I decided to re-watch the defense's first half performance against Notre Dame in slow motion and then post my observations. This is not meant as a replacement for Brian's UFR. You’ll notice a lack of statistics. The information below is just what stood out to me. Some of this has already been covered (often better than me) by BlueSeoul, Bodogblog, and Mr. Yost.
Four disclaimers: First, I am not a football coach. Second, everything below is written in the present tense. The observations are only meant to apply to the play or drive that is being discussed (unless otherwise noted). Third, I mostly focused on the front seven (as will be obvious). Four, I am not a harsh judge of players.
Please note that, as you may imagine, “C” = center, “G” = guard, and T = tackle below. I have also at times referred to Michigan’s nose tackle and three-tech as “DTs.” The order of Michigan’s DLs, when listed below, is always in order from right to left from the point of view of ND’s offense. A DL of Heininger, Martin, Van Bergen, and Black would therefore have Heininger across from ND’s RT, MM at NT, RVB at the 3-tech, and Black across from ND’s LT.
I put general observations about the defense’s performance at the end if you want to skip ahead. I also put drive summaries at the end of every drive after I realized just how long this thing got to be.
1st play: Michigan comes out in nickel defense. Desmond Morgan (“DM”) is at WLB. ND is four wide. Michigan’s DL is Craig Roh (“CR”), Mike Martin (“MM”), Will Heininger (“WH”), and Ryan Van Bergen (“RVB”). Note that RVB is at DE and WH is at the 3-tech.
The play ends up as a run between MM and CR. It’s not clear to me where it was intended to go. Kenny Demens (“KD”) and DM are both ready to snuff out a run between MM and WH (the DTs), where the RB initially seems to be headed. MM is doubled by ND’s C and G at first. The C then releases and gets a little bit of a block on DM. The G does an excellent job of moving his feet to wall off MM. The RB gets between MM and CR. KD has moved too far into the original gap between MM and WH to make play. DM cannot arm tackle the RB after having committed to stopping the play from going between MM and WH. Kovacs is forced to make the tackle on a ten yard gain. KD ran back into the play and was ready to aid in the tackle if needed.
2nd play: ND puts a TE off of its left tackle. Michigan’s DL is RVB, MM, WH, and CR. The DL appears to slant to ND’s right. This is bad, as the play is a run left. All of Michigan’s DLs are walled off, leaving a gaping hole on ND’s left side. Thomas Gordon (“TG”) flies into it, though, and appears to force the RB back up the middle. WH does a nice job of standing his ground. DM is forced to take on an OL and the RB at the same time. He avoids being blocked and gets his arms around the RB. The fact that TG tries to tackle the RB at the same time appears to cause DM to have to let go. TG drags the RB down w/ KD and RVB helping to clean up the mess.
3rd play: Michigan’s DL is now WH, MM, RVB, and CR. ND has a TE set off of its RT. WH and MM do a good job of collapsing ND’s line backward. CR crashes down on the RB. This would all be great if the play was a run. It is not. Rees rolls to his left unmolested and hits Floyd for a big gain.
4th play: ND has a TE off of its LT. M’s DL is Jibreel Black (“Black”), RVB, MM, and WH. Jake Ryan (“JR”) is lined up just off the line of scrimmage across from the TE. A WR (TE?) comes in motion to act as a blocker. ND’s OL rips a big hole between MM and WH. Its formerly-motioning WR/TE guy takes KD out of the play. A G gets loose and envelopes DM. DM goes a good job of working his way back toward the RB despite having the mammoth G on him and helps Courtney Avery (“CA”) make the tackle.
5th play: ND has a TE off of its LT and another offset just behind him. M’s DL is WH, MM, RVB, and Black. Rees and the C muff their exchange. Rees recovers.
6th play: M’s DL is RVB, MM, WH, and Black. ND is four wide. DM shows blitz. DM does blitz. The DL slants to ND’s right. Rees has checked into a pitch left to the RB. Black shows good athleticism to chase him down for a short gain.
7th play: 3rd and goal. ND is four wide. M’s DL is CR, MM, and RVB. DM shows blitz again. Van Slyke is in the game. He shows blitz too. DM, KD, and Van Slyke all blitz. Rees rolls away from an unblocked RVB. Rees hits his WR for a TD. TG cannot quite make a play.
Summary: M cannot get off of run blocks, cover anyone downfield, or generate a pass rush. M does hustle. DM is better than he looked to me live. ND’s OL does not seem bigger than Western Michigan’s (“WMU”), but they are considerably quicker.
1st play: ND is four wide. M is in the nickel w/ DM lined up on a slot. M’s DL is CR, WH, MM, and RVB. M only brings its DLs (they slant to ND’s right?), and they are stonewalled. Rees checks down to his RB, and the RB is eventually tackled by Kovacs and a host of others after gaining a first down.
2nd play: ND has a TE off of its RT. M’s DL is CR, WH, MM, and RVB. The DL slants to ND’s right again. MM gets good penetration and swallows the RB (w/ a bit of help from CR) for a loss.
3rd play: ND has a TE off of its RT. M’s DL is CR, MM, WH, and RVB. No one is really an NT on this play. Kovacs and DM show blitz and do blitz. The blitz comes from the opposite side of the line that ND runs toward. WH and RVB are walled off in opposite directions. ND has an embarrassment of blockers free for its RB at one point. An OL and WR take out KD. A free pulling G isn’t even needed. The RB takes the play back inside, seemingly b/c TG is coming down to take away his outside running lane. Marvin Robinson (“MR”) makes a shoe-string tackle with help from JT Floyd (“JT”). This play could have been a TD w/out those two, though CA seemed to have an angle on him if need be.
4th play: ND goes five wide. M’s DL is Black, WH, MM, and RVB. There is no true NT on this play. DM comes free on a blitz. Black drops into coverage and does a good job of it. KD cannot get to the slot that he’s supposed to cover in time. He and TG make a tackle after a gain of about seven.
5th play: ND has a TE off of its LT. M’s DL is Black, Quinton Washington (“QW”), Will Campbell (“WC”), and CR. WC is the NT. ND’s LT jumps early, and the play is blown dead.
6th play: ND goes five wide. M’s DL is JR, QW, WH, and Black. DM blitzes. DM comes free and hits Rees, but Rees is able to check down to a WR who is running a shallow crossing route. ND gets its first down.
7th play: ND is four wide. M’s DL is Black, WH, QW, and JR. All are successfully pushed to ND’s left. QW seems to briefly get a good push but ends up on the ground (he seems to lose his balance more than he seems to be overpowered). The play is a screen to Floyd, who is forced inside by KD and who gains about eight.
8th play: ND has two TE (one for each OT). M has three LBs in the game: DM, KD, and JR. The DL is CR, RVB, WH, and Nathan Brink (“NB”). DM and JR blitz. MM gets a good push past his man but an RB picks him up. RVB looks like he’s being held. CR gets a bit of a push. RVB nearly bats down the pass. Rees hits a TE for a first down.
9th play: ND goes four wide. CR, RVB, MM, and Brink are the DL. JR is standing up on the line off of Brink. DM (not TG, as you might expect) is lined up on a slot. Rees doesn’t like something and takes a time out.
ESPN goes to commercial: Did you know that we football fans can purchase beer if we so choose?
10th play: ND goes five wide. DM shows blitz. The DL is CR, WH, MM, and RVB. DM settles back as if he’s going to cover a slot. RVB is not lined up as close to the line as the rest of the DL. DM blitzes. RVB sags into coverage. At least two ND receivers are open underneath. Rees hits Floyd for a first down.
11th play: ND has two TEs. M’s DL is CR, RVB, MM, and WH. JR is on the LOS. The DL slants to ND’s right again. ND is pulling left. A TE and a pulling guard take on KD and DM. DM and JR fight off blocks to take down the RB.
12th play: ND has two TEs again. M’s DL is CR, RVB, MM, and Black. JR is on the LOS. MM gets a push, and the RB cuts away from him. Black is blown way off the ball by two blockers, one of whom later releases and gets KD. These two blockers pave the way for ND’s 2nd TD.
Summary: Rees gets the ball out quickly, and this has negated any plays so far in which M has brought a free man. DM is not as bad in this game as people have made him out to be, in my opinion. MM, though, has been Michigan’s only ready-for-prime-time player. This is an unhappy juncture.
1st play: ND starts on M’s 39. They go four wide. M’s DL is Black, MM, RVB, and JR. Hawthorne (“BH”) is now in for DM. BH blitzes, MM slips his man, and they collide in the backfield like Keystone Cops while the RB alludes their grasp out of pure luck. RVB forces the RB to avoid him, and KD and Kovacs take him down for a minimal gain. Kovacs appears to really lay a lick.
2nd play: ND goes four wide again. M’s DL is CR, MM, RVB, and JR. KD and BH both blitz. CR and JR drop into coverage. Kovacs comes on a delayed blitz. Rees might be a little rushed by the blitz and misses his open man.
3rd play: ND goes five wide. M’s DL is CR, MM, RVB, and JR. BH blitzes again, and CR drops again. BH comes free and seemingly forces Rees to use a side-arm delivery. The pass is incomplete. Punt.
Summary: Michigan could have easily had a TFL on 1st down. BH’s speed brought something to the game. Rees mostly just missed a man on 2nd down, but this was a good drive for Michigan at a time when ND really could have put the knife in.
1st play: ND has a TE off of its LT. M’s DL is JR, MM, RVB, and CR. TG is on a slot, and either there are only three DLs in the game (w/ JR being an SLB) or there is no SLB. M’s DL, LBs, and JT (who was covering Floyd) all bite on a run fake to ND’s left. Rees pulls the ball back and hits Floyd on a quick pass to the right. He gains many yards.
2nd play: ND has a TE off of its LT. Rees is under center. DL is JR, MM, RVB, and Black. This is a very nice play for M: An ND guard pulls to ND’s left. KD reads this and meets him at the LOS. RVB ties up two blockers. MM fights off his block to slide down the line to help tackle the RB. Black goes around his man (at TE) to do the same. JR crashes down and just misses decapitating the RB.
3rd play: ND goes four wide. M’s DL is only Black, MM, and RVB. BH is lined up on the LOS where a DE would usually be. JR is lined up where the WLB would usually be. JR and KD both blitz. BH drops. Rees isn’t really under pressure, but he throws an incompletion that Floyd almost catches with one hand. Troy Woolfolk (“TW”) is hurt on the play.
4th play: Rees calls a TO before I can get much of a look at anything. ESPN goes to commercial: An investment company wants you to buy soap or eat chicken or something.
5th play: ND goes five wide. M’s DL is RVB, MM, and Black. JR is between RVB and MM and looking like he’ll blitz. BH is between MM and Black and looking like he’ll blitz. M is in cover zero. MR looks like he’s going to blitz too. Everyone but the three DLs drop into coverage (as on ND’s final TD?). Black comes free, seemingly not by design on ND’s part. Rees moves to his right to get away. He tries to hit Floyd, but Kovacs has sagged off of the LOS and into the space between Rees and Floyd. Interception.
Summary: MM, RVB, JR, and KD are starting to match ND’s physicality. Black is very quick. I believe that the Kovacs interception play is going to be very similar to the last ND TD play in terms of scheme. As with WMU, ND gets rid of the ball too quickly to get much of a pass rush.
1st play: ND has four wide. DL is Black, WH, MM, and JR. JB Fitzgerald (“JB”) is in at MLB. MM and WH break free b/c it’s a screen. Rees wisely throws the ball at his RB’s feet b/c Black recognized the screen and is on top of the RB. Black throws the RB to the ground for good measure. Excellent play by Black.
2nd play: ND goes four wide again. DL is Black, MM, and WH. JR, JB, and BH all to one side or the other of M’s DEs. Rees apparently sees this and checks into a draw up the middle. The play gashes M for a big gain (MR makes another shoestring tackle). WMU did this same thing when M’s LBs all vacated the middle last week.
3rd play: ND goes four wide. DL is CR, WH, MM, and JR. JR gets in Rees’s face a bit despite being cut by an RB. Roh gets off the line quickly, but the play is too quick-hitting for a sack. CA is flagged for interference for jamming Floyd too far past the LOS.
4th play: ND is four wide. DL is JR, WH, RVB, and CR. Kovacs blitzes. False start by ND.
5th play: ND is four wide. DL is JR. RVB, WH, and CR. JR is a little bit farther off the LOS than the rest of the DLs. He drops into coverage. TG and JB blitz. BH hauls ass to cover the spot vacated by them. ND’s OL holds everyone back to give Rees enough time to hit Floyd for 25 yards.
6th play: ND goes into a goal line formation. Two TEs on the line and two offset off of them. M’s DL is Black, RVB, WC, and WH. KD is back in the game. JR is lined up on the LOS standing. WC gets so low that ND’s interior lineman are literally on his back as they push him into the ground. WC has gummed things up, though. WH is turned around. Black runs into him. BH leaps over the LOS and hits the RB. JR gets the RB from behind after blowing up a TE. The RB gains the six inches that he needed. Nice play by JR, BH, and WC, though.
7th play: ND has two TEs and a WR/TE lurking behind the line to block. DL is Black, RVB, WC, and WH. JR is standing on the LOS. ND pulls a G to its left. WH is cleared out, allowing the play to work. KD fights off the pulling G to make the tackle after about a five yard gain. JR looks like he was held.
8th: ND has a TE next to its RT and two TE-types offset behind/next to him. DL is WH, MM, RVB, and Black. RJ is standing at the LOS. BH shows to blitz between WH and JR. ND runs a toss right with a guard pulling in that direction. JT forces the RB inside. KD makes a shoe-string tackle even as his helmet comes off. ND gains about two yards.
9th play: ND has a TE for either OT. DL is CR, RVB, MM, and WH. BH is standing on the LOS, as his JR. Kovacs is lined up where an LB would normally be. The play clock expires, and ND is flagged.
10th play: ND goes four wide. DL is CR, MM, and RVB. JR is lined up behind MM. BH appears to be covering a receiver (it sure looks like it’s No. 7). JR blitzes. There is no real pass rush, and Rees hits Floyd for a first down.
11th play: ND has a TE for each OT. DL is CR, RVB, MM, and WH. JR is standing on the LOS. DL seems to slant to DN’s right. Rees rolls right. There is no real pass rush, but he forces the ball to Floyd, who is covered by Kovacs and JT. JT intercepts the pass.
Summary: Marvin Robinson has now made a couple of tackles that have kept plays from becoming super-long gains. This is an improvement from Michigan safety play in the past five years…Michigan was very inconsistent on this drive. There were some nice efforts. Ultimately, no one player can cover Floyd. Two, however, can, and JT should be praised for not letting his confidence get so low that he couldn’t make a play when he had the chance.
1st play: ND starts on the 50. They have a TE off of their LT. DL appears to be CR, WH, MM, and JR. BH bites on a run fake just enough to make room for Rees to hit Floyd for slant that he turns into a first down.
2nd play: ND has a TE off of its LT and another TE-type offset off of him. DL is JR, MM, WH, and Black. The play is a toss left. Black fights off his man and gets into the backfield. MM quickly gets to the RB. CA somehow shows up on the play. CA, KD, MM, and BH drag the RB down for about a three yard gain.
3rd play: TW is back in the game. ND has a TE off of its LT and a TE-type in the backfield to block. The DL is Black, RVB, MM, and WH. JR is standing at the LOS. WH and MM stand the play up. KD, RVB, and JT take the RB down for a minimal gain.
4th play: ND goes four wide. DL is Black, MM, RVB. KD is on the LOS outside of Black. Kovacs and BH are on the LOS outside of RVB. Kovacs and JT blitz. BH sags back to cover JT’s man. MM sags into coverage, as does KD. The play is a draw up the middle for a first down. In a game of rock-paper-scissors, Mattison picked scissors, and Kelly picked big-ass-rock on this play.
5th play: Rees goes under center (I haven’t always been noting this). ND has a TE for each OT. DL is WH, WC, RVB, and CR. JR is standing on the LOS. Rees rolls right buy design and throws an incompletion out of bounds.
6th play: ND goes four wide. DL is RVB, MM, and CR. BH, KD, JR, and Kovacs are all lined up on the LOS and outside of the tackles (or at least the guards). Rees apparently checks into a new play. BH and KD drop into coverage. RVB slips his man. Kovacs almost gets around a tackle (!). The two put the best pressure of the day so far on Rees, who throws an incompletion out of bounds.
7th play: ND goes four wide. DL is CR, RVB, MM, and JR. CR twists around RVB but is met buy a double team. TG jams up his man, and Rees throws an incompletion (though I’m not 100% sure that Rees wasn’t looking for Floyd, who wasn’t covered by TG).
8th play: ND kicks a field goal.
Summary: ND throws the ball too quickly to get much pressure. Michigan is now defending the run well except on the plays in which it has no one lined up behind the DTs. No one can cover Floyd one-on-one, though this hardly makes Michigan unique…Following this defensive effort is taking a hell of a lot longer than it did for the WMU game. Will ND never stop running plays?
7th Drive (and 1st of the 2nd half):
1st Play: ND has a TE off of its LT and another TE just offset of him. M’s DL is RVB, MM, WC, and Roh. JR is kinda-sorta on a slot. KD and BH are the LBs. It’s a run left. WC gets his man a yard into the backfield. CR splits a double team. BH drags the RB down for a three yard gain. Nice play all around.
2nd play: ND has a TE off of either OT. DL is RVB, MM, WC, and Roh. JR is on the LOS off of a TE. It’s a pass. JR blitzes. MM splits a double team and looks like he’s held. WC comes around on sort of stunt and nearly bats down the pass. Rees his Floyd for a first down.
3rd play: NT has a TE off of its RT. DL is CR, WC, MM, and RVB. Kovacs is lined up off a WR. JR is on the LOS on the opposite side of the TE. ND’s TE comes in motion behind his line and will act as a lead blocker. It’s a run. MM again looks like he’s being held. RVB goes too far outside. The middle is open because of these two things. KD and BH are blocked by the TE who motioned and a G. Kovacs and JR tackle the RB after a long gain.
4th play: ND has a TE off of its RT. DL is CR, MM, WC, and Black. ND’s RT moves too soon and is flagged.
ESPN runs a graphic showing that Floyd and Cierre Wood are killing Michigan.
5th play: ND goes four wide. DL is JR, RVB, MM, and Black. TG is in instead of a 3rd LB. RVB gets in the backfield very quickly (seemingly not by design by ND) and would have had a sack on any play but what this is: a quick screen to Floyd, who is eventually tackled by Marvin Robinson after a nice gain.
6th play: ND has a TE for either OT. DL is Black, RVB, MM, and WH. JR is on the LOS off of the LT. BH blitzes. MM gets a good push. A quick pass from Rees hits Floyd four six yards.
7th play: 3rd and 1. ND has a TE off of its RT. Another TE comes in motion to lead block. DL is Black, RVB, MM, WH, with BH and JR on the LOS. RVB shrugs off his man, and JR comes from the other side unblocked. They engulf the RB for a loss (w/ a little help from KD at the end).
Summary: RVB had some good plays. MM looked like he was held twice. WC played most of the drive and has some nice moments and no bad moments. Michigan looks like a bunch of guys who know what they need to do but can’t quite do it (or at least not all the time). They are at least aggressive when making mistakes.
1st play: ND has a TE off of its LT. DL is JR, MM, RVB, and CR. TG is in instead of a 3rd LB. It’s a run right. JR attacks left and the RT collapses him inside. A G pulls left. KD has to take on the G and does a nice job of at least forcing the RB back inside. Multiple blocks from Floyd downfield allow the RB to get loose for a huge gain. TW eventually tackles him.
2nd play: ND comes out w/ two TEs. Rees doesn’t like something and calls TO.
3rd play: ND comes out a TE for each OT again. DL is CR, WC, MM, and RVB. JR is on the LOS off of the LT. Kovacs is in the box. It’s a run. MM and WC push their men into the backfield. JR pushes a TE into the backfield. The RB has to make an adjustment to having his TE in his face and fumbles the ball. WC recovers. This was a better play by Michigan than I thought it was live, though the fumble was still largely unforced.
Summary: Michigan’s defense looks like a boxer who generally isn’t all that sound but who KOs an opponent every once in a while (old George Foreman, maybe). They’ve mostly been matching – or even exceeding – ND’s physicality at this point for a long time. They don’t get down when they give up a big gain.
1st play: ND has a TE for each OT. DL is Black, RVB, MM, and JR. TG is in instead of a 3rd LB. It’s a sweep right, in the direction of Black. Black is pushed back just enough by a TE, and RVB gets sort of turned around and then pushed into the ground. A T releases and gets KD. A G pulls and gets BH. The RT releases (b/c the TE got Black) and gets BH. Too many OLs are downfield, and the RB jukes MR (first time he’s in this situation tonight) on his way to a big gain.
2nd play: ND has a TE for the RT. DL is Black, RVB, MM, and JR. JT shows (he’s lined up on Floyd in the slot). Rees checks into a new play. It’s a sweep away from JT. MM pushes his man back and forces the RB to hesitate. Black does the same. RVB holds the point of attack. KD cleans up the RB for no gain.
3rd play: ND has a TE off of its RT. DL is Black, MM, and RVB. Kovacs, BH, JR and KD are on the LOS. No one is behind the DTs at the start of the play. Rees checks into a new play. It’s a draw up the middle. BH and KD make for the middle at the snap. KD looks like he’s held and blocked in the back. He still hits the RB for a minimal gain (w/ some help from MM). Here we saw an adjustment (in action if not in design) to the draws that were killing Michigan in the first half and WMU game.
4th play: ND has a TE off of its RT. DL is CR, RVB, MM, and JR. It’s a pass. Rees rolls left by design. KD comes down to contain him. Rees hits Floyd for a nice gain.
ESPN shows ND’s leprechaun. He appears to be experiencing a moment of joy despite the obvious and doubtlessly painful absurdity of his existence.
5th play: ND has a TE off of its RT. DL is CR, RVB, WH, and JR. TG is in for a 3rd LB. Rees checks into a new play. It’s a run right. TG blitzes right into the play. RVB shoots through the line. CR pushes his man back into another blocker. RVB, JR, and TG swallow the RB for a big loss. WH, though, is flagged for holding b/c he grabbed just a bit of an OLs jersey as he was falling over. Hoke is rightfully unhappy with this.
6th play: ND is four wide. DL is JR, WH, RVB, and CR. TG is in the game for a 3rd LB. TG blitzes. Rees tries to hit Floyd in the endzone, but JT molests Floyd just enough to force an incompletion. You have to say this for JT: He never quit despite the fact that it must have felt like he was trying to guard Michael Jordon one-on-one in a basketball game.
7th play: ND has a TE off of its RT. DL is Black, MM, and WH. JR shows rush from a standing position between Black and MM. JR and KD both blitz through this space. KD impressively beats a block by an OT to take down the RB for a minimal gain w/ the help of WH and MM.
8th play: ND goes five wide. DL is RVB, MM, and Black. Kovacs shows like he will blitz off of the RT. Only the three DLs rush. Rees has a long time. He checks down to a WR who benefits from a missed tackle by Van Slyke. An ND WR (No. 6?) blocks three Wolverines on the play to allow No. 7 to score!
Summary: Bad down-field tackling hurt Michigan here (largely an anomaly so far). So did the bogus holding penalty. Michigan at least adjusted to the no-one-over-the-DTs-we’re-going-to-kill-you-with-a-draw play. For those who criticize Mattison’s call on the last touchdown of the game, remember that Michigan got burned for a TD here while rushing only three (though I grant that there is a happy medium).
1st play: NT goes four wide. DL is CR, RVB, MM, and JR. Kovacs in almost in the box. The DL slants right. Rees rolls right by design. Kovacs blitzes. CR blasts a RB backward. Rolling into the slant seems to make Rees get rid of the ball quickly. BH is all over the intended receiver. Incompletion.
2nd play: ND has a TE off of its RT. ATE goes in motion. DL is RVB, MM, QW, and CR. JR ends up on the LOS when the TE settles behind the RG. MM appears to be held yet again. RVB is successfully cleared out by a double team. BH and TG drag the RB down after a seven yard gain.
3rd play: ND has a TE off of its RT. The DL is RVB, MM, WC, and CR. JR is on a TE who is in the slot. The TE goes in motion and settles behind the RT. BH either blitzes or reads the play incredibly quickly. MM and WC stand their ground. RVB gets a very good push on two blockers. BH knifes through and tackles the RB for a big loss.
Summary: This drive belonged to BH. MM seems to be held around the neck from behind pretty frequently with no calls.
ND starts on its 40.
1st play: ND has a TE off of its LT. The DL is JR, MM, RVB, and Black. TG is on a slot. RVB gets a nice rush. Rees gets rid of the ball to a TE. BH tackles him after a five yard gain.
2nd play: ND has a TE for each OT. DL is Black, WC, MM, RVB. JR is on the LOS off of the RT. It appears to be a run right, but RVB and MM have that side bottled up. WC gets off his man enough to get a hand on the RB as he cuts back left. KD gets him by the ankles for a two yard gain. WC’s man is called for holding.
3rd play: ND goes four wide. DL is Black, MM, RVB, and JR. It’s a pass. JR drops into coverage. So does Black. BH blitzes. ND throws a screen to Floyd that Black eats up for no gain.
4th play: 3rd and 15. ND goes four wide. DL is JR, MM, RVB, and JR. KD and BH show blitz but then back off but then show again. Rees calls a TO as the clock runs down. Brian Kelly appears to say that he would have preferred events to have followed a different course.
5th play: ND goes four wide. DL is JR, MM, RVB, and CR. CR gets a great jump off of the snap. Only the DLs rush. CR forces Rees up into the pocket, where MM is being successfully held. Rees throws a dart through a small window (nice coverage by KD) for a first down.
6th play: ND goes four wide. DL is JR, MM, RVB, CR. TG is on a slot. It’s a run left. CR is cleared out (though he may have been slanting). TG does a great job of stalking up to the RB so that he keeps contain. TG makes the tackle for a minimal gain. Really nice play.
7th play: ND has four wide. JR, MM, RVB, and CR are the DL. TG is on a slot and shows blitz late. KD blitzes too. JR drops back into a zone. Rees threads a needle to Floyd for a first down. Michigan had this well covered.
8th play: ND has a TE off of its RT. DL is Black, WC, and CR. JR shows blitz between Black and WC. JR gets a good push with some help from WC. Rees hits a WR on a slant for a nice gain. TW appears to break his nose making the tackle as his helmet comes off. With his cast and nose, the poor guy looks like he just got in a bar.
9th play: ND has a TE off of its RT. TG is on a slot. The DL is Black, RVB, MM, and JR. Kovacs comes into the box as if he’ll blitz, and Rees changes the play. Kovacs blitzes. KD does too. ND’s OL creates a nice pocket. CA is called for a bogus PI in the end zone on very nice coverage. His sin was probably never turning his head around. Hoke walks onto the field and matter-of-factly tells a ref that the call was terrible. Black, an animated player, tries to buck up CA.
10th play: ND has a TE off of its LT and another in motion. The DL is Black, WC, MM, and RVB. JR is on the LOS off of the TE. Rees checks into a new play. It’s a pass. Kovacs and JR blitz. MM gets a good push. Black would have knocked the pass down if it had not come out of Rees’s hand before he could bring it forward. RVB recovers the fumble.
Summary: Rees taketh away and then giveth on this drive. His poise and accurate passing combined with a bad PI call to give ND a drive here. Michigan played pretty well on this drive, though the fumble was of course a gift.
1st play: ND has a TE off of each OT. DL is CR, WC, MM, and RVB. JR is on the LOS off of the TE off the LT. Kovacs is on a slot. It’s a run up the middle. WC pushes back two men. RVB beats his man, and he and KD tackle the RB for a short gain.
2nd play: ND again has a TE for each OT, though Rees is now in shotgun. DL is CR, WC, MM, and RVB. JR is on the LOS across from the TE off of the LT. MM pushes his man straight back, but Rees hits a WR for a quick, six-yard gain.
3rd play: 3rd and I. ND has a TE off of its RT. Another TE motions to become a lead blocker. DL is CR, WC, MM, and RVB, with JR and BH both on the LOS. Kovacs is in the box. BH blitzes. This makes the TE across from JR engage with him and let JR mostly go free. WC absolutely hammers his man, knocking him to the ground. The TE who was in motion has to pick up WC. JR cleans up the RB with the help of KD, who is free b/c of the TE having to pick up WC. Loss of two or three on the play.
Summary: Michigan owned the LOS on this drive. A blitzing BH and butt-whooping WC created the havoc on the last play necessary for JR and KD to share a TFL.
ND starts on its 39.
1st play: ND goes five wide. DL is CR, RVB, MM, and JR. BH blitzes while CR drops. Rees is crunched by BH and JR has he throws a long pass to Floyd. Floyd draws a PI call.
2nd play: ND goes five wide. DL is CR, RVB, MM, and JR. CR drops again. Only the other three DLs rush. Rees has all day and hits a receiver for ten yards.
3rd play: ND goes four wide. DL is CR, MM, RVB, and JR. They look confused before the play, and only MM is in his stance when the ball is snapped. Rees rolls right by design and hits a WR for about five yards. Michigan was giving this play by having its coverage back farther.
4th play: ND goes four wide. DL is Black, RVB, MM, and JR. KD and BH show blitz up the middle. Kovacs shows blitz. All three blitz (joining the DL in the rush), and Rees quickly gets rid of an incompletion that lands in the end zone.
5th play: ND goes four wide. M goes cover zero. The DL is Black, MM, and RVB. JR and BH show blitz up the middle. KD does not. Kovacs and MR show blitz off of the edges. Everyone but the three DLs drop into coverage. They don’t get back fast enough, of course, and Rees hits the WR for a TD.
Summary: Bad field position and Floyd’s dominance hurt them here. So did the fact that they can’t just rush the DLs and expect pressure. MR just didn’t get deep enough on the TD. My guess is that Mattison expected the ball to go to Floyd. Credit to Rees for seeing the open man.
General Impressions after watching seven quarters of Michigan defense this year
On WMU and ND: Both run what look to me to be very well-designed offenses. Both spread you out and hit you quickly. They don’t leave much room for sacks. ND’s athletes are obviously far superior to WMU’s. Both Rees and Carder make good adjustments pre-snap and fast decisions post-snap. I wouldn’t get down on Rees if I was an ND fan. He’s a tough player…I will be interested to see Michigan play against teams that run more conventional offenses. I think that they’ll be playing into Michigan’s hands.
On the DL: MM almost always either holds his ground or gets a push. He was held three or four times in the ND game with no call.
RVB got a good push on running plays against WMU. He played much better in the second half of the ND game than in the first. He's not MM, but Michigan would be doing much better if everone were as good as he is.
Black is really athletic and pretty talkative out there. I like his energy a lot. His weakness is holding the point of attack. He’s almost like a big linebacker right now.
Roh is better at the point of attack than Black but doesn’t make as many plays. I haven’t seen him do anything really good or bad.
Heininger generally does an okay job of holding down the fort. Brink doesn’t do anything to stand out. Washington has barely played.
Campbell was neither good nor bad against WMU and then really showed up against ND. The ND game showed us why the coaches talk so much about consistency with him.
On the LBs: Kenny Demens is very, very solid and just a tough dude.
Ryan has done a lot of nice things as a SLB/DE, obviously. He appears to be a favorite to play DE when the opposing team goes four or five wide. I don’t have anything to say about him that hasn’t already been said.
Hawthorne is an obvious step up from Herron. He looks to have a much better feel for the position.
Morgan was not as bad as some have said against ND, IMO. He struggled as the whole unit did and still made at least one nice play. I look forward to seeing what he can do in the future.
On the DBs: They looked like they knew what they were doing more than any other unit against WMU. They were just plain out-matched against ND. The good news is that there aren’t a lot of Michael Floyds in the schedule (are there any?). Kovacs has obviously been great. Thomas Gordon has done some nice things. I give credit to Avery and JT Floyd for keeping their heads in the game against ND.
On blitzing and play-calling: Mattison doesn’t have particularly good corners or a front four that is going to get much of a rush w/out help. In the absence of Charles Woodson or Lamar Woodley, he’s got to mix things up to try to stop the pass. I think he’s done a good job so far of making Michigan a fairly hard team to predict in terms of what they’ll do in any given situation. Note that the last ND TD play was not a blitz. It only appeared to be one pre-snap.
On tackling: It’s generally been good. I haven’t thought much about it during the two games, which is a positive thing.
Verdict: Michigan has a lot of good parts but they haven’t put everything together yet. I think, FWIW, that this defense will continue to get better as the year goes on. They obviously believe in what they’re doing and in each other. They at least make fast, aggressive, and violent mistakes. Consistency and a lack of top-end talent at CB are the biggest issues.