One of my early complaints about the Denard-Borges fusion cuisine was the grab-bag nature of the offense. By that I mean the sense that Michigan's plays were generally unrelated to each other and worked because they were new or the opponent was poor, not because they put the defense in a bind trying to defend one thing while another was happening. You can only run throwback screens out of an ace set a limited number of times when you don't roll the pocket out of an ace set effectively; you can only run a quick pitch that plays off a FB dive a limited number of times when you never run the dive.
That complaint is increasingly invalid as Michigan refines what it does. Full Minnesota disclaimers apply, but the most encouraging thing about last week's game other than everything was the series of gotcha plays that gashed Minnesota. BWS did a great job of showing how Michigan's long-overdue deployment of the sprint draw* (in this case a bonafide counter with a pulling LT) looks just like the QB run game that has been the heart of Michigan's offense for a year and a half. The sprint draw is a constraint play that punishes you for cheating on the offense's bread and butter.
That's one example. The Fritz package is another example. Michigan got a speed option blown up the first time; when they came back to it they ran a quick pitch that played off that option. This is what it looked like:
Check that safety on the far left hauling ass to the presumed option side. He gone. By the time Toussaint hits the corner ain't nobody here but us chickens:
Minnesota is exceptionally bad at all things but this is the kind of stuff that gives defensive coordinators hives. That looks just like OH CRAP DENARD OPTION until it's too late.
But wait, there's more! If you were surprised when Michigan opened up its second drive with a lovely touch pass from Denard to Stephen Hopkins, that makes twelve of you. He'd set Minnesota up for it on the previous drive.
*[I do have a slight disagreement w/ that post, FWIW: On that play it's clear Huyge is expecting to kick out the DE. When that DE comes inside rapidly Huyge looks like he's losing him. Lewan is supposed to hit the backside B gap, which has a marginally blocked guy in it. If Lewan doesn't block the DE there's a chance he shoots up into Shaw for a loss. I think you leave the safety for the RB.]
Play The First: New School Iso
It's first and ten on the Michigan 38 on the first drive of the day. Michigan comes out with what is for them a power set: shotgun with two backs and a tight end. Minnesota rolls both safeties to 7-8 yards and plays way off the WRs.
They're going to run an iso off the right side of the line. Iso kind of looks like inside zone—no one pulls, you try to combo defensive linemen—but you get a lead back roaring up in a designated hole. On an inside zone a blocking back will usually flare out or head backside to provide another gap on one end of the line and the running back will read his blocking and pick a hole.
Here it's straight upfield, hole or no. This train is headed A-gap.
It's Minnesota so there is a hole. Schofield and Molk send the NT to his knees. Omameh locks out the other DT and Denard holds the backside end with the threat of his run. A crease forms in the intended spot:
Hopkins thunders into it and lowers the boom.
And that's all she wrote. The two DTs getting annihilated and Hopkins thumping the MLB such that he provides a crease away from the Gopher free hitter—visible in the left frame above and stuck behind the Hopkins block in the second—gives Toussaint a free pass into the virtually nonexistent secondary.
Note that Molk is still waiting for someone to block. Minnesota is not good.
Toussaint runs through a diving tackle attempt and is eventually run down because he has to break his stride to do so. 35 yards.
Items of Interest
Minnesota is awful. I award them no points, God have mercy on their souls, etc. Not much else to say.
On this play three separate Minnesota defenders are crushed by their Michigan counterparts and Molk is just like hanging out because the Gopher LB is hanging around on Robinson when Robinson is being contained by a DE. Against a real team this is an eh gain.
This works for a lot of reasons but the paramount one is the Hopkins block. This is awful Minnesota play, but Hopkins makes it count by getting a driving block on the LB that kicks him out of the lane. If the guy gets inside of Hopkins Toussaint cuts out into an unblocked safety and picks up five or so yards unless he makes him miss; even if he manages that the process of making him miss will probably get him tackled by the backside DE.
But Hopkins lowers his shoulders and lifts the LB out of the hole, eliminating two guys and turning this into a big gainer. Without one guy eliminating two you can't pick up a bunch of yards when an extra safety is in the box*, especially on an old-timey quien es mas macho play like an iso.
*[And by "an extra safety" I mean two extra safeties; Denard + shotgun == extra guy in box is standard. Here both safeties are rolled into the box.]
Don't get down about Toussaint's speed because of this play. Yes, tackled from behind by a Gopher, but the ankle tackle he ran through put him off balance and slowed him up; without it this is likely a touchdown.
Why show the constraint here? Is rolling the counter draw out against Minnesota 1. just a natural progression of plays being installed in the offense as the season goes on, or 2. a preemptive strike against MSU and the love of overpursuit, ie a demonstration of the constraint play so that MSU is watching for it, thus opening space for Denard's runs.
I wonder if you don't want to save it for that game, but I guess between this and the Fritz, we're giving future opponents a bunch of looks/options they have to prepare for.
Consider me happy with him. Sure he's still got the Fumblitis, but this is a good step in the right direction. If we are moving "west coast" then we need a west coast fullback - hopkins can be that. Not a straight ahead Mack Truck, but think Jacob Hester (formerly of LSU, now with the Chargers).
Catch the ball out of the backfield, block well if not blow up holes, I think Hopkins can do this (and this is what we recruited Houma to do as well)
"Over? Did you say, over? Nothing is over until we decide it is!"
With McColgan hurt, Hopkins played very well at FB. Hoke seemed pleased as well.
It'll be interesting to see if that's where he fits for the rest of his career. In the BJ Askew type role.
“True loyalty is that quality of service that grows under adversity and expands in defeat. Any street urchin can shout applause in victory, but it takes character to stand fast in defeat. One is noise — the other, loyalty.”
Minnesota's players seemed like they had never received a second of coaching in their lives, and had only passingly seen a game of football. Instead, they had it explained to them by a frenchman who filled his own lack of understanding of American football with details about European football.
This play is further evidence that Hoke will succeed and why RR didn't. He and his staff are able to work with what they have and fold it into what they want/know. RR tried to fit a square peg (Threet and remainder of offense) in the proverbial round hole despite the lack of tools. We are seeing evidence every game that MICH is moving in the direction of a power pro offense. It's classic BO, just molded with the players and abilities he's been given.
This is a press conference! The last thing I want to do is answer a lot of questions!
I see this play as a plus for Toussaint as well. That slight cut back left through the hole adds 20 hards to this run. I was high on Shaw before, but I think he probably just plows into the pile and gets a solid, but unspectacular 7 yard gain.
They kept talking about Toussaint's "straight line speed" and how he's "not going to make anyone miss." I almost threw things at the tv when he kept repeating this - probably would have if I wasn't hung over.
Haven't we all agreed that he's fairly shifty and that's why he's so good?