[PROGRAMMING NOTE: Due to a three-pronged failure in various systems I lost the first half of UFR and had to re-do it. I tried, but couldn't get it done for today. 2x UFR tomorrow.]
Minnesota's offense struggled to move the ball most of Saturday. When they did move it was often because Michigan was in a difficult position against spread principles. For example: on Minnesota's first snap, Michigan slid their linebackers way to the field against a trips formation and gave up five yards when the tailback cut all the way behind the defensive line.
I'm not sure if this is actually a problem Michigan should fix or if they're taking away certain things that would otherwise be open and will just open up another hole in the dam. In certain cases, anyway. I caught a second-quarter run—at twelve yards, Minnesota's long run of the day—on which Michigan's alignment had them in trouble from the start. Since the Big Ten Network was running an uncommonly large number of useful replays, we can take a look at it from the end zone.
From the dead center of the field Minnesota comes out in a pistol formation with two backs flanking the quarterback. Minnesota has two WRs not shown. When Blue Seoul was pumping out With Pics on the regular he would often point out presnap alignment issues, and Michigan has one here.
This is a balanced formation right smack in the middle of the field, but note that the linebackers are shifted to the left—Demens is left of the center; Morgan is inside the tackle to the right while Ryan is well outside. The line is also shifted left: Washington is inside the guard, Campbell outside. As a result you can draw a line with five Minnesota players to one side and three Michigan defenders:
Minnesota will run at this, running the back on the left across the QB and pulling a guard to keep that two-man advantage as the center uses his angle to take care of Campbell.
Before the mesh point a few things are clear: the three backside defenders are basically nonentities. Demens has a shot, maybe, but he's getting a free release from a tackle with an excellent angle and is in tough. The two backs are available to take on Clark and Morgan.
At the mesh point and just after, two things. First, Clark:
Clark dives inside the pack trying to get him, which could be a valid move. The second frame there has a pulling guard; if Clark hits him that's two blockers on one guy. Because Michigan was badly aligned that still won't matter, though. Minnesota will run this later at Keith Heitzman; Heitzman will do the same thing and peg the QB, so this was what Mattison wanted… sort of. I'll explain below what he actually wanted, probably.
He eats a block, but I'm not even mad when he eats a guy before it's even clear who has the ball. Even if he reads the play on the snap this guy probably gets him since he's got a great angle; if the tackle doesn't the pulling guard literally has no one to block so Demens will again feel the wrath of two different OL on the same play. If Demens is at fault it's for presnap stuff involving this alignment that gets him in trouble.
By the time the back breaks outside, it doesn't really matter what Morgan does, the play is getting yards, whether it's inside or out.
But man you still shouldn't get hewed to the ground like this and give up the edge:
It was faintly possible that Washington, who beat a down block, gets in some sort of tackle attempt, and you also wouldn't be forcing Kovacs to get on his horse outside like he does. Note that Raymon Taylor is also on his knees after eating a cut block:
Kovacs has to take an awkward angle around that block and misses the tackle as a result. He does get the guy off balance; Taylor recovers.
Things And Stuff
I don't really have a big theme here. Often these posts are attempts to explain a general trend—like Michigan not blocking anyone against Nebraska—with some concrete examples. This is just a thing that happened and probably doesn't mean much of anything. These things pop up from time to time; the defense is still really good.
If there is a theme it's that these things tend to get fixed, as we'll see in the next bullet.
Clark is less good at defending the run than other folk/Mattison adjusts fast. There are two main differences between this and a –1 yard run later in the game off this same play. One is Heitzman. Watch the defensive end to the bottom of the screen:
That may be a different playcall that causes Beyer to move down on the tackle and prevent him from releasing. It is more useful than what Clark does above. While that's not a two for one the guy taking Demens is now the pulling guard, who takes a lot longer to get out on him. That allows Demens to get outside of him; a gap further inside James Ross is also playside of that tackle when he finally releases.
The other difference is of course JMFR, who demonstrates what the coaches are talking about when they call him an "unorthodox" player by taking a cut block hard and still managing to fling his off-balance body at the RB for a TFL.
Even if that does not happen Michigan has this covered as this chain…
- Beyer holds up T
- Demens beats pulling G to outside
- Back bounces it outside
- Gordon runs past RB with no angle now
…has an unblocked guy waiting to clean up if'n Ryan isn't a wizard or something.
These things tend to get fixed. Note that Michigan's alignment above is even instead of slid to one side or the other.
I am sorry to remind you of our shared, dark past, but remember the GERG defenses when Michigan would frequently get annihilated by the same thing over and over again? In the Oh God Justin Siller game (to be fair, a GERG defense only in spirit, not in letter) it was ten yard outs over and over. In the 2010 Wisconsin game I think the Badgers ran power 28 straight times in the second half, and I am not even sure that's a joke. One of the most frustrating aspects of Michigan's terrible terrible defenses pre-Mattison were the times when the same thing just kept working.
Here Michigan gets burned for a first down. The next two snaps they see out of this formation are runs that go for zero and –1 yards. That's why there's not a theme, because the things that seem to be dodgy with this defense are pure talent issues. Michigan doesn't have an elite pass-rusher or a lot of speed in the secondary. This leads to lots of attempted deep bombs that have not come off yet, mostly.
Minnesota backs and receivers can really cut block. Seriously, our guys could learn something from the Gophers in that department. Michigan CBs and LBs hit the ground a lot in this game, even if sometimes they got up like an unkillable zombie and made the tackle anyway.
Washington: pretty good. He couldn't do anything about the 12 yarder above; he did get off a block and pursue in case he could.
Jeremy Gallon continues to find new ways to confound defenses. First, it was the cloaking device, which made its spectacular debut against Notre Dame last year. Now, he's moved on to rocket shoes:
Dubious legality? Admittedly, yes. Fantastic results? Oh, indeed.
[The rest of the Minnesota game in gifs is after THE JUMP. WARNING: Jake Ryan nightmare fuel ahead.]
I've got to get on a plane shortly so shortly the links will go.
Brief thoughts on the first exhibition:
- Albrecht is an extremely wise pickup; if he can hit threes and break the press and get M's offense in motion he'll be at least a solid backup for four years. Michigan needed some stability at that PG spot and he looks like he'll provide it.
- Stauskas is going to be a lights out three point shooter and he has enough other game to contribute to the rest of the offense; D needs work.
- McGary's FTs will probably be fine, his stroke looks good. Hopefully that leg injury clears up and he gets that extra 10% athleticism that made him a huge prospect after his AAU season.
- GRIII is Branden Dawson-ish with more shooting and less rebounding but probably not much less rebounding.
- Hardaway played a much more complete game than we're used to seeing. Thumbs up.
- Know Your Foe from the MZone says "must resist making little Brown Jugs" joke at picture of hot woman in brown bikini, predicts 28-10.
- Who Are You And Why Do We Care exists, predicts on non-football factors, does so 38-13.
- Maize and Go Blue goes with 37-10.
- Maize and Blue Nation says 27-2, which I should have thought of.
- The Daily Gopher can't even find a jug picture where it's being held by a Minnesota player—RVB is the man—and goes with 31-13.
- I'm In Love With A Fringe Bowl Team has a mathematical model that says 33-23 and a non-gambler guy who picks Michigan to cover: "I would have loved to start this post recalling the last time the Gophers beat Michigan in Minnesota, but I don't remember it at all. This is mostly because it was five years before my birth."
Kovacs is a truthful dude. Post-Nebraska:
"A lot of it is the games we played," Kovacs said. "Air Force didn't necessarily throw the ball on us a lot, and Alabama didn't have to.
"There's some open receivers last game that (quarterback Taylor) Martinez didn't see. There were a couple blitzes we ran, and we had a guy running down the middle of the field wide open. Can't let that happen. We've been fortunate they haven't hit 'em yet."
So that means the secondary is playing at a high level, but maybe not its highest level?
"I don't know," Kovacs said. "I think we're playing all right. I think last game we didn't play well enough at all, specifically the defensive backs."
- Well, yeah. Gibbons:
"I really don't groom that much," Gibbons said, smiling.
Now he's going to bleed on you, Baumgardner. Or more likely whoever wrote this headline:
Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Matt Vogrich could finally give John Beilein a consistent deep threat in Ann Arbor
Zack Novak shot 41% from three last year, and whenever he gets back from wrecking Belgium he's going to be ANGAR. Elsewhere, Spike Albrecht is called "mini Steve Nash," which is definitely not getting ahead of ourselves and headline guy is definitely going to put a "got" in between the first two words of this one after a loss at some point this year:
Youth served: Michigan's talented freshmen five show ability, poise in college debut
Falk on Jug. Not like that.
Whatever that might mean.
Seriously, they can do this? Whenver M plays at Northern I think the exact same thing Yost Built does:
Unlike SOME SCHOOLS THAT I KNOW OF, Northern offers streaming video of their games for $7. You can also buy a season pass for $75, and if you're reading this blog, don't have season tickets, and claim that you wouldn't fork out that much for a Michigan version of the same thing, I will call you a damn liar. It's 2012 and this is Michigan fergodsakes. We shouldn't have less access to video of games than Northern Michigan fans. Just saying.
I've watched three or four games at NMU the past few years, and M hockey fans outside of the local area can't get one.
Meanwhile, MHN highlights the scheduling thing we'll hear all season:
LAST TRIP TO MARQUETTE?
The Mining Journal’s Matt Wellens talked to NMU coach Walt Kyle about scheduling the Wolverines in the future. Kyle is open to the idea, however it must be on “fair terms.” By that he means a basic home-and-home series where the Wolverines would travel to NMU one year and NMU would return the favor the next year. He is not open to two-for-ones and payout deals.
Honestly, good for NMU.
Etc.: Stuffing the Passer. Michigan expects lack of goalie ejections at Northern Michigan. Yost Built previews NMU. NCAA dooms Midwest regional to 20 people in stands for 13th year of 14 by giving it to Cincinnati, which has one program (Miami) within a four hour drive. Leitch should totally ditch the Knicks. Catching up with Hunwick.
Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs
What was so formidable about your opponent today?
Denard: “They’re a great team. They’re a great defensive team, too. And so they played great. Toward the end that’s when we started picking it up. We talked about all week finishing, so that’s what we did. We finished out the end of the game, and we kept fighting the whole game. We never let up.”
What does this moment feel like for you guys?
Kovacs: “It’s pretty good. It feels pretty good. And like Denard said, you have to tip your hat to those guys. Obviously they were struggling a little bit coming in, but we knew it was going to be a dogfight. That’s what the Michigan-Michigan State game is year in and year out. They have a tough defense. They pound the ball on offense. You have to tip your hat to them, but Michigan won today.”
Is this defense good enough to win the Big Ten?
Kovacs: “We believe it, but at the same time, I think if we play like this every week we’re going to be in trouble. We have to keep getting better. That’s one of the things coach Hoke and coach Mattison emphasize: never become complacent. Get better every week. That’s what we plan on doing, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The last defensive stand was sort of reminiscent of the last drive against Notre Dame. Did it feel like redemption or something similar to be able to get the stop this time?
Kovacs: “You know, that’s what I was thinking as we took the field. It’s our opportunity to redeem ourselves and give the offense the ball back. Same situation as Notre Dame, and today we executed. We stopped them when we needed to and made some big plays and got the offense the ball back and let Denard take over.”
Michigan's best DL, DB, LB / Upchurch
The point of our "draft-o-snark" this summer was to be cute while previewing the great players in our conference and trying to show where the Michigan Men™ fit among them. Now mid-way through the season we look back on those picks to see how smart your MGoBloggers were, and more importantly who are really the best players in the conference. Offense lives here (and comments are now turned on—oops about that). Googledoc spreadsheet of the draft is here. Part II is here:
Tackles (Bolding my selections for All-B1G)
Who's Winning: The defensive line was weirdly easy to predict. Short and Hankins have indeed been the best two tackles in the conference, and both are still mentioned among first round NFL picks for 2013 (Hankins is considered among the best in the draft). We got a nice comparison between Short and Akeem Spence (caveat: conditions) over the last two games and got to see the difference between the two-gapping Short who needs to be planned around, and the active Spence who doesn't often blow something up alone. Beau Allen has been a problem for Wisconsin, but Heiko's guys have been playing well. Roh's contributions, as mentioned yesterday, have been the kind that don't show up in the stats. He has been Michigan's best lineman.
At rush end, Simon should have better numbers but teams are isolating him or picking on OSU's secondary before he can disrupt much; he's seen as a 3rd or 4th round pick, behind Gholston and Buchanan. Gholston hasn't been the cheap trick Brian made him out to be, as he and Marcus Rush have been about evenly productive for State, however Michael Buchanan has notably passed Gholston in stats and in the eyes of the draft gurus. From here there's kind of a precipice. Ra'shede Hageman, Brian's late sleeper pick, got some press and made some draft boards, but production-wise there were plenty better sleepers left on the board. LT2 is now a tight end; I'm not at all unhappy about this.
Guys we should have drafted: I had Indiana's 3T/5T Adam Replogle higher on my draft chart, then stupidly went for flash with Lawrence Thomas. Stupid stupid 40 tackles, 7 TFLs, 5 sacks, Indiana's entire defense stupid. Iowa's defense has been sneaky good since they entered Big Ten play, in large part thanks to the play of DE Joe Gaglione (above), a 5th year senior who had just 7 tackles before 2012; this year he has 35, among them 9 TFLs and 4 sacks. Northwestern's Tyler Scott, a 3T/5T tweener, is making an All Big Ten bid with 6 sacks (28 tackles) plus a winning smile and all the right words to make the conference elders say "what a nice young man." Scott is tied for the sack lead with Nebraska's Eric Martin, who has been somewhat less grandpa-friendly.
DL Standings: 1. (Sigh) Heiko, whom I have to give credit for getting better than expected out of all for guys, 2. Seth, 3. Brian, 4. Northwestern, 5. Indiana, 6. Nebraska, 7. Indiana State, 8. Ace
[LBs, DBs, and special teams after the jump]
News bullets and other important items:
- Brandon Moore and Stephen Hopkins still have unclear injury status. They may or may not play Saturday.
- The staff is wearing the Chuckstrong t-shirts on the way to the stadium.
“Uh, thanks for coming. Good practice yesterday. Liked how we’re preparing right now. I think the intensity level hopefully will be the same today from an offensive standpoint. I think talking to Al, they got a lot of good work done yesterday. Defensively, I’d say the same thing. I think both coordinators were pleased. I mean, not happy, but pleased with the preparation that we have.”
Were the practices as good as they were last week?
“Uh, I think it was comparable. I think coming off the bye week and not playing for a week, I think you always have a little more intensity it seems like. I think they’re comparable.”