and... i like them? I think I like them.
Finally! No,... FINALLY!!!!!
So that game was closer than it should have been. Raise your hand if you think the replay official had taken Ohio against the spread. A touchdown would have made it a 10 point game with Michigan covering the 9 point spread. But let's bitch about that later.
10-2 with wins against ND and OSU! It's beyond all expectations. If we hadn't laid an egg at Iowa and gotten screwed by the refs that game, we'd be sitting with just one loss, 3 close wins, and 8 curb stompings. You could say that I'm sold on this coaching staff. I had no idea the coordinators and position coaches would be this good. We still have a lot of issues with our WLB and our secondary, but we're light years ahead of where we were last season.
On to the pics!
I have to give him credit for coming out with an aggressive gameplan that put a lot of pressure on Braxton Miller's arm and Posey's ability to get separation. It almost worked. But the punt from the 36 yard line was a pure Zookian moment.
It's 4th and 4, the game is a high scoring affair, you've been moving the ball pretty well with your mobile QB and there's a strong possibility that you'd only be gaining 16 yards with a punt anyway. There's no debate. This was a HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE decision. Their punter did a good job executing the coffin corner kick, but that still doesn't justify the thought process.
Add that to Fickell's continued clock mismanagement, and I doubt you'll find a single bucknut fan who is sad to see him go (or demoted, or whatever). Not forcing a punt at the end of the first half was not that bad with a one point lead, but wasting 16 seconds for a 3rd down spike on the last drive was just awful. You could even hear Spielman rolling his eyes at that.
F* That guy
Miller is going to be a problem going forward. He fits "Urban Meyer's offense" as Spielman called it during the game (so much for the two weeks of pretense) almost perfectly. He doesn't throw a very accurate ball but *cough*tebow*cough* that doesn't mean he can't be successful in that offense.
It is interesting to note that Miller had 9 TD's and only 3 picks. Yeah, he didn't have many yards or attempts and was under 50% passing, but that's still pretty remarkable for a true freshman. He's been missing his receivers in safe ways and pulling it to run if the coverage doesn't look right. That's pretty good ball security for someone you'd expect to misread coverages due to inexperience.
He started out the game doing what we expected, we just weren't ready for his speed on the first couple of plays. On this 2nd and long, Ryan is blitzing from a walked off OLB spot.
But his path is a little too much to the outside. I know he's thinking about contain, but he's got to aim more directly at Boren and then use his arms to stay off the block.
Instead, he gets pushed outside and the tackle is free to release onto Demens.
Morgan has to do a better job of reading that lineman crossing the LOS and react quicker to Miller. Ryan would adjust later, but this gave them an important early 1st down.
Mattison really sold out on stopping the run and stopping Miller's scrambling. On Kovacs' delayed blitz, you can see we did a much better job of filling the running lanes on the rush. Morgan is playing spy (which was kind of useless...) and the D-line is free to shoot the gaps away from the blitzer.
But Miller is very elusive and showed great leg strength in getting away not only from Kovacs, but also RVB. Fortunately Demens and Martin have followed the play allowing Kovacs a second shot at the sack. Meanwhile, Morgan is .... well I think Ohio watched a lot of film on Morgan and decided to go after him all game.
Martin and RVB were great all day (of course), and they were twisting on most passing downs. This is a pretty good idea when the O-line you're facing is known to have communication problems. On this play RVB is supposed to go around Martin, but Brewster gives Martin a pretty good pop.
That's no problem for the two seniors, RVB just decides to go first and Martin swings around.
The center and guard are so concerned with Mike, they let VanBergen go free for the easy TFL.
Miller picked up 1st downs with his legs all day. The early bombs really messed with our gameplan and gave him more room to run. On this 3rd and long, we've got Kovacs in the box in our crazy lineup with all the guys on the line and different people dropping out. Because of the earlier passing success, three people are dropping into coverage, even though Ohio LOVES to call the QB draw in this situation.
The result is that Morgan got caught with his weight going the wrong direction and Miller galloped over Kovacs for a big gainer.
But I think Mattison just decided he wasn't going to let Boom Herron beat us. I think Herron ended up with less than 40 yards because of plays like this. Here we've got Kovacs coming off the receiver to run blitz.
And again you can see the linemen shooting gaps away from him.
Kovacs gets in there so fast that both Boren and Posey are blocking air. Jordan gets the TFL and the Ohio is stuck in another 3rd and long.
Miller ran the speed option a lot the last few games and that continued against us. On this touchdown, he cuts against the grain and makes Roh miss in space. Spielman was babbling about how great a play call this was and how it was a counter speed option.
I call bullshit. They definitely do have a counter speed option, but this play wasn't it. You can tell because Roh is unblocked. On the designed counter, the tackle engages the end and tries to seal him inside or kick him outside.
This looks more like improvisation by Miller. I think they just tell Posey to block on the backside like he means it on every play. They got a TD here simply on Miller's talent, not on any blocking scheme. You can see he takes a hard jabstep upfield that fools Roh just enough so that he can get outside.
After that he makes an amazing jumpcut and his momentum carries him into the endzone.
THIS is the counter speed option, except it's a playaction pass. The tip off that it's a pass is that Miller turns away from the LOS instead of going nose towards it.
It's a well designed play that turns into a rollout to the right. They've got three layers with a deep corner, the intermediate cross, and Stonebrunner is going to release into the flat. If the Defense over pursues the rollout, there's even a throwback available to Herron.
But Stonebrunner doesn't hold his block long enough or Miller doesn't get enough depth and Roh is right up in his face.
A more experienced QB might have tried to hit #11 who is open, but like I said before, Miller has been very safe with the ball. Morgan does a good job of knowing who he's playing against and comes up expecting the run instead of uselessly trailing the TE.
He was wide open though. And Denard made a similar play that turned a sack into a short gain. Maybe Miller will be making those plays in the years ahead. Guh.
I'm just glad we'll have Mattison. Because when push came to shove and we needed a stop on the goal-line in the 4th quarter, Mattison basically declared that Miller wasn't going to run the ball in. And credit Kovacs for picking up the TE on playaction so that Miller didn't have an easy throw.
F* this guy too
With only one game of film to watch, our DB's were not prepared for Posey's talent.
But after a couple of short passes to him, they were very concerned about his presence. A little too concerned.
If Gordon hadn't screwed the pooch on this, the ball was not well thrown and he could have given Brown a harder time catching it since Miller threw it to the wrong shoulder and brown had to turn around to find it.
I'm going to give our DB's a tiny little bit of slack in saying they haven't faced anyone with Posey's skill except for Michael Floyd. And they had a lot of safety help against Floyd that they didnt' get for this game. Posey is as close to Mario Mannigham that I've seen on an oposing team. He does a great job of getting on the DB's toes and making them turn their hips. But still...
Even though this is a triple move, (headfake outside, cut inside, cut outside)...
You can't let a guy get that wide open. Lucky for us this duck was overthrown.
If you're going to put 8 men in the box and play man up against the WR, then freaking play man up. Troy has Posey one on one, but because he's lined up so far back, there's no chance for him to make a play on anything but a fly.
This deep cross was not a fly.
And it didn't help that Posey turned Troy around with an outside fake. Amazingly, Miller hit him in stride (no it wasn't a tight spiral).
Posey did it to all three of our DB's (Kovacs was essentially a LB this game). On the last drive he turns around Floyd. J.T. was thinking about getting an interception, and we almost paid dearly for it.
We were about a yard and a half from being down by a point. There would have still been 1:30+ left on the clock, but I was pretty happy to see this ball hit the ground. Our offense was pretty good, and Denard was pretty accurate, but no offense to Gibbons, I'm glad we didn't have to drive for a winning field goal.
[hit the jump for the remainder]
Talented BUT . . .
So I've watched about 7 of Ohio's games, (Brady Hoke has only watched 4, he clearly doesn't "Get It". I mean what's the point of the countdown clock if you're not doing something every day to beat Ohio? Doesn't that include watching ALL of their games? /sarcasm) and the team has lots of talent, as you would expect. BUT...
Most of it is inexperienced, and the experienced parts of it are having trouble getting on the same page. It's one thing for your QB to be young and dumb, it's another for your senior laden O-line to not be getting to their blocking assignments or your two upperclassmen running backs doing their impression of the keystone cops when you put them in the wildcat. Those things are on the coaches, and it's been pretty clear for awhile that these coaches are on their way out. (Regardless of what lies Urban is spinning)
The video above is pretty typical. Shazier is stepping in for team captain Sweat. He's got loads of talent, but if you look carefully, you'll see that a lot of the plays he's making are downfield (when they're not running right at him) because he's slow to react and diagnose. Once he get's going, he's got a lot of speed to get there, and he likes to hit, but not very much form on the tackle because it seems like he's more interested in making a big hit.
When I watch this edition of OSU, I see lots of playmakers, but I don't see a cohesive team.
OSU on O
The Speed Option
The two plays I worry about from Braxton Miller are the QB lead draw and the speed option. He's also dangerous when he scrambles, but I feel like our DL can be disciplined enough to keep him in the pocket. I've already focused on his scrambling and the lead draws in the previous scouting reports, so this time I'm focusing on the speed option, which they ran much better this game, and ran more often.
They like to run out of the pistol, and they'll run it to either the weak side or the strong side depending on what the defense does. But they do prefer running to their right, which is behind Shugarts. PSU shows a cover 2, so there's a numbers advantage to the left side.
I kinda think PSU is a little bit miss aligned for this formation, but it seems like they had a CB blitz called on the weakside. The option motion just goes away from it and those two guys are not going to be a factor in the play.
It's just zone blocking and this is one of the plays where the O-line does a good job of scraping to the 2nd level.
Miller looked much better this game at taking the hole that is in front of him. But from a scouting standpoint, he almost never pitches. So it kind of seems like a waste of a player. They had one play where they did the power lead, which I would be even more concerned with.
So now that they've hurt PSU with the base play, it's time for the companion playaction. PSU had 8 men in the box for a lot of the 1st quarter, but backed off a bit after Miller hit a couple of passes. Here they've only got 7 in the box.
The option motion starts to the right, but then Miller jabs his foot in the ground and gets depth to throw. The key to reading this play is that the O-Line is clearly in pass blocking mode. The backpeddaling uncovered guard is a dead giveaway.
PSU does a great job of rushing with discipline, no one is over-running Miller, and they get a free rusher coming up the middle.
Miller will usually make the first man miss, but because of the spread out pocket and controlled rush by the D-line, he's got no place to go.
[Ed-Seth: take the jump for the much more.]
Programming note: Next week will be pretty busy with thanksgiving break and all, so I'm gonna go ahead and put up all my OSU stuff this week. The Nebraska game wrap might be a week late too, especially if we don't win.
Old Scouting Report is Old
There are just way too many red and white teams in this league now.
I had watched this game when it happened and had written up some notes and was planning to post it after the MSU game, but then I spent the week cursing at inanimate objects and hoping MSU's random bands of roving thugs would target Gholston.
There's been a lot of personnel changes since then so I've thrown out the old notes and started from scratch.
Both teams were coming off loses, Nebraska had just been blown out by Wisconsin thanks to a handful of Martinez interceptions and OSU had been blitzed to death by sparty. You can see the effect of both those games on some of the early playcalling in this one.
OSU on offense
No Dan Herron, and Shugarts hadn't gotten hurt yet. The offense was all about Hall and Stonebrunner and Miller's legs until he got hurt.
Miller is a scrambler
Like I said in the QB comparisons, Miller is more of a natural scrambler rather than an option runner.
On this play, the left side of the Nebraska D-line is going to stunt to get pressure on third down.
There's a missed holding call, but whatever. The DT gets around and tries an outside speedrush against Shugarts
This is a mistake against Miller. You want to keep him in front of you and don't open up big lanes like this. As soon as he feels the end rushers go past him, his first instinct is to scramble upfield. If you rush under control, he'll scramble laterally and can be coralled for a sack.
MSU had a lot of success the previous week by timing the snap and sending blitzers up the A gap. Nebraska tried it early, but didn't really get there because their timing wasn't as good. After this play they didn't really blitz much until Bauserman was in the game.
This is a 6 man blitz with one of the linebackers dropping into coverage.
There's a little bit of a twist going on with the right DE, but this was a called QB lead draw all the way. The blitzer gets blocked by the RB and Miller jabs his back foot and is off into the secondary.
Without any LBs on that side and the secondary playing man coverage, this turned into a big run for MIller.
This play shows just how quickly Miller will bail on a play. It's just a flare to hall at the top of the screen, but the Nebraska rusher gets a good bull rush.
When the defender jumps, Braxton decides he's seen enough and pulls down the ball.
Instead of looking for another target, he tucks the ball and runs.
Hyde got a lot of carries in the early part of the season when both Hall and Herron were doing their NCAA penance. That's dropped off considerably since Herron came back. He's got good straight line speed, especially for being a larger back, but his vision isn't very good. He's like Stephen Hopkins but with more speed. He still gets some duty on kickoffs, but mostly as the lead blocker for Hall.
You can see OSU's commitment to zone blocking on this play. It looks like a lead play because of the FB, but Hyde's route on the handoff indicates that he's free to pick whatever hole opens up. At the snap, all the motion is to the left. The Nebraska D-Line responds by moving with the slanting linemen. Miller does a reverse pivot.
But Hyde's aiming poing is not following Boren, the FB, instead he's aiming for the center of the line and bending back against the grain. For some reason, nebraska has a DB playing backside contain, and the Will linebacker has been fooled by Boren's path.
That DB doesn't understand "run fits" so he wasn't flowing the the D-Line and there's a huge gap between him and the DE that Hyde thanks him very much for. The weakside LB has over run the play and can't get back to make an arm tackle. Once Hyde gets past those two, he's pretty much untouched all the way to the endzone.
Throwback to Stonebrunner
With Corey Brown out and no one sure what Devier Posey will do, the RB's and Stonebrunner will be the focus of the passing game. This throwback screen should look familiar to Michigan fans, with the exception of the TE getting the ball instead of Vincent Smith.
Miller is going to roll out to the right while the O-line shows pass blocking.
Stonebrunner does an excellent job of selling the block and the OLB is completely caught flatfooted.
Stonebrunner comes off of contact and opens up for the pass, it's the center that gets the OLB and the other interior linemen are heading downfield
The blocking is setup well and Stonebrunner has enough speed for an easy 30+ yard TD
Nebraska on offense
Nebraska does a lot of different things on offense. They have the spread/zone read stuff, the power running game, and also the veer option offense. Burkehead will even get back in the shotgun to run some wildcat, probably because he's better at READING on the zone read plays than Martinez.
After taking a lot heat for the interceptions against Wisconsin, you got the feeling that he started out the game a little gunshy against TSIO.
That's his passing chart with about 4 minutes to go in the first half. Nothing deep or risky, and a double digit deficit to show for his 100% completion percentage. So Nebraska gets the ball realizing they've got to pass deep to soften up the defense.
This is Martinez trying to throw a deep ball.
And this is the result. That receiver is kinda open. I mean, yes, he's got 4 guys around him, but none within a 5 yard radius. Nebraska fans understand our pain when it comes to armpunts.
Where Martinez is realy dangerous is when he gets to accelerate straight ahead. This is a midline option keeper even though it looks like an outside zone read. You can tell by the pulling guard who goes off tackle. I think the sideline tells Martinez before the play whether or not to keep the ball on most plays. That would explain a lot of his "bad reads" and it makes sense that Bo Pelini would be a control freak (see below).
Burkehead's fake holds the contain man. The pulling lineman takes out the LB and the rest of the O-line is getting a good push up the middle.
This is the kind of run that Martinez loves. He's not the kind of guy that will cut back across the entire field, but he's very good at reading the blocks in front of him and making quick cuts without losing any speed.
Inverted T series
The way you design an offense is that you have a series of plays that work together or are out of the same formation. Sometimes during the game you have to scrap a series if the first couple plays don't work. But if the first play works for a big gainer, you can expect the defense to adjust and that opens up the companion plays.
Nebraska stumbled across such an opportunity in the middle of the 3rd quarter with this Inverted T formation. Some people call this a Diamond, but with the QB in the shotgun it looks more like a "T" to me. But the stumpy part is away from the LOS so I call it inverted. Here's what the standard T form looks like.
This is just a power sweep option. The odd thing is that Burkehead has a longer ways to go to get to his block, but he's a fast guy, so it's not a problem. The neat thing about this formation is that you can envision all kinds of counters and double option plays where the person in #2's position can pitch it to Burkehead or handoff to the the other HB coming back on the counter.
OSU is overreacting the motion and the whole right side of the defense is flowing. Ironically, the backside of the defense isn't reacting enough and the result is a gaping hole down the middle of the field.
I don't the think DE ever actually saw the ball because he keeps running with #2 even after Martinez zooms past him.
Against a normal QB, the safety and LB should have been able to stop this for a large gainer, but because they reacted slowly and because Martinez is already up to full speed, he blows by them like they're standing still.
From the endzone shot you can see just how wide open that running lane was.
A little later, they come back to the same formation, but this time the give is called. It doesn't work as well because the ball is on the hash and they're running into the sideline. But the point is to see how the defense has adjusted. The weakside linebacker is way closer to the play this time and #7 Howard is up in bump and run to take on the blocking in case there's a counter or reverse coming.
The DE is completely befuddled by this play. He's nowhere near the mesh point so he can't help on a Martinez keep. He's pointing out Burkehead to .....uh.... And he's not quick enough to get #2.
Again the backside has been completely sealed off, and Martinez woulda had plenty of room for a big gain if not enough for a TD like before. But I'm getting more convinced that he's not actually allowed to "read" the play. As it is, this play gets about 10 yards which coulda been a lot more if they hadn't run into the sideline.
A little later comes the payoff. They've got bump and run on the short side and they give them the same backfield motion.
But if the LB's and Safeties had been reading the O-line better, they'd have seen this was a pass.
Martinez drops a couple steps to give his receiver time to get open.
And the safeties are both dead. It's interesting that they run the same route with both WR, this shows a kind of lack of sophistication in the passing game. And it's only a 2 man route. But both WR had gotten a step on the DB's and this play get's Nebraska back within one TD.
He's not the fastest guy, but he's a solid football player. Martinez is probably more dangerous, but you've got to stop Burkehead first to slow down this offense.
This is an inside zone that should look pretty familiar to michigan fans. the H-back is coming across to either block the DE or go out in a pass route. There's also some bubblesceen motion with the slot receiver.
The DE is crashing hard and the H-back completely misses him. Martinez either missed the read, or it was a give all the way called by the sideline. .
If Martinez had kept it, there was a lot of open space once he cleared the DE. The lead blocker would have taken out the safety, 54 is taking to strong of an angle, and the other DB is too concerned with the bubble to have stopped Taylor. Instead #94 gets the TFL on Burkehead since #93 had gotten good penetration and Burkehead had to stop his feet.
On the game tying TD, Burkehead showed a nice jumpcut. (If you're not sure what a jumpcut is, here's a nice example of Miller doing one.) He gets the ball on the flare after Martinez scrambles around a bit to avoid the pressure.
The DB had him lined up for a big hit, except he jumps out of the way.
And with the big blitz called, the rest of the secondary is in tight man coverage and Burkehead has no one between him and the endzone.
So it was raining off and on during that game, which led to some amusing moments and a lot of slipping.
Martinez's throwing motion is even uglier when he's falling down.
Both sides were having trouble with it.
And Miller turned his ankle as he slipped on a cut.
Then Bauserman came in and promptly did this.
At least on that previous picture he was under pressure. On this one he's got no one to blame but himself.
That ball is JUUUUUSSST a bit overthrown.
Ok, maybe a bit more. But if you're wondering about the genesis of the the Bauserman Passing Chart, it was probably this play.
- Bo Pelini has anger issues.
[Ed: argh, having some editing issues. Bump.]
"Play hard and play with great effort"
Immediately after the game, I was struggling to come up with a thru-line for what had just happened. But then Brian posted "Defensive Annhilation Muppets" and then the video of Mattison getting emotional surfaced. And for a moment I thought, 'you guys are over-reacting. Illinois does not have a good offense'. I like when coaches just give coachspeak. But then I thought about the last three years and yeah, it makes sense. The difference in emotion between Chip Kelly's comments and Mattison's are where you're starting from.
A couple of years from now, a win like this will only be notable for constructive criticism. There were a lot of bad plays that need to be corrected. But given the circumstances of where we were last year and what we were expected to be this year and the fact that we're 8-2 with a decent chance of picking up at least one more win and a very small chance of getting to 11 wins, emotional celebration is more than appropriate.
What a difference a week makes!
Al Borges didn't have a great game against Iowa, and I pointed that out. He had a much better gameplan this week. I don't know if he or anyone close to him reads blogs or not, but he responded to several very specific criticisms leveled here last week.
Holding the backside DE
I mentioned something about a lack of reverses.
Thanks Al! Odoms is coming from his slot position to take an end around fake. Not only did it hold the backside OLB and prevent the DE from crashing down on Denard, it also froze the MLB just enough for Fitz to run right by him.
But that wasn't the only trick up Al's sleeve. He pulled out another wrinkle from the Richrod days.
One of the problems with protecting Denard and limiting his carries is that the DE that you're optioning on the zone read doesn't have to respect the keep and is free to chase the TB. But here we see Koger coming from his H-back wing to block #9.
The O-line is getting good lateral movement and both Denard and Koger are eliminating defenders from the pursuit.
One caveat is that their safeties were pretty bad (someone mentioned they had backups in the game). #5 has badly misread this play, and he's too slow to catch Fitz anyway. Meanwhile, if you wonder how a guy can get over 100 yards in the first quarter, you can bet he's breaking tackles. This arm tackle didn't even slow him down.
This arm tackle slowed him down,
but it didn't stop him.
So Fitz had about 45 yards of YAC from the first arm tackle and then about another 15 yards of super YAC downfield.
The offense as a whole had a much better day (despite some derpiness in the 2nd and 3rd quarters). The O-line was doing a great job with the zone blocking in the first quarter and opened up some nice running lanes.
Here we've got Hopkins blocking the DE from his FB position instead of Koger, but the result is about the same. Gallon cracks down on his man and Omameh does a good job scraping off the double team and getting to the linebacker.
Huyge takes his man where he wants to go and it opens up a nice line.
On this next play, there's only 5 in the box because the OLB's are out on the slot receivers.
Molk does an excellent job of tracking down his man and we've got a hat on a hat.
The Zen of zone blocking is you just get on your man and take him away from the play using his own impetus. Of course you need a guy like Fitz back there who is patient enough and has good vision to see the hole developing.
Even though the OLB crashes down for contain, he's nowhere near Fitz and Denard has read him properly. If this were the pros Fitz would be owing five really large guys a nice dinner for this play.
The Numbers Game
We had some issues in the red zone last week. Part of that is due to Iowa's talent on the D-line and part of it is having Denard sitting in the pocket or handing off or otherwise not putting pressure on the defense to account for him.
If this were a normal pitch play or off-tackle dive, it would've been completely stuffed because they've got more defenders than we've got blockers on the playside. But when Denard keeps it, we've got an even matchup and Denard just has to pick his way through and find a hole.
But what really makes this play work is that Omameh gets a great cut block, upending his man. Now we've got 6 blockers against their 5 defenders and Denard with no one to track him down.
Omameh's block freed up Molk to get on the pursuing linebacker and the result is an easy touchdown for shoelace.
So what happened in the 2nd Quarter? Well let's compare to a play where we don't have a numbers advantage.
They've got 9 defenders in the box with both safeties playing up. If Denard has the freedom to audible (or we had gotten to the line with more than 8 seconds so that the coaches could call a check play #misshightempo), then he should be throwing a fade or "z out" to Roundtree at the bottom of the screen. We've got 9 in the box, but because we're in I form, the defense doesn't have to account for the QB (as his first 5 steps are backwards).
The play is a lead draw. The line shows pass blocking and then the center or whoever is free is supposed to head upfield after a couple beats. But this call means that Illinois has a lot of unblocked defenders. It doesn't help that Molk misreads the defense and doesn't scrape off to one of the linebackers. This means that Hopkins has three unblocked people he has to choose from. If Denard had been running, then both Hopkins and Fitz would have hit the MLBs so Denard would just have to juke the safety to get in the endzone.
Instead, Hopkins gets one LB and the other stuffs Fitz for a loss with both safeties racing up to make sure he doesn't fall forward.
[ed: follow the jump.]
Looks like there actually is/was a coordinator presser tonight that I am not at. That's my bad -- I misread some scheduling information. I'm going to try to get ahold of the audio and post a transcript along with tomorrow's Hoke conference. Sorry about this.
he is not sold on UofM's defense