"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Long. Splitting into halves.
It's a trend: Michigan spring games have returned to their sleepy past, meaning little and failing to reveal Savior Quarterback Who Will Save Us. This is a good thing, since the titanic importance of spring games under Rodriguez was symptomatic of a program drunkenly staggering from one rickety support to another.
It would be nice if Michigan could put together an actual game like you see at OSU, ND, and many SEC schools. Maybe next year.
Anyway, highlights to remind you of some of the things chattered about below:
The most important thing that happened yesterday was Hoke muttering something about Jake Ryan's return timeframe:
"I'm not a doctor, but possibly middle of October. Some people react differently."
That would be excellent. The critical bit of Michigan's schedule is… well, all of November, when they play State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa and OSU, ie: the top half of their division, Iowa, and The Game. The only games before November that look competitive are against Notre Dame and Penn State, and Penn State should start dropping off what with their sanctions.
Ryan may even be back for that one, which is on the 12th. Indiana and a bye week follow, so Ryan may not just be back by the important bits of the schedule but established. As far as devastating season-ending ACL injuries to your best player on defense go, I like this one more than I expected I would.
Meanwhile, Blake Countess and Fitzgerald Toussaint both warmed up like nothing untoward had happened to them. (Neither was taking contact.) Countess's injury is far enough in the past that it's reasonable to expect that. Seeing Toussaint out there was a moment of shock for me. He didn't take any contact but if he's out there running five months before the season he will certainly be available in fall, which is when those soccer players who had the same injury came back anyway.
Devin Gardner Looked Good
this picture feels goooood (Eric Upchurch)
If Denard Robinson hadn't gotten hurt, this would have in fact been a Big Deal, as Gardner would be an heir apparent with no track record except his performance in the three previous spring games: awful, awful, and awful. With five starts dwarfing all spring data in importance, it's not a big deal. It is nice. Precisely nice.
In this one he did throw his traditional pick six to a linebacker he doesn't see coming underneath a receiver (Desmond Morgan dropped this one); aside from that he was 11 of 15 for about 140 yards, picking up where he left off in the fall. That's a very large jump from last year, when Gardner's performance had everyone buzzing about how Russell Bellomy looked like a plausible backup and let's just move Gardner to wide receiver already.
Here's the part you'll see about six more times before the opener about how if you extrapolate Gardner's statistics out to a full season you get some crazy numbers: 60% completion percentage, 9.7 YPA, 29:13 TD:INT, and nearly 3200 yards passing. That would be a Michigan record for TDs and brush up against John Navarre's 2003 season for yards. It would also vie for the best YPA season in the era when offenses throw the ball more than ten times a game—Jim Harbaugh hit 9.9 in 1986*.
Those numbers are a touch flattering since they include the bail-out against Northwestern and a couple of long touchdowns generated more by the defense screwing up than Gardner doing anything amazing—thinking primarily of Roundtree against OSU here. But then again we're talking about a guy who had been playing most receiver before being thrust into the starting job against Minnesota and a statline assembled against a set of defenses that were collectively pretty good. Pass efficiency Ds for the five Gardner opponents: 23rd (Minnesota), 33rd (Northwestern), 75th (Iowa), 29th (OSU), and 34th (South Carolina). At most one of those is a flailing patsy, and even the dismal Iowa defense was a far cry from MAC snacks not named Central Michigan.
Anyway: Gardner's calm demeanor and accuracy is another chunk of evidence to put on the pile. Maybe a small one, sure.
*[Rick Leach had a whopping 11 YPA in 1979, but only threw the ball 130 times. Yes, he only threw 130 times when he had Anthony Carter as an option. Football has changed.]
Running Backs: Wait Until Fall
With Fitzgerald Toussaint now certainly on the list of running backs not participating on Saturday who will be major threats for playing time, any conclusions drawn here are likely to be about the guy getting two carries a game behind Fitz and Derrick Green or DeVeon Smith. But it is spring, when we display our most colorful obsessions in an attempt to win mates. Let us proceed.
Going by the substitution patterns it seemed like Justice Hayes was tentatively your starter. He took advantage of this situation to average 0.5 YPC on two carries. Drake Johnson picked up less than a YPC himself, leaving Thomas Rawls and Dennis Norfleet to pick up the only real gains of the day by a tailback.
Both of those backs were going up against primarily backups. Usefulness: not assured. I mean, in one of the longish Rawls runs above he breaks a tackle from Terry Richardson, who's still about a buck fifty soaking wet. In the other a walk-on SAM gets crushed inside and the corner is open for days.
It will surprise no one that I thought Norfleet looked good. In the run featured at 2:10 in the highlight video he's behind mostly walk-ons and facing mostly starters. Black beats up Blake Bars and forces Norfleet away from blocking. Norfleet slips behind that block so fast that RJS has no shot at him, then he jukes Jeremy Clark out of his jock—and this is important for any coach but especially one Brady Hoke—to go north-south. On his other quality run (sadly not included in the highlights) he did the same thing: threaten outside so he could cut north-south and finish his run.
(@ right: Upchurch)
They did include the blown up zone stretch, and on that one you can see he just doesn't have a chance as Keith Heitzman rips through a block and forces Norfleet outside into Cam Gordon. He probably should have just eaten a two yard loss instead of testing Gordon.
Here's the thing though: Michigan didn't show a snap of pistol or much of anything, really. You know Al Borges loves his throwback screens, especially when he's got a guy as mobile as Gardner threatening the other side of the field. Who do you want grabbing those? Obviously Norfleet. Okay maybe Hayes, but we haven't really seen anything from him in that regard yet. Whoever gets that role has got to be plausible enough as an inside runner and blocker to not be a flashing throwback screen signal. I think we saw a couple things from Norfleet that bode well in that regard.
It's harder to get excited about Rawls given what we saw from him last season. Norfleet has the advantage of being a new toy, at least when it comes to getting carries in the backfield.
Receivers: Are They Supposed To Be A Problem?
Jeremy Gallon is going to catch a billion passes this fall, lots of them hitches, some of them hitch and go, some of them comeback screens. It's not so much the frequency with which Gardner targeted him on Saturday that makes me say this but the ease of the connection. When Gardner's throwing at Gallon it just seems easy.
Gallon reminds me of that moment after Braylon's departure when Michigan tried to establish Breaston as a deep threat. This was a rousing success until the moment Breaston had to bring in a ball over his head. IIRC he dropped it literally every time. But by God he was open.
Gallon is like that. His change of direction is elite, and Michigan is going to go hitch hitch hitch seeya this fall. By God, Gallon will be open. The difference: Gallon can actually catch downfield. His stature always makes him a tough target—see that corner route Gardner zinged well over his head—but we've seen him make a bunch of tough catches. Hell, he's even effective on fade routes in the endzone, a development that is still mindblowing even months afterwards.
Upshot: don't care if he's small, Gallon is a legit #1. Hell, he was fourth in the league in receiving yards last year despite operating in a Denard-centered offense for most of it. Let's have more Fun With Extrapolation: Gallon's hypothetical stats if Gardner was QB all year: 81 catches, 1330 yards.
Meanwhile, the guys surrounding Gallon will be fine. Drew Dileo didn't do much in the spring game but we've established who he is: a sure-handed slot guy who will find the foot of space he needs to convert on third and six. Devin Funchess should be a much bigger factor in year two. This is a proverbial weapon:
Darboh looked good finding a 30-yard fade on the first play from scrimmage; Jeremy Jackson made some plays. They'll have 4-5 solid options to go with a great #1. As points for concern go, this one doesn't register with me.
As for the second-year guys, Darboh seems a bit ahead of Chesson; both will play. You can see why Chesson redshirted last year when you get him next to Darboh, as Bryan Fuller did:
Still a bit of a Caris LeVert vibe from Chesson. They might have to protect him against jams by having him off the line, that sort of thing. Darboh looks like that won't be a problem.
I can't tell you I noticed a lot of details live, but one thing did jump out: Graham Glasgow seems to be making a serious push for playing time. He got plenty of snaps with the ones at both guard spots and center. He was the nominal starter at left guard over Ben Braden; at the very least it seems like he'll be the first interior lineman off the bench in the event a starter is hurt. He's their utility infielder.
The rest of the line seems set, with Kyle Kalis taking a large majority of the first team RG snaps and Jack Miller the same number at center. It is vaguely possible the arrival of Patrick Kugler or emergence of someone down the depth chart upsets the order of things, but I think that's your interior line: Glasgow OR Braden, Miller, Kalis. Joey Burzynski seems to have dropped back from the group with serious playing time prospects. Chris Bryant was well down the depth chart but did get on the field some. He could emerge if the injury is still holding him back.
Performance was a mixed bag. Michigan seems to want to pull Kalis to Lewan on a lot of plays. Good in theory; not entirely executed in practice. For example, at 1:10 in the highlights above you get a replay of last year's MLB misidentification: Michigan wants to run power behind Lewan with Kalis pulling; Michigan blitzes the A-gaps; Miller doesn't read this and sets up to block nobody; an unblocked Ross meets Johnson in the backfield, with Morgan unblocked right behind. Braden got smoked by Black for a sack a bit later.
Michigan yanked Lewan relatively early. Michigan put Erik Magnuson out there, and he did just okay. Pass rush was a lot easier to get with Lewan out of there (surprise!). Given the push Braden is making at guard I bet that any Lewan injury—knock on wood—sees Schofield flip to LT with Braden moving to RT and Glasgow drawing in at guard, if he's not already on the field. Michigan prefers a best-five-guys approach over any specific positional backup.
Defense in a bit.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING. This will be the only post today, probably.
Formation notes: You make one offhand comment about how this notes section gets boring late in the year and Al Borges goes and does that. Okay, so. For the TE/WR/RB section I am classifying Gardner as a WR and Denard as a RB when they are not at QB.
Michigan had two different backfields featuring Denard behind Gardner with one or two lead blockers flanking him. I could have called this one "offset I three-wide" but it felt more correct to note it as a Fritz variant:
Since Michigan does have a declared strength here I tabbed the Iowa defense here an under. They also ran the two-FB version, which is just plain old Fritz.
The thing I used to call Denard Jet also re-emerged:
And then there was… this.
In keeping with this blog's tradition of naming weird things he hasn't seen after the nearest equivalent in NCAA Football X, this was dubbed "far twin TE."
Formation lingo may not match your local football talking guy and is merely present to help facilitate communicative acts.
Substitution notes: Line as per usual. Tight ends as per usual. Joe Reynolds got some burn at wide receiver on actual passing plays, catching a long handoff type thing that Gardner clearly aborted to—about which more later—and a hitch on which it looked like he ran a nice route, for all I know about route running. Other than that, WRs were as per usual including usual lack of focus on throwing to Dileo when not throwing to Gallon or Roundtree.
Toussaint went out early with his injury; after that it was all Rawls and Smith until very late; Justice Hayes did get in at fullback(!) on a play where Michigan ran an iso. Oh and that Denard guy played some.
[AFTER THE JUMP: TURKEY no just UFR]
- Desmond Morgan should be back.
“Happy Thanksgiving, number one. I know some of you have turkeys in your ovens so I’ll be brief today. I thought we had a good practice yesterday. I thought our intensity was what it should be when you play Ohio. The way our guys went to work was very industrious. It was a physical day like Tuesdays and Wednesdays are, and I thought our guys did a nice job.”
Will Desmond Morgan play Saturday?
Is there a different buzz about this week as you’d expect?
“Yeah. Always is. I think is the 109th time we’ve faced each other. I think that rivalry and just the excitement that follows with it and the passion that people have, I think it spills over.”
The players have talked about driving into the stadium and seeing the fans make … gestures. What’s that like?
“I think when you go to any of those great institutions that have great passion and passionate fans -- I can remember being at Oregon State and going into the Civil War and going down to Eugene. That rivalry, obviously when we go to East Lansing, I think you get the same thing. When you go to Notre Dame. But I think they’re just passionate about their team. They don’t like you, and that’s okay. They’re not supposed to.”
Will you do a walk-through on the field?
“Yeah, we’re going to Friday. We go back and forth a little bit. Most of the time we practice here and go late, but we’re going to do some things in the stadium.”
Do you talk about Nebraska-Iowa on Friday?
“No, not really. I think I mentioned it once. We can control only one thing. That’s the important thing, and that’s going to play our hearts out for our seniors and our hearts out for Michigan on Saturday afternoon at 12:01.”
MGoQuestion: What do you make of Ohio State’s success on special teams this season?
“I think they’ve got good athletes, and that’s where it starts. It always starts there, and I think they’ve done a nice job putting them in the right places to execute and to be successful.”
MGoMootFollowup: Are there ways to counteract their effectiveness?
“Play harder. Play better. Play with better technique.”
How has Denard’s week of practice been?
“Good. It’s been great.”
Who are you starting at quarterback?
“It’s day to day.”
“He’s doing great.”
Is he available to play?
Is Jack still the backup?
“Jack’s on the travel team with us, yeah.”
Does it change your preparation having a holiday?
“Not really, you know. We’ll change because we’ll practice tomorrow morning, and then at one we’ll have over 500 family members and team having Thanksgiving together. It’s pretty neat.”
What was that like last year?
“Awesome. It’s neat. It’s neat to see all the families.”
How’s Thomas Rawls?
“Great. He’s done a nice job.”
Does he seem ready to shoulder this responsibility? Would Vincent Smith also be in the mix to get some more carries?
“Yeah. Those two. And I don’t know if Thomas has a choice.”
How has he handled that pressure?
“Seems fine. Pretty confident. Most guys who have ability at this level, they’re pretty confident in their abilities.”
Anything you can take from Ohio State’s film from last year?
“Not really. Not from a defensive standpoint besides from the elusiveness that their quarterback has. I think Carlos Hyde, and I don’t even know if he -- played a couple plays, maybe. I don’t think he played much. I know the other guy who’s a back, can’t remember his name right now --”
“Boom. Herron was back. But you try and look at the guys that are all a year older, the ones who have played. The offense is obviously a different scheme, but last year’s film really is irrelevant.”
MGoQuestion: James Ross had a good game last Saturday, but a couple times when he tried tackling a bigger back like Mark Weisman he got carried downfield. Is that a concern against someone like Carlos Hyde?
“No. You always tackle really well when you have more than one guy tackling.”
Will Desmond start at that spot?
“We’ll see. Right now they’re competing.”
How many friends and families will you have Saturday?
“I don’t know. Over 500.”
How often do you get to spend with players’ families?
“Not often during the season. Once in a while on a Sunday, once in a while early Friday morning, but not very often.”
Are you going to have over 500 family and friends at the game?
“Who me? Personally? Oh.”
Yeah. I was going to say. You’re more popular than I thought.
“No. No idea. I’m not in the ticket business. Mrs. Hoke handles all those things. She’ll tell me sometime Thursday night over pizza who’s coming.”
You expect to have some people?
“Yeah. We’ll be represented.”
11/17/2012 – Michigan 42, Iowa 17 – 8-3, 6-1 Big Ten
M. Ward – Helicopter
A couple years ago Carl Hagelin lasered a wrist shot off the post and in directly in front of my seats at Yost. It was senior day; there was a second left in overtime. I saw the puck rise all the way and knew its path was true. In the aftermath I wrote about a kind of envy I have for old-timers who have only their burned-in memories of these titanic events:
…while I've been craving video boards at Yost for years there's something beautiful about not having the thing you just experienced altered by someone else's perspective. Since the Werner goal isn't on youtube no one can tell me he wasn't wielding a scimitar, wearing an eyepatch, and screaming "hhhhhyarrrrr" as he swashbuckled towards the net. I'm pretty sure the unicorn he was riding was named Steve.
Those days are over but thanks to Carl Hagelin Yost got one last opportunity to walk out of the building buzzing about the thing that just happened in your head, and only your head.
I feel aftershocks of this when I'm on the radio with Craig Ross and the topics get twisted around to 1970s basketball refereeing and Craig gets a little frothy and a guy calls in to froth a bit with him. I love this. You don't even know. I have no idea how much of it is accurate but I've double-checked my brain with Youtube enough by now to know that the things we have in our head are a lot further from the untrammeled gospel than it seems.
When you have this presented to you directly, it's unsettling. You think you remember everything about these blazing moments in your sports fandom and it turns out not to be so, and you wonder about all the other things you may not have right. Before anyone could check their brains, the tower in your head could go unchallenged.
A part of me wishes that Denard turning Tanner Miller into a chasing ghost was gone, extant only in all of us who saw it, slightly different but equally validating and valedictory and satisfying in all of our heads. I mean obviously not, this would be terrible, I can recite Keith Jackson's call of Charles Woodson's OSU punt return (Woodson's got one block… he's got another block… one more and he's gone!) from memory and hear the three separate roars from the crowd without even cuing it up. Obviously not. Despite the memorization I just watched Charles Woodson return that punt eight times. This site is dedicated to archiving the events and the feelings behind the events. Obviously not.
But… maybe a little. If that was just there and gone, well, seeing that would be something. Like watching Tom Harmon. Like experiencing the rage of playing Indiana in a dusky, mustachioed 70s basketball arena where television was just a rumor and your brain the only repository of a precious thing—the life you lived.
Midweek, Michigan fans were facing down the prospect of ceremonial snaps. Walter Smith was exhumed to reassure us that life goes on even after you lose what should be the culmination of your career to a busted limb:
"It still haunts me today to not play your senior year," said Smith… "To work that hard at something and have that happen is devastating. It could have led me the wrong way."
It was not particularly reassuring. At some point I thought I realized I'd seen the last of it, and I started thinking one of the things stuck in my head that calls itself forth at times: "And I sat down on the grass, on the burnt grass, on the black, burnt, dirt and grass, and I can admit this now: I wept. I cried big, old, giant tears."
Because memory is unreliable I had to plug it into Google and got two hits and realized that this was the Robert Earl Keen story I'd warped into a column about Michigan hockey losing the national title game two years ago after staying up all night editing my now-wife, then-fiancée's dissertation. I did this just now, and read it, and yeah. This is what I felt when I thought about the black burnt dirt and grass:
At some point Michigan is actually going to win another goddamned national championship and some of this will be redeemed. Not all of it, though. Shawn Hunwick is never going to do that again, and nothing's ever going to match the Swedish flag and my complete failure to get people to replace all words in the goal cheer with "bork" when Hagelin scores. Things come and go; this one has gone and I'm stunned at how much I miss it already.
Except the stunned part, because obviously not stunned more like openly dreading forever.
Denard got a ceremonial snap, and ran for three yards, and then got another, and ran for four yards. Collectively they are the Michigan fanbase's favorite first-quarter plays to set up third and three ever. It became clear that we had been granted a reprieve from the future.
The sun was out, shining on Michigan's present and future as each senior took a bow. Vincent Smith hacked down men much larger than him and scored on a throwback screen. Jordan Kovacs took a quarterback escaping into space and turned it into a tackle for loss. Roy Roundtree was Worst Waldo open for a touchdown.
And on another option play, Denard eschewed a pitch that was there, accelerating outside of Thomas Rawls to the corner, where he faced down an Iowa safety. One juke later, he was tearing down the sideline. A hundred ten thousand took it and put it in their memory. I was there. I saw it. I can tell you about it, but it's something you have to experience for yourself.
As the day descended into a blissful victory lap, Denard audaciously reversed field for another big gain en route to exceeding 100 total yards on 15 touches. On each play, you could feel the stadium burst with anticipation. Please give me one last thing to have here. He did, twice, and the cloud that dogged Walter Smith evaporated.
After, I walked down to the tunnel and watched him go, young and old alike reaching down for one last moment.
Maize and Blue Nation
I was there. I saw it. Let me tell you about it.
Eric's gallery is on the front page a few posts back.
Photos from MVictors pregame:
JT Floyd's daughter
Brock Mealer looking pretty dang ambulatory
Maize and Blue Nation's gallery includes a great shot of the captains walking off the field after the game:
And Robinson looking on at Gardner being interviewed:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. You can no longer be denied, Devin Gardner: 18/23, 314 yards, six total TDs. I be like dang. More about Iowa being the worst thing ever a bit later; setting that aside, it's remarkable that Gardner throws an out and you're just like "this is extremely likely to be on target and moving fast when the WR catches it." His accuracy and comfort with the offense grows weekly, and when he needs to have his legs bail him out those are still around.
Honorable Mention. Jeremy Gallon (133 yards receiving without getting a gift long TD, let's not think about the punt), Roy Roundtree (gift long TD but hey 83 more yards), Denard Robinson (8.1 yards a touch), GERG Davis (your QB completed 19 of 26 passes for 7 YPA), Jordan Kovacs (I just like Jordan Kovacs), Will Hagerup (did not wander off to Ypsilanti at halftime, wondering if he should transfer to a school at which he would see the field).
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1.3: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama, 1/3 Minnesota), Drew Dileo (Michigan State, 1/3 Minnesota), Roy Roundtree (1/3 Minnesota, Northwestern)
1: Craig Roh(Nebraska), Devin Gardner(Iowa)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. It must be Denard Robinson juking Tanner Miller to the ground. Yes. All of the that.
And then he felt he was being unfair so he ran out of bounds.
Honorable mention: Denard reverses field on dinky flare pass, Gardner to Gallon for a juggling 50 yard catch, Roundtree goes Worst Waldo on third and seventeen, Vincent Smith throwback screen for old times.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
11/10/2012: Mattison baits Fitz, Kenny Demens decleats Northwestern, game over.
11/17/2012: Denard WOOPS Tanner Miller in Big House finale.
Iowa caveats apply. Large Iowa caveats apply. Several plays were comically wide open as Iowa's secondary was ruthlessly exposed for the clown college it is. Only the incompetence of Big Ten passing attacks obscured it previously. Meanwhile, Devin Gardner is now eligible for social security after one particular goal-line passing play.
Late in the game, Iowa quit. Caveats apply. Large ones.
Let's ignore all caveats! Holy pants. The combination of the Devin Gardner-oriented slick passing game with spicy deep bombs combined with Denard Robinson carrying the ball to annihilate Iowa's defense utterly. Michigan scored touchdowns on their first six drives and were going in for another when Micah Hyde made a pretty badass interception on what would otherwise have been first and goal for Michigan.
Gardner's accuracy is getting creepy—a couple of underthrown deep balls were short only because their targets were so vastly wide open that the only way to not score a touchdown was to miss them, and the corner routes he's throwing are consistently on the money. This was the third straight game he hit Gallon in the numbers on a deep bomb—on this one Gallon had a guy draped all over him and still brought it in.
More than that it seems like Gardner just has a certain je ne sais quoi about him. The scrambles are a big part of this. There's more to it, though. In this game just having the patience to sit and wait a million years on that play where he could was an asset, and then he had that brilliant improvisation fling at Roundtree…
…that caused Dave Pasch to manically exclaim he was "JUST TOYING WITH THE DEFENSE!!!" He was.
As we go along here I'm moving away from thinking things like the yakety sex touchdown against Minnesota are not sustainable items you can count on to keep your offense going game in, game out. Gardner has kept a ton of drives alive with his scrambles and his ability to adjust on the fly—neither of which are Denard assets.
Horrible defenses all, yes. Inability to run for two yards without a quarterback involved, yes. Still.
Inability to run for two yards without a quarterback involved. …looked like it might be going away as Toussaint popped a couple nice gains—one of them on a real live successful option pitch from Denard—but then Toussaint sustained extreme damage and it was back to the salt mines. Rawls, Hayes, and Smith combined to acquire 35 yards on 13 carries, 2.7 per. Yeah, a number of those were short yardage. Still, a long of eight yards was acquired, and that was when the entire Iowa defense freaked out about Denard only to get the counter pitch in their face. Runs on which offensive line blocking was relevant topped out at six yards.
This is just something that must be accepted. Michigan is not going to get much of anything up the middle against Ohio State, and must be able to throw effectively. It'll be interesting to see if Ohio State tries to match John Simon up against Michael Schofield or lets the Lewan/Simon throwdown go down. Either way, Whoever Versus John Simon is the single most important positional matchup in the game.
Rawls hype level descending. Not very far from a low baseline since the Purdue blip up was only a couple carries, but descending. To me he seems very Kevin Grady so far and it's hard to see him getting anything against that DL and OSU's speed to the outside. I don't know what they can do about it, though. Smith is the same thing, more likely to make a man miss and far less likely to grind out YAC.
Hayes and Norfleet clearly don't have the coaches' trust, which is unfortunate because the role Michigan needs to fill when they go to that Fritz package is the darting outside guy who can tightrope the sidelines no problem when he gets that counter pitch or juke a defensive back when he gets the option. I have the feeling that sometime next year one or the other will get an extended run, do well, and leave us all wondering why they couldn't get on the field in 2012 (probably because they can't block).
Meanwhile, while I'm not writing off Rawls the trendline there is not heading towards anything more than a short-yardage guy. A short yardage guy that bounces it way too much.
Nefarious Ohio State plans. Michigan has not called more than a couple runs for Devin Gardner yet aside from short-yardage run/pass rollouts that have turned into half-scramble/half-intentional-run touchdowns. The reason has been obvious: if Gardner goes down Michigan is rolling with a one-armed Denard and Russell Bellomy. This has been a logical thing to do.
I think they have to break the seal on that in the Game.
I'm not suggesting Gardner takes off 20 times or anything, but some dose of Gardner/Denard inverted veer action seems like a big opportunity to hit something big. The problem with working Denard into the gameplan as a not-quarterback is that he basically can't block for reasons of inexperience and elbow, so how do you work around that limitation? To date, Michigan has given him the ball and used him as a decoy.
They'll continue doing that, but it's time for the Denard/Devin Mesh Point. By making Denard the tailback and running the veer, they either get Denard on the edge without contain or option someone off, thus blocking someone with Denard without actually blocking someone with Denard. Add in the potential for play action off that look and you've got my #1 must have thing for OSU.
Toussaint damage. I am probably not informing you of anything you do not know when I say he has broken bones in his legs and is done for the year. A reader pointed out this study done on 31 soccer athletes that saw the subjects with twin fractures return to competition an average of 40 weeks after their injury, which would be just before next season.
If he can't get back in time for 2013, he should be able to apply for a sixth year. His first redshirt was due to a shoulder injury.
Citizens for Dileo. If a ball is thrown at Drew Dileo and hits the ground, it is pass interference and should be an automatic flag. Now please let the man return punts.
Could have gone better. Iowa's touchdown drive was pretty alarming. And even if Vandenberg was making all the three yard passes, it's a little disappointing when the opposing QB goes 19 of 26. Some of that was inexperience, some of it scheme—on a late third and four Michigan moved Gordon down late and used him as a man defender on a TE out successfully; previously they were using linebackers making tougher run/pass reads.
HOWEVA, I don't think I'm as down as Hoke was after the game. Guy seemed downright dispirited by a team that barely scraped over the 300 yard mark thanks to a jerky onside kick and 22 meaningless yards before halftime. Iowa went three-and-out on four of their first six drives. If the ref doesn't throw a terrible roughing the passer flag on Jordan Kovacs, they would have been facing fourth and eleven at the 32 on their field goal drive. By the time they put together the 81-yard-drive that rescued their yardage from the abyss it was 42-10 and Kovacs and others were cooling their heels on the sideline. Iowa is bad and having them do anything is bad; I'm not really sure they did much of anything other than throw it at their tight end.
Weisman coming back was a big help for them. The difference in quality between that guy and Garmon was obvious, and he still only managed 3.9 YPC.
The game in a nutshell. Michigan third down conversions: 9/12 with two of those failures subsequently converted on fourth down by Devin Gardner. Iowa: 6 of 14 and 1 of 3 on subsequent fourth downs.
worst roughing the passer ever (Upchurch)
Godspeed, Kovacs. I may get all blubbery about Denard but if Devin's going to do the things he seems like he is doing, Kovacs might actually be the guy I miss more next year in on-field terms. Do you people remember that Michigan used to give up huge long touchdowns all the time? Like, weekly.
Kovacs's utter reliability has turned Michigan into a defense that essentially never gives up anything without a chance to redzone you to death. He is literally the best safety I have experienced as a Michigan player, walk-on be damned, status be damned. All hail Kovacs.
Iowa tight end cloaking device. I like it much better when Greg Davis is operating it because the end results are decidedly non-Moeaki. Mattison likely has something to do with it.
Weekly Devin Gardner lookalike photo. Not necessarily a thing, but after Hipster Devin last week it's a thing this week because…
…because it's a thing.
Brady Hoke FTW. Moments that make you think "boy I'm glad that guy isn't Michigan's coach" are flying fast and furious these days, what with Minnesota's leading receiver bombing Jerry Kill in a 4000-word tumblr post by way of announcing a transfer and Bret Bielema punting from the Ohio State 30 and Mark Dantonio punting on fourth and medium down three with three minutes left—a decision that slashed his team's chances by a third.
It is impossible to conceive of the first thing happening under Brady Hoke. Jerry Kill seems like a decent guy and doesn't have the opportunity to tell his side of the story, but it's hard to picture anyone on Michigan's team even having a side of the story. I mean, Hagerup interaction post-OSU-atrocity. QED.
And while I wouldn't put it past Hoke to freeze up in the heat of the moment (everyone does sometimes) his game theory decisions are near-perfect in two years at Michigan. Saturday, Michigan faced fourth and goal at the one, sent the kicking team out… and called timeout because Hoke was like "wait I am Brady Hoke." While the ensuing touchdown turned out to be unnecessary, it was the right move and it paid off.
Usual statement of preferred policy: all freshmen get to buy tickets; after that you have to show up by kickoff at half of the games to renew.
Iowa: home of the hyphen. Iowa's moved from Inexplicably Great White Wide Receiver—who now makes his home in Minneapolis when he's not bombing Jerry Kill and leaving—to Somewhat Good Hyphenated Name Guy. They're multiplying now: Iowa iced Kevonte Martin-Manley, Henry Krieger-Coble, and Louis Trinca-Pasat this weekend.
Ace instant recap:
In a way, it was fitting.
Denard Robinson's Michigan Stadium career did not begin according to script. It started with a fumbled snap, then became something magnificent.
It ended with him unable to throw a football, but still very able to take the Big House's collective breath away.
Steve Bigach had 3 tackles. I bring this up because his name is a perfect metaphor for the BIGGG TENNNNN this year. BIG ACK! (Hey, bonus points for me for working in a cat photo.)
Best: Those Who Came and Stayed Will Always Be Champions
I know that everyone has talked up last year’s seniors as epitomizing Bo’s “Stay and Be Champions” motto, but I’ve always felt this Senior class has been given a short shrift considering the environment that existed when they decided to come to UM. The 2011 class came to UM with a fair bit of uncertainty, what with a coaching change and a shift in offensive and defensive systems, but they all arrived on campus in a world where UM hadn’t missed a bowl game since Nixon was in office and had only one .500 record over that span. Like everyone, they figured UM would, at worst, suffer through a “down” season of 8 wins before challenging for more titles.
But we all know how that played out. And not only did the team struggle on the field, but off it players questioned Rich Rodriguez’s leadership and allegations of improprieties bubbled up before the season. Their reality was a program coming off the worst season in their history, with an embattled coach and a media ready to burn him at the stake. Few offensive and defensive stars could be found on the roster, highlighted by the fact that UM had two players taken in the 2009 draft and 3 in 2010, with one of them being a punting Space Emperor.
[AFTER THE JUMP: all of the links all of the links]
Formation notes: much, much more under-center in this game. FWIW, Minnesota had some packages where they'd put a linebacker in between two DL, as below:
Last year people told me this was a bear front, so that's what I called it. On short yardage Minnesota would do this to both sides of the line, so that's double bear. As always, lingo may not be compatible with your local football lingo-knowing guy and only exists to provide extended conversations with Seth about what the hell I meant when I classified X as Y.
Also here's this guy again:
Substitution notes: Gardner the whole way at QB, Rawls got some playing time, Smith was back, and the line was exactly how it always is. Burzynski got a few goal line plays on that package where they line up Lewan and Schofield next to each other.
The WR rotation was about what you'd expect as well, except there was a lot more Jerald Robinson. He has apparently inherited most of Devin's snaps.
[AFTER THE JUMP: so how was Devin really, and ARGH runs ARGH]
Formation notes: With the Norfleet jet sweep thing becoming consistent enough to call out, it's now "Shotgun Jet":
Norfleet is to the top of your screen, with a tight end. He has always come in motion. I'm sure they'll start doing some other stuff with it.
Aigh stack stack stack (not ours)
Substitution notes: Same stuff on the OL, with Burzynski coming in for both Barnum and Lewan when Barnum was dinged and Lewan was lifted a drive or two before the rest of the line. Jack Miller got in for his first non-garbage time plays on the two unsuccessful goal line dives when Denard was out.
Moore returned at TE but was clearly behind the guys who had already been playing. WR stuff was about what you would expect; Jerald Robinson only got in once Michigan had salted the game away.
RB rotation began in earnest, with Toussaint, Rawls, and Hayes splitting carries. Norfleet got a few specialized plays. Smith missed the game with a hamstring issue. Hopkins was also held out in favor of Kerridge again.
You of course know about the QB substitutions.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M15||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||2|
|Two deep safeties and what looks like man with only six in the box. Both safeties are coming hard on the run action, though, with one containing Denard as Buchanan crashes down on Fitz after he handoff. Barnum(-1) gets handled by a DT, pushed back and almost into the lane, so cutbacks are absent. Omameh(+0.5) and Mealer(+0.5) have gotten movement on the other DT, which does provide a small crease, but the DT set up to the outside and thanks to the Barnum bleah Fitz has to test that. He takes an outside angle, where the quick-filling safety goes boom on him. Denard(-1) probably should have pulled with Funchess arcing around Buchanan.|
|M17||2||8||Shotgun 2-back||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||7|
|Handoff is very viable here as well but Denard saw a lane and hit it so okay. Lewan(+0.5) comboes with Barnum(+1) to get movement on a playside DT; Barnum pops off quickly to shove a blitzing linebacker. Blitzing linebacker on the frontside is coming hard but there's a gap behind him; Omameh kind of maybe gets a tiny touch on him, but it's really just Denard(+1) pulling and accelerating unbelievably fast through a small crease. Another quick safety fill by a guy who is just playing centerfield on runs holds it down after Denard makes it through the first level.|
|M24||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||6|
|Straight up the gut. Mealer(+1) and Omameh(+0.5) get movement on one DT. Barnum can't do much with Spence but he still can't affect the play; Kerridge(+1) clubs a linebacker out of the hole and Toussaint(+0.5) bursts right up the middle, leaping over a little trash to get five instead of one.|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||2||1||2||Base 3-4||Run||End around||Norfleet||-1|
|Norfleet as a tight receiver, comes in motion. This is no read, just a handoff. I feel like M screwed up their blocking here as both the bulling Omameh and cracking down Gardner take a playside LB; the playside OLB is hanging on the edge; playside end is unblocked as this is fake veer. Toussaint(-1) heads on a path too far upfield and ends up not even touching the OLB; DE pursuing from inside out forces Norfleet into him. RPS -1; this feels like something went awry in the design.|
|M29||2||11||I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||Throwback screen||Gallon||71|
|Always works and so much this time. Borges uses Illinois's aggressive safety fill against them. Motion from Roundtree reveals man coverage, the fake sucks eight Illinois defenders away from the playside and kills them. Now it's three M players in space against three Illinois players. Roundtree(+1) blocks a corner well outside the hashes. Barnum(+1) walls off a linebacker trying to recover. Lewan(+2) does a great job on a safety, slowing up, extending to make contact, and then driving through him when he tries to shed to the inside. And then the cavalry arrives in Schofield(+2), who released to the second level, realized no one was coming back and the went to the third level. He checks out Gallon and then hauls ass to get to the last safety, walling him off as Gallon(+1) cuts behind. Then it's just Kwiatkowski(+0.5) cutting off a guy who probably isn't catching Gallon anyway and six points. RPS +3. 20 yards and a one on one matchup with that S if Schofield doesn't climb to him minimum.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 8 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Base 3-4||Run||Sprint counter||Toussaint||12|
|Backside LB shoots an interior gap as the backside DE is blown off the line by Schofield(+1); he also fights into the interior gap. That means outside is wide open, Fitz(+0.5) takes it. Four guys converge at the sticks. RPS +1. Mostly bad play by the Illini.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun empty 2TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB sweep||Robinson||3|
|Not a surprise. TE blocks down, Mealer and Omameh pull around. Williams(-1) should have an easy seal as Buchanan's first step is upfield; move outside a step and seal and he's gone. Instead, step back, get beat. Omameh(+1) gets a good pop on the linebacker trying to full; Mealer(-0.5) should probably see Buchanan and peel back to pick him off. Instead he moves through the hole; Denard follows and is tackled by Buchanan. Good gain if M just deals with that guy.|
|M49||2||7||Shotgun 2-back twins||1||2||2||4-3 over||Run||Inverted veer give||Rawls||3|
|M blocks the end and sends Kerridge outside; end gets upfield of Kwiatkowski but Denard is reading a linebacker and hands off. With two guys coming up against just a pulling Barnum, right decision. Rawls(+0.5) sees the business outside and cuts up; Barnum just gets a shove on one of the LBs, who funnels to help and gets in an ankle tackle attempt. His buddy finishes from the side; Rawls falls forward for four but gets a crappy spot. Not usually a fan of not having your FB block anyone, but I guess this is a push.|
|O48||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Angle||Rawls||6|
|Rawls goes on a little angle route underneath; Denard steps up through traffic nicely. He's got a much easier throw if he just takes another step towards the LOS and lets a linebacker come up on him so that Roundtree's out is wide open but instead rifles a dart to Rawls just in front of a recovering linebacker. He was getting some pressure so I get it. (CA, 2, protection 2/2). Barnum goes out for the rest of the drive.|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Pass||PA post||Roundtree||33|
|Four verts for Michigan and Robinson thinks he's got Roundtree in a window behind an underneath cover three slot defender who's dropping and two of the safeties. He's... right! The outside guy comes over the top but can't do anything about it; ball is high but I think here that's where you want it since you want to keep it away from the underneath guy and it's a 33 yard completion in between three guys do I really have to explain this is a DO? (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O9||1||G||Shotgun twins twin TE||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||8|
|No read, this is just a fake. Toussaint is hauling at the unblocked end; end hops outside because he fears the end around. He's gone. Burzynski(+1) picks off a linebacker charging up into the gap; Schofield(+1) checks on the playside DT, sees Omameh(+1) has him off the LOS and sealed inside, and climbs to the second level in a flash. MLB walled off. Denard(+0.5) is fast, down to the one, leaves with boo boo. RPS +1. End around fake earned yards.|
|O1||2||G||Goal line||2||3||0||Goal line||Run||Iso||Toussaint||0|
|Mealer(-1) and Omameh(-1) do not handle a slant well; Mealer gets blown into the backfield and Toussaint has to cut behind; Omameh could not cut the gap behind and there is a guy in it; delay, and on the goal line that is doom. Jack Miller's(+1) actually in at RT and he put an Illini guy in the endzone impressively.|
|O1||3||G||Goal line||2||3||0||Goal line||Run||Iso||Toussaint||0|
|Mealer(-0.5) again can't get much movement; Toussaint(-1) can probably still squirm in at some point but he decides to leap when there's nowhere to leap and when contact is made he has no choice but to go backwards. Physics is a bitch.|
|Drive Notes: FG(18), 10-0, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M18||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Rawls||3 + 15 pen|
|Bellomy's drive. Toussaint goes on an orbit motion presnap, threatening an option thing. M just hands off on an inside zone to Rawls; seriously doubt this is a read Bellomy is allowed to make. DT double from Mealer(-0.5) and Omameh does not quite get the playside guy sealed away; Omameh has to pop off to block a linebacker; Rawls does not trust the block and goes laterally instead of NS, getting tracked down by the LB. Rawls -1; be who you are. Gallon +1, as he flattens a safety. Schofield(+0.5) got a good kick. M gets lucky with a facemask call.|
|Illinois runs an exchange with their MLBs that successfully confuses M. Mealer releases into a guy who is moving past him as a LB sets to fill the gap that leaves; Kerridge also hits him. Toussaint has no choice but to whack the unblocked LB. -0.5 for both Kerridge and Mealer, who collectively did not adjust to the Illinois play but did get movement on their guy and helped make this somewhat positive; Omameh(+0.5) got a nice block on playside DT to help, though that guy was going vertical in the B gap.|
|M38||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA TE flat||Funchess||Inc|
|Quick hitter off mesh PA; DE is instantly in Bellomy's face. He does a good job to get it off; throw is a little high and behind Funchess but right in his hands; ends up spiked to the ground. (CA, 2, protection N/A, RPS push I guess)|
|M38||3||7||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Drag||Roundtree||Inc|
|Bellomy rifles it to Roundtree; dropped. This was a four yard pass open by about five yards and was likely to pick up the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 12 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||3-3-5 stack||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||4|
|Denard back. Illinois shoots a linebacker at the snap with impeccable timing; he gets under Barnum and knocks Omameh off his pull. Kerridge(+1) gets a nice cut on the contain guy, which gives Toussaint a slight window to run away from the filling MLB. He takes it; filling MLB just makes an ankle tackle. RPS -1. Williams(-1) again loses a downblock he should be able to finish easily.|
|M36||2||6||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer give||Hayes||8|
|Man, keep looks good too, but DE is not outright containing so give is right. Blocking is almost irrelevant; Toussaint(+0.5) gets a decent lead block and Hayes(+0.5) cuts it up behind and hits a DB so the pile falls forward past the first down marker. RPS +1. Barnum(+0.5) got a good block on the playside DE to open up a hypothetical shot up the middle by Denard.|
|M44||1||10||Ace||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Rawls||6|
|Rawls(-1) misses a huge cutback lane as Omameh(+2) crushes Spence off the ball; Barnum(+0.5) and Mealer(+1) shoot the other DE playside and then Mealer pops off behind to pick off a linebacker. With the backside end blocked, a cutback is Rawls thundering at a WLB for 5-8-10 yards. Instead he bounces and gets lucky as the end gets overaggressive and gives him the corner. I don't care that you got yards, man, GO NORTH SOUTH THAT'S WHAT YOU DO. I cant' give him a bigger minus because he did get yards.|
|50||2||4||Shotgun Jet||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB iso||Robinson||4|
|The Norfleet end around plus iso thing from last week. LB is screaming at the LOS; Spence has set up so that a cutback doesn't seem like a great idea. Rawls(+0.5) bangs LB, stands him up. Barnum(+0.5) handles the other DT okay as he tries to hop outside; his falling tackle attempt has no momentum. Denard hits it up for near first down yardage.|
|O46||3||In||I-Form Big||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Rawls||3|
|Boom. Omameh(+1) handles Spence as he tries to chuck and get to the hole; Kerridge(+0.5) gets an okay MLB block; Rawls(+0.5) is just a bowling ball.|
|O43||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||QB iso||Robinson||33|
|Sweep fake is Toussaint from the two back formation. Backside DE tries to shoot upfield; Barnum(+1) ends up pancaking him on what may be a hold but results based charting. Omameh(+2) blows Spence off the ball one on one. This is an ass kicking. Rawls(-0.5) lets a LB under him, he could disconnect to tackle in the hole but massive cutback thanks to the G blocks; Robinson(+2) takes it. Mealer(+1) has shot a linebacker way out of the hole; hello, safeties. Robinson makes 10-15 more yards by making them terrified he's going to cut outside.|
|O10||1||G||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Zone read belly||Toussaint||4|
|Vertical RB attack angle means this wants to go backside. Unblocked DE contains. Schofield(+1) blocks down on Spence, kicking him down the line and providing a nice lane. Omameh(-1) is surprised by the too-quick attack of the playside LB, and turns back to try to block him; Toussaint(+1) cuts behind the fine Schofield block and is going vertically at the endzone when he runs into Omameh. Find someone else downfield, man, he's gone. RPS +1, should have been six. Mealer(+1) also blew out a DT. Might have been better to shoot Kwiatkowski at that LB than Omameh instead of flaring him out and going safety but not sure.|
|O6||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||PA rolllout Dig||Gallon||Inc|
|This is just well defended all around. Playside DE is released by Funchess and is quick enough to get out on Denard so that he can't run. Three routes in the endzone all pretty well covered; Denard does pick out Gallon coming across; ball is on the money and Gallon has body position on the defender so INT is not in play; defender makes a +2 play to get the PBU. (CA, 0, protection N/A)|
|O6||3||G||Shotgun double tacks||1||1||3||Dime||Run||QB draw||Robinson||6|
|Man coverage on a three-ish man rush takes a linbeacker away from the field, no one releases from the line at all, everyone convinced this is a throw, corners get thumped by WRs and Denard breaks outside, easy six. Funchess, Lewan, Roundtree, Denard +1; RPS +2. Funchess's drag got a two for one as the guy in man went with him and he picked a guy off, and that was about it as Illinois stunted and gave up the corner.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-0, 4 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Robinson||13|
|Illinois running a stunt that I've seen blow up draws before but it just doesn't work for them. Schofield(+0.5) got a big kick on the DT running outside, Omameh(+0.5) handled the DE coming inside. Denard's lane is farther outside than he wants but it's there and he can hit it fast enough so it doesn't matter. Second level; Denard(+1) decides to slide as Mealer(-1) misidentifies who he should block and a safety gets in. RPS push, I think, since Illinois just executed poorly.|
|O46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Hitch||Dileo||9|
|Snag concept goes to the interior receiver, Dileo. Great protection, on target throw, open guy, nice catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O37||2||1||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Yakety snap||N/A||-6|
|Robinson fumbles a good snap and ends up falling on it. Not charted but keep it in mind when we talk DSR.|
|O43||3||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Drag||Roundtree||Inc|
|Delayed blitz stunt thing gets a LB around the edge against Lewan(-1), albet pretty far around the edge. Denard has to throw and goes after a pretty well covered Roundtree; we don't get a replay but it looks like this is broken up from behind. Maybe should have ran? Anyway, pressure from a stunt and no one open on hot stuff so got RPSed. (CA, 1, protection 1/2, Lewan -1, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-0, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun Jet||2||1||2||4-3 over||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||9|
|This may or may not be an inverted veer; it could just be a called play. Action is IV. Playside end moves way down as Illinois slants away from the play and the outside contain from the LB is way outside. Pull is obvious, made. MLB is trying really hard to funnel to help and makes contact to the outside of pulling Omameh(+0.5), but with Toussaint(+0.5) banging the contain guy no chance. Denard(+1) pops outside a tackle attempt and is into the secondary. Gallon(-1) ran right by his guy, who tackles as Denard neared the sticks. RPS +1. Basically impossible for Illinois to not have this happen with their playcall.|
|M35||2||1||Ace||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||0|
|Barnum(-1) blown up, loses his guy playside, gives up penetration. Ditto Omameh(-2), except he also falls instead of continuing to escort the guy where his momentum takes him. Toussaint can cut back behind the first biff, but not the second. Worst play of the day from the OL I'll bet.|
|M35||3||1||Shotgun 2-back 2TE||2||2||1||4-4 under||Run||QB power off tackle||Robinson||4|
|Rawls moves to give some speed option action but I think that's just a decoy. Schofield(+1) blocks down on Spence from some distance and gets him. Spence tries to spin past the block and loses ground, he's done. Williams(+1) locks out the playside end well, possibly aided by the Rawls option motion. Barnum(+0.5) is coming around to get a middle linebacker; Robinson(-1) reads the hole poorly and almost gets tackled for nothing by picking the wrong side of Barnum after the LB shows up to the inside unexpectedly. He does manage to sidestep the tackle and get a few, but that put the play in danger and cost him yards. RPS +1, as the option motion really helped.|
|M39||1||10||Shotgun Jet||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||Corner||Gardner||Inc|
|Fakes to both Norfleet and Toussaint into play action. Protected well. Denard tries to throw over a dropping corner and that corner deflects it. Kind of close to an INT; should have checked down to the Norfleet wheel route. (BR,0, protection 2/2)|
|M39||2||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer give||Toussaint||12|
|DE sitting on Denard(+1) so a good non-default handoff. Corner now open as Dileo(+0.5) cracks down on a linebacker, so it's Toussaint vs secondary now. Hard fill from safety; Toussaint(+1) hops inside, then out to set up a nice block from Jackson(+1) and pick up an extra five.|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||QB iso||Robinson||49|
|Toussaint takes the jet fake, Rawls leads. Omameh(+2) gets control and push one on one with Akeem Spence. Rawls(+1) bombs the MLB. Schofield(+1) locks out the DE. Denard can get five or six easy if he just slams it up; he decides to pop outside as Spence has given ground to shed the Omameh block. Denard dodges Spence's tackle attempt as he comes behind. Filling safety now plus the MLB coming off the Rawls block; Denard cuts back to the middle of the field. This is open because Lewan(+1) continued his block on the other end as he tries to pursue and a lazy NT accepts a block from Mealer(+0.5), hole, edge, Toussaint sees it and has the speed to get the only other guy with the angle and seeeeyaaaaaa. Denard +3. Jackson(+1) got a good block on a safety that prevented him from coming down as well.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-0, 12 min 3rd Q. I like Denard.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Sprint counter||Toussaint||1|
|Denard motion holds a box defender outside, leaving six on six plus Toussaint. Schofield(+1) gets a big kick on the playside DE. Omameh(+1) gets a seal on the playside DT, big hole. Lewan(+1) fills it, sealing the one remaining LB inside as Mealer(+1) releases into a MLB. Everyone blocked, big hole, major yards... Toussaint(-3) cuts away from the design of the play for crap yardage for no reason.|
|O26||2||9||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||4-3 even||Pass||Screen||Toussaint||15|
|This actually works. Denard finds a lane through the bodies so he doesn't have to loft it, which has been a problem in the past. He can just fling it directly to Toussaint, which he does. No DL peel, so those four guys are gone. Kwiatkowski(+1) is in the slot, he seeks out the playside LB and hits him inside, allowing Mealer and Omameh to release outside. Secondary time. Dileo(+1) gets a block on a filling safety; Omameh(+1) gets a leveraging corner; Toussaint(+1) sets those blocks up and splits them. He cuts past a safety, gets a block from Barnum(+1) and is about to jet for the endzone when the backside DE manages to tackle him. RPS +1.|
|O11||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer give||Toussaint||3|
|DE does not contain so give. Roundtree(-1) does not adjust to the goal line situation and allows a safety to shoot up past him when he's supposed to crack down on him. That strings Toussaint out. He lowers the shoulder on a tackle and sheds it a la Rawls, but with a containing corner he cant' pick up much more than he would have without the broken tackle.|
|O8||2||7||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-3 even||Pass||Waggle PA corner||Funchess||8|
|The coverage is there, thrown anyway, thrown over the coverage, reach, spear, touchdown, whoah. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-0, 10 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||4-3 even||Run||Zone stretch||Toussaint||-4|
|Mealer(-2) is blasted yards into the backfield by a Spence shove. He ends up at the same depth Toussaint is. Lewan(-1) is chucked past the playside end as well, so outside is not a solution. Those two DL surround Toussaint in the backfield, end run.|
|M36||2||14||Ace 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Inside zone||Toussaint||4|
|Weird scheme sees all DL blocked; usually you'd let the end go and let him contain Robinson. Spence gets blown up by Mealer(+1) and Omameh(+0.5), so big hole that also engulfs MLB since the other DT slanted out of the play; Barnum(+0.5) escorted him. Now unblocked WLB in space against Toussaint(-1). He runs right straight ahead until tackled. Meh.|
|M40||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide tight||1||1||3||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Deep hitch||Gardner||17|
|All day, as it's only a two man rush with two spies. Robinson sets up and zings a ball directly to Gardner in between two guys; NFL window. Caught, first down. (DO, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Moore(-2) smoked by Buchanan, who is instantly in the backfield and can tackle despite having to go outside of everything and attack outside in. Other stuff goes wrong but hard to tell what since the TV doesn't get much of this play.|
|O41||2||8||Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||4-3 even||Run||Sprint counter||Hayes||3|
|Lewan(-2) busts and pulls directly into a pulling Schofield. Hayes has his choice of unblocked LBs to run into. Barnum(+1) got a good one on one block to at least create some yards. LBs were confused by the Lewan pull and so did not attack, either.|
|O38||3||5||Shotgun trips stack tight||1||1||3||3-2-6 dime||Pass||Drag||Roundtree||Inc|
|Motion from Jackson is paired with a guy moving with him, which usually indicates man. This is zone. Robinson misreads the coverage on a curl flat and almost gets Roundtree killed; Gardner was open on the deeper hitch. (BR, 0, protection 2/2, RPS -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-0, 6 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O6||1||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||4|
|Spence goes loose cannon and tries to shoot inside of Barnum on the snap, directly upfield. He ends up just falling. Barnum(+1) got enough. Kerridge(+1) slams a LB trying to fill; Toussaint cuts behind that block into the wide open space left by Spence. Unblocked guys at that point.|
|O2||2||G||Goal line||2||3||0||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||Toussaint||2|
|Kwiatkowski(-1) loses the playside end. He continues harassing but this is pretty bad. Omameh(+1) kicks the edge guy on his pull, which just gives Toussaint(+1) a lane to move outside the end and hit. Kerridge(+1) plowed a DB, so the stumble Toussaint is in after breaking the end's tackle is not relevant.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 38-0, 3 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M33||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Toussaint||5|
|Lewan out, Burzynski in. Mealer(+1) and Burzynski(+1) combo one DT way out of the hole; Mealer goes to the second level. Barnum(+0.5) gets the other DT; he was headed upfield anyway. Kerridge(+1) pops the other LB, nice hole, aggressive safety fill.|
|M38||2||5||Ace twins||1||2||2||4-3 under||Run||Sweep||Toussaint||4|
|Moore(+0.5) eliminates the playside DE. Reynolds gets a block on the playside LB; Mealer and Burzynski are pulling and both guys end up going for the MLB. Aggressive safety fill; Toussaint(+0.5) spins through a tackle to near the first down.|
|M42||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-4 even||Run||Iso||Rawls||4|
|They get it. Mealer(+0.5) with good push. Kerridge(+0.5) finds a linebacker and Rawls hits a crease hard.|
|M46||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Rawls||5|
|Run at a gap outside a bit. Burzynski(+1) escorts a DT upfield out of the hole; Kerridge(+1) thumps a linebacker inside, big gap. Overhanging corner comes down to tackle Rawls; Rawls(+0.5) gets some YAC as he cuts behind a second level block from Mealer(+0.5)|
|O49||2||5||Shotgun empty||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||QB draw||Bellomy||9|
|Opens up large. Schofield(+0.5) escorts a gentleman upfield. Barnum(+0.5) fights off a backup DT for a crease. Bellomy hits it, gets the first, slides. RPS +1.|
|O42||1||10||Ace 3-wide||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Yakety snap||N/A||0|
|Fumbled snap turns it over.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 38-0, 12 min 4th Q|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||4-3 even||Run||Inverted veer give||Hayes||3|
|Correct handoff but safety is filling really hard so Hayes is on the edge with him; can't beat him. Would RPS -1 this if it wasn't 38-0.|
|O42||2||7||I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 even||Pass||Fly||JRobinson||Inc (Pen +5)|
|Bellomy gets Illinois to jump and goes deep with the free play. Bellomy throws a nice back shoulder fade to JRobinson, which he just drops. It was in his hands, DB watching. Tough catch in the rain and falling backwards but not impossible. (DO, 2, protection 1/1)|
|O37||3||2||I-Form||2||1||2||4-3 even||Run||Iso||Rawls||1 – 15 Pen|
|We come back to this late and I can't be bothered to piece together the circumstantial evidence at this point. Reynolds gets an unnecessary roughness call.|
|M49||3||16||Shotgun 2-back TE||2||1||2||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Hitch||JRobinson||8|
|Deeper stuff not open; Bellomy checks down to a hitch well short of the sticks. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 38-0, 9 min 4th Q. First team OL all gone after this drive, so no more charts. Here is the Rawls run though.|
That was methodical dissection of some not very good defense up in there.
So… things to take away: are there any?
Illinois's interior DL is veteran and Spence is going to get drafted in the mid-rounds at worst, plus Buchanan's pretty good and they've got some linebacker talent, so… yeah, I think being able to run the way Michigan did on them despite the rain allowing opponents to tee off on ground games is another meaningful indication that Michigan's rush offense is very good.
6.9 YPC is a ton, and far better than Wisconsin/PSU/Arizona State managed. Slash out the two long runs in the fourth quarter (Rawls's 63 yard TD and the 24-yard fumble-recover-run by Hayes) and Michigan is still at 5.4. That latter number probably would have been higher if the game had remained competitive and Denard acquired 20 carries; he could have cracked 200 again if necessary.
I'm especially impressed with Omameh; after coming out and getting movement on guys in the second half of ND he had another good game last week and blew it out this week. Let's start with the—
|Lewan||5.5||4||1.5||Would have been fine but pulled on a spring counter going his way.|
|Mealer||9||6||3||Got blown up pretty good a couple times, otherwise okay.|
|Omameh||15||4||11||!!! Owned Spence repeatedly.|
|Schofield||9.5||-||9.5||Pulls and operation in space and DE kicks; best day at M.|
|Kwiatkowski||1.5||1||0.5||Didn't get a whole lot of relevant opportunities.|
|Moore||0.5||2||-1.5||Got a play blown up.|
|Williams||1||2||-1||Still like Kwiatkowski better.|
|Funchess||1||-||1||Occasionally blocks guys.|
|TOTAL||55.5||21||73%||Burzynski +3 with no minuses; excellent performance overall.|
|Bellomy||-||-||-||DNC on runs.|
|Rawls||6||2.5||3.5||Awarded +3 for big run at the end.|
|Hayes||0.5||-||0.5||A couple late runs not charted, but also gets away with a fumble as a result.|
|Kerridge||7||0.5||6.5||Really nailing guys. Wonder if Hopkins could have been back already but Kerridge is keeping him off the field.|
|TOTAL||30.5||11||19.5||Kerridge goes boom.|
|Gallon||2||1||1||More touches more touches more touches x2|
|TOTAL||7.5||2||5.5||Better day after some eh blocking.|
|RPS||13||4||+9||Tim Beckmann is a clueless dude, and Michigan got a screen to work! To a RB!|
I'm going to need some overly defensive analysis of the right side of the offensive line.
Okay, coming right up. On Schofield: he used his agility well in this game and didn't get overpowered by anyone. The Denard run that temporarily knocked him out is a good example, as he flashes to the second level extremely quickly and rubs out a linebacker:
That was his day: not needing overwhelming power, using his ability to move.
Omameh… well, I never thought I'd see the day he clubbed a legit defensive tackle for most of a game. I have seen the day. On both of Denard's long runs it was Omameh obliterating Spence that was the difference between six yards and Denard loose in a secondary, shoes flying everywhere. These are one on one blocks, too. The first:
Exact same play, simple QB isos. Cutback is there because Omameh doesn't just win the battle, he shoves Spence yards off the LOS. Spence did some stuff to other guys so I don't think he's a scrub, and Omameh got push on Nix some in that ND game. If he can move MSU's DTs I'll be extremely happy.
Could I get some overly defensive comparisons between the TEs too?
So this is the kind of thing I'm not seeing happen much to Kwiatkowski. Watch the TE at the top of the screen, which is Williams in this case:
That should be an easy block since the DE's first step is upfield. You step around him and seal him and ballgame; here Williams is chucked and the DE can flow from the inside to tackle Denard just as he's about to do something fun.
Williams made a similar error later on a play that also got blown up by an LB blitz that erased a pulling guard. That rarely seems to happen against Kwiatkowski.
But what about Toussaint?
Again the short yardage is somewhat distorting. Toussaint had two carries from the one, a carry from the two, and a carry from the six. The latter two got two and four yards, respectively. There was also a second and one play on which Mealer got blown up. Remove those five carries for six yards that are extremely low upside and you get 13 for 56 yards, a decent 4.3 a pop. It's not quite as bad as the number disparity suggests.
HOWEVA, he does seem just… off. He would have ripped off a big gain on one of the sprint counters except he completely failed to read Lewan's block and cut away from a gaping hole into traffic:
WHERE DO YOU GO ON THIS PLAY?
To boot, he's not providing much in the way of extra yards from his shake 'n' bake as he was last year. OL issues are part of it, as are some odd play calls—iso?—and Michigan's reliance on him at the goal line. At this point it's open season on carries, though. Rawls has made post-contact yards in consecutive games in limited opportunities.
I'd expect Michigan makes Rawls the full time short yardage and goal line guy for MSU and the rest of the season and leave Toussaint to his spread stuff he's pretty good at. Rawls isn't perfect either, as noted in the game column when I put up that still showing a mile-wide north-south cutback lane Rawls inexplicably ignored in favor of bouncing it outside.
And Kerridge is racking up big numbers.
I may be giving him too much credit for standing up linebackers but to my eyes he really appears to be whacking them and providing the impetus for an improved under center run game. Those isos and such are effective. Hopkins was supposed to be back by now; at the very least they're taking their time with him because Kerridge is not much of a downgrade. If he is at all.
He's just a redshirt freshman, too. Grumble about scholarship fullbacks inserted.
Why does the throwback screen always work?
I don't know man, but I'll picture page that touchdown so everyone can get a handle on what it's trying to do. I will say that busted very large because Michigan's tackles can move in space really, really well. Schofield came from a backside second level block to nail a guy 20 yards downfield:
That kind of agility in a 6'8" guy also makes the sprint counter go, too, so there are compensations for not having a road grader at RT. (Lewan kind of is a road grader, which makes him the NFL prospect he is.)
Denard has now gone two games without an INT.
[Hennechart legend is updated. Hover over column headers for quick explanations]
|2011 through MSU||13||66(12)||11(1)||34(1)||17||2||3||10||4||55%|
|2011 after MSU||9||77(9)||7||17||9||6(1)||5(2)||9||5||69%|
Denard's incompletions other than the two bad reads—which were garden variety bad reads, not OH GOD LINEBACKER BRXes—were the crossing route to Gallon in the back of the endzone that was broken up by a very good play by the Illinois defender and a covered hot route on third and long that was broken up; Denard was getting pressure and had a chance to run he didn't take.
Also on the downside: on Michigan's two minute drill at the end of the half he fumbled a perfectly good snap.
I'll take it given the rain and the fairly harmless nature of the screwed up reads—PBUs, not INTs. There is of course the stuff on the ground, which makes me think I like Denard.
Yeah. I like Denard.
Oh no, the collapse of the offense when Bellomy is in?
Ugh, correlation is not causation. He had a DO and 3 CAs in four attempts only to see his receivers spike three of those balls to the ground. It's far too early to say anything about him as a potential starter next year.
Statements like "if Denard goes down we are in trouble" are O RLY level analysis. The freshman quarterback is a lot less good than the senior busy breaking every record he possibly can? Somebody call the CDC.
One catch for everyone chart.
[Passes are rated by how tough they are to catch. 0 == impossible. 1 == wow he caught that, 2 == moderate difficulty, 3 == routine. The 0/X in all passes marked zero is implied.]
Nothing to see here, really.
Yeah, pretty cool to have this guy around.
Why it took so long to offer him I have no idea.
Schofield and Omameh. Denard. Also Barnum.
No one was atrocious or anything but Fitz is in a funk.
What does it mean for MSU and beyond?
For the first time in a while I feel pretty confident that Michigan will be able to get movement on the interior DL of MSU. Worthy is gone and they have just switched starters at one spot; Hoover seems out as well, if he'd even be useful as a Pat Massey-sized DT. Anthony Rashad White seems pretty good but Omameh has done well the last three weeks with guys better than him. That should make the run game go even with Bullough breathing down Michigan's neck.
The passing offense remains a question but we keep getting little bits of data that suggest the Notre Dame thing was a horrific one off performance and that if Michigan can keep Denard clean they can get production out of him.
Michigan's not going to run MSU out of the stadium. If they persist with the run game, deploy some new tricks, and just remain patient they should be able to get enough yards and points to win.