This list is completely arbitrary and not a genuine analysis of the relative merits of state fossils.
Last time on keeping Michigan's overtime record sterling, Will Campbell played both sides of a guy and turned second and three into third and one. Venric Mark gets dinged on that play, Mike Trumpy comes in, and it's time for third and short.
Northwestern comes out in a goal-line version of the pistol they just ran. They again flip the FB:
Michigan sets up in an over front, which was unusually prevalent for the second straight week. It won't matter much because this is going to be a pass, which third and one with Kain Colter and you throw—Michigan's defense puts the fear of God into you on short yardage.
Michigan sends James Ross; Gordon and Floyd back out into coverage. Both NW players are taken care of, leaving only the tight end on the backside, who is running a slant to the interior.
This is not Demens's guy, it's Taylor's. Michigan is in man, which you can tell because of this:
The instant Mark lowers his head to block Ross, Demens starts flying at the LOS. He's got the RB out of the backfield, and once that RB commits to a blitzer he is now in QB attack mode.
Here's a wider shot:
Demens is moving before Colter even completes his drop. By the time Colter has taken a single step, Demens is across the LOS and closing:
It's now fourth and the game.
Things And Stuff
Colter had the third guy in the pattern but did not have the patience. He decides to take off after seeing the first two reads covered. Demens's presence may dissuade him from trying the route, but that TE is well inside Taylor and Ryan if Colter waits another beat or two for Demens to fly up at him.
Those guys were pointing at each other before the snap, confused; I am not sure if it's on Ryan or Taylor. Either way those guys are going to have a little trouble covering this since they're both lined up outside of him.
Can't really blame Colter for going one-two-go in this situation, but it looks like Michigan was banking on that being the default reaction here given how aggressively Demens plays this. He was likely told that if the back stays in go get the QB. If it's third and five, maybe he waits for Colter to take off.
Ross and Washington give Demens the space. Washington's playing this like he would a goal line carry, submarining the OL with no other thought than moving the LOS backwards. Look at that still above: mission accomplished. Ross meanwhile has bashed the OL he blitzed into into that mess and is taking the Mark cut block. Colter is looking at two guys against one blocker, who is Venric Mark, and knows those odds—another reason he was all GTFO.
Okay, so we've just taken a spin through Michigan's hitch-susceptible cover three. What's the alternative? The Big Ten Network did give us one replay of something different. It comes on third and long in the third quarter with Michigan on offense. Threet is going to throw a hitch to Darryl Stonum.
(This camera angle is wider so I've cropped the pictures down; it'll be slightly fuzzy.)
This is pretty much the same as the first frame we saw with Morgan Trent earlier, except the defensive back is lined up a little further inside.
The Purdue corner turns his hips towards the receiver and looks directly at him. This is man coverage.
When Stonum starts making his break it's immediately apparent to the corner and he can turn his hips towards the receiver. Trent had to turn around the other way, taking himself away from the receiver until he can get his body around.
The ball from Threet is low and inside and gets marked IN in UFR, but Stonum still has a chance at a diving grab…
…but the Purdue defender is right there making life difficult. If the ball was better thrown he had a chance at a breakup or even an interception.
Here's the video on this one:
So it's pretty obvious why Purdue was able to play this sort of tight coverage on third and long: Michigan's receivers don't seem like much of a downfield threat and this guy has safety help over the top, a luxury not afforded Michigan's corners on the regular.
Okay. Question: does Michigan's coverage style (here's another example from Cissoko) make any sense given the defense they're running? I'm not a coach, but doesn't it seem like Michigan corners should be setting up outside of the receivers and funneling them towards the safety and/or zone dropping flex players and linebackers? Maybe Shafer thought Siller couldn't throw well enough to make him pay. He was wrong.
So, yeah, the 3-3-5 stack was sort of a spectacular failure. Not so much against the run, as Michigan did a decent job against Korey Sheets, but against the pass. Michigan allowed 266 yards—7.8 YPA—to a third string quarterback on a 2-6 team. That is epic failure.
Why did this happen? Well, IMO, the stack had a a major part in it. Here's a typical presnap alignment:
The thing to note is the one deep safety. This is Donovan Warren. With one deep safety the corners are basically on an island; they won't get much deep help from Warren on a sideline route. Fades and fly routes are going to be left up to the corner to defend.
Michigan, then, often sees itself play a cover-three susceptible to little hitches and out-cuts. Here's a closeup of Morgan Trent on one of many, many ten-yard outs that Purdue will find wide open all day:
We've just started the route. Greg Orton is going to run directly at Trent.
Trent is turning his hips inside and looking at the quarterback.
Here we see Orton reaching Trent, with Trent turned completely away from him, not even looking at him.
Orton begins his break with Trent facing 180 degrees the wrong way.
Orton now has two yards of separation and Trent is still facing the wrong way.
The perspective on this makes it difficult to tell, but this is wide open for ten yards.
Here's the video:
Michigan's corners have been coached to do this. Trent would do it all day, and Boubacar Cissoko did it on the long Orton completion down the sideline. This coverage style covers that extremely well and the only thing that made that a completion was a perfectly thrown ball, some bad luck on Cissoko's part not to knock it down, and a great catch by Orton.
However, every wide open hitch or out was because of it, too. It's completely impossible to flip your hips around 180 degrees that quickly, impossible to do anything but tackle after a first down. So Michigan provided this n00b quarterback with the easiest reads in the history of reads most of the day, and ended up paying for it.