Michigan's running game wasn't quite as bad as it looks in the stats, as they had some good gains wiped out by phantom holding penalties, but it warn't good. One of Michigan's main issues was not getting the Akron nose tackle blocked, but when this happened the guy in the backfield seemed only partially at fault, because Michigan was asking him to do something very tough.
Here's a play at the end of the first quarter. Michigan has just shifted various players around and gotten Akron to do this in response:
That is a massive gap between their nose tackle, who's "shaded"* over Miller, and their end, who's outside of Jake Butt. Michigan decides to run at this, which seemed like a good idea at the time.
*[ie, lined up between the center and guard, closer to the center.]
Michigan's going to run a stretch to the wide side of the field, and get a loss out of this. I know. So. Akron's got about seven guys in the box. Michigan has two uncovered OL to the playside plus Kerridge. This should be easy.
[After the jump, it's not going to be]
It isn't, and this is basically why:
The nose tackle gets into Miller immediately and starts driving him back into the play. This is not good. But Michigan has a choice here: double that guy. Glasgow released immediately in an attempt to cut a linebacker instead of hitting that DT, allowing Miller to step around him.
In the wider shot, you can see 1) Glasgow cutting that linebacker as 2) Miller continues to give ground and give ground:
But notice something about the Akron linebackers? Their hair is not on fire. They are not yelling war whoops and plunging at the line of scrimmage, screaming yo ho ho. Neither ILB type is trying to shoot a gap; the weakside guy is just trying to get to the play. This is not playing Notre Dame.
Too late to consider that though. Kerridge ends up banging into that DT a couple yards into the backfield:
Toussaint is presented with a couple of not-great opportunities; he tries to cut back behind Miller and gets nailed by that weakside linebacker, as he flows up behind Kalis. This isn't Kalis's fault; the cutback changes the blocking angle without his knowledge.
"When you rush the football, you don't want to take loss yardage plays" –Chuck Long
Michigan managed to turn that massive gap into second and twelve.
Items of Interest
This seems like an obvious error but it was consistent. Earlier in the game it was Miller who released immediately and gave Glasgow the near-impossible assignment:
Why is this going on? I'm guessing it's a reaction to Notre Dame's linebacking style, which is to run hard up any gaps in zone plays. Michigan had problems recognizing that and getting to the second level. After a week of getting coached up on that, it seems like anybody who didn't perceive a lineman directly over them just went to the second level, with results like those above.
The weird thing is that seems in opposition to their often-frustrating approach to inverted veers and the like where Michigan would block the guy who's supposed to be optioned. When they do that it seems like their priority is to assure themselves a moderate gain at the expensive of explosive plays. Here they're betting on a very difficult first-level block to get back to the line of scrimmage.
The alternative is Miller and Glasgow are misreading both these plays and they should double. Once I see that happen on the first snap and two drives later, I lean towards this being a play on which the assignments are executed—or at least attempted—correctly. Akron just slanted into the play and got Michigan RPSed.
I don't see how Miller is going to have anything but a bad time here. Not even David Molk could take a lineman shaded playside slanting away from him and do anything but slightly harass him as he beasted his way into the backfield. Yeah, he ends up in the backfield on the wrong side of the guy, but how the hell is this supposed to end any differently?
In this game most Akron penetration was a result of asking guys to do things that I don't think it's easy to do. You know that ostentatiously bad block by Funchess on a pitch? He was in a two-point stance trying to deal with a defensive end lined up outside of him.
That is not how that is supposed to go. He's even aligned with his inside foot back—also a gameplan thing, Michigan did it for a big chunk of the game—so if he's going to step outside of that defensive end he has to turn his body outside.
Akron ran a ton of bear fronts—linebackers tight to the line between DT and DE in this game, often showing an eight man front with six guys at or near the line of scrimmage. This really threw Michigan off; in that still above you can see that Akron has a linebacker near the LOS at the bottom of the screen, allowing them to flare that DE.
Michigan doesn't have a response to this. They still have no counter play. They have a few different run plays that don't seem to fit together in any reasonable way. I see what Michigan is trying to do with their pass game (eg, a bunch of TE outs in the first half lead to an out and up that would have been first and goal but Gardner threw it behind Funchess). I don't see any kind of punishment for cheaters.
Sometimes Michigan gets a defense by running power when they expect zone, but they don't have a run play designed to look like another play until it's too late.
Toussaint probably should have followed his fullback. Kerridge may get him a crease and once he cuts behind that DT there's no help. I don't blame him for what he decided, but Michigan still had something here if he can pick his way through on the frontside.