Observations On Penn State-Minnesota
You say you're Minnesota? Cupito was 25 of 36 for 347 yards; Amir Pinnix had but 26 carries for 76 yards. Welcome to evil mirror universe Minnesota. Why did this happen? Well, Penn State's Steve Alford gave their interior line issues all day, so that was part of it. When the Gophers had successful plays they went for six to eight yards; when they didn't they went for zero to two. It's not that their run game was consistently stoned, but rather that they didn't pick up any of those 15-20 yard gashers that are a Gopher speciality.
The odd thing is that the plays on which Minnesota picked up big chunks of yards versus Michigan were entirely absent versus PSU. The whole pulling off-tackle monstrosity that is the Gopher run game went away. Why? I don't know. Possibly they thought the fast PSU linebackers were a bad matchup. Minnesota got all their chunk plays versus the Penn State secondary.
And about that secondary. Think Michigan's secondary last year: nummy soft zone almost constantly. Minnesota found plenty of space in between levels, hitting Spaeth and Payne on posts and outs and such for big hunks of yards. All are seemingly incapable of tackling and not even Justin King is frequently trusted in man coverage.
It's deep zone deep zone deep zone and has been all year. I don't expect Manningham's absence will alter that, as Penn State's coaching staff is the equivalent of what the most pessimistic Michigan fans think is their cross to bear. Adjustments? What me, worry?
Pass rush remains weak. The outstanding feature of the Notre Dame game was a total lack of pass rush. It was a little better versus Minnesota but not much. Alford had an impressive sack or two; the rest of the line did very little.
Black Shoe Diaries is taking exception to my characterization of Penn State as a bad team. Specifically, he asks us to remember another person when it comes to pass rush:
Brian also suggests Jay Alford is the only one who can get any pressure on the QB. Remember #92. His name is Ed Johnson.
Citing a DT as a major pass rushing threat sums up their situation nicely. PSU actually has 18 sacks, but many of them came against NW, Youngstown State, and Akron. In three games versus actual competiton, they have six. That's not bad on the surface but the sack numbers are hollow, backed with little quarterback pressure outside of the numbers.
Run defense? Fairly good against Minnesota and Notre Dame, or 5.5 per carry to Antonio Pittman? No other games are meaningful. Jay Alford is a really, really good player but Ed Johnson hasn't had much of an impact and the defensive ends have been uninspiring. We'll be running away from Alford most of the day but I expect a few plays where one of our guards follows him to Hart in the backfield. He is a penetrator, though, which may make all those draws we ran last year a good option. He'll take himself out of the play if you give him the opportunity to.
Tony Hunt! I forgot to mention this over the past couple weeks of OSU games, but I was wrong about Antonio Pittman. He's actually pretty good.
Am I going to take back my Tony Hunt bashing? No sir! He racked up a ton of yards versus Minnesota, but I swear to God that a good 60% of them came after dragging Minnesota linebackers. That requires two things: a good head of steam and crappy tackling, small linebackers. To date Michigan has thumped two backs even larger than Hunt, PJ Hill and Jehuu Caulcrick, to the tune of 2.5 yards per carry. Both those teams had inexperienced lines and backs who couldn't really get the corner if their hole was jammed up. The end result was Burgess, Harris, Branch, et al devouring them. I expect more of the same.
Derrick Williams! has 19 catches for 221 yards. Much-maligned Steve Breaston has 23 catches for 222 yards.
Anthony Morelli! is improving... he only threw three balls that should have been interceptions instead of his usual four. No, seriously: he was improved. But you can only be so impressive against Minnesota and their total lack of quarterback pressure or guys in the secondary.
His deep ball is fairly accurate but with a wide array of diminutive wide receivers they don't have a lot of jump ball potential. They've got to get behind the secondary, which is easy versus Minnesota but perhaps a little more difficult against Michigan. Note I didn't say "impossible," as Rhema McKnight got loose against the Michigan secondary and Jamar Adams got burned by Jerramy Scott. Michigan seems to give up one big passing play a game and will probably give up another.
That pass interference call was so, so weak.