This is Weisman's 2nd year of starting. is that a recent record?
I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
Whatcha gonna do when Mark Weisman runs wild on you? Lose. Definitely lose.
Minnesota kicked off the 2013 season with four straight wins, providing hope to a program that hasn't had much of that lately. Those wins, however, came against UNLV, New Mexico State, Western Illinois, and San Jose State. Faced with something vaguely resembling a real opponent last week, the Gophers fell back to earth, and not gently—a 23-7 home loss to Iowa that looks even worse on the stat sheet. For the third straight Michigan game, I'm here to tell you that the Wolverines should have a decided edge on both sides of the ball, and of course that means Saturday's game will be a harrowing experience.
Because something out there has mercy for me, the game torrent began at around the nine minute mark of the first quarter, and some plays were randomly excised. I stopped charting after Minnesota threw an interception with four minutes left in the game.
Before I get into the breakdown, I have to note this moment worthy of Awful Announcing. The Aflac trivia question asked for the only Hawkeye in the history of the Iowa-Minnesota rivalry to score touchdowns in four different ways against the Gophers in his career. Without skipping a beat, ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham said... Dallas Clark. A very good player, sure, but also a tight end.
As a Michigan fan still spooked by the near-loss to Iowa in 1997, I had a pretty good idea of the answer: Tim Dwight, a WR/PR/KR whom the Hawkeyes used for a variety of trick plays. Mike Patrick—Mike Patrick!—immediately mocked Cunningham for being so remarkably wrong.
[Hit THE JUMP for the breakdown, in which Minnesota is not so good at defense and even worse at offense.]
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Mostly spread concepts, including plenty of zone read action, though the Gophers ran more I-form than they did last year.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? A mix of zone and gap concepts, none of which were effective. (Sound familiar?) With sacks removed, the Gophers rushed for 53 yards on 23 carries (2.3 ypc). Prior to this game, Minnesota averaged 5.5 yards per carry before sacks were removed. Actual competition is a buzzkill.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Grind it out, in painfully slow fashion. This will be covered more extensively in the Zook Factor section; in short, Minnesota huddles even when they don't have time to huddle.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Philip Nelson put up impressive rushing numbers in the first two games of the season, got hurt in the third game, and returned against Iowa to show that ... well, the first two games were probably an anomaly. His five non-sack rushes against Iowa produced all of five yards. I gave him a 5 in this category last year and I'm sticking to that.
Dangerman: Senior receiver Derrick Engel, with 12 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown, is the only Gopher receiver with more than five receptions, 70 yards, or zero TDs on the season—yes, he's the only Minnesota wideout with a score (they have one other receiving TD from freshman TE Maxx Williams). Nelson looked to him more than any other receiver, and in general he seemed like the only wideout capable of generating separation; if Nelson was more accurate, he'd have better numbers.
Zook Factor: So, about the huddling thing. Minnesota got the ball with 2:56 left in the first half at their own 25-yard line, already down 17-0, with one timeout remaining. After two plays, they'd moved the ball 15 yards. With this opportunity to hurry up and put some points on the board, they... ran the ball with Nelson twice for a combined two yards, burned over a minute off the clock by huddling between each play, and punted the ball back to Iowa with 41 seconds left after Nelson was sacked on third-and-eight. The drive couldn't have been much worse from a play-calling or clock management standpoint.
Hennechart: Nelson had a very rough outing, completing 12 of 24 passes for just 135 yards (5.6 ypa) with a touchdown and two interceptions. The touchdown came on a fly route to Engel when Iowa's cornerback completely missed his jam at the line and gave up a free release to the outside. The second interception came on fourth down during Minnesota's last charted drive, so it's at least understandable (though it was a terrible read). The first, well...
This encapsulated two of Nelson's biggest issues in one awful play; he got happy feet despite no real pressure, lost all semblance of decent mechanics, and subsequently threw a five-yard pass a full yard behind his target.
The Hennechart, as you might expect, is not kind to Nelson:
Guh. Most of Nelson's success came on checkdowns to the flat or corner routes against Cover 2. He had two severely inaccurate passes (noted by asterisks), one of which was picked off (above) and another that should've been, the bad read on the final charted drive, and several plays in which he refused to stand in the pocket—one of the sacks got charted as a TA because Nelson would not take the ample opportunity provided to throw it away, ran out of the pocket, and got buried.
Let's start with the formation chart:
And the run/pass distribution:
Minnesota was very predictable, especially in the first 2 1/2 quarters before they went into desperation mode. They'd run on the first two downs, usually read plays out of the gun or the pistol, then went to the gun to throw on third and long. The I-form was an obvious run tip with a couple incredibly surprising waggle plays as a changeup.
I'm not sure how much there is to say that isn't covered by the stats. The running game couldn't get anything going as the interior line consistently allowed immediate penetration up the gut. Despite this, the Gophers continued to try and run up the middle and rarely attempted to get to the edge, even though that worked out better for them—their two best runs came on an inverted veer give and an outside zone ("best" is a relative term, as these runs went for 12 and six yards).
Minnesota often utilized two tight ends in the pistol, either putting them on each end of the line or placing one of them as an H-back, like so:
This usually tipped zone read with the H-back firing across the formation to act as a lead blocker on a QB keeper. Like all of Minnesota's runs, this didn't really work.
The passing game is greatly limited by Nelson's lack of accuracy and the line's subpar blocking. Like in the run game, much of the pressure on Nelson originated from the interior of the line—come on down, Jibreel Black—and this led to Nelson's lack of trust in the pocket even when it held up; as noted earlier, he scrambled into pressure a few times and didn't set his feet on several throws, even when he had space to step into them.
Iowa didn't have the need to dial up the heat all that often; when they did, it usually hit home. Minnesota is so run-heavy that Quinton Washington and Ondre Pipkins should get a lot more playing time this weekend on first and second down, then Mattison has his full bag of tricks available if Michigan can stay stout and force Minnesota into third-and-long situations.
Mattison should be able to blitz with aplomb, as the Gophers don't have a tight end who threatens up the seam or a receiver who takes the top off the defense, the two major weak points for Michigan in defending the pass thus far this year. The lack of a solid second outside receiver—starter Isaac Fruechte has five catches in five games this year, and flat dropped an open corner route against Iowa—means Michigan can stick Blake Countess on Engel and force Nelson to find another target.
Minnesota's most successful run play was relatively simple. On the opening play of the second half, they come out in a basic I-form with the strength to the field side:
At the snap, the entire line slants to the right with the exception of the right guard, who steps back and starts shuffling to the left (Minnesota's pulling technique is markedly different from Michigan's):
This appears to be a wad of bodies; look closely and you can see that the Gophers have fought Iowa's D-line to a stalemate—with help from the fullback, who's in there somewhere—and the only player left to take care of is the weakside linebacker, who's hanging out at the end of the LOS:
The right guard latches on:
This allows Rodrick Williams to squeeze between the playside DE and LB and burst into the secondary for a 12-yard gain:
This was a good changeup for Minnesota from their ineffective zone running game; unfortunately for them, attempts to go back to the well found it dry—again, look at their rushing numbers on the day.
Holding the edge: not Minnesota's strongsuit.
Base Set? 4-3.
Man or zone coverage? Minnesota played almost exclusively man, even when safety Brock Vereen—the clear leader of the secondary—and cornerback Derrick Wells exited the game with injuries. Both returned, albeit in less effective form (Wells left the game again after tackling a guy with his injured shoulder, while Vereen didn't look full speed on a bum knee) and are expected to play on Saturday.
Pressure: GERG or Greg? A mix. Minnesota almost always rushed four on standard downs. In third down passing situations, they did everything from rush three (to ill effect) to send the house (to even worse effect, as you'll see later). They failed to register a sack or even force Jake Rudock to get out of the pocket.
Dangerman: Nose tackle Ra'Shede Hageman is a legitimate NFL prospect; he's tied for the team lead with 5.5 TFLs and is the only Minnesota lineman who requires a double team. Thus far this season he hasn't been much of a pass-rushing threat, though as you'll see this isn't really his fault.
Starting with the good, Minnesota has a solid defensive tackle pairing in Hageman and Cameron Botticelli, a 290-pound redshirt junior with a Jibreel Black-like knack for disrupting plays in the backfield by being too quick for interior linemen. They complement each other well, as Hageman holds the point of attack while Botticelli knifes into the backfield, though the latter's eagerness to slip past blockers sometimes opened up big running lanes. Middle linebacker Damien Wilson shed blocks well and usually found himself around the ball if Iowa went up the gut. Running inside against Minnesota won't be easy with Michigan trying out a new configuration on the interior of the offensive line.
The problem for Minnesota is their small, undisciplined defensive ends. Starters Michael Amaefula and Theiran Cockran weigh in at 244 and 238 pounds, respectively, and attempt to make up for this by firing upfield on most snaps. Iowa didn't have to do anything fancy to take advantage of this; here's Amaefula (#98, bottom of the screen) seeing a fullback lead through the hole when Botticelli got pushed out of his lane...
...and deciding that the best solution was to run several yards upfield:
Hageman was out of the game on this snap, and you can see how troublesome that is for Minnesota; none of the defensive linemen require a double team, all are pushed off the ball (or in Amaefula's case, kindly takes himself out of the play), and before Weisman even hits the line of scrimmage every linebacker is eating a block. Weisman rumbled 17 yards downfield before a Gopher defender touched him.
Perhaps the technique of the defensive ends wouldn't be so bad if they could keep contain on the quarterback, but that was also a major issue. On an early third-and-goal from the Gopher five, Minnesota rushed four and played man behind it with two safeties patrolling the middle of the field. The field side defensive end—Amaefula, again—tries to spin inside of the right tackle:
This only opens up acres of space for Rudock to run, and with the defensive backs turned away from him while focusing on guarding the receivers, he took advantage:
Rudock got to the pylon for a touchdown.
The awful play of the defensive ends wasn't helped by the ease with which Minnesota's outside linebackers were blocked. This was a common sight—Iowa running off tackle, single-blocking all the defensive linemen, sealing the playside DE (in this case, the Gopher all the way to the right), and crunching the playside linebacker (#9) with a lead blocker:
Damon Bullock took this 22 yards as the safeties got too aggressive (see Vereen, #21, too far upfield on the left side of the screen) and the playside corner (#22) couldn't get off his block until Bulllock was past him.
As for the defensive backs, they had an up-and-down performance, one not helped by the lack of pressure on the quarterback. Left in man coverage, they did an admirable job against Iowa's receivers—especially cornerback Eric Murray, who got one borderline PI call and otherwise acquitted himself well. Playing so much man coverage leaves a team susceptible to big plays, however, and when the other starting safety (#2 Cedrick Thompson) took a bad angle on one play, a perfectly-timed screen dialed up by Greg Davis(!) took advantage of a Minnesota blitz in a big way:
I wasn't impressed with Minnesota's defensive gameplan or their in-game adjustments, and aside from Vereen they seem to lack players with good play recognition. That's an even worse sign for them when considering that Vereen is banged up and allowed a couple easy completions when he returned to the game after tweaking a knee; if he's not full strength this weekend, there's a lot of potential for big plays.
Here's the best example of Minnesota's seemingly poor coaching and play recognition. On third-and-three in their own end of the field, Iowa comes out in an I-form twins look with the faster Bullock on the field instead of their workhorse back, Weisman.
If this screams "play action" to you, you're not alone, but you're also not on Minnesota's coaching staff.
Shortly after the snap, Iowa slants their line to the left and leaves the playside end unblocked while the tight end starts running right up the seam. Note that instead of running to take on the playside end, the fullback is heading to the outside:
Yes, it's play action, and Bullock will take care of blocking the playside DE. After the mesh point, you see the huge problem for Minnesota's defense. The strongside linebacker (#57 Aaron Hill) took the tight end, whose route runs him directly into Wilson (#5):
An alternate view illustrates the problem:
My assumption is that Hill needed to guard the fullback while Wilson took the tight end up the seam. Instead, Wilson bangs into Hill when he recognizes that the fullback is all alone in the flat, and now two guys are wide open, though there's a safety over the top of the tight end. Rudock chooses to go with the fullback, who's the sole resident in his zip code:
And that's how a fullback gains 35 yards on an obvious play-action flat route. I didn't like the way Minnesota was aligned—overloading for the run on third-and-three against the backup tailback—and playing man behind it meant one mental error or RPS-minus would give up huge yards. In this case, it was both that doomed them.
Can Michigan take advantage of Minnesota's deficiencies? Hageman provides a major test for the new Bryant/Glasgow combo; otherwise, I see a defense that's susceptible to getting burned on the edge, and as long as Michigan pass protects well against a poor Gopher rush Devin Gardner should be able to find open receivers—Iowa doesn't have anyone as tough to cover man-up as Jeremy Gallon. Even if the interior line struggles, Michigan should be able to generate yards with the passing game, Gardner scrambles against undisciplined DEs, and the occasional zone stretch, and barring another turnoverpalooza that'll be enough for them to win this game.
This is Weisman's 2nd year of starting. is that a recent record?
This is Weisman's 1st full season starting. He was not even on the depth chart at the beginning of the year for Iowa. I think he may even be a walk-on. Dude certainly took advantage of the break when he got it. Good for him.
This write up is twice as good as the ones you've been posting lately..
Working on it. When I woke up most of the original post had disappeared. When I recovered the full post, Drupal posted it twice. Should be fixed shortly.
wow is that commercial f*cking awful.
You must not watch much TV. That's not even in the middle of the f*cking awful commercial food chain.
Besides, if not for the Doublemint Twins, we wouldn't have had the Double Play Twins:
I don't know if these videos still work (I can't get the Double Play Twins one to run on my computer), but if you've never seen these Mariners commercials they are pretty funny: http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/sea/fan_forum/commercials_2007.jsp
on Kill? I've seen nothing that looks even mildly inspired about his coaching or decision-making since he came aboard at Minnesota. Is it mostly because making fun of him would be in such poor taste?
I think the praise is more based on him begininng the tournaround in culture more than on the field results. Kill doesn't call plays on offense or defense, the terrible gameday coaching is more a result of his terrible coordinators.
As bad as the Gophers are now, immediately prior to Kill they were a dumpster fire in every sense of the word. Fan support completely evaporated, discipline problems were constant and we saw an awful on the field product. Kill solved the discipline issues immediately and fan support is returning fairly fast, now he just needs to field a team with a little talent.
Programs like Minnesota's that have been awful for a long time (barring a short period under Mason) don't just go from bad to good immediately. i think most of the fans really like Kill personally and view him as a great way to right the ship before pursuing coaches that look to bring more success. Plus, nobody really wanted to coach in Minneapolis for whatever reason as evidenced by both the search post-brewster and the basketball search post-Tubby Smith. If the administration gets tired of Don Lucia's annual playoff flops and the Gophers fire a coach who won back to back national championships Minnesota might never be able to find an established coach again.
Disclaimer: Minnesota native and Alum, grad student at UM. Might have some bias.
I think you are on track with your commentary. Minnesota needs to get a stable program, Kill may not bring Minny back to the top, but I think he can stablize them. He seems to have his head on straight and wish him luck...just not this saturday.
being minnesota sports fans, most of us are just happy that he seems like a nice guy. His contract goes through 2018 (I believe) so hopefully by then Minnesota is in a much better position and can be consistently relevent with the right hire.
The main reason teams like Minny and other big ten teams haven't had top notch coaching hires - $$$. Minnesota has plenty of money (as do almost all the other Big Ten schools) so if they want to make a splash hire, open up the wallet. All of the SEC schools and many Pac 12 schools do this, but for whatever reason most Big Ten schools have decided to skimp. And then we wonder why the conference sucks.
Lolol as long as the SEC keeps hiring coaches like John L, Bielema, and Butch Jones with their big bucks, I'm sure this will all even out.
have won conference title so lumping them with John L. Smith is hilarious at best. They're both good coaches. Hate him all you want, but Bielema have won 3 straight B1G title.
Even if Minnesota did shell out for a football coach, I still think they would have a difficult time becoming consistently competitive. They don't have much of a recruiting base, and there isn't really anything spectacular about Minnesota (e.g. world-class academics, winning tradition, weather, etc.) that is going to draw a lot of talent from outside the Midwest.
They have an excellent Smallmouth Bass AND Pike fishery.
They also seem to get very excited when you refer to their state as East Dakota.
Minneapolis is a tremendous metropolitan area; a strong academic school (not a MI level, but strong) and the only D-1 school in Minnesota for Football. If you could do it at one in Iowa City, it can be done in Minneapolis.
Iowa and Illinois have shown they are willing to spend. NW and MSU are doing it now. It's hard for me to say Purdue, Minn, or Indiana are unwilling to pay for good coaches. At least Indiana and Minnesota will in basketball. Money isn't enough to draw top coaching talent to mediocre programs. I don't think Illinois had a shot at landing Sumlin once Texas A&M got involved, for example.
The old athletic director/president didn't like to focus on revenue sports, he was pretty oposed to opening up the wallet. the new president and new AD have both vocally supported the big 3 sports as revenue oportunities and seem to want to emphasize them more. So hopefully good things are coming.
Partly because commentators are always high on new/new-ish coaches. They're always a good fit for the program, and once they get their guys they'll have the program headed in the right direction, and they've made great changes already, and so on. Then, if it doesn't work out, commentators will say it was never really a good fit in terms of culture and discipline, but that the program's new new coach is a good fit for the program, and once he gets his guys....
AM I IN THE MATRIX??@?!??!?@
I like the second write up better - it is more honest, as evidenced by:
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Another excellent scouting report that shows precise, irrefutable, iron-clad reasons why we will dominate. No other conclusion is even remotely possible.
So of course, we will struggle like hell and play from behind most of the game.
Who ever Minny's opponent is for their next game will look at the Michigan game film and think they are facing Alabama. They will then crush Minny, 56-10.
Is Gopher-quest on or not ?
I am thinking boiler-quest might be the more appropriate this year
Good stuff, Ace. I am very interested (notice I did not say "excited") to see how our new O-Line holds-up against a good interior defense.
I am also frustrated that I am using Minnesota as a measuring stick in any way.
Please, please, please let us mercilessly destroy them on every level, so that I might be able to sleep just a little bit before we play Penn State.
I was reading through this post and thinking about all the other detailed content on this site. This really is a remarkable destination for Michigan sports information, particularly football. My understanding of the game in general, and the teams in particular is light years beyond what it was prior to joining this site.
Nice job, Ace ... very nice write-up.
Now Go Blue! Grind Minnesota like a perfectly tuned and well-oiled machine. Nothing fancy, just good execution, ball control, and relentless, soul-destroying movement of the chains.
Any insight on why Hagerman was absent for long stretches of the Iowa game? Was that a personnel match-up thing, or was he just not physically able to play any more snaps? I thought it was incredibly weird to not see him on the field on several critical plays on downs and distances that would be tailor made for a disruptive guy like him.
Keep in mind - Iowa seemed to "wake up" all of a sudden when playing Western Michigan. They absolutely trashed Western and seemed to find an offensive rhythm that they were lacking all of last year and into the first couple games of this year. I think Iowa will be like Iowa always is - mediocre but dangerous. Minnesota probably is actually 16 points worse than Iowa, but Iowa is probably not much worse than Michigan themselves.
For Iowa, notice that the back ran a one yard out on third and three. Greg Davis jokes are too obvious.
I have met both coach Kill and Brewster. Brewster was a mess in every way. Coach Kill has a vision he can sell to recruits and fans. I have high respect for what and how he has gone about his business as a coach and dealing with the seizures. They got a new stadium which is a huge upgrade. Their practice facilities are very sub par. They program is third in pecking order for years after hockey and basketball. In short, give kill five years and I think he will have the mid level big program that will compete for division title every four or five years. He is just a darn nice guy too.
I work in downtown Minneapolis. I sit next to an Iowa alumni. We have had many laughs at they ability of gopher fans to delude themselves into believing they have a chance. In truth, Michigan could lose on Saturday, but that would nothing to do with Minnesota. Ie turnover feast III. I don't see this closer than three scores and I get to make fun of how they make their 'M's wrong.