maybe i should have had greg howard write the brandon obit.
If you're like me, there was a point late in the first half of the Nebraska game where you went "argh Jibreel Black" because Taylor Martinez burst outside for a big gain. After last week, when Nathan Scheelhaase got a couple of big runs because the backside end was unfamiliar with the concept of the zone read, this was a natural reaction.
A closer view shows Black was duped, but understandably so.
It's first and ten for the Huskers on the first play of their fourth drive; They come out in a pistol formation with an H-back and two WRs. Michigan is in their usual under. They've got a lot of backups in: Black, Campbell, and Beyer are three of the five folk on the line. Black is to the top of the screen.
On the snap Nebraska runs a pistol version of Michigan's staple play (this week, anyway): the belly. On the belly an H-back or FB will shoot into the backside end and the opponent will try to attack the weak spot caused in the backside of the line.
Michigan's LBs are prepared, attacking backside, and Kovacs has walked down to provide an eighth guy in the box.
The eighth guy is usually the solution to bounce issues; here having Kovacs behind him allows Black to shuffle down the line in preparation for this very play.
Except… what if you told your fullback to read the play too?
This is the frame were thing start going wrong. The fullback has convinced Black he needs to squeeze this space down, and now he's juking outside after Black has gotten set to take him on.
Now there are problems. Black has just realized Martinez has the ball. He's inside the tackle box a yard upfield. Meanwhile, the fullback has released outside to get the contain guy.
Because this is Taylor Martinez versus a defensive end the corner will be achieved. Kovacs takes the blocker on, but this is Kovacs kryptonite. Dude runs at your face in space. Block him and he gets put on skates.
Kovacs does not have a real good time here as he ends up giving up leverage eight yards downfield. Floyd is late arriving because he is in man coverage over a guy going deep and has a 54-yard pass in the back of his head.
I don't think the linebackers did a stellar job here—there are a couple of frames where they can reach out and touch each other—but when the ball goes outside the numbers behind a blocker they aren't doing much no matter how well they play.
Martinez jets down the sidelines, where he's barely forced by Floyd.
Nebraska would get outside on the next play for 23 yards before a holding call and Jake Ryan stunning Martinez with his acceleration put Nebraska in a big hole; they would punt on fourth and forever.
Items of interest
This could just be a playcall but I think it's a read. Nebraska's offensive coordinator is a mad scientist tinkerer who pulls out inverted veer triple options and inverted veer to speed options and it's not like Nebraska can possibly be doing anything else in practice other than relentlessly repping the option game. So I think this is not an out and out call but the fullback and the quarterback both reading the DE doing his shuffle down the line and punishing him for it.
So… yeah, this isn't on Black. Black was optioned off by a clever play requiring coordination between multiple readers and would have been wrong no matter what. Kovacs rolling down to the outside should free him to defend the belly, which Black does until it's clear he's in trouble.
If Black goes outside Burkhead's roaring upfield with Kovacs pulled outside. That is much worse news than what actually happened.
Kovacs gets owned. Not to be too hard on him because like some of the other stuff Nebraska pulled out of their bag of tricks this is a situation where you're caught off guard by the play developing in front of you. Martinez pulls, and the thought process goes:
Okay: I have to get infield to cut off cutbacks and then if he tries to bounce I will use KOVACSPOWER to tackle him in the open field.
But then it goes:
What's this? A blocker? My one weakness! Nooooooooooo…
This happened with some frequency last year when Kovacs was rolled up to the line more frequently. Some fullback or OL would latch on and then just donkey him off the field. This is not a huge problem for a safety—it's much more important to be able to run at guys full speed without ever missing a tackle—but I don't think anyone was surprised when this scenario on the edge went poorly.
Confusing the hell out of Michigan was the only way Nebraska moved the ball. Nebraska got Michigan misaligned here and there, caught guys off guard here and there, and burned JT Floyd (and Thomas Gordon) on play action. Other than that they got almost literally nothing. Michigan destroyed them up front.
Yes, I did exhale "finally" when this happened. I have been pining for this play since about two seconds after the UConn game started. It seems evil, unfair. So why didn't Nebraska run it again? I don't know. Maybe they didn't have an opportunity what with the fumbles and Mike Martin destroying stuff before they could get back to it.
Michigan's been running a lot of blocking schemes like this and it never seems like the QB and TE/FB are on the same page. When we do get a shuffle scheme with linebacker contain and Koger moves to the second level to block, Denard biffs it. Other times a slot LB gets sent and Koger goes upfield to block the guy who is containing the handoff.
O let do it. Nevermind. Need to rep it.
Nebraska's offense might ignite at some point in the next couple years. Martinez is a sophomore and has a couple more years to get better at his reads, and you can see pieces here and there of an offense that makes you wrong even in the world of scrape exchanges and whatnot.
I'm not saying it will happen. Their offensive line will have to get a ton better if they're going to get away with Martinez's arm. But if they get the blocking taken care of and maybe find a wide receiver who's not a liability, I can see Nebraska turning into an offense you loathe playing.
11/19/2011 – Michigan 45, Nebraska 17 – 9-2, 5-2 Big Ten
In the aftermath of Saturday's flamethrower job, everyone from the coaches down to emailers is saying that felt like Michigan, usually with emphasis. Picking one at random:
Great game Saturday - I think it was at least partially Nebraska-fueled, but man that FELT like Michigan.
Quick, it's any game from 1998 to 2007 against a spread offense or mobile quarterback. How do you feel? Good? Bad? Have you stopped reading this column to shiver in a corner at the idea of Carlyle Holiday? Troy Smith? Donovan McNabb? Armanti Horror Edwards?
Yes, you have. For the Ohio State fans who persist in reading this column because it's willing to send Michigan fans into catatonic seizures, Michigan fans felt pretty damn bad about going up against mobile quarterbacks during the Carr era. They also felt this during the Rodriguez era but it was a lot harder to parse out a specific mobile-quarterback-related fear when Indiana's putting up more than 30 every year.
Quick! It's any game in which Michigan has an 18 point lead against a mid-level Big Ten team from 1998 to 2007. Nevermind. You're still having a seizure.
Quick! It's a team with Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, Steve Hutchinson, Mo Williams, and Jeff Backus. How many yards per carry do they average?
No, seriously. I'm asking this one. How many yards per carry did the Orange-Bowl-winning, Tom-Brady-featuring, three-NFL-OL-including-a-hall-of-fame-guard-deploying 1999 Michigan Wolverines average?
Seriously. Michigan finished 79th in rushing offense, 24th in passing offense, and ran more than they passed. Tom Brady—Tom Brady!—averaged 7.2 YPA. In the Orange Bowl they fell behind 14-0 because they kept running their awful run offense at Alabama's #2 run defense. They'd finish with 23 carries for 27 yards.
Quick! Fourth and four from the Ohio State 34 up two with three minutes left. What does Brady Hoke do?
I was wrong. I was mad when Michigan hired Brady Hoke because I though it was a capitulation, that it was Michigan returning to the things that made it such a frustrating team to root for once Lloyd Carr stopped having the best defense in the universe.
Carr coached his team like they had an awesome run offense and an awesome defense no matter the facts on the ground, which led to the most frustrating stat anyone's ever compiled. From Vijay Ramanujan's article in your copy of HTTV 2007:
Michigan's fourth quarter woes from 2000 to 2005 … have been the thing holding it back from truly elite status the last several years. Alarmingly, Michigan entered 18 games over that period of time with a lead smaller than 10 points and went 8-10 in those games. They were under .500 when entering the fourth with a small lead! When tied or facing a similarly small deficit, Michigan was 6-1. In all games in which Michigan trailed by any margin they were 8-8.
That is the kind of thing that gets you pawing at the air in your sleep, moaning "no… not again." It's incontrovertible evidence of terrible game management. Hiring Hoke felt like returning to that, like returning to debates about "scoring offenses" and looking at every mobile quarterback on the schedule like it was a loss waiting to happen.
This is not the case. It turns out as I was sitting in the stands burning up inside as Rocky Harvey scatbacked Illinois to victory or Michigan punted itself into oblivion against OSU, Brady Hoke was standing on a sideline burning up inside, whether it was at Michigan Stadium or somewhere in the MAC. Hoke does not want to lead by 17. He wants to lead by 21, dammit. If anything, the playcalling this year has been too aggressive what with the constant unleashing of the dragon.
Al Borges wears a t-shirt with this on it every Casual Friday
That made me mad in the immediate aftermath, but what happens when you put a Michigan program together and… like… use it? What happens when you're Lloyd Carr without the crippling fear of something going wrong? What happens when you go from weak-tight to loose-aggressive?
For one, you leave the desiccated corpses of Nebraska strewn around you as you leave the field. Afterwards, Bo Pelini sits in his locker room shaking like Don Cheadle in "Hotel Rwanda." When you win games, you win games comfortably. No one gets nervous in the fourth quarter of San Diego State. The offense is pretty much the offense; when its horns get pulled in it's because you're on your own four up 21 and that's the move. Sometimes you do the audacious thing in the important game, not the tomato can before the important game. Mobile quarterbacks don't automatically rack up a billion yards. And when the right move doesn't work out and someone asks you about it, you say "that's how it's going to be."
So when people say this "feels like Michigan," I agree and disagree. In the immediate post-hire column featuring Will Smith robots I said "to me, getting back to being Michigan means going 9-3 and losing to Jim Tressel." Since 1993, Michigan has lost at least three games every year save '97, '99 and '06; since Jim Tressel's arrival Michigan has beaten Ohio State once.
If this feels like getting back to Michigan, it's the Michigan of your dreams, the Michigan you left back in Peoria when you shipped to Saigon. You've got one good picture of her and she's that pretty every day in an ugly place.
"This Is Michigan" is about the idea, not the reality—at least not a reality from the last 20 years. So far. Days like Saturday inch us closer to the picture in our heads.
There were enough videos to warrant a VOAV, which was posted yesterday. This from Boyz in the Pahokee is worth a repost, though:
Via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer, our Nebraska photoset:
As always, the above photos are Creative Commons licensed.
I'm just sayin'.
via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer
BRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. I'm tempted to hand this to Lavonte David for 17 tackles, 14 of them solo, 2 of them Y U SO FAST ankle-grabs on a Denard Robinson one step from engaging turbo. But he plays for Nebraska and we only talk about players who play for Michigan.
If we can't give it to David, it's again Fitzgerald Toussaint's to have and hold. He's got his own bullet below explaining why. Runners up: Mike Martin, Denard Robinson, and Jordan Kovacs.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue, Nebraska)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).
Fitzkreig continues. 138 yards on 29 carries and three monster games in the last four. The exception was a 16-carry, 58-yard performance against Iowa when many of his attempts were run from under center.
As a result, I saw Toussaint compared to the following tailbacks over the weekend: Mike Hart (this was me but not just me), Tim Biakabutuka, and Chris Perry. Except fast! I went with Hart because the way Toussaint dodges guys in a phonebooth is reminiscent of #20 and his cuts in narrow areas are what makes the zone game work. Toussaint doesn't have Hart's pile-pushing power but he compensates with Except Fast! He's also been very secure with the ball. (Knock on wood.) I don't recall any fumbles from him this year; that's pretty good for 143 carries.
It took longer than everyone wanted, but I declare him broken out. He needs 191 yards against OSU and in the bowl to crack 1000 for the season; I bet he gets that and enters next year in the conversation for best back in the league. I'll have to go back and check how Northwestern held him to 25 yards on 14 carries. That's nuts.
Weekly Borgeswatch. It's to the point where the scattered –1 yard power plays from the I don't even bother me anymore. They're like old friends reminding me of the spread's superiority for this personnel and how our offensive coordinator has also come to this conclusion, albeit grudgingly.
I thought this was another strong game from Borges. He debuted a pro set that saw Michigan bust a couple of big gains; the flare screen got blown up the second time he went to it but it was effective overall. Outside of that he largely let the offense do what it was recruited to do: run zone from the gun. It worked to the tune of 238 yards.
While the averages for Denard (4.4 YPC) and Fitz(4.8) aren't electric a lot of that is due to Michigan's struggles near the goal line. Those two had eight carries from within the Nebraska seven on which they gained 7 yards total; carries outside of goal-to-go situations averaged 5.3 between the two main weapons. Without Lavonte David who knows what they would have been.
Unfortunately, goal to go is kind of important. Those struggles combine with last week's goal line stand by Illinois* to create the closest thing to a worry possible coming off a 45-17 win. Michigan got lucky on a dubious pass interference call and had to resort to a fake field goal to punch in short touchdowns; on both short yardage TDs Michigan had to bounce to the sideline. Going up the middle was futile.
I wonder why Michigan has never tried to replicate** the virtually unstoppable Gator Heavy package that was Florida's go-to short yardage package during the Tebow era. This was a complaint I had during the RR years, too. I like the idea of giving the D seven gaps to defend and providing Denard two lead blockers that can attack any of them, plus a tailback.
*[I guess you could toss in Iowa's successful goal line stand but that was executed in adverse conditions.]
**[Michigan did briefly feature a double H-back set in 2009 that was kind of like Gator Heavy but they never used the full-on heavy. They always had two WRs.]
Weekly Denardwatch. There were a couple of scary throws I'll have to see on replay to determine whether they were bad ideas or fit in narrow windows—guessing the former—but 61% completions and 10 YPA are pretty good. Yeah, a big chunk of those was a chuck-and-pray to Roundtree but at least that wasn't into double coverage. The safety couldn't get over in time. Roundtree also had a step on Dennard… it wasn't in the same class some of the ND armpunts were. Meanwhile, the Odoms touchdown gets an "I be like dang."
I thought the INT was fluky; some people on the twitters disagreed. I'm not saying the batted ball was fluky, but the dude knocking it to himself and catching it… eh… doesn't happen so often. That's more on the playcall than Denard. Asking a short guy to float it over a tall guy has resulted in two interceptions this year that I'm not sure Denard can do much about other than be six inches taller or eat the ball on a screen that seems open.
There was progress.
The above was part of that. When Denard pulled up to throw to a short dude streaking across the endzone my Michigan rolodex flipped to the first interception he threw against MSU last year, where he had the exact same route open and chucked it well behind his guy.
I'm guessing Denard's DSR is in the mid-60s range he seems to have established as his Big Ten baseline. That's a step up from the days when he was struggling to complete anything against the Eastern Michigans of the world. Transition costs here seem mostly paid. Now it's about getting him that extra increment.
The rumors are not true. Do not listen to Heiko: I had nothing to do with the lack of power in Michigan Stadium. I did not make a commando raid Friday night after seeing the image of Pop Evil in the stadium and Do What Had To Be Done. I have an alibi—I was at the hockey game—and if I had done it I would have taken out the north scoreboard, where Special K's speakers are.
Way to go, whoever you are. Excellent work by random student who I assume is an engineer to start counting down the playclock after M took a false start penalty near the goal line in the first. Note that Hoke stepped forth to take blame for the penalty:
"That's on me," he said. "I should have called timeout. For me to not do that, that's bad coaching."
Second Zookian clock management incident. Coaches are always too conservative with their last timeout and this tendency bit Michigan after they ran a couple times at the end of the first half. After Robinson biffed by trying to get to the sideline instead of reading the block Toussaint had made on the closest defender, the clock burned 30 seconds before the third down snap.
I know you want to have that timeout for a field goal attempt but in a situation like this you know the clock is going to run and you're not sure that will be the case down the road. A spike is a quality option with five seconds left; not so much with 48.
This is a nit. I'm going to name my firstborn "Hoke Gametheory."
Helmet to ball. Yes, people who keep telling me about fumbles, the last few have been Michigan's doing. Not so much the ones where people just drop the ball. Terrence Robinson may have just earned a fifth year—it looks like Michigan will have room for him even if they take 28.
Fluck. Michigan's still recovering an inordinate number of the fumbles caused. No, this is not coachable.
I don't always talk about game theory*, but when I do I prefer it to be about going up 17 or 21. Last week I was totally cool with Michigan running a QB draw with Gardner on third and goal from the ten to go up 17; I was similarly cool with the field goal team running out for a chip shot on the fourth and one.
It's a similar situation: up 14 about halfway through the third quarter against a team that's struggling to move the ball. Getting that third score is all but game over. That said, Hoke made it clear in the postgame presser that they had scouted that particular situation and got the look they wanted:
Can you talk about picking the spot to fake the field goal? “We had put it in. It’s the one Penn State used against us in ’95? I think it was ’95 up there. [We] wanted it on the right hash, [and] they gave us the look that we wanted. Even if we had kicked the field goal, Drew Dileo -- having him as a holder, he’s such a smart football kid. He did a tremendous job with it. You got it, you might as well use it.”
Until he runs a fake field goal against the same team he ran a famous fake field goal the year previous—and takes a timeout before doing so—it's all good.
Less than a season into the Hoke regime it's clear his natural inclination is to be aggressive in close situations. That should pay off down the road—it hasn't so much this year because when Michigan wins they win by a lot.
BCS watch. Saturday night's events all but guarantee Michigan a spot if they take care of business on Saturday. They're now ahead of the Big 12 runner-up, which will either be a three-loss Oklahoma or an Oklahoma State team coming off back-to-back losses, one of them to Iowa State. Pecking order:
- Houston (auto)
- Big 12 runner up
- ACC runner up
You can flip Stanford and Michigan if you like. There are no scenarios that see a 10-2 Michigan left out; even if the SEC can put a third team in because of an all SEC West title game, Michigan is an easy pick over a 10-2 Arkansas. To be safe you're rooting for Okie State in Bedlam.
Now, about getting to 10-2…
[UPDATE: a reader informs me that this is misunderstanding of the way three teams get into the BCS from a single conference. #1 and #2 have to not win the conference, so LSU would have to lose to Georgia and Alabama and LSU would still have to be 1-2. That is… not impossible, actually.]
Inside the Box Score has cat photos and commentary:
In the first half, with us up 10-7, Denard threw an INT on a screen pass. I’m starting to think he’s too short to throw middle screens. Anyway, the defense responded with a Kovacs TFL, a Van Bergen pass deflection, and Demens and Martin tackling a WR on a screen for minimal yardage. It wasn’t quite the three-play sequence that bursted impetus against Illinois, but it reminded me of that. Neb had to settle for a 51 yard FG. Our defense basically said, we’ve got our O’s back.
The announcers thought Kovacs was acting a little when injured to slow down Neb’s hurry up offense. For the record, he stayed out for the duration of that series, so I don’t think he was faking. Screw you Urban Paschman for suggesting such a thing.
Are we really at the point where a team that has two injuries in a game gets accused of slowing the game down on purpose? This wasn't the Michigan State defense's fainting couch act against Iowa.
When I think of NU, I think of Northwestern. Since they have B1G seniority over Nebraska, they should get the NU acronym. That leaves either UNL or Neb for Nebraska.
Blog policy is to bestow "NU" on the winner of the NU-NU game. When not in possession of "NU," Northwestern shall be "NW" and Nebraska "UNL." It is my hope this eventually spawns a rivalry trophy: large block N and U letters that the winning team paints their colors after a victory.
Hoke For Tomorrow on various people who had good days:
Denard Robinson - The best game in a long time for our leader and best. Denard looked completely in control of the offense. He was patient, waiting for plays to develop before zinging a TD pass to Gallon or cutting behind his blockers for a TD on the ground. Best of all, Denard finally hit a receiver perfectly on an endzone bomb. He made some more questionable reads on the read option, but overall it was a great performance.
If you hit up Blue Seoul's OSU/Nebraska scouting report the Cornhuskers' long touchdown probably looked familiar:
So there you go: the coaches don't read the blog.
Unwashed blog masses. Maize and Go Blue has a newspapery recap. Schadenfreude can be had at Corn Nation's game thread and post-game thread. TTB runs down the recruiting visitors. MNBN has a wrap up. BWS talks about Rich Rodriguez. I only talk about coaches who coach for Michigan. M&GB gives thanks. So does the HSR. MGoFootball bullets.
Want a little more perspective? In its 13 games last year, Michigan gave up 458 points. Through 11 this season, they've surrendered 172. In other words, to equal the punchline that was 2010, Michigan would have to give up 144 points -- in EACH of its remaining two games (OSU and the bowl).
I am annoyed that this is followed by a reference to the scoring offense as if the defense doesn't have anything to do with putting said offense in a position to succeed. The offense has dropped off a bit, and criticisms leveled at Borges after MSU and Iowa are still valid.
Meanwhile, Touch The Banner officially enters haterz territory:
Obligatory discussion of J.T. Floyd. Nebraska's one huge play was a 54-yard touchdown bomb to Brandon Kinnie, who torched Floyd so badly that all Floyd could do was grab onto Kinnie and hope for a pass interference flag. Prior to that play, Kinnie had 19 catches for 192 yards and 0 touchdowns on the season.
This is true. Also true: that was the first 50 yard play Michigan has given up all season and the first time Floyd has been burned deep on a pass, complete or not, all year. Even Woodson got burned by Boston that one time. JT Floyd is a good corner.
WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan's bid for an at-large BCS bid is still alive as the Wolverines begin preparation for Ohio State. We're told that's a rivalry. What Michigan proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the defense is legit. Nebraska managed just 11 first downs and 254 total yards on the day, and while that's partly a function of the turnovers, it's also a function of Michigan's performance; the Wolverines forced 10 4th downs on 13 opportunities.
And it was, if not exactly the kind of vintage "This is Michigan" mashing Brady Hoke invoked throughout the offseason, at least as close as this particular team has come to its own platonic ideal. Denard Robinson took every significant snap at quarterback, carried 23 times, looked sharp as a passer and accounted for four touchdowns. Tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint went over 100 yards on the ground for the third time in the last four games, adding a pair of scores of his own. The offense as a whole held the ball for almost 42 minutes. The defense held Nebraska to a season-low in total yards and matched a season low in points. The 'Huskers didn't convert a third down until the end of the third quarter.
In a matchup of apparent equals, the only aspect of the game Nebraska "won" — or came close to winning — was average yards per punt. And that doesn't include the punt Michigan blocked.
Media, conventional. My man Nick Baumgardner on the lopsided time of possession:
One of the residual effects of Michigan's stellar defensive day was a lopsided time of possession battle.
The Wolverines held the ball for 41:13 while Nebraska had possession for just 18:47.
"Residual effects." My man.
Jerry Palm has placed us back in his BCS predictions in an odd place:
New Orleans, La.
SEC vs. at-large
8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
|Comment: With both SEC teams in the championship game, the Sugar Bowl will need a replacement and Michigan will be very attractive. It ends up taking an undefeated Houston over the Big East champion.|
Palm has the LSU-Bama rematch as the title game, which opens up a weird slot for M. I'd rather play a running team than Case Keenum. BONUS WEIRDNESS: Palm puts Penn State in the Hawaii Bowl in place of someone else who can't fill a commitment. No idea why he thinks the #3-5 Big Ten team isn't locked into an actual Big Ten bowl. SIDE NOTE: Adding Nebraska makes the Big Ten's bowl matchups far more palatable.
This wasn't the final piece of evidence, but it certainly was the most compelling. What happened Saturday in Michigan Stadium is what used to happen. A big, physical foe rolled into town and ran smack into a wall of pads. The Wolverines' 45-17 rout of the Cornhuskers was their best game of the year, by far, and the loudest statement of the Brady Hoke era, by far.
As the final minutes ticked away, the crowd began an old-new chant. "Beat Ohio!" cascaded from the student section, in homage to Hoke, whose personal homage to the rivalry is to refer to the Buckeyes simply as "Ohio."
Beat Ohio? Uh, that's a good idea. After seven straight losses in the rivalry, Michigan (9-2) has a great chance to do it, with Ohio State (6-5) in complete disarray.
I quote him because he's the only columnist in a 500 mile radius who doesn't compulsively hit enter after each mark of punctuation. Also he had cake.
The defensive improvement is perhaps the most shocking element of Michigan's renaissance. The Wolverines did not sign a bunch of five-star freshmen who raised the talent level. They have succeeded largely with the same players who finished 2010 ranked 110th in the nation in total defense (450.8 yards per game) and 108th in the nation in scoring defense (35.2 points per game). We knew coordinator Greg Mattison could coach, but we didn't know he could work miracles. Through 11 games, the 2011 Wolverines have allowed 312.6 yards per game and 15.6 points per game. "Fundamentally and technically, they're playing what they're coached to do, and they're playing together," Hoke said of his defense. "It's been fun to watch."
Formation notes: They did the usual 4-3 under stuff and went to a nickel package against spread sets. On passing downs the seven-guys-on-the-line okie package was a frequent deployment; on short yardage we saw the return of the Beyer/Ryan 4-4 under.
Then they did some weird stuff. If this looks a bit like a 3-3-5, yeah, sort of :
That's clearly a pass defense D with the ends lined up outside of the tackles and both the spur/bandit-type dudes on the strong side of the formation, ready to drop into man coverage.
This is another exotic pass defense featuring nose tackle Mike Jones (serious) and DT Craig Roh (also serious):
Illinois ran at this; Jones and Roh actually forced the play behind them into tacklers; pile fell forward for five.
Personnel notes: Secondary was Floyd/Countess/Kovacs the whole way and mostly Woolfolk but Gordon did pop up from time to time; I'm pretty sure Woolfolk left permanently on the Scheelhaase touchdown since he seemed to aggravate one of his many available injuries. Avery was the nickelback; when Floyd cramped up briefly he moved outside onto Jenkins and Gordon came in at nickel.
Demens and Morgan went the whole way at LB; Ryan played most of the game but gave way to Beyer a little.
The line was mostly the usual RVB/Heininger/Martin/Roh setup with cameos from Black, Clark, and Campbell. Brink got some plays at the tail end.
Show? Show. W00t.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|O15||1||15||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA scramble||Woolfolk||1|
|Iso fake draws heavy attention but Scheelhaase only has two options in the route and they must both be covered(+2). I find that hard to believe but I'm guessing Woolfolk(+2) jumped the corner route behind Countess and convinced Scheelhaase to scramble. Ryan(-0.5, tackling -1) misses a tackle that would have been a sack, giving up three or four yards.|
|O16||2||14||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|M shows a blitz from Morgan on the outside. Illinois checks, Michigan still runs it. It's picked up. All short routes; Scheelhaase goes to Jenkins on a five yard out that Floyd(+2, cover +2) breaks up. Prelude to ownage.|
|O16||3||14||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +2) dives inside on a stunt that gets the Illinois OL. He gets held a little and ends up falling just short of the QB's feet (I might be done typing Scheelhaase); Martin(+0.5) runs after to contain, forcing a throwaway. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Triple option keeper||Van Bergen||3|
|Kovacs rolls down for an eighth guy. M gets lucky here. RVB(+1) stays on QB throughout the play; Ryan(-2) dives inside the slot receiver and gives up the corner. He's got to have the pitchman here. This should be a pitch for a big gain. Instead QB tries to beat RVB one on one and can't do it. Still a decent gain because M had destroyed the dive, which fine.|
|O17||2||7||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Long handoff||Countess||6|
|Countess(-1, tackling -1) comes up a little hard and to the inside and ends up getting stiffarmed as Jenkins breaks to the outside. He does manage to delay Jenkins long enough for Ryan(+0.5), flowing hard from the inside, to tackle before the sticks.|
|O23||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||-1|
|Beyer/Ryan package. Heininger(+1) drives his OL a couple yards into the backfield. Martin(+2) takes a pop from the center and still does the same to the backside G, putting him on his knees at the LOS and forcing a cutback. This screws up the blocking angles and forces Ford back into Ryan(+1, tackling +1), who came down to the LOS on the snap and took a good angle into the backfield; RVB(+1) beat a block and comes into help prevent any YAC. RPS +1 for the slant forcing the play back into an unblocked player.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 8 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun 2back trips||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option dive||Heininger||0|
|Covered slot receiver. Michigan aligns differently than normal with DTs over the guards and Illinois runs a triple option. QB hands off since DE is on him and Countess is hanging on the pitch. Dive goes nowhere thanks to Martin(+1) and Heininger(+1) blasting single blocks back; Roh(+0.5) comes in from the side to finish Pollard after he confirms the give was made.|
|O23||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Roh||Inc|
|Roh and Black your DEs. Kovacs rolls down. Straight dropback. Illinois looking for the drag; Roh(+1, pressure +1) beats the tackle to the outside and is held; no call. This along with Black(+0.5) falling at the QB's feet causes some shuffling and a back-foot throw that ends up going wide of Jenkins. Completion likely if accurate but Gordon(+0.5, cover +1) seemed to have this locked down for a not so big gain.|
|O23||3||10||Ace 3-wide||Okie||Run||N/A||Down G||Van Bergen||5|
|Scheelhaase checks from a shotgun formation to an inside run out of ace. They're trying to run at the middle of the line as Morgan drops out into a zone; Martin(+1) fights inside a pulling guard—mismatch—and RVB(+1) comes off a block when the second guy moves downfield. Those two combine to tackle for a meh gain.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA curl||Woolfolk||7|
|Beyer in. Illinois runs PA. Play develops with no LBs underneath the Jenkins comeback; QB fires it to him. Immediate tackle from Woolfolk(+0.5, tackling +1) and Countess(+0.5). Coverage push, pressure -1.|
|O27||2||3||I-Form||4-3 under||Penalty||--||False start||--||-5|
|O22||2||8||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||14|
|Kovacs rolls to a slot receiver as M shows one high. Floyd(-1, cover -1) is beat on a ten-yard hitch and can't tackle on the catch. He has to set up and gives up a few more in the name of being safe.|
|O36||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Stop and go||Floyd||Inc|
|RB motions out into the slot. Michigan sends Beyer off the edge, dropping Roh; stoned. (Pressure -2) QB has all day to pump and then chuck deep. He ends up throwing it away because Floyd(+2, cover +2) was over the top of a double move to the point where throwing it was stupid.|
|O36||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Ryan||0|
|Ryan(+2) momentarily dives down but recovers impressively to force Scheelhaase outside, outside, outside. Floyd(+1) beats a Jenkins block to slow him, whereupon Ryan tackles from behind.|
|Okie package gets the Illinois OL to bust (pressure +2, RPS +2). Martin(+0.5) gets a free run. Scheelhaase actually gets a pass off and completes it but it's off and takes the WR off his feet. Demens(+1) was there to tackle if necessary.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 9 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O5||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||7|
|Not entirely sure what the problem is here. Both DTs only take single blocks; Martin fights through his to almost kill this in the hole but can't quite. Morgan takes on the FB basically at the LOS and does funnel to the inside but Demens is getting blocked out of the play since the DTs have not absorbed an extra guy between them. I think this is on Heininger(-1) as the playside DT he's not absorbing a double and doesn't even get an arm-tackle attempt. You would like Morgan(-0.5) to get this closer to the LOS and Demens(-0.5) to not get sealed away totally but they both have tough jobs. RB into the secondary, where Kovacs(+3, tackling +2) puts his helmet on the ball and gets Michigan a turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-0, 5 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Hitch||Countess||Inc|
|Scheelhaase clearly late on a lot of these by now but Countess(+2, cover +2) is still there for a quality PBU on a pass that could have been intercepted.|
|O32||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Drag||Countess||Inc|
|This may be batted but there's no replay so can't be sure. Demens(-1, cover -1) does get way out of position on another WR's route, dragging well into Morgan's zone. Countess(-1, cover -1) appears to make the same error he did against Iowa, and if Jenkins catches this it's a first down and maybe a bunch more. Jenkins has to delay because the umpire gets in the way; incomplete. Lucky.|
|Okie set gets Ryan(+1) and Demens(+1) roaring at the QB with one guy to block them (pressure +3, RPS +3); Van Bergen(+1) comes off a block to help sack when Scheelhaase understandably bugs out. QB overwhelmed by three guys on a four man rush == +3.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 3 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O21||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Morgan||7|
|Good time on a four man rush (pressure -1). QB has time to survey and fire to a TE for about nine; Morgan(+0.5, tackling +1) puts him down immediately. Given situation coverage fine.|
|O28||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Yakety snap||--||-14|
|O14||3||17||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Down G||Van Bergen||1|
|RVB(+1) shoots inside a downblock and gets enough penetration to force Ford well upfield; Roh is out there on the bounce but gets shoved past the play. Still, that took a long time. Martin flows down the line and forces Ford behind; Avery(+0.5, tackling +1) makes a nice low tackle that takes Ford to the ground immediately. Fumble is ruled but overturned, which costs Michigan seven important seconds. Irritating.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, EOH.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA out||Kovacs||12|
|Kovacs(-1) hesitates on the play action and only belatedly shoots out on his zone; with the outside WR going deep Countess has other responsibilities. Out open, easy pitch and catch (cover -1, pressure -1)|
|O32||1||10||Pistol twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Martin||11|
|Reading RVB; he stays responsible and the handoff is made. Martin(-1) fights to the wrong side of his block and Heininger(-1) gets penetration too far upfield, so Illinois gets a crease without doubling any DL. This means LBs are getting thumped; Morgan(-1) is the guy on the playside gap and he starts moving to the LOS before actually stalling and taking a step back before being engulfed. RB into the secondary. Demens(-0.5) also caught a block.|
|O43||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Down G||Campbell||2|
|QB checks into an ace from the same pistol set they just ran. Campbell(+1) takes the guy downblocking him and ends up driving him into the backfield, forcing Pollard away from blocking; the playside G is pulling around outside but Pollard isn't going out there. Live I thought this was a missed cut; on tape it's clear this would be a ++ move from the back to cut up and then immediately back out. So Morgan(+2, tackling +2) gets credit for powering through his blocker and decleating Pollard.|
|O45||2||8||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Kovacs||-4|
|Ryan(+2) reads the option action and tears ass for the QB, leveling him just as he pitches. FB makes a mistake, peeling back on Ryan in a hopeless chase, and this opens up Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) to do the thing he does by taking a good angle at speed; Pollard cuts inside and gets TFLed. Martin(+1) had blown through blocking and was there to help if necessary, which is crazy impressive.|
|O41||3||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-12|
|RVB(+2) splits two blockers confused by the okie package; Clark(+1) gets a good drive on a tight end to prevent any lane to move upfield, and Ryan jumps on the QB's back for very large sack. This was a six-man protection on which the QB had zero chance to even look at read one. Pressure +3, RPS +3.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 12 min 3rd Q. Riley O'Toole gets the next Illinois drive.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Pass||6||PA TE Flat||Morgan||7|
|Roh ends up free on the edge and gets some decent pressure; this means a TE has released behind him and O'Toole hits him for a decent gain; Morgan(+0.5) reads it pretty well and escorts the guy OOB to prevent a significant one.|
|O32||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||RB flat||Martin||Inc|
|Martin(+2, pressure +2) beats two blockers and roars up the middle of the pocket, forcing a terrible throw Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in a better spot to catch than the RB flaring out.|
|O32||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide tight||Nickel even||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||Inc|
|Quick throw does not allow time for pressure; Floyd(+1, cover +1) is there with a play on a well thrown ball (but not a great one); Toole's ball is too far outside and not caught.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Martin||12 (Pen-10)|
|Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) pressure(+1) Scheelhaase, forcing a scramble up into the pocket that picks up some yards but probably would have been a sack but for Martin(+1 again) drawing a holding call. Demens(-1) gave up the outside here and turned this from a few into a hypothetical first down.|
|O15||1||20||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Martin||8|
|Here Martin(-1) gets shoved out his lane without actually getting to the QB; Black(-0.5) gets shoved way upfield, albeit by a double (pressure -1); Scheelhaase can find no one (cover +1) and runs for a good gain. This time Demens is blocked out of the play.|
|O23||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Dime even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Jones||5|
|Mike Jones lined up as the NT. Yeah, I know. Roh the DT. Yeah. Daring Illinois to run; they run. Jones(+1) actually drives the center back(!), forcing a cutback into Roh(+1), who slanted inside and gets a tackle attempt. He's getting blocked and the attempt is run through; it gives Michigan time to rally to the ball and hold the play down. RPS -1? I don't even know. I guess not.|
|Scheelhaase looking for an out Avery(+1, cover +1) has covered well enough to dissuade; Countess the other guy over there on the deeper route. Zone blitz is coming through now to the outside with Demens(+1) beating a block; Ryan(-1, pressure -1) is out of his lane and allows Scheelhaase to run straight upfield. Martin and Morgan are there to catch him after about five but the pile manages to surge forward just over the line. Impressive power by Scheelhaase.|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Fly||Floyd||Inc|
|Plenty of time (pressure -1); Illinos goes four verts and everyone is covered(+3); Floyd(+1) is step for step with Jenkins and would have a play on the ball if it was accurate. It's not.|
|O35||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Avery||14|
|Plenty of time (pressure -2) without Martin in the game; Avery(+0.5) is actually in pretty good coverage here, forcing a throw high and to the sideline that is executed. Made it tough.|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Back shoulder fade||Floyd||Inc|
|Too much time (pressure -1), though the pocket isn't as clean on this outing. Floyd is in press and they test him deep; he is step for step. He can't quite adjust to the back-shoulder fade but this is still a +1, cover +1 because it required a DO and tough catch to complete. This is basically unstoppable if you can execute it. Illinois thinks they do but on replay it turns out they do not—Jenkins juggled it.|
|O49||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||6||Slant||Floyd||Inc (Pen+8)|
|Michigan sends six and is getting there but not in time to prevent a throw here. Floyd(-1, cover -1) picks up a legit PI call for arriving too early but I don't mind this. Much better than arriving late and you don't always get this call on you.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||6||TE out||Morgan||11|
|Late blitz from a very deep Kovacs; Morgan(-1) gets a chuck on a dragging WR but does let him past into open space since this is raw man coverage. Scheelhaase hits the guy and he can turn up for some YAC. Pressure -1, cover -1. Morgan does make a good tackle(+1).|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Martin||0|
|Kovacs rolled up for a seventh guy in the box. Martin(+1) surges through the line and forces it outside. Roh(+0.5) forces it further outside by getting inside and diving at Ford's legs; Kovacs(+0.5) is out there containing. Ford turns it up directly into a scraping, tackling(+1) Demens.|
|M32||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack?||Pass||7||Slant||Avery||Inc|
|This is kind of stack-y but not really with two pass-rush aligned DEs, three guys in man on the WRs, and both overhang safety types to the same side of the field. M sends every damn body. QB is about to eat Kovacs(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5, pressure +2) as he chucks. He's got a WR on a slant in front of Avery(+1, cover +1), who's tackling on the catch and making life difficult. He may rake the ball out. We can only say may because the WR runs into another Illini WR and goes down as if he'd taken a shot from Reggie Nelson.|
|M32||3||10||Shotgun empty||3-2-6 dime||Pass||5||Tunnel screen||Morgan||19|
|Michigan gets RPSed here with five guys blitzing and no one thinking to peel back. Line is Campbell, Demens, and Roh... so... yeah. Morgan(-1, cover -1) doesn't read the WR screen quickly at all and gets easily blocked; Floyd(-1) is getting blocked but shouldn't let the WR outside like he does. Big gain. RPS -2.|
|M13||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Clark||13|
|Clark(-3) forms up, then decides Ford has the ball after Scheelhaase pulls it. This opens up the corner; DBs are in man and not in any position to help. Woolfolk(-1) may be able to tackle before the endzone but pulls up gimpy and can't make it.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-7, EO3Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Comeback||Floyd||Inc|
|Scheelhaase has this open for a first down and just misses it. Floyd(-1, cover -1) beaten. Pressure was getting there.|
|O38||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Penalty||--||Offsides||Martin||5|
|O43||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Martin||3|
|Martin(+2) drives his guy so far into the backfield that he impacts the runner three yards behind the LOS; this delay allows Black(+0.5) to flow down and tackle after keeping contain on Scheelhaase. Wish the LBs did a little more here.|
|O46||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Black||8|
|Black(-3) does the same thing Clark did on the last play, diving down on the back after the mesh point. Juice Williams ninja ballfake reprise.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Morgan||2|
|Belly play where the backside DT is getting doubled off the ball. RVB(+0.5) does an okay job holding up; Demens(+0.5) and Morgan(+0.5) react quickly enough to remove creases. Martin(+0.5) flows down the line to tackle after his second blocker releases into Morgan.|
|M44||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Roh||4|
|DT stunt gets Martin(+0.5) in thanks to RVB(+0.5) threatening to dart past the G. Roh(+1) beats the tackle straight up and Scheelhaase is about to get destroyed(pressure+2) and has to let it go. He's got a quick drag from his TE that Demens(+1, cover +1) is there for an instant tackle on.|
|Kovacs late blitz; he is moving right into Scheelhaase's face as he throws but may get blocked. Pressure push. Floyd(+4, cover +3) is breaking on the ball as the WR cuts his route off and picks the ball off; he is one avoided Scheelhaase tackle from a pick six. Monster play.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 17-7, 10 min 4th Q. M scores and Illinois gets it back with 10 minutes left down three scores, which informs Michigan's defensive style. I'll keep it in mind as I chart Comeback Ishtar.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle scramble||Roh||9|
|Roh(+0.5) cuts off the corner but gets pushed past the play. QB can't find anyone (cover +1) as he rolls up and scrambles; Demens(-0.5) is not reacting very well and ends up running into a guy trying to block Martin as Scheelhaase cuts behind. RVB tackles from behind.|
|O29||2||1||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Improv comeback||Heininger||12|
|Heininger(+1, pressure +1) beats an OT around the corner(!) and is held; no call. This does flush Scheelhaase up; Ryan tries to disconnect from his guy and is held as well, so Scheelhaase can fire to a Jenkins comeback for the first. Instant tackle. Cover -1. Refs -2.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Morgan||3|
|Morgan is over the slot; w/ Roh tucked inside the TE there basically is no backside DE. Scheelhaase pulls as Morgan(+1) comes down on the run. Morgan jukes the TE coming out on him, sliding past the block and forcing the QB to cut up into Demens(+1, tackling +1), who puts him on the turf in space.|
|O44||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Floyd||6|
|Illinois lets 27 seconds run off the clock after the play. RT falls; Roh gets a free run. Martin(+1) and RVB(+1) have again stunted and get in Scheelhaase's face (pressure +2). He has to throw hot. That's to the RB leaking out of the backfield. He catches it; Floyd(+0.5) and Morgan tackle(+1) the guy short of the sticks in bounds.|
|50||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Campbell||0|
|Cambpell(+3) in at the nose. He drives the center back and does not give ground when the FB impacts the block. RB cuts back and he sheds, making impact in the backfield. Heininger(+2) beats a blocker as well and is there to help; Roh(+0.5) is getting his body in the way as well. Dang third and one. Dang Campbell.|
|50||4||1||Goal line||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Down G||Demens||1|
|Roh gets sent inside by the TE as M's interior line prepares for something in there; Illinois is going outside the tackle. Not a big problem and he does have awareness to spin back outside. Beyer(+0.5) takes on a kickout block in a pretty good place; Morgan(+1) gets the pulling G at the LOS and forces it back inside. Demens(+0.5) scrapes over and makes contact with Ford in the hole but can't get square to him and Ford just manages to fall forward. Even when they make it it's not easy.|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Floyd||1|
|Happy feet; no immediate pressure for the line but Scheelhaase goes to the RB dumppoff; Floyd(+1, tackling +1, cover +1) is there on the catch to tackle in bounds for a meh gain.|
|M48||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Kovacs||Inc|
|Scheelhaase fires OOB; seems he didn't have an immediately open guy and I think he does not trust his OL to go to the next read. Kovacs(+1, cover +1) over the top as this s again Floyd vs Jenkins. Another cover +1 for good stuff everywhere else.|
|M48||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Improv comeback||Martin||12|
|Martin(-1) gets a free run but for the peeling back, who chops him to the ground. This lets Scheelhaase outside the pocket, where he can wait and zip it to Jenkins in a lot of space (cover -1, pressure -2).|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dig||Gordon||Inc|
|Backups on the DL give Scheelhaase a lot of time (pressure -2); he steps into a deep in to his tight end that Gordon(+2, cover +2) breaks on and nails on the catch. I think this is complete but it's ruled to not be so; in any case this is a safety making life as hard as possible for a WR.|
|M36||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Improv comeback||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Okie business gets RVB(+1, pressure/RPS +1) through the line, whereupon he jerks back as if held; no call. Scheelhaase has to scramble and gets the corner; Roh is coming hard and he has to throw. It's back across his body to Jenkins with Floyd coming hard but not quite there to make a play; ball is too far out in front and eventually dropped. Floyd cramps up and has to come off briefly.|
|M36||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Roh||-16|
|Four man rush annihilates, with Roh(+2, pressure +4) roaring around the corner as Clark(+2) does the same and a stunt gets RVB(+1) up the middle; with nowhere to go Scheelhaase tries to back out and is engulfed.|
|O48||4||26||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Clark?||32|
|Scheelhaase has time and steps through the line, which is bad because it makes this into fourth and 16 instead of fourth and 26 (pressure -3). RVB(-2) and Clark(-2) get way outside. Martin does too but he is stunting and supposed to. Would like Mattison to have a guy close to the LOS on a delayed blitz to prevent this; no dice. Scheelhaase steps up and rifles it to Jenkins in front of Kovacs(cover -2); this is really all about letting Scheelhaase through the line and not pressuring him at all.|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE Drag||Demens||5|
|Michigan in man so this is a tough cover with a sort of pick route taking Demens a little off an ideal path. He still gets in position to force this OOB after an okay gain. Cover push, Demens +0.5.|
|M15||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Morgan?||11|
|Scheelhaase keeps and sees Clark has kept contain this time; he screwed up. So he just runs the RB's play. This works so well I think M should put it in the playbook. Michigan defends the RB fantastically but this pulls RVB out of the middle of the field as he tackles his assignment. Morgan(-1) takes on a block and doesn't shed it; he's really the only guy with a shot at holding this down and can't do it. Scheelhaase into the secondary, where Kovacs forces him into a good tackle from Countess(+0.5, tackling +1). RPS -1?|
|M4||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||N/A||3|
|Going backside and with no scrape it is really hard to hold this down without giving up contain on the QB. Clark keeps contain and then comes down, making a good play to tackle as the guy passes the LOS but this can't prevent him from picking up three. I won't RPS this but I kind of want to.|
|M1||2||G||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB sneak||Martin||1|
|They don't get it. RVB(+1) and Martin(+1) are basically the whole play. Illinois does get a yard, but they needed slightly more than one.|
|M1||3||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||N/A||1|
|They get it.|
|Drive Notes: Pyrrhic touchdown, 24-14, 3 min 4th Q. Oh, all right, I'll do the last one because it's fun.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-8|
|M stunt gets Martin(+1) and RVB(+2) through (pressure +3) and RVB gets there first. Two guys block air and one tries to block Martin.|
|O12||2||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE out||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets driving pressure that forces Scheelhaase out of the pocket; Scheelhaase has a TE breaking open but has to float it because underneath coverage(+1) is there and overshoots.|
|O12||3||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Scramble||Martin||1|
|Avery comes from the corner; Martin(+1, pressure +1) shoves a tackle into him and then bursts upfield. Scheelhaase can scramble out because of some dudes falling and stuff, but cannot find anyone open(cover +1); Avery comes back to tackle. Would be a sack but the guy manages to fall over the line.|
|Drive Notes: Punt. 31-14, EOG|
So who do we pick up next?
We have Woodson. Now we need to go back to medieval Europe or ancient Greece to pick up babes and/or Socrates.
Wouldn't it be better to go get other people who can play football?
Do we need any?
I don't know. I just don't know what to do with myself when there's a three play series on which:
- Morgan decleats the RB in such a way as to get Craig James hootin'.
- Ryan decleats the QB on a speed option in such a way as to get the stadium going "ohhhhhhhh I hope he's not dead."
- Later on that same play Kovacs makes a textbook tackle in space.
- Ryan Van Bergen roars up the middle of the pocket and jumps on Scheelhaase's back like he expects to round up cattle on the sideline.
It almost can't be real. By the time the punter hit the field I was afraid I would wake up to someone rubbing a beaver in my face.
No… no… NONONONO… It was all a dream… no… no… I want to go back
So we're totally getting ahead of ourselves, right?
We have to be. I mean, last week's performance was exactly acceptable and we were happy with this. We are not the '86 Bears. We must not get hopes up. Illinois couldn't score on Purdue until there were 10 minutes left.
Hopes are totally up.
I can neither confirm nor deny that statement. I can only point you towards the most insane, ridiculous, beaver-pelt-laden congregation of numbers I may have purveyed in the history of doing this. I present
|Van Bergen||14.5||2||12.5||To be fair, two points in garbage time. HAHAHAHA|
|Roh||9||-||9||Oh… oh wow.|
|Heininger||5||2||3||Didn't get in on the sack explosion largely because he's lifted in the nickel.|
|Clark||3||3||0||Zone read WTF was kind of magnificent. More later.|
|Black||1||3.5||-2.5||Other guy to WTF a zone read.|
|Campbell||4||-||4||Time to get excited about him again until next week.|
|TOTAL||55.5||13.5||42||That is nuts.|
|Morgan||5.5||4.5||1||Step forward from last week; still freshman.|
|Demens||7.5||3.5||4||Second consecutive solid game. Pretty good in coverage.|
|Ryan||6.5||3.5||3||Showed the guys above how to do it on the zone read.|
|Jones||1||-||1||Charts as a DT. HAHAAHAH|
|TOTAL||21||12.5||8.5||I'll take it from two freshmen and a junior.|
|Floyd||14.5||3||11.5||You think the DL is nuts, Floyd thinks. I'll show you nuts.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Good day. Quality option as a third guy.|
|Woolfolk||2.5||1||1.5||Floyd made him not entirely necessary. May still be hurt.|
|Kovacs||7||1||6||Forced fumble, good tackling, is Kovacs.|
|T. Gordon||2.5||-||2.5||Thumping hit forced technical incompletion.|
|Countess||3||2||1||Also had a jumped Jenkins PBU.|
|Pressure||31||18||13||Stunts and okie annihilated OL.|
|Tackling||13||2||87%||I can't even remember a broken tackle.|
So… yeah. There is something seriously wrong with the Illinois offense. There has to be, because you can't do the above without the offense helping you out quite a bit. I think Scheelhaase is perpetually late on his throws, and that they're tipping their passes, and that their offensive line is a total sieve. All that makes their offense really, really bad.
Even so… good gravy. Michigan had two DL at Brandon Graham levels of performance and a third not far off. I can't remember any cornerback ever hitting double digits before, and I can't remember a near 75% coverage day. I'm usually happy when coverage is a push. On Saturday, this is what they did to four verts:
There's a dude behind the one slot guy that you think might be open. He is not open. No one is open.
That is easily the best performance since 2006.
Word. Guy may not be the fastest player in the world but has he been beaten deep once this year? Not really. Michael Floyd got a 30-yard fade on him but even on that play he was there making life difficult and I +1ed him. He's had problems in run support… okay. He just spent a day breaking up a ton of short stuff, never getting threatened deep…
…and putting the cherry on top:
Even when Jenkins did get something on him it was often tough:
That guy is right on the sideline, which contributes to the overturn when he juggles it. If that's what Floyd's giving up, okay. I'll take that and a PI on which you broke for the ball too early.
These posts have started off cautious, moved towards "I know you won't believe this but…," and are now at a crossroads. People: JT Floyd is a legitimately good Big Ten corner. If he maintains this level of performance the last two weeks he should get consideration for All Big Ten.
TONY GIBSON MINUS ALL OF THE POINTS
Minus all of the points.
Are we at Alan MFin' Branch levels on third and one yet or what?
Not quite, but sort of yes. Alan MFin' Branch levels:
You can see 6'6", 330 of angry New Mexican hauling the tail end of that graph down like a black hole in spacetime. That's Alan Branch. 33 percent! On third and one! Six of eighteen! SIX OF EIGHTEEN!
Seth did the legwork for this year on Tuesday and came up with 44%, which isn't quite Michigan 2006. It is, however, insanely good. What's more, when he chopped out the MAC opponents from this year the numbers were six of… nineteen.
If you look at a third and one as an opportunity to boot the opponent off the field Michigan is literally doubling an average success rate and doing better than that against the meat of the schedule. The entire front seven shares in this accomplishment, as does Mattison, but IME the main guy in this success is Mike Martin.
The guy is the center of most of these plays. He gets doubled and he still gets penetration; the tailback cuts back and meets unblocked dudes.
I mean… we're talking about comparing this defense to 2006—the very best part of the 2006 defense—and saying "not quite as good except against real competition." My jaw has made it halfway to the Orb of Zot. Big Ten Wonk has authorized use of the word "stunned." THIS IS SURPRISING.
Remember last year when sometimes we'd line up with a three man line on third and one? And not even blitz anyone? HAHAHAHA
Aren't you a little harsh on those zone reads that got outside?
No. I mean, seriously:
This is cool. We've got this.
That's a nothing play—maybe a loss—turned into a touchdown because Clark's not looking at the ball, which is literally right in front of his face. This is how it is done:
Run at the guy with the ball.
That okie package was lethal, wasn't it?
Check BWS for a breakdown of the different blitzes run from it. Chris identified six, seemingly all of which ended with Scheelhaase running for his life or losing it. Por ejemplo:
Now that Michigan is keeping a deep safety on these things and not offering free touchdowns—Mattison learned that lesson in one try—they are increasingly difficult to deal with as new players and stunts get added to them. It's almost like Scot Shafer was on to something.
This is the week we get excited about Campbell again, isn't it?
Yeah. Check that Morgan decleater and see who forces the cutback into death: Campbell. On a late third and one that Michigan stuffed it was Campbell, not Martin, who blew the play up:
Get push, take on a fullback, shed and tackle… that's a good play right there. Illinois OL caveats apply; we'll probably be back to fretting next week.
What went wrong on the fourth down play?
The main problem was the fact that it turned into fourth and 18, not fourth and 26, when the line split like the Red Sea and allowed Scheelhaase to run up in the pocket:
With another ten yards to close the distance Kovacs probably gets there. I'd like to see a delayed blitzer in there to prevent that from happening.
Have any random notes for Borges he will roll his eyes at?
This botched decision by Scheelhaase worked out well:
Man, I think we should do that. We should run a fake inside zone that Robinson ostentatiously keeps on with the intent of pausing and then running up in the same hole the tailback is hitting. The ol' fake inside the fake.
Everybody. Especially Martin, Van Bergen, and Floyd.
WTF, get out of here with your goats.
What does it mean for Nebraska and the future?
I think we're in for a bit of a letdown; Nebraska's wacky option system does a lot of stuff that Michigan has not seen before—last week they turned the inverted veer into a speed option and I was like "oh that is so cool"—that attacks Michigan's still-youthful edges. I can see Nebraska effectively attacking the outside and making the Martin/Heininger/RVB axis a smaller factor than it's been the past couple games. Also that just can't happen again. My heart has already burst out of its little box; if Michigan holds Nebraska to 30 yards rushing it will emerge from my chest.
That said, it's suddenly hard to envision Nebraska having much success in the air even if Taylor Martinez is on a relative tear. They'll probably pick some stuff up on play action and the like, but Nebraska's had a hard time moving the ball against… quality defenses… like Michigan has. /faints
Anyway: 270 yards against MSU and victory only because they did to the MSU offense what Michigan did to that of Illinois, 331 against Penn State, 335 against Wisconsin. They did put up some points and yards in the frenetic final quarter against OSU; other than that it has been tough sledding.
As for the future… man. Woolfolk and Gordon seem like a push, so if Michigan can find some defensive linemen they are set for next year. Come on, Campbell.
11/12/2011 – Michigan 31, Illinois 14 – 8-2, 4-2 Big Ten
In a distant place a long time ago they played a football game in a dark and remote land. The opposing team's coach was a confused person who thought he had a pretty good team. Michigan scored a couple touchdowns but couldn't put the game away; at some point during the second half the confused coach's confused offense finally put together a touchdown drive to narrow the game, and I felt… irritated. Annoyed. Peeved.
This was a strange feeling to have about a suddenly close football game Michigan should have put away already, because every damn game Michigan lost against teams not named Ohio State could be described as "a suddenly close football game Michigan should have put away already." Despite this I was not casting about for pearls to clutch or pre-perforating my garments for easy rending when the time came. I was worried about the stats. This was odd.
Then: near interception, four-yard out, incomplete, incomplete, ballgame. Instead of a roar there was but a flat, damp squeak as Michigan landed the final clubbing blows and emerged from the lion's den with a rug in tow. There are no arguments about this game. No two seconds, no questionable heels or holding calls or other fantasies about if this or that. There is no "if". Michigan has still not been threatened this year. No opponent has moved the ball except when fortunate or permitted to. Its dominance is unquestioned by the foes it leaves battered in its wake. Sometimes -- and I know this is hard to believe -- seven points is a very large lead indeed.
Yeah, that game.
Of all the magical things that Greg Mattison has done since arriving in Ann Arbor for a second tour of duty, making me think about the 2006 Michigan defense a year after… that is hard to top.
2006 happened a century ago. I looked it up. The top songs were "I Want A Girl (Just Like The Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad)" and "Down By The Old Mill Stream." Long-distance communication was conducted by banging rocks together and hoping to startle a pigeon in a way that communicated "happy birthday" instead of "everyone is dead of typhoid again lol." Football games were played between competing sawmills and textile factories; a strict limit of two cattle per offensive line was still controversial. People in Alabama were accused of over-bovining. Craggy men who remembered the invention of writing like Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel, and Lloyd Carr roamed the sidelines. People did not reflexively talk about real good times.
2006 was a long time ago. The ten-volume history of the intervening century is a narrative of relentless, soul-crushing decline on defense.
This summer the UM Club of Greater Detroit invited me to their kickoff dinner. There I sat on a roundtable with Greg Dooley of MVictors and Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News as various guys with nametags peppered us with questions.
These things always have a pattern: I start out nervous because I'm just this guy, really, and there's a chance someone asks "why should we listen to you?" Since my response is necessarily "I have this blog… it's on the internet!" it's not a question I look forward to. These concerns are a little more pressing when the room is full of people who look like they still get newspapers home-delivered.
But the questions remain hypothetical because I start talking about these things and it turns out that doing what I do on a weekly basis fills your head with esoteric knowledge about all things. Denard Robinson was 84th of 100 qualifying quarterbacks last year in interception percentage. That sort of thing is just in my head, ready to be dispensed. After my head pops open and I start depositing THE KNOWLEDGE like the world's least appetizing Pez dispenser, there is a groove of confidence.
I mention it because there was one question from an elderly gentleman with a pleading edge I still remember. It was about the defense and why anyone would think it would get better. I was already on the record that this was an eight or nine win team; Dooley and Chengelis were pessimists. They cocked their heads and passed the mic.
I said that if you had only watched every play from the last three years over and over you would know. You would not know but feel the mass incoherence, the week-to-week changes, the insane personnel decisions (Demens, Roh as a LB, moving Woolfolk to corner in 2009, Cam Gordon as FS). That if you felt this thing having a guy the Ravens had coordinating their defense could only result in instant, massive improvement. At the very least they would have a plan*.
Though I believed it, as I was saying it it seemed like a reckless thing to tell people. If…that, or anything like it, happens again people will remember someone told them it was going to be all right, and then it wasn't. I hoped I wasn't telling them about the rabbits.
This was the point last year where everyone wrote off JT Floyd. It was the logical thing to do.
Twelve months later Floyd is holding AJ Jenkins to five yards a target and jumping a short route for a shoulda-been pick six for the first time since… God. A century ago. Time is working funny again. Greg Mattison has a phonebooth time machine he sent the secondary back to Charles Woodson's childhood in; they have emerged with ZZ Top beards, children, and skills.
This is a foundation for the future. Wrapping this motley crew of walk-ons, freshmen, people who were totally incompetent last year, Mike Martin, and Ryan Van Bergen into a top 20 defense is a QED achievement no matter the quality of the opposition. The level of coaching required to go from that to this is a constant Michigan can build its program on.
Last year the quality of the opposition didn't matter. Matt McGloin had the above to throw at, and he did. This year Michigan has been average at worst after Mattison figured out he didn't have Ed Reed. Some days they stroll off the field and if you squint you can just convince yourself the last century never happened. You can envision a future where Michigan isn't wondering about its place in the world.
*[Then I told everybody that Denard Robinson's turnover rate would drop like a stone. One out of two isn't bad. ]
There's also the Illinois POV. In their world Illinois wins 14-0 in a thrilling game lasting exactly 1:30. Parkinggod highlights miss the first drive thanks to ESPN sticking with the PSU press conference, but prove that Michigan's everything-is-wonderful POV still goes ten minutes.
Meanwhile, Desmond Morgan is fabulous.
Borgeswatch. 95% thumbs up. As it transpired I was frustrated with the lack of play-action after Illinois started selling out on the run game, but I forgot about the wind. I much prefer that to being reminded about it every 40 seconds like we were against Michigan State. I wonder if Scheehaase's propensity to wing it wide on Jenkins out cuts was due to the wind. While he's not the most accurate guy in the world he seemed particularly off Saturday.
It may have taken two harsh wakeup calls but at least Borges got the message. Run/pass breakdowns in the three windtastic road games against teams with secondaries:
- MSU: 39 passes, 28 runs
- Iowa: 21 passes, 28 runs*
- Illinois: 16 passes, 47 runs
The Gardner package also went away after its momentum-killing outing last week.
A large chunk of getting that play distribution was getting the running game to work. I don't know all of how or why that happened yet, but giving Toussaint the ball 27 times instead of two is part of it; using enough outside runs to get creases on the inside zone is part of it; making Denard a threat is part of it.
While Denard only managed 3.5 YPC on his 11 attempts it's hard to imagine what turned the #15 rush defense** into Swiss cheese if it wasn't Illinois paying too much attention to 16. This was clear on the first drive of the game. Watch the free safety who would be tackling Toussaint after ten yards but for one Denard Robinson:
By the time that dude realizes Denard does not have the ball Toussaint is gone. A similar screwup does not happen if Michigan is operating from under center.
Since I'm usually at games I'm not often able to participate in the internet zeitgeist to the extent I was the past couple weeks. Last week I was in line with everyone being real mad. This week I was surprised by the amount of heat Borges was taking for stuff that wasn't his fault at all. When Denard fumbles and Michigan misses a field goal or Huyge gets destroyed by Mercilus and Denard doesn't see the guy coming right at him, that's not on the OC. The reasons Michigan didn't score touchdowns in this game seemed to be out of Borges's hands.
*[Not counting the final three drives. I did move the two sacks, the fumble, and one Gardner scramble. I made similar adjustment to the other two games; they may be off by one or two but you get the idea.]
**[15-ish. Illinois's sacks distort that. Still a very good unit.]
Fourth and one. The 5% thumbs down, very down, was the fourth and one from the Illinois one yard line. If you're not willing to throw it when you spread them out and they don't spread out…
…I don't think you can do the wacky thing. Those guys to the top of the screen are late arriving and have no idea what they're doing. If you're going to swinging-gate them like this you've got to be able to take advantage of what they give you.
That fourth and one continues a couple trends: speed option and Borges getting cute. I wouldn't have minded it if they had lined up in one of those massive Tebow sets and tried something like this, but going without so much as a tight end in this spot is asking for trouble. The snap didn't help but I don't think it mattered much.
The immediate aftermath. Hoke calmly pointed his defense onto the field:
You are experiencing an unusually calm sensation. Which reminds me:
EPIC HOKE DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. I'm terribly sorry that I inaugurated this thing and then immediately forgot about it. It returns this week because of one man being so ridiculous I thought I should have some sort of special award… oh wait I do.
Your Illinois winner: JT Floyd. AJ Jenkins may have gotten his requisite eight catches for 100 yards but Scheelhaase had to work for it. At one point they showed some Jenkins stats and noted that he had five catches… and fourteen targets. According to Adam Jacobi he ended with eight on 20. That's 5 YPA throwing to a guy who may be the best WR in the Big Ten.
Even that undersells Floyd's day. The deep ball that took Jenkins's stats from mediocre to decent was zone coverage in the middle of the field Floyd was not directly responsible for (and it came after Scheelhaase was given all day). When involved Floyd was all over double moves and jumped a third and short pass for the interception that sealed the game with a little help from Gardner and Odoms.
Even Magnus thought he was "okay for once." WHAT MORE CAN ONE MAN DO?
Honorable mentions go to Al Borges (for his gameplan and getting in on the pointing his ownself), David Molk, and Fitzgerald Toussaint.
RETROACTIVE EPIC HOKE DOUBLE POINTS.
- Michigan State: Ryan Van Bergen, for being the only person to have a good day. HM: None.
- Purdue: Fitzgerald Toussaint, for making the tailback spot a plus for the first time in forever. HM: Mike Martin.
- Iowa: Mike Martin, for being GET IN THE CAR Mike Martin. HM: David Molk.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).
Weekly bubble bitchin'. Only Ron Zook could send his team out with two deep safeties and three guys tight over WRs against a team that hasn't run a bubble all year:
That's nuts. That's one reason you have that play in the playbook. If they take it away by alignment they've opened something else up. Usually not by putting five guys in the box—that's a Zook special.
What I really meant by posting "We Are ND" after Hoke hiring. I meant that we'd ride a soft schedule to an iffy BCS berth and get our faces crushed. If Michigan wins out—obviously a big if—that could happen. A 10-2 Michigan team will be second in the Big Ten pecking order since everyone other than the champ will have three losses.
Michigan will then be in competition with…
- Boise/Houston. Houston's 11th in the BCS standings and will get an autobid if they remain in the top 12. Boise's actually a spot in front of the Cougars still. One or the other will get a bid. All they have to do is finish in the top 16 since the Big East winner is going to be below them.
- Alabama/LSU/Arkansas. The SEC will get a second bid.
- Stanford/Oregon. If those two win out Stanford will probably get a bid.
- ACC runner-up: a two-loss Clemson or Virginia Tech.
- Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
Michigan's a lock to beat out a team coming off an ACC championship loss, but one-loss versions of Stanford or Oklahoma State would be tough—Jerry Palm has an all-at-large matchup of those two teams right now. If OU loses Bedlam that would also be tight.
Not making it would be just as well. I'd be happy playing Georgia in one of the infinite Big Ten/SEC matchups. I like nine wins and I cannot lie.
Special teams: actually a positive. FEI's not the only advanced stat rankings system purveyed by Football Outsiders; there's also one called F+. Last week F+ integrated special teams data for the first time; Michigan dropped from 17th to 25th. The special teams… eh… not so good.
This week they were. Matt Wile put five kickoffs in the endzone, Jeremy Gallon averaged 15 yards on four actual punt returns, and the missed field goal was off by about a foot. The only downer is Will Hagerup's persistent mediocrity. He averaged under 35 yards a kick and Michigan is now 112th in net punting. Even if you exclude all the coffin corner stuff from the MSU game he's averaging just 37.7 yards a kick. Wile was doing significantly better during Hagerup's suspension.
Unfortunately, it's likely Gallon's momentary renaissance and the Wile bombing are effects of the opponent and the wind. Illinois's punting is also in the triple digits.
Derp du jour. Seeing some revival of the "we can't run Denard because he won't last through the season" meme, which… like… guh. He's missed a series last week and the last quarter and a half this week because he banged his hand on a pass-rusher's helmet. Twice. The first time he was back in after a series. The second time he could have come back in if necessary. Cancel the spread offense.
Denard's lasted through the bulk of the Big Ten season and with Nebraska and Ohio State left on the schedule, restricting his carries in case he gets hurt is nuts. What are you saving him for?
BONUS: Devin Gardner did two things and Michigan's offense went from racking up yards (and shooting itself in the foot) to not doing the former (and getting short fields). There is no QB controversy. If Michigan makes a 39 yard field goal and Borges doesn't get too cute on the goal line it's 24-0 at halftime and we aren't having this conversation.
Let's stop talking about this.
A permanent feature. Hoke on his decision to go from the one:
Michigan reached the Illinois 1-yard line in the second quarter and went for it on fourth down. Robinson lost 4 yards on the play.
Hoke was asked if going for it in that situation will be the norm. "Pretty much," he said. "And the defense bailed me out."
Desmond Morgan decleater. Don't hate me but I thought that was a missed cut by the RB, who had a lane outside the block. /ducks
dnak puts the defensive performance in a graph (graph):
Left axis is as a percentage of historical worst—ie, last year. That's right: Michigan's scoring defense is brushing up against '06.
Inside the Box Score on Martin going uber:
Mike Martin lead us with 9 tackles. That’s right, an interior defensive lineman lead us with NINE tackles. I’m going to miss that guy. He also got half a sack and 2 QHs. Roh also had 2 QHs. We were QH’ing Scheelhaase all game long.
That's three straight games he's crushed the opponent. Moving towards what we all thought he'd be this year. Too bad it will be tough to crack the All Big Ten team with Short, Still, and Worthy also tearing up offensive lines.
Hoke for Tomorrow brings yet another reason to laugh at Ron Zook:
Ron Zook is a bad coach, this is known. It is remarkable how bad he is though, when looking at his record after bye weeks. Over the past 4 seasons (2008-2011) Illinois has had 6(!) bye weeks, with two in both 2009 and 2010. Their record following these bye weeks? 0-6:
2008: Lost to Penn St 38-24
2009: Lost to OSU 30-0, Lost to Cincinnati 49-36
2010: Lost to OSU 24-13, Lost to Fresno St 25-23
2011: Lost to Michigan (woot!) 31-14
That is epic fail. Ron Zook should be fired.
Bye weeks aren't actually helpful, but come on.
2010:: Total: 8, Scoring: 25, FEI: 2
2011:: Total: 40, Scoring: 37, FEI: 17
Our youthful inexperience has been replaced by transitional inexperience - so we still are inconsistent and turnover-ridden.
The FEI is most indicative I think - we went from an O with the potential to be great (if we had any kind of ST and D) to one that is just very good. I think after Borges was hired, this is sort of where we expected to be offensively - a step back, but not disastrously.
2010:: Total: 110, Scoring: 107, FEI: 108
2011:: Total: 16, Scoring: 5, FEI: 17
Mattison == Awesome. Last year, I said that I thought our D played worse than the personnel. Nevertheless, even if they were being outcoached by say, twenty teams in FEI, and the extra year of experience is good for another twenty teams - Mattison still improved the baseline by about 50 ranks. The defense is now as good as the offense.
Keep in mind that FEI adjusts for schedule strength so a realistic benchmark for an average BCS offense is not 60th. I just chopped out all the non-BCS teams and an average offense is 48th. That's actually lower than I would have guessed. Unfortunately for Michigan, their lack of success has been highly concentrated.
Unwashed blog masses. Via Adam Jacobi, Junior Hemingway scored an imaginary touchdown:
Ron Zook can probably make this happen.
Illini blog A Lion Eye has a habit of taping himself when things are actually going on. This seems like a bad idea in general and for an Illinois fan in particular, but it is entertaining. A partial transcript:
So there's two twenty-four left. We just got the ball back down… what is it… 31-14? And I… I really have… I'm like "oh, what's my emotion? What am I going to record?"
Uhhhhm… dead inside? That doesn't sound right. But it's kind of a… I don't know. I guess the only way to describe it is—oh, and a sack.
I recommend the whole thing not necessarily for the schadenfreude (of which there is plenty) but because it's reassuring that we're not jaded. You may think you're jaded after the last century, but you have no idea. I mean: "I'm just normal right now."
The HSR decides to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald a lot:
"Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle."
I think we can all agree that yesterday's game was a classic example of "left wanting". Though Michigan had a two score lead, on the road, against a team that considers Michigan its arch-rival*, it still felt like all of the missed red zone opportunities were going to come back to haunt Michigan, because we're taught that when you don't put the boot on the throat, it will cost you. Except, it didn't.
Refs. They obviously made a decision to only call holding if the offensive lineman actually removed the jersey of rusher. And on the play where Avery picked up the ball and scored the touchdown, they made three bad mistakes on a single play. The unholy trinity: 1. It wasn’t a fumble in the first place, that’s somewhat forgivable. 2. If it was a fumble, Avery was clearly on the ground (and thus down) when he picked it up, but they gave him a touchdown. 3. They didn’t adjust the clock after the play was reversed, should have been 19 or 20 seconds left instead of 14.
Hoke even complained about #3 and got nowhere. That is almost inevitably a call the refs give coaches.
My first impression was one of doom and gloom, but, the more I think about it, maybe it's not so bad. Michigan put up 31 against a formidable defense, more than any other Illinois opponent save Northwestern (qualifier: yeah, those are some bad offenses on their schedule, but it's all relative at this point). This is of course not even mentioning the inopportune turnovers and the Illini's general inability to move the ball, additional reasons to not feel so bad about things. Obviously you can't just take turnovers out, but Michigan could have very easily scored in the 40s, on the road, against a pretty good defense.
There was a lot of the doom and gloom on the internets, which I don't get. Michigan failed to put up 24 in the first half on the #6 defense in the country by shooting itself in the foot. While that's frustrating, it is so much worse to have a performance like Iowa where the offense is neither scoring nor moving the ball. Sometimes bad things happen. Michigan outperformed Illinois's yardage average by 80 despite playing in adverse conditions.
BWS is eeee Mattison:
Mattison is installing this defense a lot like Rodriguez or Borges installed their offense. Week by week, Mattison introduces a new formation or coverage scheme to the defense--usually only one. Early in the season, it was a basic stunt move intended to overwhelm one side of the offensive line. Against MSU, he debuted an A-gap zone blitz. Purdue: nickel blitz. Iowa: crowding the line of scrimmage. Michigan's base defense is a 4-3 under, man-coverage look that Mattison can slowly and effectively build upon. While he doesn't go back to the cookie jar in later weeks, the hope (and my expectation) is that when Michigan plays Ohio
State, they'll have an arsenal of blitzing plays that can be deployed in unison, creating a defense that is as unpredictable and consistently effective as the constantly tweaked offense under Rodriguez.
Mainstream media type persons. The Daily's Stephen Nesbitt gets a a slice of life from the field:
As Floyd started crossing the turf toward the tunnel to the visitor’s locker room, he saw Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins approaching him. The receiver-cornerback duo had battled all game long.
Floyd pulled up at the goal line.
“Heck of a game, man,” Floyd told the All-American wideout. “I think you’re a heck of a talent.”
Jenkins, in his orange No. 8 jersey, gave a big smile and tossed the same compliment back at Floyd — Michigan’s No. 8.
“Make sure you go get the rest of the (defensive backs) and give them some trouble the rest of the season,” Floyd said as he stepped away.
Chengelis on the diverse and sundry contributions:
Senior defensive lineman Mike Martin led the team with nine tackles. Linebackers Desmond Morgan and Kenny Demens had eight and seven tackles, respectively, and senior Ryan Van Bergen had 2.5 sacks.
Safety Jordan Kovacs forced a fumble, and Thomas Gordon made the recovery, his fourth of the season, and cornerback J.T. Floyd made a pivotal interception in the fourth quarter on a third-down play at the Michigan 40-yard line. He returned it 43 yards and Michigan converted into a touchdown to make it, 24-7.
That is many contributions. Kovacs's in particular was a MAKE PLAYS moment, putting his head on the ball after Michigan had found its line creased and forcing a turnover. That fumble was forced in a way that some of the previous ones haven't been.
Daily on Mattison's reaction:
“That was a Michigan defense,” Mattison said like a proud father figure, admitting it for the first time all season. “They played as hard as they could, they did whatever they had to do. Without a doubt, that was a Michigan defense.”
The Michigan football team had just won the game on defense, holding Illinois to 30 yards, including minus-14 first-half rushing yards, before ultimately allowing 14 points and just 214 yards of offense en route to a 31-14 victory on the road.
“They’re Michigan Men,” said an emotional Mattison. “We talk about it all the time, that there’s a standard at Michigan and you’ve got to live up to that, and you're judged by it. We haven’t come to that final point where you win the game on defense, and we said, ‘This is your last away trip to do it.’ I couldn’t be more proud of this group of guys.”
11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.
You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.
Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.
This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.
Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.
In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.
The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.
I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.
This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.
Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.
There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.
We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.
*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:
ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]
Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.
On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.
Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:
- Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
- Losing Rich Rodriguez.
- Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]
On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:
In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.
I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.
I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.
The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:
- Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
- 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
- Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.
Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.
I guess no turnovers is a bummer.
The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.
Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.
Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.
If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.
Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.
Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.
Des Moines Register
Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.
Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.
That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez
Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.
Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.
Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:
What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…
Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes. TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.
I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.
The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.
Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.
But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Bull. I mean:
Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.
So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.
I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.
Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.
BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.
I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.
I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.
Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:
Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)
Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.
I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:
So that happened. I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome. I could feel the disappointment coming all week. Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house. Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already. There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that. No surprise: it did.
Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.
And the Denard slide started a long time ago.
Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:
My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm. He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three. He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated. Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.
Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels. Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge. I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst.
The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:
but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.
the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.
When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.
There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.
Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.
It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.
INTERESTING SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK
Hey, that's a lady. BTN didn't show any shots of people you'd recognize, so this is the closest thing to evidence that they were holding up pictures of people who left. She must be support staff or something.
Formation notes: Mostly under, which they ran almost all the time when they were actually running what they wanted to. When SDSU went to spread formations the nickel package came in, with a good amount of one-high press…
…and some regular old nickel even. IE: the usual. No funny stuff.
Substitution notes: Kovacs and Gordon went the whole way with Carvin Johnson re-claiming his spot as the fifth defensive back in nickel. Gordon is the nickelback; Johnson came in as a safety. Woolfolk went out with an ankle issue in the second quarter and Avery came in; Floyd went out with a ding in the third quarter and Countess came in. When Floyd returned it was Avery, not Countess, who took a seat.
At LB it was Ryan-Demens-Hawthorne almost the whole way. Morgan, Fitzgerald, and Beyer got a series or two each spelling the starters.
On the DL, the same four starters (Roh, RVB, Martin, Heininger) with heavy rotation from Campbell and Black with lesser rotation from Brink. I don't think I saw much of Washington. In the nickel package they lifted one of the DT types and left Ryan out as a DE.
|O18||1||10||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||3|
|RB takes the handoff to the right of the QB as the FB goes left—a bit of counter action here. Martin(+2) pushes the C into the backfield, forcing an awkward cut from Hillman; RVB(+0.5) has also gotten penetration, forcing Hillman to hit it up in the small crease between the two DTs. Martin chucks his blocker and comes off to tackle. I'm trying to figure out why this is three yards instead of zero—think it's the linebackers not being aggressive enough, but no minuses.|
|O21||2||7||I-Form twins unbalanced||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||6|
|First of many flips by M's DL as SDSU flips the formation. This will have to get sorted out. They actually end up in an even formation with LBs from strong to weak Demens, Hawthorne, Ryan. Given the alignment of the other LBs this appears to be a bust by Ryan(-2), who did not flip when the rest of the line did. As a result they run power off the left hand side and one guy has no one to block. Demens heads straight upfield, taking on an OL peeling off RVB right at the LOS. This forces a bounce that may have been coming anyway because of the Ryan misalignment. RVB gets caught inside but I don't blame him since this is probably how he's supposed to play it when he's got an SLB. M gets lucky that the FB jets downfield instead of trying to block Hawthorne, who is scraping quickly from the interior. Hawthorne(+0.5) shoots between the FB headed for Kovacs and the pulling OL, forcing Hillman outside. He misses a tackle(-1) but his ability to get out in a flash forces Hillman outside into Kovacs(+0.5), who set up in a good spot; Hillman cuts back under where Ryan makes some amends by tackling before the sticks. Not an RPS minus because the error here is w/ player, not call.|
|O27||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Roh||-1|
|Pulling guard trips as he comes out of his stance, which helps quite a bit. Roh(+3) is one on one with a tight end, pushes him into the backfield, and then throws him to the ground. He meets Hillman head-on a yard in the backfield for a thumping tackle. Strong possibility this is still stuffed with the pull since Hawthorne(+0.5) had flown up into the gap outside Roh and was in position to tackle behind the LOS.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Ryan||10|
|Ryan(-2) straight upfield again, giving up the edge. When you're let into the backfield without being blocked and don't make this guy at least change his flight path you messed up. There's no way for the LBs to remain responsible on the inside run here and get outside to track the jet sweep down unless Ryan delays the guy; he does not. Gordon keeps leverage forcing it back; Demens is pursuing and Kovacs(+0.5) comes up to tackle at the sticks.|
|O30||1||10||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Pass||5||Throwaway||Heininger||Inc (Pen -10)|
|Not really a blitz as this is a two-man route. Deep guy is bracketed by Floyd and Woolfolk; Kovacs is going with the TE who motioned out. I think Lindley sees Hawthorne in his throwing lane and decides to chuck it at his RB's feet, which causes Hawthorne to vacate that lane when he sees the QB's eyes leave. Also, Heininger(+1, pressure +1) got in Lindley's face, drawing a holding call. It kind of looks like the TE hitch might be open, but results-based charting. (Cover +2, Kovacs +0.5; Floyd +0.5; Woolfolk +0.5)|
|O20||1||20||I-Form||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||Long handoff||Woolfolk||8|
|Played poorly by Woolfolk(-1), who lets the play outside of him and gives up eight yards on a nothing screen. Either have to tackle more quickly or force it back to help; Hawthorne was probably there if forced inside.|
|O28||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Floyd||11|
|SDSU shifts from an I-form and gets a too-easy pitch and catch in front of Floyd(cover -1). Not really his fault as this was a zone blitz they had a good route on for (RPS –1).|
|O39||3||1||I-Form big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Martin||7|
|TEs flip and this time Ryan has his head on straight. Martin(+1) slides through the center instantly. He's into the backfield, picking off a puller. This provides Michigan a free hitter, which is a hard-flowing Demens(+1), who is in position to tackle for loss; Hillman bounces. Woolfolk(+1) is there on the edge but is held to the point where his shoulder pads pop out; no call. Refs -2.|
|O46||1||10||I-Form twin TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Hawthorne||7|
|So this is what happens when Michigan does not flip the formation: not good stuff. Michigan's defense makes no sense: they're outnumbered on the strong side so they slant weakside and blitz Floyd(?!?) from the weakside as well. Black(-1) is not done favors by the play call but gets nailed inside; Hawthorne(+1) takes on a lead block and gets crushed but manages to keep his feet and draw the attention of a second blocker, who kicks the poor guy's ass. Hawthorne falls backwards right into Hillman's feet, which he grabs. Woolfolk was also there. Demens did okay considering the circumstances; Ryan(-0.5) was lost on the backside of the play; would not have been available to pursue if needed. RPS -2.|
|M47||2||3||Shotgun twin TE||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Demens||7|
|Neither DT needs a double. Brink(+0.5) and Campbell(+0.5) stand up single blocks and get upfield, so the A gap is where the play must go. Heininger(-2) ends up sealed a yard and a half downfield after only a momentary double. The linebackers take on blocks near the first down marker and converge to tackle. Hillman and various OL start pushing the pile, whereupon Hillman fumbles because Demens(+2) ripped the ball out.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 7 min 1st Q. Not too peeved about this drive since it should have been booted off the field on a third and short but for a hold.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||5||PA Deep out||Gordon||21|
|Morgan in for Hawthorne. Late motion stacks the two WRs over each other; one runs deep and the other cuts out an out route. Deep guy has run off Woolfolk and Gordon is coming from the inside so there's a big hole in the coverage(-2). Martin(+0.5) had gotten some pressure on Lindley to force him to throw it off his back foot a bit; Morgan(-1) sucked way up on the playfake and let Hillman out into the flat with no one around him. Gordon(-1) didn't read this very well.|
|M49||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||3|
|Another formation flip, causing Michigan to do the same. TE then motions into the backfield as short side is overloaded. This time Ryan(+0.5) is in the right spot. He takes on his blocker quickly, standing him up at the LOS and further inside than he wants to be. Pulling G impacts him. RVB, Martin, and Heininger all do their jobs without doing anything spectacular, so there are no holes and a wad of bodies forms about two yards downfield. Half points for RVB and Heininger; Martin got pushed back a bit trying to shed and is the reason there's a little push.|
|M46||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||6||Out||Woolfolk||10|
|Rhythm throw from Lindley comes too soon for serious pressure unless someone doesn't get picked up; SDSU stones the blitz (pressure -1, RPS -1). Woolfolk(+0.5) is there to tackle on the catch and has a decent shot of raking the ball out; he's about a half step from a PBU.|
|M36||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||Gordon||1|
|Both TEs block down as both guards pull. Ryan again flies straight upfield, avoiding the downblock but not doing anything useful. If he slows up here and picks off the pulling G he gets a plus, but he doesn't. Hillman is in business if he cuts upfield but he widens too much and too fast for his OL to keep up with him, allowing Gordon(+1) to flow hard upfield. Hillman tries to cut inside; Demens(+0.5) slows up and is blocked by the guy Ryan did not pick off. He is in a good spot to prevent bad things from happening, though. Hillman bounces back outside, where Gordon has beaten the other G's block. He can't make a tackle but does slow Hillman enough for Demens, Martin, and Morgan to tackle for little gain. One yard gain only gets 1.5 plus because I think this is a poor job by Hillman of reading his blocks.|
|M35||2||9||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||5|
|TE motions in and Floyd moves down in as a quasi SLB. Michigan slanting playside; Heininger(+0.5) gets upfield of his guy but Campbell(-1) does not, getting sealed away. Heininger's move robs SDSU of some of its blocking angles; there's an OL out on Morgan but no one on Floyd or Demens so those guys can shut it down after a few yards provided by the Campbell crease. Would like to see Demens(-0.5) hit this more authoritatively; he gives up YAC by making a bleah arm tackle.|
|M30||3||4||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Pass||6||Slant||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) bats it at the line.|
|M30||4||4||Shotgun 2TE||Okie press||Pass||6||RB flat||Demens||Inc|
|So they do leave a guy wide open here, but they might have done it on purpose. SDSU misaligns, leaving a TE covered up. Johnson points him out out Floyd, and, then Floyd ignores him to double the RB coming out of the flat. Is Johnson IDing the guy as ineligible or telling Floyd to cover him and getting ignored? Don't know. In any case, Michigan sends six. Ryan gets a free run(+0.5, pressure/RPS +1) but Lindley has time to try to find a guy. It's his RB leaking into the flat after giving Demens(+2, cover +2) an ole; Demens pivots and is maybe a step behind him, making this throw all but impossible. Lindley has about a yard where the RB can catch it but it won't bounce off Demens's head, and Floyd(+0.5) is coming up to hit him at or near the sticks anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 14-0, 3 min 1st Q. The coverage is just night and day. Sometimes guys get open but this is suddenly a much, much tougher secondary to go up against.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 even||Pass||5||PA TE Seam||--||Inc|
|I don't know what the hell they pulled to get this but Ryan is now lined up over the slot receiver. Michigan runs zone behind a blitz; Lindley throws a seam to a TE who is running an out. With three guys around this TE it was going to be a tough window on the seam.|
|O27||2||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Campbell||4|
|So... Campbell(+0.5). He gets doubled and holds his ground as NTs are supposed to do. Hurrah. This allows both LBs to flow to the hole unimpeded. Ryan(+0.5) gets into his blocker at the LOS, forcing the pulling G and RB outside; Fitz(+1) takes on the G at the LOS and forces it back to Hawthorne, his help. This should be a textbook stop except Ryan(-0.5) has started to cede ground quickly and is now behind the LOS. Cutback lane opens up. Campbell should be there to cut it off but has spent the entire play just burrowing into his two dudes. Gordon(+1) has flowed down with the time provided by the jam-up on the front and makes a solid-wrap up tackle(+1) to mitigate the damage but this probably should have been zero.|
|O31||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Dig||Gordon||Inc|
|This is so good. One: Martin(+2) rips through a double team and forces Lindley to throw to his first read(pressure +1). Two: Hawthorne is ripping upfield as Michigan sends three blitzers up the center as Black peels off to pick up the TE drag. Three: Gordon(+2, cover +2) reads the TE cut and jumps the route, arriving at the destination in front of the TE. If this is accurate Gordon has a shot at an INT; Lindley wings it wide. This is what a damn strong defense looks like.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, EO1Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O17||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||4||RB flat||Martin||Inc|
|Martin(+2, pressure +1) roars up the center of the pocket, eventually pancaking the center(!) and causing Lindley to dump it inaccurately to a flat route Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) had blanketed anyway.|
|O17||2||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||5||Out||Woolfolk||13|
|I think Beyer needs to get some more depth on his drop here but this is a 12-yard out he can't help on. Far too easy for the WR here as Woolfolk(-1, cover -1) is beaten clean and can only shove the guy out after he turns upfield.|
|O30||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle TE Flat||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) don't bite on a weak fake and are right in Lindley's face(pressure +2), forcing him to turf it. Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) had gotten way out of position and this would have been open otherwise.|
|O30||2||10||I-Form twins||Nickel press||Run||N/A||Iso||Van Bergen||9|
|Michigan goes nickel on second and long versus a standard set, and are one guy away from stuffing a run anyway. Martin(+1) slants under the backside G and just misses taking out the FB. Instead he's in the path of the RB, forcing him to stop and cut back behind. Both linebackers shed blocks and are about to tackle when Van Bergen(-2) gets blown way off the line after standing up initially, providing a cutback lane with no one in it because Black(-1) ran around upfield. Hawthorne nailed with a block in the back; no call. Johnson(+0.5, tackling +1) does fill well.|
|O39||3||1||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Campbell||2|
|Seems like M is playing this too conservatively, with two deep safeties and the LBs five yards off the LOS. Campbell(+0.5) stands up a G and comes off to tackle but it's not enough with the LBs having to come down from far away.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Post||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Good pocket(pressure -1) and Lindley seems to want a post on Woolfolk—you can tell how they're picking on him and avoiding Floyd. The receiver thinks it's a run play and starts blocking.|
|O41||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Out||Gordon||9|
|Gordon(-1) allows a five yard out, which fine, but then overruns the play (tackling -1), turning the five yards into nine. He does manage to tackle from behind when the WR slows up.|
|50||3||1||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|This is why you don't talk into conch shells.|
|O45||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||6||Slant||Woolfolk||9|
|No time to get to the QB here as it's slants; Woolfolk(-1, cover -1) is beaten, and while I wouldn't usually be so harsh here he's got a WR juggling the ball and if he hits him at all it's incomplete. Instead he's a step away. It's instructive to compare Floyd on the other side—he is covering his very well. Woolfolk leaves the game limping at this point.|
|M46||1||10||Goal line||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Hawthorne||4|
|Nothing on the frontside as Martin(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) hold up; Heininger(-1) is blown up but Hawthorne(+1) slices into the gap before the guy coming off Heininger can pop him. Roh(+0.5) is flowing down the backside and forces a bounce all the way behind into an unblocked Avery, who tackles.|
|M42||2||6||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Long handoff||Floyd||5|
|Kovacs is charging hard from the inside and Floyd does play this better than Woolfolk, making a tackle instead of forcing him OOB. This means five yards instead of eight. Still less than ideal.|
|M37||3||1||I-Form Big||46 eagle||Run||N/A||Down G||Fitzgerald||2|
|Going at Fitz, lined up over the TE. He does an okay job to stay at the LOS but gets no penetration. Playside DE is RVB, who shoots into the backfield and gets blown out of the play. That is something that happens when you're gambling on short yardage. Demens(+0.5) gets to the lead blocker at the LOS and forces Kazee up the back of the TE; Hawthorne(+0.5) comes under a block to tackle but Kazee can fall forward for the first.|
|M35||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Deep comeback||Ryan||21 (Pen -10)|
|Ryan(+2, pressure +1) is blitzing off the edge and gets inside the fullback; he's held. Otherwise a sack is likely. Lindley steps around the hold and lofts an impossibly accurate back-foot deep comeback that nails a WR at the sticks 16 yards downfield in front of Avery. Dude made a lot of bad throws, but dude... this is dude. Avery(-1, tackling -1) compounds matters by missing a tackle.|
|Campbell(+1) and Heininger(+1) both shove single blocking into the backfield, forcing the play behind into the unblocked Ryan(+0.5) for a TFL.|
|M45||2||20||Shotgun 2TE||Nickel press||Pass||4||TE flat||Avery||2|
|Ryan(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5, pressure +1) bullrush right back into Lindley, forcing a quick throw for nothing that Avery(+1, cover +1, tackling +1) is all over.|
|M43||3||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Post||Floyd||Inc|
|Martin(+1, pressure +1) flushes Lindley up into the pocket; he has to throw as RVB threatens to come outside to take him out. It's a post. Similar to the previous incompletion on fourth down, here the Michigan defender is in very good position and Lindley's window is tiny. Floyd(+1, cover +1) doesn't get his head around for the ball and so doesn't pick up an extra plus; if he did you could have filed this under passes Lindley was lucky he didn't throw more accurately.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M48||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Martin||Inc (Pen -10)|
|Martin(+2) blows through the center's block before Lindley can even turn around and his held. Lindley is all like GET IN THE CAR IT'S MIKE MARTIN and chucks the ball away. (Pressure +2)|
|O42||1||20||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||-2|
|Hoo! Demens(+2) reads the play and roars to the LOS, blasting the pulling OL on his ass. Ryan(+2) set up the FB's block so that it would be in the wrong place, Harris-style, then explodes upfield at about the same time Demens is giving this OL the business, tackling for loss. Greg Mattison, man.|
|O40||2||22||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Slant||Floyd||Inc|
|Lindley wings a slant behind his receiver. Floyd(+0.5) seemed in position for an immediate tackle, which is fine in this D&D.|
|O40||3||22||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Black||8 (Pen +5)|
|Black(-1) jumps offside. Lindley checks down (cover +1) despite having a free play.|
|O45||3||17||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Comeback||Martin||Inc|
|Zone blitz with both LBs headed up the middle as the DEs drop off. Kovacs comes late. This is telegraphed and picked up; Martin(+2) quickly battles through the OT's block and gets a hurry on Lindley, forcing him to get rid of the ball. Comeback is well wide. Short of the sticks but in go for it range if complete. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 11 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||2|
|Michigan slants the line away from the strength of the formation. This takes RVB(+0.5) into the playside G, eliminating him from downfield blocking. Ryan(+1) impacts both lead blockers, delaying the lead guy and taking the second one. Fitz's initial burst is taking him outside, where he'll need to be if there is a bounce against this slant, so he can't change direction fast enough to do much other than impact the FB that Ryan delayed. That's fine since the slant has left Hawthorne(-0.5) a free hitter. If he's as fast to the LOS as Fitz this is no gain; as it is he's a little late. He does tackle(+1). RPS +1.|
|M37||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|WR beats Floyd(-1, cover -1) clean and Lindley can throw on rhythm. WR drops it. Pressure was getting there if there was a second read. (Pressure +1)|
|M37||3||8||Ace twins twin TE||Okie press||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||--||22|
|Massive RPS here as Michigan is lined up in its okie set with one guy on deep and does not react when SDSU motions in a TE who was already split out. When the Aztecs run the toss to that side they've got Roh, Hawthorne, Kovacs, and Avery versus four OL. Yay. Roh(-1) crushed inside like Lewan is blocking him; Kovacs(-2) takes fatal steps to the interior. Hawthorne manages to spin outside one block only to get buried by another OL. Avery keeps leverage but has little hope of doing anything else. Johnson(+0.5) manages to dive at Hillman's feet as he nears the 15 despite taking on a block; Hillman runs through it but this slows him down enough for a pursuing RVB(+2) to tackle from behind, punching the ball free as he does. Ryan recovers. RPS -3. It is super inane that the replay focuses on Jake Ryan instead of the DT WHO RAN DOWN RONNIE HILLMAN. Guh.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 21-0, 9 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Yakety snap||--||1|
|Fumbled snap is picked up by Hillman, who rushes to the edge. Ryan gets lit up on a crackback block; Floyd cleans up. He's dinged on the tackle, paving the way for Countess.|
|O24||2||9||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||TE Corner||Martin||Inc|
|This is open for a big chunk and just missed; Avery(-2, cover -2) has no threats in front of him and has to get much deeper on this to take it away. Ryan(+1) and Martin(+1) had both beaten blocks to pressure(+2) Lindley, possibly causing the incompletion. If Avery covers this is a sack.|
|O24||3||9||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Skinny post||Countess||Inc|
|Time, but no one open(cover +2); Countess(+2, cover +1 again) is tested and is running this skinny post for the WR; he's even got his head around. Ball is well behind the WR and incomplete.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 2 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M38||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA something||Countess||Inc|
|Plenty of time(pressure -1); Lindley throws sort of in the direction of Countess and his guy but not, like, near them.|
|M38||2||10||I-Form twins||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Iso||Ryan||4|
|Ryan in space over the slot receiver. Campbell(+1) takes a double and doesn't move, then fights playside of his blocker. Hole is small. Fitz(+1) pops the FB right at the line; RVB(+1) fights outside to keep the bounce from happening; Ryan(-1) is hesitant about the bounce and fails to fill the last remaining crack of space Hillman has; he does tackle but the delay allows Hillman to get four where there were none. It is possible this is on RVB for bouncing out, but I doubt it since he's the senior.|
|M34||3||6||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Avery||7|
|This seems like about as good as you can defend this. Avery(+1, cover +1) does give up the inside but only barely; he's right on the WR's back and the throw has to be perfect and the catch good since Avery whacks the WR's hand just as the ball arrives, then tackles.|
|M27||1||10||Ace 3TE||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA TE Wheel||Kovacs||Inc (Pen -5)|
|Black(+1) beats a blocker and hurries Lindley(pressure +1), forcing a throw. This one is way off and wouldn't have mattered anyway since Kovacs(+2, cover +2) had run the guy's route for him, forcing the TE OOB of his own volition. Another good-thing-you're-inaccurate-buddy throw. TE was covered up anyway, illegal man downfield. I would not have taken a five yard penalty instead of an incompletion here.|
|M32||1||15||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||6||PA RB flat||Hawthorne||13|
|Blitz gets a guy in but there is an easy dumpoff because of it; Hawthorne(-2, tackling -2) is running out to keep this down to a moderate gain but overruns the play badly, barely touching Hillman. Gordon comes from behind to tackle near the sticks.|
|M19||2||2||Goal line||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle TE Flat||Ryan||3|
|Hillman takes three yards on a TE flat. Okay.|
|M16||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||4||Post||Avery||16|
|I actually tend to blame Gordon more than Avery here; as soon as that TE in the slot goes horizontal you are no longer threatened in the deep middle and it's time to find the other WRs. That's speculation from me. Avery does get beat on the post but not by much. He's again on the back of the WR and forces a perfect throw, which Lindley provides. Am I being too nice here?|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, EO3Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|50||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Black||0|
|Black(+2) ducks under the OT's block and penetrates into the backfield, forcing Hillman away from blocking lanes and getting a diving arm tackle attempt that brings him to a near halt. Martin(+0.5) has held his position and pops off into a lane that Hillman might hit; he comes back inside, where Demens(+0.5) is there to finish the job.|
|50||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Slant||Countess||10|
|Blitz up the middle with dropping DEs. I can't tell if this is Ryan's fault, Countess's fault, or no one's fault. Ryan drops back into the slot's slant instead of the outer slant, leaving it open; Countess is off the line. I'm watching Floyd on the other side play an identical slant and he's in much better position, so Countess(-1, cover -1) gets the ding. He does recover to tackle before the sticks. Also pressure -1.|
|M40||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||5||Post||Countess||Inc|
|Ryan off the line. He approaches it on a late shift; Gordon comes down over the slot for a one-high look. Play action with the outside receivers going deep; Countess is in man with a guy on a post. He runs it for him (+2, cover +2) and Lindley adds to his list of thankfully inaccurate passes. Pressure -1.|
|M40||2||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|Big personnel with Hillman spread out wide and a FB next to Lindley. They run a little hitch to Hillman, which might work okay if they'd successfully motioned out a LB on him, but it's Floyd(+2, cover +2), who breaks on the ball for a PBU. RPS +1.|
|M40||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||6||Fade||Countess||Inc|
|Blitz gets Morgan(+1, RPS +1, Pressure +2) a free run up the middle. Lindley makes a back-foot chuck a la Carder but this one is deadly accurate, a fade outside of Countess's guy(-1, cover -1) that he just drops.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-7, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Outside zone||Ryan||14|
|I think. It's not really stretch blocking but the playside tackle is definitely sealing RVB inside. It bounces outside spectacularly because Ryan(-2) is hacked to the ground by a fullback block, giving up the corner. Demens(-2) is also cut to the ground, meaning there's zero chance anyone can get out there before the secondary.|
|O48||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Van Bergen||-5|
|A tiny little adjustment murderizes the play. Michigan goes to an even front, which shifts RVB outside over a TE. TEs fan out and RVB(+1). goes straight upfield to tackle(+1) for loss. Normally the TEs would block Ryan and the T would get Van Bergen but the shift to the even confused them. More bust than tactical checkmate but still RPS +1.|
|O43||2||15||I-Form twins||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Draw||Van Bergen||4|
|Van Bergen(+1) blows his guy back as they make contact, forcing Hillman behind him and away from his blocking. Countess(+0.5) realizes what's going on and sees Hillman coming; he can't disengage smoothly but does manage to sort of arm tackle him; Demens(+0.5) finishes it off. I'll take a four yard run on second and fifteen when you're in nickel and they're in a regular set.|
|O47||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie press||Pass||6||Slant||Countess||10|
|Countess(-1, cover -1) is beaten a lot easier than Floyd and Avery have been so far this game and can only tackle afterwards; no chance at a breakup. This sets up a fourth down.|
|M43||4||1||Ace 3TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA TE Seam||--||Inc|
|PA is wildly effective and this guy is wide open (RPS -2, cover -2) but either Lindley misses or his TE turns the wrong way and it's incomplete.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 21-7, 8 min 4th Q. Michigan scores quickly and SDSU gets the ball back with 6 minutes left down 21. Both starting units stay on so I'll keep charting, but with game situation in mind big minuses for chunks will be slim. I'm mostly just trying to get a grip on the D.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Out||Kovacs||Inc|
|Lindley badly misses on an out or the WR should have run a hitch; either way Kovacs(-1, cover -1) is way far off after a Floyd corner blitz.|
|O27||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Flat||Countess||2|
|Okay pressure; Lindley has to check down (cover +1). Countess(+1, tackling +1) is the hard corner in the zone and comes up for an immediate tackle.|
|O29||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie press||Pass||5||Skinny post||Van Slyke||23|
|Van Slyke in tight man against an SDSU TE and just gets outrun by yards. Man. That guy cannot play in real games, I don't think. No cover because I don't think this is relevant to actual games.|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||3||Dig||Hawthorne||15|
|Hawthorne(-2, cover -2) busts, flying out on an out route and leaving a big hole in the zone.|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Gordon||14|
|Out and and a post behind it; Gordon starts moving out on the out, then realizes that's not a good idea and sinks back. On the throw he's right there but the WR undercuts him a little and gets to the ball first, making a juggling catch. He's there and he's got a shot at an INT; could have played it better when the ball got there. (-0.5)|
|M19||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Sack||Roh||-8|
|Not instant BG death pressure here as Lindley sits for a second or two before trying a deep corner route, but Roh(+2) does beat the OT and hit the QB as he throws, forcing a drive-ending fumble. Pressure +1.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 28-7, 5 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O17||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE seam||Demens||30|
|Martin and Lindley are out there so I guess I'm charting. I have no idea what to do with this one since Demens is in great position and actually has this ball go off his head before the TE Prothros him. I think (+0.5, cover +1) but please get your head around son before you Todd Howard us all. I mean... this throw was really hard and so was the catch and Demens could have done better but he didn't do bad.|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Countess?||13|
|This may be on Countess (-1, cover -1), as this appears to be zone; Countess sits down on a short hitch, opening space up behind him that Gordon and the S can't cover. He should definitely be dropping deeper in this situation; who cares about a little hitch?|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Countess||1|
|Michigan misaligns and SDSU busts. Opa! Hawthorne(-1) lines up wrong but the WR out on the bubble doesn't block so okay. Countess tackles for a minimal gain.|
|M39||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Gordon||Inc|
|Gordon on the slot; pocket is okay; Black is getting there but Lindley can step up. Zinged to Denso, who makes a one-handed grab with Gordon in pursuit. Gordon was riding him but couldn't make a play on the ball. -0.5. It's dropped because of the tough throw.|
|M39||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Screen||Ryan||Inc|
|Ryan(+1) and Campbell(+1) read screen and snuff it out; Lindley turfs it. RPS +1. Black(-1) was offside.|
|M34||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Gordon||9|
|Gordon(-1, cover -1) beaten, and fairly easily.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Countess||6|
|Six yard slant with instant tackle... I usually don't ding these on first down since you have to be wary about longer routes.|
|M19||2||4||Shotgun 4-wide tight||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Countess||Inc|
|Wide. Probably right at the sticks if completed.|
|M19||3||4||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Pass||4||Hitch||Hawthorne||6|
|Hawthorne in tight coverage but Lindley fits it in and Hawthorne can't rake it out.|
|M13||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Throwaway||Black||Inc|
|Black(+1) gets some pressure and Lindley chucks it OOB due to good coverage(+1).|
|M13||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Pass||4||Corner||Countess||Inc|
|Corner route against man is a TD if well thrown; this is too far inside. Countess(+0.5) is there and can make a play on the ball as it gets there, though, so there's that. M making it tough.|
|M13||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie press||Pass||7||Seam||Floyd||Inc|
|Unblocked guy, naturally, Lindley chucks it off his back foot inaccurately; Floyd(+1, cover +1, RPS +1) was riding the WR before the throw to make sure that was the case.|
|M13||4||10||Ace twins twin TE||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Gordon||Inc|
|Gordon in trail position again and seems beaten but as the WR catches it he double clutches; Gordon(+1, cover +1) punches it loose.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-7, EOG.|
OH MAH GAWD WE HELD A ACTUAL-ISH TEAM TO SEVEN POINTS
Yes. Yes, smooth out the jacket.
Insert bubble pipe.
Adopt calm, professional mien.
How about a chart?
Yes, that will help.
That's not very professional.
I took out the reference to "sex."
You have multiple exclamation points… and did you put the title at a jaunty angle? IS THAT AN EMO-KID LOWERCASE LETTER AMONGST CAPITALS IN THERE?
It's not in comic sans at least.
Pretty soon you'll be referring to Michigan's coaches as "CBH, CGM, and CAB."
Hater. I'm not even going to let you say chart.
|Van Bergen||8.5||2||6.5||Forced fumble was big deal; solid otherwise.|
|Roh||6.5||1||5.5||Not bad for splitting time.|
|Heininger||3||3||0||I'll take it.|
|Black||4||4||0||Not much impact; two offsides calls.|
|Campbell||4.5||1||3.5||Keep hope alive.|
|TOTAL||42.5||11||31.5||Martin wrecked these guys. Check the pressure metric.|
|Demens||9.5||2.5||7||Not sure what to do with his Howard-esque coverage but I liked it.|
|Ryan||9.5||8||1.5||Paging Jonas Mouton to aisle reincarnation.|
|Fitzgerald||2||-||2||A couple plays.|
|Beyer||-||-||-||Did not register.|
|Hawthorne||4.5||6.5||-2||Half of minuses came on final drive, fwiw, but he did bust a coverage there.|
|TOTAL||26.5||18||8.5||A better day from most; Ryan makes plays but really needs to settle down on the edge.|
|Floyd||5.5||1||4.5||Tony Gibson -1000|
|Avery||2||3||-1||Tough completions made against him.|
|Woolfolk||2||3||-1||Didn't seem right even before the injury.|
|Kovacs||3.5||3||0.5||Got him on the long RPS run.|
|T. Gordon||5||4||1||All safeties > 0 against real QB.|
|Countess||6||4||2||Not as rapturous as we thought but still pretty good, full stop.|
|Johnson||1||-||1||A couple of fills.|
|Tackling||5||5||0||Could use work.|
|RPS||8||10||-2||Blitzing reduced as not necessary; did get RPS-3ed on a big run|
To sanity check those numbers, SDSU had thirteen drives and got seven points. Four drives started at midfield or worse. When Michigan punched in their final TD to end the game with about six minutes left, SDSU had 266 yards. Michigan at least sort of forced three turnovers.
I think they're right. With a few exceptions on too-easy short passes and busts on edge contain, San Diego State got dominated.
But Lindley was terrible. This means nothing!
I don't think Lindley was good by any means, but in a way the Aztecs were lucky he was so off. On multiple plays Michigan had defensive backs in position to either get PBUs or intercept the ball only to see Lindley miss by miles. A lot of the time the reason those balls were so off was pressure applied by Martin or others.
Lindley is no joke, either. He is a legit NFL prospect:
Overall, he’s got a strong arm, showcases the ability to look off defenders, find a secondary option and when given time he can get his feet around toward his target. However, he doesn’t possess the kind of coordination/balance from the waist down that you want to see from an NFL quarterback, especially in today’s NFL where you need a QB who can escape pressure both inside and outside the pocket, settle himself quickly and burn a defense that wants to bring the blitz. Something I have a hard time seeing Lindley doing consistently at the next level.
Lindley is certainly worth a draft pick and has the skill set to go somewhere in the early/mid round range, depending on how well he performs the rest of the year/post-season. However, if he doesn’t improve his overall footwork/coordination from the pocket, it’s going to be tough for him to make plays in the NFL when he doesn’t have a clean pocket.
While he's not Tom Brady I don't have to remind anyone reading this of the murderer's row that carved Michigan up last year.
The Michigan secondary held a fifth year senior NFL prospect QB to 5.3 YPA, which is also known as "Threet/Sheridan production." Take whatever coaching-upgrade-based optimism you held going into the season and triple it.
Okay, okay, no receivers and a lot of Mike Martin tearing through the line. Sure. San Diego State is going to backslide this year. I refer you to the above murderers row, though. Upgrade: massive.
Here's where I want to embed several plays that showcased Michigan's newfound talent for making life tough on opposing receivers, but I'm still trying to figure out what my status is there. But, man, even when SDSU was completing stuff they had guys in their grill. Lindley had to make some perfect passes to complete slants on Avery and often just missed because a guy like Demens had given him the choice of throwing it high/wide or throwing it into his helmet.
And the run defense?
There are still problems on the edge. Ryan did end up positive but is dinged for losing contain on three separate occasions that resulted in 30 yards. So there's that. There was also the massive minus rock-paper-scissor run that ended in the Hillman fumble. That was another 30 yards. So the SDSU run game:
- Ryan losing contain on edge (w/ assist from Demens once): 3 carries, 30 yards
- That one RPS play: 1 carry, 30 yards
- Everything else: 24 carries, 77 yards
As a wise groundskeeper in a Snickers commercial once said, great googly moogly. Say what you want about Lindley and his receivers, SDSU returned essentially their entire running game and was shut down when not exploiting one freshman's issues with keeping the edge or running that one play. Those things seem fixable. Even if they aren't, Michigan held the Aztecs to 4.2 YPC.
I'm getting closer to believing that Campbell can be an average three-tech in the Big Ten. Like, a guy who doesn't get blown up and is mildly positive. Weakness at LB outside of Demens is going to be an issue that prevents Michigan from having a really good run defense, but I think they're 80% of the way to the best case scenario already.
So you're down on Ryan, then.
Relative to the rest of the internet, yeah. I think he's promising. I also think he's making four or five really obvious mistakes per game. Maize Pages picture paged the second play of the game, a six yard run that was the first of Michigan's Flip You For Real plays. Notice something?
The middle linebacker is… Brandin Hawthorne. The line is… undershifted. Jake Ryan is… definitely not in position. When Michigan meant to run an even front this is what it looked like:
Demens in the middle, line slid more playside. Maize Pages dinged the D for not adjusting but they didn't have to; a safety slid down when the TE went in motion. If Ryan's where he's supposed to be Michigan probably defends this play.
I'm a little less thrilled than I was on gameday but I'm still pretty impressed. Even more impressive: when SDSU runs double slants and I look across the field at Floyd to see if he's playing it better, he is. Maybe we should be saying FLOYD!
Seriously. When the starters were in there, SDSU went after Woolfolk. When Avery was in there, they went after Avery. Floyd came up with a jumped-route PBU and ended up significantly positive despite being a corner. I'm still leery about the depth of the transformation here but each game adds evidence to the pile indicating Floyd can play now and Pitt fans should get used to shootouts.
Back to Countess: he ran some routes for guys, which puts him in a group with Gordon, Kovacs, Floyd, and not quite Avery. I be like dang.
Speaking of being like dang…
Yes. Mike Martin in full effect, never more so than when he literally ran over the SDSU center en route to the QB. A large number of Lindley's hopeless mortar shells can be directly attributed to Martin ripping through those guys like they were not there. This was a solid offensive line he did it to; with his quietly plus-double-digit day against Eastern (no passes to be devastating on) he seems poised to wreck the Big Ten. I can't wait to see him matchup against MSU's center, who will be a freshman coming off injury or a converted DT.
Why is your eye twitching?
BOY I'M GLAD TERRANCE ROBINSON CAN TACKLE DESPITE BEING SIX INCHES TALL
That's a lot of grass, man. That is all.
Mike Martin, JT Floyd(!?!), RVB, and Kenny Demens.
If I had to pick a guy it would be Ryan, but even that is a guy who ended up positive on the day. Black also should be mentioned—if you're going to take two offsides penalties you need to have one big negative play to compensate and he didn't.
What does it mean for Minnesota and beyond?
They should do about what they did to SDSU to Minnesota, a team in disarray that can maybe run a little bit when Gray is in there. I actually expect them to hold the Gophers to not many points.
As far as beyond, it seems like they've plugged a lot of their holes. I'm still worried about what happens when Michigan goes up against a serious offensive line but it's hard to find any until the last couple weeks of the schedule. There has been ever less firedrill confusion as the season progresses and in two weeks when they start the Big Ten schedule in earnest it's not too much to expect it to be largely gone. Then it's just a matter of getting improvement from Ryan/Hawthorne/Campbell/Johnson to bring the starting defense up to "decent to good Big Ten team." There's still a lack of out and out stars behind Martin but it's hard to point to a truly gaping hole at the moment, either.
This could all blow up against Northwestern if they've got Persa back. Right now, though, the defense is currently executing the best case scenario.