TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
Know your enemy
Not much time this week, but I wanted to put up some plays from the OSU games, Neb game wrap will come out during the down time before the bowl game. Win or lose vs TSIO, revisiting the beatdown will be something fun to do in a week or so.
OSU used a lot of unbalanced sets against Purdue, so our CB's have to be ready for it and talk to the LB's so that we can get properly aligned.
On this play, the boilers are in man coverage so when the TE flops, the OLB goes with him. This means the the DE no longer has contain so both he and the DT on that side shift down a gap. The OLB needs to be aware that his man is now ineligible to go downfield, so he doesn't have any coverage responsibilities, or he's got backs coming out of the backfield.
Purdue is betting against Miller's passing game and has 8 in the box, 9 if you count that CB who is kind of playing center field on the backside. The two receivers are man'd up by the CB and FS
OSU continues to have problems identifying who to block with their zone scheme. Both the split end and the LG completely whiff leaving the two frontside LB's unblocked.
There is a danger of a playaction rollout on this play. If that safety is so far off of the split end, there's a lot of room for him to do a post deep cross, so it's important for the backside DE to keep contain and respect Miller on a rollout.
With the missed block, this is an easy TFL for purdue, but their frontside defenders have also beaten their blockers since they maintained outside leverage and the LB forced the RB to bounce.
On this play we've got the same formation, but it's flipped. Again, Purdue is selling out against the run. They're showing 9 in the box as that CB is faking a blitz, but he steps back and is in man coverage with the split end. Again, the TE is inelligible, so guy #5 up there has contain on the strong side and guy #1 has contain on the weakside.
Again, there's a real danger for playaction on that post or crossing route. The SAM backer has to get into a pass drop if he reads pass blocking from the linemen. This play turns into a lead draw, so he's okay, but he's in a tough position because he has to help in coverage and watch for the cutback once he sees that the action is going weakside. Fortunately for Purude, the DE beats his block and the FB fails to pick him up.
So this results in another TFL, but if that SAM evacuates his area too quickly, there's going to be a huge cutback lane.
[ed: time to jump]
Programming note: Next week will be pretty busy with thanksgiving break and all, so I'm gonna go ahead and put up all my OSU stuff this week. The Nebraska game wrap might be a week late too, especially if we don't win.
Old Scouting Report is Old
There are just way too many red and white teams in this league now.
I had watched this game when it happened and had written up some notes and was planning to post it after the MSU game, but then I spent the week cursing at inanimate objects and hoping MSU's random bands of roving thugs would target Gholston.
There's been a lot of personnel changes since then so I've thrown out the old notes and started from scratch.
Both teams were coming off loses, Nebraska had just been blown out by Wisconsin thanks to a handful of Martinez interceptions and OSU had been blitzed to death by sparty. You can see the effect of both those games on some of the early playcalling in this one.
OSU on offense
No Dan Herron, and Shugarts hadn't gotten hurt yet. The offense was all about Hall and Stonebrunner and Miller's legs until he got hurt.
Miller is a scrambler
Like I said in the QB comparisons, Miller is more of a natural scrambler rather than an option runner.
On this play, the left side of the Nebraska D-line is going to stunt to get pressure on third down.
There's a missed holding call, but whatever. The DT gets around and tries an outside speedrush against Shugarts
This is a mistake against Miller. You want to keep him in front of you and don't open up big lanes like this. As soon as he feels the end rushers go past him, his first instinct is to scramble upfield. If you rush under control, he'll scramble laterally and can be coralled for a sack.
MSU had a lot of success the previous week by timing the snap and sending blitzers up the A gap. Nebraska tried it early, but didn't really get there because their timing wasn't as good. After this play they didn't really blitz much until Bauserman was in the game.
This is a 6 man blitz with one of the linebackers dropping into coverage.
There's a little bit of a twist going on with the right DE, but this was a called QB lead draw all the way. The blitzer gets blocked by the RB and Miller jabs his back foot and is off into the secondary.
Without any LBs on that side and the secondary playing man coverage, this turned into a big run for MIller.
This play shows just how quickly Miller will bail on a play. It's just a flare to hall at the top of the screen, but the Nebraska rusher gets a good bull rush.
When the defender jumps, Braxton decides he's seen enough and pulls down the ball.
Instead of looking for another target, he tucks the ball and runs.
Hyde got a lot of carries in the early part of the season when both Hall and Herron were doing their NCAA penance. That's dropped off considerably since Herron came back. He's got good straight line speed, especially for being a larger back, but his vision isn't very good. He's like Stephen Hopkins but with more speed. He still gets some duty on kickoffs, but mostly as the lead blocker for Hall.
You can see OSU's commitment to zone blocking on this play. It looks like a lead play because of the FB, but Hyde's route on the handoff indicates that he's free to pick whatever hole opens up. At the snap, all the motion is to the left. The Nebraska D-Line responds by moving with the slanting linemen. Miller does a reverse pivot.
But Hyde's aiming poing is not following Boren, the FB, instead he's aiming for the center of the line and bending back against the grain. For some reason, nebraska has a DB playing backside contain, and the Will linebacker has been fooled by Boren's path.
That DB doesn't understand "run fits" so he wasn't flowing the the D-Line and there's a huge gap between him and the DE that Hyde thanks him very much for. The weakside LB has over run the play and can't get back to make an arm tackle. Once Hyde gets past those two, he's pretty much untouched all the way to the endzone.
Throwback to Stonebrunner
With Corey Brown out and no one sure what Devier Posey will do, the RB's and Stonebrunner will be the focus of the passing game. This throwback screen should look familiar to Michigan fans, with the exception of the TE getting the ball instead of Vincent Smith.
Miller is going to roll out to the right while the O-line shows pass blocking.
Stonebrunner does an excellent job of selling the block and the OLB is completely caught flatfooted.
Stonebrunner comes off of contact and opens up for the pass, it's the center that gets the OLB and the other interior linemen are heading downfield
The blocking is setup well and Stonebrunner has enough speed for an easy 30+ yard TD
Nebraska on offense
Nebraska does a lot of different things on offense. They have the spread/zone read stuff, the power running game, and also the veer option offense. Burkehead will even get back in the shotgun to run some wildcat, probably because he's better at READING on the zone read plays than Martinez.
After taking a lot heat for the interceptions against Wisconsin, you got the feeling that he started out the game a little gunshy against TSIO.
That's his passing chart with about 4 minutes to go in the first half. Nothing deep or risky, and a double digit deficit to show for his 100% completion percentage. So Nebraska gets the ball realizing they've got to pass deep to soften up the defense.
This is Martinez trying to throw a deep ball.
And this is the result. That receiver is kinda open. I mean, yes, he's got 4 guys around him, but none within a 5 yard radius. Nebraska fans understand our pain when it comes to armpunts.
Where Martinez is realy dangerous is when he gets to accelerate straight ahead. This is a midline option keeper even though it looks like an outside zone read. You can tell by the pulling guard who goes off tackle. I think the sideline tells Martinez before the play whether or not to keep the ball on most plays. That would explain a lot of his "bad reads" and it makes sense that Bo Pelini would be a control freak (see below).
Burkehead's fake holds the contain man. The pulling lineman takes out the LB and the rest of the O-line is getting a good push up the middle.
This is the kind of run that Martinez loves. He's not the kind of guy that will cut back across the entire field, but he's very good at reading the blocks in front of him and making quick cuts without losing any speed.
Inverted T series
The way you design an offense is that you have a series of plays that work together or are out of the same formation. Sometimes during the game you have to scrap a series if the first couple plays don't work. But if the first play works for a big gainer, you can expect the defense to adjust and that opens up the companion plays.
Nebraska stumbled across such an opportunity in the middle of the 3rd quarter with this Inverted T formation. Some people call this a Diamond, but with the QB in the shotgun it looks more like a "T" to me. But the stumpy part is away from the LOS so I call it inverted. Here's what the standard T form looks like.
This is just a power sweep option. The odd thing is that Burkehead has a longer ways to go to get to his block, but he's a fast guy, so it's not a problem. The neat thing about this formation is that you can envision all kinds of counters and double option plays where the person in #2's position can pitch it to Burkehead or handoff to the the other HB coming back on the counter.
OSU is overreacting the motion and the whole right side of the defense is flowing. Ironically, the backside of the defense isn't reacting enough and the result is a gaping hole down the middle of the field.
I don't the think DE ever actually saw the ball because he keeps running with #2 even after Martinez zooms past him.
Against a normal QB, the safety and LB should have been able to stop this for a large gainer, but because they reacted slowly and because Martinez is already up to full speed, he blows by them like they're standing still.
From the endzone shot you can see just how wide open that running lane was.
A little later, they come back to the same formation, but this time the give is called. It doesn't work as well because the ball is on the hash and they're running into the sideline. But the point is to see how the defense has adjusted. The weakside linebacker is way closer to the play this time and #7 Howard is up in bump and run to take on the blocking in case there's a counter or reverse coming.
The DE is completely befuddled by this play. He's nowhere near the mesh point so he can't help on a Martinez keep. He's pointing out Burkehead to .....uh.... And he's not quick enough to get #2.
Again the backside has been completely sealed off, and Martinez woulda had plenty of room for a big gain if not enough for a TD like before. But I'm getting more convinced that he's not actually allowed to "read" the play. As it is, this play gets about 10 yards which coulda been a lot more if they hadn't run into the sideline.
A little later comes the payoff. They've got bump and run on the short side and they give them the same backfield motion.
But if the LB's and Safeties had been reading the O-line better, they'd have seen this was a pass.
Martinez drops a couple steps to give his receiver time to get open.
And the safeties are both dead. It's interesting that they run the same route with both WR, this shows a kind of lack of sophistication in the passing game. And it's only a 2 man route. But both WR had gotten a step on the DB's and this play get's Nebraska back within one TD.
He's not the fastest guy, but he's a solid football player. Martinez is probably more dangerous, but you've got to stop Burkehead first to slow down this offense.
This is an inside zone that should look pretty familiar to michigan fans. the H-back is coming across to either block the DE or go out in a pass route. There's also some bubblesceen motion with the slot receiver.
The DE is crashing hard and the H-back completely misses him. Martinez either missed the read, or it was a give all the way called by the sideline. .
If Martinez had kept it, there was a lot of open space once he cleared the DE. The lead blocker would have taken out the safety, 54 is taking to strong of an angle, and the other DB is too concerned with the bubble to have stopped Taylor. Instead #94 gets the TFL on Burkehead since #93 had gotten good penetration and Burkehead had to stop his feet.
On the game tying TD, Burkehead showed a nice jumpcut. (If you're not sure what a jumpcut is, here's a nice example of Miller doing one.) He gets the ball on the flare after Martinez scrambles around a bit to avoid the pressure.
The DB had him lined up for a big hit, except he jumps out of the way.
And with the big blitz called, the rest of the secondary is in tight man coverage and Burkehead has no one between him and the endzone.
So it was raining off and on during that game, which led to some amusing moments and a lot of slipping.
Martinez's throwing motion is even uglier when he's falling down.
Both sides were having trouble with it.
And Miller turned his ankle as he slipped on a cut.
Then Bauserman came in and promptly did this.
At least on that previous picture he was under pressure. On this one he's got no one to blame but himself.
That ball is JUUUUUSSST a bit overthrown.
Ok, maybe a bit more. But if you're wondering about the genesis of the the Bauserman Passing Chart, it was probably this play.
- Bo Pelini has anger issues.
"Not such a great passer, but dangerous running the ball"
To the casual fan, it's easy to think that these three QB's have a lot in common, but the fact of the matter is that they are very different in their styles. They have different strengths and weaknesses that have as much to do with their football IQ and personality as their athletic ability
Taylor is the only one of the three to enjoy a redshirt season and the only one who hasn't had a change of head coaches. Because of that, he has slightly less playing time than Denard, but more time in the same system.
Taylor likes to run. He's got great acceleration and gets up to full speed in a hurry. He runs with urgency. He's not afraid of contact and will get north and south to maximize yards. He will try to run through small creases.
Shoulder shake. He likes to keep both hands on the ball as he's running and so his shoulders are naturally moving back and forth. He doesn't have elite change of direction but is quite shifty and has quick feet.
Most Dangerous Running Play:
Veer Option. He has a good sense of when to hold and when to pitch. He will hold the ball and suck in the defender before pitching late. He is good with the fake pitch to open up running lanes for himself.
Honarable Mention: Midline option keeper.
He keeps the ball too much on zone read plays. Against Penn State, he misread several zone read options like he had already decided to keep the ball.
He has a bit of a sidearm motion. He likes to zip the ball in on a frozen rope. Doesn't show much touch. Not a great scrambler, he doesn't have the strongest arm and can't get much velocity on the ball when his feet aren't set. He's very inaccurate on deep balls, especially deep sideline routes.
Most Dangerous Passing Play:
Intermediate in's and crossing routes. He's not very good at hitting receivers on the fly so he likes to have a nearly stationary target to throw at. Because of his low trajectory, he needs clear passing lanes and a direct line of sight to the receiver.
How to defend:
Attack Martinez with a free rusher. Assume he's going to keep the ball on 60% or more of the option plays, and force early pitches by commiting to hitting the QB. (Like Jake Ryan did on Sheelhaassseeee last week).
On passing downs, try to get underneath zone coverage in the passing lanes. Try to make him throw over a linebacker. And the coverage should flow to the rollout side.
Braxton played in a shotgun passing spread offense in Highschool. He's a true freshman pressed into duty because Terrelle Pryor is stupid and never met a handout he wouldn't take, and also because Joe Bauserman just sucks.
So, he's been learning a lot this season about things that worked in H.S. but don't work as well in college. He is also without any experienced receivers until Posey gets back this week, so we'll have to see how much that affects his game.
He's like a gazelle. He runs away from danger. He has exceptional speed. He likes to improvise and runs on his instincts. He will not force himself to go where the play is designed to go. Very dangerous once he breaks contain.
He runs around like he thinks other people can't catch him, but this is only sometimes true at the college level.
The reverse cut and the jump cut. He will go backwards to make people miss and has enough acceleration and speed to make it pay off enough times that his coaches let him keep doing it. He has elite change of direction, great balance, and will duck under tacklers who go too high.
Most Dangerous Running Play:
QB lead draw. He does not like to run through tight spaces and traffic. On the draw play, if the DE's rush past him, his instinct is to head upfield. He's very dangerous in space. If it's 3rd and long, there's a high probability that the lead draw has been called.
Honarable Mention: Scramble
Inexperience. He does not read blocking very well. He will cut back against the grain even when there are decent holes in front of him. Even if a guy is blocked, his instinct is to run away from traffic.
He doesn't read the zone option or the pitch option very well.
Not as bad as advertised. He doesn't throw a tight spiral, so the ball will flutter on him. This causes inaccuracy, especially on deep routes. But he has better touch and a better throwing motion than Martinez. His low completion percentage is due more to the lack of talent at WR, and his inexperience rather than his arm.
Most Dangerous Passing Play:
Wheel route to the RB's. Boom Herron and Jordan Hall are the biggest threats when Miller isn't running. All eyes will be interested to see what kind of impact Devier Posey will make this week (and then we'll wonder about how much money he made for the game).
Honarable mention: Throwback screen and short routes to Stonebrunner
How to defend:
Corral him on the pass rush and play coverage. (May I suggest man-free). This is not the game for speed rushes around the outside. I'd blitz him up the middle and have the the DE's stay home (like what MSU did). He will cut back into free pursuing defenders if you give him the chance. The pass rush needs to be under control so that you make him move laterally without losing contain.
Anyone reading this blog probably already knows everything they need to about Dilithium, but just to complete the comparison. here goes...
Patience with great vision. Denard is a team player and he relies on his blockers to open up running lanes for him. He has elite speed and elite change of direction. He has been a little more tentative in traffic this year, but is a determined runner on the goal line and is able to avoid the really big hits.
He is better at reading the zone read than the other two guys.
He is not a great improvisor and will not cut back all the way across the field by giving up yards. He usually makes a few cuts and then heads to the sideline or upfield.
Being fast. Denard doesn't do a lot of shake and bake, instead he just changes direction quicker than the defenders are able to.
Most Dangerous Running Play:
QB power lead. With the defense spread out, if the two running backs are good blockers he's a threat to go all the way on any play where every defender is accounted for.
Honarable Mention: Inverted zone read.
He does not have a good feel for when to pitch and when to keep of veer or triple option plays. He tends to get injured often over the course of the season.
He has a very strong arm but struggles with footwork. He is very accurate when his feet are set. But he has trouble with his deep accurace when on the rollout. When he scrambles, he's looking to pass. This has evolved a lot and is almost a 180 from his freshman year. He's very good on seams and jump balls.
Most Dangerous Passing Play:
QB dive pull-up. (a.k.a. the "QB, OH NOES!") Has excellent touch throwing while running forward in a fluid motion.
Honarable mention: The throwback screen
How to defend:
[Ed: argh, having some editing issues. Bump.]
"Play hard and play with great effort"
Immediately after the game, I was struggling to come up with a thru-line for what had just happened. But then Brian posted "Defensive Annhilation Muppets" and then the video of Mattison getting emotional surfaced. And for a moment I thought, 'you guys are over-reacting. Illinois does not have a good offense'. I like when coaches just give coachspeak. But then I thought about the last three years and yeah, it makes sense. The difference in emotion between Chip Kelly's comments and Mattison's are where you're starting from.
A couple of years from now, a win like this will only be notable for constructive criticism. There were a lot of bad plays that need to be corrected. But given the circumstances of where we were last year and what we were expected to be this year and the fact that we're 8-2 with a decent chance of picking up at least one more win and a very small chance of getting to 11 wins, emotional celebration is more than appropriate.
What a difference a week makes!
Al Borges didn't have a great game against Iowa, and I pointed that out. He had a much better gameplan this week. I don't know if he or anyone close to him reads blogs or not, but he responded to several very specific criticisms leveled here last week.
Holding the backside DE
I mentioned something about a lack of reverses.
Thanks Al! Odoms is coming from his slot position to take an end around fake. Not only did it hold the backside OLB and prevent the DE from crashing down on Denard, it also froze the MLB just enough for Fitz to run right by him.
But that wasn't the only trick up Al's sleeve. He pulled out another wrinkle from the Richrod days.
One of the problems with protecting Denard and limiting his carries is that the DE that you're optioning on the zone read doesn't have to respect the keep and is free to chase the TB. But here we see Koger coming from his H-back wing to block #9.
The O-line is getting good lateral movement and both Denard and Koger are eliminating defenders from the pursuit.
One caveat is that their safeties were pretty bad (someone mentioned they had backups in the game). #5 has badly misread this play, and he's too slow to catch Fitz anyway. Meanwhile, if you wonder how a guy can get over 100 yards in the first quarter, you can bet he's breaking tackles. This arm tackle didn't even slow him down.
This arm tackle slowed him down,
but it didn't stop him.
So Fitz had about 45 yards of YAC from the first arm tackle and then about another 15 yards of super YAC downfield.
The offense as a whole had a much better day (despite some derpiness in the 2nd and 3rd quarters). The O-line was doing a great job with the zone blocking in the first quarter and opened up some nice running lanes.
Here we've got Hopkins blocking the DE from his FB position instead of Koger, but the result is about the same. Gallon cracks down on his man and Omameh does a good job scraping off the double team and getting to the linebacker.
Huyge takes his man where he wants to go and it opens up a nice line.
On this next play, there's only 5 in the box because the OLB's are out on the slot receivers.
Molk does an excellent job of tracking down his man and we've got a hat on a hat.
The Zen of zone blocking is you just get on your man and take him away from the play using his own impetus. Of course you need a guy like Fitz back there who is patient enough and has good vision to see the hole developing.
Even though the OLB crashes down for contain, he's nowhere near Fitz and Denard has read him properly. If this were the pros Fitz would be owing five really large guys a nice dinner for this play.
The Numbers Game
We had some issues in the red zone last week. Part of that is due to Iowa's talent on the D-line and part of it is having Denard sitting in the pocket or handing off or otherwise not putting pressure on the defense to account for him.
If this were a normal pitch play or off-tackle dive, it would've been completely stuffed because they've got more defenders than we've got blockers on the playside. But when Denard keeps it, we've got an even matchup and Denard just has to pick his way through and find a hole.
But what really makes this play work is that Omameh gets a great cut block, upending his man. Now we've got 6 blockers against their 5 defenders and Denard with no one to track him down.
Omameh's block freed up Molk to get on the pursuing linebacker and the result is an easy touchdown for shoelace.
So what happened in the 2nd Quarter? Well let's compare to a play where we don't have a numbers advantage.
They've got 9 defenders in the box with both safeties playing up. If Denard has the freedom to audible (or we had gotten to the line with more than 8 seconds so that the coaches could call a check play #misshightempo), then he should be throwing a fade or "z out" to Roundtree at the bottom of the screen. We've got 9 in the box, but because we're in I form, the defense doesn't have to account for the QB (as his first 5 steps are backwards).
The play is a lead draw. The line shows pass blocking and then the center or whoever is free is supposed to head upfield after a couple beats. But this call means that Illinois has a lot of unblocked defenders. It doesn't help that Molk misreads the defense and doesn't scrape off to one of the linebackers. This means that Hopkins has three unblocked people he has to choose from. If Denard had been running, then both Hopkins and Fitz would have hit the MLBs so Denard would just have to juke the safety to get in the endzone.
Instead, Hopkins gets one LB and the other stuffs Fitz for a loss with both safeties racing up to make sure he doesn't fall forward.
[ed: follow the jump.]
Out of whack
So that game kind of sucked. If you're wondering why this diary is so late in the week, I try to wait until I feel like the foul language will be minimized after we lose.
Despite the video above, I'm not really blaming Borges for this loss. Not entirely anyway. He did not have a very good game. But that could be said for many people. Denard, Hemingway, Vince, Roundtree, Morgan, Floyd, the refs. THE REFS. THE MOTHERFUCKING REFS. But we'll get to that later.
You know when an offense is clicking, it's when guys are wide freaking open. And not just in the passing game. When an offense is in rhythm, running lanes open up too. That really didn't happen on Saturday until the final drive (when Iowa was backed off in prevent). Every pass and running lane was contested. That's partially due to the vanilla cover two. But a larger problem for us is our failure in self-scouting and our lack of an identity on offense.
A lot of what an OC does during gameday is psychological. You're supposed to mess with people's heads. RR was great at this. And the people he targeted most were the outside linebackers, DE's, nickel backs, and safeties. The reason why all forms of the option offense are so strong is because of the ability to always make a player wrong. You read which way he goes, and then go the other way. It's about taking what you're being given.
Which leads us back to Borges's failure this week. Ideally an offense creates an identity by beating a defense in a certain way so much that the DC has to adjust to take away those plays. But when that happens, it opens up the companion play.
Back during Lloydball that script went something like this. Offtackle run, offtackle run, offtackle run, bootleg pass for a TD. It was boring as hell, but when it worked, it was a thing of beauty. Tuman wide open in the Rosebowl, Breaston taking a reverse for a TD, etc.
With Richrod it was more like, zone read/bubble play left, zone read/bubble play right, Denard, Denard, Dena-OH SHIT! TD!
With Borges it is ... uh ... ? What exactly? Brian discussed this at length already, so I'll just add that it feels like we're just throwing random crap at the wall to see what sticks. Borges has called better games and it's hard to establish an identity when your 'bread and butter' plays are getting stuffed. But our best play this season has been for Denard to hold the ball too long in the pocket and then heave a prayer downfield. No one is going to mistake Denard for Andrew Luck, I don't understand why we're trying to use him like that. I don't understand why he's in the pocket reading pass coverages.
What is our base play? A zone read? Then why the hell don't we have the companion bubble screens? Is our base play an I-form Iso? Then where are the reverses that keep the backside DE honest? I'm getting sick of watching the backside end or OLB making a tackle in the opposite B gap. Are we running Denard? Then why are wasting a blocker by handing it off to him?
I understand that we're trying to keep him healthy, but we're losing the numbers game. Every time we go to that Denard Jet Sweep formation, the defense doesn't have to account for him. We hardly ever give him the ball, and we never throw it to him. And why is that the trick play formation we're stuck with? When we came out one week with the diamond Fritz formation and then had the jet sweep thing the next week, I was expecting to see 5 more different variations. Instead we've settled into this one that opposing DC's have figured out.
There's only three games left. It's time to take the reins of our biggest offensive threat. It's time to put in all those counters and companions and make play calls during the game that are, uhm..., like fucking coherent. (I wrote and rewrote that sentence 5 times, and still have an expletive, if not in all caps.)
I understand you're transitioning to a new philosophy and we're under-manned and can't hurt people with the base plays you want to run. But there's only three games left, if we want to win any of them, some of that will have to go out the window. I know you're not trying to use up Denard, but there's only three games left. If not now, when?
I appreciate that we've only lost two games, but there's only three games left and none of them are gonna be any easier than the two we lost. There's only three games left, and none of them are against Minnesota. There's only three games left. It's time to bring out our "A game".
A bad game all around.
So I noticed Brian noticed my noticing of Desmond Morgan getting a good tackle on a kickoff against Purdue. How was his game against Iowa?
It's pretty bad when even the TV guys are pointing out your bad play. (Although Spielman is one of the handfull of guys that knows the game pretty well and points out good and bad LB play)
And Fitz had a great game against Purdue, did that carry over?
Oh. (That's two unblocked middle linebackers on an A gap dive.)
But at least we've still got Denard who has been excellent at reading blockers and -
It's hard to blame any one person on offense when the entire blocking day was sub-par.
Looks ok here. That is a linebacker (and supposedly an above average one) not a DB. So our little slot guy should either go low or try to pin him inside.
Oh. Nevermind. But look, Fitz is leading the play for Denard, so we're still good.
We've got two guys on him, no problem. Except Denard has no place to cut back because Huyge couldn't maintain his backside block.
Still, a 2 on 1 means Denard should be able to bounce it outside.
*sigh* I guess this is where I'm supposed to mention something about teaching cut blocking and then I get pissy about how small blockers should take on big defenders by going low ... but I just can't get too upset about this play. I guess my rage is being reserved for something else...
And about those refs....
They started the game by missing a holding call
And then they decided that pass interference was no longer an enforceable rule.
They actually threw a flag and then talked themselves out of it. Maybe they thought it was uncatchable.
Maybe they're FUCKING BLIND.
And this was on Denard's interception right before the half. Denard has thrown some bad interceptions this year. This was not one of them.
At this point, someone needs to be in the ref's ear. I know Hoke is not the fire and brimstone kind of guy, and that's fine, but we need somebody to be working on the refs. The same thing happened during the Northwestern game, the refs never woke up and gave us a makeup call.
And our receivers need to do a better job of getting the call. Throw your hands up and dive on the ground. Watch some European sissy boys play soccer and learn how to embellish a call. I'm not saying all the time, because 'boy who cried wolf, blah blah blah.' But when you've got a legitimate case, don't be afraid to hop up and down a bit more. Make the ref peek at the video board and maybe you'll get the call next time.
Or just ... fuck.
So there's about 14 points that they owe us.
If this diary seemed overly critical, you win as a team, you lose as a team. Win and there's plenty of credit and high fives to go around, lose and everyone gets shat upon.
Amongst those few that had good games:
- Gallon, not as dropsies as Hemingway or Roundtree
- Interior O-Line, not as bad as the tackles
- Fitz, his running and hole reading were not as bad as his blocking
- Demens, not as bad Morgan
- Countess, not as bad as Floyd
- Martin, ... ok he was still awesome, in fact the entire D-line had a decent game. I guess that's what happens when you've got 3 D-line coaches (Hoke and Mattison are both ex D-line coaches)
- Mattison, not as bad as.... well I think I've covered that already.
Maybe it won't be like last time...
(edit: Embed fail http://youtu.be/Qpux-Drk6EY?t=37s)
And even if it is, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Ok? ... Ok.
There was something rather familiar about Saturdays' game against Purdue. For the first time in a long time, that felt like "Michigan fergodsakes!" There was just something about the way we dominated and put the game away. It brought back my idealized memories of how Michigan would roll over the rabble of the big ten in year's past.
I enrolled at Michigan in the fall of 1995, Lloyd Carr's first year. And of the 40 odd games that I've attended in person, all but 2 were under his direction.
This wasn't cupcake nonconference, this wasn't baby seal U, this wasn't even one of the worst Minnesota teams in the last half century. This was a normal, lower tier big ten team that was coming off a victory over a previously ranked team. And they had maybe 4 or 5 good plays against us all game. (the screen TD, Denard's INT, the transcontinental to Siller, and maybe you count the final TD and their QB scramble).
The game wasn't as close as the score. Take away their garbage time TD, and give us another 11 points if we execute a little better on the goal line and we're talking about a 40 point blow out.
But it's not just the score that made me reminisce on the Lloyd days. It was the way we did it; we just had better athletes. And we used that advantage to make the game boring. Even though the lead was only 3 possessions, by the middle of the 3rd quarter there was absolutely no drama left that we might blow the game. And it's been a long time since I've felt that way when we've played a bigten team. I guess the Minnesota game didn't make me feel that because they didn't feel like a bigten team, and we were still scoring points. By the time the 4th quarter started on Saturday, I was thinking we'd only get 2 more possessions since we were grinding the clock out so fast.
I actually fell asleep before the game finished, (granted that was about 4 am local time and my BAC was significant). When I woke up, I had the rest of the day to ponder, 'do I like boring old Michiganfergodsakes?'
Was it really so bad?
Towards the end of the Lloyd years, we had grown accustomed to 9 and 10 win seasons and a bowl loss. And frankly we were bored with them. We had become frustrated with having a roster full of NFL talent that would only call dive plays once we had a double digit lead. And then 7-5 came, and we called it "the year of infinite pain". Oh summer child, what did we know of pain? Little did we know that Richrod was coming.
After the Horror, it was pretty clear that Lloyd's retirement was somewhat of a mutual split between him and the fanbase. I freely admit that I was fed up, and wanted change. You can count me amongst those that wanted RR to succeed.
In a way, I loved Lloyd. I still think he's a great role model. If I ever have a son, I would point at Lloyd as someone he should look up to. But toward's the end, I thought that his risk aversion and gameday decision making was impairing our ability to win big games.
There's been a lot of harsh words directed at Lloyd in light of the revelations in John Bacon's book. I don't believe he acted maliciously. I hope not, anyway. I just think Lloyd was just being Lloyd. He never liked the spotlight, and he resented the media. This was apparent from his first news conference (which, if anyone has video of this, I'd love to see it again) in the wake of Moeller's firing.
I like to believe that he was just trying to be loyal to his players. From a program perspective, that might have been a mistake. Ok, it was definitely bad for the program. And the program needed someone to be like Bo, to be the face of the university, to force people to work things out. But that's not who Lloyd was, it just wasn't in his DNA.
The details seem to get lost in history. People forget that things started kinda shaky in '95 and '96. We lost 4 games both years (just one less than the 'year of infinite pain'). And then came the miracle year of 97, and Lloyd could never live up to that standard again. It's like when poor married couples go on an expensive, once in a lifetime honeymoon, all the sex after that just seems a little bit pale in comparison.
Do we really want to go down that road again?
I admit it, I wanted the hot young model. I think Jim Harbaugh would have been very successful as a head coach here. He would have been fiery, and dramatic, and when we finally score 48 points on OSU, he'd have gone for 2. But Harbaugh probably would have gotten bored with us and ran off to the pro's while he still had his looks. So maybe it's better this way. Maybe someday he'll get tired of that and be ready to settle into a comfy college job.
Until then we've got Hoke. Brady Hoke and his magical golden poop. (From top to bottom, I can't remember the bigten ever being weaker. Bigten teams are going to get smashed come bowl time.) Hoke fits like a comfortable old shoe. But he's not the old shoe. He's not kicking field goals on 4th and inches. He's like that old shoe, but back when it had fresh treads.
And then I realized, it's not about da shoes. The thing that changed was me. I'm ready to go back to 9-3 season's again. I'm willing to tolerate 8-4 years if they're balanced with 10-2. I might even be able to stomach the very infrequent 7-5 year if it's offset with a couple 11-1's and 12-0's. And I don't need last second comeback drives against Indiana to be entertained. Saturday's stomping of Purdue was boring, and entertaining, and filled with more satisfaction than I've felt in years.
Play it again, Sam.
So it's week 9, the 8th game of the year, and we're starting to develop some patterns. If you were to blindfold me and make me predict what's going to happen next week, I could just think about this week and rattle off:
- Mike Martin makes a big play
- Craig Roh makes a mistake, but then makes a big play
Kovacs makes a big play
- Jake Ryan has a mental breakdown and loses contain
- Jake Ryan blows someone up in the backfield
- A CB misses a tackle
- Molk makes a great block
- Denard has a sweet run
- Denard has a horrible interception
- XXXX receiver fights for a jump ball or adjusts to the under thrown bomb
- Vincent is wide open for a throwback screen.
- The defense causes a couple of flukeyish takeaways.
And you could probably run that against most of our games this year and not be very far off. The lack of a Vincent screen and a successful jumpball against MSU could easily be blamed for the score deficit of two weeks ago.
The major differences this week were the reverses and the excellent production from the Tailback position.
Let's see that again.
Bad Roh, Good Roh
I've been bitching about our lack of a bubblescreen, because it's a simple fucking play, that works. Especially if you get a favorable matchup with personnel.
On Purdue's first drive, they've got Craig Roh lined up against the slot man. Even though he's into the boundary, he's not going to win a footrace to the sideline.
They only need 3 yards for the first down, and with the Corner playing 8 yards off, the bubble screen is a nearly automatic 5 yards unless the man in Roh's position has a lot more speed in space than Craig.
He's thinking about his flat responsibility in the zone, but what he should be thinking is that he's got to get out to that 2nd man and ignore the blocker.
JT Floyd, doesn't use his hands well enough and lets the blocker get into his body, Roh is almost in position to make a play, but he's taking a bad angle.
Defensive snapshots where more than one defender is on the ground and the ball carrier is hopping past them, are never good for the defense. Morgan is also taking a bad angle and is barely there in time to escort the WR out of bounds after a huge gain.
But when Purdue tried to come back to it on their next drive, we played it much better.
Here's our first appearance of golden poop. We're futzing around with flip-flopping the D-line and Roh is getting a late start. But because he's still running to get in position when the ball is snapped, he's got momentum built up and quickly gets out on the receivers.
This time Floyd does a better job of taking on the blocker and forcing the play back inside.
With Roh in position and Floyd not getting knocked on his ass, the pursuit closes off any cutbacks and the ballcarrier has no place to go.
Mike Martin : Bruce Banner mode
The difference between a good athlete and a great football player is understanding the game. Mike Martin destroys this outside zone read because he recognizes the blocking assignments.
If you haven't watched the excellent (if somewhat corny) video by fishduck, you should check it out. The RB is next to QB so this should be an outside zone play. The O-line all slant to the wideside of the field. If the RB can get to the corner, he should get about 7-10 yards with good blocking as everyone is accounted for except the deep safety. Martin has seen this in practice about a zillion times from the Richrod days and beats his man to the spot and gets penetration. For Oregon, this is no problem, because the cutback is just as good as the designed play.
But Martin sees the cutback and tosses his man to the side so he can come back underneath and make the tackle. Our LB's are actually a little slow to react and would have been in trouble if the RB had continued to bounce it outside.
If it weren't for Martin, this play has a decent design to pick up lots of yards. The guards are scraping off their initial reach blocks and releasing to the 2nd level. Roh is unblocked because it's expected that the QB fake will hold him in position. If the center and left tackle had gotten better blocks, this play gets an easy first down. But Heimerdinger beats his block too.
So the three of them converge to make the gang tackle.
Mike Martin: Getting Angry...
On the safety, Martin had to fight through a hold to get the sack. (and a bit of facemask)
Mike Martin: Hulk Smash! mode
Before we even get to halftime its apparent that the Boiler's can't block Martin one on one, so they keep in the RB to help out.
Martin uses his hands so well. He does an outside move on the left guard and gets by him easily.
The RB sees him come free and moves to pick him up.
When you're a little guy, trying to block a much bigger man, they teach you to go low.
Because this is what happens if you don't go low.
You get sent airborne.
and knocked back 4 yards, (or more if those other guys hadn't been there)
This other angle shows how badly off balance this guy gets knocked back.
Bad Tackling, Good Tackling
Late in the 4th quarter, both starting cornerbacks were in the game when most other starters had left the field. You gotta think that's partly because of a lack of depth at DB, and partly because they both weren't very great at run support or tackling.
On the long screen for a TD, Countess was the only man with a chance to make the play, and he missed.
But I don't really blame him. We got caught in a blitz. This play was always going to be a touchdown unless one of the blockers completely whiffed.
Which almost happened. Blake does a good job to slip the block.
But the blocker had gotten just enough of him to prevent him from making the shoestring tackle. They say football is a game of inches. There's about 6 inches standing between a 5 yard gain and a 50 yard TD.
There's better examples of DB's (mostly Floyd) not breaking down to make the tackle, or not coming up aggressively enough in run support. By I'd rather show them an example of what you're supposed to do.
On this kickoff, Morgan does a great job of taking on the blocker
And then he disengages to make the tackle.
He hits the ball carrier right in the midsection with perfect form and wraps up and holds on until help arrives.
I'll take "improved running game" for $100, Alex
So, it's just Purdue, but that's what I call manball. And it started with our first play from scrimmage.
Purdue has an alignment problem because they didn't pick up the unbalanced line. This might be the first time we've used it extensively this year.
The end is left unblocked because he has to respect Denard on the bootleg. This is fine as long as the guy isn't fast enough to tackle Denard before he can make the handoff (like what MSU did to TSIO). So we've got two pulling lineman and a fullback giving us a huge numbers advantage on the play side.
We get a good kickout block, and Molk does an excellent job of peeling back to get the linebacker. Hopkins is leading through the hole like any good fullback.
Fullback is a deceptively skilled position. You've got to be able to read the hole like a TB and then be both fast enough to get to the block, and big enough to make the block. Here, Hopkins has to choose which of the free men to block. If he picks the linebacker, that ensures a solid gain and puts Fitz one-on-one with the safety with room to make a move. If he thinks the LB won't make the play then he should block the safety which often leads to long TD runs.
He chooses to go after the safety, which I think is the right choice. But without eyes in the back of his head, he doesn't realize that Fitz is making a beeline towards the sideline.
So he ends up not blocking anybody.
And he knows he's got to hit SOMEBODY. That coulda been a TD.(probably not, as the WR didn't sustain his block).
To the house!
So, did Fitz and Shaw perform a Vulcan mind meld during the bye week? If so, it worked. Fitz was bouncing the play outside all day, and Shaw had what I think is his best run of the year by busting through the line. Someone mentioned that Purdue has a better than average interior D-line (i guess) which would explain some of the bouncing outside. But who told Shaw he could run through tackles?
On this Denard fake jetsweep counter pitch, the boilers are in good position to stop the play for a moderate gain. But they've got two guys who are jogging around waiting for the play to develop instead of attacking the LOS. *cough*JTFloyd*cough*. But look at Molk, He's not really designed to be in this play, he's just hustling to make a block.
Fitz is reading the play and sees the defenders over-run it, so he cuts back. . #3 is in pursuit and should close off the cutback. But Molk and now #75 are following the play.
Fitz sees the two unblocked defenders and breaks down to make a move.
It's just at that moment that Molk catches up and gets a twofer. Schofield is also making himself useful by getting in the way of the pursuit.
#2 is in good position to make the stop, but his momentum is in the wrong direction as Fitz is now running against the grain.
But here's the amazing part. When he sees the lane open up in the middle, he just turns on the jets.
This is the speed we haven't really seen from Fitz on the field. Maybe reports of him being dinged up were true and now he's finally healthy. (He should be after having 3 weeks off).
Shaw's TD came from some improvisation on a simple lead dive.
The boiler DT get's a good push up front to disrupt the play. Hopkins has to help block him instead of getting to the free linebacker. Odoms is coming around for the end around fake that will hold the unblocked end.
Shaw sees that the play side is clogged up, so he cuts back. So now he has to deal with an unblocked safety instead of an unblocked LB => more yards.
The right guard doesn't get the best of blocks and his man starts coming off of him to make the tackle. But Shaw sees just enough daylight to make him decide to accelerate through the hole.
Normally, this is where Shaw falls down for a minimal gain, but on this play he keeps his balance.
And he shows off a little leg strength to fight through the contact.
Then he does what he does best and shows off his top gear outracing the defender to the pylon.
I know I've been critical of him on this blog, but that's because he's very frustrating. Physically he's got all the tools to be a great back, ala Chris Perry. His vision might be half a notch down, and I haven't seen him much in the passing game. But he's got the speed, and if he learned how to harness his talents, he could be making runs like this on a regular basis. Anyway, this was a great run.
- The defense is playing so much better than last year. But the last two games have seen waaaaaay too many arm tackles. I'm not liking that.
- One game is not a season. Playcalling vs. Minnesota, Northwestern, and Purdue was great, creative, and effective. Playcalling vs. MSU, eh ... not so much. I hope this isn't establishing a trend where we have zany fun stuff against Iowa and Illinois and go into a shell against NE and TSIO.
- Rocketman! I didn't notice the helmet on the low quality streams
- The theme for homecoming was something about space, and the wavefield got some love on TV. That wavefield was like a 2nd home for me for 3 years.