TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
Upon Further Review: Defense vs. Michigan State
As always, clips courtesy Dangerous Logic.
|Can't decide whether or not Crable shooting into the backfield is a good play or not. If he doesn't, this trap looks like it finds room to the outside. Since he does, one of the pulling blockers has to take him and the not particularly nifty Caulcrick has to cut back through a small hole on the backside. I think it's good (+1 Crable), but Burgess(-1) overruns the play, opening it up for a few yards.|
|Outstanding play by Harris(+2) to read this and track down Kerry Reed well outside the hashmarks.|
|Zone is tight at the first down line. Throw from Stanton is low, marginally catchable, but incomplete. Hall(+1) may have helped force the incompletion. (CA, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q. Good start. Harris has vaulted into Kiper's top 25 and with good reason. Third down play was verrry close and probably should have been reviewed, though the one angle they gave us was not conclusive.|
|Scott at TB. Burgess(+1) reads, forms up, and moves smartly past a blocker to collar Scott for little gain.|
|O22||2||8||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||9||Out (rollout)|
|I really hate the huge cushion Trent(-1, cover -1) gives Trannon, who is slow as hell. I guess we're in zone here, so it's not necessarily his fault. (CA)|
|That goddamned counter draw. Branch(+2) comes free on the interior by throwing his man off of him and fills the hole himself.|
|Well... this stuff just happens from time to time versus mobile quarterbacks and there's nothing you can do about it. We blitz Burgess and Crable; Stanton steps past them, manages to escape the ankle tackle of Jamison, and scrambles for nine. Filed under "crap happens."|
|MSU in a triple stack. Trannon drops this, but Brandon Harrison(+2) had split the two blockers, drawing them both to him and was going to make a five-yard TFL if the ball was caught. (CA)|
|O43||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||TE Screen|
|Middle TE screen straight out of the Wisconsin playbook is dropped by Holmes. Would have gone for like eight otherwise.|
|Burgess(+1) comes on a delayed blitz that finds a hole and drops Stanton. Coverage was good downfield. (+2 pressure, +1 cover)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 6 min 1st Q. Gave up a couple first downs but still a good drive for the defense. One of the MSU drops actually saved them five yards, and Stanton didn't have enough time to throw on the last play.|
|They line up with 2TEs, under center, and run right at us. We get gashed pretty hard. Caulcrick gets hit about three yards downfield but on an angle, and since he's 262 he can drag people. Branch(-1) flew upfield, opening up the lane.|
|Better job this time by the DTs containing space. They both get some push. Caulcrick finds a crack between them; Adams(+1) comes up and pops him, preventing any YAC.|
|O12||3||2||3-3-5 Stack||Run||-1||Off tackle|
|This TFL is Woodley's(+1) doing, as he gets into the backfield and forces a bounceout. We're blitzing so help comes quickly. Jamar Adams(+1) is the first to arrive.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, EO 1st Q. I dunno why State thought run run run punt was a good idea.|
|Run fake suckers everyone in save Woodley... MSU pulls guards and everything. Scott is open in front of Adams (DO, coverage -1, pressure -1)|
|Stanton has all day from a five wide set. Our front four gets no pressure. A WR comes open across the middle eventually but the window isn't very big and you can't expect the D to cover that long. (pressure -2)|
|Blitz from the wide side of the field, they run to the short side. Woodley tries to get out there but without a linebacker to that side he can't close down the outside. Our rock, their paper. Trent(-1) dives at a blocker's knees uselessly.|
|Hall(+1) jumps the route and almost intercepts it. (Coverage +1)|
|Trent(-1) comes up late, then gets run off badly by this freshman Williams, stumbling as he gets his hips turned. Williams, as a result, is wide open. (Coverage -1)|
|M29||1||15||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Out (rollout)|
|Ball's thrown wide of Trannon, which might be a good thing for MSU as Trent was closing on this one. (+1, coverage +1) Holding after the play, no replay available.|
|State sets up a screen to the near side of the field, then hits Reed coming on an against-the-grain cross. Hall(+2) makes an important tackle; we were blitzing and if he misses Reed runs a long, long way.|
|M37||2||23||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Bomb (rollout)|
|Rollouts == irritating. Crable almost gets to Stanton but is hauled to the ground by a falling OL... no call. Trent(-2) is beaten deep; Williams drops a sure touchdown. (DO, coverage -2)|
|M37||3||23||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||21||Deep Out|
|Trannon open way downfield for close to first down yardage but not quite. (Coverage -1)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG, 14-0, 11 min 2nd Q. A disappointing series full of open wide receivers all over the field.|
|O29||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||9||Out (rollout)|
|Crable beats the OT to the outside on the rollout but comes up too hard on Stanton, allowing him to step up in the pocket neatly and find Reed in front of Harrison and Trent (coverage -1)|
|O38||2||1||3-3-5 Stack||Run||5||Zone read|
|Branch stood up at the LOS. Harris has to take on a blocker, delaying his pursuit. He does make the tackle w/ Adams.|
|O43||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||2||WR Screen|
|Slow-developing screen starts with a pitch fake that doesn't sucker Harris(+1) in. He slows the play long enough for Crable(+1) to come from the backside.|
|Stanton too high to Scott, who was bracketed by Englemon and Hall. Stunt from Woodley(+1) got close enough to interfere with Stanton's footwork, helping the throw's inaccuray. (IN, pressure +1, cover +1)|
|Branch(+1) hits Stanton as he throws. Resulting throw is again errant. No sack here but again an example of pressure interfering with a throw. (IN, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-0, EO Half.|
|A blitzing Crable(+1) closes this down before it has a chance.|
|O22||2||11||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Quick circle|
|We only rush three, but the ends both come around the edge for quick pass rush. Woodley(+1) was going to sack Stanton if he didn't throw immediately. Stanton throws about three yards downfield to Terry Love, who can't make a tough catch, as Hall(+1) strips the ball out on contact. (pressure +1, cover +1)|
|O22||3||11||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||40||Fly (rollout)|
|Scott gets way behind Adams(-2); Stanton hits him on the rollout. Shame, as Crable was running him down from the backside. (Cover -2)|
|M38||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||0||Zone read|
|Woodley(+1) forces the play back outside. Unblocked Burgess(+1) fills with authorita.|
|A ton of time, as it seems three separate Michigan defenders be being held. Stanton eventually finds Love at the sticks. YAC potential on this throw but it's low and forces Love off his feet. (CA, pressure -2)|
|Jerramy Scott at quarterback and they run the Tim Tebow play. Branch(+1) crushes his man into the backfield, allowing Taylor(+1) and Burgess(+1) to converge on Scott for no gain.|
|Shame because we had this option stuffed.|
|Taylor(-1) offsides on the snap. Irrelevant as we blitz and don't get there in time. Burgess was about a nanosecond away from clocking Stanton, though. Reed runs a deep out versus Harrison in man coverage for the first. (Coverage -1)|
|Branch(+1) almost shuts this down immediately, but can't quite do it. Burgess(-1) gets caught inside and is plowed by the TE. Big hole results.|
|Woodley(+2) gets out to the corner like a shot, hitting Scott five yards in the backfield. He misses the tackle, but the play's fouled up and the cleanup holds him behind the line of scrimmage.|
|Holy max-pro, Batman! There's no pressure on this play because there are two, count'em, two receivers on routes and eight guys blocking. Stanton notices that the receivers are double covered, then scrambles for the first down. So irritating.|
|Hole opens up on the backside temporarily. Closed down quickly by Adams(+1) and Harris.|
|Brandon Logan slices into the backfield but can do little to slow Caulcrick. He submarines Adams and burrows to approximately the six inch line. Aaaaand MSU takes a timeout . Good coachin'!|
|Caulcrick manages to get through Woodley's tackle short of the line.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-7, 5 min 3rd Q.|
|Not sure if he's throwing this away or not... probably, as Hall(+1, cover +1) was in tight on Scott and this pass is rifled way into the crowd. (TA)|
|O32||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||9||Middle screen|
|This thing's persistent effectiveness against us is irritating. We're not blitzing or anything. Tim Jamsion is given a free pass into the backfield but treats Caulcrick as a blocker, not a receiver, and avoids him in an attempt to get to the quarterback. Harris(-1) has a blocker on him by the time the pass is off. Doesn't this require better recognition from the linebackers? As soon as those linemen start downfield you know it's a screen, as only passes behind the LOS are legal.|
|O41||3||1||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||15||PA TE Flat|
|MSU lines up under center and fakes to Caulcrick. TE Holmes starts blocking Crable as the play starts, convincing Adams(-1), in man coverage, that it's a run play. He bites inside, leaving Holmes wide open when he releases from Crable. Crable does eventually track him down. (CA)|
|M44||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||7||Middle screen|
|This one to Holmes. Harris comes in from the side and makes a solid tackle. Can't blame anyone in particular on this one, but good lord... can we fix this?|
|M37||2||3||3-3-5 Stack||Run||0||Speed option|
|Stanton fakes a pitch he should have made and cuts up smack into Burgess(+1), who shucked a blocker impressively to make the tackle.|
|A terrible spot gives MSU a first down they didn't actually get. Harris(+1) brought Caulcrick down short of the marker.|
|Corner blitz from Harrison; resulting throw is way short. (IN, pressure +1)|
|M34||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Slant and go|
|Weird playcall trying to get Hall(+1) to bite on a slant and go versus the ponderous Trannon. Throw is wildly off because Harrison(+1), blitzing again, hits Stanton as he throws. (cover +1, pressure +1)|
|M34||3||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Out (rollout)|
|Receiver is open, but the ball is short-hopped and incomplete. Guy was wide open with Trent coming way late. (cover -1)|
|M34||4||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Int||Bomb (rollout) (2)|
|Um... okay, Jamar. Nice interception, but you cost us like 30 yards of field positon. Feel my wrath: -1. (Coverage +1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 31-7, 13 min 4th Q.|
|Barringer's(-2) missed tackle turns this from 4 into 40. (Cover -1)|
|Our zone needs to be tighter on the 12 yard line. This could be held to about three with better coverage. Trannon injures himself badly on this play. (Cover -1)|
|Motion to an empty backfield = obvious QB draw. I hate this. Why does it work?|
|Caulcrick stoned. Good job by Harris(+1).|
|M1||2||G||Goal line||Run||-2||Off Tackle|
|Burgess(+1) blitzes in and sticks Caulcrick in the backfield. Burgess' tackling has been outstanding today.|
|M3||3||G||3-3-5 Stack||Run||2||Zone read keeper|
|Aw, come on now, you knew that was coming. Load up on the line and blitz into this. And why even review this play? It's not even close.|
|Another Harrison blitz ends with a sack as Stanton pulls the ball down because of coverage. (cover +1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown (missed 2PT), 31-13, 7 min 4th Q.|
|I'm only charting this play for the next play.|
|Hall(+3) makes a badass, diving interception. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 31-13, 4 min 4th Q. Charting ceases.|
Run defense was extremely strong all day, but the secondary was in its second straight week of unpleasantly open wide receivers. Granted, this was yet another game in which Michigan jumped out to a huge lead and started cruising home by the time the fourth quarter started, but at this point the defense doesn't seem quite as dominating as we thought it would be after the Notre Dame and Wisconsin games.
It does remain almost impregnable on the ground, though, and by this point in the season it's clearly not a fluke.
|Woodley||6||6||Very hard to get the edge against in the run game, but pass rush has been lacking.|
|Biggs||-||-||-||He and Jamison were close to invisible.|
|Taylor||1||1||0||Didn't play a ton. Of note that that MSU found the going very tough when in short yardage.|
|Branch||5||1||4||Second straight good but not great performance.|
|Crable||3||-||3||Mostly deployed as a standup DE.|
|C. Graham||-||-||Played sparingly.|
|Burgess||6||2||4||Excellent day against the run. Coming into his own and playing quite well.|
|Hall||9||-||9||Had one interception and almost two; didn't let anyone behind him; made a couple key tackles in situations where Michigan had been outschemed.|
|Barringer||-||2||-2||Missed tackle led to MSU's second touchdown.|
|Mundy||-||-||-||Didn't really cover anyone.|
|Trent||1||5||-4||DNP due to broken hand suffered against Wisconsin. Expected to play versus MSU.|
|"Pressure"||8||5||3||Two sacks; rolling pocket utilized extensively to neutralize the Michigan front.|
|"Coverage"||11||13||-2||About right, I feel. Guys came open but not so much so that Michigan State could drive the field.|
Burgess had what is probably his best game at Michigan. No flashy interceptions he did little to cause (the "Laurinitas") but a lot of block-shedding and fierce tackling that severely limited MSU's YAC all day. Lamarr Woodley was quiet in the passing game but killed a couple Spartan drives with outstanding plays against the run.
Leon Hall is good.
Both MSU touchdowns were the result of safety errors. Jamar Adams let Jerramy Scott get way behind him on third and eleven for a forty-yard gain that turned a potential punt and State's death by blunt object into a touchdown drive that gave the Spartans a flicker of home. Willis Barringer got behind a crossing route and missed a tackle, turning a five-yard cross into 39 yards.
Morgan Trent, unfortunately, was either Charles Stewart in another uniform or just plain off because of his hand injury. He was beaten for completions a few times and was fortunate not to give up a forty-yard touchdown pass when he let Michigan State freshman TJ Williams behind him in the first half. It was his worst game of the year.
Is the lack of pressure from the front four concerning at all?
(Note that "front four" in this case often encapsulates Shawn Crable.) Somewhat. Both sacks came from blitzers and when Michigan sent four there were a couple instances where Stanton had the proverbial all day to survey and throw. Often, though, he was mere moments away from being crushed into goo when he let a pass go and the push up front prevented him from stepping into a number of throws, forcing inaccurate passes. When Stanton stayed in the pocket, the results were all right.
What Michigan does have to do is find some way to neutralize the rollouts Michigan State employed with great success. Anthony Morelli isn't much for mobility, but both Iowa and Ohio State have quarterbacks who can get out of the pocket and throw on the run. It was mildly depressing to see wide open Spartans when Stanton left the pocket. The disadvantage of the rollout is that it restricts your available routes to a thin slice of the field mostly outside the hashmarks. Usually an unsuccessful attempt to move the pocket ends with the quarterback hurling a hopeful pass to a tiny window right before he steps out of bounds, but that didn't happen. Instead, there were a lot of open 15-yard outs and the one 40-yarder that Adams gave up. File under "todo."
We're halfway through the year. What are the weaknesses in this D?
Corner depth. Clearly, Charles Stewart is a longshot to contribute in a positive way this year. That leaves the nickelback as either a safety or mighty-mite Brandon Harrison. The safeties are exploitable in man coverage -- witness Adams on Saturday or the CMU touchdown both Englemon and Mundy misplayed -- while Harrison is an iffy tackler and a guy who still seems uncomfortable with his role.
Also, the safeties have been far less reliable so far this year, but that's more a function of restoring normalcy after Herrmann's fraidy-cat 2005.
What are the strengths?
The run defense may be slightly overrated by the numbers, but it's not by much. Running attacks both conventional and un- have met their doom at the hands of Branch, Woodley, et al. Even Minnesota's occasional gashers were more due to misalignment than any particular failings on the part of the players themselves.
One often hears "may be one of the best in the country" and such, so much that it hardly has meaning, but if you can find a front seven in the country better than Michigan's I'd be surprised.
Who has underperformed expectations?
Tim Jamison hasn't been the terrifying beast off the edge Michigan fans were told he would be. An early injury slowed his progress, but he's healthy now and not making much impact splitting time with Rondell Biggs.
Collectively, the safeties have given up more plays than they've made, though Jamar Adams has been excellent in run-support.
Who has overperformed expectations?
Shawn Crable was the guy singled out by the coaching staff as a breakout player, but's Prescott Burgess who has become a reliable partner to David Harris. He still gets caught out of positon occasionally, but freed from Herrmann's mindbending schemes Burgess has been aggressive and effective, one of the main cogs in the Michigan run defense.
Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson have done much more than just occupy blockers; collectively they're better than oft-winded Gabe Watson was last year. Rondell Biggs has been a consistently reliable steady solid rock who is not useless in pass rush.
Also, can I say David Harri s here? Last year he was all those Biggs backhanded compliments in one package. He looked amazing next to the chaos at outside linebacker. This year the outside linebackers are actually good... and he still looks amazing. Whether it's sticking 260-pound PJ Hill and driving him backwards or shooting out to blow up a screen thrown to Kerry Reed, Harris has been all over the field, doing all the things you expect him to and several you don't. Kiper just put him on his draft board at #19, and that doesn't seem entirely ridiculous. (Especially since it's just seniors -- Harris would probably fall into the early second with juniors included.)
And what does it mean for Penn State?
I'd be shocked if Hunt outperforms Hill or Walker or Caulcrick. He's a solid, thumping back quite capable of turning 3 into 7, but get to him at 0 and he'll turn it into 0. He's got to have lanes and momentum to be effective; Michigan has yielded precious few to date. Given the struggles they're having with a nearly all-new offensive line, one that has some injury troubles, it's exceedingly improbable that this is the game Michigan's run defense collapses.
Morelli is a high variance quarterback capable of many, many things from laser-accurate posts to looping, idiotic throws into double coverage. Expect some of both. Penn State pick up chunks of yards when Good Morelli shows up, but without a consistent run game or a quarterback capable of dinking and dunking his way down the field, 10-play drives are not going to happen. Penn State will hope to break big plays with Morelli's arm and by using AJ Wallace and Derrick Williams as home-run threats on perimeter run plays -- how often they hit these big plays will determine how often they score. It says "not often" here.
The lingering impression from the Ohio State game was Morelli running for his life. I think we can do the same -- though two straight weeks without killing QBs has me somewhat concerned -- and clamp down on the Penn State offense something fierce.