I'd planned on posting another Picture Pages this week from the Notre Dame game on the assumption that there wouldn't be much from the Akron game to discuss. Surprise! The good news—ish—is that this continues our discussion of where Michigan's line is.
This is another Toussaint lost yardage play that marks the last time Michigan's run their as-yet-unsuccessful counter to their zone game. ABC provided a slick closeup of events (the difference between doing this for an ABC broadcast and BTN one is enormous—viva ABC), so we'll get a zoomed-in look at goings-on.
ND's in an even front; Michigan has two tight ends. They'll pull Schofield as the rest of the line tries to sell another zone.
Michigan immediately runs into the problems that is Louis Nix, who either isn't buying or is just assigned to slant outside of Glasgow.
That's bad, that'll happen sometimes when you play Nix. As Nix surges upfield of Glasgow, Schofield sees him and knows he's got to deal with that lest Toussaint get swallowed in the backfield.
Glasgow violates the fake rule I made up by turning upfield. Schofield's coming, but he doesn't comprehend that he isn't totally screwed until…
Both guys go to Nix, leaving one of ND's ILBs unblocked. Toussaint makes things worse by trying to bounce around a rampant Nix, and gets chopped down.
That's a two yard loss.
Slow unnecessary for this one.
[After THE JUMP: Notre Dame faces the same problem, finds different results.]
Notre Dame Executes
If that seems excessively demanding of offensive linemen trying to process fast-moving information in front of them—an opinion I kind of share—then you should know that Notre Dame pulled this off on a nearly-identical play.
They've got a pistol setup with three wide and Niklas as a tight end. They want to run power to the short side of the field, where freshmen Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton happen to be located. Michigan is in a standard nickel setup.
Michigan's going to blitz James Ross.
Since this is power, Ross can win by getting penetration and getting a two-for one. By getting in the backfield he draws the attention of both the lineman trying to block him straight up and the puller, leaving a free hitter behind.
Ross gets his penetration…
…and everything looks just fine, as the puller has to deal with him. Ross will still cut off the outside and then Morgan can clean up as the RB picks the only hole available to him despite the fact that Morgan's sitting there by himself.
Except that ND guard Chris Watt, a fifth-year senior entering his third year as a starter, understands what Ross is trying to do and just passes him off to the pulling guard.
Watch this at full speed to see how quickly this decision is made. Watt sees the blitz and where it's going and instantly decides to bail.
Morgan now has to deal with a blocker, and while Michigan has successfully constricted the RB's lane with their slant/blitz, Carlisle has room to pick a hole and hit it hard.
Morgan gets understandably pushed past the play (he needs to fill that gap so Wilson can tackle) as Ojemudia and Wilson collapse on the runner. It's five yards when Michigan could have forced none if Watt wasn't a wily veteran.
Items Of Interest
On play #1. Michigan can get this blocked if Glasgow has as good of an understanding about what it means for Nix to rip outside of him as Watt does. Glasgow thinks "HER LIFE WAS IN OUR HANDS"; he is very undude. The nihilists will call back, though: Schofield sees Nix all the way; Nix has considerable momentum upfield and away from Schofield and is likely to get kicked effectively. If Glasgow understands that and just climbs to a linebacker, Toussaint can hammer it upfield for a good gain. He almost certainly reaches the safeties.
On play #2. Michigan calls a good play here and just gets beat by Notre Dame executing a tough thing well. Ross gets upfield and cuts off the outside; Wormley slants across to fill the gap Michigan is vacating; Morgan gets to one gap at the LOS and forces the play into his help. It is unusual to see an offensive lineman able to recognize the fact that he has help in the form of a puller behind him and avoid that 2-for-1.
Notre Dame does it here, and my case that their offensive line is where Michigan's is going once they're all veteran and stuff was much stronger before ND running backs combined to acquire 99 yards on 32 carries with a long of 11 against Purdue. Football! Nothing makes sense, ever.
But seriously though, most of the stuff I'm seeing against Akron is Michigan making mental errors because the entire interior line is new. You'd hope they get better, and in their defense Akron spent large chunks of the game in bear fronts that Michigan had not seen before.
On Toussaint. This is the third or fourth run this year I've highlighted in which Toussaint responds to some crappy blocking in front of him by making things worse. If he slams it into the ND linebacker he picks up a yard or two. Instead he loses two on a hopeless bounce outside of Nix. On the just-Picture Paged Akron play he tries a hopeless cutback because he doesn't trust Kerridge to get him that frontside crease.
He's had a lot of tough reads what with the issues so far, but Michigan would be better off if Toussaint would just shrug his shoulders and go north and south when things break down. Part of the reason Michigan keeps getting TFLed is because Toussaint won't accept the one-yard gain.