landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
Is BYU dirty? According to Utah DT Viliseni Fauonuku, they are.
At an event for the upcoming Las Vegas Bowl, the Utah player called the opposing team dirty for their tendency to add extracurricular activity to plays. "BYU, y'all are a good team," he said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. "But you're a dirty team. Don't start nothin', won't be nothin'."
This destroys any image you might have had about BYU being a school with a very conservative image that sends students on two year LDS missions.
The article goes on to mention that Fauonuku was arrested as a 16 yr old for holding up two people at gunpoint. All things considered, I will take my chances with a team that punches people in a game and not one where its players are charged with aggravated robbery.
I'm posting this because both teams were common opponents this year. The teams usually play each other in a game called the Holy War but did not play yet and are meeting for the first time in a bowl and not the regular season. Maybe it should be called the Dirty War? (apologies to my Argentinian friends)
FWIW, I was at the BYU game and didn't see anything that led me to believe they were anything but inept.
For the first time in my lifetime, Michigan has posted three shutouts in a row. Back in 1980, we shut out Indiana, Wisconsin, and Purdue back to back to back. We also beat both MSU and OSU that season, and finished ranked 4th overall by the coaches and the media with a 10-2 record and a Rose Bowl victory over Washington. Both losses were early in the season, in weeks 2 and 3 to (hell with) Notre Dame and South Carolina, respectively.
Michigan 31-0 BYU
Michigan 28-0 Maryland
Michigan 38-0 Northwestern
What a game! What a defense! Go Blue!
I don't know if it was USC coach John Robinson or someone else who once said something along the lines of "you know whenever you play Michigan, you'd feel it for a week (afterward)". The good ole days.
So I was just checking out the NCAA football injuries list.
We all know that BYU has been struck by a lot of unlucky, big name injuries this year (Taysom Hill, etc.).
But what I didn't know was that after playing Michigan last Saturday, BYU had 5 new injuries to starters who are all listed as questionable for UConn on Friday.
Notice the "injured last game" status remark.
Also, two starting defensive backs, starting LB, starting LG and starting TB.
Es lebe Manball!
|09/28/15||RB||Adam Hine||Ankle||injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut|
|09/28/15||RB||Algernon Brown||Undisclosed||"?" Friday vs. Connecticut|
|09/28/15||LB||Harvey Langi||Undisclosed||injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut|
|09/28/15||OL||Kyle Johnson||Undisclosed||injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut|
|09/28/15||DB||Micah Hannemann||Undisclosed||injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut|
|09/28/15||DB||Michael Davis||Undisclosed||injured last game, "?" Friday vs. Connecticut|
|09/27/15||DB||Jordan Preator||Suspension||"?" Friday vs. Connecticut|
|09/17/15||DB||Garrett Juergens||Collarbone||out indefinitely|
|09/06/15||QB||Taysom Hill||Foot||out for season|
|09/05/15||TE||Colby Jorgensen||Neck||out for season|
|09/05/15||DL||Travis Tuiloma||Knee||expected to miss 4-6 weeks|
|08/20/15||TE||Steven Richards||Knee||out for season|
|08/15/15||LB||Sione Takitaki||Suspension||out indefinitely|
|08/06/15||RB||Jamaal Williams||Personal||out for season|
Viva Dad Rock!
This game in a single image:
That’s Wilford Brimley (as “Uncle Douvee”), on a horse, with a bow and arrow, escaping a fireball created by the dynamite he placed around his cabin deep in Bayou, which he detonated to kill a phalanx of guns-for-hire trying to kill him and his “nephew”, Jean Claude Van Damme’s “Chance Boudreaux”, is the movie Hard Target. It is an incredibly dumb movie that may be the best 97 minutes you can spend in a day.
Tanner Mangum and the BYU offense was that cabin on Saturday, except UM wasn’t a bunch of goons circling in for the kill, but instead a bunch of grizzled warriors streaking away on their trusted steeds, swatting away passes, grinding up linemen, and warning all those who listen about the dangers of high blood sugar.
Michigan gave up exactly 3 offensive plays over 10 yards, and one was the Stribling near-INT that became a tip-drill reception on the second drive of the game for the Cougars. BYU’s average yards per play was 2.1, and it was nicely split between 2.3 yards per rush and 2.0 yards per attempt in the air. BYU punted 11 of the 12 times they had the ball, with the 12th possession ending the game. On those other 11 drives, they didn’t have a drive longer than 8 plays or for more than 41 yards, and went 3-and-out 7 times and had two 6-play drives that netted them…0 and 8 yards, respectively. Hell, it took BYU playing out the string on the last drive of the game to crack 100 yards of total offense.
On the other side of the ball, UM’s offense did what you kind of expected. After the first drive of the game resulted in a quick 3-and-out and a couple of “yeesh” collar pulls from the faithful as Rudock looked out of sorts with ill-timed passes, the offense proceeded to march down the field on it’s next 5 possessions and score 4 TDs and a FG. All those drives were for at least 47 yards, including drives of 80, 90, and 68 yards, the first two being of the bludgeoning 10-play variety and the other featuring Smith Beast Moding through BYU.
— Michigan on BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) September 26, 2015
Smith finished with 125 yards and the above-noted TD on 16 carries, the team recorded 254 on 51 with two more rushing TDs from 2015’s Dual Threet Memorial Award Recipient Jake Rudock, and that was with UM definitely letting up on the gas a bit in the 2nd half. And a week after his worse passing performance as a Wolverine (and, in all fairness, probably as a starter anywhere), Rudock had the quintessential Rudock-ian performance, completing 56% of his throws for 7.76 ypa and a TD, got rid of the ball when that was the right call and, for the first time this year, finished without a turnover. As per usual, he spread the ball around (9 different players caught at least one pass, with Darboh leading the way with 4), and (usually) ran the ball effectively when necessary.
Last week I described the game against UNLV as the most vanilla game possible, with Michigan going full Milton Berle* after the half. Some people criticized that playcalling because of the passing game’s struggles, but I thought it was appropriate given how overmatched UNLV looked. And that’s why I think Harbaugh is different than a lot of college coaches – he does what he needs to win a game and improve his team, but outside of perhaps a rivalry game he doesn’t seem particularly wired to improve the “optics” of a win by running up the score. If this was Mortal Kombat, he wouldn’t go for the fatality; he’d just let your player stumble around and fall over while he’s taking another sip from his can of Crystal Pepsi.
So in this game, UM basically did the same thing after the half, being content to run the ball (25 times in that second half vs. 10 passes) and getting off the field with minimal injuries (it doesn’t sound like Smith’s ankle is all that bad). It was just that the first half wasn’t so much vanilla as Superman ice cream covered with Viagra and cocaine.
It’s been three weeks now of UM dismantling their opponents to a degree we haven’t seen around these parts in nearly a decade. Since Utah, UM has outscored their opponents 94-14, and you could argue that’s a bit misleading given how often UM has let up on the gas in the second half. It’s still a long season ahead, but at this point it’s hard not to be excited about the heights this team could hit this year and beyond.
* Milton Berle was known for having a rather large member, and was (in)famous for winning, um, measuring contests handily, with Jackie Gleason once advising him to “go ahead, Milton, just take out enough to win.” And no, Google image searching isn’t a good idea on your work computer.
It’s getting more and more difficult to come up with superlatives to describe the defensive effort we’ve seen every week by this team. Oregon State just put up 24 points and 386 yards against Stanford on Friday, or 17 more points and 248 more yards than they did against UM, and 79 of those yards came on their one scoring drive to open the game. That same Utah outfit that dropped 62 on Oregon on the road could barely muster 17 against UM, and UNLV just put up 72 points against Idaho St.
As Brian noted last week, UNLV was so scared of Peppers and co. wreaking them on screens that they didn’t even consider throwing one to the one NFL-quality guy on their offense until well into the blowout. They basically pitched a shutout until Decker hit Boyd on a couple of nice passes late in the game.
And in this game, BYU barely scraped by 100 yards total of offense after coming into the game averaging about 430 yards/gm before the day started. Tanner Mangum, he of the 12.3 ypc and numerous long-range bombings, averaged 4.6 ypc in this game, and if you throw out his tip-drill completion of 14 yards you get 3.7 ypc.
I’m not sure that any team in the country has been playing better defense than UM thus far this season (given how their opponents have looked against other squads), and that’s with breaking in a new corner, the loss of Mone before the season, and the various transition costs associated with the coaching change even with the Mattison-aided continuity.
Best: No More Mr. Nice Guy
The defensive dominance thus far begins with this defensive line. You know you absolutely dominated a team’s offensive line when your leading tackler is a cornerback (Stribling with 4), followed by your NT and DE with 3 a piece (Glasgow and Ojemudia). Your top tackler in the LB core was Ben Gedeon, with 2 of his 3 tackles on kick returns, and it wasn’t for a lack of effort by Desmond, Gedeon, Ross and Bolden. It was just that when an opposing team runs 50 plays, 16 of which end in incompletions, there aren’t that many opportunities for your second level to get to the ball carrier. The defensive line recorded 3 sacks on Mangum, 5 more QB hits, and held BYU’s leading RB Adam Hine to 33 yards on 8 carries, or 4 yards on 7 carries if you throw out a 29-yard scamper in the first quarter. And I’d like to single out Ryan Glasgow, who had 2 TFLs and just demolished BYU’s offensive line for long stretches of this game.
Best: Blinded by the Light
During the telecast, McDonough and Spielman talked about how UM’s defense has been, both by ranking and in actuality, very good these past couple of years, and how they were put in bad positions by the offense. And while that is absolutely true, I also think the insinuation that UM could have “relied” on those defenses to win games, as they seem capable to do with the 2015 outfit, is not. The defense under Hoke was quintessential Carr-ian – great when you “put on your big-boy pants” and smash into each other like wildebeests or when UM had a clear physical superiority, but increasingly anachronistic when tasked with stopping the more “modern” offenses you see across college football. The talent was there, but as soon as the QB started to move around the pocket and little slot receivers were introduced, the schemes seemed to fall apart or, at the very least, seemed unable to adapt quickly. They looked great on paper until they were punched in the mouth, and then all bets were off.
This team is different – when you punch this defense in the mouth, it goes all T-1000/Borg on you, assimilating your tendencies and exploiting your weaknesses, and that’s when the fun stops. I know it’s early in his tenure, but I think this flexibility, this adaptability, will be the greatest benefit D. J. Durkin brings to this team. This is going to sound incredibly cliche (as is most of this post), but the players are being put in positions to succeed, and you see that not only in the box score and the RPS scores, but in the scary calm you feel when the ball leaves the QB’s hand and you are reasonably confident that a cornerback will be in the right position on the receiver, with safety help on the way. It’s when you see a jet sweep or a short WR screen and know that a linebacker and Peppers is about to hold it to minimal gain. When you see Mangum spin away from the pressure (and there was always pressure), survey downfield with that cannon ready to go off for a 65-yard field-flipping dart, and have to dump it off behind or over his nearest receiver because there isn’t anyone breaking in the secondary and a couple of maize and blue jerseys are bearing down with cruel intentions.
I’m sure those around these parts with more football knowledge will point out areas where the defense still struggles, and I recognize that teams with solid offensive lines (MSU) or dynamic playmakers (OSU) will probably still give them headaches, but as we stand here on the last weekend of September, I don’t see a single offense on the schedule that UM can’t adapt to rather effectively.
Best: Born to Run
Another weak, another dominant performance on the ground. This week it was De’Veon Smith rumbling for 125 yards, including a 60-yard score that was basically the physical manifestation of De’Veon Smith if Smith wasn’t a human being already.
It’s a video game play, but not like a football video game play, but instead like Dig Dug where Smith just burrowed underneath everyone and popped out on the other end with nobody the wiser. Brian keeps saying Smith is the closest runner he’s seen to Mike Hart, and this play is the type Hart pulled out for 4 years. Just seeing a hole and deciding he won’t get tackled until he’s in the endzone or the entire defense lassos him down.
Credit should again be given to the offensive line. TFLs were minimal, and while BYU doesn’t have a dominant run defense UM’s backs were rarely being hit in that first half until they were 3-4 yards pass the line of scrimmage. Even when Rudock was sacked, it didn’t feel so much like the line broke down in protection as much as BYU just brought the right number of people and Rudock either held onto the ball a bit too long or just ate the sack because the game was so out of reach. I’ll be interested to see how they grade out this weekend, especially Braden and Glasgow, who seemed to just be manhandling guys at times.
And Jake Rudock showed the type of mobility that Harbaugh expects in his QBs, which brought a new dimension to the offense that absolutely helped loosen up those defensive fronts. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to run for quite that freely against the better lines in this conference, but even the threat of Rudock on passing downs should add a needed dimension to the offense going forward.
Best: Carry on Wayward Son
I mentioned it earlier, but Jake Rudock had the best game of his short UM career but being, well, Jake Rudock. His completion percentage was a bit lower than you kind of thought watching the game (though 56% on 25 throws with a number of out-of-bound throws in the second half to save downs attributed to that number), but after the first-drive jitters he looked really solid out. Ace linked to it in his recap, but this catch by Darboh felt like the turning point for Rudock’s day, even though it was early in the first quarter.
All year I’ve been noticing that while Rudock clearly had issues with downfield accuracy and vision, he was also not being bailed out by his receivers the way all QBs tend to. And it’s when you get one or two of those “my bad” balls on the positive side of the ledger that not only do you look better in the box score but you also play better.
Rudock is a 5th-year senior and he has his limitations, including a desire to make the “perfect” throw instead of the “let my guy be better than the other guy”, but I always thought had he connected on one of those long throws to Chesson or Darboh against Utah, or those clear PIs against Darboh by OSU, or that twisty-turning bomb to Darboh against UNLV, he’d have looked better on the scoresheet and, I think, fans would have been less bothered by fears of his limited arm strength or ability to stretch the field. As soon as UM’s new American Hero did his best Odell Beckham, you could see the offense open up and Rudock become more comfortable. It is incredibly feelingsball, but trust in your receivers is essential for any QB, and today you saw what a competent, comfortable Rudock brings to this offense.
Now, Rudock still needs to improve his timing and reading of the play (he missed a BYU corner slipping on his first pass that would have been for huge yards, he threw a ball to Canteen before he even turned around, was quick on a short pass to I believe Darboh on that first scoring drive, and nearly threw a pick on a blown-up WR screen), but he looked light-years better than he did even a month ago. And he seemed comfortable throwing to everyone, which explains why 9 Wolverines caught balls and Khalid Hill caught twice as many as Jake Butt without it looking remotely out of place. My hope is that he looks good against Will Likely next week before taking on NW and MSU.
Sorta-Worst: Down Under
Because I have to be cautionary about something, I guess, I was a little bothered by O’Neill seemingly unilaterally deciding to run on 4th-and-16 in the 3rd quarter. Love the Aussie spirit, but in games that aren’t quite such a blowout it probably isn’t a great idea to try to run for a first on your own half of the field with that make acreage ahead of you. I like that the punter has the ability to make that call in Baxter’s special teams because of its unpredictability, but that was the wrong one to make given the circumstances.
Oh, also, my heart breaks a little seeing Jake Rudock run this offense and remembering that Devin Gardner was stuck playing in Hoke’s dinosaur offense for years. Nevermind…I’m moving on.
Best: Don’t Stop Believing
Last week I talked about how I thought UM had a real chance to upset both MSU and OSU this season, and there was a contingent of readers who thought I was a bafflingly-myopic homer. And I’ll totally cop to that somewhat. But right now, OSU has some questions at the QB position and has struggled against pretty mediocre competition despite the final score. The NIU game was probably closer on the scoreboard than in reality, but Cardale Jones remains a guy who completes a bit over 55% of his passes and looks less and less like a major running threat as teams start to prey on his accuracy. Obviously, having Barrett off the bench to step in if necessary is a great luxury, but this remains a boom-or-bust offense that relies heavily on its defense to cover up their mistakes, and that might not hold true for the rest of the season. It sucks that UM won’t play them until the end of the year because I assume they’ll have some of these issues ironed out by then, but it remains a very vulnerable #1 team.
As for MSU, they were outgained for the 3rd straight game, this time by Central, and may have lost Conklin for some time. That Oregon win is looking less and less impressive and the Ducks play well below expectations, most recently getting waxed by Utah at home. This year they are also suffering some sustained injuries to key players (Davis, Conklin, Copeland, Kieler) for the first time in this current renaissance, and depth is becoming a major issue. Playing Purdue and Rutgers should give them some time to at least try out replacements and heal up, but after what UM has done to teams like Utah and BYU defensively, I’m not sure Connor Cook is going to look like the first-round QB some are touting him as. And that defense isn’t getting any better in the secondary, so if UM can establish a running game the screens and play-action throws might be there for the first time in years.
I know there are games to be played and UM still has to face tough defenses like PSU and Minny along the way, but at this point I’d be disappointed if UM didn’t at least split with MSU and OSU and be in it for the division title at the end of the year.
Best: Already Gone
Looks at schedule
Four Plays – Brigham Young @ Michigan 2015
This series examines the probable individual matchups Michigan expects to face against particular opponents on one of Michigan’s key running plays and one of its key passing plays, as well as defensively against a couple of the opponent’s key plays (assuming first-sting personnel in a base defensive alignment).
I’ve been meaning to say, those “Fee Fi Foe Films” pieces Ace puts together before each game are a major solid for a guy just trying to get a diary out every now and then. Saves me from having to surf through multiple enemy blogs just to try and figure out stuff like which wide receiver lines up in the slot or which linebacker is which. The objective analysis is also much more useful than the typical product from the hagiographers at most other teams’ sites. So, much appreciated.
And with that, Michigan completes the second leg of its Utah-centric 2015 nonconference schedule on Saturday when 11th-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall brings his BYU Cougars to Stadium & Main. The injury bug has already stung the BYU program hard in the early season; not only is star QB Taysom Hill is out for the season with a broken foot, but injuries will also keep BYU starters Steven Richards (TE), Garratt Juergens (S), Colby Jorgenson (LB), and Travis Tuiloma (NT) on the sidelines for Saturday’s game as well. Despite the injuries, BYU has probably been the nation’s most fun team to watch—and not only because so many of their players have cool names. BYU has won two games (@Nebraska and Boise State) on Hail Mary passes, and lost a third game in a prime-time thriller against UCLA at the Rose Bowl. With good talent on both rosters and plenty of high-variance athletes in the mix, the excitement could well continue into this weekend. Now, let’s look at some matchups.
When Michigan has the ball…
1. Crack Toss Sweep
As I though Brian’s offensive UFR rather strongly alluded, last week’s game against UNLV provided an uncommonly exquisite demonstration of constraint theory. Michigan wanted to run Power O, and UNLV knew it—so UNLV loaded up the front with 8, 9 sometimes even 10 defenders. Constraint theory holds that when an opponent cheats to stop your base play by alignment, then you punish them by running a play designed to exploit the resulting weakness. In this case, packing defenders into the box left UNLV vulnerable on the edges (and deep, though I’m not going there right now). So Michigan capitalized on this weakness by attacking those edges with smoke screens to the WRs, a picture-perfect end around, and a number toss sweeps. Granted, after scoring enough points Michigan went back to banging their heads against 9-man walls—but hey, let’s talk about those toss sweeps.
The origin of the toss sweep is generally traced back to the Wing-T offenses of the 1940s and the so-called “buck sweep”—a play on which both guards would pull outside the playside tackle and lead block for the wingback, who would circle behind the formation to receive the ball. Vince Lombardi’s famous "power sweep" was essentially the same play from a two-back formation. Both were great plays in their times, but by relying on pulling linemen to block the edge defenders from the inside-out, the plays were slow-developing and vulnerable to fast-flowing defenses.
Contemporary offenses have added one final modern wrinkle to counter the slow-developing nature of these toss sweeps: the crack block. By aligning two blockers to the outside and having them crack-back to seal the playside linebacker and defensive end, the sweep hits much more quickly and gives the pulling linemen favorable blocking matchups—usually against defensive backs. And while the outside blockers—usually tight ends and wide receivers—are usually much smaller than the opponents they are tasked with blocking, this size disadvantage is compensated for by “leverage”—that is, favorable angles for the offensive players to make those blocks.
By hitting quickly and attacking outside the formation, the crack toss sweep is a good complement to an offense based around Power O—as teams that load the box to shut down inside runs make themselves vulnerable to being sealed inside and powerless to defense the edge. Isaac’s 76-yard crack toss run came against a loaded 9-man box—and went for a touchdown even though one of the outside blockers targeted the wrong player (a safety, rather than the SLB) and barely delayed him.
SE Amara Darboh: Crack block OLB Fred Warner
UTE Henry Poggi: Motion to the slot, crack block DE Graham Rowley
LT Mason Cole: Pull outside the crack blocks, advance downfield and block first inside defender (“KAT” safety Eric Takenaka )
LG Ben Braden: Downblock NT Logan Taele OR Travis Tuiloma
C Graham Glasgow: Pull outside crack blocks, advance downfield and block first unoccupied defender (ILB Harvey Langi)
RG Kyle Kalis: Advance to second level, block FS Kai Nacua
RT Erik Magnuson: “Cut off” block on DE Bronson Kaufusi
TE Jake Butt: Advance to second level, block WLB Jherremya Leuta-Douyere
FB Sione Houma: Kick out block on CB Micah Hannemann
RB Ty Isaac: Catch pitch from QB, aim for point three yards outside the end-man-on-line-of-scrimmage (or “EMLOS”), but watch for cutback lines inside; by third step, decide which gap to attack and bring outside shoulder to square to LOS.
After a rough start to the season in Salt Lake City, the Michigan offensive line has shown improvement the past two weeks (albeit against greatly inferior competition) and show signs of gelling together as a unit. BYU will either be missing its best defensive lineman or will have an injured version of him. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think M has a good day running the ball.
2. TE Mesh
BYU is mostly a zone team, but admittedly I haven’t yet got a handle on Michigan’s go-to plays against zone coverage. Utah and UNLV ran mostly man coverage. Oregon State ran a lot of zone, but on most of the passing plays in that game the camera did not show enough of the downfield action to make an intelligent determination as to what the route combinations were. But Michigan did run this TE mesh play three times against Oregon State.
The mesh concept pairs shallow crossing routes at one of the busiest areas on the field. If you force defenders to navigate high-traffic areas, then usually at least one of them will be slowed up trying to avoid a teammate, a different receiver, or even an official—leaving the guy that defender is supposed to be covering to run open. Michigan’s TE mesh play features two in-line tight ends crossing, then adds a third crossing route—a dig from the outside WR—over the top. In the linked clip above the WR’s dig route delayed the linebacker responsible for Y-TE Ian Bunting; this left Bunting wide open, creating an easy throw for a big gain.
What’s also notable about the linked clip, however, is that Michigan caught Oregon State in man underneath coverage. Running crossing routes against zone coverage isn’t usually such a good idea. But hey, Ace does say that BYU goes to man as a changeup sometimes, so that’s good enough for me.
XWR Amara Darboh: Motion toward formation, reset; run dig route at 8-yard depth, force defenders in your path to re-route (covered by CB Micah Hannemann)
U-TE Henry Poggi: run crossing route at 4-6 yard depth, (covered by ILB Manoa Pikula) cross under Y-TE
LT Mason Cole: Pass protect vs. LB Jherremya Leuta-Douyere
LG Ben Braden: Pass protect vs. DE Graham Rowey
C Graham Glasgow: Pass protect vs. NT Logan Taele or MLB Harvey Langi
RG Kyle Kalis: Pass protect vs. NT Logan Taele OR Travis Tuiloma
RT Erik Magnuson: Pass protect vs. DE Bronson Kaufusi
Y-TE Jake Butt: run crossing route at 4-6 yard depth (covered by OLB Fred Warner), cross over U-TE
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run comeback route at 10-yard depth (covered by CB Michael Davis)
TB Deveon Smith: Pass protection
QB Jake Rudock: Use pre-snap motion to confirm man coverage underneath; receive shotgun snap, read left-to-right on Y-TE (crossing route) to X-WR (dig) to to Z-WR (comeback).
Jake Butt has already made good on his high pre-season expectations and Michigan’s wide receivers and other tight ends have been probably the most pleasant surprise in the early going. They face a BYU secondary that made Tommy Armstrong look like an effective pocket quarterback. But Rudock comes off a game in which he was consistently late and almost comically in accurate. If he’s back to being at least somewhat accurate, then we can give an edge to Michigan in this facet of the game. But for now, I have to call this a push.
When BYU has the ball…
1. Counter Draw
Those of you who weren't around for the John L. Smith era at Michigan State might not have such abhorrent recollections of the Counter Draw. But yeah, BYU runs it—which is kind of odd, considering it’s a play for devil-worshippers and highway bandits.
The Counter Draw is designed to use a defense’s own aggressiveness against itself. At the snap, the line executes a sprint protection scheme that vaguely resembles inside zone, but it is designed to induce the defensive line to rush upfield. Meanwhile, the QB and tailback sprint to the strong side, which is intended to induce the linebackers to flow hard to the strongside; the tailback then reverses field and receives the handoff to attack the vacated weak side. The play is especially dangerous threatening to a team that does not remained disciplined about staying in its pass rush lanes.
The fundamental technique for defending the corner against outside runs is for the primary force player to “set the edge.” This means fighting to a point two yards wide of the formation and two yards into the backfield, and from there not letting the RB outside of him. In Durkin’s nomenclature, it is the Buck LB who has primary force responsibility on outside runs to the weak side, where this run attacks. Were the Buck LB to read run immediately on this play, its chances of success would be slim. But this play is designed to fool the defensive line into reading pass, so I will describe assignments as though the line was indeed initially deceived.
Buck LB Mario Ojemudia: Pass rush vs. LT Ryker Mathews; stay outside the tackle until he reaches QB depth; when run revealed, defend playside C-gap (outside LT) and force runner back inside
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass rush vs.C Tejan Koroma; stay outside center and inside Buck LB; when run revealed, defend playside A-gap
DT Chris Wormley: Pass rush vs. RG Ului Lapuaho; stay outside the center and inside SDE; when run revealed, defend backside B-gap
SDE Willie Henry: Pass rush vs. RT Brad Wilcox; stay outside tackle until reaching QB depth; when run revealed, pursue through backside C-gap
WLB Joe Bolden: Avoid dropping into coverage; defend playside B-gap vs. LG Kyle Johnson
MLB Desmond Morgan: Avoid dropping into coverage; defend backside A-gap
SLB James Ross: Backside pursuit vs. TE Tanner Balderree
BYU does have a pretty good running back, Adam Hine; according to Fox Sports, his nickname is “The Ninja.” Going up against ninjas is not ideal. But BYU’s offensive line is underwhelming, whereas Michigan’s defensive line has been playing particularly well all season. Perhaps most importantly, every member of Michigan’s front seven is an upper-classman, and thus less susceptible to deception plays like Counter Draw—particularly ones BYU has already put on film.
BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum may not have the experience or the running ability that Taysom Hill brought to the field, but he does have a huge arm. Against UCLA, the Cougars looked to take advantage of Mangum’s deep ball ability by running lots of double moves against UCLA’s secondary. One of the most effective was the post-corner route, such as this one on which Mangum connected with 6’6” slot receiver Mitch Mathews for a TD. It’s a good thing Michigan has a talented and deep secondary, because BYU will line up four-wide and look to exploit mismatches between their huge receivers and opponents’ third and fourth corners (or safeties).
BCB Channing Stribling: Press coverage vs. WR Mitch Mathews
Nickel CB Jabrill Peppers: Press coverage vs. WR Mitchell Juergens
WDE Mario Ojemudia: Pass rush vs. LT Ryker Mathews
3T Chris Wormley: Pass rush vs. RG Ului Lapuaho
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass Rush vs. C Tejan Koroma
SDE Willie Henry: Pass Rush vs. RT Brad Wilcox
LB Desmond Morgan: Man coverage on RB Adam Hine
Dime CB Jeremy Clark: Press coverage vs. WR Nick Kurtz
FCB Jourdan Lewis: Press coverage vs. WR Devon Blackmon
FS Jerrod Wilson: Play deep half to weak side
SS Delano Hill: Play deep half to strong side
On paper, this is a pretty epic strength vs. strength matchup—possibly the best one I’ve looked at in a Four Plays diary. BYU’s receivers are extremely tall, but if any team has defensive backs who can hang with tall receivers it’s Michigan—with several corners over 6’. Granted, Michigan was still looking for a second trusty corner just a couple weeks ago and even the vaunted Jabrill Peppers saw his inexperience exposed a bit against Utah—but BYU is starting a rookie QB coming off a four-year Mormon mission, and he’s understandably shown some rough spots of his own. Michigan’s shown some better-than-expected pass rush this season, but BYU has a senior-laden offensive line and pass pro is their jam.
We seem to spend a lot of time griping about sorry football around here, both in the Big Ten and in the Big House specifically. So hopefully everyone will appreciate this weekend’s matchup of the BYU passing attack against the Michigan pass defense—two genuinely good units (even if on flawed overall teams).
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I should add that I thought about doing the Hail Mary for BYU’s passing play—but the memories of Rocket-Jet Right are still too damn painful. If you’re interested, though, check out this post from Matt Bowen of National Football Post for a nice diagram and a good explanation of each player’s role in defending against Hail Mary passes. I will say, Bowen covers the “rush three and knock the ball down” approach, though I personally tend to agree with the school of thought that says you should rush four and never let the QB even get the pass off. I could be wrong, but I suppose that’s what silently shuffling miserably out of a stadium with 100,000 other stunned comrades will do to one’s perspective. Let’s win this one by 9+ points on Saturday, huh Blue? I’m getting old, and the doctor says these Hail Marys aren’t good for my heart.