help tackle. I should probably find a minus on a four yard run but can't. I plead option.|
|O19||2||6||Offset I-Form||4-4 under||Run||N/A||End around||Taylor||12|
|Dive fake and then a handoff to that guy going in orbit motion. Ryan is looking in the backfied and gets lit up by a receiver cracking down on him. Taylor(-2) is way off despite this being in the redzone and comes up poorly, getting cut to the ground and allowing the back to leap over him. Demens was flowing as soon as he figured out where the ball was going; he can't get to the sideline. RPS -1... hard to figure out how M will defend this.|
|O7||1||G||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Campbell||2|
|Campbell(+1) is falling over but in the running lane; RB falls over him. Demens(+0.5) is there to help stop his momentum as well.|
|O5||2||G||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Refs||5|
|This is the play where Arena league flex guy is hauling ass at the LOS before the snap and cuts Kovacs to the ground. Demens(-1) gets cut really badly here but once this goes outside Ryan there's no one to fill because Kovacs(-1) got blown up. Refs -2.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-10, 1 min 2nd Q. Hoke should have called a timeout once AF had second and goal with the clock running.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O12||1||10||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Gordon||14 + 10 pen|
|So there's still no help on the edge as the flexback is running right at Kovacs(-1), who gets cut. Morgan(-1) also goes down. I don't think that's too much on Kovacs but on Michigan failing to adjust here. The CB has to respect the deep route being run by the WR, Gordon is on the edge, and he has support on the interior—he should take the pitch. Instead he takes QB, again corner is open, big gain. RPS -1. Campbell(-1) gets another holding call for tackling an AF OL, which is why Bolden is running free. Picture-paged.|
|O36||1||10||Near half-flex tight||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter power||Bolden||6|
|RT pulls. A back shoots down onto Clark, cutting him off, and then the RB moves through the backside hole between the NT and Roh. Bolden eats the OL in the hole. Morgan(-1) is gone to the fake; Michigan is fortunate that Ryan(+0.5) reads it and comes down on the RB to tackle as he shoots through the gap. Bolden(+1) did force the RB into Ryan, whether it was intentional or not. Result-based charting. Big hole as Roh and Campbell(-1) got kicked. I get Roh since he's contain on the backside. Not so much Campbell, who ends up father away from the play than two guys lined up outside of him.|
|O42||2||4||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Bolden||2|
|Straight ahead at the Roh/Campbell gap. Bolden hits it as fast as possible, they get a couple yards, everyone says that's how that has to go down, next snap. Bolden +0.5 I guess, for keeping this to two yards.|
|O44||3||2||Flexbone tight||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Bolden||3|
|Again at the same gap, with the LT coming off of Roh to hit Bolden. Contact is made at a yard, but Roh is on the side and Bolden's getting hit so momentum pushes the pile over the line. Another push; this is just what happens unless someone MAKES PLAYS.|
|Straight dropback! No pressure(-2), though I understand. AF WR does not sell his route and rounds it off, allowing Taylor(+2, cover +2) to break on the ball and break it up.|
|O47||2||10||Near half-flex tight||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter power||Washington||7|
|Same play they just ran. Clark(+1) actually does a great job to get under the same block he just fell victim to. He comes through it and shoulders Getz, but he's literally shedding this block as he makes contact and can't use his arms. Brink(-1) fights way far upfield; they block Ryan. Washington(-1) is buried. Bolden hits the pulling T right at the LOS but there's just huge amounts of space to both sides of him. He sheds and tackles downfield. Morgan(-1) again misses the T pulling in front of his face.|
|M46||3||3||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||Morgan||11|
|Back goes in motion before the snap and they pitch it out; no adjustment from M before the snap. Gordon has to keep leverage and turn it in. He does. Clark(-1) doesn't adjust to the motion and goes upfield, no pursuit. Morgan(-1) starts moving about two steps after the OT flares out and has no shot. He leaps a cut, but the delay is more than enough. Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) isn't going to prevent a first down; his missed tackle adds five or six.|
|M35||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle cross||Taylor||17|
|Bolden(-2, cover -2) gets utterly lost on the play action and lets this guy get open by ten yards. Yeah, so now they're decisive. Taylor(-2, cover -2) also sucked way up and didn't get depth even when it was clear this was a pass. There's no run threat to his side and he's still flying upfield. Nyet.|
|M18||1||10||Flexbone Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Bolden||3|
|Campbell cut, ends up on ground, etc. Must be the scheme. Bolden(-0.5) there but not quite decisive enough and misses a tackle, Morgan and Floyd combine to finish the guy as he squeezes through the line.|
|M15||2||7||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle hitch||Floyd||9|
|Ojemudia(-1) flows hard down the line and gives up the corner (pressure -2). Floyd has to drop into the corner route and gives up a super easy completion in front of him, but that's a coverage thing—three guys ended up trying to cover one AF player. Cover -2, RPS -1.|
|M6||1||G||I-Form 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Roh||3|
|Roh(+1) thrusts playward, getting penetration and keeping the edge; he picks off the FB and forces a cut inside. Bolden(-0.5) gets past a blocker but his angle is not directly at the hole the RB must hit if he's going to be relevant. Ryan(+0.5) is containing but reads the cutback and gets a tackle in. Campbell did get a little penetration. FWIW.|
|M3||2||G||Flexbone||Goal line||Run||N/A||FB dive||Black||2|
|Black(+1) immediately hops inside his blocker, and though he falls he forces a cutback. Clark(-1) again just shoulders a defender and starts falling over; he's not there to stand the RB up, and he falls forward for two yards.|
|M1||3||G||Flexbone||Goal line||Run||N/A||QB sneak||Campbell||0|
|Campbell(+1) gets lower than two blockers and everyone falls at the LOS, not beyond it; Bolden(+1) is the first of many people to jump on Dietz. Roh(+1) also had a large hand in stalling the momentum of the pile.|
|M1||4||G||Near half-flex tight||Goal line||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||N/A||1|
|Michigan sends everybody, and Air Force calls rock to their scissors, shooting Getz outside and getting it easily since Taylor is blitzing. I don't RPS plays like this since you've got to roll the dice to stop them from getting a yard.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-17, 9 min 3rd Q. That's kind of depressing.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ross||4|
|Our first all-freshman LB corps. AF motions a WR to the short side and runs a speed option at three WRs and not much space. Ross(+1) is blitzing with Bolden moving to cover him at the snap. He bowls over the WR who is trying to seal him inside, and the QB cuts up. Heitzman(-0.5) gets significantly delayed by a scoop block and blown off the line so there's a gap for him. Pipkins(+0.5) shot through the line at a crappy angle on the backside and manages to come around and tackle.|
|O38||2||6||Flexbone unbalanced||4-4 under||Pass||N/A||PA fly||Kovacs||32|
|They show their option and shoot that flexback downfield at Kovacs again. Kovacs is like NOT THIS TIME BUDDY, is determined to get outside of him, and... guy runs right by him. How the hell you're supposed to not have this happen I don't know. I guess you can key on is Roh getting blocked. Yes, in this case. Otherwise, screwed. I have to give him a -2, cover -4, but this is also an RPS -4, the culmination of Michigan's scheme leaving them vulnerable to this. WR is hit over the top with eight yards lead on the nearest defender, but bobbles the ball and falls over, which is the only thing preventing a TD. Picture-paged.|
|I think. They are showing a replay on this down. No idea. Some pluses should be handed out for a zero yard run, and are not.|
|M30||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle scramble||CGordon||10|
|Coverage(+2) is good. Brink(-1) is chasing on the end but he's either slow or not going maximum speed. Either way this opens up more space than the QB should have. Bolden is underneath on a TE. CGordon(-1) roars up late when it becomes clear a scramble is coming but overruns it and gives up more yardage than is necessary.|
|M20||3||In||Flexbone||4-3 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Ross||2|
|They get it.|
|M18||1||10||Near half-flex tight||Okie||Run||N/A||FB dive||Washington||2|
|Washington(+1) gets some push and impacts the FB with his blocker; Bolden(+0.5) pulls out of the seven man front and tackles unmolested.|
|M16||2||8||Flexbone big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Black||2|
|Oookay. Black(+1) dodges a cut and Ross(+1) again plows a blocker back; those two tackle after the usual two yards.|
|M14||3||6||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||QB draw||Bolden||6|
|Michigan stunts, pulling Black around and sealing the intended hole. Bolden(-2) does not read this and sits, waiting for the QB to come through the hole the stunt closes off; he cuts behind where Washington was always going to get sealed off from thanks to the stunt. Black almost makes a saving play after avoiding a cut and coming around but can't; Bolden is not where he needs to be and this breaks for the first down. Ryan, who starts a full three yards behind Bolden, actually makes this tackle.|
|M8||1||G||Flexbone goal line||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Bolden||1|
|May be a bust as the playside G pulls. FB is running straight at where the G no longer is. Campbell(+0.5) comes under a block and helps tackle with an unblocked Bolden(+0.5) hitting it after a yard.|
|M7||2||G||Offset I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||End around||Ross||4|
|Ross takes one step playside and then bursts upfield as he sees the end around. Too far upfield. He's there to make the tackle but only from the side and just barely. Taylor(+1) provided good support here, getting into the lead blocker at the LOS and turning it in at then numbers. He also helps tackle. Ross gets a push; this was good recognition but that angle needs to be wider so that you're meeting the guy at the LOS instead of chasing him.|
|M3||3||G||Near half-flex unbalanced||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Outside pitch.||Taylor||0|
|A crappy pitch bails M out, but I think they had this stopped. Taylor(+1) held the edge and dodged a cut, and Ross(+0.5) was going flat out for the outside. Bad pitch brings Getz into a ton of bodies and ends it.|
|M3||4||G||Field goal||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ryan||2|
|Michigan leaves their defense on the field and AF still runs the fake. Not a good idea. Ryan(+1) forces it back and Bolden(+0.5) tackles with help.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-17, 1 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||Ace trips unbalanced||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||PA fly||Taylor||Inc|
|Two deep routes draw man coverage, basically, as Gordon shoots up on the option fake. Taylor(+1, cover +1) is step for step with his guy and probably has a play on the ball if this is accurate enough to be caught; it's not.|
|M39||2||10||Near half-flex||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Gordon||7|
|Same thing. Safety has to worry about getting burned over the top and by the time he commits it's too late. Gordon hops over a cut block but is still way far away from the edge once Ryan forces a pitch. I guess you can key on the OL releasing downfield and get on your horse. Gordon -1.|
|M32||3||3||Flexbone tight||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||Taylor||-2|
|Taylor(+2) comes up hard on this one, smacking a blocker three yards in the backfield at the numbers. Other blockers run by Clark(+1), who delivers a thumping tackle. RPS +1, they were looking for this.|
|M34||4||5||Near half-flex||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Gordon||6|
|Same thing, always. Gordon(-1) does not get outside the flexback, gives up corner, does tackle at the sticks but not enough. Clark is coming so hard from the back on this that if Ryan makes the QB turn up this is a stop, I think.|
|M28||1||10||Flexbone||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||PA flare||N/A||Inc|
|Floyd(+1, cover +1) and Morgan(+1, cover +1) cover their guys, Floyd on a fly route and Morgan recovering from the PA. QB tries to flare it out as a checkdown and misses badly. Possibly thanks to Heitzman(+0.5) getting a nominal amount of pressure.|
|M28||2||10||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Floyd||3|
|Ojemudia(-2) has no idea what he's doing and shoots down inside at the dive back instead of taking the QB. Floyd(+2, tackling +1) shoots by the corner and fills after the QB pitches for no earthly reason. Took a huge mistake by the QB and a great play to not have this break huge. Because the whole defense was going nuts about the dive back.|
|M25||3||7||Ace 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||Slant||Morgan||10|
|Morgan(-1, cover -1) takes a weird bad zone drop and opens this up. OL had cut everyone, so this was coming out immediately or not at all.|
|M15||1||10||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||FB dive||Black||6|
|DL shift does Michigan a disservice here; Black(-1) pops through the line at the wrong spot to do anything about this and LBs can't do anything about it either.|
|M9||2||4||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Ojemudia||1|
|Ojemudia(+1) does hop out on the QB this time. He decides not to pitch for some reason and gets nailed. Pitch looked like a TD, FWIW.|
|M8||3||3||Flexbone||6-2 over||Run||N/A||Triple option||Morgan||8|
|M finally switches their scheme up, shooting Gordon at the QB from the corner. This forces a pitch. Morgan and Floyd are on the edge against one blocker... Floyd(-1) gets cut and ends up incapacitated at the three and Morgan(-2, tackling -1) overruns the RB entirely. TD.|
|M3||2pt||2pt||Ace twins||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||Waggle TE circle||Bolden||3|
|Roh(-1, pressure -1) sucks up and does not get out on the edge. Bolden(-1, cover -1) also bites hard, so this is easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2pt), 28-25, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||N/A||2|
|Fumbled the dive fake.|
|O36||2||8||Flexbone tight||4-3 even||Pass||4||Scramble||Brink||1|
|One flex back is in a WR stance, so may tip pass. Dive fake and then Dietz drops back. He doesn't like what he sees(cover +1) and scrambles directly upfield. Brink(+1) and Pipkins(+1) collapse on him.|
|O37||3||7||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Speed option||Floyd||13|
|Three AF players are moving before the snap, which ain't legal. Ross is hauling after this play—he really is decisive—but gets easily cut off by a guy blocking down. Kovacs takes another blocker and Floyd(-1) is one on one on the outside with a motioned flexback; he again gets taken out of the play. RPS -1. Schemed here, mostly. No response from the LBs to the motion.|
|50||1||10||Near half-flex||4-3 even||Run||N/A||FB dive||Campbell||2|
|Campbell(+1) shoves his blocker backwards and gets to the hole, tackling. C released directly into Ross; Campbell making this play saves a yard or two, an important yard or two.|
|M48||2||8||Flexbone||4-3 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Roh||3|
|Campbell over C on this one, play goes behind him. Roh(+1) fights to the hole and helps tackle; Bolden(-0.5) isn't quite authoritative enough with his fill and shoulder-blocks the RB down.|
|M45||3||5||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Ross||2|
|Woo! Ross(+1) is going forward on the snap, splitting the two guys releasing downfield and blasting the RB at the LOS. Would be two but he does not wrap. Black(+1) ditched a blocker and takes out the pulling G; he uses the Ross-created delay to tackle.|
|M43||4||3||Near half-flex||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Clark||0|
|Michigan stunts. They send Clark upfield and take Black out behind that. Clark(+1) takes out the lead blocker and forces Getz upfield. Black(+1) is now out on the QB, who ends up pitching it forward to a guy right next to him. Black and Ross(+1), who flew right by a blocker en route to the edge, make the stop. RPS +1. The stunt killed it. Way to pull that out at a critical juncture, Mattison.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 31-25, 4 min 4th Q. Okay, so ABC screwed up here and the tape misses the first three plays of this drive. They are INC, 7 yard completion plus 15 roughing the passer, Roh(-1), incomplete (Clark +1 for leaping PBU), and a sideline interference(!) penalty. We pick it up on second and fifteen.|
|O37||2||15||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Pass||4||Out||Ryan||Inc|
|Roh(+1) gets some pressure after initially getting stopped by the LT; Dietz is rolling out to his side after he dumps the tackle and has to throw. Ryan(+1, cover +1) is in position and breaks to break up a poorly-thrown ball.|
|O37||3||15||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Clark||-2|
|Mattison is so looking for this, running a stunt that sends Clark(+1) directly into the running lane AF is looking for. Ryan(+1) darted inside the tackle he's stunting and helps tackle. RPS +2.|
|O35||4||17||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Batted||Ryan||Inc|
|Ryan(+2) sets the RT up inside, looks like he's going to burst outside, and then is definitely bursting outside because the RB clunks into the RT. Ryan in, QB has to throw, Ryan knocks it down. (Pressure +2)|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 31-25, 1 min 4th Q. EOG for D.|
That could have gone better.
Yeah. I found this reference to what Michigan was doing on The Birddog, the great Navy blog:
The biggest surprise in this game was how poorly Michigan defended the option. They spent most of the game in a 3-deep 4-4, with the safety assigned to the pitch man. Sound familiar? No wonder Air Force was able to move the ball. After playing both Navy and Air Force several times in his career, you’d think that Brady Hoke would have known better.
That link takes you to the Birddog's extensive breakdown of the 2008 Georgia-Georgia Tech game in which the Yellow Jackets broke a long losing streak against the Dawgs by completing one pass for 19 yards… and rushing for 409. In that game, the pitchman was the safety's responsibility, the safety started eating the flexback, and the Jackets looked like Las Vegas for a day. The Birddog chalks this up to old-timey ways to defend the wishbone that time-pressed coaches default to because they aren't up on the ways in which the flexbone makes those defenses invalid.
It's of purely academic interest until Michigan schedules another option team, but the similarities between how UGA defended Tech in 2008 and how Michigan defended Air Force in 2012 are extensive. If you just want to know why Saturday went down like it did, I can't recommend that post enough.
This is already nine thousand words.
What I'm saying is could I have some cliffs notes?
Fundamentally, the mechanics of your basic triple option play are the same whether you’re running it out of the wishbone, I-formation, spread, or whatever. Each of these formations, however, imply different overall philosophies. The underlying theme of the wishbone– bringing blockers to the point of attack to support a power running game– is very different than that of the spread. In the spread, you want to stretch the defense, both vertically and from sideline to sideline, in order to create running lanes. You might think these are just platitudes, but they aren’t; this difference, coupled with the threat of the pass, is why wishbone defenses don’t work against the spread option. The spread allows an offensive coordinator to use a greater variety of formations in order to create the space he wants for his ballcarriers. That advantage played a big part in Georgia Tech’s win over Georgia.
Mattison knows he was burned, and we won't see Michigan try this in purely hypothetical future option matchups. But when it came down to crunch time, he did respond.
Oh, yes. On Air Force's final drive he had the luxury of the Falcons trying a shotgun passing attack but it's still a big plus when you call rock to the opponent's QB draw scissors, and on the even-more-critical final AF drive in their base offense Mattison finally pulled out a variation of his base defense that worked:
Clark bursts upfield and Michigan stunts Black outside, getting both a delay on the QB and a second tackler in space. Also featured is James Ross getting on his horse and doing what James Ross does: running at maximum speed somewhere. I assume there will be moments this year when Ross doing this leaves a tight end wide open, but you can't accuse Ross of being indecisive. If you need to figure out where to eat dinner with 12 people, invite James Ross.
He is in fact the only edge-type person on the—
probably pretty doomy CHART
--chart to not get a negative.
|Roh||9||5||4||Size not a problem against Falcons.|
|Campbell||4.5||7||-2.5||I may have been a little harsh on some early cuts as AF didn't get that many yards on them.|
|Washington||2.5||5||-2.5||Right, this is more realistic than his Alabama number.|
|Black||6||1.5||4.5||Some big plays late.|
|Pipkins||1.5||-||1.5||Showed some agility after popping through the line at bad angle|
|Beyer||0.5||2.5||-2||Clark seemed a lot better.|
|Heitzman||0.5||2||-1.5||Probably shouldn't be playing yet.|
|Clark||5||2||3||Too bad impressive PBU not shown by ABC.|
|Ojemudia||1||3||-2||One bust on QB he got away with.|
|TOTAL||31.5||31||0.5||Step up from 'Bama; maybe not very telling anyway.|
|Morgan||8||10||-2||Faded late after strong start, thus setting up allfrosh.|
|Demens||2||3.5||-1.5||Poor guy was dodging two blocks a play.|
|Ryan||13||2.5||10.5||Ran up the score with +4 on final three plays. Option blame fell elsewhere.|
|C. Gordon||1.5||2||-0.5||Will be viable depth for Ryan.|
|Ross||4.5||-||4.5||Goes, man, just goes.|
|Bolden||5.5||6||-0.5||Some nice plays, some getting lost.|
|TOTAL||34.5||24||10.5||Thought these guys did okay considering all the cut blocks|
|Floyd||3||10||-7||Has always been a terrible run defender, this played into a weakness.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Did okay before getting pulled with back issue.|
|Taylor||7||7||0||Had some crappy plays, but also popped up to pop people.|
|Kovacs||3.5||7||-3.5||Really put in a bind by the scheme.|
|T. Gordon||3||5||-2||Did not do well compared to Ryan on edge.|
|Wilson||-||-||-||Did not chart.|
|TOTAL||19.5||29||-9.5||No Marlin Jacksons here.|
|Pressure||7||7||0||Not really important.|
|Coverage||15||15||0||Push good against this kind of offense.|
|Tackling||6||3||66%||AF != Alabama|
|RPS||7||13||-6||Mattison said as much.|
So… I did not get the Demens removal. I thought the DL was pretty scary save Roh, loved Ryan, thought the linebackers were otherwise eh, hated Floyd's run support, was disappointed in the safeties, and think Michigan got outschemed somewhat. Thus Air Force racking it up.
Ryan is so shiny here, but you thought he might be a problem live?
That was probably lingering Argh Ryan bias from last year. He made tackles in space, he was very likely not the guy who had the pitchman at any point except when he was making tackles in space, and he almost singlehandedly ended Air Force's final drive. Bennie Oosterbaan would be proud as soon as he stopped asking why a linebacker was wearing his number.
He also lowered some BOOM:
Note that the alignment there drives the blocking crazy. The WR is trying to crack down on a LB but he's on the line, so the CB knows right away that this is a run, and then the angle he has to take cuts off the guy assigned to Avery.
Ryan did have one ARGH RYAN; other than that he was stellar. Easily Michigan's best defender on the day.
But Floyd not so much.
No. While he got a lot better in coverage last year—Gibson minus all of the points—he remained a sucky edge defender. Remember bubble screen fiesta by Northwestern? Etc. He is not real good at taking on blocks of any variety. This ends up a Morgan TFL but watch Floyd:
That was a constant occurrence, and it would have been a problem on this play if the QB had made Morgan commit before pitching. It cost Michigan lots of yards on others. On this one he's not even blocked and ends up in the parking lot:
I don't know why they're so far off. I do know that attacking Michigan's corners in the run/screen game has been easy money for a couple years now.
How did Taylor do in his first extended time?
He was uneven, as you might expect. I don't blame him on the easy pitch touchdown Air Force got since he was blitzing at the snap—watch Floyd for confirmation—and got blocked in the back something fierce without a call from this ref crew deathly afraid of throwing a flag on America. Mattison dialed up a risky play in an effort to get a stop and got beat, which is fine on the one yard line. You've got to dial it up somehow.
He did extend a few Air Force drives with rookie mistakes, like this corner route on which he has to know the situation:
That step up is the difference between a completion and getting off the field, and it was made against a stationary tight end three yards downfield on third and twelve. On the other hand, he recovered pretty well there. If Dietz doesn't put it up high he's got a play on it. He's got the athleticism. He needs to learn how to play zone coverage, is all. He might already be better than Floyd at run support.
Demens got pulled but doesn't stand out as terrible above.
No. I'm not sure what he could have done on most of these plays. I mean, the poor guy ended up dealing with multiple blocks for big chunks of the first half:
That is not one but two Air Force blockers who do nothing but go after Demens. No consideration for guys on the line, no one else to block, just Kenny Demens vs The World.
Bolden was okay, but I think maybe Demens doesn't get sucked to the frontside and makes a stop on this play:
That's pretty bad because of the stunt in front of Bolden. That hole frontside is going to get filled by the stunter, and that's something the LB should realize. I didn't see much from Bolden that was option-relevant. Michigan was using their MLBs mostly to nail that FB dive.
Ross showed that maybe there were plays out there to make, but I don't expect Demens to get buried. I also don't expect him to do much unless Michigan starts getting more plays from the DL.
So what about this covered slot thing?
I've never seen anyone do that with the frequency Air Force did, and wanted to know if Mattison was using that stuff as a run key. Answer: yes. Via Heiko:
MGoQuestion: A lot of times Air Force came out with two receivers lined up on the line of scrimmage such that the slot was an ineligible receiver. Do you coach your defense to use that as a run key?
“Yeah. We knew that. We knew that. In fact, if you watched that, you would have seen J.T. Floyd come over to him and know that he didn’t have to drop, and he didn’t. He became another run defender over there.”
Even so I was frustrated a couple times when that happened and the guy over the slot did not react quickly enough to the run. It is possible to pass out of it but the contortions you have to go through are extreme. Nebraska got a corner route TD on it against Southern Miss by not even bothering to move either of the outside WRs. [HT: Smart Football.] We saw the magical journey the covered slot guy went on on the long shoulda-been-TD in Picture Pages.
Just astoundingly bad. Here's an Air Force pass play on which not one but two Falcon offensive linemen release downfield:
Those two guys in the middle of the field are OL. One of them cut-blocked Demens. No flag. I know the packaged plays have made everyone aware that refs will give OL a couple yards, but that's ridiculous. There was that Arena-league touchdown, and Morgan got tackled on a critical third down:
I mean, call it both ways. We're part of America too.
Jake Ryan and James Ross.
Floyd's run support, Mattison's antiquated approach to defending the flexbone option, the D-tackles (somewhat), and the safeties (somewhat).
What does it mean for UMass and the future?
Not a whole lot since option has just slid off the schedule. However: I think Taylor will have some rough spots but come through okay. He's an athlete. Ross is going to get more playing time until such time as his hypercaffeinated ways get Michigan burned, and possibly beyond that. Jake Ryan is developing as well as Michigan fans had hoped.
Still feeling pretty ominous about the line, unfortunately, but a lot of Air Force's success is not replicable by other teams. Since Alabama is way up there, UMass way down there, and Air Force way out there, our first read on how this defense is going to play against humans comes against Notre Dame.
Air Force's ability to consistently get the edge on Michigan's defense was the most frustrating thing about Saturday's game, and many theories have been proffered as to what was supposed to be happening, why it wasn't, and why we will or will not die on the rest of the schedule.
I'm of the opinion that Michigan's scheme was predictable and that as soon as Air Force started blocking Kovacs they were out of ideas.
Here's Air Force's first play of the second half. Denard Robinson's just gone 58 yards to put M up 21-10 and a poor decision by a Falcon player to fall on a squibbed kickoff sets the Falcons up on their own 12 yard line. Michigan has just sat in the locker room for 20 minutes getting coached up; Air Force comes out and runs the same triple option they've been running all game.
It does not go well.
Okay: I called this "near half-flex" for Air Force. Michigan is in their 4-4 under, which I know is actually shifted towards the nominal strength of the formation and so is technically an over. Michigan aligns to field, not strength—so they would flip their formation if it was on the other hash.
Against Air Force, Michigan brought Gordon down into the box and made their formation basically symmetrical. Mattison:
Jake and Thomas were the exact same position in our scheme. A lot of people play the same scheme.
Kovacs is playing center field. Earlier in the game, he was not getting blocked and doing Kovacs things. Like this:
Air Force was all like Eff that to the A and started blocking him. That took out Michigan's edge defender and opened up the corner. Michigan didn't really adjust.
Air Force's "triple" option" wasn't really that. They occasionally ran the dive to keep the defense honest but when they did that the QB just turned around and give it, no read. Here they're running the option with the token dive fake. Already in the above frame, bad things are happening.
Will Campbell(1) is tackling an Air Force lineman who's trying to get out on Bolden. He'll succeed at this, allowing Bolden to flow freely for the rest of the play, but he'll pick up a second defensive holding call doing so. On the edge, Gordon(2) is the optioned guy. Michigan is playing him to pitch like they have been all game. Kovacs(3), is the destination of the flexback.
In a second or two, Michigan is going to eat cut blocks:
Thanks for participating, Clark and Morgan, but you've been elimidated. Try again next play. Meanwhile, downfield…
…the ref is ANGAR at Campbell and Jordan Kovacs is decidedly not coming up to stop the pitch.
Why is Kovacs taking that angle? Why is he not attacking the run? That's an eligible receiver he is in man coverage on. He's got no one behind him, and there are two other receivers going vertical. He has to respect this guy as a receiver, or he could give up an 88-yard touchdown.
At this point it's pretty obvious, but Kovacs doesn't have good options.
Gordon forces the pitch. Michigan has Bolden ready to hit the QB if necessary, but he doesn't know that, and that's not the scheme.
The scheme is getting cut to the ground 13 yards downfield.
Presenting yet another ten yard run on a pitch. WSG Will Campbell holding flag.
[After THE JUMP: Air Force twists its mustache!]
“I guess the first thing I would say is -- happy that we got a win. You know, not pleased the amount of yards that we gave up and not pleased with the option responsibility at times. You just want everybody to know -- I’ll take the blame for that as a coordinator. One thing we always talk about with our defense is we will always have enough bullets and always have enough in our package to be able to stop anything that somebody does. You know I think for a number of reasons, we maybe didn’t have enough or enough adjustments or I didn’t adjust soon enough to take away what they were doing. As far as the players, I really am proud of them for how hard they played. That game could have been disastrous had they not played as tough as they did on a number of situations. The thing watching the tape, in the crunch time at the end of the game, I looked out there at the end of the tape, we had seven freshmen and sophomores in there at one time, right during the heat of it. But I don’t fault our players. I know there’s things they could have done better. That’s always the case. Technique-wise, if anything, I point to myself as far as not having a little bit more expansive plan going into that game.”
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."
“It was great to win the football game, I can tell you that. It’s always good to win. Sometimes they’re not very pretty. This would be one, but you have to give Air Force a lot of credit. I think they do a tremendous job of coaching that offense and running that offense. I think they did a good job when you look at the counters they put in -- when you counter one way -- it’s a chess game a little bit. I thought Greg at the end really had some -- changed some things up that helped us. I think the stops by the end by the defense were timely and huge and needed to be there. We played an awful lot of plays on defense. That means you’re not doing a good enough job of getting them off the field, but their tempo was one of those things that’s good. And I think we learned a lot about it, and we played a lot of guys. We played a lot of young guys, freshmen, and I think that helps us as we continue throughout the season.”
Can you talk about Devin Gardner’s development as a receiver?
“Well I think he did a nice job. I think there were some -- you like to go to playmakers, so there were things set up for him. But he also makes plays. He’s coming along.”
What made you decide to go with Joe Bolden at linebacker during the second half?
“Well I think we were trying to play as many guys as we could. Joe had a pretty good feel for the option part of it. At Colerain high school that’s all that they run. He saw things maybe a little bit more than we were, but it is more just trying to keep guys fresh and trying to rotate them through.”
You talked a lot about offenses getting the edge on your defense last year.
What was Air Force doing to get the edge, and what do you need to improve on to defend it?
“Well it depends. There’s a whole series of -- do you get low, do you get arc? There’s a lot that goes into it. Are they T-blocking it or X-blocking it? And it’s who has the pitch. It varies depending on how they want to block it and attack it. Most of the time if we do a good job constricting the line of scrimmage, they can’t get a tackle up on your safety or they can’t get the tackle up on the linebacker who can continue to flow, and then your safety’s got a chance. So there’s a lot of different things that go along with it.”
You played a lot of freshmen. Are they outperforming the veterans at this point?
“We recruited them because they’re pretty good players. I think they’re all competing.”
What’s your assessment of your non-Denard run game and how your lines played today?
“You know, I think the non-Denard running game, I guess if we want to call it from now on, it wasn’t productive enough. Therefore I don’t think we played well enough up front. And then defensively, 290-some yards rushing, you didn’t play well enough up front.”
With your defense, do you chalk it up to “this is a unique offense” or do you have major weaknesses that you need to address?
“I would say there’s a uniqueness to the offense, to schemes, but at the same time I think we’re a work in progress. Quinton Washington’s getting better every time he plays. I think Ondre Pipkins, I think he’s getting better every time he plays. Heitzman -- Keith played a decent amount today. Then the four outside guys. Ojemudia. He’s getting better. Frank Clark, having him back. I think Craig and the guys who are the older guys are doing a pretty good job. I think we’re a work in progress on defense [overall].”
How big was the swing in momentum after the tipped pass interception and having to go into the half up just 14-10?
“Oh, it’s one of those things. I didn’t get a good look as I’d like to. I don’t know if it was a little high or what, but that’s football. When you’re called to play defense, you have to keep them out of the end zone, and we didn’t do that.”
A year and a half in, are you still wowed by Denard?
“Well, you know, I see a lot of it in practice. So yeah, I don’t know if you ever get used to it, but when he sticks his foot in the ground, he’s got an ability.”
Two games in, are you seeing enough out of this team that you’d want to see out of a B1G championship team?
“I think if we keep improving every week, that’s our expectation.”
Can you talk about putting No. 47 on Jake Ryan and his performance today?
“We looked at as a staff the guys who, from a character standpoint and from the standpoint of how he goes about his business every day. There wasn’t a better [decision] than to have Jake represent Bennie. So I think that was, as a staff, we came up with that. That’s the right guy. How he played ... I think he made some plays in there. I think he got on the ground sometimes. For me to say how he actually played, I couldn’t tell you. I know he played hard.”
He made a couple big plays at the end.
“Yeah he did. There’s no question about that. I think though what we’ll probably look at as much as anything is that they load blocked on him and he got chopped or he got arc’ed on him -- we didn’t have that pitch player you needed.”
Dialogue between you and Mattison re: late game adjustments?
“Greg and I think an awful lot alike. We knew we needed to do a little bit something different on the back end because we had three different possibilities, and two of them may have been too confusing to try and do on the sideline without them seeing those looks over and over again. So we kind of went back a little bit to base stuff on playing defense.”
Was Fitz rusty?
“I don’t think he ever got a chance to get started.”
“We didn’t block well enough.”
Did you see any rust or was it more up front?
“No … yeah. He’d been practicing the whole time.”
How do you prepare a defense for that insane tempo?
“It … really besides the tempo part, it takes you about a quarter to get used to the speed and how they execute that offense. We tried to mimic it. Our scout guys -- they’re playing with guards and tackles that are 255 pounds. We have Ben Braden who’s 315 pounds who’s trying to veer block, and he’s giving everything he’s got, but it’s a little different tempo, little different speed. Joe Reynolds did as good a job as anyone being Connor Dietz, but it takes you about a quarter. It really does. I thought we hung in there. We weren’t pretty. The thing we needed to do was get the ball on the ground a couple times, and we didn’t do that. It’ll be very interesting. I’ll talk to the kids tomorrow to see how they felt about the tempo. Because I never really -- I didn’t really see us not set and ready to go as a defense, which you’ll see. Believe it or not, that’s a big step that everybody’s on the same page.”
Brennen Beyer was in a cast. What’s his status?
“Well he strained his knee. I can’t -- I don’t know anything more than that right now, but that’s kind of what’s going on.”
Any other issues health wise?
“Not that I know of.”
“He should be ready next week.”
How many true freshmen have you played so far this season? And is that by design or by necessity?
“Um … I want to say 12. It’s by design and necessity. I’m being honest.”
What kind of matchup problems does Funchess cause for a defense?
“Well you know, he’s a tall guy. He’s rangy. He can run. The thing I like about him is he’s not afraid to block. Matchups on strong safeties, matchups on linebackers.”
What kind of game did Frank Clark have, especially on that last drive?
“I know Frank was active. I know he was disruptive, especially there at the end of the game. Now we’ll see how he played the other 80 plays.”
(player transcripts up later today)
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.