That's my compilation of all the Zips passing plays and check-downs. What you saw:
Lots of quick, dinky-dunky passes (not on the DL)
A handful of screens the DL didn't chase
Black consistently getting into the backfield but nobody else.
The first complaint of many from the near-disaster on Saturday was the front four's continued inability to get any pass rush, with the bonus problem this time of no contain. Many observers noted, and the coaches confirmed, that part of the problem was the pass rushers were often chasing the quarterback instead of keeping him boxed in so the rest of the rush could arrive. Other culprits mentioned: Akron was doing a lot of max protect, a lot of uncalled holding, and of course the biggie: our DL getting completely owned.
So let's look at some Akron passing plays and see who to blame:
While the Zips are mostly a dinky-dunk offense, when they do go long they tend to leave the running backs in to help with pass pro. Max protect is generally a win for the DL already since spending seven (or eight!) guys on four DL gives the DBs an easy time. You usually want to call it against blitzes, since defensive linemen who don't have to worry about the run will break through eventually. (Unless they don't).
They did this a lot in the first half. On Akron's first drive there were two long pass calls on 2nd and 10 and 3rd and 10 that give us a baseline.
Michigan was in their base 4-3 under and rushed four. Akron had the RB and both TEs both stay in to block. Both back and the TE to the strong side help the RT block Heitzman; he's not going anywhere. Washington gets off slowly and is doubled by the right guard and center; he gets no push on the center and the guard only has to help a little while watching to see if Bolden comes.
Clark is doubled by the weakside TE and the LT—he tried to bull rush the TE, got stood up, then ripped around him and was in the middle of trying to split the two when the pass got off. Black gets the only single-team, but he tried to go inside of the LG who ran him right into Washington's mess; Black tried the other side and got held but that wouldn't have mattered since the pass is already gone.
Blame: Knock QWash for not even moving his center, and Clark and Heitzman can't split their double-teams.
Clark Loses Contain The First
Very next play. Michigan has their nickel people in and not worried about rushing lanes on 3rd and long. The guys inside are stunting and the outside rushers are both going wide:
Aaand Akron is max protecting again—this time with both RBs staying in. They wipe out the outside rushers but Black's stunt got him into a LG he managed to spin off of and pressure the QB: bail! A quick yank…
…while Black was airborne prevented the sack and got Pohl away. Clark sees this and chases down the line until Countess comes up in support really fast to stop for no gain and kick the Zips off the field.
Blame: Well Wormley got stopped way too easily and Beyer and Clark were thoroughly erased by OT/RB combos. I thought Clark did a good job disengaging—his angle to the sideline would have prevented the first down. Black is penetrating.
Low Man Always Wins
Here's another max protect from the 2nd quarter:
Black is taking a breather but instead of his backup (Glasgow) Michigan put Pipkins in. It's 2nd and 5 so nothing cute:
(Beyer is actually on the weakside and Clark on the strong but nickel-whateva)
Pipkins got doubled and pretty blatantly held but he didn't do himself any favors by being very high when he impacted the OL. You know how coaches are always on about pad level? This is bad pad level:
Follow the plane of the guard's back versus that of Pipkins and imagine who is going to be the harder to move. Heitzman's rush is pretty awful: he stutter-stepped then ran right into the RG; he's stonewalled and done for the play. Clark and Beyer are both erased by OT/RB combos. Pohl has all day to throw, but of course he's got just three receivers out there versus seven guys in coverage (Wilson broke up the pass but shouldn't have let a guy get behind him).
A Blitz! A Blitz! Owait Nevermind Just a Zone Blitz
We're still in the 1st quarter on Akron's next drive and Michigan tries a zone blitz on 2nd and 6, but it can't arrive before Pohl gets the pass off.
Clark backed out into the zone; Ross is the extra attacker, and Godin and Black have to go around guys. Akron again is keeping an extra blocker in but they don't need him. Ross's blitz shows a little too early and he's stonewalled by the left guard. Beyer is run out by the LT, Godin is walled off by the RG and RT. Black had the center to beat and rips past him, but a final shove from that guy gives the QB a passing lane he takes. Money shot:
Blame: Beyer couldn't beat Akron's left tackle, Ross's blitz was ineffective, Godin didn't get into his guy, and Black got shoved just enough at the end. This is just guys getting owned by an OL that shouldn't be that good. At least Black is getting through eventually, and after the shove he's got a shot at the QB if the ball isn't already gone. This drive would end, by the way, on an empty backfield pass attempt that was nearly a sack.
They Tackled Mario
1st quarter, on a 3rd and 11 after Akron used a timeout when they didn't like Michigan's initial alignment and couldn't check in time. Again, there's a lot of guys in pass pro: the running back to Gordon's side is blocking all the way and the other back was on a delayed release. Michigan stunted Ojemudia, which meant Wormley was in charge of contain on the outside.
Black beat the guard with a quick move, but then has to face the center, whom he bulled backward. Gordon has two blockers on the backside who grabbed him easily. Wormley bull-rushed the tackle, preventing that RB from getting a good release into his pattern, then ripped past him. Ojemudia got past the guard, who then tackled him by the ankles. Black and his guy then fall over Ojemudia. Wormley disengages and starts to give chase but he's way too slow to catch up to Pohl and prevent a pass. That pass goes to the sideline well short of the sticks.
Blame: Live I thought this was one of those bad things by Wormley but what really got Pohl loose was the uncalled foul and the mess it created. The reason the slow guy had the outside was to get the faster guy in on a stunt. On the backside not-Ryan remains erasable.
All Too Easy
Finally they leave just five blockers in, and Ojemudia and Clark are both getting off their guys and threatening to sack if the first read isn't open (it is because I think Bolden didn't get depth). But this time the interior guys are nowhere near the QB.
Black got stood up by the guard and then worked his way around the center; he's too far away for his arm-wave to affect the pass. Godin was stood up even worse, and when he tried to swim around that he ran right into the center.
By the 4th quarter nothing has changed. Michigan is still rushing four guys and trying to stunt their best pass rusher, and Akron is max protecting and keeping Pohl clean:
You Left Lewis on an Island
This time they tried to get Black a shot against the outside and let Heitzman be the one to burrow into a billion dudes. By now Akron is used to this.
Beyer and Heitzman get squeezed, Clark tried to go inside the LT to make the running back's assisting block useless. Black got around the RT but the H-Back ("Z" above) is there to cut him.
And here's total fail:
On this one Heitzman was tackled but that didn't have anything to do with Ojemudia running right into Black or Clark trying to go inside when he 1) was responsible for contain, and 2) ended up running himself into Heitzman's mess. Stick around for the next play and you'll see all this same stuff again, and again on the play where everybody's buried and Pohl rolled out to turn a 2nd and 15 into 1st and 10 on the 10.1-yard line. I'm done showing; let's point the fingers and get out of here.
1. Guys not named Black or Ryan got zero push. Heitzman, Wormley, and Godin are admirable pluggers but the Heininger Certainty Principle does not cover pass rush.
2. Akron gameplan. Most of the time Akron got the ball out quickly. When they didn't they had a lot of extra blockers. They also lined up quickly and if Michigan showed blitz they'd check into something else; Michigan wouldn't.
3. Vanilla stuff. Michigan stunted a lot but rarely sent anybody but a DL at the quarterback; against Akron you figure that's all you should need but it would be nice to have that nickel threaten a blitz every here and now.
4. Poop-flavored whistles. Crying holding is always weak; there's holding on most plays and it only gets called (on non-Michigan players) when it's really really blatant, AND the ref sees it, AND the game situation makes it appropriate, AND you're not playing Notre Dame. I'm not bringing it up now to put what happened on the refs—that is all on Michigan's players and coaches—but to exonerate Black a little; when he wasn't bothering the QB or tripping over a teammate, OL were just jumping on his back and getting away with it:
What Michigan Could Have Done:
1. Man up and blitz the linebackers. On the long pass that Lewis did all he could on (except be faster than an Akron WR) Michigan got a 7-on-3 in pass defenders versus receivers, however the two LBs were rendered useless in short zones. Two WRs are still doubled but one of them ends up with a 1-on-1 with a true freshman cornerback. Michigan had a few playcalls that would have done just that, but when they showed blitz early Akron checked out of it or called timeout.
2. Have some counter checks. This will be important against Ohio State especially but after seeing ND and Akron try it successfully I wouldn't be surprised if even MSU was coming to the line early and letting the Wolverines show what they brought. When the opponent checks, the defense has to be ready to as well.
3. Be done with Countess at nickel. There's one more game and then it's Big Ten. Dymonte Thomas ought to be ready soon, and Michigan could use him because he brings something Countess doesn't: a blitz threat from the guy replacing the nose tackle. That also puts your best cornerback in the most likely 1-on-1 situations, and the nature of the nickel is you have help over the top. Another option might be to make Avery the free safety on nickel packages and bring either Jarrod Wilson or Thomas Gordon (which is where he started his career, at Spur, wearing #15, a lifetime ago) back down to that spot, which might be where the coaches are going with this.
4. Be done with pulling the NT. Even on the screen Pipkins was better at reading and getting back. You don't get pass rush from the SDE types so playing them in the nickel doesn't accomplish anything. If that guy is going to just bull into a wad of bodies so you can Black a one-on-one matchup with a guard, make that guy someone who's effective at bulling into a wad of bodies, ie a nose tackle.
"poor damn jibreel black" starts a new line at an unforunate point.
And wouldn't holding be easier to get away with in a short passing offense? You're only really grabbing them for a couple of seconds, it's hard to see, unlike a run play or slow forming pass play where you can see the guy being ridden.
In this play, they have 8 to block 4 rushers. All 3 linebackers are watching the play happen. They would not have made it to the QB on a late blitz, but if one or two did go, it may have freed up one of the front four. They are not making a play from where they are watching.
He's talking about how they defended it. He's basically saying "we didn't intend for them to be wide open". It wasn't a schematic thing that needed changing in most instances, but technique and, as Hoke put it, eyes.
if you are getting dinked/dunked to absolute death, at some point the DBs have to move closer to the LOS and force the QB to make perfect throws, or consider other options (which forces him to hold the ball longer.
Only elite DBs can be 100% trusted over the top if they're playing bump & run...that's why you have safeties. We should have pressed the WRs more to give the line extra time, and make blitzes/stunts more effective. Safety has to stop the long ball if the DB is beat, and with better pressure, the throw is less likely to be perfect.
Agree. The dink-and-dunk strategy was working and it's not like Joe Flacco was waiting to pounce with crisp deep throws. I think a lot of this has to do with the vanilla-ness of the game. Mattison, who is good but not infallible (remember how poorly the D played against Air Force?) was not pulling out all the stops here, and last week conservative was the conscious choice.
Anyway, there should have been more pressure. But even then, consider the flow of the game--remember, it was 24-10 and everyone thought that it was finally over until Devin threw that pick-six, followed by a 3-and-out, and by that time Michigan was on its heels and just had to play with the gameplan it had already brought.
I do wonder if schemes are being dumbed down a bit to help the younger players at key spots like safety, where mistakes can turn into touchdowns very quickly. I hope things get a bit more sophisticated by the time real B1G games come up, or we could be watching Northwestern engage in a Wolverine-Carving session.
tends to stick with what they practiced for the game instead of digging into the playbook and changing things on the fly. When you are rotating a lot of young guys, it's easy for someone to make a mistake and then you are playing 10 vs. 11 or worse. The young secondary complicates things, too. He's trying to "make it work". I agree with Hoke that the coaches probably had a fail in that game. The coaches thought they'd win with superior players, went simple/vanilla, and barely survived that bad idea.
One TD drive featured a 40 yard pass (in the air) capped by a wonderful diving catch.
It felt like death because the game was very tight and our offense gave them 7 points outright, but our defense wasn't terrible in this game. They weren't even bad. In fact, the worst play was the aforementioned 40 yard bomb, but coverage was actually pretty good and the guy made a great catch.
I know the defense was in scary situations, and I know we all wanted a shut out, but THE ONLY REASON THIS GAME WAS CLOSE WAS BECAUSE OF GARDNER'S PLAY.
"In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity."
I haven't--it takes a lot of time to do. I welcome someone willing to take it on, or I can revisit later this year. But I did it the first week because that established a baseline with minimal game situation stuff affecting it (both teams in their base, using their dudes, until it was time to empty the bench).
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My biggest take-away is that the D-backs are a big part of this problem. If they are max protecting, then no one should be open. On way too many of these passes, there were guys wide open pretty early in the play. You're just not going to get pressure when he can throw to his first read like that.
"We will do our very best to carry on the Michigan tradition of excellence... And what I ask is that everyone that's for us is for us." Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh
I agree that the DB's seemed out of position too often, but the linebackers were very slow to react to the passing plays in front (and to the side) of them. They also did not get good depth on the pass plays over the middle (esp. Bolden). For some reason, the entire game the LB's seemed that they were playing with their feet in cement.
"There is no dark side of the moon, really. As a matter of fact, it's all dark."
Interesting post, but the instances of holding you pointed out in the various plays were really, really weak and I can't imagine almost any of them being called. In the videos labeled Earn the Right 1, 5 and 4, the blocks you cite as flag-worthy are holding only in the most general sense of the word and I've never seen those penalized in college football.
Edit: This was intended as a comment to the post, not a reply to the comments above.
"When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing." - Bo Schembechler
I just find it hard to believe that we can't play tight man against the shit recievers Akron has. Playing bend but don't break has been infuriating for many years now. I remember when we had guys like Marlin and Leon and we would still play 10 yards off the los. It just doesn't make sense to me. Against ND, I totaly understand that gameplan, but against Akron, that is just not good. Lb's have to be better in zone and man, but having 7 guys back there, and their crappy qb looking like Montana out there was just disheartening.
I thought Willie Henry also had a decent game. Some four man combination of Henry, Clark, Beyer, Washington, Pipkins, and Black appears to be the best we have right now. I, personally, think a lineup of Clark at WDE, Black at SDE, Henry at DT, and Pipkins or Washington at NT would work best.
At this point I'd rather see Beyer over Clark at WDE. And unless I am not seeing something special he is doing, I'd rather see Mario over Clark at WDE. Cam v Beyer has pros and cons at LB - you can argue who should play in what schemes v what opponents but Clark has not shown me to be a better DE than Beyer in any scheme v any opponent. And I don't think Beyer is the second coming but Clark has had 2 MAC opponents and a ton of plays on the field to make an impact and cannot.
confirms are certain suspicions about the pass rush and the way teams scheme to prevent it and run their offense in the face of likely pressure.
Akron scored 14 points on long drives and got a gift field goal based on a shanked punt that gave it great field position. The defense did an extremely good job in the red zone, stopping one drive with a pick and then giving up a TD but after defending a first and goal at the one. That should be noted. The Alamo stand at the end speaks for itself. So, when Akron had first down from point blank range, it scored once. Now, that is a defensive positive, which I have not seen mentioned or noted by anyone.
The other point to be made about our criticism of the defense and its flaws, is the fact that while the coaches are trying to win, they are also trying to determine who will make plays when it matters, and that relying on gimmick plays doesn't help in that assessment especially in games like this. They are trying to build depth and develop guys while keeping focused and motivated.
The offense in this game made the defense's job very difficult. They faced more plays and were on the field longer, especially in the second half. Now the defense has to get off the field on third down. And I don't recall seeing a stat on the Zips third down conversion rate. It seemed late, that they extended drives on first and second down, rather than doing so on third.
There are few tangible benefits to playing Arkon. One of those is, however, the ability to put your team under the microscope and see how it will respond and whether it can build the kind of effective cohesion and experience that will enable it to recognize formations and alignment in pressure situations and react as it should. I think Mattison is trying to see what he's got before he starts plotting for the conference season.
Toward that end, they are playing many guys who may or may not play a lot in conference. But the idea is to build depth and provide experience. Using the Akron game for a rush four judgment isn't a bad idea, until it is. Again, however, when you play Akron, using wrinkles to beat it makes you look weak, just like complaining about penalties.
One other thing: We really don't know whether the Zips qb is any worse than Western's starter or Central's or any other in the MAC, do we? If the guy makes plays and throws the ball well downfield, and he does it while gimpy and when his team needs a big play, then I think he's pretty good. So, why are we dismissing his talent to deliver the ball, as if he got lucky because the pass rush wasn't better? That happens in every game.
We have focused on the big pass plays. And the adjustment that was made by Akron second half was the greater confidence going deep down the middle and sideline, picking on Bolden who got run by leading to the first score. That is what prompted all the deep stuff second half.
Looking at it live and then seeing it broken down, makes me feel better about this defense because I don't really see the kinds of major problems we all projected postgame. We all get that the pash rush isn't elite and there are lots of young guys on the line trying to fit in. This defense misses its playmaker, which will make it better.
The truth is, the performance Saturday was poor at best. I think was a team effort in that regard, in every area of the game, not just pass rush. There is a trend of Mattison's team at Michigan which was also confirmed, his team grinds in the red zone and makes plays. Let's not forget that.
"Sometimes one pays most for things one gets for nothing."Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
" And I don't recall seeing a stat on the Zips third down conversion rate. It seemed late, that they extended drives on first and second down, rather than doing so on third." It was not good (for UM) 9 of 18 3rd down conversions. The defense actually played well in the 1st half. The 2nd half no. And regarding the stop on the last drive as a positive...well they did allow Akron to drive 78 yards or whatever in 3 minutes. Thankfully they didnt let the last 2 yards up but that is not a positive - the fact they let a MAC team drive down the entire field in an obvious must stop drive was bad...
There's some sense here. Michigan was only planning on playing one half of competitive football. They schemed for that and they prepared for that; Akron was supposed to be essentially beaten by third quarter kickoff. So adjustments weren't really planned, and given that the D only gave up 3 points at half, weren't thought to be required.
But Akron found where the holes were, and upon receipt of a gift (the pick-six) they were able to exploit those holes in an actual game situation. The whole flow of the game worked in their favor. Suddenly, they knew they could win--and they knew exactly where Michigan was vulnerable on that day.
I thought the rush was much better in the first half than in the second. What's striking to me is that watching that film, you don't get the sense that Akron was able to move the ball at will. Other than a few big plays, they really weren't that effective. Of course those few big plays earned them 24 points.
At this point, I have to say I am disappointed in the coaching staff. The whole "Inside and in front" mantra is great in theory, but if you're being so conservative you are allowing long catches over the middle (one for a TD, and two that set-up scores in this game) then your strategy isn't working. That opened-up a couple of 1-on-1's on the outside. In Lewis' defense, that was a perfect route and perfect throw; in Taylor's defense...I can't defend him. That was crappy coverage.
Athleticism isn't the issue either. Taylor has been electronically-timed in the 4.4 range. It's technique, hips, and awareness.
There are synergistic problems here:
Lack of bump-and-run coverage means the WRs always have clean releases; this makes defending short routes very, very difficult. This clearly is the Michigan strategy: we'll give you those dink-and-dunk plays but won't allow you to have anything over the top. The problem with this is that it gives your pass rush NO chance to sack the QB, and asks an awful lot of your LBs in coverage. Our LBs blew at least three coverages against Akron.
Our "bumps" are usually re-directs inside. They occur about 5 yards off of the LOS. And, actually, they seemed to work pretty well in this game. But we don't do it enough, IMO, and I'd prefer to see more bumps at the LOS. Why? When you're bumping 5 yards off, that means the receiver has already accelerated and you haven't started to back-pedal (you can't back-pedal and maintain leverage for a bump). This means that if the bump isn't completely effective and the receiver gets by, your hips are square to the LOS and YOU ARE SCREWED. I'd prefer to see more bumps at the LOS.
Too many stunts and twists. Michigan uses stunts and twists on nearly every passing down. There are a few problems with this: 1) The O-line is ready for it since it's coming so often. 2) Stunts and twists usually take more time than just beating your man and going straight to the QB. 3) We're not very good at executing them. This means our loose coverage has to wait for a slow-developing pass rush...that's a bad combination, IMO.
Taylor and the LBs (esp. Bolden) had terrible coverage. Taylor got picked on early and often, and he blew it. He looked excellent against better ND WRs, and just did not show-up for this game. Despite being one of the fastest players on the team, he got beat repeatedly and just didn't appear to be ready for this game. The LBs didn't get enough depth in their drops or maintain their lanes. Bolden specifically cost us the first TD and a long pass that set-up another score. Bolden is ridiculously athletic; this is just an awareness/technique issue. But will it be fixed?
The D-Line isn't getting it done. In order for this team to win the B1G, we need better production from our front four. Clark isn't getting to the QB or keeping contain. Black is getting some inside pressure but not finishing. Beyer is, IMO, clearly our best pass-rusher, and he's a LB. I actually think Ojemudia is better than Clark. On the inside, Black is only guy even sniffing the QB, with QWash, Pipkins, and the Wormley/Godin combo all accomplishing exactly nothing.
We're not very good at blitzing. Mattison isn't calling more blitzes because we can't execute them when he does. Brining a fifth rusher seems to be an exercise in futility, and usually just leads to an easy completion. When we bring six or seven, we get some pressure, but not the jail breaks we need to produce sacks.
Here's the bottom line: This defense has problems at all three levels. There is nothing Mattison can do to eliminate those problems with scheme. At this point in the season, I would have to say--rather surprisingly--that our secondary is our best unit in the passing game. I would like to see more responsibility given to the CBs and I would like to see more blitzing by the LBs (they have to learn how to do this). When Ryan comes back, I think we need to move Beyer back to the D-Line on a full-time basis, even though he is clearly out-playing Gordon at this point. I agree that we need to keep our NTs in the game, but they aren't getting it done. If Pipkins can't control his weight and pad level, he's going to be a bust. He just does not produce.
The good news is that I believe Wilson and Gordon are playing pretty well. Avery would be better used at nickel or as an extra safety when we roll Gordon into the box. Trying Dymonte Thomas at the nickel seems like a good idea, but if he can't cover than that's trouble.
My conclusion: this defense is just not very good against the pass right now. Until we do a better job of winning the 1-on-1's on the D-Line, blitzing, improving our LB coverage, and avoiding brain farts (Taylor), we are susceptible to getting beaten in the air. I'd like to see more tight cover four, putting the pressure on our CBs and safeties to get their jobs done, and more blitzing and better depth from our LBs. For the D-Line, less stunting and twisting and just beat your damn man.
I think what this post needs, even though it is already excellent, is a chart. It would be good to know how many snaps each guy saw, how many blockers were kept in each play, how many rushers Michigan sent, etc. You cite one bad Pipkins play but I thought he had some good ones in limited time. I'm curious how Henry did or how Washington did when he was in there.
I totally agree with the general findings here, but what drove me crazy watching this game was that despite everything, at no point did anyone not named Jibreel Black just hulk up and "make a play". And as we've seen, guys like Clark are kind of useless in the run game, so if he isn't going to beat a below-average MAC tackle and a chipping RB, I don't see much of a reason to expect him to contribute during the conference slate.
During one of Hoke's coaching clinic tours, he kept bringing up his preparation mistake with the 1998 team, and the result against Syracuse. Basically the point was, everyone needs to practice the fundamentals. Mattison seems to be repeating that in his press conference. The players seemed so eager to learn that he accelerated the installment of technique to the detriment of fundamental importance. Now I don't know what it takes to install more LB blitzes, but when the offense is only putting three guys out to catch covering them with five players and sending both LB's seems to be something that needs doing.
It also makes me think that if you can trust your front seven to be gap sound on every play there really is no reason not to hop them up on goofballs.
That said, I have faith that progress will be made this season. And the bye weeks come up early this year, so I am ready to just think about U Conn from this point forward.
coverage in the secondary has been severly effected by the loss of Jordan Kovacs from last year's team and Courtney Avery this year due to injury. Kovacs allowed Mattison to be more aggressive in coverages and blitzes last year. I think they were/are molding Avery to be that reliable guy in the back of the defense for Team 134. I hope Courtney's return makes eveyone in the secondary better.