I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Special Teams: Bit of a mixed bag, just not in the way you expected.
This is the final edition of the 2011 Preview Review, focusing on special teams and Brian's "stupid predictions"—his term, not mine. Instead of breaking it down in the categories I've used in the two previous posts, I'm just going to go prediction-by-prediction for this one, since there's obviously less to cover here.
First, however... never forget:
This picture, encapsulating the gawd-awfulness of Michigan's 2010 attempts to split the uprights with a football, prefaced the preview section for kickers. The general assumption, given said gawd-awfulness, was that highly-touted freshman Matt Wile would step onto campus and immediately take over the starting job. Instead, three photos of post-shank Brendan Gibbons graced the top of the "kicker" section ("Rating: 2?"), followed by this caption:
WHAT THE BALLS WHY IS THIS MAN'S PICTURE HERE
It was a legitimate question. Gibbons went 1-for-4 in the 2010 regular season, lost his job to Seth Broekhuizen (3-for-9), then put a fitting cap on RichRod's final season by completely biffing a 35-yarder in the Gator Bowl. Optimism, well, was justifiably absent:
The idea of Gibbons hitting the field again gives me hives. At least this time around there's another option, though it's an option that lost out to Brendan Gibbons. Guh.
I always punt on kickers I haven't seen play but the chances Michigan has come up totally incompetent on two straight scholarship guys is low. Either Gibbons has gotten a lot better or they're trying not to put too much on Wile's plate.
So, of course, Gibbons goes out and hits 13 of 17 field goals, then cements himself in Michigan lore by drilling the game-winner in the Sugar Bowl while thinking about brunettes. By midseason, I wasn't even hiding my eyes when Hoke sent out the field goal unit. Gibbons improved dramatically; I won't attempt to figure out why—kickers are weird—but the stark contrast in reactions between Hoke and Rodriguez when the kicking game went to hell isn't a bad place to start.
The aspect of the kicking game that purported to be rock-solid was punting, where Wile was supposed to hold down the fort for four games until Will Hagerup made a grand, Zoltan-esque return from suspension.
If he manages to get through September without immolating his career, Michigan will have one of those punters color commentators call a "weapon" whenever he strolls onto the field. In Hagerup's case this is almost not hyperbolic.
Brian gave the punters a rating of "3, then 5" with the expectation that Hagerup would put behind him the early struggles of his freshman season and punt like the guy who averaged 44 yards per boot in Big Ten play. Instead, he wasn't even the best punter on the team: Wile averaged 42 yards per punt, while Hagerup managed just 36. Hagerup still started for most of the season, but when he shanked punts for 26 and 24 yards in the Sugar Bowl, Wile came on in relief and again performed better. Michigan finished the season 109th in net punting, a bitterly disappointing effort from a unit that was thought to be a strength.
Less surprising were Michigan's struggles in the return game, where Jeremy Gallon's contined presence at punt returner after finding every conceivable way to fumble in 2010 was deemed "inexplicable." There was one mission, and one mission only:
Gallon and the kick returners? Ask again later. I'm not expecting miracles. Just HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL.
There were no miracles. Gallon averaged a hair over ten yards per punt return as the Wolverines finished 53rd nationally in that category. Martavious Odoms and Vincent Smith handled most of the kick return duties; both were underwhelming, and Michigan was 117th in the country, averaging just 18.4 yards. Fumbles were notably absent, however, and thus the masses were placated.
Now we delve into the "Heuristics and Stupid Prediction" portion of the preview. Brian again recounted RichRod's "weird evil turnover juju," then predicted that Michigan would experience a much-needed regression to the mean after finishing -10 in turnover margin in 2010, in large part due to a competent defense and experience (say what?) at quarterback.
If Robinson remains healthy Michigan should improve significantly. The defense has to suck less and Robinson's responsibility should improve rapidly relative to players more than a year removed from being novelty freak shows. I'm afraid that Robinson is just a fumble-prone guy—Mike Hart didn't need experience to hold on to the damn ball—but the interception rate should dip considerably.
On the other side of the ball, a defense that rushes more than three players and has Martin, RVB, and Roh should get back to at least average in sacks. The center of the Gaussian distribution here is probably –3 turnovers on the year; even that would be massive improvement.
Robinson's interception rate, unfortunately, did not take a dive, but that didn't stop the Wolverines from vastly exceeding those expectations. Michigan finished +7 on the year, jumping from 109th to 25th in the national rankings.
The part you all want to see, however, is the final, "stupid" prediction. Before the ultimate unveiling, Brian put forth best-case and worst-case scenarios. Your nightmare season:
There's no bottom if Denard and a couple of other key defensive players are hurt. Leaving the worst-worst case out, a relatively healthy Michigan has no business losing to WMU, EMU, Minnesota, or Purdue at home.
San Diego State, Northwestern, Illinois are all losable but Denard should be able to snake at least one of those. 5-7 is the floor.
Obviously, none of that happened, because this website is not devoted to pictures of kittens. As for the best-case season:
The schedule is fairly soft, with no true road games until Michigan State (the game at Northwestern will be at least half M fans) and both Penn State and Wisconsin rotating off. If the offense maintains its current level of productivity and Mattison mediocres the defense real good, the only game that still seems entirely out of reach is Nebraska.
That's not to say Michigan can reasonably expect to win all games in reach. Taking more than two from Notre Dame, Michigan State, Iowa, and the Akron State Golden Bobcats seems to be irrational optimism. 9-3 is about all you can reasonably hope for.
Take out what ended up being overblown faith in Nebraska and understandable skepticism about the defense being anything better than mediocre and this is essentially what happened. Hooray for besting the "best-case" scenario. Less hooray for overrating Iowa and seeing them beat us anyway.
And finally, Brian's actual prediction:
I add it up and I come up with eight wins and change. Assume one irreplaceable player is annihilated and that comes back down to an even 8-4. Unlike last year, when I predicted 7-5 but thought 6-6 was more likely than 8-4, I think Michigan is more likely to surprise to the positive until such time as we have another Woolfolk ankle explosion pity party.
Some commenters have suggested that the exactingly specific predictions in the previous posts today suggest I'd be predicting something better than 8-4, but I think turnovers, while getting much better, will still be in the red. Though the special teams issues can't be as bad they will still be a problem that could kill Michigan in a close game.
Robinson, Martin, Van Bergen, and Demens all survived the season without significant injury; dodging those potential bullets cannot be understated in its significance. Throw in Michigan's turnover reversal, a defense that surprised even the most irrational optimist, and a competent kicking game—plus the implosion in Columbus—and you get a 10-2 regular season, landmark victories over Notre Dame and Ohio State, and a (completely fluky) Sugar Bowl triumph over Virginia Tech.
Please predict 10-2 this time around, Brian. That's how these things work, right?
Formation notes: Since Brennen Beyer's fake injury kept him out of this game, Michigan had to adapt their big package. Behold a 5-3:
From top to bottom that is Black, Heininger, Martin, Van Bergen, and Roh on the line with Ryan, Morgan, Demens, and Kovacs in an umbrella behind them. Countess is pulled; Floyd is the lone corner and Gordon the free safety.
When there were more wideouts on the field this was the usual deployment:
Kovacs is rolled down into the box, reprising his days as a "bandit" in the 3-3-5. Rolling Kovacs into the box like this was referred to as "plus" in the UFR chart; any "plus" formation has a safety within four or five yards of the LOS.
Substitution notes: The usual most places. Very limited substitutions along the line, with Brink, Black, and Campbell getting a few snaps here and there. Mike Jones briefly replaced Demens at MLB during Ohio State's dispiriting 82-second TD drive after M had gone up 37-27; that came after the long Stoneburner catch and run that I thought Ryan was mostly responsible for, but more on that later.
Woolfolk started at safety but gave way to Gordon at times in the first half; the second half it was all Gordon.
A what-the-dickens-was-that-note: we talked about the oddity that was Michigan seeming to play with zero deep safety support the whole game in a Picture Pages earlier in the week. Chris Brown emails to suggest that what Michigan was doing was running Virginia Tech's defense:
Beamer and Foster also relied on a hybrid coverage of their own design: The "robber," run out of the "G" front. This coverage worked so well because it transformed an already run-heavy eight-man front into a nine man front, where they combined their 4-4 set with conventional two-deep principles: Instead of two deep safeties, they used two deep cornerbacks who split the field into halves. The free-safety then was free to play a "robber" technique -- that is, on pass plays, he read the quarterback's eyes and broke on intermediate routes, but on runs, where he truly became valuable, he was an incredible ninth run-stuffer in the box.
Although not the best against the pass, that wasn't the point. It was good enough (especially with dynamos like D'Angelo Hall at cornerback), and the focus was on stuffing the run or hitting the quarterback before he could release the ball.
That is exactly what Michigan ran much of the day, so keep it in mind. A fuller discussion after the play breakdown.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||5|
|Kovacs rolled up for the plus. Posey beats Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) but the throw is late and upfield, turning a first down (or near first down) into a meh gain. Floyd comes up to tackle with help from Ryan, who dropped into coverage on a shorter out route. Martin spun off a block to get some token pressure on Miller, barely avoiding the -1.|
|O25||2||5||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Heininger||1|
|I'm not sure what exactly this is supposed to be but I think it is an inside zone; the fullback does not head outside like usual here but attacks the strong side of the line, likely in an attempt to break keys for the linebackers. Herron takes the ball to the other side of the line as OSU zones. RVB(+1) slants under the backside G; Martin(+1) chucks his blocker, and Herron has to bounce out into Heininger(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) who had set up in their gaps and combine to tackle.|
|O26||3||4||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||5||Flare||Ryan||5|
|Snag package for OSU to the short side of the field; Ryan is dropping into the snag and Miller goes with the flare to the outside; Ryan does a decent job on it but can't stop it before the sticks. Push. Could have gone either way.|
|O31||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Dig||Morgan||Inc|
|Speed option fake into a pass. Michigan's linebackers are suckered big time (Morgan -1, Demens -1, cover -2) and Miller has a huge lane in which to hit a guy on a dig route. He turfs the ball nowhere near his WR.|
|O31||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Kovacs||15|
|M slanting to the short side with Roh dropping into coverage and Ryan blitzing off the slot. Ryan(-1) gets way too far outside and upfield and RVB(-1) gets way too far inside and upfield, opening up a huge lane. Demens(+0.5) does a good job to pop off a blocker and flow; Kovacs(-2) loses leverage and whiffs at Miller's feet, turning this from around five into a big gain that could be bigger but for that Demens flow allowing Countess(+0.5) to toss a blocker upfield and disconnect to tackle after the first down marker.|
|O46||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 over plus||Pass||4||Waggle fly||Countess||54|
|Roh dives inside the fullback on a play action power fake and gives up the corner; that's probably his assignment with Kovacs overhanging. Spill that. Michigan has no one on the edge; Kovacs(pressure –2) and Morgan are there, there's a pulling G in protection, and both guys plus Demens back out into a zone drop. Miller can pull up and fire to an incredibly wide open receiver. Assuming M is playing this VT D, Countess(-4, cover –4) has the deep half and blows it. RPS –2; two on two coverage and a ton of time.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|No pressure(-2) at all as Martin is doubled and no one else can beat a blocker. Miller steps up into more pressure than there actually is. M in a two deep here and nothing's open deep (cover +2). Miller's inaccurate checkdown costs them a few yards.|
|O23||2||8||I-Form twins||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||WR screen||--||Inc|
|Well wide. Looked like five or so.|
|O23||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||Okie two deep||Pass||6||Sack||Kovacs||-11|
|Regular okie has seven at the line. This just has six. That's because Kovacs is coming from the safety spot. Everyone else rushes save Morgan, who drops off into a spy zone; OSU goes max pro and Kovacs(+1, pressure +2, RPS +2) still gets a free run. He whiffs; RVB(+1) has slanted past an OL to help clean up; he can't tackle either. Kovacs(+0.5) cleans up from behind. Tackling -1? Yeah, I guess.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||Post||Countess||Inc|
|Good lord. Woolfolk moves up on the underneath route, Countess(-3, cover –3) is setting up outside of Posey, and Miller misses an 80 yard touchdown. Countess is still in the frame so avoids a –4 but this isn't good. RPS –1.|
|O20||2||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ryan||8 (Pen -10)|
|With two TEs to one side and Kovacs blitzing weak it seems like Michigan's LBs have to do a better job of getting outside. They don't; Demens(-1) is slashed to the ground and Miller gets the edge for near first down yardage before Woolfolk comes up to shove him out of bounds; Ryan(+1) did a good job of holding that edge until he got held himself, drawing a flag. RPS -1.|
|O10||2||20||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|O5||2||25||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Van Bergen||-2|
|DTs stunt; RVB(+3) drives through a botched double that is botched because of the stunt and tackles Miller for loss. Given what we know about DT stunts it's possible RVB called this himself.|
|O3||3||27||I-Form||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Roh||Inc (Pen -3)|
|Roh(+2, pressure +2) speed rushes around Mike Adams and is tackled, drawing a holding call that will be a safety. With that guy tackled and only two other rushers Miller has plenty of time; Woolfolk has again come up on a shorter underneath route (on third and twenty seven!) and leaves Countess trailing Posey for a potential big gain; Countess(+2, cover +2) comes over the top to break the pass up. Still very dangerous. Picture paged.|
|Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 5 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O29||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 even plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||4|
|Morgan(-0.5) takes the lead block at the LOS but does not funnel to his partner; Heininger(+0.5) makes a nice play to come off a block and start an ankle tackle near the LOS, robbing Herron of momentum and making it easier for the rest of the D to rally.|
|O33||2||6||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Inside zone?||Van Bergen||1|
|This has an attack point outside the tackles but features a lead blocker and looks like inside zone blocking. So... yeah. Morgan(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) get swallowed up on the second level and again they have Kovacs behind them so I think they're not doing so well; it doesn't look like M is slanting hard. The DL cleans up for them. Ryan(+1) takes on Boren two yards in the backfield; Van Bergen(+1) drives his blocker in to the backfield, forcing a cutback into Martin(+1), who tackles. Good thing, too. Demens was literally ten yards downfield by the time the play was over.|
|O34||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE Out||Morgan||Inc|
|Man, OSU's gameplan is go after Morgan, go after Morgan, go after Morgan. Here he's in eh coverage(-1, cover -1) on their ponderous TE Fragel; ball is high and over the hands of the target.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-7, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Ace||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||3|
|Martin and Heininger take doubles; Martin(+2) holds up until his guy releases and then sets up so the RB comes behind him, then disengages to tackle. Heininger(-1) had been blown several yards off the ball and Herron can muscle forward for a few yards. Dangerous without Martin here. Next year's run defense might be shady.|
|O33||2||7||Shotgun empty||Wacky nickel||Pass||4||Hitch||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Martin as quasi LB with Morgan on the LOS. Martin(+1) comes on his unsurprising blitz as Roh drops off; this time he shocks Brewster with his explosive contact and is about to pressure Miller when he throws; RVB(+1, pressure +1) is in the lane and deflects the pass. Open for around first down yardage if not batted.|
|O33||3||7||Shotgun 2-back||Okie||Run||N/A||QB draw||--||24|
|Full on man up okie; Miller checks into a QB draw that goes for a bunch of yards because he's running at Morgan backing out into pass coverage and everyone else is rushing upfield. Kovacs(-0.5, tackling -1) and Floyd(-0.5) miss tough open field tackle attempts to provide bonus yards. RPS -2.|
|M43||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||7|
|Martin(-1) is doubled and gives ground, eventually dropping to his knees a couple yards downfield. Demens(+0.5) does a decent job on the lead block and does not let it outside. Morgan(-1) seems unaware he has Kovacs helping behind on cutbacks and is hesitant; instead of scraping over to the iso hole he sits behind the Martin mess in case Herron cuts back and can only tackle after he decides on a hole. Heininger(+0.5) was there on the cutback as well.|
|M36||2||3||I-Form twins||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||1|
|Morgan(+2) slams Boren at the LOS and gets outside at said LOS; RVB(+1) has slanted under a tackle and forces the play out, where Morgan ends it for little gain.|
|M35||3||2||Diamond screen||4-3 under||Run||N/A||QB draw||Van Bergen||4|
|Diamond draws four defenders, leaving six on six in the box with Floyd overhanging. Van Bergen... argh, man, he had this after splitting a couple guys; his penetration into the backfield looks like it will doom the play, and then Miller jukes upfield and Van Bergen(sadface -1) bites on it, falling uselessly upfield as the blocker he beat takes that momentum and amplifies it. Martin(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job to converge on the guy near the LOS; momentum carries them across the line to make. Spielman says this a hold but I don't necessarily agree; Van Bergen never forced the issue by disengaging because of the fake so it's hard to tell.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||5|
|Morgan(-1) does not take on the FB block at the LOS and gets crushed a yard downfield, giving ground. Martin(+1) fights through a block to get to the hole and force a cutback; Brink(-1) is in for RVB and gets handled by single blocking easily. With Demens(-0.5) also fighting through a block not very effectively there is a cutback; Woolfolk fills with help from Demens.|
|M26||2||5||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Kovacs||-2|
|I was nervous about this live because the line was Campbell/Brink/Black/Heininger and I loved this playcall, one of those Kovacs edge blitzes that gets him in unblocked for a TFL. It also got Heininger(+1) and Black(+1) past blockers into the backfield; with Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) roaring off the edge and tackling that's worth another couple of yards to the D. RPS +2.|
|Plenty of time(pressure -2); Countess(-3, cover -3) gets smoked in man coverage and should give up an easy TD but Miller misses. Picture paged.|
|Drive Notes: FG(45), 16-10, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over plus||Pass||6||Scramble||Martin||8|
|DTs stunt and Martin(-2) gets pushed out of the lane he has to be in, so when he and RVB get some pressure after coverage(+1) is there to prevent an immediate throw, Miller can bust out into a lot of grass. Demens(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open field tackle to prevent bigger problems after Michigan rushed six and let the QB through.|
|M23||2||2||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||4|
|Heininger(-0.5) gets a double and gives some ground, though he fights through decently; Demens(+0.5) took on the iso block near the line and is the key tackler, though he is naturally giving ground as he does so. Morgan(-0.5) again not really relevant because he is hesitant.|
|M19||1||10||Pistol 2TE||46 bear||Run||N/A||Speed option counter||Roh||19|
|Whether this is brilliant improv or a called play Miller is busting backside on the snap and this is no field reversal based on the defense. Roh(-2) makes the cardinal and only mistake on the play by letting the guy outside of him. Out on the sideline on a counter everyone bit on understandably, it's JT Floyd, a blocker, and all of the air. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) could maybe keep this out of the endzone with an open field tackle; he whiffs. Understandable. RPS -2.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-17, 7 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under plus||Pass||N/A||WR screen||Countess||9|
|This is doomed from the start with Countess eight yards off and dropping on the snap. RPS -1.|
|O43||2||1||I-Form twins||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||--||4|
|Campbell in; he's handled okay by a single block. Demens is running at the FB; Campbell and his guy get in the way. Both FB and LB are kind of like “what now?” If M's LBs were running hard maybe they stop this for a loss or no gain but that's not a good gamble on second and short. Basically a push.|
|O47||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA dumpoff||Van Bergen||5|
|RVB(+1, pressure +1) slants a little, then beats the G and forces Miller to flush after an iso playfake. Miller breaks the pocket, gets pursuit from a couple of DL, and dumps it to Herron, where the LBs converge.|
|M48||2||5||Shotgun empty||4-3 even||Pass||4||Out||Morgan||Inc|
|Miller has Hall wide open for a first down (cover -1) as Morgan is keying draw on the snap; he misses.|
|M48||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Flare||Floyd||5|
|Roh(+2, pressure +2) again beats the LT, shoving him upfield as he tries to contain the speed rush and impacting Miller just as he checks down to his flare route after the first read is covered(+1). Floyd is there and shoves the guy OOB seemingly short of the first; they are awarded it. Hoke challenges, which is smart since it's not like challenges are actually useful in college and that's a big swing. He loses. Oh well.|
|M43||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Pass||5||Corner||Woolfolk||43|
|Pressure is not terrible but Kovacs(-0.5) should probably not get outside of Boren, instead he should hold up and not open up this lane. Miller steps up and finds a receiver breaking past Floyd and Woolfolk just as Roh spins off to deal with him. This is all Woolfolk(-3, cover -3) dying when Posey runs the same route that beat Countess.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 23-24, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||PA sack||Roh||-1|
|Gordon in at FS. Speed option fake and then Miller pivots to the backside of the play. Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets into the tight end on this and then shoots upfield once the TE releases into his route, forcing Miller back inside. Morgan(+2, tackling +1) sees the cut and immediately attacks, which is both smart given the QB and his relatively piddly short zone assignment and effective because he makes an open field tackle. Heininger(+0.5) was pursuing to help as well.|
|O24||2||11||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||3|
|Ryan over the slot and blitzes. Martin(+1) is not doubled and owns Brewster, shoving him back and into the path of the play; Boren runs into that mess, as does Herron. There's nothing there but no one can get through to tackle; eventually Herron pops out the other side and gains a few yards before Morgan and Floyd put him down.|
|O27||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||Okie two deep||Run||N/A||QB draw||--||9|
|Exact same thing as earlier okie, with guys flaring on the edge and no one in the middle once Morgan drops into a zone and gets blocked. Kovacs comes up on the snap but from the wrong side; Gordon(+1, tackling +1) actually makes a really nice open field tackle to almost kick them off the field but can't quite manage it. RPS -1.|
|O36||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Pass||5||Waggle corner||Gordon||22|
|Gordon(-2, cover -2) beaten as he's poking his nose in the backfield; Miller has all kinds of time on the edge (pressure -2) and floats it in. RPS -1.|
|M42||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Van Bergen||-4|
|A bit slower developing as this is going at the tackle; Van Bergen(+2) dominates his guy, drives into the backfield, and takes out the FB two yards behind the LOS. Ryan(+2) drives Stoneburner back three yards and when Herron bounces he runs into the TE. Slowed, he stops and reverses field. Van Bergen robs this of its danger by getting upfield and forcing it back again, then he comes back to tackle.|
|M46||2||14||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Kovacs||7|
|Posey decides to abort mission for some reason. Not sure why, looks well set up. Maybe RVB coming back? Anyway, it's a good decision as Morgan is out there getting doubled and Floyd has to keep leverage; Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) comes up hard to tackle as soon as feasible but still a good gain. RPS -1.|
|M39||3||7||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Van Bergen||3|
|No okie and this is better defended. M stunts; RVB(+1) comes through into the rushing lane and forces Miller away from lead blocks. Martin(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5) are in the area to hold this down to a moderate gain.|
|Drive Notes: lolpunt, 30-24, 4 min 3rd Q. Michigan moves it 40 yards and then the Hagerup thing happens.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M32||1||10||I-Form big||5-3 eagle||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Roh||4|
|Without Beyer, Michigan's big package is a five man line with Black and Roh the ends with the usual suspects on the interior; Countess is lifted. This is counter action with the play going away from TE motion and an offset fullback. The DL eats this up, with Heininger(+1) and RVB(+1) coming through blocks into the hole; Martin(+1) has beaten a block as well but won't be relevant because Herron can bounce. Roh(-1) is in good position but not prepared to handle the bounce; Demens(-1) ate a block and ends up eight yards off the LOS [Ed-S: Not holding?]; Kovacs fills adequately but misses a tackle(-1). This does maintain leverage and slow Herron so that Martin can get him from behind, so no minus.|
|M28||2||6||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Pass||5||Scramble||Morgan||23|
|Play action. Michigan sends five with Floyd(-1) coming off the corner. He comes in hot and gets shoved way upfield by Boren; Roh is slanting inside of Adams; this opens up a big running lane (pressure -2). Morgan(-2, tackling -1) is in open space and lets Miller outside, turning a first down or so into a big gainer; Floyd does make some amends by tracking Miller down from behind. Without that this is a touchdown.|
|M5||1||G||Pistol Big||5-3 eagle||Run||N/A||Speed option||Heininger||2|
|They go away from the strength of the formation; Heininger(+1) drives playside of his blocker and forces a Miller cutback. Martin(+0.5) is the next guy; he's taking a double at the LOS and Miller has to go behind again. RVB(+0.5) gets an arm on Miller as he cuts behind the Martin double and all the way back here there's no blocking and a lot of Michigan players; gang tackle.|
|M3||2||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||Ryan||1|
|Boren's motion brings Ryan(+1) to the line and on the snap he is unaccounted for by the OL; he drives right at the FB and gets him two yards in the backfield with outside leverage, forcing the play inside. With the DL sufficiently occupying the OL there is one guy blocking downfield, that on Floyd, and Demens(+0.5), Gordon, and Morgan combine to tackle after a modest gain. RVB(+0.5) made the hole small.|
|M2||3||G||Goal line||Goal line||Pass||N/A||Waggle sack||Black||-2|
|No sale! How many times do you see this become easy. Lots of times. Here Kovacs(+1, cover +1) and Morgan(+1, cover +1) flow out onto the receiving options and Miller decides to pull down. Gordon(+0.5) is out on the edge containing, forcing a cutback into Demens(+0.5) and Black(+1), who was unblocked on the edge and supposed to run himself out of the play or get chopped; he kept his feet and flowed from behind, making first contact and removing the chance of some Braxton Miller bull turning this into a TD. RPS +2. Michigan had this murdered dead, with five guys in the area by the time Miller got tackled.|
|Drive Notes: FG(21), 30-27, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Panic at the disco here as OSU flips their TE and Michigan tries to flip their formation instead of just shifting to the under. Roh and Ryan are late getting to their destinations. Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) beats Adams easily and is about to nail Miller from behind when he finds a wide open guy(cover -2) 15 yards downfield. Ball is behind the WR and not brought in.|
|Miller drops with a token but not serious PA fake; Michigan rushes four and gets nowhere near. Ryan(-2, cover -2) vacates his zone to run up on a dumpoff route by the RB and opens up a pocket outside of Demens, who has the initial route covered. If OSU is throwing checkdowns at this point in the game, fine. Gordon has bugged out for the deep routes and there is no support after Stoneburner clears the second level resulting in a big gain. Pressure -2; Demens had this covered at first and then OSU was able to adjust because no one got to Miller. RPS –1.|
|M44||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Screen||Jones||16|
|Jones in for Demens at MLB, maybe he screwed up on the last play. M stunts and all DL are out of commission; a bigger problem is Jones(-1, cover -1) never ever reading this and getting killed by a WR cracking down; Avery gets picked off and there's no one until Gordon. RPS -1.|
|M28||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||PA TE Drag||Morgan||20 + 4 pen|
|Gordon in the box with Kovacs deep. Morgan(-2, cover -2) sees the TE dragging across the formation and gets a shove but not early enough or well enough and that guy breaks past him into open space. Morgan doesn't bug out for the sideline after the shove and this opens up the corner; Morgan simply lacks the athleticism to catch up with a TE. He and Kovacs eventually get him OOB after a big gain. RPS -1. Kovacs(-1) gets a late hit call that is deserved.|
|M4||1||G||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Floyd||4|
|RVB(+0.5) stands up his blocker around the LOS; Demens(+0.5) bangs the FB at the line, forcing it outside; Floyd(-2, tackling -1) is unblocked and attacking; he whiffs and lets Herron into the endzone on a play that should have gained a yard or two at most.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 37-34, 7 min 4th Q. Immensely disappointing here. M drives for a TD, gets awarded a FG, and OSU takes over down six with 1:59 on the clock.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Demens||Inc|
|Good time (pressure -1) on a four man rush; Miller throws a wobbler on a deep post Demens(+1, cover +1) is running right with. Very narrow window of opportunity here that Miller cannot hit. Still no safety over the top here... worrisome.|
|O20||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||Okie||Run||N/A||QB draw||Morgan||4|
|Miller checks and Morgan backs out before the snap. Instead of rushing the edges like M has before, Demens, Ryan, and Martin come inside; Morgan(+1) comes up to take on the center's block and sheds playside to help tackle with RVB(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5). RPS +1; Michigan baited OSU into blowing this down and running the clock; OSU burns their last TO. This will become relevant.|
|Plenty of time(pressure -1); Floyd(-3, cover -3) gets smoked on a double move and beat deep. Miller misses and everybody in the stadium dies from fright.|
|Four man rush gets RVB(+0.5, pressure +1) through on a slant; he's still getting blocked but he's threatening, so Miller pulls the ball down and starts moving. Lanes have opened up; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) seems like he's in a spy zone as he flies up to deal with what looks like it will be a scramble as soon as Miller busts outside the pocket. He misses, letting Miller outside. Floyd(+0.5) comes up and almost boots OSU off the field with a tackle at the sticks; Miller reaches the ball across the line as he leaps in the air.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-2|
|Morgan(+1, pressure +2, RPS +1) sent late as Roh drops off. OSU blows their pickup with the entire interior line trying to deal with a Martin/RVB stunt; Miller rolls away from the pressure and looks like he wants to fire deep but decides against it. Morgan is now coming from behind and Miller tries to come back to the other side of the LOS; RVB(+1, tackling +1) does a great job of anticipating that cutback and shooting up in the tatters of the pocket to sack.|
|Ryan(+0.5, pressure +1) is coming in unblocked until a guard manages to pop outside and block him; Miller can't count on this happening and decides to go to his hot read, which is a little drag that Morgan(+0.5) is there to tackle immediately on.|
|O39||3||6||Ace trips||Nickel even||LOL||N/A||Spike||N/A||Inc|
|O39||4||6||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Avery||INT|
|Decent time; RVB is coming around the outside and Roh threatens to sack if Miller tries to step up. He throws about a ten yard hitch to a seemingly open guy that Avery(+3, cover +2) tips and then makes a diving interception on.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 40-34, EOG.|
What happened to all my beautiful defenses?
Mostly Devier Posey, and Mattison failing to account for Devier Posey because he'd played one game, and Jim Bollman going all Citrus 2008. Let's go back to the defense Michigan was running.
That is a run defense with two corners handling vertical routes from outside receivers, and if you've got D'Angelo Hall and the horde of quality VT corners plus a ton of pressure you can get away with it. Michigan did not get a VT level of pressure, whether because of OSU's OL or their fear of letting Braxton Miller's legs take over, and neither Floyd nor Countess had any prayer of covering Posey without help.
In the Picture Pages there were a couple plays in which Countess was beaten to the inside and not punished. The near 80 yard touchdown, for instance:
On the next play Countess recovered to get a PBU on the third and forever that would eventually be a Michigan safety. On their next drive, OSU would go three and out when Miller missed an open TE on third and medium. The drive after that they found themselves in third and medium again. Countess isn't going to get beaten to the inside again. He's done with that. He's learned. He's…
That same route burned Michigan just before the end of the half:
And then there was this WTF moment on the last drive:
That's all three starters in the secondary getting pwned by Posey. I'm giving whoever drafts him in the second round an A+ for their day.
Mattison's defense was a good idea for the version of the OSU offense we saw most of the year, the one in which Miller has 12, 15, 18 attempts, not 25. He was caught off guard by OSU going to the air and his secondary suffered some confusion—the first TD was just a bust. More than that, they were just incapable of covering Posey one on one. Four times Miller had Posey wide open for touchdowns: the two above, the mindboggling Floyd bite on the last drive, and the actual touchdown. Miller hit him once.
But he had to put Kovacs in the box to contain the OSU running game.
I get the idea but in practice it was pointless. Kovacs had three tackles and an assist:
- Sack after blitzing from safety depth
- TFL after weakside edge blitz
- Downfield fill from safety depth
- Not sure if this was his assist, another safety fill
I get going into the game with a plan but they stuck with it way too long; going to a two-deep shell and forcing OSU to execute underneath would have been far less harrowing. Miller's accuracy is just as goofy underneath. Michigan dared OSU to beat them over the top and OSU was like "okay."
I mean, look at the—
DON'T LOOK AT THE CHART
Look at the chart.
Note that a paucity of plays charted—only 40—means you should multiply numbers by about 1.5 to get an average day's work. I am going to work on something that fixes this variability for next year.
|Roh||5.5||3||2.5||Got safety; let Miller outside on speed option counter.|
|Black||2||-||2||Part of big third down stop.|
|TOTAL||41||10.5||30.5||Caveat: pressure was –1 and DL didn't get much of it.|
|Morgan||7.5||10.5||-3||Worrisome lack of athleticism evident on a couple plays.|
|Demens||5.5||4||1.5||Ate some blocks.|
|Ryan||5.5||3||2.5||Was not a major factor.|
|TOTAL||18.5||18.5||0||Going to be hard to maintain D without increased production from these folks.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Game ending INT only time he was thrown at.|
|Woolfolk||-||3||-3||One long TD on him.|
|Kovacs||5.5||4||1.5||Should probably be filed as LB.|
|T. Gordon||1.5||3||-1.5||Didn't give up anything huge.|
|Countess||2.5||10||-7.5||Could not deal with deep stuff by himself.|
|TOTAL||13.5||26.5||-13||Thanks for being inaccurate, Miller.|
|Pressure||13||14||-1||Erratic, usually based on blitzes.|
|Coverage||11||30||-19||Not so much.|
|Tackling||6||7||46%||Miller is tough.|
I generally give out –3 for wide open dudes who are wide open and only exceed that for massive busts like the first TD, so that –13 understates the carnage. Mattison got burned up in this game, possibly because OSU flipped their personality.
A note on what might seem like some abnormally high defensive line numbers: they did create a safety and basically crush any conventional rushing attempts.
On 15 rushing attempts of the inside zone, iso, and power variety OSU averaged 2.3 YPC. QB draws on which Mattison got RPSed in the okie and Miller scrambles that the DL is only partially responsible for account for 71 of Miller's 115 rushing yards; outside of that Miller averaged 4 YPC. So… yeah, the DL was hugely responsible for the stops Michigan did get. They were a little disappointing as far as getting pressure goes; they were nails against the run.
That's another reason the gameplan was disappointing. Given the way M's DL was beating up the OSU OL they could have gotten away with a safer defense. This was Mattison's version of the Borges MSU gameplan: way, way too aggressive. Bad now, encouraging from a program standpoint since it'll work a hell of a lot better when the defensive backfield is full of bluechips or dudes who beat out bluechips instead of freshmen and sleepers.
But we love Mattison!
Yes, yes. This was money:
It happens to everybody. You go into a game with a plan that falls apart upon contact with the enemy. Given what we'd seen from OSU earlier in the year the plan had sense to it, but M couldn't handle wildcard Posey, busted a couple times, and were caught off guard by the OSU gameplan. It happens. Michigan still got through, and it is worth pointing out that it wasn't quite that bad for the D. They picked up a safety and ten points were given up on drives that started around the Michigan 30. You should charge the D with about 26 points given up since they did get that safety and two field goals were likely after OSU got that starting field position.
Good? No, still no. Better? Yes.
What's this about being worried about next year's defense?
With the linebackers barely treading water most of the year it's a bit scary what might happen if the downgrade on the DL is severe. It was watching this play that gave me the heebie-jeebies:
If three different DL players (two and a half if we're talking about Ryan, I guess) don't execute well there isn't a linebacker in the picture once Herron makes it to the second level. That may just be the way the defense is supposed to go; if so you are heavily dependent on having players as good and active as Martin and Van Bergen. I wouldn't be surprised to see both current MLB starters see their positions come under threat.
The LBs were good at taking on iso blocks in this game but Morgan in particular struggles to scrape to the hole when there's any possibility of a cutback. That's better than being too aggressive but B- work at best.
If the defensive line is good next year, well, then we can just expect them to kick ass until Hoke or Mattison is out. Here's hoping.
Hey, have an unsung hero?
Yeah: Matt Wile. Remember Michigan's terrible kickoff coverage from earlier in the year? It was bad! I didn't like it.
That coverage has improved, but what's even better is the relative paucity of kick return attempts. Four of eight Ohio State drives that started on kickoffs saw Wile get a touchback. When Brian Fremeau debuted a special teams FEI Michigan was languishing around 80th; now they're up to 59th. Kickoffs (20th) are their best phase of special teams. A major reason for that is Wile started putting a bunch of them in the endzone. Thumbs up.
Ryan Van Bergen had a monster day, the best of his career. A fitting sendoff. Martin was also very good, and the two "also starring" members of the DL turned in big plays here and there. That DL laughs at all the Buckeye chatter about how no one on Michigan's team would start for OSU. Hell, the OL does too.
If you pool the two teams' lines and pick starters at their positions OSU gets two: John Simon at WDE and JB Shugarts at RT. I'm not taking a single other Buckeye OL/DL over their Michigan counterparts after watching that game. Will Heininger is flat-out better than Garrett Goebel. Just look at the RB YPC.
Mattison, the secondary.
What does it mean for the bowl game and the future?
Well, Michigan should probably take it easy with the hyper-aggressive-no-help coverage back there if Virginia Tech has a high quality wideout. I haven't watched any film yet to see whether Jarrett Boykin is that guy.
Anyway, the secondary was exposed. Countess is young and Floyd isn't ready to go up against a truly elite guy like Posey by himself; Woolfolk just never regained any form after his parade of injuries. Michigan needs reinforcements down the line.
The key matchup against the VT offense will be the Michigan DL working on that VT OL. If they can duplicate their success against OSU, David Wilson can be a scary dude and still creak out 3 YPC. That should mean a return to form.
News bullets and other important things:
- Weekly tailback musical chairs update: Fitz and Smith. No mention of anyone else.
- Cam Gordon still not 100%.
- Barnum is questionable for Minnesota at the moment.
- Woolfolk was up and running last night.
- Two of Denard's bad throws were the result of bad routes.
- Justice Hayes didn't dress because he had a "bump."
- Hagerup has to compete to get his position back. (I have a feeling this is nominal, but we'll see.)
Press Conference (filmed)
Opening remarks: “Again, as always, thank you for coming out. This is really loud.
“Ahem. It’s good to win football games. It’s bad to lose games, so it was good to win. I thought from a perspective as a team, I thought we played as well as we have to this point for the first quarter and maybe three quarters. Then I think we struggled a little bit for one reason or another from an offensive standpoint. You can’t turn the ball over four times. That does nothing for you as a team, and I thought defensively they hung in there and they played hard. I thought our front played probably their best football to this point of the year.
“It’s got to get much better as we get into Big Ten play offensively. Three-and-outs and turnovers in the third quarter -- time of possession affects your football team in a lot of ways … momentum and all those things. So we have to do a much better job executing and being more consistent blocking at the line of scrimmage. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.
“In the kicking game, I thought Matt Wile did a nice job punting the football, and I thought his kickoffs -- he really placed the ball well. He had one kickoff that was in the middle of the field, but everything else I thought he did a tremendous job. And that was a good sign of a guy that’s maturing as a freshman.”
Is Will Hagerup’s suspension over, and does he have to compete to get his position back? “They’ll compete. We’re going to compete in everything we do. I think that’s an important part of your development as a program. I think that’s how you improve as a program. They’ll compete during the week.”
Cam Gordon dressed but did not play -- at this point is it his conditioning or is the injury still affecting him? “I think he’s just not 100% yet. I think he’s just not where he needs to be yet.”
13 for 13 in the Red Zone. What makes you so successful there? “I don’t know if there’s a magical answer. I mean, I think part of it is always you have some pretty good luck. Things are going well. I think we’re blocking it decently. I think the different options that Al presents to some degree within the offense makes [us] a little bit tougher to defend.”
Denard’s incompletions. You said it wasn’t all Denard. When you look at the film did you see problems with other things, too? “It’s definitely not all him. I mean, route running -- we blew two routes. We didn’t convert on another route. That’s part of it. He’s got a lot of pride, and he’s going to also help himself with some of the technical and technique -- fundamental parts of being a little more patient with his feet and doing a good job with that.”
What led to strong start against SDSU, and how do you replicate that? “It’d be great to replicate it every week. I think we had a great week of practice. I think our preparation was good. From a defensive standpoint, they really did a nice job of preparation. I thought Greg did a nice job with the plan, and Al did too.”
(more after the jump)
News bullets and other important things:
- Vincent Smith is starting at RB.
- Thomas Rawls is second or third on RB depth chart.
- Russell Bellomy is scout team QB to simulate Ryan Lindley.
- Matt Wile hit a 59-yard field goal in practice.
Greg said yesterday that he’s asking the Michigan defense to play perfect. What does that mean? “I think perfect means perfect, and it’s a part of what you want to be. You’d like to go out and play a perfect game. When you say that, you have high expectations for each individual out there for a specific position and for the defense itself. Whether it’s playing your base package, your sub packages, whatever -- if they’re doing exactly what thye’re supposed to do with the best of their abilities with great effort and toughness.”
Will Vincent Smith be the starting running back? “Yeah, I would think so. And Fitz had a good day yesterday, too. Both those guys ran the ball hard. Rawls ran the ball hard. He had some snaps in there. I think we’re still trying to find what the magic combination is.”
Don’t want to be running back by committee, but is there a point where you want to see just one guy to establish rhythm? “I think there’s a point, but I can’t tell you on the 21st of September that we know when that point’s going to happen. I think there’s good things that they all do, but at the same time, we want that guy who’s going to play a perfect game.”
Where does Rawls fit into the depth chart right now? Would he be second or third? “Probably somewhere in there.”
Mike Shaw has gotten fewer carries. What’s going on with him? “He has to be a little more consistent in everything that we do. He’ll have his time in there. There’s a lot that goes along with being a back besides running the football, and we’ve got to be a little more consistent in those areas. He’s working his tail off. That’s the encouraging thing.”
How important is running back pass protection in a week like this? “It will be very important. This is unique. You never know what Rocky Long’s going to have in store for you. Working for him for six years on the defensive side of the ball, he’s going to have something you haven’t see and something a little different.”
Rocky Long does funky things with defense. As his head coach did you talk about those things with him? “We ran it at Oregon State. Believe me I still have playbooks from that, not that it helps, because he’s evolved quite a bit from the basics. Number one, the personality of that team and the quickness of that team -- the thing that you equate it to from a defensive standpoint, when you play midline option to use a true triple option, your defense has to catch up a little bit with the tempo and the speed. I think it’s the same way offensively three or four possessions in, trying to have a clear understanding of what the defense is doing and catching up to that speed.”
What do you do for the scout team? “Well they’ve been working like heck. They gave them a great look yesterday. Roy Manning, the GA who runs it, did a great job of preparing them for it. Credit to those kids on the look teams -- they did a nice job.”
You have a quarterback still in his first year getting used to the offense. How difficult is it to prepare for such a unique defensive set? “When you look at your schedule, I think there’s a uniqueness to every defense. Some of that may be if you’re going to be a man team, a man free team, a tampa 2 team … He did a nice job yesterday. What we ask a quarterback to do, getting in and out of things, that’s a good start.”
Is it a problem that you don’t have anyone on the scout team who can throw the ball as well as Lindley? “Well, Russell Bellomy throws the ball pretty well. So that’s a plus. I really think the pride that those guys are really getting when it comes to giving you great looks. We reward those guys who do the best job every week. We’ve had two guys a lot of the time, which is good. I think they’re doing a daggone good job. In fact one guy came up to me and apologized after practice because he didn’t think he did a good enough job. That tells you a little bit about their consciousness of helping the football team.”
How would you assess tight end play up to this point? “I think we’re doing okay. Kevin’s a really good tight end to do both -- blocks at the point of attack well, runs good routes, catches the ball well. Brandon’s coming along well. Steve we’ve used both at fullback and tight end. Ricardo hadn’t gotten any playing time yet, but he gets some good work with them. He’s escobar for us this week and doing a nice job of running the routes and the speed and those things. I think they’ve been pretty good.”
You looked a little mad when team when over to student section after the Eastern Game. How come? “I wanted to score a touchdown at the end instead of a field goal.” Is that something you’re going to allow the team to do? “Yeah it’s fine. I mean, the students are important. I hope they will get there early. We need a lot of noise.”
Greg said that he’s been very hard on Craig Roh, and about a week ago he saw a different player. “I think if you’d ask Craig, he’ll tell you his best week of practice was last week. It’s amazing -- how you practice is how you play. That’s always a battle, Angelique. Angelique, is it your birthday? Are you 39? 29?” I’m still younger than the head football coach at Michigan. “So is everybody else! But, uh, no, that’s something that you always push and you always want. You’re going to play like you practice, and that’s what he did.”
How has he practiced this week? “Good. He’s been good. He’s got a lot of pride and ownership of you are, and pride and ownership of who you represent.”
Is part of that breaking bad habits and rebuilding them? “We all have habits, good or bad. I think the expectations that we have for the kids and what they have for themsleves are always different. We’re coaching pretty hard but fair. We love them and kiss them on the cheek when they do things the right way, and kick them in the butt -- not literally, please understand that.” So you do kiss them on the cheek? “I do. Yeah.”
Is there a lot of emphasis on special teams coverage? “Yeah. Part of that’s placing the ball. Part of that is doing a good job of lane recognition and the block recognition at full speed. Wasn’t as bad as you think, and I hate saying that. I think the kids have a lot of pride, and they don’t like if we think they didn’t do as well as they could.”
Wile hit a 59-yarder in practice. Would you try such a long field goal? “Yeah. Yup.”
You want defense to be perfect. At what point would you say they were perfect or had a perfect game? “Hm. I don’t know. I don’t know.” Have you ever said that about any of your defenses? “Nope.”
News bullets and other important items:
- Cam Gordon is healthy, but conditioning might be a problem at this point.
- Troy Woolfolk is fine, so stop asking.
- Fitz Toussaint will return for EMU.
- Ricky Barnum is clear starter at left guard.
- Will Campbell will get more playing time.
- Freshman RBs may play depending on how things go.
- Justice Hayes is lining up as a receiver on scout team at times.
- Brendan Gibbons is still primary placekicker, with Wile/Paulowski handling long FGs.
- No redshirting decisions made yet.
- Blake Countess looks likely to be a contributor at some point.
- Saturday is Hoke's 100th game as head coach, but it ain't no thang.
"Let’s not be sticklers on what’s morning and what’s not."
Opening remarks: “We’ve got a lot of work, and I’ve said that before, and you guys say, ‘Yeah, right,’ but we have a lot of work to do as a football team. Tuesday, yesterday, was an okay day. I didn’t think it was a great day. A lot of that was the mental things of game planning. It always seems to happen that way. Every Tuesday is not near as good as Wednesday and not near as good as Thursday, because you tweak your plan a little bit, and you’ve got to have something that your kids, number one, can execute and perform well, but at the same time, you want to take advantage of some things that you want to from your opponent.
“Eastern is a very good football team. I’m talking about how they play the game. You can tell Ron’s done a great job in his footprint on that program. I’ve known Ron for a number of years, and his toughness that they want to have as a team is evident. If you look at 331 yards per game, I don’t care who you’re rushing the ball, if you’re averaging that, that’s pretty significant. So they’re blocking pretty well up front. There’s a number of guys that have spent time here in Ann Arbor on that staff who are very good coaches, and guys who understand and have a philosophy on how you play the game of football. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We’ve got to play much better. We have to have some improvement as a team if we want to reach our goals, so believe me. We’ve got full attention on what Eastern Michigan does."
What’s practice like during game week, re: position drills, scrimmaging, etc.? “Tuesday and Wednesday are big work days -- big physical days and we’re going to compete against each other in some of the drills because of the speed and the look that you want. You break up part of practice to get a good switch of personnel so you can get a look at the plays that you have to defend and the defenses that you want to try and block. The kicking part of it – we do coverage teams on Tuesday, return teams on Wednesday, and do them both on Thursday. All those things, as you look at your opponent, you’re trying to put the best plan together.”
Does Eastern’s emphasis on the run help you shore up things up front? “I don’t know if it helps. I think they’re very good with formations. I think they leverage defenses pretty well. I think they do a nice job in and out of personnels and formations to leverage a defense. It all goes back to the same thing on defense -- you have to play with your eyes, and you have to make sure you’re honed in on what that key is -- that key at every position so you can react in the proper manner.”
Has Cam practiced this week? “He practiced yesterday, ran around, did some things. My biggest concern right now for him is his conditioning level because he’s missed a lot of time. I think we’ll get through that, but right now he’s available.”
You’ve talked about improving from week one to week two. What did you do better against Notre Dame, and how do you plan on continuing that trend? “I think there’s a lot of truth to that, and then you've got to continue to be championship teams, you’ve got to continue every week. A lot of that comes from the mental process of how you prepare, and that’s what we as a team have to do a good job of -- the way we prepare every week.
“I think we did some good things on third downs in the second half from a defensive standpoint. I thought we adjusted well offensively at halftime. When you look at some of the runs Denard had, and how Al changed up some blocking offensively to expose it a little more and help it. So there was good reaction from what Notre Dame was doing. I thought that was a good part. I think kickoff coverage was good.”
Do you expect to get Fitz back for Eastern? “Yeah he should be. He did everything yesterday, so we hope to.”
Taylor Lewan got pissed off yesterday because someone told him that the running backs didn’t really do much in the run game. What does O-line have to do to allow RBs some consistency? “You have to be better at the point of attack. You have to finish if you’re combination blocking, make sure you get up to the next level, make sure you’re getting the movement that you want on the line of scrimmage. There’s multiple things, because there’s perimeter people you have to count on harassing the guys from the secondary so your bigger plays can come from that. I think Taylor and all those guys have a lot of pride, and it’s good to hear that.”
Did you think Vincent Smith made a bigger difference in the passing game than rushing game? “I couldn’t tell you that. I think we have to block better. That’s where the game starts, so it’s like everything else. It’s all of us, coaches, players, and everybody.”
What does Vince bring on third down? “He’s tough. He knows what he’s doing, he’s tough, he’s not afraid to put his face on somebody, and he’s good out of the backfield. Catches the ball well. I like that little guy.”
Is there ongoing competition at left guard (Barnum vs. Schofield)? “I think Ricky has probably cemented himself decently to some degree in there, but if he practices badly or plays badly, then it’s nice to have a little bit of an option with Mike.”
Have you given any thought to Saturday being your 100th game as a head coach? “No.” Does it mean anything to you? “Not really.”
You referenced improvement on third down stops. Overall number isn’t very good yet, but is there a common theme in what worked on those plays? “I would think a couple things -- number one, we’ve got to challenge a little more in the back end. That would be first. We let some runs that were … I think there were one, two … three runs on third downs that broke because of one reason or another that we’ve got to execute better.”
Mike Hart’s going to be on the opposite sideline. What’s your relationship with him like? “I know Mike. I wasn’t here when Mike was here, but I have a lot of respect for Mike, and what he did for Michigan. I know him well enough. He’s a good man, and I like the heck out of him.”
If the opportunity arose, would you welcome him back to Michigan? “I think all of those guys are welcome back.”
After you get done with a noon game, do you spend the rest of the night looking at other teams? “Well, I’ll take the laptop home and first thing I’ll do is watch what we did, and then there’s usually next opponents on there gamewise, and may look at that a little bit.”
Are you going to give Will Campbell more playing time? “Yeah, in fact I asked him -- I guess I’m a little naïve -- I said, ‘Is that the most you’ve ever played?’ and he said, ‘Yes,’ and I said, ‘Really?’ I guess I should have known that. He did some good things in there. I think he’s gaining a little bit more confidence. He is a guy that can help us an awful lot if we can get the consistency and the improvement.”
Has lack of PT lit a fire under him in practice? “I think he just is -- I think we all get to a point that he’s settled in a position, number one, and I think that helps on a daily basis on what you do from a fundamentals and technique side. I think that part of it is real positive for our football team, and positive for him.”
Just makin’ sure … Is Troy limited at all in practice? “No. He did everything yesterday. I really like where he’s at in a mental state right now.”
Michael Floyd got his yards, but JT had him one-on-one and did a nice job considering it was against Michael Floyd. What did he do well? “I think JT’s improved. I think he’s got a long way to go, but I think he’s done some things better. I think he has the confidence level you want to have as a corner, without being too cocky. I think that’s an important part of it. There’s a lot of plays in there where he’s got to play a little better, too.”
Can you talk about your depth at linebacker position? “I think with Mike Jones, and Hawthorne being healthy, Fitzgerald and Desmond being healthier than he was Week One, that helps. Brandin’s still trying to get himself back. Cam, we’ve talked about, he’s an outside linebacker. Kenny’s done a pretty good job. I would say we’re okay. We’re not the deepest group anywhere, to be honest with you.”
Lots o’ guys playing at the WILL position during the last two games. How much of that is just rotating them, and how much is just trying to find a clear starter or two? “Some of that depends on what defense you’re in. If you’re in a nickel or dime package, who’s out on the field, or if you’re in our base package. So with what Western Michigan wanted to do, it was more of a nickel/dime kind of setup [with their four-wide formations]. But [with Eastern Michigan] rushing the ball for 331 yards a game out of two base personnel groups, you’ll be a little more with your base defense.”
Does it help having stability in the middle with Kenny Demens? “I always think it does. You have a guy who has experience, you have a guy who’s pretty sharp when it comes to making the calls, setting the front, and adjusting at that level, so yeah. Kenny does a good job, and J.B. does a good job when he’s in.”
Will you consider playing your freshman RBs? “Maybe.” What will that depend on? “It will always depend on how fast they learn, maturity-wise, and all those things.” Have they caught up a little more? “I think they’re okay. Depending on where we get, they may play.”
What have you seen from them? “I think Rawls is a strong runner, he’s got good vision and pretty good balance. He’s got a pretty good burst. Justice is a guy who’s got great quickness. Catches the ball well. He’s doing a lot of things for us now on our look teams, sometimes lining up as a wideout, just because of numbers, and he’s matured.”
You’re not Kirk Ferentz, so you’re probably not going to take a knee on third down just to kick a field goal, but how important is it to get a couple attempts in the next couple games to get to the meat of the schedule? “I don’t know if it’s as important as we all may think. I think we’re kicking everyday. [Gibbons] is going up to the stadium everyday. He’s shown good consistency. We’ve come at him everyday. We put pressure on him, and I think right now he’s hitting the ball pretty well.”
Is that still one of those things where you don’t really know how well he kicks until you get into a game situation? “It’s like anything else in life. I don’t know what’s going to happen ten minutes from now. I don’t worry about that.”
It looked like Wile was taking a few practice kicks during the Notre Dame game when it looked like the FG attempt would be longer. Is Wile still handling long field goals? “I would say him or Paulowski. Either one of those two guys. They to have a little bit of a stronger leg.”
How were the players mentally yesterday? “They were pretty good that way. I think your Tuesday, no matter what -- because of a couple wrinkles here or there, and they are students also -- they come in here and they have to focus on this part of it now, and some do a better job than others.”
Any scholarships for walk-ons? “Bum. Bum bum. Bum. Um … I don’t think so. I think we’ve renewed some that were given a year ago.” No one new? “No.”
Any redshirting decisions? “You know, not really. We’re not going to be afraid to play freshmen, obviously. The best player's going to play. They’re still learning to some degree, but from the fundamentals standpoints, if they’re the best, they’ll play.”
How do you get more out of your return game? “Gotta block better. The punt return that Gallon had the other night was huge, when you look at field position, but on the kickoffs, we have to do a better job of picking guys up. I think our vision was okay back there as far as the return part of it. We just have to be more consistent staying on guys longer.”
Is Countess putting himself in a position to contribute? “I think so. I think he will.”
9/10/2011 – Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 – 2-0
is this real life?
Not only can Denard Robinson redefine All-America teams, average nearly 500 yards per game against Notre Dame, and pilot the most insane fourth quarter Michigan Stadium has ever seen, but he can sum up what happened on Saturday in a single word:
If you still need evidence that Denard can do things other people can't, there you go. Because I've got nothing. I can gape, slack-jawed and twitching, if you'd like. Oh, and I can put my finger between my lips and go "brrrrrrrrrbbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrrbb" with crazy googly eyes. Also I can spin in a circle going "yip yip yip yip yip."
These are my capabilities. All other functions are currently offline. Attempt to access higher cognition and you will receive 503 Gateway Not Found.
That's fine. There's nothing to say that "brrrrrrbrbrbrbrbrrbrbrb" doesn't cover anyway. I am so high, you guys. I don't even know what I'm saying.
Seriously. I'm really struggling here to put words in the computer. I guess… okay.
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. I couldn't block them from my phone. The tweets sat there, whispering evil things into my ear.
As I projected Denard's state of mind my own got inky black. The road ahead seemed like another two years of painful rebuilding towards a goal Denard will never see, his career relegated to that of Brandon Graham when Desmond Howard seemed in reach. It's going to kill me if Denard ends up a really good player on a mediocre team for the duration of his career and Michigan doesn't end up making anyone who wants 16 in the future wear a patch with dreads on it. It's going to be worse if he's not even a really good player. Someone is at fault for this travesty.
I was running advanced equations of blame assignment amongst Bill Martin, Rich Rodriguez, Al Borges, Dave Brandon, and bloody fate when Denard rolled out. Corralled by a Notre Dame defender, he stood perfectly still but still delivered a game-changing dart to Junior Hemingway before two more ND players could close in.
From there the delirium took over.
That game was delirious because of the many improbable events stacked on each other. Jeremy Gallon jump-ball touchdowns. Tommy Rees's aiming device locked on Michael Floyd. Tommy Rees throwing a ball backwards for no reason. More jump balls to Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon turning invisible with 23 seconds left. All the reasons it left you with your finger between your teeth are reasons to wonder about the smoothness of this transition (not very), the repeatability of such miracles (even less).
This isn't to blame anyone—it seems that coaches are who they are and as much as I want to, you can't hire a guy based on the two years left you've got with Denard. But I hope I'm not the only one who felt a sense of foreboding in the midst of the joy and relief. We've seen this script the last two years, and never has it been as rickety.
Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season. The stakes are only Denard's career, everyone's faith in the Ethical Les Miles theory of Hoke's success, and the very survival of pandas in the wild. I'll take the escape. I wonder what happens when the drugs wear off and real life reasserts itself.
For now, though:
The game is ova!
Non-Bullets Of WHAT?
Pantheon placement. I think this is below Braylonfest—but only just—in the competition for Best Comeback Ever (that people 32 or under remember). For Michigan to pull Braylonfest out they had to recover an onside kick and survive not just triple overtime by an oft-forgotten 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation that was set up by a horrible pass interference call.
A good proxy for the level of kickass in your comeback is how many people left the stadium early. While there were some people who took off when ND made it 24-7, they don't compare to the legions who left early during that MSU game. And winning that eventually got Michigan a Rose Bowl appearance. The season-long significance of this ND game is going to be lower.
It easily beats out the Buffalo Stampede game, since it's not against Minnesota or in the Metrodome, and then it's a long way to fourth place.
As far as best game ever… it depends on what you're rating it on. I like my defining victories to be well-played and not hinge on the opposing quarterback throwing the ball backwards for no reason. In terms of pure drama it's up there but with both teams unranked and not looking likely to defy that I'd say most Ohio State games before we stopped being competitive had more salt to them. We lost all the ones that came down to the last play, though.
The entire Denard interview. If you missed this, you should fix that:
Commence the bitching about the offense. Watching Michigan run a play-action bomb from the I-formation after averaging exactly two yards per carry out of the I on previous attempts was exactly what I was beating into the ground over the offseason. No one is scared of Michigan's crappy backs running power out of the I-form so no one has to cheat to it. Thus instead of Worst Waldo plays featuring Roy Roundtree and twenty yards of grass we got a lot of hopeful downfield jump balls into excellent coverage.
Michigan was lucky as hell to get most of those. That was a Jeff Bowden special right there. I'm not alone in this. There has to be some adaptation now that we know the relative success rates of manball and Denardball. When Denard's averaging 7.5 YPC (sack excluded) and the rest of the backs under are 2, power is a lost cause.
Denard has to be the focal point of the offense, fragile or no. And the new offense seemed to remove Denard's legs as the primary threat without actually reducing his carries: he had 15 carries* in just 50 snaps. Project that to last year's 72 offensive snaps per game and Denard would have carried 22(!) times. What's the point of throwing away snaps on two-yard runs from the I?
Primary thing that may just work. "Chuck it up to Hemingway" may be the world's most primitive passing game but dang if it doesn't work. Hemingway not only has great leaping ability, he's enormous and therefore capable of boxing out opponents. Add in an uncanny knack for being able to high-point the ball and he's a hell of a lot like Marquise Walker before Walker got the dropsies as a senior.
Primary thing that did work from under center. Vincent Smith's throwback screen touchdown was a great call since it used Denard's legs. He rolls, defense freaks, he throws back, Smith should have an easy touchdown if any of the offensive linemen block that one linebacker, Smith makes it happen anyway. Contrast with the earlier screen where a short Denard has to float a ball over a guy leaping in his face and ends up throwing it eight yards too far and getting it picked off.
And introducing… Facepalm Guy. The facepalm guy from the sad fugee face picture in the "So I Was Like" post: the the new Lloyd Brady? He's already won an award for "Media Criticism" from Doctor Saturday.
1) He caught ESPN's camera's capturing his facepalm moment and gave them an oh-no-you-di'in't:
2) After the game he… well, he did this:
Can a brother get a Facepalm Guy touchdown Jesus photoshop?
(HT to MGoUser Haterade.)
Defensive events. Brandon Herron and Mike Jones were supposedly out with injury but if I had to guess they were not so badly hurt they couldn't play and Michigan was trying out their other options at WLB. Desmond Morgan started, played poorly—he got trucked like he was in a BTN practice highlight-type substance—and was yanked. Then Brandin Hawthorne came in and may have been plausible. He knifed into the backfield for one key TFL on third and short. I'm guessing he was at least partially responsible for a number of Cierre Wood runs that went for big yardage, but we'll see. WLB remains a sore spot.
The other sore spot is an alarming, unexpected one: WDE. Craig Roh had zero tackles for the second straight week and while he did get a QB hurry or two he seems less impactful from that spot than he did last year. I mean, last year he split two ND linemen and picked up a huge TFL en route to a +11 day. This year he'll be lucky to break even. Hopefully he's still sick. I wonder if we see more Black in the short term.
How did Jordan Kovacs only have eight tackles?
BONUS: Will Campbell got held! By an offensive lineman!
Special teams. Matt Wile has been at least average spelling Hagerup, and with only one more real-ish game left before the latter returns it looks like Michigan will escape that suspension without much real damage. I still hate the regular punt. If ND's John Goodman hadn't made inexplicable fair catches he had tons of room on two of Wile's five punts despite Wile's excellent hangtime.
The patch thing. It's pretty cool. Some potential tweaks and additions:
- Should we un-retire numbers? I could get behind a 98 if it meant someone was going to be sitting in front of a locker that said Tom Harmon. You'd have to ask whoever the nearest relative is.
Further locker room additions. Everyone who's been an All-American should have their name engraved in a fashion more understated than this legends designation…
...but still be there. Having Chappius and Oosterbaan and Friedman and McKenzie and Dierdorf and Long's names up in the locker room would be a nice way to recognize All-Americans past.
- Next up. AC and Woodson. If they don't put the retired numbers back in circulation. Jake Long would probably be next up way down the road.
- The patch is too big. That's just, like, my opinion, man.
So there's this. Exploit your children for fun and profit:
Profit not applicable.
Pom-poms and RAWK and crowd noise. Is it just me or was the stadium not actually very loud when it would help out the most? The pom-poms encouraged people to use their hands shaking pom-poms instead of making noise and while the piped-in music was indeed loud, when it cut out the people in the stadium making noise were largely going "OH oh oh oh oh, OH oh oh oh oh" instead of "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA." The latter is louder.
Putting aside the insults to the Great Tradition they represent, is the noise level created by the frippery mostly cosmetic? It has seemed much louder in Michigan Stadium—I was frustrated as I was screaming myself hoarse on the last drive while people around me shook their little plastic thingies. Plastic thingy shaking is not that intimidating, people.
And then there's the guy two rows in front of you who's shaking the thing constantly so you can't see the game. In the South they have a protocol about these things: raise that thing above your shoulder during a play and you're not getting that arm back. Here we get them every five years or so and there's always someone who thinks row 14 is the last one.
ST3 goes inside the box score. Michael Scarn says trying to describe that game was like taking a picture of Bigfoot. Post-ND MonuMental riff by ppToilet. (You can't choose your username, man, it chooses you.) MonuMental himself shows up to modify his Denard action figure for the occasion.
Pretty much the best. An obviously drunk Jeff at Maize Pages digs up the fantastically entertaining Roundtree-Shaw Newlywed game BTN video in response to the delerium.
Photo galleries and assorted media. Pregame shots from MNB Nation. Other shots from MNBN. The Shredder took a zillion shots. Tailgating from AnnArbor.com. Also the game. Here's a great stadium shot from Melanie Maxwell:
Also here's this dude:
The whole gallery is worth checking out.
Wolverine Historian put together a 28 minute highlight reel.
Column-type events. Wojo. More Wojo. MVictors also fills you in on the techno viking behind Hoke: yes, it's Steve Everitt, and no, you do not want to get between him and his cubs. Kyle Meinke says Denard was a big part of the offense and the running backs weren't and that's not so cool. Florek in the Daily.
UGA/M dual-fan Michael at Braves & Birds wonders whether it's better to play poorly and win (as Michigan did) or play well and lose (as Georgia did).
Entertaining serieseses of bullets. MVictors:
On the sunny side, they pulled out all the stops in the press box for the media on hand. Witness the butter dish of victory:
This might have been Brandon's special bonus.
[Robinson's] total of 446 yards and 5 touchdowns was excellent, but how he got there was strange. Through three quarters of football, he was 4-for-14 passing (if that accuracy rate sounds familiarly horrible, that's because it's the same as Michigan's kickers circa 2010) for 136 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. In the fourth stanza, Robinson went 8-for-11 for 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus a recovered Stephen Hopkins fumble that he turned into a touchdown.
That graph is intended as a baseline estimator for a team's real-time win probability and is independent of situation, but the site also offers a crude win probability calculator, which, while it's calibrated to an NFL scale, can at least give us a decent estimate of how unlikely Michigan's victory was: four percent, Michigan's win probability after Notre Dame's slot receiver scampered into the endzone without a defender in site. Denard Robinson laughs at your probabilities and says, "Really? Oh man, that's crazy," and throws the ball to Jeremy Gallon standing alone in the Notre Dame secondary.
Maize and Blue Nation wins best headline: "The Denard. The Denard. The Denard."
National takes: Adam Jacobi marvels and notes that Robinson couldn't throw the ball even when he was completing passes; he also points out that uh… the Big Ten is not so much this year. Doctor Saturday:
Here, instead of merely covering poorly, Notre Dame subsequently failed to cover Wolverine receiver Jeremy Gallon at all, incredibly freeing him for a 64-yard sprint to the Irish 16-yard line with eight seconds left for a) A couple shots at the winning touchdown; b) A shot at a field goal to tie; or c) A confused catastrophe that left 110,000 people contemplated mass hara-kiri. With all of every one of those people secretly fearing c), Robinson delivered the dagger.
Robinson was, again, heroic for Michigan. He has brutalized the Irish the past two seasons, rolling up a mind-boggling 948 yards of total offense to go with eight TDs. His performance in the fourth quarter Saturday night was downright epic: 7 of 9, 202 yards, three passing touchdowns to go with six carries for 24 yards and another TD. In all, he accounted for a staggering 226 of his team's 229 yards.