Picture Pages: Peeling Back
Yesterday's Picture Pages covered extensive confusion on Michigan's part as they tried to run basic isos against a basic defense but couldn't get the ILBs blocked, with a side of playcalls that leave guys alone in the hopes that accounting for end-around motion or the threat of an option play will draw players away from the actual threat.
A second major reason Nebraska had unblocked guys all over the place was blockers seeing a player shoot past them quickly and reacting. I've been doing this for a while now and this sort of thing has become one of my pet peeves. A blocker will see a defensive player run past them clean. They now have two options:
- Turn around and get that guy.
- Know—or at least hope—that wasn't your guy and find someone else to block.
Door A never works. They don't block the guy they missed, and they don't block anyone further downfield. When another blocker takes care of the aggressive player or the ballcarrier outruns him, the play is still screwed up because another defender is coming free.
This happened to Michigan on consecutive plays at the end of the first quarter. On the first, Michigan runs the veer from a 4-wide formation. Nebraska responds with two safeties at about ten yards and 5.5 guys in the box, as was their wont:
You can see the nickelback cheating off Dileo presnap, and he will come.
Remember earlier in the year when I was complaining that the linebackers didn't seem to understand that when the line slanted one way they should be moving against it since that is where the ball is likely to end up? This is an offensive version of that.
Dileo should know these things when the corner comes:
- Michigan is running the inverted veer.
- A blitzing corner is invariably the defense's force player—he contains and forces the runner inside.
- On an inverted veer the force player will be optioned off by the running back. The quarterback will have the ball going vertically.
So does he need to block the corner? No. Will he block the corner? Well, this post exists, so deduct for yourself.
Michigan snaps the ball and runs the veer. Barnum pulls. Here's the mesh point:
45 degrees from downhill—okay
The playside end is hugging the back of the tackle who's ignoring him. This is normally a give by Robinson, and Michigan has picked up some decent chunks early by giving. Denard pulls this time, which is good because that corner is coming to make the give a likely TFL. Nebraska made it easy by tipping that the nickelback was coming presnap.
Dileo should move to the next level, but he turns and starts pursuing the nickelback.
90 degrees! alert!
Argh. At this point the guy is gone, and even if Dileo makes contact there's a good chance he'll pick up a block in the back call. To add insult to injury, trying to block this guy you can't block is purposeless—he's already going to be optioned off.
- Barnum picks up the end.
- Schofield gets his free release and engages the MLB.
The coast is clear!
turned around: dead
Dawwwww, unblocked safety. Unblocked safeties.
Five yards, and Dileo comes back in at the end to go "dawwwwww."
If Dileo can cut that safety like Joe Reynolds did against State, that is six points. Even if the safety keeps his feet and contains, that's likely a first down.
[AFTER THE JUMP: dawwwww not again.]
Peeling Back: Not Just For Wideouts
On the very next play(!) Michigan gets another big gain wiped off the board because a blocker peels back to go after a guy he cannot help on and is handled as part of the playcall. This time it's Ricky Barnum who turns around.
Michigan goes three wide. Nebraska responds with their nickel. Michigan will run the sweep they've run all year where the TE and LT block down as two interior linemen pull.
This one has a Toussaint fake the other way, which is a plus move. It looks like the veer for anyone checking the backfield and the WLB is in man on him, so he bugs out for the other side of the field.
Below, Lewan and Kwiatkowski seal their guys inside. Nebraska's in man so the outside corner is not involved; Dileo heads for the safety.
At this point there are just two Nebraska players left: MLB Will Compton and the nickelback, who will read run once Dileo pops the safety. Michigan has two lead blockers. This sounds pretty good.
Compton makes what I'm pretty sure is a bad play by saying "screw it, running directly at Denard," but…
Daaawwwwww… Barnum sees the guy flash behind him and turns around. That is two guys blocking one guy and Nebraska has two guys so 2-2=0 zero guys to block last guy.
Note Mealer chopping Compton like a boss. He had this covered all the way.
Last guy contains, Denard tries to cut back, slips, two yards.
Things And Stuff
If I was an offensive line coach I would be very sad. And I would tell my charges to never turn around. If you're run blocking and a guy shoots past you, he's gone. Turning around never, ever works. 30 degrees? Sure. 60 degrees? Okay. 90 degrees? Really pushing it. Anything past 90 degrees? Fuggedaboutit. Never turn around. If the guy gets tackled behind you that's life. If you screwed up, go mitigate that by blocking someone else. If you do this and the ballcarrier makes the guy shooting up miss you now have a potential big play.
This is just a heuristic I've picked up from trying to figure out how football teams run the ball. Caveats: if you're already engaged with a guy, this does not apply, and if you're kicking a guy out it does not apply.
Michigan's blocking was just infinitely confused in this game. I don't know why. Dileo has been running the veer for over a year now and should have its principles burned into his head. And this sweep thing Michigan is running is also something that was a frequent guest last year. If Barnum doesn't know it by now… well maybe that's because he bounced from guard to center back to guard and is not sure if he's the inside or outside guy and just got confused. I think his is a play he should probably be expected to (not) make anyway since I am a 90-degrees-or-less zealot, but the position bouncing is a contributing factor to poor play.
Nebraska was playing everything very soft. Five-ish in the box! Against Denard! I'm like wow man. That ramps up the frustration with all the blocking miscues. Michigan could have had a huge day on the ground.
The way Nebraska played explained the way Michigan's offense went down the field in the first half: consistently but slowly. They had three ten-play-plus drives that ended in six points as Michigan would eventually shoot itself in the foot before they could reach the endzone.
Nebraska bet that Michigan could not execute consistently and won.
Why Lewan had no points. Lewan had 2-2-0 as a line, which is not many plays on which I considered how well he was doing. I don't generally grade blocks away from the play just for time issues—UFR is already quite an enterprise—and because I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a good job unless I can see whether the defensive player had an impact. So if they're running away from you, you're probably not getting a plus or minus.
The two plays above are examples of me moving on without deploying Lunch Judgment. On these two plays Lewan blocks Nebraska's backside end on a veer and Nebraska's DT on a play outside the hashes. On the first most people reading this blog could annoy that guy long enough for the play to go off without that DE getting involved. On the second he does push a DT past the play as he tries to shoot up in the pocket but there's very few instances in which I've seen a DT make a play on anything like that so I chalk that up to "okay" and move on.
Tackles are usually less involved in the run plus minus thing than interior linemen because their blocks are often kickouts that are pretty easy or hardly relevant when the ball goes to the other side of the line. They're just not as involved in the blocks that make running games go. That's unfortunate for Michigan because their best run blocker is probably their left tackle.
This game was a bit extreme in the lack of points acquired; the second half had a lot to do with that.