FORMATION NOTES: Michigan spent every snap in their nickel. This was fairly typical.
That also shows what I called "shotgun triangle" for IU. Wynn is lined up in the backfield behind the QB, but it's shotgun depth, not pistol. Wynn would always motion out after a hand-wave from the QB; this was always a decoy.
Michigan did show a few okie packages. This is Okie two; I designate them by the number of safeties.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Boatloads. Avery went back to safety and spotted Gordon and Wilson from time to time. This led to a lot of Stribling and Lewis, as Michigan played every snap in their nickel. Countess and Taylor did not leave the field, IIRC.
At linebacker the usual Ross/Morgan/Bolden rotation saw Ben Gedeon join. The line was the usual profusion of bodies. Clark or Ojemudia was usually one end with one of Beyer/Ryan/CGordon the other. On the interior, Washington, Black, Wormley, Henry and Heitzman seemed to split snaps almost evenly. Glasgow also got in some.
[After THE JUMP: go go go go go go go go go go]
On one hand it was freak plays against a freak offense. On the other hand it was a whole LOT of offense. On the other other hand Indiana is actually quite talented. On the other other other regression in pass rush. On the other other other they're consistently there to make plays. On the other other other other they consistently don't make those plays.
- Vishnu Cook. Cannot be exactly defined. Known to be rather impatient with people who screw with his flowers.
- Aci Parashaktibender. The personification of the divine power of creativity, particularly off the dribble.
- Shiva Fisher. The destroyer who comes in both the form of a benevolent copy editor, and the fearsome form of a chartmonger.
- Blue Indra South Bend. God of rain, thunderstorms, and snark, with hair and beard the color of flames.
- Dheikovantari. God of medicine and that one constraint play he's always on about.
- Coach Brhaspati. Guru of the gods.
- Saramathleti. God of knowledge, music, arts, science, and overseer of vast spreadsheets wherein these things are contained.
What is the essence of Michigan's 2013 defense, and how will it hold up against the remaining schedule?
Mathlete: For me, I see just one thing about this defense. They are a good defense. They are not a great defense, they are not a dominant defense, they are not a shut down defense, but definitely a good defense. They've had two awful halves (second half against Akron and second last weekend).
|They are a good defense. They will never be a great defense. They are a Thomas Gordon defense. [Upchurch]|
They've been put in some bad positions by the offense and haven't been able to bail them out a lot. But they haven't put the offense in a bad position yet this season. The only real deficits the offense has faced this year have come after defensive touchdowns or short fields induced by the offense.
I think Mattison has found the perfect positioning for the talent and the offense that Michigan has. Lacking real play makers he has put together a defense that has limited big plays against non-Indiana teams, forced teams to drive the field, convert third downs and go 10 plays without making a drive ending mistake. Most teams can't do that very times in a game. Nebraska, a healthy Northwestern and Ohio State probably can. Michigan State hasn't proven it can against an FBS team that isn't Indiana. Iowa may be able to, but probably not to a major degree. This works because this defense shouldn't be needed to win games. They aren't quite talented/experienced enough to do that without incurring major risk. Michigan's offense should be dynamic enough that a good defense forcing teams to beat them should get them to 9 wins, easily.
That's where the trouble came against Penn State, the offense didn't push the pedal enough and the defense wasn't quite good enough to push against the stacked deck. I am convinced that an offense that is aggressive, even with a few extra turnovers is the perfect compliment to this defense. We will struggle against the remaining opponents if that aggressiveness goes away because turnovers will still happen (that's football) but the defense is just not equipped yet to be the game-changing unit.
[Brian's complete lack of surprise, after the Jump]
Reader and graphic designer Brian Downing shows off his skills with the above, which I wish I was aware of before attempting my own "Al Borges is trolling us all" GIF:
Brian's (NTB's) is obviously superior; both of these are exempted from voting this week since they're edited. There's still plenty to choose from after the jump, mostly featuring Indiana not playing defense and various reactions to the on-field insanity. It's a good crop, so...
10/19/2013 – Michigan 63, Indiana 47 – 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten
Jake Butt's block gets Devin Funchess cupcake dog eyes. [Eric Upchurch]
Chris Tucker! Jackie Chan!
YET MORE EXPLOSIONS!
EVERY ATOM IS RAPIDLY RECEDING FROM EVERY OTHER ATOM WITH FLAAAAAMES!
Someone mentions that 67-65 Illinois game!
And he gets thwacked!
This is Michigan!
I have confirmed this with people who do not care about Michigan football that much: that was not a collective fever dream brought on by the stress of the Penn State game. It happened, because Indiana is #1 in Big Ten offense and #546th in total defense. A team that put up 42 on them last week waddled towards their first and only offensive touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter of a game against Purdue. They gave up 35 to Indiana State while torching those guys for 70 points. They walloped Penn State by 20. Adam Jacobi has taken to calling the Hoosiers #CHAOSTEAM because at any moment they will break you or be broken themselves, leaving seven points and a flaming wagon wheel in their wake.
Pick literally any stat about offense you want and laugh. Indiana first downs: 28! Michigan's average gain: 9.0 yards! Indiana time of possession in a third quarter in which they scored 23 points: six minutes! Devin Gardner YPA: 17.3! Number of Indiana receivers with catches of at least 20 yards: 5!
This purports to be the same sport that Michigan played against Minnesota. I say it is not. I say it was a test pilot for TV executives from a dystopian future looking for something that will distract the masses from their slave-like drudgery in the fur mines. It was wildly successful. I barely remember anything about my day to day life in the fur mines.
In the aftermath, no one knows if anything means anything. Our ears are still ringing, shrapnel still falling, ham fragments scattered in the front yard. One of the children is walking with a limp and tilting his head funny in a way that seems worryingly permanent. The oil derrick is on fire.
In these situations it's hard to tease out judgments, especially when last week your offense was a few deep balls to Funchess and pain and your defense seemed rather good. A week later, Michigan's setting program records for total offense and getting eviscerated on the other side of the ball.
We had this debate last week about Raymon Taylor and now it's writ large: can any part of this team decide whether it sucks or it is awesome? Lewan and Gallon excepted, it seems like everything Michigan does is prone to insane swings. On the player level, hey look it's Devin Gardner, who explodes in all directions. Or Taylor, who was repeatedly roasted one game after having an awesome interception and was the primary hand in shutting down Allen Robinson for 3.99 quarters. Or Dennis Norfleet, who had an electric juke-you-out-of-your jock kickoff return and an electric reverse-field-twice-and-get-tackled-at-the-nine kickoff return. Even previously consistent Brendan Gibbons is now two for his last five with two line-drive blocks.
On the unit level, the defense waxes between perforated against Akron to crushing against UConn and Minnesota and most of the Penn State game. The offense nukes Notre Dame, nukes itself against Akron and UConn, reconfigures itself into a dump truck to out-dump-truck Minnesota, is bombs and turnovers and pain against Penn State, and then rewrites the record book this weekend. On a team level… well, you saw the Akron and UConn games. Michigan's quite a CHAOSTEAM itself.
Meanwhile, the opponent. In the second half, Michigan's game plan seemed to be max-protect pass after max-protect pass on which Funchess and Gallon would wander out in different variations of deep routes. Indiana would cover Funchess; Gallon would engage his cloaking device to become improbably open, then catch a ball and run for many yards. At some point in the second half, Gallon had already broken the Big Ten all-time receiving mark and one of these two man routes found him open by literally twenty yards.
Jeremy Gallon has three hundred receiving yards and the defense is blowing a coverage on him.
Blow a coverage on everybody else! Penn State intentionally blew a coverage and got an interception out of it! Are you recent immigrants from Malaysia? Do you think this is… Malaysiaball? I need Michigan to score a touchdown here and I am still slightly angry at you, Indiana. Incompetence so vast is a thing to behold, but how are you supposed to take this performance and extrapolate anything from it? It exists in a different world from football; it is for dystopian future distractions.
I probably shouldn't be looking for life lessons after that in any case. It's my natural inclination to search for What It Means For The Future after playing Indiana, since for my entire life as a Michigan fan Indiana games have been speed bumps on route to games Michigan might actually lose. This is a bad instinct after a game that will be That Indiana Game for the rest of time.
Here we should set those things aside and align ourselves in repose. Whatever just happened has no bearing on the future. Lay back, let your feet flop open, and breathe. Our neck muscles and inner ears could use the rest.
I'M FINISHED [Upchurch]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. That Jeremy Gallon's epic, Michigan and Big Ten record-setting performance has the whisper of a challenge here is testament to the ridiculousness of this game. Even though Devin Gardner set some Michigan records of his own, Gallon's the guy.
Honorable mention: Gardner, obviously. Thomas Gordon's interception was the biggest defensive play of the day, by some distance. The line kept Gardner clean for long stretches.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana)
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. After a couple weeks during which it was a stretch to pick anything, here the problem is paring it down form an explosion symphony to a quartet. Or singlet. Whatever. Music things!
But there is a pretty obvious item: Thomas Gordon undercutting a badly-thrown deep ball to intercept moments after Devin Gardner had fumbled a snap on the two yard line. Indiana got to the line instantly, caught Raymon Taylor off guard, seemingly had burned him for yet another immense touchdown, and Sudfeld left it short. A catch and return later, Michigan was once again in position to regain possession of the two-possession lead that was the only thing between Michigan fans and mass chaos. More mass chaos, anyway.
Honorable mention: Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball. Etc. Gardner scrambles, gets flipped into the endzone. Funchess leaps damn near out of the stadium to near the endzone in the second half.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
[After THE JUMP: Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball, Gallon catches ball.]
FORMATION NOTES: Some additional things in this game. This was a special situation, but when PSU hurried to the line in the first quarter to attempt it on fourth and one, Michigan responded with the perfect pinched-line D:
This punched PSU off the field and earned Mattison a gold star.
Michigan occasionally split their LBs in the nickel package in what I called 5-1-nickel:
And they took to a thing where they're standing the WDE before the snap like so:
This has almost always meant he's dropping.
Finally, everyone milling about presnap with no one with a hand down:
This was just Okie in my book.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Secondary was as per usual, with Stribling getting in on a couple of dime packages in the second half and replacing Avery on the Fatal Bomb Drive. ILB was basically the same; Morgan and Ross spotted by Bolden. SAM saw a three-guy rotation with Beyer, Ryan, and Cam Gordon all getting snaps.
The line was also about per usual: Heitzman/Washington/Black/Clark with Wormley/Ash/Henry/Ojemudia spotting. Ash's snaps were extremely scanty, FWIW. When Washington was out it was more often two of Henry/Wormley/Black than Ash.
[After THE JUMP: a heroic 43 allowed.]
Taylor on an island [Upchurch]
Brian forwarded me a mailbag question regarding where Michigan's defense is getting attacked through the air, i.e. are there certain coverage areas that have been particularly weak? It took me most of a day to chart every passing play; the resulting post is rather straightforward. Consider this your bye week from my logorrhea.
Data are here.
What I tracked:
1) Where the ball starts (hash or center). If the tackles lined up inside the hash it was "center"
2) Which zone it was thrown to, on a telephone keypad grid. 1, 4, and 7 are around the numbers to the sideline; 2, 5, and 8 are the area around the opposite hash to the wide side only, and 3, 6, and 9 are down the middle.
If a ball was on the line I always erred to the zone closest to the quarterback. This makes sense if you imagine a player covering Zone 6 will be responsible for carrying a player through that zone, and would be in better position to defend that pass than a guy over him.
3) Which side (strong or weak) of the defense. I noted "Strong" as wherever the SAM lined up in 4-3 sets and where Countess lined up in nickel sets. Once or twice this conflicted with the offense but it's better this way for identifying which players are being targeted.
Weakside/boundary players, usually: R.Taylor, Wilson, Ross/Bolden, Beyer (as WDE) on nickel, Clark on 4-3.
Strongside/field players, usually: Countess, C.Gordon, Beyer (as SAM) on 4-3, Clark on nickel, T.Gordon, Morgan/Bolden, Stribling/Hollowell/Lewis/Avery.
Sacks, throwaways, scrambles, and other such events that took the emphasis on coverage were excised. I couldn't reward those things which occurred because coverage was good enough to make them happen so keep that in mind as you read.