FWIW. Michigan doesn't seem inclined to get re-involved.
Now that I'm back in the states and am able to attend the games, I've seen some pretty disturbing things; the "you suck" chant (Just chant the damn Down Number, if we stuff them on 3rd down, chant "4TH DOWN!", if we stuff them on 4th down, chant "1ST DOWN!"), nearly losing to Akron, nearly losing to Uconn, actually losing to Penn St. But I do love football, so I'll try to get tickets to saturday's game in E. Lansing. I must be a glutton for punishment.
What that means is I won't be able to get on here and bitch about the game until several hours after it ends. So this diary is to get all my bitching out of the way beforehand. I'm not a psychic and all predictions are guaranteed to be incorrect. So if I betray any pessimism, consider it a chance for the team to prove me wrong.
Things that will probably happen before the game:
1. I will have to ask about 20 people before I can get a good price on a ticket.
2. Someone will bring up Dickhead Gholston. Which doesn't matter much since he's long gone.
3. Someone will bring up Dickhead Narduzzi's quote about "60 Minutes of unnecessary roughness". Which does matter because that's how his defense plays.
4. MSU's Band will bring out their fake wolverine mascot.
5. MSU fans will be annoying. Conveniently forgetting anything that happened earlier than 5 years ago.
6. I might refer to the Sparty mascot being gay, not that there's anything wrong with that, and how if he wants to marry Brutus, they could elope during the Rutgers game.
Things that will probably happen during the game:
1. We will not be able to run conventionally. Period. Unfortunately, Max Bullough seems to be the real deal. Remember 27 yards on 27 attempts? This game could be that bad, at least on a yards-per-carry basis. Hopefully we won't have as many attempts. I'd be ecstatic if we threw the ball 60 times and rushed 15. That ain't gonna happen.
Denard Devin will be good for at least 3 turnovers, probably two picks and one fumble. And he'll have two or three sacks, at least one of which is caused by his reverse spin and loses 15+ yards.
3. Funchess will make an amazing play, and then we'll be frustrated the rest of the game as he mysteriously disappears.
4. The Sparty defense will be jumping our snap count and we'll take major tackles for loss because of it.
5. Devin will rush for at least 80 yards and two TD's.
6. Gallon will get 100 yards receiving.
7. Spartan players will take cheap shots that aren't flagged.
8. One of our offensive linemen will get injured.
9. MSU will put together annoyingly long drives because we won't be able to stall their running game on 3rd down.
10. MSU fans will be annoying. Some fat idiot will yell "CHEATERS" whenever a flag is thrown. A brazenly foulmouthed pre-teen will get dangerously close to being slapped by me. That's just how they raise their kids.
11. Jake Ryan will save the day.
Things that will probably happen after the game:
1. Bipolar coordinator love will swing to the defensive side, Mattison will again be a genius and Borges will be on the hot seat. This will of course have everything to do with playing MSU instead of Indiana and not actual merit. (But yes, if we can UPGRADE Borges after the season, we should.)
2. Both fan bases will be upset with the referees. MSU will have about 4 pass interference penalties called against them, 3 of which spartans will think are ridiculous. Meanwhile I'll be able to freeze-frame 8 other instances that should have been called P.I. or defensive holding but weren't.
3. MSU fans will argue that any personal fouls called on them or other dirty plays that weren't flagged were somehow justified. Insert your own non-sequitur here. I'm partial to the idea that you should always beat up frat boys while wearing ski masks, because you know, "they had it coming".
4. If MSU wins, they'll probably win the division. If we win, I'll complain about how the division title is determined by conference record instead of division record since we'll probably lose to Ohio and have our only two losses being to the other division.
5. Win or Lose, something will be set on fire in E. Lansing.
6. MSU fans will be annoying.
Points of Quantum Uncertainty:
(aka, things that will swing the game)
1. Weather. The forecast calls for 40% chance of rain. With our dependence on the passing game and pass blocking, I'm guessing the more moisture, the worse for us.
2. Connor Cook's passing. Somewhere between 3.5 yards per attempt and whatever the hell that was last week will probably determine the game.
3. Al Borges the mad magician vs. Al Borges the stubborn coach looking for a new job. Self explanatory. (If you see Fitz catching wide open swings and screens, it could be a good day.)
4. The refs. THROW THE DAMN FLAG.
5. MSU Defensive scoring. We'll probably turn the ball over a few times. But will those be turned directly into TD's or will Mattison get a chance to make Connor Cook look like Andrew Maxwell?
1. Our basketball team looks good.
2. I hate cold weather.
3. I hope they didn't screw up Ender's Game.
4. I'm gonna do a Native American dance for sunshine and clear skies on Saturday. So like, an 'anti-rain-rain dance'.
[ed: bump so hard Jake Ryan wanna fine me]
[ed-S: I had to completely repost due to some bad html that was making it unreadable, so all the old comments are gone. Apologies to those of you who commented earlier--if you didn't, all you missed is Blue Seoul doesn't live in Seoul anymore]
Working Too Hard
So this is what it's like having a real job. I have enough time to watch the games, but not enough to obsessively analyze them. But there's been a lingering question about Fitz's lack of productivity compared to last season that I wanted to take a stab at answering. So even though it's a couple weeks late, here's my analysis of what's been going wrong for Fitz.
I see three main differences that are causing the lack of production:
- Fitz is being overworked
- The blocking is not as good
- Fitz is lacking some burst
There are some other problems in the defensive schemes and matchups, the playcalling, and our lack of run audibles, but these are minor issues and don't really explain everything.
For Fitz' sake!
This play didn't count, but it's indicative of the kind of problems the O-line was having in short yardage. Notice how all the defenders are keeping their blockers at arms length, they've got their heads up to watch the ball, and their lateral movement is keeping them on the l.o.s. instead of getting pushed back into the endzone. After watching a year of Greg Mattison, this is some pretty good fundamentals from the Boiler DL. Fitz takes the ball a little wider than he should have, but part of that is the fullback, #36 just got destroyed. He's too small, and his pad level is too high. It would have been a tough cut, but there was a little bit of space behind Schofield. That's the kind of cut Fitz was making at the end of last year. But he either didn't see it, or was too tired on this play.
I've noted it before, but here's another example of why we don't run more veer and speed option. Denard just doesn't have much experience or feel for the pitch. On this play we had a nice wall and he should have stuck his nose in there for the first down. I don't particularly like that, because I don't want him to take unnecessary hits. But he pitches this ball way too early.
Jake MotherF****** Ryan! The long lost brother of Jack MotherF******** Johnson. I like how having an expletive as your middle name has become a term of endearment.
Look at how far away he is from this play. But his instant recognition and his quick first step™ allow him make the play.
He completely takes the running back by surprise with his Superman impression.
And trips him up for a nice TFL. That's called 'selling out' on a play. (Giving it your all)
The most nonchalant hook n' ladder pitch of all time.
"I ain't got the ball."
Devin Gardner's Development
I believe that's what the kids are calling, "Highpointing the ball".
How does scoring a touchdown make DG feel?
Pretty damn good.
How do two TD's make Fitz feel?
Well, alllllrighty then...I'm not real good at reading expressions, but I'm pretty sure that one is saying "Hey twitter, STFU."
Hate Week: Never Forget.
[Ed-H: Bump. There, I did it. No more Urban Meyer.]
I got a little busy at work during the winter, and then recruiting magic was happening, and then I figured it was too late for this post. But finally I got a day off, and it's raining, and I've had these screencaps online for 6 months, and I've got literally nothing better to do for a few hours on this sunday. So here is the Nebraska game wrap (with pics!)
That was kind of unexpected. AND AWESOME! It was without a doubt our best game of the year. Heck it was our best game IN YEARS. It was maybe the best team performance since the 1997 PSU game, although I'm probably forgetting some good ones in between.
During the game, I remember thinking the score was pretty close and anything could happen until the turnovers made it a laugher. But after watching it a few times since then, we really did dominate in all phases of the game.
By the end of the 3rd, the stat sheet was pretty one-sided. They really only had 2 great plays all game. (Two plays that I highlighted in the preview post.... so maybe I'm not completely stupid. Still, I did rag on MSU's O-line which gelled pretty strongly by mid-season. ooops.)
Defending the option
Like most of the Michigan fan base, I have huge man crush on Mattison. The things he and his staff are doing, and the performances they're getting from our players are out of this world. I would love to just sit at his feet, follow him around, and absorb as much football knowledge as possible.
If you've accomplished as much as this man, people won't make a big deal out of you using your moobs to signal the playcall. (This GA knowns that peripheral vision is sometimes a weird thing.)
Defending the option is so simple, yet so hard. You need your players to know their assignments and play with decisiveness.Here is Jake Ryan demonstrating the textbook definition of "forcing the pitch".
Nebraska has this play blocked pretty much as you would draw it up. Ryan is the 'optioned' man who is unblocked. Martinez doesn't see the whole open up on the backside, but he's running to where the play is called. He's supposed to read Ryan and "make him wrong".
Jake's first step is lateral as if he's going to squeeze the zone on the slot receiver. But when he sees the option motion coming towards him, he cuts upfield with authority. Martinez reads him correctly, and it looks like this should be a decent gain for the Huskers.
Meanwhile, Mike Martin has beaten his block and is pursuing to stop cutbacks, and the secondary is coming up in run support.
Ryan's change of direction is so fast that Martinez can't get a good pitch off with his left hand. Burkhead managed to fall on the loose ball, but if he hadn't we had two guys coming up quickly and there would have been no way for Martinez to get it with his face planted in the ground. The moral of the story is that one way to defend the option is to make those options keep the ball and get killed, or pitch the ball and get killed.
Another way to stop the option is to get an unexpected defender free. Nebraska comes out in a 4-wide set to try to get a good personnel matchup. But we just stay in our base 4-3 so it doesn't matter when the TE comes down to the line of scrimmage.
Mike Martin explodes through the line and forces the pitch FROM THE BACK SIDE. That's impressive.
Meanwhile, Kovacs is up in run support and all over his assignment as you would expect from a player of his intelligence. He reacts so quickly that the blocker whiffs on him. And the pursuit isn't giving Burkhead anywhere to go.
Getting a 5 yard TFL on first down against your opponent's bread and butter play ... that's a good a thing.
Getting off blocks
One of the stark differences between last year's defense and .... uh ... others... was how well they were getting off blocks and getting to the ball. I don't want to disparage former defensive coaches...BUT the improvement was remarkable.
We're in our zone blitz package with Martin dropping and Demens rushing. Demens gets doubled. That's a pretty big weight disadvantage for him.
So he squares up and gets some arm's length separation from the defenders, one of whom starts looking for someone else to block.
Martinez decides the coverage is too good and thinks he can squirt through that passing lane. But both Demens and Ryan see it, react to it, and clamp down on that hole.
Ryan slaps the ball out. Check out how far away from the ball Van Bergen is. But he's got his head up, he's disengaged from his blocker, and he's pursuing the ball.
One funny bounce later and it's in RVB's hands. Brian keeps saying that fumble recoveries are just luck and 50-50 propositions. I would disagree and say the fumble recovery percentage is more of a function of the number of each team's players near the ball when the fumble happens. In this case, we were a little lucky because Nebraska had more guys near the ball. But if RVB isn't hustling and getting off his blocker, our chances of getting that ball go from slim to none. So yes, luck plays a part, but I don't believe it's JUST luck or that it will always regress to the mean..
And lets not forget the good hustle and technique which caused the fumble in the first place. Strip that ball!
(The other 85% after the jump)
*programming note, got busy during the holidays, sorry if anyone was looking for scouting reports. Things have slowed down now, so expect a Nebraska game wrap next week, or the week after, depending on if I feel like writing anything about the SEC non-championship exhibition game.
Winners find a way to win.
It started as a joke, but now no one can deny the awesome power that is Brady Hoke's magical golden poop. Everything he touches turns into roses. When he walks through a forest, flowers bloom in his wake. Youtube is sadly lacking in good golden poop videos, so a unicorn farting rainbows of destruction was the best I could find. I hope it's not too disturbing.
Our ND friends gave us the wonderfully self-fulfilling cliche' "Winners find a way to win, losers find a way to lose." But we'll just focus on the first half of that, and they can focus on the 2nd half, thank you very much.
Was Brady Hoke lucky that Tressel was caught lying? Maybe. Maybe he pulled a Peter Wiggin and dropped a few well placed emails. Was it luck when we fumbled on the 1 yard line against ND and Denard scooped and scored a walk in? Maybe. Maybe Hoke used his secret telekinesis.
I don't know, I don't care. At this point I'm just happy to be along for the ride.
But how else can you explain what happened?
How does a sure INT on a fake FG where no receivers went into pass patterns end up in the arms of the long snapper for a first down? How does what looks like a TD to 80% of the twitterverse get reversed in OT? How have all the great things that have happened this year happen to one team, in one year? It boggles the mind.
They say you make your own luck. They say that "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." But whether it's luck, or karmic retribution, or a secret plot by an undercover invisible agency from the future, it can't be sustained at this high of a level. So let's just enjoy it while we can.
On to the pics.
Al. Al? ALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!
This week's love-hate relationship status with Al Borges is .... .... Love? That's odd, because during the game there were times when the needle was strongly tilted towards hate. But after a second look at the game film, the final analysis, just like the outcome of the game, is slightly positive.
Much like the Iowa game, the lack of production on offense wasn't really his fault so much as it was a combination of a lack of execution, personnel limitations, and a darn good defense.
Oh sure, there's plenty of things he could have done better and a few stinkers that make you want to pull out your hair... hmmm....nevermind. And I'll get to those in a moment, but overall, we did what we've done all year. And many of the plays should have worked.
I mean, Molk getting injured and having this
happen on two consecutive plays to kill the first drive can't really be blamed on Al. Maybe it would have been better to go under center with the backup playing, but after we've been crying all year for more shotgun, you can understand why he didn't. Luckily Molk came back in, but wasn't at 100% which probably put a dent in our selection of play calls.
And give VT credit. They played a lot of Man-Free forcing Denard to make tough passes to the outside, which frankly, we all know is not his comfort zone.
Yes, the manball mentality is frustrating especially when VT is putting 9 men in the box.
(It's 8 because Denard going backwards is not a threat to run.) But it's there to setup big plays.
With both safeties up like this, the thing you have to do is make them pay for it.
But with two defenders beating their blockers, Denard has pressure right up in his face resulting in this jump pass.
It's not Al's fault that Denard threw to the wrong guy. Roundtree had a step on his man and Jr. was getting interfered with. Despite the interception, you can't argue that it wasn't the right play call.
[ED: More after the jump.]
Finally! No,... FINALLY!!!!!
So that game was closer than it should have been. Raise your hand if you think the replay official had taken Ohio against the spread. A touchdown would have made it a 10 point game with Michigan covering the 9 point spread. But let's bitch about that later.
10-2 with wins against ND and OSU! It's beyond all expectations. If we hadn't laid an egg at Iowa and gotten screwed by the refs that game, we'd be sitting with just one loss, 3 close wins, and 8 curb stompings. You could say that I'm sold on this coaching staff. I had no idea the coordinators and position coaches would be this good. We still have a lot of issues with our WLB and our secondary, but we're light years ahead of where we were last season.
On to the pics!
I have to give him credit for coming out with an aggressive gameplan that put a lot of pressure on Braxton Miller's arm and Posey's ability to get separation. It almost worked. But the punt from the 36 yard line was a pure Zookian moment.
It's 4th and 4, the game is a high scoring affair, you've been moving the ball pretty well with your mobile QB and there's a strong possibility that you'd only be gaining 16 yards with a punt anyway. There's no debate. This was a HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE decision. Their punter did a good job executing the coffin corner kick, but that still doesn't justify the thought process.
Add that to Fickell's continued clock mismanagement, and I doubt you'll find a single bucknut fan who is sad to see him go (or demoted, or whatever). Not forcing a punt at the end of the first half was not that bad with a one point lead, but wasting 16 seconds for a 3rd down spike on the last drive was just awful. You could even hear Spielman rolling his eyes at that.
F* That guy
Miller is going to be a problem going forward. He fits "Urban Meyer's offense" as Spielman called it during the game (so much for the two weeks of pretense) almost perfectly. He doesn't throw a very accurate ball but *cough*tebow*cough* that doesn't mean he can't be successful in that offense.
It is interesting to note that Miller had 9 TD's and only 3 picks. Yeah, he didn't have many yards or attempts and was under 50% passing, but that's still pretty remarkable for a true freshman. He's been missing his receivers in safe ways and pulling it to run if the coverage doesn't look right. That's pretty good ball security for someone you'd expect to misread coverages due to inexperience.
He started out the game doing what we expected, we just weren't ready for his speed on the first couple of plays. On this 2nd and long, Ryan is blitzing from a walked off OLB spot.
But his path is a little too much to the outside. I know he's thinking about contain, but he's got to aim more directly at Boren and then use his arms to stay off the block.
Instead, he gets pushed outside and the tackle is free to release onto Demens.
Morgan has to do a better job of reading that lineman crossing the LOS and react quicker to Miller. Ryan would adjust later, but this gave them an important early 1st down.
Mattison really sold out on stopping the run and stopping Miller's scrambling. On Kovacs' delayed blitz, you can see we did a much better job of filling the running lanes on the rush. Morgan is playing spy (which was kind of useless...) and the D-line is free to shoot the gaps away from the blitzer.
But Miller is very elusive and showed great leg strength in getting away not only from Kovacs, but also RVB. Fortunately Demens and Martin have followed the play allowing Kovacs a second shot at the sack. Meanwhile, Morgan is .... well I think Ohio watched a lot of film on Morgan and decided to go after him all game.
Martin and RVB were great all day (of course), and they were twisting on most passing downs. This is a pretty good idea when the O-line you're facing is known to have communication problems. On this play RVB is supposed to go around Martin, but Brewster gives Martin a pretty good pop.
That's no problem for the two seniors, RVB just decides to go first and Martin swings around.
The center and guard are so concerned with Mike, they let VanBergen go free for the easy TFL.
Miller picked up 1st downs with his legs all day. The early bombs really messed with our gameplan and gave him more room to run. On this 3rd and long, we've got Kovacs in the box in our crazy lineup with all the guys on the line and different people dropping out. Because of the earlier passing success, three people are dropping into coverage, even though Ohio LOVES to call the QB draw in this situation.
The result is that Morgan got caught with his weight going the wrong direction and Miller galloped over Kovacs for a big gainer.
But I think Mattison just decided he wasn't going to let Boom Herron beat us. I think Herron ended up with less than 40 yards because of plays like this. Here we've got Kovacs coming off the receiver to run blitz.
And again you can see the linemen shooting gaps away from him.
Kovacs gets in there so fast that both Boren and Posey are blocking air. Jordan gets the TFL and the Ohio is stuck in another 3rd and long.
Miller ran the speed option a lot the last few games and that continued against us. On this touchdown, he cuts against the grain and makes Roh miss in space. Spielman was babbling about how great a play call this was and how it was a counter speed option.
I call bullshit. They definitely do have a counter speed option, but this play wasn't it. You can tell because Roh is unblocked. On the designed counter, the tackle engages the end and tries to seal him inside or kick him outside.
This looks more like improvisation by Miller. I think they just tell Posey to block on the backside like he means it on every play. They got a TD here simply on Miller's talent, not on any blocking scheme. You can see he takes a hard jabstep upfield that fools Roh just enough so that he can get outside.
After that he makes an amazing jumpcut and his momentum carries him into the endzone.
THIS is the counter speed option, except it's a playaction pass. The tip off that it's a pass is that Miller turns away from the LOS instead of going nose towards it.
It's a well designed play that turns into a rollout to the right. They've got three layers with a deep corner, the intermediate cross, and Stonebrunner is going to release into the flat. If the Defense over pursues the rollout, there's even a throwback available to Herron.
But Stonebrunner doesn't hold his block long enough or Miller doesn't get enough depth and Roh is right up in his face.
A more experienced QB might have tried to hit #11 who is open, but like I said before, Miller has been very safe with the ball. Morgan does a good job of knowing who he's playing against and comes up expecting the run instead of uselessly trailing the TE.
He was wide open though. And Denard made a similar play that turned a sack into a short gain. Maybe Miller will be making those plays in the years ahead. Guh.
I'm just glad we'll have Mattison. Because when push came to shove and we needed a stop on the goal-line in the 4th quarter, Mattison basically declared that Miller wasn't going to run the ball in. And credit Kovacs for picking up the TE on playaction so that Miller didn't have an easy throw.
F* this guy too
With only one game of film to watch, our DB's were not prepared for Posey's talent.
But after a couple of short passes to him, they were very concerned about his presence. A little too concerned.
If Gordon hadn't screwed the pooch on this, the ball was not well thrown and he could have given Brown a harder time catching it since Miller threw it to the wrong shoulder and brown had to turn around to find it.
I'm going to give our DB's a tiny little bit of slack in saying they haven't faced anyone with Posey's skill except for Michael Floyd. And they had a lot of safety help against Floyd that they didnt' get for this game. Posey is as close to Mario Mannigham that I've seen on an oposing team. He does a great job of getting on the DB's toes and making them turn their hips. But still...
Even though this is a triple move, (headfake outside, cut inside, cut outside)...
You can't let a guy get that wide open. Lucky for us this duck was overthrown.
If you're going to put 8 men in the box and play man up against the WR, then freaking play man up. Troy has Posey one on one, but because he's lined up so far back, there's no chance for him to make a play on anything but a fly.
This deep cross was not a fly.
And it didn't help that Posey turned Troy around with an outside fake. Amazingly, Miller hit him in stride (no it wasn't a tight spiral).
Posey did it to all three of our DB's (Kovacs was essentially a LB this game). On the last drive he turns around Floyd. J.T. was thinking about getting an interception, and we almost paid dearly for it.
We were about a yard and a half from being down by a point. There would have still been 1:30+ left on the clock, but I was pretty happy to see this ball hit the ground. Our offense was pretty good, and Denard was pretty accurate, but no offense to Gibbons, I'm glad we didn't have to drive for a winning field goal.
[hit the jump for the remainder]
Talented BUT . . .
So I've watched about 7 of Ohio's games, (Brady Hoke has only watched 4, he clearly doesn't "Get It". I mean what's the point of the countdown clock if you're not doing something every day to beat Ohio? Doesn't that include watching ALL of their games? /sarcasm) and the team has lots of talent, as you would expect. BUT...
Most of it is inexperienced, and the experienced parts of it are having trouble getting on the same page. It's one thing for your QB to be young and dumb, it's another for your senior laden O-line to not be getting to their blocking assignments or your two upperclassmen running backs doing their impression of the keystone cops when you put them in the wildcat. Those things are on the coaches, and it's been pretty clear for awhile that these coaches are on their way out. (Regardless of what lies Urban is spinning)
The video above is pretty typical. Shazier is stepping in for team captain Sweat. He's got loads of talent, but if you look carefully, you'll see that a lot of the plays he's making are downfield (when they're not running right at him) because he's slow to react and diagnose. Once he get's going, he's got a lot of speed to get there, and he likes to hit, but not very much form on the tackle because it seems like he's more interested in making a big hit.
When I watch this edition of OSU, I see lots of playmakers, but I don't see a cohesive team.
OSU on O
The Speed Option
The two plays I worry about from Braxton Miller are the QB lead draw and the speed option. He's also dangerous when he scrambles, but I feel like our DL can be disciplined enough to keep him in the pocket. I've already focused on his scrambling and the lead draws in the previous scouting reports, so this time I'm focusing on the speed option, which they ran much better this game, and ran more often.
They like to run out of the pistol, and they'll run it to either the weak side or the strong side depending on what the defense does. But they do prefer running to their right, which is behind Shugarts. PSU shows a cover 2, so there's a numbers advantage to the left side.
I kinda think PSU is a little bit miss aligned for this formation, but it seems like they had a CB blitz called on the weakside. The option motion just goes away from it and those two guys are not going to be a factor in the play.
It's just zone blocking and this is one of the plays where the O-line does a good job of scraping to the 2nd level.
Miller looked much better this game at taking the hole that is in front of him. But from a scouting standpoint, he almost never pitches. So it kind of seems like a waste of a player. They had one play where they did the power lead, which I would be even more concerned with.
So now that they've hurt PSU with the base play, it's time for the companion playaction. PSU had 8 men in the box for a lot of the 1st quarter, but backed off a bit after Miller hit a couple of passes. Here they've only got 7 in the box.
The option motion starts to the right, but then Miller jabs his foot in the ground and gets depth to throw. The key to reading this play is that the O-Line is clearly in pass blocking mode. The backpeddaling uncovered guard is a dead giveaway.
PSU does a great job of rushing with discipline, no one is over-running Miller, and they get a free rusher coming up the middle.
Miller will usually make the first man miss, but because of the spread out pocket and controlled rush by the D-line, he's got no place to go.
[Ed-Seth: take the jump for the much more.]