Quotes from after the game. Will update with photos when they're ready.
Injuries: "Denard seems to be fine, I know that's the first thing you're gonna ask." He'll get treatment and be fine after some rest and ice. No x-rays needed. He was moving around on it. Michael Shaw is "pretty much the same as Denard. Just a little bit sore." Perry Dorrestein is fine, just got "a hangnail or something on his toe."
Today was a good win, the team got better in all three phases. Defense was a little more aggressive than last week, offense controlled the game with the run. "Last week, we did not play well." Improved this week on defense and special teams especially. It was nice to get lots of guys in there, especially seniors.
Team is deeper on offense than last year. "Defensively, we're younger." Completely different years. "I think there's enough positive things that we can grow from and enough negative things that we can fix." The first goal is the B10 championship, everyone is 0-0 in the conference.
Offense didn't have to do a whole lot in order to move the ball, ddn't have to show a lot. Executed well.
All three QBs did well. Didn't think about putting Denard back in at half. "We were moving the ball whoever the quarterback was in there." Needed to just get a couple stops. "I wish he woulda stepped out before he got hit." Needs to scoot out when the touchdown isn't going to happen. "I thought all 3 quarterbacks were very efficient." Devin not as ready as Denard or Tate because he's a year behind. These guys are getting it. "All three of those guys have not hit their ceiling yet. Not even close." It's a tough deal because only one can play at a time. Denard and Tate both more comfortable seeing the field than last year. Seeing things like coaches see them, why a play did or didn't work. Tate maturity - "I'm impressed with a lot of our guys' maturity. There's a lot of progress."
RBs - "It started up front. I thought our line and our tight ends did a good job blocking." Made a couple mistakes, but it was nice to get lots of RBs experience.
Guys come in boys, leave 4-5 years later as "a man, a Michigan Man."
Could tackle better, hit a couple screens on us. Missed opportunities to make tackles. Played more aggressivley, not on their heels like last week.
A couple special teams penalties were frustrating. Would FG kicker have been Broekhuizen? "Maybe." Depending on length and hash.
Team knows Indiana is very good, they can't mail it in and win.
After last week, the players wanted to just return to playing good Michigan football. Different year than last year. "Everybody's playing for somebody." They play their hardest every Saturday.
Offensive skill guys didn't have any trouble with the rotating QBs, because it happens in practice. When Tate came in, he was shocked everyone was yelling his name. Denard - "I'm pretty sure he'll be back this week coming up - get some treatment on it." Roy is very confident whoever QB is. "Minus the MAs [missed assignments] and the penalties, we just keep rollin'."
Defense showed up today. "Wasn't like the slackin' last week." In practice, it was 11 hats to the ball, they did it today.
RVB is not really amazed at the offense's performance. They've been going toward that for the past year. Expecting to see them make plays.
"Absolutely" more focused than last week. Might have been reading too many press clippings coming into last week. "Circled the wagons and prepared this week like it was a bowl game."
The team used a little more 4-man rush to get to the QB this week. "Persistent, and keep coming after the Quarterback." Had pressures, finally turning them into sacks. As long as the QB is moving his feet, the throws become inaccurate. "If you sack him, it's prettier but you don't necessarily need it."
Better team chemistry this year. Team united, want to play for each other.
"Michigan is noted as a powerhouse in the Big Ten, and we have not lived up to that the past two years." Hungry to be successful in-conference this year.
"A lot of people say I'm not staying here, but I'm still here... I love Michigan, I love everything about it... I love Coach Rod, I love these fans, I love everything about Michigan football."
Felt good to be out there competing again. "Coach Rod just told me to be patient and stay ready." He was ready when his number was called. Coach Rod told him to be ready, he knew he would get in this week. Never know when your number's gonna get called, have to be ready to come in. "Coach Rod's the coach. I'm gonna let them make the decisions, and if they go with him, I'm gonna be right there, ready."
Felt almost ilke a first start again. Thanks the crowd and coaches. How can you not notice that the crowd was supporting him. "Crowd always motivates me. Because you just want to keep hearing that." Michigan has the best crowd in the country, and the team has to to keep them happy.
His injury isn't serious. "I got hit. I got a little dead leg." He'll be fine within a day or so. "I'm healthy, and as long as Denard gets healthy, I'll be happy still." Never 100% as a football player, have to play through a bit of pain.
Hard to wait when you played last year "Denard got the same question last year when I was the guy." Everyone is good enough to play, he'll let the coaches make a decision. No rust. Studied lots of film this week "It was easy out there." Had something to prove when he went out there. "That's what I heard." that he set a completion percentage record. Could have improved a couple things.
Treat every team like a threat. Cites App State. "Treat every game just like you're playing against Ohio State." hould be able to play this well every week. Should be able to have a lot of success this year.
Indiana gave the team a good game last year. Fun to go into away stadiums and have everyone against you.
Team executed better today. Did a lot of studying with good focus this week. Made sure they were focused to take advantage of opportunities.
"We just come out and just execute and make plays." Don't worry about what the opponent's doing.
Denard's injury made him think of his own knee injury, even though it didn't end up being as serious.
The offensive line: "They had a awesome game. Just the same, they're very consistent and always do their job up front." Lewan - "He's doing an excellent job. I was telling him that on a couple of runs."
"We have a lot of talent in the backfield, no doubt." Everybody does their part when their number is called. "We all look at it from... if one man falls down, the next man steps up."
Red zone mindset - "We gotta get in."
Performed better than last week. Pretty good outside of a few plays. This defense is always hardworking, taking positive steps toward learning more. Concentrated and wanted to get everything right today.
Prepared the same as last week, maybe a couple guys watched a little more tape. "I thought our preparation was consistent."
On BGSU's QB: "You know that's in his mind where he's already kinda out of his comfort zone." Backup QB is obviously going to be nervous coming into the Big House.
Impressed with offense? "Yeah. I love our offense. It's very dynamic and explosive."
"I really feel like we have 3 very good quarterbacks coming in that can all run our offense."
Lewan - "I heard he did pretty good. I talked to him after the game, and I'm just excited to see Taylor playing." Been playing against him in practice a few years now, likes to see him develop.
"This team is just so close. Everyone is everyone's friend."
Concentrating coming into Big Ten season. "We... we're ready."
There has been spirited debate about the angles that Ohio University LB Rufus took in tackling the OSU RB Brutus during last Saturday's game. Does increased head mass require a higher tackling angle, or should traditional non-encephalitic technique be employed?
It is early in the game, with OSU lined up in a 1-1-9. The RB is parallel with the fat dork carrying the flag. The OLine of nine band weenies is clearly off the line of scrimmage in an illegal formation, but this doesn't get called; we're in the Horseshoe, after all.
Unblocked, Rufus arrows towards Brutus demonstrating, at first glance, excellent technique with arms wide to wrap up the opponent.
But here the question of angle v. encephalitis comes into play. What can’t be seen at this angle is that the RB’s momentum is carrying him past the impact point targeted by the OU LB, exposing why a traditional, lower attack point is desired. The OSU RB pulls away with a little, mincing gesture with his forearm and clocks the fat dork (FD) in the head with his opposite elbow. By the way, WTF is with that running OSU dude on the left side of page? I’ll tell you what it is: too many men on the field.
At this point, it looks like the unblocked OU LB will tackle for a decisive TFL.
But then we see the consequences of hitting the OSU player too high: with help from the OSU FD, Brutus maintains his balance and stands up Rufus.
If Rufus hits the OSU player just above the knees, then there is no opportunity for Brutus to recover. The OLine here is still in pre-snap formation revealing that this is a trick play.
Rufus begins to slip as the RB deflects his momentum…
…and loses contain letting the RB into the secondary with a convoy of blockers...
The RB makes a mistake: he slows up and begins to taunt the OU sideline. Rufus cuts between the WR and the TE in pursuit...
Notice the poor blocking on the part of the OSU WR running with Brutus downfield. How can you let Rufus approach your RB untouched? Again, the OU LB takes waaaay too high of an angle at the goal line. Seriously, what is this? Who tackles a player this high? Shame on the RB for walking into the end zone. Typical OSU classiness.
Rufus hits high...
...and already in the end zone, the OU LB commits the personal foul with unnecessary roughness…
...yet still demonstating why it is important to hit the player low; he still can't get him down. Bonus: notice the abused, defeated expression on Brutus's face...
This is not football; it is more reminiscent of Bogs in Shawshank. The infamous punch that got Rufus suspended from the OU team leaves Brutus a shell of mascot.
Teammates hang their heads in shame.
Takeaways: Even large-headed mascots must maintain proper tacking angles. They should not compensate for higher mass distribution with a higher attack point. Paradoxically, the higher mass point makes mascots more vulnerable to the classic leg tackle.
Also, there is no place in football for the kind of personal foul witnessed at the end of the play. Even when the other team is execrable as OSU, keep it clean. Don't sink to their level.
Edit: Special thanks to a friend who took those pictures in the endzone (I pulled the link so that we stop overloading her server).
give the guy on the left some autocannons and the resemblance is uncanny
Mainstream media have begun to catch on to the scam Nick Saban is running down in Tuscaloosa. Via everyone in the world who emailed, twittered, or IMed it to me, the Wall Street Journal on a small section of Saban's insatiable desire for more spots in his recruiting class:
"I'm still kind of bitter," said former Alabama linebacker Chuck Kirschman, who took a medical scholarship last year. Mr. Kirschman said Mr. Saban encouraged him to accept the scholarship because of a back problem that he believes he could have played through. "It's a business," Mr. Kirschman said. "College football is all about politics. And this is a loophole in the system."
The WSJ does miss an opportunity to draw a stark contrast between the rate of medical scholarships at Alabama and elsewhere in the SEC, even though they dug up the numbers. I used the LOL for good and made a graph. Here it is:
Just a coincidence, surely.
This is actually the less odious bit of Saban's merry disembowelings since the kids he cuts via this method get to stay in school on scholarship (and don't hurt the APR), but it's still a way for him to skirt competitive equity. He gets to try out four extra kids a year and then dump them. The NCAA's in a tough spot since it's tough to discern between scam artists like Saban and legitimate cases like Antonio Bass, but suffice it to say this is a dangerous precedent to set. The NCAA has to close this loophole.
Note: for more on the BGSU perspective check out Oriental Andrew's Other People's Pressers series.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Bowling Green|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, September 25th 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan –25.5|
|TELEVISION||The saddest ESPN2 game ever|
|WEATHER||Partly cloudy, around 60 degrees
0% chance of rain
Run Offense vs. Bowling Green
This should be the now-usual demolition job. Michigan's currently the #6 rushing offense in the country, averaging almost six yards a carry. Denard and all that.
On the other side of the ball, Bowling Green has struggled badly against their opening slate of Troy, Tulsa, and Marshall, ceding 5.3 YPC against teams not featuring Denard and all that. The slate:
They're 98th in rushing defense. By the Mathlete's reckoning they're 95th and giving up an extra touchdown per game than a hypothetically average team would; Michigan is eighth nationally at +11. If Bowling Green even slows Michigan that will be a win for them and an ominous omen for Michigan. They probably won't live up to the bounty promised by results to date—getting that +18 on the ground would be a truly stupendous day,.
One point in BG's favor: they kind of sort of shut down Marshall's primary tailback, who averaged 2.9 YPC on 14 attempts. Unfortunately, some other guy had a 68-yard run… and six other carries that averaged 8.8 yards apiece. They are not so good at the run defense.
TWB: How do you expect the Falcons to game-plan against Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense?
FB: Answer 1: Not to give anything away, but it will include religious conversions, incense, and the sacrifice of a small animal.
Answer 2: You can game plan for Denard Robinson?
Answer 3: Let him score on every play and take our chances with the defense.
Answer 4: OK. Seriously.
My guess is that we will game plan for Michigan by trying to limit the damage Robinson does on the ground and try to force him to hurt us in the air. I think he will get his yards, but we have to tackle him when we get the chance.
Not to get all arrogant or nothin', but Michigan's main concern in the run game should be finding another tailback to join the Shaw/Smith pairing. Fitzgerald Toussaint is "probable" this week and did dress against UMass; he and Cox should see some carries starting in the second quarter. Hopefully Michigan will get enough breathing room to limit Denard's carries.
Key Matchup: TAYLOR LEWAN HATES DONKEYS (if his ankle is okay)
Pass Offense vs. Bowling Green
BG is less of a disaster zone here thanks to the generosity of Marshall's quarterback, who served up four interceptions last week en route to a 71.2 passer rating. Their dossier to date:
Not bad, but not consistent. The Mathlete has them a field goal below average; Michigan is +5 in their games against I-A opponents and saw Robinson put up a +15 in just 14 throws against UMass. BG will be a tougher matchup unless they get killed on play action after Michigan starts gashing them on the ground; they're 21st nationally in pass efficiency defense. They're only 87th in sacks, though, and a big chunk of their success against opponent passing attacks has been those seven interceptions.
The key for Michigan will be keeping themselves out of obvious passing downs and attacking linebackers and secondary members who are anticipating run plays. If Michigan has the sort of success on the ground the above section implies they will, Robinson should have another efficient day throwing to single covered receivers and the occasional guy who's ridiculously wide open.
Key Matchup: Denard realizing when he needs to put some air under the ball if Roy Roundtree is open deep.
Run Defense vs. Bowling Green
Bowling Green is not much of a running team but will it matter against Michigan? Let's hope so, since they might be more of one with their starting quarterback out. After two weeks in which BG threw almost two-thirds of the time, BG flipped that in the Marshall game. That's partially the injury, partially a desire to run out the clock late.
Either way, the results weren't great. Starting tailback Willie Geter netted exactly 100 yards on 31 carries, an average of 3.2; his backup did a half-yard better on six carries. Michigan's run defense might not be much better than Marshall's, but it probably won't be a worse. Or that much worse, anyway. The Herd is currently 86th nationally.
Michigan and BG are both about average nationally to the Mathlete, but those numbers don't include the bludgeration Michigan suffered against UMass. Reasonable expectations are yielding Geter's best day of the year… but not by much!
Key Matchup: Obi Ezeh against his many critics, those many critics against critics of the critics, and the original critics' criticism of the criticism of the critics' critics.
Pass Defense vs. Bowling Green
This is likely to be the bulk of Bowling Green's offense even with the expected absence of starting quarterback Matt Schliz, who seriously needs a T in his last name. Schliz put up 43 and 40 attempts in his two healthy games, averaging 5.1 and 6.6 YPA, which fits in with descriptions of the Clawfense as an offense mad for short passes.
In his absence it looks like Bowling Green will go with more of the same, except not that good:
The Wolverine Blog: How will the injury to quarterback Matt Schilz affect Bowling Green’s pass-heavy offense?
FalconBlog: The injury to Schilz will definitely have an impact on our offense. He is the only QB on the team who has started a game, and has by far the most game experience. Furthermore, he won the job pretty handily. Our other QBs are talented but untested in game situations, and this is the Big House. Now, they are both from the same general mold—drop back passers who are not real threats to run, so we probably can pretty much keep the same game plan in, only with a skinnier playbook. I would expect the biggest impact to be accuracy and facing pressure.
Aaron Pankratz, who seriously needs an S in his last name, came in when Schliz was hurt, completing five of eight passes for 111(!) yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He may or may not start, with a walk-on the other primary option.
Whoever is the starter will make it a point to pepper Kamar Jorden with passes. The JUCO transfer already has 34 catches this year despite having a 42-yard Hail Mary and a 79-yard screen pass called back against Tulsa. The catch pictured above was brought in. BGSU's next leading receiver has twelve catches. The Falcons tend to have eyes for one guy—last year Freddie Barnes was the nation's leading receiver with a mindboggling 155 catches for 1770 yards.
Key Matchup: Kovacs and Gordon tackling. An offense like this puts a lot of pressure on the wing defenders to buzz flats, make solid tackles, and set up plenty of third downs that will eventually see the punt team show up. At least, that's the idea.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
Kittens still not warranted for a spread basically as big as the one against UMass even after, you know, the UMass game.
But, yeah, Michigan: her life is in your hands.
Aw, don't say that.
Her life is in your hands.
- Bowling Green's wack ground game is consistently picking up yards, like 6-8 yards.
- Cam Gordon is tested and doesn't do so good.
- AIGH KICKING GAME.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Taylor Lewan reprises the donkey ridin'.
- A tailback emerges from the depths and impresses, probably Toussaint
- Denard adds another tool to his Batman utility belt.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 1 (Baseline 5; –1 for Denard!, –1 for Bowling Green's Run Defense!, –1 for The Combination Of The Two!, –1 for MAC Team, –1 for MAC Team Minus Their Starting Quarterback, –1 for Passing Oriented MAC Team Minus Their Starting Quarterback, +1 for Oh God What Was That Last Week, +1 for There's A Toledo Never Forget, Too)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for All That Stuff From Last Week Pretty Much Except With Slightly Less Force, +1 for But Not Really Any Less Force Since I Bet UMass Would Spank BG Minus Their Starting Quarterback, +1 for This Week Was Highly Annoying And Michigan Actually Won, +1 for Hey Who Wants A CHOCOLATE BOWL GAME, +1 for Constant Rich Rodriguez Job Savin' Campaign.)
Loss will cause me to... wrap myself into a eight-foot taco, label it "GIANT FOOD," and hope Taylor Lewan walks by hungry.
Win will cause me to... read hopeful signs into the defense's performance even if unwarranted.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Linebacker bounceback day, with Mouton having a good-ish game and Ezeh approaching zero.
- This time we finally get some carries for non-Shaw/Smith tailbacks, with Toussaint getting half a dozen.
- We get to see some backup quarterbacks this time around.
- Michigan, 46-21.
This week's enormous concern is something of a surprise, as I got a ton of emails about how terrible defenses from 2011 to 2014 may or may not be. I'm a little more concerned about Indiana, Michigan State, and Iowa, but I just answer 'em:
Here's the problem as I see it for next year.
Proven folks, either this year or the past (at least 70+% of snaps)
7. T. Gordon
Possibly semi-proven by end of year - have played meaningful snaps with game still in balance (at least 20-30% of the snaps in a game)
1. J. Black
2. C. Johnson
3. B. Herron
The rest of the lot do not seem to be seeing the field in a meaningful way to be considered remotely ready to play next year at a high level. So by my count we will have 8 EXPERIENCED, 3 SEMI-EXPERIENCED, rest is anyone's guess.
I'm worried that next year will not be better unless some of these backups get much more meaningful game play.
I think you're overrating time on the field as a way to develop when it's 39 hours out of a year. I'm sure it accelerates things to get personal experience with how opposing offenses vary, but when you're not playing games eight months of 12 and even when you are you're spending far more time practicing and working out the bulk of a player's improvement must come from off-field activities. For the best example in the history of the world:
That did not happen because Robinson got on the field last year, it happened because he spent eight months with his eyes taped open, jamming football into them 25 hours a day.
The real question is "how much experience, playing or not, will Michigan have in the two deep?" The answer should be considerably more. In the secondary:
- Free safety will go from two freshmen to two sophomores(+2)
- Bandit gets Kovacs and Robinson back(+2)
- Cornerback will replace Rogers with Woolfolk and get the four other guys another year of experience(+3)
On the line:
- Martin and Campbell will be the two deep at DT, replacing Martin and Patterson this year (-1)
- RVB and Black will be back; Sagesse and Banks will be replaced by redshirt freshmen (-6)
- Roh, Herron, and Jones return (+3)
- Spur gets Johnson and Gordon back(+2)
- Ezeh, Mouton, and Moundros are replaced by Fitzgerald, Demens, and I guess Leach(-2) but maybe a freshman, redshirt or true.
That's a ton more experience everywhere except DE, where one starter will presumably be a true sophomore and the backups will be redshirt freshmen or senior guys with no profile (Heininger and Watson). That goes double for many spots since the difference between a freshman and a sophomore is usually much greater than the difference between a junior and a senior.
Attrition can blow this all up, of course, and has already cost Michigan a number of guys who would be entering upperclass years in 2011. If Mike Martin goes pro early, it could have the same effect on the D that Donovan Warren's departure did (though I bet a dollar Martin gets drafted).
I thought the D would be considerably better this year than last. It's still got a shot, but the personnel issues are bleeding into the Rodriguez classes and depressing the outlook.
Would it be fair or unfair to conclude that at this point Coach Rodriguez hasn’t grasped the difference in admissions from WVU to UM or is all this continued attrition in year 3 kind of random and hard to explain?
At this point most of the blame for the excessive number of Clearinghouse issues in the most recent class has to fall on Rodriguez. Four players bombing out in one class with a few more on the borderline (Terry Talbott and IIRC a couple others, though I couldn't find any confirmation in a cursory googling) is too many. Carr had the occasional Quintin Woods or Marques Slocum, but they were, you know, occasional. They weren't 20% of a desperately needed influx of defensive talent. And with Demar Dorsey still not enrolled at Louisville, it's clear that none of the borderline guys were denied admission based on anything other than their ability to get past the Clearinghouse; this is not a communication issue.
I can't blame Rodriguez for taking a swing at Dorsey but he can't be surprised when it doesn't work out. Meanwhile, picking up Davion Rogers when you probably could have gotten a guy with about the same rankings and a better chance of getting in is unwise, as is offering and accepting a commitment from Antonio Kinard when his grades are such an issue. (Conelius Jones is an odd case since when he committed his grade point was supposedly 3.7.)
I'm guessing that when Michigan blew up last year pickings got slim as players questioned how long Rodriguez would be around and opposing coaches used that uncertainty like a sledgehammer, and so the staff decided to take a few more longshots. Hopefully that won't happen this year if Michigan rides a wave of Denard hype to a decent bowl and enters 2011 with expectations Rodriguez will be around for the near (and possibly distant, robot-filled) future.
Speaking of a distant, robot filled future…
(1) We've been losing some players early this season to transfers / etc. How does this play into pre-season predictions about our defense regarding 2011 and onward? (I think we already have some evidence about this year will go...) Is it remotely possible or likely to have one of the big ten's best 3 Ds by, say, 2013 or '14? EVEN IF we can get a couple 5-star corner and defensive backs for next year, would that make much of a difference given the learning curve for all freshmen?
(2) I note Michigan's conspicuous absence over the last couple recruiting class rankings at ESPN. I am not the "sky is falling!" type, but is this a case of "WAAAAAAY to early to tell"—ie, fear not, RichRod will deliver in due time—or can we assume a worse-than-michigan-average recruiting class this cycle? Does it depend more than we'd like to admit on the # of wins this year? Or, the timing of those wins? It would be bad to start 5 or 6-0, only to finish 6-6, where the losses are more recent in recruits' minds on Feb 1 signing day...
1) This was mostly answered above. About a top three D in the conference: 2013 is a long way off—this year's freshmen will be seniors. Anything's possible that far in the future. I doubt Michigan will have an outstanding D that year if only because there aren't many guys in that row of the depth chart by class who seem like obvious stars, and Michigan already lost a lot of guys who would be towards the top of the depth chart.
2) The contrast between Rodriguez's first recruiting class and a half—the whole one was ranked in the top ten by most services, the half mostly four-star guys—and his most recent one is obvious. This makes me believe the 2010 class, which was decently ranked but lost too many guys to be top 15, is an effect of a 3-9 season and the never ending torrent of negative media attention that Michigan fans know and loathe; that would also explain a chunk of Michigan's merely okay start to the 2011 class. If RR establishes himself long-term we should expect Michigan's recruiting to jump back up to the Carr level.
But not in 2011. At this point in the year a lot of recruitments are already wrapped up or moving towards it, so success this year will have more of an impact on 2012. If Michigan secures RR's job they will pick up kids like Zettel and Hart who would have already committed if this was a normal year, but it will be tough to go from where they are now to the usual array of four-stars.
In sum: defense not great for a while, but you knew that. Have I told you about the Denard?
Via the axeman himself:
TUSCALOOSA -- It hasn't been announced officially yet, Alabama coach Nick Saban said tonight on his radio show, but he announced it anyway:
Alabama will play Michigan in 2012 in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Senior Denard! A bunch of guys who haven't been cut from Alabama and are therefore badass! SATURDAY! SATURDAY! SATURDAY! IN THE JERRYDOME!
WHY DON'T WE JUST PLAY A HOME AND HOME I DON'T KNOOOOOOOOW
PROBABLE (75% PLAY)
Robinson, Marvin Shoulder
Toussaint, Fitzgerald Knee
No surprises from the guy who are out (though seeing Brandon Herron and Carvin Johnson not even up to 25% is a little discouraging).
The good signs, obviously, come from Marvin Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint, both of whom are probable to play. Robinson back in the mix give the defense a lot more flexibility from a personnel standpoint. Although Shaw has emerged as the feature back over the past couple weeks, Michigan is looking for a true consistent threat in the backfield (aside from that Denard guy). Getting Toussaint into the mix prior to Big Ten play gives him a chance to get into game shape, and hopefully provide the run game that Michigan wants.
Normally in these posts I've noticed something or understood something or am trying to explain something. No so much on this one. I grabbed this because it's a play where it seems like four different things could go right or wrong to turn it into a better or worse play than it ended up being, which is a five-yard run on first and ten.
It's the beginning of UMass's first drive of the second half; Michigan has just put up three touchdowns in four minutes of game time to surge into an 11-point lead. UMass starts off in an Ace formation with twin WRs to one side of the formation and twin TEs to the other. Banks and Kovacs are to the top of the screen, RVB and Gordon to the bottom:
At the snap the tailback starts running to the left side of the line. Martin gets under the center and starts pushing him back. Michigan linebackers start stepping to the playside, and Kovacs starts burrowing into the line:
A moment later the action has continued but the tailback has started coming back to the right. The move left was a feint; this is a counter. It's pulled the Michigan linebackers to the right:
A couple things on the above frame: it certainly looks like Martin is in a position to tackle in the A gap if the play ends up there, and he has gotten into a position where he is useful. But: I +1ed him on this play I shouldn't have since the defense is trying to seal him to one side and has. I don't think this is a negative play since he hasn't gotten blown off the line or anything, but it's not a win for the D.
The confusing thing about the linebacker play to me is if Martin is going to go to one side when the play starts it would make sense for the MLB to immediately go the other. This is "making the nose tackle right" if the nose can cut off that gap, which it certainly looks like Martin has.
HOWEVA, in the UFR comments, Steve Sharik made a point I hadn't ever thought of: when you pull linemen you are putting more blockers in a gap than there are defenders if everyone just takes a gap. So it makes some sense that Michigan LBs were in a read-and-react mode against UConn, which was pulling linemen all over the place. ND also makes heavy use of pulls, and frankly I'd be surprised if Michigan bothered to change their gameplan for UMass. The Minutemen did their share of pulling, anway. So it's more complicated than that. If Ezeh hammered it up behind Martin on this play and the opponents were pulling around into Martin's gap they would find a lot of space.
By the next frame the tailback has taken the handoff and the defense realizes it's a counter. Banks and Kovacs are engaged in a shoving match with the OL on the right side of the line that is going nowhere, which is usually a +0.5 in my book. It won't be here, as we'll see.
Mouton and Ezeh are free, though Ezeh is about to get a guy peeling off Martin:
Mouton sitting in that gap dissuades the RB from trying to hit it up; a step later he's still moving outside as the center attempts to get out on Ezeh:
Ezeh gets his face across the blocker and Martin is fighting through his guy; no place to go (except maybe cut behind Martin for a big gainer, but RVB seems like he'll shut that down):
A moment later this is obvious. Mouton is nearing the second TE, giving M three defenders on three blockers and Floyd ready to handle a bounce:
Here is some confusion. The RB fakes outside…
…which causes Mouton to hop outside the TE and surprises Floyd; Kovacs has finally yielded to the physics of his leetle body, giving the tailback a crease:
Kovacs and Floyd close the crease down, but it's six yards:
Video; watch how the tailback's little juke outside gives him the crease:
I misidentified this play as an inside zone, which it kind of is but that does not take into account the counter action. These are the things I think about it after some consideration:
- I should not have given Martin a plus nor Ezeh a minus. Both plays are fine. Ezeh did react in time to get across the center and Martin cut off his gap, then fought back through his blocker in time to help close down the play's intended hole. But Martin did not force a cutback—that was the play design—and didn't help on the tackle.
- On a later edition of this same play Banks should have been minused for flowing down the line too hard and opening up space for the tailback, but I still think Ezeh is slow to read and react, thus allowing him to be "blocked" by a center who's falling to the ground because of Martin's violent burst into the guard; I'd rather run the D like Martin is going to able to slant into the gap he wants against most teams and watch the cutbacks. Kovacs's ability to pursue hard when he has a gap to one side of Mouton to fill, then redirect and make a tackle when the RB cuts inside of Mouton is impressively aware.
- This was the story of Banks's day: I'm not doing much but I'm not going backwards either.
- Kovacs is small and this hurt him here as he tried to stand up to blockers, but really if it takes this long for help to arrive it's not his fault.
- Mouton and Floyd are confused when it comes to edge play; here it seems like Mouton should make sure he bounces the RB to Floyd and instead he hops outside, creating a gap that the RB can use. If he bounces it to Floyd he should be able to tackle; if Floyd expects that Mouton will funnel it inside he should be able to tackle. Neither happens. More of this deficiency can be seen in the earlier Mouton picture pages and the easy touchdown UMass scored when Floyd let the RB outside.
- I think I would prefer a chancier scheme that said "aww, the hell with it" and blasted linebackers into open gaps once they read run. If Michigan's going to get ground like they did attempting to play read and react—a lot of should-be-zero-yard runs like this one turned into four or six—they're going to give up a lot of drives like we saw Saturday. Getting those zero- and negative-yard plays on early downs seems more likely to get the defense off the field. This will put more pressure on the safeties when this doesn't work out, but they seem like good tacklers and guys who take good angles.