I did not make this headline up
So it's been seven games and it's a bye week so TACO PARTY—
this is a thing you can purchase at "Fine Art America"
or steal from your crazy Aunt Betty in Pensacola
—also generic bullety midseason-type post.
BEST DEVELOPMENT. Confirmation of the offseason's Greg >>> GERG theory.
he's like defensive coordinator Zooey Deschanel.
There are still obvious weaknesses and no obvious stars past a slightly disappointing Mike Martin, but it turns out having a coherent defensive philosophy is a lot better than running around screaming "we're all gonna die but at least my hair is fantastic!!!"
Pick a metric, advanced or not, and the improvement is incredible. The advanced ones are even more enthusiastic than the regular ones: Michigan is actually a top-20 FEI defense. Top 20! They were 108th last year! Excuse me, I have to go list this pool of razorblades, despair, and misery on Craigslist! Where an Ohio State blogger will purchase it to talk about their offense!
You can apply every massively-deserved caveat you can think of and the author will nod sagely about how that is a concern and the end result is still something that should approximate giddiness. When the turnovers stop coming in droves and a smaller percentage of games are played in a trash tornado, Michigan will backslide. But, like… backslide into the 40s or something. IE: the offseason's best-case scenario that didn't involve installing robots from the future at key spots.
RUNNER-UP, BEST DEVELOPMENT. Jordan Kovacs ending the debate about Jordan Kovacs.
If you strain your memory you can think back to a time where it was very warm and people had heated debates about whether Jordan Kovacs was any good or not. This was summer, and it was a silly time. A major reason the defense is scraping the ceiling of the ceiling above its best-case scenario is the near-total absence of big plays. Michigan still hasn't given up anything over 40 yards. Kovacs and (to a lesser extent) Thomas Gordon are primarily responsible for shutting down the Wolverine Free Touchdown Factory and shipping it to Thailand. WOO OUTSOURCING JOKE
WORST DEVELOPMENT. Denard's inability to hit Charlie Weis in three tries.
Even if you ascribe to the theory that Denard's passing success last year was largely a mirage when it came to Actual Big Ten Defenses*, his numbers against the two actual-seeming defenses on the schedule thus far have been horrendous. At least half of that can be ascribed to Denard just missing dudes.
Even running in place would have been disappointing after the quantum leap it seemed he made last year. He was still raw as sushi and could still be expected to move more towards quarterback-dom than a guy who'd had the slightest amount of polish. Instead the Al Borges-Denard Fusion Cuisine has shoved him back to being that guy who heaved it up against Iowa when he had a wide open Odoms running underneath. I didn't like that guy as much as the one from last year, warts and all.
*[Which I don't, FWIW. I UFR this stuff for a reason, and that reason is "so I can do something more than wave my hands in the air and say 'nuh-uh' when I would like to dispute someone else's assertion." I charted all of Denard's throws before the dismal end of the RR regime and there's a definite backslide.]
RUNNER-UP, WORST DEVELOPMENT. What happened, offensive line?
Last year you were all like blocking your way to an insane YPC and hardly giving up anything on the ground and this year you can't pull to save your life; the impregnable wall of no sacks was punched into smithereens by Michigan State. Now it's hard not to look at next year without a sense of panic.
MOST MIDDLING DEVELOPMENT. The tailbacks. It's still Vincent Smith and increasingly less Fitzgerald Toussaint (for reasons that are opaque to me). They're not awful. I still covet any tailback who wanders by to break a tackle or two.
MOST MISLEADING DEVELOPMENT. The defense's turnover-fu. It is not sustainable. Repeat this in your head a thousand times in a futile effort for its lack to be tolerable.
MOST DEVELOPING DEVELOPMENT. Special teams. They've been bad so far but the sample size is small. Brendan Gibbons made three(!) field goals against Minnesota and is 4/6 on the year. His two misses were both blocked. He might be serviceable. He might be benefiting from a bunch of chip shots—he still hasn't made one past 40 yards.
Meanwhile, the starting punter was suspended for the first four games and is averaging under 34 yards a kick because he was a nonfactor against Minnesota and Northwestern and seven of his punts came in a howling windstorm, six(!) of those from the Michigan State half of the field.
They can't cover kicks and can't return them, either. So… yeah. The jury is still out.
OFFENSE: FOCUS: OFFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jeremy Gallon cloaking device engagement.
The play that followed it was pretty sweet, too, but that thing took Michigan from dead in the water to fightin' chance in The First Night Game Evar.
100% WORST THING EVER. Fourth and inches play action pass from the nine against Michigan State. I assume this needs no explanation.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Run inside zone.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Throw deep.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Use stretch blocking and deploy the quick screen with the wide receivers to force a third defender to live outside the tackles. Michigan hasn't attacked the outside enough, allowing Michigan State's double-A-gap blitzes to be ludicrously effective.
BEST PLAYER. Well… Denard, despite obvious issues.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been near-flawless in pass protection, and has generally done well when the run game has come his way, which hasn't been often given their inability to pull left.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Michigan hasn't been able to pull left largely because Patrick Omameh can't get to the hole before the tailback, which is not so good.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Vincent Smith. He's a third down back and useful player who's not a guy you want to give 20 carries.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. Denard. Please, baby, please.
DEFENSE: FOCUS: DEFENSE
100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jordan Kovacs depositing his head into a ball Alex Carder happened to be carrying.
That sack is like the awful Nick Sheridan interception that kicked off the Rodriguez era and made its way into the Worst Plays of the Decade more for what it symbolized than the actual impact of the play. It heralds a sea change in Michigan's fortunes.
Caveats, caveats, caveats: Michigan is now deploying a zone-blitz heavy 4-3 under that will draw valid NFL comparisons and will hopefully start playing like Michigan defenses of old, and by "Michigan defenses of old" I mean "Michigan defenses of very old or more recent Ohio State outfits."
100% WORST THING EVER. It's a tribute to Michigan's safeties and Greg Mattison that the only long-ish touchdown they've given up was the no-safeties formation that handed Notre Dame a freebie right before the Gallon cloaking device play. But, man… that was kind of not good right there.
THING THEY DO THE MOST. Zone blitz.
THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Let guys outside the tackles.
THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Uh… you got me. /shakes fist at format established by himself
BEST PLAYER. Ryan Van Bergen, I think. It's close between RVB, Martin, and Kovacs, but Martin had a tough outing against Michigan State. Van Bergen played well. Kovacs had a storming game the first time out and is a major reason for the lack of long touchdown but has not has as much down to down impact. Maybe that's just the nature of being a safety. If Michigan gets through the rest of the year without getting bombed deep he'll win by default.
SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Kovacs. I don't hate Michigan's safeties except from time to time when Johnson is missing tackles.
PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Weakside linebacker du jour. Woolfolk hasn't been good but that's obviously an injury thing. I've been leery about Jake Ryan from time to time but he's turning in enough good plays with his bad ones to nose above even most days.
But whoever's been at weakside linebacker has had issues. Brandon Herron started the year, had two defensive touchdowns, and got benched. Brandin Hawthorne came in for him, played okay for a bit, made some mistakes, and has rotated in and out with true freshman Desmond Morgan the past couple weeks.
GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Will Heininger. Heininger hasn't been a disaster or anything but he is single blocked often, rarely makes plays, and is pretty much what you'd expect a walk-on to be at defensive tackle.
GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. There are two: Jake Ryan and Blake Countess. Both are freshman starters* turning in promising plays amongst the youthful head-vs-wall moments. Ryan in particular has cut down his blatant errors to getting cut to the ground a few times per game.
*[Countess is not technically starting. He is getting the bulk of the playing time.]
THE BIG TEN
THE WORST. Minnesota. We have a GopherQuest dedicated to their badness.
THE SECOND-WORST. Everyone else. This league is not so good. The team leading the East division starts Matt McGloin at quarterback and is coached by a guy without a headset who isn't on the sideline. The team leading the West division is Michigan State. There are no undefeated teams, no national powers, and it's inevitable that the league's bowl record is going to be 2-6.
FUTURE OPPONENTS IN ORDER OF CONCERN.
- @ Iowa
- Ohio State
- @ Illinois
BALLPARK RECORD AGAINST THOSE FOLKS. 3-2.
WHO'D TAKE 9-3. That's everyone.
WHO'D WHIMPER AND HIDE AT THE BOWL OPPONENT IN THAT EVENT. Also everyone. Okay, not you, message board hero who spent the last week calling Michigan fans whiners. You will say unreasonable things about the prospect of beating…
Wait. There are only two good SEC teams this year. Am I going to tremble at the sight of Arkansas or Georgia or South Carolina? No. Nevermind.
FIVE GUYS WHO SEEM PRETTY GOOD WHOM INSUFFICIENT DISCUSSION IS HAD ABOUT.
Bryce McNaul, Northwestern LB. (Heady, quick the hole, part of Northwestern's good run defense, injured too much, can do nothing about the nonexistent Wildcat secondary.)
Marcus Rush, MSU DE. (Rush has been overshadowed by the Gholston controversy but is actually a better player. Gholston does nothing once he is blocked; Rush will shed guys. Gholston would be on the bench if Tyler Hoover was healthy.)
Devon Still, PSU DT. (Still may be a reach since he is reaching tongue-bath levels but I was all about Still last year.)
Kawaan Short, Purdue DT.
Da'Jon McKnight, Minnesota WR. (Winner: most futile B1G existence.)
Opening remarks: “First I have to give Mark and his staff credit -- and their team. They outcoached us and outplayed us. We have to do a much better job with coaching this football team in a lot of ways. Our kids, I think they fought when they were down. I thought they responded well. To be honest, I don’t think they ever thought they were going to lose the game until the game was over.”
Was Denard taken out because he was hurt or was it for another reason? “He got beat up a little bit, yeah.”
What happened on that fourth-and-one call? “We’ve gotten many first downs with that play. Same play. The guy jumps, we send the one guy in motion. We’ve gotten touchdowns, too. This was just an extension of that play.”
Looked like you were trying to call timeout. Did you see something you didn’t like? “Yeah, I saw the 25-second clock rolling to zero. I think we got away with one, to be honest with you.”
What do you think about how Denard played? “He made some things happen. And there were a couple times -- he always plays excited with a lot of energy. On the interception, I don’t know what he saw. I think he held it in there.”
On the play Denard got injured, was that a cheap shot? “Oh I have no clue. I didn’t see it, to be honest with you. My eyes were down the field.”
Was Denard playing too excited a problem? “I don’t think so. I thought our kids prepared well all week. I think we had the two penalties in the first half for the delays. Those are some communication things that we have to do a better job with.”
How much more are you going to have to get out of your running back group? “Well, to get it out of our running back group, we have to get it out of our front first. I think there’s some opportunities we missed a little bit, but at the same time I don’t know how much movement we got consistently at the line of scrimmage.”
Was the number of personal foul penalties they committed over the line for you? “I don’t know. Shoot, I’m worried about Michigan.”
Jordan said he thought MSU was more physical and beat your team up. “I don’t know if we got beat up. I think they were physical, and I think this game always is physical.”
Denard’s injury -- is it serious? “I don’t know what it is yet.”
Can you talk about philosophy of alternating Devin and Denard? “Yeah, we thought we may do some of that, and part of what pushed it over a little more was that it was a windy day, and I think Devin at times can throw the ball a little more accurately.”
How do you expect your players to react to this? “I expect them to act like a Michigan football team, and that means they’re going to come to work.”
What happened on the first series of the second half on the kickoff and their first possession? “I don’t think we tackled well at all … We didn’t tackle very well, they executed the drive. I think two third down conversions in there, maybe three, that you’ve got to be in the position to stop it. And then the play at the end, when they scored, I don’t know if you could be in a better defensive call.”
Do you think your offense was a little too creative at points? “No. I don’t know about that. I think there’s some elements in there -- when Denard carries the jet sweep around there, he’s pretty dangerous. He’s about two steps from breaking both of them for home runs. I don’t think so.”
They brought a lot of pressure. What were they doing that was so successful? “Well they were overloading you a little bit. Mark [Dantonio] did a good job. Mark is a good defensive coach. Believe me, his fingerprints are all over that defense. They overloaded us a little bit. They hit their timing. They did a nice job of jumping snap counts. I think they did things the way you’re supposed to.”
Is Taylor Lewan healthy? “There’s not a healthy guy in our whole locker room. Everybody’s beat up. That’s just part of football. I think this bye week, it’s probably at a good time.”
Were they beat up because of today? “They’ve been beat up all -- it’s just part of football.”
In hindsight, would you have called the fourth-and-one play differently? “You sneak it, you run the power play -- multiple things that you could have done. We’ve been very successful in the last two years with that same play.”
Was that your call or Al’s call? “Al makes the call. I’m the one that said, ‘Go for it.’ ”
Any trend to the incompletions? “I think there’s more competition probably at the line of scrimmage, when you look at receivers getting off and running routes. I don’t think we ran bad routes. I won’t know that until I watch tape.”
Did you prepare your players for the dirty play? “No. I don’t know how they played dirty. They had some personal fouls and late hits on the quarterback. You can get those all the time.”
William Gholston threw a punch at Lewan. “I didn’t see it.”
What was with the kickoff to start the second half? Were you thinking about an onside kick? “No. We were trying to squib it because we didn’t think we would get it exactly where we wanted it depth wise, and he probably hit it not as well as he probably would have liked to hit it.”
Whose decision was it to break out the jerseys? “Well it was neat. It was ‘74, ‘75? We were white on white. There’s a lot of decision-makers.”
You said you thought this team was overrated. What came out from this game to give you proof of that? “Well, besides losing? I think they were close to 200 yards rushing the football. We had 82. That’s pretty much it.”
Is this bye week a good thing for your team? “Yeah from a health standpoint, it is.”
How resilient is this team? Were heads hanging in the locker room? “They need to feel this one. We all need to feel this one for a while. But we’ll turn the page.”
What was the reaction to losing to MSU for the fourth year in a row? “Not good.”
What happened out there? “They did what we thought they were going to do. They came out and pounded us with the football. They were the better team. You have to give them some credit … So we’re going to take this and regroup from there.”
After a loss like this, are you glad you have two weeks off or do you want to play again right away? “Um, physically, it’s probably a good thing, but mentally we’re ready to move on to the next one and looking forward to the next game. So it’s probably a good thing that we have a bye week and we can physically get healthy, but at the same time. I’m hungry for the next one.”
Was there any adjustment they made at halftime on offense? “No, I think they stuck to their game plan. They just ran the football.”
After you recovered the fumble, did you think the comeback was on? “Yeah, the whole game we thought we were going to win until the two zeros were on the clock. The whole time we thought we were going to win the game.”
Do you think they were tougher? “I think they were definitely more physical. They pounded us. They beat us up. But we’re going to take it and we’re going to improve from here. But like I said, you have to give them a lot of credit.”
Is this team different from the past few years? Are you better prepared to deal with this loss without sliding downhill? “No doubt. I think it’s easy to say, it’s the same Michigan team the last two years, but I have no doubt in my mind that we’re not. We’re going to improve, we’re going to learn from this game, and we’re going to win.”
How difficult is it for you say that they were more physical and they beat you up? “It’s tough. They just ran the ball downhill. It’s nothing that we weren’t expecting, and we didn’t do a good enough job today.”
Were they chippier than you thought they might be? “No. I’ve played in this game before, so I know how the game goes.”
Was their success running the ball more because of their line or because of their running backs? “It was collectively as a defense -- we didn’t execute. I have to watch the film, but I can put money on that guys weren’t where they were supposed to be, and guys simply weren’t executing what we need to do and weren’t playing Michigan defense.”
How tough is it to swallow this loss? “It’s tough. We don’t want that to happen. With any team, especially with this team. But you have to give them credit. They played well today, and they’re a good football team. So plain and simple, today just didn’t go our way.”
Can you take anything good from today? “Not right now, no. But when we look at the film -- today is going to be tough, but we’ll stop and bounce back. The thing about this team I know for a fact is that this team is going to bounce back. Guys are hungry for the next game. That’s the biggest difference in this team amongst other things. This team’s hungry and ready to go.”
Do you feel like they beat you up? “I feel good. I’m not beat up. I don’t think they beat us up. When I think of beat up, I think bullied. We just didn’t execute. We just didn’t play Michigan defense. We didn’t play the way we needed to play from start to finish. Just going to have to watch the film and see what happens.”
Do you think they played dirty today? “I mean, we knew what type of game this was going to be. It was going to be a tough, physical game, and coach talked about keeping our poise and composure as a football team. So I think we did a good job on that side of it, and we just have to do a better job with taking coaching and executing what the coaches tell us to do.”
Were you expecting it to be like this? “I mean, who doesn’t know what this type of game is. It’s a tough, physical game, period. It’s an in-state rival, and it’s big for both teams. That’s what it’s all about.”
You think they won with class? “I don’t worry about that. They have a right to celebrate. They won. They’re excited. I tip my hat to them.”
What makes you so certain you will bounce back unlike previous years? “Just everything. I think that’s something where you have to be in the locker room and know that. It’s something I can’t really explain, but I know that we have great leadership on this team. We have a bye week coming up, and I know guys are going to be hungry. Tomorrow we’re going to be in there watching film, looking to see what we can do to get better. The seniors and these leaders are going to get this team ready.”
Anything they did offensively surprise you? “No. They executed their game plan and pretty much that’s what we practiced. I just don’t think that on our side of it, we did what we needed to do.”
Do you feel like your offense put you guys in a hole? “I mean, yeah, you never know how a game’s going to go. We’re playing for those guys they’re playing for us. We have each other’s backs. Whatever happens in a game happens. We talked about it on the sidelines -- we just have to control what we can control. We just have to do a better job of complementing each other offensively and defensively.”
When did you find out about the jerseys? “It was a surprise to us. When we came back from warmups they were in our lockers.”
What happened on the play where you were injured? “I got a little dinged up.”
Was it your decision or the coaches’ decision not to let you back in the game? “I mean, it’s always up to the trainers.”
Is it concussion-related? “No, I don’t think so.”
Was it a cheap shot? “I don’t know.”
Did you feel like they were playing dirty? “No. We were playing football. It’s a dirty game.”
Is this a game where you’re going to look back on and wonder “what if”? “Oh no. We have to move forward and we have to learn from this game. That’s the biggest thing, learn from this game and play Michigan football. The Big Ten championship’s still out there.”
On the fourth-and-one call, what were you seeing before the snap? “We had what we wanted, and we called it at the time, and we just have to execute.”
What were you supposed to look for? “I mean, if you watch the game you’ll see what I was looking for. I can’t explain it.”
Didn’t look like you had time to look for it, though. “Yeah, that was the biggest thing. We just didn’t play football.”
Did you see the corner coming? “I saw him at the last second.”
Why were you struggling throwing the football today? “No reason. Just have to make throws.”
What did you see on the pick six? “Me and Vince weren’t on the same page. It wasn’t anything we didn’t see. Just wasn’t on the same page.”
Are you worried about being able to play in two weeks due to your injury? “Oh no, we have two weeks, and our training staff is one of the best in the country, and I know they’re going to get me back.”
How difficult was it to pass with the windy conditions today? “It wasn’t that difficult. Both of us played in the same weather and the same stadium.”
Are there any plays you wish you had back? “Oh yeah. Of course through the game you’re going to have that, but you have to continue playing. Keep playing, that’s all.”
Why do you think this year’s team is different? “I mean, come on. We’re just going to be ready to fight, and we’re never going to quit. We’re never quitting. Just hold each other accountable and just go out there and play Michigan football. Just keep going.”
Did you think this fourth quarter was going to be like the fourth quarter against Notre Dame? “We had a lot of opportunities to come back in the game and keep the game in reach, and we just didn’t execute.”
Formation notes: Michigan spent the bulk of the first half in their nickel package with Ryan down on the line and Gordon and Johnson at nickel and safety, respectively. In the second half they took Johnson off in favor of using Ryan as a slot LB until Northwestern started their passing hurry-up on their fourth(!) drive.
Substitution notes: The usual defensive line substitutions, with Heininger and Black seeing frequent time, Campbell a little, and Washington maybe a snap or three. Michigan did briefly show Avery as the nickelback, but that only lasted a drive or two. Demens went the whole way; Morgan got a couple series late in the first half. Countess replaced Woolfolk in the second quarter and went the rest of the way.
Demens, Kovacs, Floyd, and Gordon didn't come off the field.
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Bubble screen||Floyd||7|
|Hawthorne starts flowing up into the playfake and there's no one to the short side, leaving the slot all alone; Floyd is playing ten yards off. With Hawthorne positioned like he is there is no way he's making this play anyway. RPS -1.|
|O27||2||3||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Pass||4||Out||Floyd||Inc|
|Floyd(+1, cover +1) is right there on the receiver's cut, forcing Persa to throw it perfectly—upfield and away from Floyd. He does so; WR has a shot at a decently tough catch and cannot make it. Rushing lane was opening up but Persa did not take it.|
|O27||3||3||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel press||Pass||5||Drag||Demens||Inc|
|Demens lines up right over the center and rushes, trying to take the center out of the play as Martin(+0.5) stunts around. This basically works; center slides off on Martin and Demens(+1) uses that opportunity to shoot up into the pocket. He's about to sack when an in the grasp Persa chucks it inaccurately in the vicinity of a receiver Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) is all over; may have a PBU if ball is accurate. Pressure +1, RPS +1. This is really close to a sack, BTW.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 14 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun empty quad bunch||Nickel press||Pass||5||Drag||Van Bergen||Inc (Pen +15)|
|Avery in as the nickelback. NW has a tight bunch to the wide side of the field and motions the tailback outside of those guys. Michigan is confused, with Demens eventually heading out there to deal with him, but late. Doesn't end up mattering this time. Michigan runs a twist that gets Roh(+0.5) through thanks to Martin(+1) threatening to shoot past the C. He's screwed either way. Persa has to dump it; RVB(+1) reads Persa's eyes and starts moving into the throwing lane, batting it down. Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) got beaten by Ebert on this drag and would have been able to turn it up for big yardage. Pressure +2. Roh picks up a roughing the passer call that is horsecrap. That's one step and then hit. Awful call. Refs -2.|
|O35||1||10||Pistol 2-back offset||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Veer triple option||Kovacs||5|
|Colter in at QB; Michigan seemingly misaligned with no reaction to the strong side and Kovacs lined up a couple yards behind the LBs. They do not comprehend Colter is in at QB. NW runs an option to the wide side. Both LBs and Roh(-2), the playside DE, suck up on the dive fake. Mattison said DE == QB so I'm –2ing every DE who tackles a dive guy or lets the QB outside. Even Kovacs hesitates; no one is tracking the pitch back at all. Roh does recover to string the play out a bit, and Kovacs flows hard, forcing a pitch a few yards downfield. Colter didn't make Kovacs take him, though, and he flows down to tackle, preventing this from becoming a big gain. I have no idea who's at fault here. Either Roh or Demens needs to get out on the pitch and Kovacs needs to do so as well. Kovacs(+1) for getting out as secondary support and making a tough tackle(+1). RPS -1.|
|O40||2||5||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Woolfolk||14|
|Bler bler bler. Michigan has two guys to the wide side of the field that possesses three NW WRs. Those two guys are seven and ten yards off the LOS. Woolfolk(-1) then misses the tackle(-1) and turns this from seven into 13. RPS-1.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Improv||Avery?||27|
|Black drops off into a zone before the play and Woolfolk blitzes from the other side. Unsurprisingly, this is picked up. Martin(+1) is coming through the line and is held; no call; Persa can flush outside of the pocket because Woolfolk got upfield. Outside of the pocket Persa is deadly; he finds a guy for a big gainer. Cover -1, Pressure -1, RPS -1.|
|M19||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Hawthorne||4|
|Yeesh, looks like Demens(-1) doesn't get enough of a drop and Johnson(-2) pulls up on a dig, leaving a post wide open for a touchdown (cover -2). Persa misses this and checks down. Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) with an immediate tackle. With Martin out and Campbell in there is no rush at all (pressure -2).|
|M15||2||6||Shotgun trips 2back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Veer triple option||Kovacs||15|
|Trips plus two backs equals a covered up WR, equals run, equals massive frustration that this catches Michigan off guard. Ryan(-2) crashes down on the dive fake; Demens and Hawthorne move forward despite this obviously being an option and get sealed away; Demens is playside so –1. Kovacs(-1) misses a tackle(-1) at the ten but that could be harsh since he is the only player on the edge against two other players. If he takes a more conservative angle Colter pitches and the RB walks into the endzone. At least Kovacs had a shot here. RPS -2.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 8 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||Pistol trips TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Speed option||Demens||12|
|RVB(+0.5) and Martin are coming at the QB hard, forcing a quick pitch. That should be advantage D since the DL are stringing the RB out quickly. Gordon(+0.5) comes up to maintain leverage, at which point... no one comes up to tackle. Demens(-2) had gone upfield around a blocker for no discernible reason and is late as a result. Martin can't quite make up for his mistake; Hawthorne(-0.5) is there seven yards downfield. His tackle(-1) is run through but does force the RB OOB.|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Flare screen||Van Bergen||3|
|Woolfolk(-0.5) is caught up in man coverage here and never realizes this is basically a run play; he ends up on his butt. Gordon(-0.5) has the same thing happen to him. Maybe that's harsh for press coverage. Demens(+1) and Van Bergen(+1) read the play and get out on it to hold it down, with RVB actually making the tackle.|
|M47||2||7||Shotgun empty TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Shovel pass||Hawthorne||2|
|Yeah, technically a pass, but this is a run play in UFR's book. This is a variation on the Florida TE shovel this blog raved about the past couple years, with Persa running outside at first and taking Gordon with him, then shoveling inside to the pulling TE, who is actually WR Drake Dunsmore, as they run power. Ryan(-1) blown up and out. Big hole. One guy in space against Hawthorne; if Dunsmore cuts behind the block either Roh hacks him down or it's a big gain; instead he runs right into Hawthorne. I guess Hawthorne gets a +1, Demens a +0.5, as they tackle(+1) in space for a minimal gain, but we got lucky.|
|M45||3||5||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel press||Pass||6||Out||Gordon||6|
|Again with Demens lined up over the nose; Michigan sends the house. They don't get a free run and don't get a hurry (pressure -1) but they didn't give up anything big so no RPS -1. NW running some man-beater routes that force Gordon into an awkward path; this gets Ebert the step he needs to stab this pass one-handed and turn up the sideline for the first. Gordon was there to tackle so it's not like he did a bad job.|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Scramble||Ryan||5|
|Tempoed, Michigan only has two down linemen at the snap (RPS -1). As a result, Ryan is lost in no-man's land. Coverage(+1) is good downfield; Persa takes off, diving as Ryan comes in on him.|
|M34||1||10||Pistol 2-back offset||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Veer triple option||Hawthorne||23|
|Colter magical option formation, and they give despite again having Kovacs versus two guys on the edge. Maybe Colter was worried about Black. I'm not entirely sure about what goes wrong here but it seems to me like Campbell(+1) takes on a double and beats his man to the inside as the interior guy peels off, which means the RB has to go behind him and the C trying to get out on Hawthorne(-2) would have no angle if Hawthorne read this and made his NT right. Instead he and Demens are a foot away from each other and when the RB cuts behind Campbell there is no one there.|
|M11||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Hawthorne||4|
|Good coverage(+2) means Persa can't find anything despite having a long time (pressure -1). He eventually rolls out; Roh(+0.5) and Hawthorne(+0.5) remain on their receivers long enough to force a scramble and then come up quickly to hold it down.|
|M7||2||6||Pistol trips TE||Nickel press||Run||N/A||Speed option||Johnson||7|
|Demens(-2) again heads too far upfield too fast and gets himself into a lineman who ends up cutting him to the ground after they run down the line for a while. This is a speed option! Get outside! RVB(+0.5) forced a pitch and flowed down the line to make it difficult for the RB; Carvin Johnson(-1, tackling -1) comes up hard around the LOS and whiffs entirely. He does force a cut upfield, but because Demens is on his stomach the cut is not a modest gain but a touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 4 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O7||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Morgan||2|
|Morgan in for Hawthorne. Morgan(+1) bashes into the center at the LOS and drives him back on the dive; Martin(+1) fights through a double team, refusing to get sealed. When the G releases he's still playside of the T. With Heininger(+0.5) beating a single block there's nowhere to go.|
|Good coverage(+1) causes a flush but because the DL split so badly that was kind of obvious; no second read here. (Pressure -2). Not sure who to minus specifically because tape is cutting out at the beginning of this play.|
|O15||3||2||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Speed option?||???||12|
|Technical difficulties. We come back with the pitch already made. I am somewhat certain this is largely Demens's fault(-1), as he was lined up playside of Morgan presnap but when we come back Morgan is actually closer to the play. He then gets shot past the play. Morgan(-1) took a too-aggressive route around a WR and couldn't make the play; Johnson(+0.5) does come up to make a fill on a dangerous play, though his ankle tackle is maybe less than ideal.|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||???||???||???||Inc|
|Apparently this is just a misthrow, but I don't know.|
|O27||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||???||Sack||Demens||-2|
|Oh, hell, BTN. I guess Demens(+1, pressure +1) is a minimum?|
|O24||3||13||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel press||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|O19||3||18||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Black||6|
|Give up and punt.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 11 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Martin||7|
|Zone blitz drops Roh and sends Morgan. Martin(+1) slants around the G and C to get a run at Persa(pressure +1) and bats the ball. The thing still finds its way to the receiver, but the delay allows an immediate tackle... that Demens(-1, tackling -1) does not make.|
|M34||2||3||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read stretch||Van Bergen||2|
|RVB(+2) shoves the playside OT back two yards, cutting off the outside and forcing a cutback. He disconnects when this happens and tackles himself for a minimal gain. Nice play; scary if he doesn't make this. Think he missed a check when Dunsmore motioned into play H-back, but he made up for it.|
|M32||3||1||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Heininger||1|
|NW goes tempo. Heininger(+2) takes on a double and holds, going to his knees in the backfield and absorbing both guys without budging. Martin(+1) is single blocked. He stands his guy up and sheds inside to meet the RB a yard on the backfield. Momentum from him and a blitzing Morgan coming from behind gets the pile to the LOS but no farther.|
|M31||4||In||Pistol 2-back offset big||46 bear||Run||N/A||Speed option||Roh||-1|
|Roh(+3) takes on the playside TE and sheds him to the outside, then shoots up on Persa, forcing the pitch. Getting a forced pitch from a blocked guy is clutch here. Before the snap, Kovacs motions to Morgan, who takes a step shortside and then starts flowing hard; he takes the leading fullback's block, leaving Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) alone on the corner with the pitchback, who he cuts to the ground in the backfield. Watch Kovacs take the lighting quick path to the ballcarrier after the pitch. Baller. Also make no mistake: this is Roh's play at its heart.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 7-14, 8 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Floyd||6|
|There by alignment with no one on the the slot and Morgan reacting to the zone fake. Floyd does as well as he can to get into the blocker at about five yards but help can't converge for seven. RPS -1|
|O24||2||4||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Johnson||9|
|Another bubble by alignment; Gordon is over the slot but in these situations the guy grabs it and goes right up the hash, where there is no one. Johnson eventually fills and makes a dodgy tackle. RPS -1|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Johnson||7|
|Exact same thing as NW goes tempo. RPS -1. Better tackle from Johnson.|
|O40||2||3||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Morgan(-1, cover -1) is now paranoid about the bubble, though he's not aligned any better, and starts outside as NW runs actual patterns. Slant is wide open. Persa throws it; Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) bats it down as he's come inside on a stunt.|
|O40||3||3||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Pass||5||Drag||Martin||19|
|Zone blitz sees Martin left in man coverage on Dunsmore on a drag. That goes about how you would expect. (Cover -1, RPS -1)|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Pass||4||Fade||Countess||39|
|No pressure(-2); huge pocket for Persa to step into. Countess(-1, cover -1) gets flat beat on a go route and is a step and a half behind the WR; even though it's a little underthrown and definitely in the defeat-Michael-Floyd zone he cannot catch up and gives up the big completion. Does get a hand on an arm, but it's that half step that kills him.|
|M2||1||G||Shotgun trips 2back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Speed option||Gordon||2|
|Covered WR with Colter in. RB motions to the other side; Kovacs goes with him. Speed option to the plentiful WR side. Gordon(-1), Demens(-1), and Floyd(-1) get blown up and after Ryan forces the pitch the RB walks into the endzone. This is clever by NW: Kovacs is the guy with the pitchman so they get him out of the picture and exploit the LBs. RPS -1.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown,14-21, 2 min 2nd Q. This was pretty terrible on Mattison's part. Bubble bubble bubble Martin on drag no answer for option.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O48||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Roh||16|
|Martin(+1, pressure +1) goes right around the center and gets a hurry as Roh drops off and Morgan comes. Another zone blitz gets burned by the drag route as Roh cannot keep pace with Colter, RPS -1.|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Comeback||--||13|
|No pressure(-2); Persa has plenty of time to survey and find the deep comeback coming open. Gordon the nearest guy but not really on him.|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Morgan||16|
|Morgan(-1, cover -1) beaten easily by Colter. Morgan(-1, tackling -1) then fails to tackle. Quick throw leaves little time for pressure but the lack of push from the DL is worrying. Why is Morgan in the game against a spread offense when you have Hawthorne available, especially on a two-minute drill?|
|M7||1||G||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Demens||4|
|Black(-1) doesn't get upfield, causing a pull. If he was crashing on a scrape that's one thing. Here he's in no-man's land. Demens(+1) sets up a lineman, getting into him and then pushing out into the space Persa occupies; Gordon(+0.5) also flows down to help tackle, though he had an easy time of it because Colter didn't even bother blocking.|
|M3||2||G||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel press||Run||5||Snag||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Pick play designed to beat man coverage. It does so but Persa is late, allowing Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) to recover and knock the ball out as it arrives. Pressure(-1) not getting to Persa.|
|M3||3||G||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Post||Johnson||Inc|
|Three man rush gets nowhere (pressure -1); Johnson(-1, cover -1) gets outside and opens up the post. Persa hits him; dropped.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 14-24, EOH. Refs are idiots about the time either way here.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ryan||-1|
|Ryan back at LB instead of DE and hanging out over the slot. They run a speed option; Ryan flies up on the edge. It kind of looks like he comes up on the QB and has just given the pitchman the edge but Persa doesn't think so, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Ryan's(+2) excellent positioning prevents a pitch, forces Persa to cut it up, and results in nothing thanks to RVB(+1) and Martin(+0.5) flowing down the line well.|
|O39||2||11||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Sack||Martin||-5|
|Persa apparently looking at a hitch Floyd(+1, cover +1) has covered; he hesitates and never gets a second read because Martin(+2) bull-rushed the center back into him and Roh(+2) came under the left tackle; the two combine to sack. (Pressure +2) Hawthorne appears to have the TE seam covered; Countess is way off the hitch on the other side of the field.|
|O34||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Seam||Van Bergen|
|Van Bergen(+2, pressure +2) rips through the RG and gets immediate pressure up the center of the field. Persa fires too far in front of his receiver; Johnson nearly digs out the pick. Route was a seam or skinny post that Gordon(+1, cover +1) was in coverage on; incidental contact with the feet caused the WR to fall. He looked in pretty good position, FWIW.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-24, 9 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||--||6|
|Yay. Ryan is on the wide side slot but there's still no one over the short side, so they throw it. With Floyd playing very soft, no chance this doesn't pick up a pretty decent gain. Hawthorne does well to get out there and push him out before it's eight, I guess. RPS -1.|
|O24||2||4||Shotgun empty||4-3 under||Pass||4||Rollout||--||9|
|No one on the edge (pressure -2) and Persa can run or throw for the first. He chooses the throw, hitting the second receiver, who's drifting outside of Demens's zone. (Cover -1) Countess makes a quick tackle.|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||--||6|
|argh argh argh. Ryan blitzes off the corner; Persa sees this and immediately throws the bubble without a mesh point. Gordon(+1) is the only guy out there. He gets into the slot guy at the LOS, getting outside and forcing a cutback, then disconnects to tackle after just five. RPS -1.|
|O41||2||4||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Pass||5||Drag||Hawthorne||Int|
|Michigan tempoed and not aligned at the snap. Zone blitz gets Demens in but Martin(-1) has vacated his lane and Demens can't do anything about it as Persa steps up into the pocket. Receiver is moving to give Persa an option; he throws it to him for what will be seven yards and a first down if it doesn't derp off the guy's pads, allowing Hawthorne(+1) to make a diving interception.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 28-24, 1 min 3rd Q. Dude... how was this not overturned? Poopin' magic yo.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O19||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||6|
|Michigan spread out with LBs shaded over the slots so NW hits them inside. Martin(-1) fights through a block way upfield and opens up a big hole in the middle. Demens(-0.5) and Ryan(-0.5) sit back and accept blocks but at least they combine to force the guy into a tackle.|
|O25||2||4||Shotgun empty||4-3 even||Pass||4||Hitch||Countess||6|
|Schmidt motions out; there is a bunch to the wide side and then the RB outside of them. Quick hitch to the RB that Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) actually deflects, but the ball still goes right to the RB. Countess(-1, cover -1) is really soft, giving up the first down despite the ball taking a long time to get there because of the deflection.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||10|
|Floyd(-1, cover -1) beaten pretty clean by Ebert; this is a five yard route on which Floyd is at the sticks on the catch. Ebert picks up the rest of the first down as a result.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||2|
|Martin(+1) and Heininger(+1) hold up to blocks, closing off holes up the middle of the field. Mark manages to pick his way through little gaps for a few yards, but that will happen.|
|O43||2||8||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||5||Fly||Floyd||Inc (Pen +15)|
|Floyd in press; Michigan zone blitzes behind it. Gordon gets in free (pressure +1, RPS +1); Persa throws it to the fly route without really knowing if it's open. Floyd is there, gets his head around, and seems to break up the pass... and gets flagged. On replay, yes, he got his hand on the shoulder pad and prevented the guy from jumping for the ball. I'll take that though, since it's subtle and you can miss it. I still have to (-1, cover -1)|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Ryan||4|
|Finally something that looks like defense. Gordon(+0.5) flows up hard and Ryan gets outside of the slot blocker as Demens reads the throw and gets out there usefully. Ryan gets cut under; Gordon and Demens are there to tackle. As the WR is digging for an extra half yard Gordon(+3) strips the ball loose.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 35-24, 12 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Demens||5|
|M sitting back in an obvious four-man-rush zone as they work to not blow it; grades handed out with that in mind. Persa hits Colter underneath on a drag; Demens(+1, tackling +1) comes up to tackle immediately.|
|O36||2||5||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Hawthorne||9|
|Hawthorne(-0.5) comes up on a not very convincing run fake and opens the slant up for a first down.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Gordon||6|
|Glerb. M blitzes into the sweep and Gordon(-1) widens out to blow it up; he misses the tackle(-1). This makes good play from Hawthorne and Demens to get outside their blockers bad play and the DL, slanting away from this on the snap, cannot pursue fast enough to prevent a gain.|
|M49||2||4||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Circle||Floyd||6|
|Circle route high-lows the corner and Floyd sinks, opening up the short stuff.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||3||Cross||Gordon||Inc|
|Line slants right and Black drops off into a short zone... I think one of the LBs forgot to blitz. This means Persa has acres of space; he steps up and zings it to Colter... behind him. First down otherwise. (Pressure -2, cover -1)|
|M43||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Johnson||5|
|Late-arriving WR doesn't actually get into position so NW has five in the backfield. No call. These refs are idiots. NW throws the bubble and Michigan is finally playing it well. Gordon(+1) gets into the slot guy at the LOS in a good spot to force the WR upfield; Demens flows but misses; Johnson(+1) comes into finish with a good hit.|
|M38||3||5||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 press||Pass||4||Hitch||Countess||Inc|
|Michigan in tight man on the first down line; Persa's first read is Floyd(+1, cover +1), which is not a good idea. Second is Countess, still not a great idea but gotta throw it, so he does; Countess(+2, cover +1) breaks it up.|
|M38||4||5||Shotgun trips bunch||3-3-5 press||Pass||5||Sack||Kovacs||-10|
|Mattison sends Kovacs on a crazy ninja blitz from way deep; at the snap he's hurtling at the LOS at full speed. The seas part. Kovacs goes too high, though, and Persa ducks under his tackle. Tackle attempt pulls the helmet off, though, and that's a sack. RPS +2, Pressure +3—this was instant. Kovacs... +1, results based charting. And well timed blitz. Also wag of the high tackle finger. Gordon(+1, cover +1) breaks up the desperate improv throw Persa gets off after the helmet incident.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 35-24, 7 min 4th Q. Northwestern's last drive is down 18 with 2 minutes left and is not charted.|
SECOND HALF DOMINANCE
Er. So. I don't really think so.
Yes, yes, probably, but the things that happened in the second half were:
- Three and out, one contained speed option, two incompletions thanks to DL pressure.
- Bubble, easy rollout hitch, bubble, drag route for first down that bounces off receiver's numbers to Hawthorne (sort of).
- Inside zone, hitch, hitch, Inside zone (defensed!), legit pass interference on deep ball, bubble leads to fumble.
- Hurry up pass mode w/ Michigan in soft zone, drive ends with Persa IN, five-yard bubble, and two good plays by the D.
So… the move to have Ryan in the slot didn't really slow down the bubbles, which went for 6, 6, 4, and 5 yards. This is better than the 8 they seemed to average in the first half, but it is not a thunderous shutdown of the spread.
There were three drives on which NW was actually running its offense. On one the adjustment got a speed option contained and then Michigan got some pressure. On two NW has just picked up its second easy first down if the WR doesn't bat it into the sky. On three they have second and six after picking up a couple first downs when Gordon yanks the ball loose. What happens if the WR doesn't DROPX the drag? If Ebert's knee is down? What is your confidence level that Michigan is going to stop Persa & Co. if these things don't happen?
VERY HIGH THANK YOU
Wait… are you Joe Paterno?
NO I AM YOUR FILTHY IRISH ALTER-EGO
I see. So… what I am saying is that the vaunted second half adjustments are little data being made big and what we saw in the first half was very frustrating to me. How do you stop a bubble aligned like this?
You don't. On Northwestern's final touchdown drive they ran three straight bubbles for 22 free yards. This is 2011. You should not have to adjust to the staple constraint play of the spread 'n' shred.
Yes, well… I don't want to make too little data big again. I sure as hell don't know 10% of what he does and rushing to judgment about what Michigan's defense will look like once he's had them for three years is stupid. Mattison uber alles.
HOWEVA, it seemed like he was caught off guard by the spread 'n' shred. He's been in the NFL for three years but he was also the DC at Florida and Notre Dame over the increasingly spread-mad last decade of college football, so he should be familiar with it.
Were players not reacting appropriately? Maybe. Late the secondary did get more aggressive and helped hold the bubbles down. But that was the difference between 8 (or even 13) yards and 4-6. As I was UFRing this I was again thinking of Magee describing his philosophy, or rather WVU's defensive philosophy: they run the stack because it's built to stop the spread. Maybe Michigan needs a three-man-line package for games like this?
In any case, Mattison's admittedly hypothetical inability to deal with the spread 'n' shred in year one of his regime is a moot point. The remainder of Michigan's opponents are either pro-style (MSU, Iowa, sort of OSU), triple option (Illinois, Nebraska), or so incompetent it shouldn't matter (Purdue). I'm a bit worried that Fickell is installing a ton of bubbles right now, though.
DO YOU FIND THIS DEEPLY IRONIC
That Michigan can't defend a bubble but won't run a stretch because it's not preparing you for the Big Ten? Kinda. /ducks
I REQUIRE NOTES OF THE HUN
|Van Bergen||10||-||10||Pressure and PBUs. I enjoy his contributions.|
|Martin||10||2||8||Not as many plays as you might want but it's hard when everything goes outside.|
|Roh||6||2||4||Fourth down play; needs moar pass rush.|
|Heininger||3.5||-||3.5||No real problems, but not tested much.|
|Black||-||1||-1||Not much PT.|
|TOTAL||30.5||5||25.5||Step back from last couple weeks.|
|Demens||5.5||9.5||-4||Did not get outside even on speed options.|
|Hawthorne||4.5||4||0.5||One big error on dive; good in coverage.|
|TOTAL||13||21||-8||Major problems containing.|
|Floyd||3||3||0||Push is good against Persa.|
|Kovacs||4||1||3||Mostly neutralized because he had to try to tackle two dudes.|
|T. Gordon||8.5||2.5||6||Fumble half of the plus.|
|Countess||2||2||0||Beaten deep once, but also a push.|
|Johnson||1.5||4||-2.5||Not as bad as you might have thought.|
|TOTAL||20||14||6||Wow. I mean, no long stuff, right? Except the one.|
|Coverage||13||15||-2||Not bad. Some issues getting RPSed.|
|Tackling||4||6||40%||Not a good day; this is what the spread tries to do.|
|RPS||4||15||-11||Killed by easy bubbles.|
So… I ended up thinking that it was crazy that none of the linebackers could contain on the outside and hardly tried. When people keep leverage and force the guy inside, as Johnson did and Kovacs did and Gordon did, and there is no one to clean up from the inside that is a problem with a linebacker, and that linebacker was more often than not Demens. An example from Blue Seoul:
Seoul says Gordon has to do a better job getting off the block but he forces this upfield at the numbers and there is no linebacker to clean up; backside guy Hawthorne is even with Demens.
Seoul also caught my complaint about Demens on one of the option touchdowns:
Okay, Johnson missed. He missed to the inside, at which point a good D rallies to tackle.
Here a slow-reacting Demens gets caught up in an OL and cut to the ground. This is not even a triple option, it's a speed option, so, like… go. I've been taunting other LBs for being too aggressive this year but this is the alternative.
Demens did have a good blitz or two, FWIW.
The rest of the chart is basically as expected. No safety got burned on the pass and the missed tackles from Johnson were not too bad; he is still a clear downgrade from the starters. Van Bergen and Martin are high quality players; Roh is doing better but we still need more pass rush from both defensive ends. The cornerbacks are much improved but still not outstanding. Michigan got about a push in both pressure (four sacks but also a number of plays on which Persa had a ton of time or broke contain) and cover, and Mattison was slayed dead on RPS.
What was with the option success?
If you were suspecting that Heiko was the guy who asked this of Mattison…
Northwestern ran the veer option with a lot of success against this defense, and there seemed to be some confusion with the assignments. For those plays, whose assignment is the quarterback, and who has the pitch man? “That’s why people run the veer option. And again, to play an option team, you have to be very very disciplined. You have to really feel confident in what you’re doing, and it’s happening really fast. There was a number of times where you might have seen Jake go down and hit the dive. Well, our ends had the quarterback all day, so right away you knew, ‘Uh oh,” and sure enough, now you have two guys on the dive and nobody on the quarterback, and that’s why people run that offense. It taxes young guys. It really does. So your next thought is to stunt it a little bit, move it a little bit, to try to make a play, and that quarterback was pretty good. Fortunately we settled down in the second half and the guys said, ‘Okay I got it now.’ Every guy that made a mistake like that during the game, they came out, they looked right at you, and they went, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘I know, too! That’s 20 yards down the field.’ But I was really proud of them.”
If you had to defend them again, who would be assigned to whom? “We do the same thing. The only thing we do differently, if we defended it again, is we would play it more honest like you’re supposed to and not cheat to take away one part of the game and not the other.”
Did Kovacs have the pitch man? “That was his job. When you’re playing the option and you’re playing man coverage, there’s a guy with a blocker on him. A guy who has man coverage and still is supposed to get off and try to make that play. Well if you’re stronger, better, faster, you can throw that guy away and make that play. So we had Jordan going through the alley, meaning he would go dive, quarterback, to pitch, and he made some good plays on it.”
…you are wise in the ways of how MGoBlog differs from other media. I wanted to know how Michigan planned to defend the option so I thought I'd have Heiko ask and Mattison gave a terrific, useful answer*. So now we know that…
…defensive ends were a big problem. QB outside of DE without pitching is a problem. Here Kovacs gets a 2-for-1 by forcing a pitch and still getting out on the RB, but Colter would learn from this and juke Kovacs on his first touchdown run. I don't blame Kovacs much, if at all, because he's on the edge against two guys. Forcing it back inside and getting any tackle attempt at all is better than letting the pitch guy walk in.
It wasn't all bad for Roh:
That is one of the plays of the game and it happens because he beats a block to force a pitch and allows Kovacs to do what Kovacs does best: take a great angle at speed.
Ryan had similar problems, and then there is the Demens complaining. So: better play from the DEs to force the play inside of them or at least force a quick pitch and getting those linebackers to the edge more quickly.
*[How much does everyone love the coordinator pressers? One million points worth, right? I mean, they give it to you straight and give you actual information and reassure you that the guys in charge are really smart.]
Yes, again this week:
When those guys miss their tackles there is no one within 15 yards. Result: 20 yard return.
Martin, Van Bergen, and Gordon. Gordon's strip was a 100% player-generated turnover that is a reason to believe they are being coached on these things.
Demens, and the inability to line up to defend a bubble.
What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?
Well, I'll be extremely nervous when we come up against Nebraska and Ohio State since their mobile quarterbacks could force us into situations that will exploit the same things. I just watched that game and it doesn't seem like either team spends a lot of time threatening bubbles; both enjoyed themselves some pistol offset stuff with Nebraska having great success running the inverted veer out of that diamond formation becoming all the rage. Either could gameplan for the M game—Ohio State might well start preparing whatever package they think will beat M because it's not like they have anything else to play for.
As for this weekend, Michigan State is the opposite of Northwestern and the 4-3 under will be a much more comfortable fit against State's largely pro-style offense. HOWEVA, we have seen State prepare special packages for M since time immemorial and one of the recent ones was a trips-TE bubble package that exploited M in 2008 like whoah. If that's still on the shelf they might bring it out and force Michigan to line up against it. HOWEVA HOWEVA, that year they could run the ball; this year M might be able to defend it without giving up those pitches that killed them that year.
- Michigan continued to prove the secondary is much improved and the safeties are for real, especially the starters.
- Heininger held up pretty well, caveats about limited tests included.
[Editor's Note: I was going to do a jet sweep post but got beaten to it by BWS. His conclusion is pretty harsh to Demens, and some of that is deserved. I don't see that as a specifically Demens problem, though. EMU used a ton of formations, unbalanced lines, presnap motion, and wholesale realignments to get Michigan's D out of position and confused. It worked. It worked on Demens and it worked on large chunks of the rest of the D. I think they're confused as a group.
That taken care of I'll move on to one of EMU's completed passes, which answers a question from earlier in the year.]
In the first week of the season we discussed Michigan's End Man On The Line Of Scrimmage (EMLOS is the commonly accepted jargon) and how his performance was hurting Michigan against power runs, particularly the counters that both WMU and Notre Dame used to good effect.
Part of that discussion was about how much Brennen Beyer was at fault for getting way upfield on our first example. Beyer was sent on a blitz, ended up three yards in the backfield, and made it difficult for Kenny Demens to close down a major hole. Demens lost contain, compounding matters. How much of that was on Beyer?
I thought the answer was "quite a bit" and the way Michigan handled a particular play-action showing the same counter action seems to confirm. It's the first quarter and EMU is on its second drive. They've got a first and ten. They line up in a three-wide shotgun with two backs; Michigan aligns in the under.
On the snap two things are apparent based on the Michigan line: 1) Jibreel Black v(top of line) is dropping off into a short zone and Jake Ryan (bottom) is blitzing as the rest of the line slants left:
EMU is pulling the backside G; the RB is taking a counter step, and the other RB is coming down the line to block. This is a close analogue to the Beyer counter. You'll notice that both linebackers are still waiting.
Here's how Ryan handles this:
LEFT: he reads the pulling OL.
MIDDLE: he flattens his approach and starts coming down the line.
RIGHT: he's in the running lane playside of the block, not kicked out.
Here's Beyer vs Ryan:
Beyer is three yards upfield. Ryan is two. You can't tell this in the stills but Ryan's momentum is also much better. He is heading down the line and can impact a blocker with force. Beyer had to come to a full stop and redirect. He did that impressively; it was not enough.
Move Beyer a yard towards the LOS in the left frame and he is either making a tackle for no gain or picking off the other blocker, leaving the RB for an unblocked Demens. Look at the distance between the DE/LBs and the DTs. Even though RVB is fighting playside in the left frame and slanting away from the play in the right, the gap is much larger in the former. Win for Ryan.
Great! Except the tailback doesn't have the ball.
Gillette rolls out as Ryan comes underneath the tackle and three WRs release to the roll side:
Ryan's there to provide some token pressure but it's not enough; a WR running deeper than Demens and Gordon finds a window. Gillette throws…
…for a nice gain.
Items of interest
Just because you're blitzing doesn't mean you don't have keys. My assumption is that Ryan is the guy doing what the coaches want here. He's got a year of experience, Michigan's been burned by this before and probably made a point of it in film study, and he's playing instead of Beyer (mostly).
You're sent on a blitz and get no resistance at all? Check for a pulling OL and get inside of him.
Just because there's obviously a key here doesn't mean there aren't more. The RB's second step here should be a giveaway that this is not a run play. My guess at Ryan's thought process:
- BLITZ WOO crap check the…
- Pulling G. Have to get inside pulling G to occupy blockers, restrict hole.
- Pulling G.
- Token, too late edge pressure.
My guess at the ideal thought process:
- I have been assigned a blitz. Let's soberly check the…
- Pulling G. Have to get inside pulling G to occupy blockers, restrict hole. Hmm, maybe I should check the…
- Running back. He is past the mesh point but not following the pulling guys.
- EDGE PRESSURE WOO
"Football is hard." -psychology majors who used to be pre-med
I'm not too bothered by the hole in the zone. Once Ryan loses the edge there that's a lot of time for the QB to sit and wait for his WR to run his way into an inevitable gap. I guess you could blame either Gordon or Demens, probably Gordon. He could sink back into the route by reading the QB's eyes and either get a PBU/pick or, more likely, force a less-damaging dumpoff to the underneath receiver.
That seems like Advanced Zone Mechanics 486, though. That's a place to get to eventually.
Kovacs is the free safety. Gordon/whoever rolls down into the box far more often than Kovacs does and it's almost always Kovacs who's coming down to fill against WRs when completions are made.
Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith
When you guys went exclusively to running in second half, how much of that was by design, and how much of that was your reads? Denard: “Reads. I mean, most of the time it was just reads, and that’s what happened.”
Why did that happen? How did this game turn into having to run the ball a lot in order to win the game? Denard: “We just go with the flow of the game, and what happens happened.” Smith: “The big guys up front, they did an excellent job of blocking, and we just took what the defense gave us. Eastern came out and played a good game of football.”
Vince, how many carries can you handle per game? Smith: “Whatever the team needs to win, I’m there. However many carries I need for my team to win, that’s how many carries I can handle.”
You had more than 100 yards rushing, which is usually really good for a running back. Is it intimidating that your quarterback has nearly twice that? Smith: “Not at all. We don’t even look at it that way. It’s whatever for the team. If we need the quarterback to score a touchdown [rather] than the running back -- we both compliment each other on the game.”
Can you comment on your slow start on offense and how important the 97-yard TD drive was? Denard: “We came out a little flat, but on the 97-yard drive, we picked up some momentum, and that kept us going the entire game.”
Does starting slow bother you? Denard: “We wanted to come out fast, and that’s what we’ve been focusing on everyday. Talking about coming out fast and getting off to a good start.”
Is there a reason? Denard: “No, there’s no reason. There’s no reason for it.”
Can you comment on Thomas Gordon’s 1-handed INT? Smith: “I saw it from the big screen. It was a great catch.” Denard: “When he first came in my freshman year I saw him do crazy stuff like that, so I knew he could do it.”
Can you breakdown the TD pass to Dileo, and can you talk about other throws today where you were off? Denard: “The pass to Drew Dileo. It’s a read, basically. I just read it out, and he came open and I gave it to him.”
Vince, do you feel like you have to prove you’re an every down back? Smith: “Just like I said, it’s all about the team. Whenever we needed a running back to step up when the game’s not going well, we feel like whatever for the team. Somebody’s going to step up and get the job done.”
How did you feel about your performance in passing game? Denard: “I mean, I always have time for improvement and room for improvement, so that’s the biggest room.”
Coach wanted to get tailbacks going. How big was it to get Vince going? Denard: “It was big, I mean, when he starts running well, they start crashing down on him, I can get the ball and read it out and get the ball and run some. When things like that start happening, it’s kind of hard for the defense to stop.”
What do you think you need to do better in passing game? Denard: “Come back on Sunday and come to work. Do everything coach tells me to do.”
Anything you want to address specifically? Denard: “We’ll see on film. Have to see the film first.”
Did you feel like you’re seeing the receivers and the passing lanes all right? Denard: “Oh yeah, oh yeah. We’ve been practicing for weeks, so I can see pretty good.” Looked to me like you were throwing behind guys a lot. “No. I don’t think -- no.”
Your numbers were like some games last year. Did you feel like last year or was it different? Denard: “I don’t know. I get caught up in the game, so whatever’s going on is going on.”
You had that one long run where you cut across the field. What did you see? Denard: “Which one are you talking about?” It was your longest run, I believe. It was 53-yarder or something? “I was kind of being patient. I thought ‘Tree was probably going to push the guy down or something. I should have just sped up and gotten up there and not taken the side.”
After the Notre Dame game, was it a little bit tough to get going in a noon game? Denard: “Everybody was just getting ready for the game. We had Kevin Koger in the locker room talking to us. We call him Hypeman86. We were just ready to go. We have another chance to play football, and that’s what we’ve been working on all summer.”
(more after the jump)