that makes one of us
9/26/2008 – Michigan 27, Wisconsin 25 – 2-2, 1-0 Big Ten
I don't have to tell you it was ugly at first, but an illuminating example: at a couple points in the first half when the guy with the red hat was on the field various family members of mine stood up because we're natural standers frustrated by the usual decorum of our section.
A set of ancients crabbed at them to sit down despite, you know, the lack of anything to see other than a guy with a red hat standing on the field, and when this was finally annoying enough for someone to respond with the obvious riposte about the red hat a full-scale verbal confrontation ensued in which the crabs behind us simultaneously complained about how we were violating the stadium announcer's request to treat our fellow seatmates with respect and called my cousin "fatso."
I thought but did not say "I know you are wearing a hat that indicates you fought at the battle of Antietam but don't think I won't smash your skull into splinters."
At halftime, Michigan had 21 yards. I tried to hide from the sun and list all the things I would rather do than watch the second half.
At the beginning of the year we were all confronted by an unexpected cost imposed by the massive turnover in coaches and star players: Michigan seemed a little like laundry we wanted to win, and sucky laundry at that. They wore the wrong numbers and ran the wrong way and certainly played the wrong way and goddammit where was Mike Hart?
We know college football players not as people but as things that have transpired on the field. By the story arcs their careers trace out, tragedy or comedy. Without those—without even Lloyd Carr's story to fall back on—the first few games of the season were strangely numb. They lost to Utah? Okay. They lost by 18 to Notre Dame? Okay. You can go back and check the columns here: serenity reigned. That was born from detachment.
Johnny at RBUAS captured this sentiment perfectly:
Mike, Jake and Chad risked their dignity and only left with a little of it, but they came back in the first place by choice, because of something bigger. As for the guys that are still here, Trent and Jamison are mostly quiet and patient and had no place else to go. And no matter how jubilant and grateful Terrance might seem, he knew how much money could be made by coming back. I don’t hesitate to say that wins this year won’t be as satisfying as wins last year were. Not enough of these players have suffered yet.
Those people out there aren't Mike, Jake, and Chad but Threet and McGuffie (or Shaw or Minor or Brown or Grady) and I'm Not Sure Who The Left Tackle Is This Week.
But there is no better one-word description for the first half Saturday than "suffering," and Johnny Thompson is always going to be the guy who picked off Allan Evridge. Steven Threet could have four years of moments good and bad in him but I suspect to me he'll always be looking over his shoulder at Wisconsin safeties, just as shocked at what is transpiring as everyone else.
After it was over I did something I hadn't done since I was a kid making paper airplanes out of the free programs and throwing confetti* in the air whenever Michigan scored. I went down to the tunnel as the players exited the field and watched them go: Taylor boisterous, high fiving anyone he came across, Warren stoic, the Coner completely neutral until someone thumped his shoulder pads in congratulations. The only thing that betrayed Kevin Koger and his old man beard as an 18 year old, not an Antietam veteran, was the kid-on-Christmas-morning smile stretching from ear-to-ear. A blood-soaked band-aid hung from Thompson's chin, gamely sticking to a couple of hairs in his ragged beard. Barwis looked like he was stuck in a paint shaker.
These are no longer strangers. I know how they run, and they are mine. I wanted to say something to them, to wrap everything that had just transpired into a sentence and give it to them, to tell them about ashes and hope and the future. But nothing came.
After Brandon Minor's touchdown run I turned around to see what the crabs were thinking and perhaps to say something unkind. They had left at halftime.
This is what I should have said: "Those who stay will be champions."
- Thanks, karma! The entire crab sequence was awesome.
- Carson Butler got suspended and Mike Massey flailed around a bit before being replaced by Kevin "My Name Lacks An R" Koger, who proceeded to do nothing obviously wrong and then caught a seam route touchdown. If they're going to burn a redshirt, it might as well be for a 30-yard touchdown, and since he doesn't seem appreciably worse than either of the two nominal starters I say let it ride.
- This is what I am talking about with the "It's Great To Be A Michigan Wolverine" chant. It should be kept in reserve for Events.
- I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but if you booed the team you're an asshat. You wear asses for hats. Yes, you may have the purchased the right to boo your asshat-wearing heads off, but you are also taking your frustration out on a team that's obviously trying really hard but just kind of sucks from time to time. Booing the coaches is your excuse? Don't care, the players couldn't tell, and now they probably think we're all asshats because of you. You have a "right" to boo. You also have the right to give your grandmother the finger and call her a harlot.
- The block M in the student section was not epic fail but it did look a little squat from my vantage point.
- What is the point of replay if they aren't going to overturn that ridiculous Wisconsin "reception" in the fourth quarter? Even the Wisconsin fans in our section thought that was a terrible call.
- As I was walking home these guys behind me were having an extended conversation about how Rodriguez was dumb to go for two. One: they were wrong. Two: seriously? Seriously this is what you're focusing on instead of one of the best games in Michigan Stadium history? It must suck to be those guys.
- Those guys at the 1997 OSU game: "It should never have been that close."
- Those guys at the birth of their children: "he has a disappointingly shaped head, did you have to push so hard?"
- Those guys in the space machine vortex thingy from Contact: "you should have sent a poet. I'm just a guy who has no understanding of game theory. I'm not even enjoying this because I don't have someone belting out quatrains about these stupid galaxies."
*(Also made from the free programs. Those things are clutch when you're ten.)
Game column coming.
There's been a lot of debate in the aftermath of the Wisconsin game about whether or not Rodriguez made the right call after Johnny Thompson's interception return touchdown put Michigan up 20-19 with about ten minutes left.
The answer: absolutely, and it's not close. Let's break it down into three scenarios:
YOU GET TWO. Okay, you're up three, which means a field goal ties the game instead of winning it.
YOU GET ONE. Field goal means you lose. If you score another touchdown you have a likely-impregnable two score lead.
YOU GET ZERO. Field goal means you lose; if you score another touchdown Wisconsin can tie the game by scoring their own touchdown and going for two.
You can cancel a lot of stuff out because there are only two realistic scenarios in which the go-for-two situation is relevant: one UW field goal or a touchdown for each team and a Wisconsin two-point conversion. In all other cases outside of bizarroland, the decision doesn't matter.
At the time Rodriguez was trying to decide whether or not to go, Michigan had about 180 yards of total offense. Virtually all of that came on two inexplicable long touchdown drives; on Michigan's other ten drives they collected one first down and 31 total yards.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, had been gifted five first-half turnovers and largely squandered them. They had 248 yards of offense on 14 drives. They were averaging 18 yards every time they got the ball, and only had the points they did due to Michigan's largesse and a huge number of opportunities.
This was not exactly that 54-51 Northwestern game, where you were virtually guaranteed to see the opponent skate down the field and punch the ball in. This was a defensive slugfest between two teams heavily biased to the run, and it would take a highly unusual event like Dual Threet loping 60 yards with the Wisconsin secondary in tow to make the difference between one and zero even moderately relevant.
This is in fact what happened, but since Rich Rodriguez isn't the Kwisatz Haderach he didn't know what the future held in store and did the obvious thing: attempt to keep a field goal from beating you. Protesting that "you don't know what's going to happen" is weak sauce when you've got a pretty good idea that scenario A is far less likely than scenario B.
Anyone who disagrees is more than welcome to email me with invitations to high-stakes poker games.
I have no idea why this is happening in IE7:
Does anyone out there know? It disappears after you click around a bit. Please email me if you do; I've been looking at it forever and can't figure it out.
My suggestion to anyone getting this: click on a diary entry and then click back. I think that might work.
Update: a couple readers sent in fixes; I think this issue should be dead now.
Run Offense vs. Wisconsin
It took all of three games for the M-Den to start selling Sam McGuffie jerseys, and the off week has allowed Carlos Brown and Michael Shaw to get healthy. Could… maybe… good happen?
Against Notre Dame, Michigan alternated gashing runs with stuffed plays that were often mental errors on the part of various blockers. Notre Dame then ran out and ceded 200-some yards to Javon Ringer, but 63 of those were on a long carry late when Notre Dame was playing aggressively in the faint hope of getting the ball back on a three-and-out. Before that they had contained Ringer pretty well. They might not be completely atrocious on defense.
Wisconsin, however, is an entirely different ball of wax. This clip from the recently-posted Wisconsin scouting report is worrisome:
#91 [DT Jason Chapman] and #92 [DE Matt Shaughnessy] are their best players on defense. They are extremely quick off the ball and were very good at disrupting Fresno's zone running play. 91 is DT and just blew by people several times. He was also offsides two or three times, so I think we will get some easy 5 yard gains here and there. But Molk has got to be quick end get off the ball with power this week. This guy cannot spend the afternoon in Michigan's backfield or we will not be able to run the ball.
Michigan spent much of the ND game effectively doubling whichever DT was lined up to the playside, getting enough depth on their push to wash out pursuing linebackers. With Chapman appearing to be more of a penetrating, risk-taker sort there could be an enormous amount of variance in the effectiveness of run plays: when he loses his gamble he could run himself right out of the play or end up pancaked downfield; when he wins McGuffie is going to have to deal with a guy in his face far too often. Bruce Ciskie, meanwhile, is extremely concerned about Wisconsin's linebackers and their angles of pursuit. There appears to be some chance Michigan's run game functions decently.
However, I'm not super enthusiastic about that chance. In 2006—the year that Michigan's zone left was at maximum effectiveness—Wisconsin slashed into the Michigan backfield time and again and it was only the ineffable brilliance of Mike Hart that prevented a dozen TFLs. That was the same defensive philosophy and even some of the same players—Chapman and Shaughnessy have been around forever—Michigan will face tomorrow. Here's the UFR from that year:
Michigan spent around half of its first downs running into eight guys and another chunk running into seven from a three-wide set, which is functionally equivalent. Fully 20(!) of Michigan's 26 plays on first down were runs*, which is a big flashing sign that says "BAD OLD DAYS" to me. A big reason that Hart's YPC average to date is somewhat disappointing is his frequent deployment into obvious rush defenses. He's still doing his thing, but a combination of bad blocking and predictable playcalling means he's dodging tacklers at or before the line of scrimmage instead of three yards downfield.
The end result was a lot of plays where Hart turned something that should have been zero yards into four.
Can McGuffie do that? I don't know. I think he's much less likely to burrow forward for positive yards in bad situations and that Michigan will be facing a lot of long-yardage situations if he's dodging guys before he gets to the LOS.
This will be an interesting test for all sorts of Michigan-affiliated players: McGuffie and Shaw and various linemen going up against a tough Big Ten defense and Rodriguez and Magee, given a bye week with which to implement some counters, traps, and other plays that hope to play off of Wisconsin's tendency to aggression.
Key Matchup: I'm a broken record here, but: the interior line against Wisconsin's DTs. Michigan won this battle handily against Notre Dame and now takes up a more formidable foe.
Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin
Steven Threet's radical maturation into an honest to God quarterback gives Michigan hope for the future and a fighting chance going into Big Ten season. He's a freshman, though, and the rest of the year figures to be something of a roller-coaster.
Against Notre Dame, Darryl Stonum, Greg Mathews, and Martavious Odoms were the main options. Odoms got open consistently on wheel routes; Mathews dug out a number of tough balls and almost hauled in a spectacular touchdown; Stonum was the beneficiary of some attention paid to Odoms. All three seem like potential playmakers, and then there's the somewhat injured Junior Hemingway. There appears to be a lot of available talent in the WR corps if Threet can maintain his level of performance.
As far as Wisconsin goes: Michigan fans will be familiar with Detroiter Allen Langford, who's been decided average in his career to date. He is a senior with multiple years of starting under his belt, though, and will probably be at least all right. His bookend is not Jack Ikegwuonu by some other guy named Mario Goins. I don't think anyone really knows much about him yet, including Wisconsin.
Wisconsin year to date:
That's one okay performance, one great one, and one kinda-dodgy one. I think there's more raw ability in the Michigan skill players than there is in the Wisconsin secondary and if they run the right routes and Threet gets them the ball they can have some success. Wisconsin's pass rush hasn't been great and Michigan's pass blocking has been surprisingly good.
Also: with Wisconsin sticking to base sets most of the time, there should be some opportunity for Martavious Odoms to get loose on the perimeter.
Key Matchup: Odoms versus linebackers. Michigan has to make Wisconsin pay if they're going to stick in their base sets.
Run Defense vs. Wisconsin
Two weeks ago I wrote this in the Notre Dame preview:
The run defense is not as good as you might think it is, as the avalanche of sacks the team has unleashed distorts those numbers considerably. Miami’s lead back averaged 3.7 yards a carry and Utah’s main two guys combined for 94 yards on 21 carries, 4.5 per. That’s slightly harsh because both teams occasionally used their quarterbacks as runners and got stuffed doing it, but the point stands: this is not the country’s fourth-best rushing defense.
It's not like Michigan's rushing defense was a disaster against ND, but it wasn't exactly inspiring; Michigan performed on a par with SDSU and considerably worse than Michigan State. Time and again Johnny Thompson lost his battle with the fullback.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin is Wisconsin, the ultimate beef machine. Their linemen: large. Their tailbacks: large. Their fullback: large and actually named "Rentmeester." Their intent: to run straight. Their success so far:
Hey… that doesn't seem so imposing, especially when you consider there are no sacks in those numbers. Okay, so they smoked Akron but we're talking about Akron here, and if Michigan holds Wisconsin to 150-some yards on the ground they probably aren't racking up a million billion points against Warren and Trent and company. Well. Maybe they aren't.
I just don't see it, though. Notre Dame is not good at the smashmouth thing and did all right. Wisconsin is and projects to do better than all right. I'd be happy if Michigan turned in numbers comparable with Fresno State above.
Key Matchup: Ezeh and Thompson against the fullback. I bet Wisconsin follows the same tack Notre Dame does, doubling the hell out of the DTs and relying on the LBs to mess it up.
Pass Defense vs. Wisconsin
Allen Evridge tore it up against Marshall, completing 17 of 26 for a whopping 308 yards—11.8 YPA(!). Against Akron he was mostly a spectator (ten attempts) and against Fresno State he was thoroughly meh: 12 of 24 for 143 yards.
Of course, a hefty chunk of whatever struggles Evridge is having are due to the absence of all-universe tight end Travis Beckum. Beckum should be ready to terrorize Michigan linebackers on Saturday. In his absence Wisconsin's leading receiver is the other tight end (Garrett Graham), and their second-leading receiver is the other other tight end (Lance Kendricks), which kind of wraps up Wisconsin's offensive philosophy in a neat little bow.
The outside wideouts are Kyle Jefferson, a slow-ish guy but a rangy leaper dangerous on downfield jump balls, and little speedster David Gilreath. They have a total of eleven catches between them so far. No offense to either of those guys, but I don't think either is much of a worry.
Michigan's pass defense has been pretty good outside of the pair of HOLY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING errors the safeties turn in every game. Against Miami, Michigan got away with it. Against Utah and Notre Dame, not so much. Morgan Trent isn't great but he's solid. Donovan Warren is verging on avoid-at-all-costs territory, IMO.
The pass rush got shut out against Notre Dame largely because of some crazy max-protect sets and a big lead that allowed Notre Dame to forgo risk for the rest of the game; before that Michigan's defensive line had been murdering guys. They'll probably get back to that against Wisconsin's relatively lumbering line.
The big concern here is play action that fools the linebackers or safeties (or the linebackers and safeties) and gets tight ends wide open over the middle or one of the outside guys open deep. This should be a major advantage for Michigan if Wisconsin ends up in a long-yardage situation.
Key Matchup: Ezeh and Thompson and Mouton versus the tight end and the other tight end and the other other tight end, especially on play action. Also Brown. I expect a lot of robber zones from Michigan in an attempt to close down the inevitable gaps that will open up between the linebackers, who I guarantee will get sucked up on play action, and the safeties. This is tight end playground.
Wisconsin's kicker is pretty good, 4/5 on the year with his miss coming from beyond 50 yards.
Meanwhile, KC Lopata has been pretty good so far and Zoltan the Inconceivable has been excellent. Michigan's punting has been a huge net positive. Returns have been complete disaster; expect a rotation of punt and kick returners until they find someone who can run forward with the ball.
Key Matchup: Michigan returners versus HOLY GOD JUST CATCH THE BALL.
- Chapman slashes up into McGuffie right from the start.
- We don't see some improvement from the linebackers when they take on Wisconsin's fullbacks.
- Evil Threet returns.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Michigan busts out aggression-killing misdirection early and often.
- Success with Odoms forces Wisconsin to go to a nickel.
- Michigan feels it can play really aggressive with the safeties and gets away with it.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for We Are Unprepared To Stop The Beef Machine, +1 for This Is Probably A Much Better Team Than We've Faced So Far, –1 for But We've Got A Quarterback!, +1 for But What Are The Chances He Doesn't Screw Up?, +1 for I Hate These Matchups ).
Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for The California Raisin Bowl Is Slipping Away, +1 for 1-3 Would Not Be Particularly Fun, –1 for But 2-2 Wouldn't Be That Much Funner, +1 for If We Win We Can Woo Rose Bowl Hope For Like A Week)
Loss will cause me to... cancel those hotel reservations in downtown Detroit.
Win will cause me to... woooooo Rose Bowl baby!
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
I don't think this is a good matchup for Michigan after watching Johnny Thompson get smoked by ND's fullback time and again. Wisconsin will have some success on the ground, suck up Michigan defenders, and then hit a long ball or three to Beckum or one of the outside guys; the rest of their yards they'll grind out on the ground. They'll probably get to the mid-to-high twenties.
Michigan, meanwhile, will probably get a reality check after the offense looked shockingly effective against Notre Dame. This is the kind of team that can make Michigan's patchwork offensive line look patchwork, and while I expect the offense won't revert to the ugly ways of the first couple games neither will it move up and down the field as smoothly as it did versus ND. A big play or two, one or two effective drives, and
This game isn't completely out of the question for Michigan as long as what we saw two weeks ago wasn't a mirage, but I think they have get one more big break than Wisconsin to win.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Threet throws at least one ugly interception.
- The defensive line returns to its rampant ways in the pass rush.
- Wisconsin, 24-17.
Bumped from the diaries for extreme usefulness. -ed
I've watched the first three quarters of the Wisco Fresno game, and the first half of the Marshall game. Here are my thoughts.Wisconsin's Defense:
- They base out of a 4-3. As long as a tight end is in the game, they will stay in this front. Against Fresno, they brought a safety down and played cover 1 behind it. I think they were in cover 1. Its hard to read coverages watching TV footage. They did not blitz fresno very often, only on 2nd and long or 3rd and long. They would usually put #2 over the tight end if the tight end was in the slot. Against Marshall, they kept both safeties back and played out of a 2 shell. They appeared to be running a soft two, where the corners get depth with the #1 receiver until their flat is threatened. I think they were also running this when Fresno would go 5 wide.
- On third and long they will run a 3 man front and blitz. Only once during the 5 quarters I watched did they not blitz out of this front. They like to bring #11 on the outside. If they other linebackers blitz out of this front, they generally go through B gap. They blitzed Marshall more than Fresno. Marshall was more of a passing offense so this makes sense.
- #91 and #92 are their best players on defense. They are extremely quick off the ball and were very good at disrupting Fresno's zone running play. 91 is DT and just blew by people several times. He was also offsides two or three times, so I think we will get some easy 5 yard gains here and there. But Molk has got to be quick end get off the ball with power this week. This guy cannot spend the afternoon in Michigan's backfield or we will not be able to run the ball. #92 is the same way. They get up field in a hurry, and one way to negate this are screen passes. Both Marshall and Fresno got a couple big gains on well executed screens. I don’t know if Michigan has run it very much this year, but running the inside trap should put #91 on his back and hopefully result in some good runs.
- I think they will play us more like they played Fresno, so Carson Butler on #2 should be a huge mismatch. He is not that good in man to man coverage. Fresno’s tight end is not the athlete Carson Butler is, but consistently got open against that guy. If Butler is going to break out in a game this year, it has got to be against #2 in man to man coverage.
- Their corners seem to be ok in man coverage, but not great. Again, its hard to tell on TV film. I think we will see a lot of man coverage, because we have not consistently beat man coverage. If we see this, we need to make them pay for it. We have to throw the fade accurately and run better routes. They are physical corners, and Michigan’s receivers must be physical as well. I don’t think our receivers have been good enough in this area. They have been redirected on some of their vertical routes, and they have to be better. If we start hitting on the fades and comebacks, our other routes will open. The safeties are also ok players. #12 gets to the ball quickly. When they bring a safety down, I think it was #21 who they brought most of the time. They also like to blitz him in their three man front when he is playing man over #2.
- Bubble screens could be difficult to run this week. They mostly play with a man over every receiver, so by alignment we will be at a disadvantage for this play. However, if we are successful running the zone/counter/trap, they may have to bring the man over #2 or #3 to the inside, opening up the bubble screens. The three step passing game should be there this week too, especially if they are in man. The three step slant is one of the hardest throws to defend man to man, especially if the corners think the #1 receiver is a vertical threat.
- The linebackers are good players. They are not incredibly athletic, but they play disciplined and are good tacklers. However, if Michigan can take care of #91 and #92 and get to the second level, we can run on these guys. They are susceptible to misdirection. They bit on a reverse in the Fresno game, and usually bit pretty hard on the bootlegs.
- There isn’t as much to say here. This is an I-formation offense that is looking to drive you off the ball. They like to keep two tight ends in the game most of the time. With the athletic tight ends they have, they can run or throw out of these formations. Beckum especially is a threat lining up in the slot or outside. They are also decent blockers, but we have to get by these guys when they are blocking on run plays.
- Their favorite formation is a tight end other either side with twins to the wide side of the field. They can run the belly to either side or throw out of this formation. They also like to put both tight ends on the same side with a fullback in the backfield. They will pull the center and play side tackle out between the tight ends and run the fullback through the hole as a lead blocker. They run this a lot and have success with it. They also motion the wing tight end to the other side. They run to the motion and run the counter away from it. Sometimes, they pull the motioned tight end back to the play side and run a trap. Any pulling lineman will take you to the play side. When lineman work off double teams and get to the second level, they go after the outside linebackers, and leave the Mike for the lead blocking full back. When they pull, it looks like they are looking for the first man to show.
- Their passing game is based around their tight ends. They will run them on deep outs, down the seam, and down the sideline. They also like to run crossing routes with these guys. They look for these guys first. Their wideouts do not seem like much of a threat. #7 is a big tall guy but can get pushed around. #3 and #85 are smaller quicker guys, but did not get much separation against Fresno db’s. They will run some bubble screens out of twins and trips if the defense is way off the line of scrimmage. Everidge is a typical Wisconsin qb. His arm strength and accuracy or just ok, and he can make a few plays with his legs. We need to hit him early and often. I think this is possible. Marshall got some pressure on him early, and Fresno was able to get some as well. We need a big day from Jamison and Graham on passing downs, and I think we will blitz a lot on these downs as well.
- As a defense, we have to stop the run game. This is not going to be easy to do all day. However, I think we can do it. Our DT, have to stand up the double teams, and not allow the Oline to release to the lb’s. When our lb’s take on a lineman or a lead blocker, they cannot let them get into their bodies. They either have to take them head on, extend their arms, and shed the block, or take them on with their correct shoulder and make the play with their free shoulder. Even if this is just forcing the play back to the middle, it has to be done. Our lb’s have got to deliver hits this week. Putting their heads down and lunging will result in big gains for P.J. Hill. He will run through arm tackles, and if we try to hit him high, he will get 5 yards after contact. He is a big guy, but he runs pretty upright. We have to hit him low, wrap up, and drive him back. I think we have the athletes at lb to make these plays, but until now they have been lunging. Hopefully, they have been working on this for two weeks and execute better on Saturday.
- We have to hit the tight ends as they come off the line of scrimmage. We do not have a linebacker that matches up well with Beckum. Maybe Mouton can stay with him, but if he catches a ball, does Mouton bring him down immediately? The other TE, Graham, is not as physical as Beckum. We can knock this guy down right off the line of scrimmage and take him out of the game completely. We need to hit Beckum too on every single play. When these tight ends try to release off the line, we need to put them on their backs. You can hit a guy in college until the ball is in the air, and we have to beat these guys up. Warren and Trent should have no problem locking up their wideouts.
- I expect to see Michigan run some cover 4 in this game where the safeties are buzzing their feet at the snap and reading the play. The corners are man outside, and if the safeties read run they come up in run support. If they read pass, they have deep half. From what gsimmons has posted about the defense, this coverage is now in Michigan’s arsenal. Whatever coverages they run, I expect to see safeties coming down in run support.
- One last thing, they run a play action where they fake a zone stretch play and bootleg, dragging the tight end from the original play side. They hit it for big chunks of yards against Fresno. However, they ran the play action 3 or 4 times in the games I watched, but only handed off once. If you see the zone stretch, it is most likely a play action. Again, we have to hit both tight ends on this play and cannot let them release cleanly.
Well that’s what I have for this week. I definitely think we can move the ball against their D, but we have to execute the fade route better. We also have to be able to run the bread n’ butter zone read play with 3 or 4 wide receiver sets. Defensively, our lb’s have to improve significantly at taking on lead blocks and delivering a hit on tackles. We need to hit Everidge early and often, and we have to keep the TE’s from getting a clean release off the LOS. I really believe this is a winnable game. We definitely have the weapons on offense to hurt them in secondary. Our Oline needs to execute, and we absolutely cannot turn the ball over.
You've been unusually skeptical about this Wisconsin team... why?
I have yet to see this team put together anything that remotely resembles a four-quarter performance. The Akron game is much closer if the Akron QB can hit the broad side of a barn. Marshall jumped to a 14-0 lead while Wisconsin was sleepwalking. Fresno State should have beaten them by at least two scores.
When you are not consistent on either side of the ball, it's only a matter of time before someone beats you for it.
How has Evridge been? Competent? Do they trust him enough to go over the middle frequently? Michigan's linebackers have been bad in pass coverage and you've got that Beckum guy, so that would seem to be high on the list of things to find out about him. Can he run at all?
Evridge has been okay. I like his moxie and I like the fact that he seems willing to spread the ball around and not always look for Beckum. Of course, not having Beckum for two games probably helped him on that. Anyway.
My only issue with Evridge is that I've seen some horrible decisions (goal-line pick against Akron) and some pretty bad throws. As far as going over the middle, they seem to be gaining trust in him. I'm willing to give him some more time to get more comfortable with the offense and his skill-position players.
Beckum and The Other Tight End (Garrett Graham, who's also pretty damn good) will eat Michigan alive if they can't figure out a way to cover them. And I am pretty sure the linebackers won't get it done.
Ever try a 3-0-8 defense?
[I think we'd probably go 5-0-6, actually. –ed]
How are the other receivers? They haven't caught anything even in Beckum's absence.
I really like David Gilreath. Fast as hell and decent hands. Still has to refine his route-running, and he's a bit more of a threat as a kick returner at this point. Kyle Jefferson seems to be in the midst of taking a giant step back from a promising freshman year.
No one else has been worth a mention so far.
Wisconsin 13, Fresno State 10. Fresno State 55, Toledo 54. Is that a bad sign for the Wisconsin offense? What happened in that game?
I'm not too concerned about it. Surely, Fresno was pumped for that game, as it was probably the biggest home game they've ever played. Going to Toledo after that (no offense to Rocket fans) had to be a letdown for them. And Toledo runs the fast-break spread, which Fresno was bound to have a tougher time defending because they just aren't that good at getting at opposing QBs.
In defense of the Wisconsin offense, Evridge was cramping up and had issues throughout the game. And he still did a good job taking care of the football.
I think it can be fuzzy logic to directly compare two results like that. Plus it's not favorable to Wisconsin, so I'm choosing to forget it happened. K?
I just sort of assume PJ Hill is PJ Hill and the Wisconsin line is its usual grinding self. Any surprises in there? I am not looking forward to the matchup of Hill and the fullback versus Michigan's craptacular linebackers.
Nothing surprises me there. The line was supposed to be solid again, and it is. Hill has stayed healthy, and Zach Brown is a good change of pace.
If Michigan can't solve the Wisconsin run game, you could chop off Evridge's left arm without it making much difference in the end result.
Michigan got the run game going against Wisconsin by blowing out their defensive tackles with double teams. How are the Wisconsin DTs? You've expressed some concerns about the linebackers and their angles, which could be relevant against Michigan's zone-stretch happy rush game. Do you foresee issues there?
Many. Combine the usual issues with the spread with what I've seen so far, and you have issues.
Newkirk is an okay tackle, and so is Chapman. They miss Nick Hayden because of his ability to hold his ground.
Perhaps an extra week of rest will help Jonathan Casillas. He played the Fresno game with a huge brace on his knee, and he looked like he was about as uncomfortable as humanly possible. DeAndre Levy is good, but they have struggled in the middle ever since Mark Zalewski and his mohawk left.
How has the pass rush been? Michigan's line has been surprisingly decent pass-blocking.
Wisconsin has Shaughnessy at one end, but not much else on the line. They'll probably struggle to generate pressure without blitzing, and that is going to be a problem against the spread.
When you blitz a spread team, you damn well better get home on the play. Quickly. I am not sure I trust Threet any further than I could throw Tim Jamison, but I don't want to see Wisconsin in a position where they have to rely on unforced bad reads and bad throws to keep the passing game at bay. And that's usually what happens when they play a spread team. I see their overall defensive speed as having improved, but it's not where they need it to be.
The secondary is down one Ikegwuonu; any concerns there? How have they been in tackling?
Bleh. Mario Goins is okay. Better than Allen Langford. Langford has actually played better so far (not that he could get much worse).
Jay Valai and Shane Carter are solid in the back. Aubrey Pleasant sees the field seldom enough to not mess things up.
You can tell Ikegwuonu is gone, though. No team is trying to avoid one side of the field during the game. They're picking on both sides pretty much evenly.
What has Wisconsin's reaction been to spread shotgun formations? Utah went with a 4-3; Notre Dame had their nickel package in the whole game. Zone or man?
I'd like to see them go man, but I don't know that they have the personnel. My guess is that they'll do the "Mix it up and try to confuse Threet" defense. Because of the troubles at MLB, it wouldn't shock me to see a 3-2-6 look for a good portion of the game. The problem is that it would really leave them open to draw plays and quick hits, and I honestly don't know how well they'll do defending the zone read play.
(Remember, Wisconsin hasn't really faced a "shotgun spread" team, at least not like the way Rodriguez runs his offense. From what I've seen of Michigan, Threet - immobile as he may be - will be more of a run threat than any QB they've faced so far.)
Beckum and some others have had injury problems, but everyone except John Clay is supposed to be a go. Any other injury issues we should know about? Is Beckum fully healthy?
Cornerback Aaron Henry (ACL) won't play this season. He was going to try, but it just isn't healed enough.
Clay isn't a terribly huge loss. He's a physical runner, but so is Hill. He's not as fast as Brown. Expect to see tons of Hill and Brown Saturday.
Casillas and Beckum both played hurt against Fresno, and neither looked sharp or healthy. Again, the hope is that the bye week will help them be ready. Having one or both of them at less than 100 percent would royally suck.
Have a prediction?
Wisconsin wins, but it will be close, and I'm not terribly confident. I'll go 23-17.
I just don't see the Badgers as being ready to play their best football. But I do think they'll take a positive stride forward after the week off.
Pressure's on, though. They are expected to win a game AT Michigan, and they have to avoid "looking past Michigan", because tOSU and Penn State are coming up the following two weeks.
Talkin', woo! Aaron Rennie of CFB Weekly has me on regularly and I regularly forget to point this out. So I want to say that: I am regularly on CFB Weekly and you should listen to it, it's pretty kicking.
The reason for the disclaimer: this week I am not forgetting to link/embed my conversation with Russ Levine of Football Outsiders. In past years the podcast has been wide-ranging; this time I managed to cram 60-70% Michigan talk in, with some discussion of Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State:
Russell failed to point this out, but last year when he had me on in the immediate aftermath of The Horror I declared Morgantown a "hole" and suggested that Rich Rodriguez could be convinced to leave. I'd later contradict that multiple times in writing, but who cares? Not this guy.
Injuries and such. Everyone seems healthy except Junior Hemingway, who has a shoulder thing that is likely to linger through the year, and various members of the offensive line. With Perry Dorrestein dinged, the only thing standing between Michigan and OMG WTF is the return of Mark Ortmann.
Rodriguez on Ortmann:
Two injured left tackles, Mark Ortmann and Perry Dorrestein, are uncertain for the game against Wisconsin, though coach Rich Rodriguez expects Ortmann to play.
It also sounds like they're going to try to work in John Ferrara this week.
there are plans to have a group of people in the student section wear navy shirts (they will be handed out at the game) in hopes that a block "M" will be formed. The idea came from Penn State's "S-Zone," which is a lone blue section that outlines an "S" in the sea of white shirts.
MSC says the plan has "the makings of an epic failure" given the students' tendency to sit in the general vicinity of their seats, not in the seats themselves, and I tend to agree.
But what about some alumni? Alumni sit in their seats and there's a big damn block M inscribed into sections 44 and 1. The AD should encourage people in those sections to wear clothing the same color as their seat; if they can pull it off the effect would be pretty spectacular.
Insert grumbling about lame-o Michigan fans here.
Etc.: Genuinely Sarcastic has their run chart up; Rich Rodriguez's kid made Greg Mathews brownies. Dude. The MGo-Auburn trip from the perspective of our Auburn friend; Hart, Long, and Manningham will be in town this weekend.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M11||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Post||Brown||Inc|
|This is a two-man route; Brown(+1) is sitting in a short zone that takes away the post (cover +1); Graham(+1) shucks a guy and comes free, forcing Clausen to scramble out and throw it away. Warren(+1) in good coverage here, too.|
|M11||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Scramble||Trent||4|
|ND rolls the pocket; Trent, Stewart, and Mouton set up such that Clausen doesn't like either of his options (Cover +1), so he starts running around and stuff. Thompson(+1) strips the ball and it appears that Harrison falls on it; the entire defense sees it and reacts, then someone wrests it away from him.|
|M7||3||6||Ace||Base 4-3||Pass||Out||Trent||Inc (Pen + 5)|
|Trent(-1) interferes with Floyd, grabbing his jersey; they throw the flag. (Cover -1)|
|M2||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||Off Tackle||Jamison||2|
|Completely terrible by Jamison(-1), who flies upfield and right out of the play. On first and goal from the two. Meanwhile, Mouton(-1) slips on the turf, compounding the issues and making this an easy walk-in.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 12 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M14||1||10||Ace Twins||Base 4-3||Pass||Wheel||Warren||Inc|
|Two man route; Warren(+1) in good coverage on this (cover +1) and Clausen throws it out of the endzone.|
|M14||2||10||Ace Twins||Base 4-3||Run||Counter||Thompson||4|
|Michigan blitzing up the center with Mouton and Ezeh; this is a counter, IMO, with a TE shooting backside into an unblocked Jamison. Thompson(-1) fails to read this and ends up moving up into a hole where the play isn't going. Taylor(-1) got blasted by the LT, though that may have been just bad luck because of the respective playcalls; he was expecting that Jamison would end up blocked by that guy and the G would have to pick one of two players.|
|M10||3||6||Ace Twins||Base 4-3||Pass||Fade||Trent||10|
|Trent(-1) gets turned around too late and find himself flailing, unable to jump; Grimes leaps over him and hauls it in. (Cover -1) Again: two man route.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-14, 11 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Pass||Fly||Warren||Inc (Pen + 15)|
|Max protect: a two man route. Warren(+1) has this blanketed and breaks it up beautifully; Michigan gets a flag like 5 seconds after the play. Awful, awful call. (Cover +1)|
|M48||1||10||Ace Big||Base 4-3||Pass||Fly||Tate||48|
|The one-man route featured in song from last week. I don't know who to blame. There's a “miscommunication” according to Trent and both Brown and he let Tate by him. -4 for Trent based on the analysis of GSimmons. (Cover -3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-21, 5 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Throwback screen||Warren||-3|
|Michigan sitting in a zone so Warren(+1) is reading Clausen all the way. When he comes back to the near side of the field he knows what's going on, breaks on it, and makes the TFL. Will Johnson was also crashing back.|
|O34||2||13||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Out||Warren||8|
|Man is open for six or so; Warren(+1) is there to tackle immediately and strips the ball out. Harrison kicks it back to Tate, and Tate's gotten off the ground to advance the ball. Son of a...|
|O42||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Fade||Trent||Int|
|Trent(+2) in perfect coverage, gets his head around, and intercepts. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-21, EO 1st Q. Unfortunately for Michigan, this turnover functions as a 31 yard net punt and is worth about 6-8 yards of field position instead of, like, 50.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O13||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Dive||Taylor||2|
|Both DTs get straight double teams; Johnson(-1) is bowled over by his; Taylor(+1) stands up to his; Mouton(+1) uses the room to shoot up into the hole and be the first tackler to arrive.|
|O15||2||8||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Slant||Brown||60|
|Warren(-1) beaten on a slant by Tate and can't make the tackle. He does, however, slow Tate down immensely, at which point Brown(-4) comes up to a nearly stopped receiver, overruns him, and turns ten yards into sixty. Tate must not be that fast because Thompson and Stewart ran him down.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun Empty||Base 4-3||Pass||Slip screen||Trent||9|
|WTF? Thompson(-1) reads the QB and decides the play is going inside or something, running himself out of contention. Trent(-1) is playing way, way back and reacts slowly, too. (Cover -1)|
|Thompson(-1) takes on the wrong shoulder of the fullback, blowing contain instantly and letting Hughes outside of him.|
|Thompson(-1) decides he's not going to wait for the fullback to come to him again and shoots up into the hole, where he proceeds to overrun the play, miss the tackle, and give the RB a major gap.|
|M1||2||G||Goal line||Goal line||Pass||PA Cross||Warren||Inc (Pen +1)|
|Jamison gets a free run at Clausen, forcing him to chuck one up off his back foot. Warren(-1) has a better shot at the ball than the receiver; as he's tracking it he gives the WR a little pushoff that gets flagged. Sigh. (Pressure +1, cover –1)|
|M1||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||Iso||Sagesse||1|
|Eh, first and goal from the inch line.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-28, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Van Bergen||4|
|Actually a pretty good job by RVB(+1) take on the FB block, remain upright, disengage, and move outside to tackle when he bounces it outside. Warren helps.|
|O29||2||6||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Ezeh||1|
|This seems more like an ND screwup than good play from Michigan: the RG doubles Johnson and leaves Ezeh totally unblocked; Ezeh makes a tackle at the LOS.|
|O30||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Quick out||Trent||4|
|Michigan drops eight into coverage and Clausen throws a quick out; Trent(+1) is on it quick enough to prevent the receiver from picking up the first down, with an assist from Harrison.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-28, 4 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O14||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Jamison||16 + 15|
|Jamison(-2) runs right upfield idiotically on what's almost guaranteed a run. Michigan blitzed up the middle and got stoned but Ezeh is coming free if only there wasn't such a cavernous gap on that side of the line. Morgan Trent gets the world's weakest personal foul afterwards.|
|Thompson gets a free run at the QB as Notre Dame just busts the pickup; Clausen chucks it behind his tight end. (Pressure +1)|
|Good job by Trent(+1) to come up and tackle quickly for a very minimal gain. (Cover +1)|
|Trent(+1) has this blanketed; he's interfered with, drawing an offensive PI flag. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-28, EOH.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Ace Twins||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Ezeh||4|
|Mouton(-1) gets way too far inside; Ezeh reads the play and scrapes outside into a hole that's open because the OG has blocked down on Mouton. Good play to get there but his tackle attempt is spun through and the RB falls forward.|
|Poor from Thompson(-1), who has to take on a fullback block and gets knocked back. He needs to get to the outside shoulder of the FB to force the RB back into Ezeh; this does not happen. Brown(+1), however, reads the play, gets up past the block of the WR, and turns this into a minimal gain. Notre Dame is doubling the DTs on all these plays and leaving LBs unblocked; they aren't making plays.|
|Clausen's first read—whatever it is, he drops back so far we see none of the routes—is covered(+1) and a blitz/stunt from Martin and Thompson gets pressure up the middle(+1 pressure), forcing Clausen to scramble out of the pocket and throw it away. Martin +1, I think, for beating an interior lineman.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-28, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Graham(-1) worryingly crushed off the ball and backwards. Taylor slants to the other side of the play, and there's a lot of space for ND to play with on the backside of the play. Mouton(+1) sets up well, forcing the RB up inside, and Thompson(+1) finally makes ND pay for not blocking him by slicing up and making a tackle for no gain. Does anyone want to correct me on what I should call this play?|
|O18||2||10||I-Form||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Stop||Warren||11|
|No complaints here, as Ezeh(+1) isn't fooled by the play action, blitzes, beats a block, and forces Clausen to throw early. (Pressure +1). Warren is breaking on the ball (+1, cover +1) and rakes just as it gets there; Tate manages to haul it in. Extremely difficult play for ND to make; they made it.|
|A virtual replay of the iso from earlier this half that Brown shut down except Harrison doesn't make a great play. Unfortunate playcall erases Mouton and has Ezeh sitting back trying to watch two holes; Thompson(-1) is blasted by the fullback again and loses leverage. Instead of getting funneled to Ezeh he hops outside and zips for a good gain. Ezeh(-1) didn't help matters by taking a nonsensical step to the other side of the play, providing ND an angle to block him.|
|Thompson(-1) again gets blown up by the fullback and allows the RB outside of him. Ezeh reads this one much better and shoots out to meet him; he gets stiffarmed(-1) to the ground.|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun Empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||TE Screen||--||Inc|
|Through the receiver's hands; this didn't look like it was going anywhere anyway.|
|Same play they just sprang for 13. Graham(+2) does a much better job of taking on the FB block, gets outside, and tackles for loss.|
|Three man rush sees Martin(+2) smoke the center, shoot past the guard, and get in Clausen's face immediately. (Pressure +1.) When your three-man rush gets to the QB like that there's no where to go. Clausen rolls out and throws the ball away, getting nowhere near the LOS. This should have been a 20-yard intentional grounding call.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-28, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|They're peeling a tight end to the backside of the play to block the DE similar to some of the isos on the last drive so I think this is nominally supposed to be headed to the backside. Johnson(+1), finally single-teamed, pushes into the backfield right in the RB's path. He decides to bounce it outside, where Van Bergen and Ezeh track him down.|
|O9||2||8||Ace Twins||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Graham||7|
|Appears to be a bad stunt. Graham and Ezeh are swapping; this allows an ND OL to use his momentum against him and shove him out of the hole. Still: –1 for Graham. Ezeh, having beaten his blocker, would have a shot at a TFL if Graham hadn't gotten blown back. Taylor, by the way, slanted to the other side of the center and was taken out of the play by the call.|
|O16||3||1||Ace Twins||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Brown||3|
|Johnson(+1) fights to the inside of his guy and closes down the hole; he and Ezeh(+1), who sliced through the traffic, meet Hughes at the LOS; Hughes is forced to spin back. IMO, Brown(-1) was too passive here, allowing Hughes to build up momentum; he ends up tackling but not before Hughes makes two yards here.|
|O19||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Base 4-3||Run||Draw||Johnson||1|
|I don't think Allen is much good and this is a play that might indicate that. Martin is in; they double him and get a little push but not much. Johnson(+1) has gotten push on his single blocker; he reads the play and starts to disconnect as Mouton comes up, allowed the space because ND's OL is busy with Martin and didn't get out on him.|
|For the first time in forever they don't double Taylor(+2); he blasts the center right back into the path of this attempted iso, destroying it.|
|Clausen hesitates on his first read (cover +1) as the various guys in the short zone have their counterparts covered. Clausen rolls out and eventually throws as he reaches the sideline; the pass is short of the sticks and dropped anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-28, EO3Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Michigan blitzes outside; Graham(-1) flies upfield and Ezeh gets blocked by the FB.|
|O16||2||5||Ace Twins||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Taylor||4|
|Taylor(-1) is crushed downfield, ending up pancaked on his face three yards past the LOS. It took two and a half guys to do it, but when you get blown that far back it's hard for LBs to get to the hole on time.|
|O20||3||1||I-Form||Base 4-3||Run||QB sneak||--||1|
|They get it.|
|O21||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||--||2|
|Wad of players; everyone does okay to better than okay and there's nowhere to go until Taylor gives a little ground; the RB is swallowed up by a number of players. If I gave out +0.5 I'd probably provide them to RVB and Taylor.|
|Taylor(+2) pushes his man back three yards and disengages for a TFL.|
|O22||3||9||Ace 3-wide||Okie||Pass||Bubble screen?||Trent||-1|
|Tate runs a slant instead of blocking Trent, so this isn't particularly difficult to stop.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-35, 9 min 4th Q. The last seven minutes are run run run and are not charted.|
Let's just go to the…
|Jamison||-||3||-3||Had some issues flying upfield against runs.|
|Johnson||3||1||2||Spent basically the entire day fighting double teams and was quiet.|
|Martin||3||-||3||Appears to be the DT of choice for three-man lines in passing situations|
|Ezeh||2||2||0||Ezeh might absorb some of Thompson's minuses. See the blockquote below.|
|Trent||6||7||-1||An interesting day.|
|Warren||5||2||3||Even when passes were completed on him he was right there making it tough; one PI call was awful, the other stupid.|
|Brown||2||5||-3||Even if the Tate TD wasn't his fault his play on the slant was awful.|
|"Coverage"||11||8||3||Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?|
Notre Dame's offensive strategy was to keep the defensive line quiet by doubling the ends on pass plays and the tackles on run plays. They would take their chances with Michigan's linebackers. And that pretty much worked. You can see Thompson's enormous negative score up there; every time he took on the ND fullback he lost. It's here I should interject this seemingly knowledgeable objection to the Getting Thumped post from a couple days ago:
Update: extremely strong objections on this from the coaches/former players in the comments, FWIW. I'm with them now.
I just read your post on ND's iso against Michigan. Thompson was not wrong; that's how Michigan plays it. The damning photo is "bad iso 3." If you notice, Thompson meets the FB at the 29, which was the LOS. Then you see him extend and try to escape over the top. It actually is a pretty good job by Thompson. The mistake was by Obi Ezeh. By design, Ezeh is supposed to fast flow over the top and be outside of Thompson. If the back sees this and cuts back, he does so into the waiting arms of Terrance Taylor. Ezeh's used to the old way--which was played as you suggested. If you re-examine "bad iso 3," Ezeh is flat-footed instead of screaming over the top, which is what the scheme calls for. And that's why Thompson spilled the block again on the next play. The bad part is that Ezeh messed it up again. But that's hard to get corrected in a loud stadium on back-to-back plays. I'm sure that once Ezeh came to the sidelines, he was corrected.
…so maybe some of the Thompson minuses should migrate over to Ezeh.
The net effect is the same: the linebackers were bad, largely incapable of shutting down a weak rushing offense despite spending the day unblocked.
Those are a couple of interesting scores for "pressure" and "coverage."
Uh… yeah. They system has difficulty hashing out the true impact of big plays allowed and could use some tweaking—probably a "tackling" metric. But I think they're pretty much on point.
It was hard for me to offer a –1 when Notre Dame kept eight or nine guys in on the early plays, especially because after the first bit of time ND bought with the avalanche of blockers there was always a Michigan guy coming up to make him run around. And once Michigan gave ND that big lead they shut up shop; when Clausen threw later it was always a three step drop or he had a guy in his face. It was clear ND was terrified of their offensive line in pass protection. Much to Michigan's dismay, they found themselves in a position where ND could get away with that terror.
As for the coverage, it was mostly good except for Trent's misadventures.
Yeah, about him…
I don't really blame him for the fade touchdown, which is really hard to defend if executed properly. I also kind of suspect that Brown ran the wrong coverage on the Tate touchdown, not Trent, if only because Brown seems horribly mistake prone and Trent is an intelligent fifth-year senior. (I still gave the negative to Trent because the general opinion of guys who know more than me was it was on him.) The Floyd PI was obvious and extremely harmful.
Outside of those minus-drawing errors, Trent picked up +6 for various good plays, including a number of incidents in which he totally blanketed Floyd down the sideline. I still think he's a pretty good corner.
Is this defense any good?
It's some good, but it's nowhere near where Michigan needed it to be to avoid an ugly season. Brown has given up at least one huge play every game, and Stewart only escape that fate because Miami couldn't execute. The linebackers are just bad, equally poor in pass coverage and rush defense.
Yes, Michigan held ND to 250-ish yards on the day, but for much of the game they were playing it safe to run out the clock. The consistent misplays by the linebackers and the two massive opportunities yielded by the secondary every game don't happen to good defenses.
Insert all the blah blah about improving here. I figure there's a chance the safeties get themselves sorted out, but the linebackers are too thin and too poor to be positives down the road.
Donovan Warren was very good outside of the silly PI in the endzone. Taylor held up to his doubles all day and crushed single blocking when they gave it to him.
Brown turned a first down into sixty yards; Thompson and Ezeh couldn't take advantage of the fact that one of them was unblocked on just about every run play.
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
Ugh. If Michigan's ability to shut down opponent iso plays is dodgy against Notre Dame, Wisconsin could bludgeon them. The Badgers are the Badgers and unless we get a massive week-to-week improvement it could be ugly, especially with Travis Beckum healthy and ready to exploit the massive gaps between the linebackers and the safeties.
This is a bad, bad matchup even if they struggled to put up 13 points against Fresno State. I hope Michigan can get Wisconsin in long yardage situations and doubt they will.