9/13/2008 – Michigan 17, Notre Dame 35 – 1-2
You either accept this or you don’t as it relates to football and, more generally, life: random events occur without reason. Around these parts, the following things are chalked up the general bloody-mindedness of the universe:
- unforced fumbles from Boubacar Cissoko, Michael Shaw, Steven Threet (x2), Brandon Minor, Donovan Warren
- Notre Dame fumbles miraculously bouncing back to the fumbler
- Greg Mathews’ borderline touchdown catch—which, IMO, was going to stand as called either way—being ruled incomplete
- Kevin Grady’s borderline fumble not being ruled down for forward progress
- some questionable officiating
- a pounding rain descending upon the players after a number of above events had combined to provide an 11-point deficit.
Michigan, of course, actively participated in a number of these events—in fact, they were the only participants in most of the fumbles—but suggesting that these represent a disturbing trend (or, if you’re Pat Haden, some sort of mystical ND juju) is a stretch.
The Wolverines hadn't lost four fumbles since 1995. They hadn't had six turnovers since 1992.
You can’t really say this because the “BUT” is enormous, but: Michigan significantly outplayed Notre Dame on a down by down basis but shot itself in the foot every two seconds. Yes, this is sort of like saying “these cookies are delicious except for the arsenic.” Yes, Notre Dame was relieved of the need to outplay Michigan on a down-by-down basis because they were spotted a 21-0 lead and a second-half rainstorm and could be content to run some clock and punt. But I’ll take a team that looks competent except for a few huge glaring errors over one that can’t complete a pass, and if the teams played again next week the line would be further in Michigan’s favor. [Rakes points out this is a confusing sentence. The team that can't complete a pass is Michigan in their first two games. I rejiggered this paragraph and it didn't come out quite right. -ed] Massive negative events have a distorting effect on game results out of proportion to their usefulness as predictors.
Some of these major negative events are not purely random and are going away. Kevin Grady is a fumbler. The execution errors that led to the Minor fumble will remain rife. Stevie Brown has moved from possible liability to definite liability. Carson Butler.
Others—many others—were random events highly unlikely to recur: Yakety Sax fumbles caused by a wet ball, the distribution of close calls in ND’s favor*, Brandon Harrison kicking a fumble otherwise surrounded by M players back to the wide receiver.
Since I am not an emotionless robot I screamed my half-dozen profanities and fantasized about breaking stuff during the game, but when the red mist passed I was strangely pleased with an 18-point loss to what looks to be a meh-at-best team. This year was never going to end in glory anyway. What’s more important is the development of the offense, the emergence of Sam McGuffie, and the amazing one-week turnaround of Steven Threet.
The most damaging part of the whole Terrelle Pryor/BJ Daniels/Justin Feagin fiasco was not necessarily the loss of player X or player Y but the crimp it put in Rodriguez’s development schedule. Until about 3:45 Saturday it appeared Michigan would have to suffer through this year with the Threet/Sheridan duo, then start all over in 2009 with freshmen at the most critical position on the field.
It was at that point Threet threw a third-and-long slant, moved the chains, and embarked on a 16-23 day in extremely unfavorable conditions. Though he fumbled twice and was partially culpable for the Minor fumble, he also looked like an actual Division I quarterback, and in ways that even a potentially horrible Notre Dame defense couldn’t distort: he threw balls to receivers. He made good decisions. He was a freshman in his first road game, played in Hurricane Katrina, and averaged 7.6 YPA.
Yeah, he’ll probably regress, probably play well only in fits and starts, etc., etc. He’ll also go into next year a threat to keep his starting job, giving Michigan a third shot at quarterback competence. That’s more relevant for the rest of this year and the next three than a slippery ball and Notre Dame waking up the Willingham echoes.
*(this is not to say that any of the calls were wrong, but virtually everything that could have gone either way went to ND; over time that’s unsustainable.)
BULLETS THAT ARE APPARENTLY SLATHERED IN BUTTER OR SOMETHING
- Hey, great, Carson Butler, let’s take a swing at a player. Butler’s provided almost nothing positive this year and should be encouraged to enter the draft this spring.
- One inexplicable carryover from the Carr era: the occasional Carlos Brown ISQD that goes for one yard.
- Speaking of Brown:
Another junior running back, Carlos Brown, said he was prepared for a bigger role in the game.
"It is what it is," said Brown. … Asked whether he'll be used more as a running back in the future, Brown said, "Hey, I'm clueless. You have to talk to coach Rod about all that."
This sounds like a guy who is not happy with his playing time.
No, I don’t think Michigan was taking any particular risk by putting a couple freshmen back to return kicks. They returned kicks in high school and it’s not like there’s anything different about it in college. Usually a KO fumble means some crappy field position; Michigan just got extraordinarily unlucky to have a muff like that.
- Speaking of muffs: the Donovan Warren punt return thingy has to be over, doesn’t it?
- The defensive line was somewhat disappointing, but on the long bomb they had eight guys in to block and a two-man route. That’s on the secondary.
- Stevie Brown turning a 10-yard slant into 60 yards by overrunning a guy Donovan Warren had brought to a near-stop was backbreaking.
- Also backbreaking: Grady fumble.
- Actually you could pick like eight different plays if we wanted to keep going.
ONE At irregular intervals, one of my girlfriend’s cats—yes, there are two and yes I realize this means I am playing with serious cat-lady-down-the-road fire—will face the wall or a window or a door and emit what is possibly the world’s most angst-ridden noise, somewhere between a meow and a strangled cry of existential dread.
Sometimes, the girlfriend will call out to the cat, acknowledging the deep roiling depths of his soul-dread. The cat will continue making the noise, unconsoled. Then, because it is a cat, it will completely forget about it and go do something else.
TWO Some years ago a strange literary conception popped into my mind in the course of writing twenty or so pages of a novel about the whittling of a set of five ninjas*: one of the characters in the book was subconsciously off-putting and consciously morose because instead of the usual organs and cells and atoms and subatomic particles he was comprised of layer after layer of tiny cats. Cat nerve cells stretched down his spine, each with their mouth on the tail of the adjacent cell; messages were passed when a sensory cat would be disturbed and bite down, causing the next cat to become impotently angry and use the only means of revenge at his disposal, which would be more biting. These cells had cat organelles and cat molecules all the way down to the frantically yowling electron cats and ovoid neutron cats that looked more like balls of yarn than cats and spent their time purringly content, &c.
I never got around to fleshing that idea out, but when I saw David Foster Wallace respond to a question posed by Charlie Rose with a sort of enraged incomprehension—literally saying “are we really talking about X?” before stammering out a spittle flecked, blindingly intelligent answer—I saw my man made of cats in the flesh. Wallace seemed repulsed by everything around him down to his own skin and torn between flight, murder, or suicide; lacking the ability to decide, he grit his teeth and soldiered on.
No more of that.
*(The ninjas were I dunno, symbolic of a friendship forged in one of those houses occupied by five to eleven guys in college and eventually ended up cinders as the people from the house splintered into their adult lives. It was (obviously) autobiographical and (equally obviously) embarked upon during that horrible post-college, mid-twenties lull where you are just getting used to the idea that you are not a special snowflake and all your friends moved, or you did, and your connections to the world are flimsy and unsatisfying.)
THREE I think, insofar as it is possible for anyone who really, really likes David Foster Wallace to think like this, that the aforementioned is pretty much #1 on my list of personal heroes. At this point, styles and formatting and idioms from his writing are so deeply embedded into mine that I’d forgotten where I got “&c”—DFW for etc.—from. “Bats” is my preferred term for insane. On Friday, I referenced Orin Incandenza, Wallace’s insanely valuable and accurate punter from Infinite Jest. In a 2005 post I urge you to not go back and read because yikes the prose, I riffed on a section of DFW’s brilliant article on fringe tennis player Michael Joyce. I’m extremely disappointed in myself because the season preview didn’t claim the offensive line gave me the howling fantods.
At some point a few years ago, I read the 1,079 pages of Infinite Jest in five days. When I was done, I was livid it wasn’t 300 pages longer. I went back to the beginning and read the first 50 or 100 pages again and realized that the book really was infinite: it was a loop. You could start from any point in it and end at any point and it would be the same: brilliant, infuriating, incomplete, and recursive. Wallace wrote a book on infinity and a thesis on modal logic and sometimes seemed more like a math genius with a side of authorial genius.
I mean, obviously, right? Obviously as soon as I picked something up.
FOUR Wallace would see-saw back and forth on a topic and in writing about one thing would invariably recurse his way into something entirely other, precisely define that, and then tie that back into the main thrust of his argument. Yesterday I re-read his review of a usage dictionary—usage! English usage!—and found this brilliant summation of why this blog is a successful endeavor:
…all the autobiographical stuff in ADMAU's Preface does more than just humanize Mr. Bryan A. Garner. It also serves to detail the early and enduring passion that helps make someone a credible technocrat — we tend to like and trust experts whose expertise is born of a real love for their specialty instead of just a desire to be expert at something. In fact, it turns out that ADMAU's Preface quietly and steadily invests Garner with every single qualification of modern technocratic Authority: passionate devotion, reason, and accountability, experience, exhaustive and tech-savvy research, an even and judicious temperament [uh… I try. –ed], and the sort of humble integrity (for instance, including in one of the entries a past published usage-error of his own) that not only renders Garner likable but transmits the same kind of reverence for English that good jurists have for the law, both of which are bigger and more important than any one person.
Probably the most attractive thing about ADMAU's Ethical Appeal, though, is Garner's scrupulous consideration of the reader's concern about his (or her) own linguistic authority and rhetorical persona and ability to convince an Audience that he cares.
He did this all the time, accidentally. Writing on lobsters, he defined the only morally and logically consistent position you can have on abortion. Writing on the Illinois State Fair, he defined an entire elusive section of the American populace. Writing on cruise ships, he defined his life: “a supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again.”
FIVE DFW, like all of the people who have written truly great things about sports since I’ve been paying attention, was not a sportswriter. He was a writer whose attention occasionally turned to sports, mostly tennis, and people who invest their time in the intricately choreographed peregrinations of athletes were always better off for it. The last time Wallace touched upon the subject was a New York Times Magazine article on the 2006 Federer-Nadal Wimbeldon final. This I also read yesterday, after considering the vast array of brooding photos that accompanied news stories and tributes across the internet, after revisiting the Rose interview in which Wallace seemed like a preternaturally unhappy person.
Necessary background for what’s to follow: the piece is titled “Roger Federer as Religious Experience,” states its thesis thusly…
if you’ve never seen the young man play live, and then do, in person, on the sacred grass of Wimbledon, through the literally withering heat and then wind and rain of the ’06 fortnight, then you are apt to have what one of the tournament’s press bus drivers describes as a “bloody near-religious experience.”
…and touches upon on a seven year-old boy named William Caines who was diagnosed with cancer at two and a half and served as Wimbeldon’s inspiring moppet du jour—my words, not Wallace’s.
In typically infuriating DFW fashion, Wallace buries the very crux of his piece—this cannot be disputed, it’s the title and thesis—in footnote #17. Perhaps he wanted to hide it. Didn’t know what to do with it. Wanted to say it but whisper it. Whatever. Midway through the third set there is a Federer Moment. DFW writes:
By the way, it’s right around here, or the next game, watching, that three separate inner-type things come together and mesh. One is a feeling of deep personal privilege at being alive to get to see this; another is the thought that William Caines is probably somewhere here in the Centre Court crowd, too, watching, maybe with his mum. The third thing is a sudden memory of the earnest way the press bus driver promised just this experience. Because there is one. It’s hard to describe — it’s like a thought that’s also a feeling. One wouldn’t want to make too much of it, or to pretend that it’s any sort of equitable balance; that would be grotesque. But the truth is that whatever deity, entity, energy, or random genetic flux produces sick children also produced Roger Federer, and just look at him down there. Look at that.
Everybody but everybody is dredging up the thousand and one points in Wallace’s writing that presage a premature, self-inflicted demise; this might be the one passage in his entire oeuvre that makes it shocking. And I think that sports may not be such a silly thing to make a career of describing and relating and experiencing.
SIX I even kind of look like DFW: tall, broad-shouldered, glasses, shaggy, shoulder-length brown hair, perpetual growth of stubble.
SEVEN I love that image of DFW at Wimbeldon, in the stands, those things converging on him, forgetting all the things that make his suicide so very unsurprising, thinking just look at him down there.
Look at that.
Take everything that follows under that context and realize these are solely our observations from moderating the live chat during the game and our goal is to make the chats better for everyone going forward.
1. This isn't as easy as it seems. We are putting lots of effort into making this an enjoyable experience for everyone, and sacrificing a bit of our own enjoyment of the game to do so. All we ask in return is the benefit of the doubt in that our actions are well-intentioned.
2. The number one complaint so far is "why aren't my posts being published?" There are 3 possible reasons for this.
First, we just didn't see it. This is highly likely if your comment is right after a big play.
Second, your comment is the same thing 5 other people said at the same time. In this case, we prefer to choose the clearest version of the comment.
Third, your post was neither witty, insightful, relevant, nor original (see next topic). Brandon Minor RAGES, we get it, everyone gets it.
Submitting "MINOR RAGE" clutters our view and limits what we can post. If someone makes a tackle or a pick, typing their name, "Graham!" is the same thing.
A list of common one-liners that destroy continuity:
<name of person involved in play>!
Those kill us. It kills the live blog. Please refrain.
Also, please please PLEASE do not submit a "why aren't my comments showing up?" comment. There is a well-intentioned reason, it's not a technical glitch, and all you're doing with this type of comment is adding to the clog that the moderators have to deal with and making it more likely somebody else's comment will get missed. Don't do this, or Big Gay Heart will come to your house and murder your puppies.
We aren't looking to accept paragraphs of technical analysis. One word posts aren't acceptable.
3. Technical problems crop up from time to time. Moderator computer crashes, stream violations, cil software freezing, all of these happen. Please be patient.
4. How to make your post better? The best thing you can do to make it easier on us and to increase the chances your post stands out is to make it look like you expended a small amount of effort. "stveie brown suckS1!!" will never be chosen over "Stevie Brown sucks." We realize it's a chat, but when 50 people are submitting comments and only 1 person is approving them, little things like that are used in order to reduce the need to read each comment in its entirety. We only see the first 10 words or so of the comment in the queue LiveBlog provides, and in order to keep the chat moving we can't really click and open each comment. LiveBlog software doesn't automatically scroll to the most recent comment. So when we click "accept", we're stuck there and have to catch up to more current action. That means we scroll all the way (sometimes quickly) to the here and now. Which means we skip over things. It's the way things are.
If your comments are "cleaner" it helps keep things orderly and on topic. During commercial breaks and halftime, this is definitely relaxed as there aren't as many comments to filter. Typical exclamations like "woo!" and "yes!" and "nice job!" are almost automatically glanced over, and approved only if the moderator is bored. Start your comment as if you're starting a sentence, and the moderator will assume your comment is worth reading.
5. Are we censoring comments? Definitely not. There were several viewpoints we disagreed with that we allowed through, and that will continue. Period.
1. Please keep the doom and gloom comments to a minimum, especially when we are winning the game. We're just as big a bunch of fans as you are, but piling on and bitching when we all know this is going to be a rough season really makes it less enjoyable for everyone. There were hundreds of comments ignored for this reason. Sarcastic, self-deprecating, and/or just plain funny doom and gloom, on the other hand, is encouraged (e.g. "my life is a rudderless, meaningless mess unless Stevie Brown screws up multiple times every Saturday")
2. Playcalling. The coaching staff only knows how the players performed in practice, and now in 2 live games. This is the information they have to make play calls. We guarantee you they aren't saying "Hey, this never worked in practice might as well try it now!" As a result, let's try to keep the bitching about playcalling to a minimum until we know a bit more about the team. Our biggest pet peeve is second-guessing play calls, but only after they go wrong. Second-guessing ahead of time, conversely, is somewhat allowed- as moderators it's a little annoying to click through everyone's "suggestions" for RichRod, but on the other hand it might spark good discussion and it's probably not negative, so we'll try our best to put it through. Bottom line: if you're in the mood to offer suggestions, then by all means give it a try but only before the play begins.
3. If you want to comment on the QBs, you had better make it insightful and/or positive. The moderators will be in no mood to approve "dammit Threet/Sheridan why couldn't you hit that?" comments.
4. Streams. We try to find the most reliable streams and put them into the static box. Understand that once it's game time, we may not have be researching active streams. In the event of a stream outage, we will ask the audience for help. We thank you guys for replying with streams you are using. Also be aware that stream technical problems might be addressed, but after the first few explanations (ie www.xyz.com's streaming software isn't compatible with Mac), we will ignore peoples' requests for tech support.
Things will get better. We ask for patience, we want to improve the liveblogging experience. Constructive criticism is fine. Second-guessing and bitching is reserved for Notre Dame and Penn State fans (and Mike Debord). Thank you and Go Blue!
Anthony LaLota announces his college decision at eight PM on CSTV. Just in case he picks Michigan, let’s google-stalk!
|5*, #3 OT, #42 overall||4*, #6 SDE, #120 overall||80, #13 DE|
LaLota gets the precious fifth star from Scout, though Scout is an easier lay than prim and proper Rivals—Scout always has exactly 50 five-stars; Rivals usually has 25-30. Rivals is a bit more reserved but still lands him just outside their top 100. ESPN is slightly less enthusiastic, placing him just outside their top 150. He’s the #13 DE to them and #12 is in the 150—he’s close.
You’ll note that Scout rates him an excellent offensive tackle prospect; ESPN also sees it:
LaLota is a pretty exciting prospect. He has good size and athletic ability and when you factor in that he is still pretty new to the game of football you realize this kid has a huge upside. A debate could get sparked over which side of the ball to play him on. A very strong argument could be made that you add 30-40 pounds to his frame and make him a left tackle.
They still see him as a defensive end but do mention that he has “value on both sides of the ball”, which should increase his chances of seeing the field since he’s got more than one place he can go. This is probably moot since LaLota’s been vocal about preferring defensive end and Michigan really needs defensive ends after picking up one in the last two classes, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind.
Also, there’s this from Tommy Bowden. Weirdly, LaLota’s dad ran into Bowden when he was giving as speech to pharmaceutical sales reps—the mind boggles—and offered Bowden some tape of his kid. Bowden looked at it, provided some advice, and made a sweet comparison:
I've broadcasted several University of Virginia football games over the last couple of years and he reminds me very much of Howie Long's son, Chris. Chris was an offensive and defensive lineman in high school at a small private school in Virginia (Anne's Belfield School) and Howie thought he was destined to be an offensive guard in college. Now, he is the top defensive end in college football and, according to several services, may very well be the No. 1 player taken in this year's NFL draft. Incidentally, in his senior year in high school, Chris had 92 pancake blocks as an offensive lineman.
If Anthony is intent on being a defensive end, and I think he has all the ingredients to be a great one, he just needs to make this very clear in the recruiting process. All I'm saying is that if Howie Long wasn't sure about what position his own son would play, I'm not about to guarantee your son or anyone else where they will eventually end up.
So, hey, that sounds good.
Lots and lots. LaLota’s final seven was M, Notre Dame, Penn State, Boston College, Virginia, Florida and Rutgers. That’s pretty impressive and it’s even more so because his emphasis on academics caused him to drop a number of football powers, including Ohio State, FSU, LSU, and Tennessee.
LaLota’s only played one year of organized football—which means he’s raw but has the proverbial upside—and in that year racked up 10 sacks.
FAKE 40 TIME
Lalota’s listed at 4.6. He is also listed at 6’6”, 260. Fake! Fake, I say!
I can’t get it to work now, but Yahoo posted the LaLota highlight film given to Terry Bowden. The free intertubes turn up nothing else.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Given his lack of experience I assume he’ll redshirt. Barwis will have to keep him at a reasonable size for defensive ends—under the old regime I would have assumed he would put on significant weight and end up at OL or… ick… DT—but once he gets some technique and chocolate milk, he could be a monster. One year of organized football, 6’6”, 260, and those ratings and offers == major upside.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
LaLota is a major, encouraging pull for the Rodriguez regime. Just over a month ago Michigan was hardly being mentioned, the last school of his seven finalists to get an unofficial visit. LaLota had declared he would commit soon after the Michigan official, which usually means the prospect has a school or maybe two in mind and is just doing his due diligence on some others. Up until his visit, I had him colored red and thought Michigan had little chance.
One visit later, he announces he’ll delay his decision and eventually settles on Michigan, filling a major hole in the prospects coming up with a recruit everyone was after. Score.
Michigan now has one defensive end in the class and hopes to get at least one more; they’ll probably take two if they can get two they like. The buzz on top 100 AZ DE Craig Roh remains good, and MI DE Nick Perry is about to be a free agent after the NCAA Clearinghouse shot him down.
Run Offense vs. SSONIINI
With a 90% chance of heavy rains and wind tomorrow, this may be the game. Notre Dame lost second round pick Trevor Laws and some less heralded players from a defense that gave up 289 yards on a whopping 61 carries last year; Michigan returns… uh… Steve Schilling. And maybe Brandon Minor, who had 17 carries for 82 yards in late game action.
In action to date: Michigan was terrible against Utah but stepped it up—sort of—against Miami; Notre Dame allowed pass-heavy San Diego State to run for 4.7 yards a carry a week after a I-AA team shut them down. Safety Kyle McCarthy led Notre Dame with 14 tackles; safety David Bruton was second; corner Terrail Lambert was third. Over a season having three members of your secondary leading the team in tackles would indicate some unspeakably bad linebacking, but against San Diego State it mostly means they threw three times more often than they ran.
You can’t throw a rock in this down without hitting someone wailing about the Michigan offensive line’s lack of depth, experience, and talent, but the hidden story is that Notre Dame’s defensive line is in close the same place. Senior Pat Kuntz tries hard but spent last year’s game on rollerskates and is only in the lineup because the other alternatives are true freshmen. The same goes for the uninspiring combo of Justin Brown and Morrice Richardson on the other end. And NT Ian Williams was a good recruit but remains just a true sophomore; Brian from House Rock Built was pretty meh about his performance to date. I don’t see any walk-ons or anything, but there isn’t much: two freshmen are behind the starting trio at end and Paddy Mullen is the nominal NT backup.
Meanwhile, the linebackers seem okay. Maurice Crum—one of those Brooks Bollinger Memorial Eighth-Year Senior guys—is back after racking up 84 tackles last year; only 4.5 of those were for loss. People seem excited about sophomore Brian Smith after a promising freshman year; the outside linebackers are eh.
There’s not much here to base a prediction on other than 15 San Diego State carries that went well but could have been anomalous due to small sample size and were certainly more effective than they would have been if SDSU ran 75% of the time instead of threw.
Meanwhile, Michigan moves in fits and starts, gashing people when the little bastard guys get the corner or slice up into gaping zone holes and getting zero or negative yards when someone on the OL makes a critical mistake—which is often. You’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.
Key Matchup: I’ve hinted at this before, but here it is: IMO, the most important individual matchup in this game is Michigan center David Molk versus Irish NT Ian Williams. Both are in their second year in college—Molk redshirted, Williams did not—and both have gotten meh reviews so far, though neither has put in enough playing time for early impressions to be anything near conclusive. Against Utah, Molk got buried into the backfield the few times Michigan tried traditional zone running plays; against Miami Molk sealed off the DT to the playside time and again. Williams, meanwhile, had an impressive tackle count his freshman year and checks in at 310.
If he can drive Molk backwards we’re in trouble; if you can single block a nose tackle in the 3-4 you are destined for success.
Pass Offense vs. SSONIINI
N/A, next section.
What, seriously? Okay: Notre Dame lost Tom Zbikowski, who may have engaged in judo or MMA or something, I can’t remember, to graduation and rising star cornerback Darrin Walls to a “personal issue.” So they’ve got Terrail Lambert, who Michigan fans have a special Manningham-related soft spot for, and Raeshon McNeil, Notre Dame’s only four-star+ upperclassman not on the OL, at corner. At safety they’ve got David Bruton and the aforementioned McCarthy.
That’s turnover to an extent that makes last year’s stats mostly irrelevant. Against San Diego State’s short passing game they were good-ish, allowing SDSU QB Ryan Lindley 274 yards but requiring him to throw 59 times to get there.
Michigan, meanwhile, got a lot of guys open last week and missed them all by hilarious margins. Steven Threet is your starting quarterback; he’s got a decent arm and has made mostly good decisions thus far but he’s been terribly inaccurate. There was one beauty deep ball to Junior Hemingway in the Utah game, and a couple other decent throws then. Against Miami it was all wrong.
Key Matchup: Threet versus Jesus, Man, Just Throw To Them. Notre Dame players are kind of irrelevant if Threet doesn’t hit some guys.
Run Defense vs. SSONIINI
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.
Of particular concern was a series against Utah where their thudding power back ran Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws over and over and picked up big chunks of yards doing it. Michigan switched Johnny Thompson and Jonas Mouton in at linebacker and both seemed to outperform the Utah starters, but that concern is still there when going up against a team that promised to “pound the ball” behind a newly gargantuan offensive line. Notre Dame does have a couple of Matt Asiata-like beef machines in Robert Hughes and James Aldridge; the specter of those ISQD disturbs.
|Notre Dame Rushing|
|A. Allen Jr||17||59||3.5||0||14|
The numbers above were garnered against San Diego State, which
- was the third worst defense in D-I last year,
- gave up considerably more YPC to a I-AA team in the opener, aaand
- literally had its entire starting DL out with injury.
Also they had possibly the worst offensive line this reporter has ever seen and brought the line coach back. WTF.
If Notre Dame wants to run the ball, that seems amenable despite the issues against Asiata.
Key Matchup: Ezeh and Thompson tackling Hughes and Allen. Michigan linebackers have rarely delivered a blow this year, allowing opposing running backs to gain 2 or even 3 yards after contact with disturbing regularity. Hughes is the kind of guy who thrives on that to keep his YPA up.
Pass Defense vs. SSONIINI
This is where the avalanche of sacks comes in. Against Utah, Tim Jamison was unstoppable. Against Miami, it was Brandon Graham. Michigan is now second in the nation in sacks and goes up against that same Notre Dame offensive line, which managed to keep Jimmah clean for the first time ever against San Diego State but now steps up the level of competition considerably.
We have the metrics mentioned above in the run game to denigrate the Notre Dame line, and there are also these items when it comes to the pass:
- the left tackle was a crappy guard last year
- an already lumbering line was asked to put on 20-40 pounds each, so they could pound it.
It’s doubtful the sack parade stops this week.
Meanwhile, Jimmah(!) Clausen looked like an actual quarterback against San Diego State, hitting a bunch of slants and outs and flies and the like, completing 21 of 34 for 237 yards. Three touchdowns were offset by two interceptions, and to Michigan it doesn’t really matter if those interceptions were because Clausen screwed up (he might have) or Irish wide receiver Duval Kamara sucks and flails around like a six-year-old girl sometimes (he does), because it’s likely Kamara is still a major target.
Other guys of note: David Grimes is “solid” to Notre Dame fans and “wholly average” to everyone else; think Ron Bellamy minus-minus. Golden Tate was actually very impressive against SDSU, smoking one of their corners on a 38-yard go route touchdown and nearly making a spectacular diving catch on another bomb later; freshman Michael Floyd has a bunch of recruiting hype.
On the other side of the ball: the pass coverage has been poor underneath but decent deeper except when someone screws up and lets an opponent wide receiver run free through the poppies; Michigan has had difficulty tackling little quick guys underneath but Notre Dame doesn’t have any of those except maybe Allen, who figures to feature heavily in an extensive screen game.
Key Matchup: Graham and Jamison versus Turkovich and Young. Clausen did pretty well when afforded time last week, and Michigan’s secondary is prone to safety breakdowns. Michigan has to balance out the number of big plays Clausen makes with his arm with big plays Michigan makes by bruising his ribs.
You will be pleased to know that Notre Dame’s punter is not going to average better than 50 yards a kick. He’s Ben Maust and he did 42.1 last year. However… dammit… Notre Dame was 13th in net punting last year.
Zoltan, meanwhile, had a big game against Miami, though that may have been more due to some fortunate rolls on short-ish, angled punts than any sort of space mastery.
Michigan has a significant advantage at kicker with KC Lopata returning after going 11 of 12 last year; this year he has made field goals of 47 and 50 yards while missing from 41. (Michigan’s missed extra point against Miami was due to a faulty hold.)
Notre Dame’s Brandon Walker was only 50% last year and missed his first attempt of this year, that from 47 yards. There was also some Yakety Sax on a botched attempt against SDSU.
Key Matchup: Kickers versus the weather. Every field goal attempt will be critical.
- Molk gets bowled over.
- The fatties on the right side of the ND OL start bashing Michigan backwards.
- We don’t see more Cissoko/Woolfolk so Harrison can stay at safety.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Michigan’s defensive line turns in a repeat of FBD II.
- Corollary: and Clausen looks just as bewildered by the idea of these chaps hitting him as he did last year.
- Michigan linebackers are sniffing out the screens.
- We complete a pass.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Wow We Still Suck, –1 for Wow They Still Suck, +1 for I Don’t Believe In Ghosts But I Do Believe Notre Dame Stadium Is Full Of Them And They’re Douchebags, +1 for Walk-on May Be Starting At Left Tackle, –1 for …And He’s Probably Better Than Sam Young, –1 for Weis E Coyote, +1 for We Literally Did Not Complete Two Passes Downfield Last Week.).
Desperate need to win level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Eff It, We Must Go To The California Raisin Bowl 7-5, +1 for Notre Dame Is So Annoying, –1 for General Ennui 2008, +1 for Vast Irrational Hatred Of Charlie Weis, +1 for …It’s Not Really Irrational But It Is Vast)
Loss will cause me to... really struggle to find six wins on the rest of the schedule.
Win will cause me to... enjoy deep draughts of schadenfreude on ND message boards for two solid weeks.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
There is one bloody giant mismatch in this game and it’s the Michigan defensive line versus the Notre Dame offensive line. These are the same players that took to the field last year; when the dust cleared Clausen thought it was Shrive Tuesday 1936 and Michigan had a 38-0 win with Ryan Mallett at QB.
In the interregnum Michigan has acquired the services of (eeee!) Mike Barwis. Notre Dame, meanwhile, threw 40 pounds on an already ponderous Sam Young and kept John Latina, line coach of ultimate seduction, around. This seems like an idea on par with “spread ‘n shred versus Georgia Tech.”
Except, no, I lie: there is a second bloody giant mismatch in the game and it’s Michigan quarterbacks versus anything. What do you have? A souvenir shot glass from Casa Bonita? Good enough.
So… who do you pick? I figure Michigan swarming Clausen is good for a pick or fumble or three; I have also watched our quarterbacks. I figure Notre Dame will get someone deep several times because of safety malfeasance and Clausen will either have Tim Jamsion’s helmet in his chest or an excellent chance to score a touchdown that Michigan can ill afford to give up.
I mean… who knows? I don’t know if ND’s defense is going to be any good, if they can stop Michigan’s run game, if Threet will complete anything, if Walker makes any field goals, and the uncertainty is doubled because of the weather.
I do suggest, very tentatively, that Michigan is much better prepared to handle a world in which its offensive line has no idea how to block its opponent, and that the apparent thunderstorm brewing bodes ill for passing games, and that this is more relevant for Notre Dame, and I kind of expect Michigan to win.
But not very much. I expect several very high-variance things to happen and for a close game to be decided by something ridiculous.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Yes, we do complete a long pass. To Hemingway, even.
- Shaw and McGuffie get more evenly distributed carries.
- Michigan gets to Clausen five times.
- Michigan, 13-10.
Site note: I’ve gone back to the defensive UFR and done the cool popup video thing to it, if you’re interested.
Succor. I’d normally hold this until Monday for the weekly recruiting dump, but this news expires tonight so here you go from the front page of the Wolverine:
Michigan has been recruiting the defensive end ranks hard throughout the class of 2009 and tomorrow they will find out their fate with one of the top targets. Princeton (N.J.) The Hun School's Anthony Lalota will announce tomorrow night and Michigan's chances look good.
Lalota is a top 250 strongside defensive end to Rivals and a five star OT to Scout and would be a major relief at a position of significant need. Which one? I dunno, pick one. Michigan’s recruiting him at DE.
Now, there are various degrees of “look good”; this one is not a foregone conclusion like the two Pahokee guys were, but it is, as they say, looking good. Lalota announces at 8 PM on CSTV.
I’m sure there’s a flipside post somewhere, but I do like Rakes’ “Five Reasons Notre Dame Loses to Michigan.” Of note: their kicker’s been terrible and their punter isn’t Orin Incandenza. Meanwhile, BGS wonders why Notre Dame didn’t pound it over the right side of their line more. This seems like wishful thinking:
So perhaps all the running left was by design: if we can beat SDSU with the left hand, why show the big right hook to Michigan at all? Until we fell behind in the third quarter, we really didn't need to exploit the right side. Did Weis want to give Michigan, which has been absolutely dominant against the run, lots of looks at the left side of the run game, knowing full well that the right side is the true strength?
That's what I'm wondering. I don't know why else we would consciously run 10 times in a row to the left when you know the right side is more productive. It's crazy, isn't it?
Later, the author urges us to see the ploy as “deviously Weisian,” because against Michigan they’ll come out and run it right and Michigan will go “WTF I thought this was a NASCAR offense” and die. Because the only explanation for Charlie Weis doing something dumb has to be that he is secretly a genius.
We are talking about Charlie Weis here, right?
Weis loves doing things that are unexpected even more than he loves doing things that are correct according to game theory: fake punts, that idiotic QB draw against Georgia Tech two years ago, sending your national-worst offense onto the field to try and convert a fourth and eight when a reasonable field goal attempt is in the offing. Weis does dumb things to emphasize how smart he is.
Breakin’ it down. There’s a lot of fantastic Notre Dame preview content out there in the Michigan blogosphere. A sampling:
I meant to mention Genuinely Sarcastic’s Run Chart as part of the UFR but neglected it. Said chart (chart) is right in line with my expectations: +4 for Molk, an active but uneven day from McAvoy, concern about Nowicki, and appreciation for Moundros’s small but important role at fullback.
The Ace of Sports breaks down Clausen’s day against San Diego State complete with video clips; the general upshot is that Clausen’s arm and general competence have taken great steps forward but on the rare occasions the Aztec defensive line got anywhere near him he went “eeee I’m a little girl for something other than Mike Barwis” and chose… poorly.
The question with Clausen has always been his ability to make decisions under pressure; the SDSU game was probably a flashback to high school for him. This week will be the test.
Speaking of that defensive line: there have been reports that as many as seven Aztec defensive linemen were out or wounded for the Notre Dame game, forcing SDSU to start a linebacker at defensive tackle and a stack of post-it notes at end. Surely that a vast exagerration spawned in the wild outcroppings of the internet, where the truth bends like kelp at high tide?
Ah, well, not really:
The Aztecs, who concluded fall camp already thin across the defensive front, had no fewer than four more defensive linemen sustain at least some sort of injury in Saturday's season-opening 29-27 loss to Cal Poly.
Jebus! A dossier:
- DE Tony DeMartinis and DT Neil Spencer, both starters, are out for the year.
- Siaosi Fifita missed the opener with a knee injury
- DE Eric Ikonne and DT Jerome Long had ankle sprains.
- DeMartinis’ replacement suffered a concussion.
- DT Ernie Lawson aggravated a foot injury.
I’m not exactly sure how many of these guys played, but only Lawson was credited with a tackle.
Also, it’s kind of sad when even your official site disses you:
Brandon Sullivan was inches away from a 4-yard touchdown run and a two-score lead for the Aztecs. But safety David Bruton jarred the ball loose and recovered it in the end zone to help the Irish (1-0) avoid an embarrassing loss.
Et tu, goaztecs.cstv.com?
Even more fun is to be had. The forecast calls for whipping winds and rain and all that:
As of Wednesday night, the forecast for South Bend on Saturday called for high winds and scattered thunderstorms. That would be quite a departure from the clear skies the Wolverines.
Is this good? Or bad? Or what?
On the one hand, Notre Dame’s biggest advantage in this game is the ability to throw passes past the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, they’ve got a couple of big bruising backs who might be better suited to pounding ahead in Hurricane Katrina (MAKE PLAYS). On what appears to be a third hand—I’m just zis guy, you know—, sometimes those little nimble guys can make cuts no one else can because of physics. Remember the one awesome game Justin Fargas had? No? Well, it came against Northwestern in a driving rain and ugly conditions.
I tentatively suggest rain and winds are advantage Michigan because then it’s super hard to make the DL irrelevant, and from what I’ve seen of the Notre Dame blogs they seem to agree.
For the third year in a row, Brian (Not That Brian) at House Rock Built and I have put down the blunderbusses and come together to talk Michigan-ND. For the second year in a row, we’ve spent most of the time grimly laughing at each other and ourselves.
It’s a better time than it sounds like. Part I is over at HRB; I suggest you read that first because it features one of the greatest Michigan farks of all time.
So, the San Diego State game didn't exactly go as planned. I hesitate to ask this because the most obvious retort to the question is "I know you are but what am I," but how does a legit D-I team struggle to put up 20 points on a team returning the third-worst defense in D-I that just lost to a I-AA team and had a million man march of injured defensive linemen?
A little thing I call the trademark Notre Dame self-immolation offense and special teams. Hilarious blunders became such a hallmark of the 2007 Notre Dame team that I'm pretty sure any time a broadcaster uses the term "unforced error", they have to pay Charlie Weis like 39 cents in royalties. Two goofed field goal attempts and two turnovers in the end zone really were the heart of the matter. Take those out, and you're looking at a three touchdown Irish victory.
These goof-ups are much more the norm for this team then they are an aberration, so it's pointless to speculate what would happen if you magically "took them out"
Okay. Did the offensive line look any better?
I really don't know. We couldn't create any rushing game at all against a defensive line that, terrible to begin with, was crushed with so many injuries that I'm pretty sure I saw the mascot playing tackle for a few series. That being said, they did create time for Jimmy to throw the ball, and "zero sacks allowed" are three words I had forgotten existed in the English language. I'll give them an incomplete for now. At any rate, they can't possibly be any worse.
Indeed, they cannot, but Clausen Sacked By All DL picture goes here
even if that wasn't the OL's fault.
That's the facet of the game I'm most confident about: the Michigan DL stomping the ND OL, but they can take that all away with a goofy three-step drop passing game. Got any little guys with dreads? Or the inkling that a bunch of slants and curls can go off without someone screwing up? I fear precision. Got any of that?
There's a glimmer of hope there. First and foremost, Jimmy Clausen looks like a completely different person. So different, in fact, that I think he's been secretly replaced by his mulleted Canadian half-brother, Jacques Clauseneaux. His arm has completely healed from his surgery last year, and he has shown a brand new ability to deliver the ball with zip and precision, particularly when he's rolling out. That bodes well.
Similarly, it looks like Golden Tate is turning into a real receiver. He doesn't have dreadlocks, but he apparently learned how to run routes in the offseason. Last year, he was a one-trick, go-route guy. In this last game, he was tearing it up with cutback routes, posts, and gut-check slants that involve snagging the ball in traffic and absorbing crushing hits from half the defense. Between Clausen's improved throws and Tate's ability to catch in traffic, there's a faint hope of that magical “precision.”
So why is the hope only faint? Other than the blindingly obvious.
Brian, you don't know what pain is. You can pretend you do, but you've never lived through a season like we did last year. It was colon surgery without anesthesia. When your soul is crushed at that level, you do what it takes to survive: learn to never love again.
Or at the very least, never to feel openly optimistic about anything again.
Hey, man, you birthed one ugly baby last year, but imagine giving birth to that ugly baby OVER THE SPAN OF THREE HOURS ON
NATIONAL TV REGIONAL SYNDICATION THE BIG TEN NETWORK.
Cry me a river... we lost to that ugly baby 38-0.
Oh I have known pain. If Hypothetical Wife gives birth to Hypothetical Future National Championship Winning Quarterback I Don't Care If It's A Girl at some future point and Hypothetically Screams at me "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS FEELS LIKE" I'm just going to show her my printouts of the last field goal.
I take mine everywhere.
Tis a bare existence, this life.
Yeah, seriously, this has been lame the last few years. Do you have a crazy ninja punter?
Negatory. Your punter is the James Bond villain. Ours is unremarkable.
We have a crazy ninja punt coverage team gunner. Does that count?
No. Because, no, seriously, Miami's punter was from beyond space.
Man, that would be nice.
We don't even have a kicker that's, like, college-level. Where's this secret cave that grows all these Michigan kickers whose weigh 345 pounds and wear the number 63?
You think Michigan has a cave that grows kickers? We think Ohio State has a cave that grows kickers.
Why is Mike “Ted” Nugent being instructed by Mike Krzyeweasfizski
in a Tressel costume? It is the mystery.
Our guys are all little fat guys who can only kick 35 yarders but are accurate.
How's the defense, BTW? Our offensive line is now (maybe) starting a walk-on at left tackle. Got anything to exploit that?
Our defense is Tenutatastic... the magical Blitz By God Blitz Everybody style really came out against SDSU's pass-happy offense. They were able to dink and dunk around it, but by keeping all of their plays with under two seconds, it was hard for them to do any real damage. Our nickelback Sergio Brown suddenly burst on the scene as a blitzing maniac, and he spent the whole day in the backfield.
With Michigan, I think the idea will be to get into the quarterback's face as much as possible. If we can find some fleshy sweet spots in the line to blitz through, it'll make things quite nice. On the other hand, well-run misdirection plays like the ones you peppered Miami with in the first half might have a good chance at exploiting our overcommitting blitzers. SDSU had two gargantuan gains on little shovel passes in the middle behind the blitzers (that is, until we adjusted and picked their third one off).
Yeah, I'm actually with Rakes of Mallow on this: I wouldn't blitz this Michigan offense much unless it was an obvious passing down. If you sit back and maintain responsibility eventually they'll shoot themselves in the face and punt.
One interesting thing I saw in the Miami game: our leetle center—who dissed Weis after committing to Michigan, BTW—was really, really good at cutting off opposing NTs in the zone stretch. But against Utah his butt ended up touching the ball like four times. It is never good when someone's butt touches the ball. Rule 1 of football: do not let your butt touch the ball. Vince Lombardi told me that.
Anyway, I think the deal with him is that he can seal off anyone because he's small (ish) and quick (ish) but if you can pick him up and drive him backwards Michigan's run game dies. Ian Williams is the NT, right? What's his deal?
He's a big fella, but probably not an actual NT. He's more of a DT that is taking that spot in the scheme mostly due to girth. He's a little bit of a mystery, as he's a young guy who showed some promise as a substitute last year. I'm not sure if he'll be able to blast the center's butt into the football, but if he takes my advice, he'll pin him down after the whistle and forcefully jam the football into his butt. That way, everybody wins.
So at least I win.
And Tom Hammond.
[Ed. note: TOM HAMMOND WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW HE IS VERY INTERESTED IN THE BUTT FOOTBALL JAMMING YES MY EYES ARE BURNING INTO YOUR SOUL AREN’T THEY.]
I'd ask about your secondary now but I figure they can watch balls sail ten yards over their head as well as anyone else can.
My seats are in row 68. Should I bring my baseball mitt?
I would go with the hockey helmet--full cage, of course.
Nah... clashes with my cape
Do you have singlet? You are the man who gave USF Singlet Guy to the world, after all.
And he gave himself to me. Good times.
Tom Hammond is now quivering with excitement.
“Oh... wide open.”
Seriously, though, is it a requirement for Michigan fans that they have to wear a cape to the game?
Just that one water buffalo guy.
I saw a couple on TV. I guess he started a trend.
Hey, capes are cool. Also when you wear a Michigan cape it kind of looks like you're really into summations. Which is double-cool. And by "double cool" I mean "the exact opposite of that."
Special teams we've touched upon: kicker still tetchy?
Beyond tetchy. Last week saw one honest miss, one extra point that just baaaarely made it, and a botched snap. God help us all if this comes down to a last second field goal.
Awesome. FWIW, Kicking Competency Lopata nailed a couple long ones and missed a more makeable one.
I think we've covered everything now. It's down to the undoubtedly humiliating section of the talking. Predictions.
So... who do you have?
Well, there's a good chance it will rain. And if Mike Valenti taught us anything, it's that you shouldn't run the spread option in Hurricane Katrina.
So I say Notre Dame wins on a defensive touchdown. And I will go double or nothing on last year's prediction that Jimmy Clausen will propose to Scarlett Johansson at midfield immediately after the game.
What have you got? First, score prediction, then absurd event not related to actual gameplay prediction.
I've got nothing, really. I mentioned this earlier in the week: nothing short of Notre Dame starting a hippogriff at middle linebacker would surprise me. I keep seeing 1) long ND touchdowns caused by horrible M safety play and 2) Clausen getting mauled, fumbling, and Yakety Sax playing.
So I kind of think Michigan has to get set up with two short fields and capitalize to win. I think there's a 55% chance they get those and tentatively suggest M 21, ND 20. It will be at this point that God emerges from the clouds and declares himself an Oklahoma State fan.
Which, weirdly, would explain everything.
I think we both can agree that, either way, this game will set the sport of football back 40 years.
Anyone planning a "Yakety Sax" montage has to include both teams. This we plead. Unless it's just a lopsided asswhooping. But you can't have one of those in a 5-4 game.
And now… 100% pure nightmare fuel!
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble Screen||Odoms||50|
|This is the first in a series of completely terrible play by Miami on the edge: the outside linebacker to Odoms' side crashes in on the zone read fake, leaving one guy and a safety out on the edge. Hemingway's block is pretty awful but just good enough when combined with the enormous vacancy left by the OLB; Odoms has enough speed to kill the safety's angle; he then breaks a corner's tackle and stiffarms the other safety for a total of twenty extra yards. Great YAC from Odoms. (CA, 3, protection N/A, screen)|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||Zone read counter||McGuffie||5|
|Counter action on the zone read with Ortmann pulling around; the double from Molk and Moosman on the DT gets him to cede ground and there's a nice hole. I actually think the ideal for this play is for McGuffie to bounce it outside given the vectors of Odoms and Hemingway, who are clearly boxing out in case McGuffie heads for the corner, but the Miami DE has fought outside of Schilling and kept contain. This provides McGuffie the hole up themiddl , but the attempted fence the outside has allowed the LB lined up over the slot to close in and he holds this down to only a reasonable gain.|
|O22||2||5||I-Form 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||FB Dive||Moundros||7|
|This is coupled with the requisite outside pitch fake to McGuffie, which holds the unblocked, blitzing OLB outside. Meanwhile, Molk(+1) has booted his guy right out of the hole—good block—and Schilling manages to control his guy well enough. Moundros(+1) has to cut behind Schilling; he meets an unblocked Miami LB three yards downfield and plows through him for the first.|
|O15||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||QB sweep||Threet||5|
|Well, jeez. This kind of works. The good: Molk manages to get his face across the playside DT, falls, and his legs kind of trip the guy as he's attempting to get to Threet. Not the most inspiring block but it works. The bad: Carson Butler just kind of shoves the weakside DE and moves downfield. This could maybe be the play design and it's just kind of bad, but given Butler's history I kind of doubt it. The guy Butler whiffs on is the eventual tackler; without that Threet looks like he has something near a first down.|
|O10||2||5||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Threet|
|A zone read wet dream here with the OLB over the slot heading out to cover the potential bubble screen and the backside defensive end selling out like whoah on the RB. Threet pulls the ball out and there's acres of open space, touchdown. VIVA LA REVOLUCION.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 11 min 1st Q. That was fun. I bet we'll do that like eight more times.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||5|
|Think this is a wrong cut as McGuffie(-1) could have gotten outside here and run for ages; as it is the backside DE is now more wary of a Threet keeper and this keeps him outside long enough for McGuffie to head up in the crease between him and Schilling for a decent gain. Good block from Schilling(+1)|
|O30||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||0|
|Our scissors, their rock as they blitz the corner to the side of the zone read. He gets inside of Stonum and fouls what otherwise was a well-blocked play, Maybe a minor ding to McAvoy for letting his guy come from underneath him and help out on the TFL, but if Stonum runs a fly and the corner goes with him this is a major gainer. High risk from Miami. Well, moderate risk given what we'll see from Threet in this game.|
|O30||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout stop||Hemingway||Inc|
|Okay, McGuffie's blocking here is problematic: he makes contact with the guy to the outside but doesn't have the bulk to slow him much. He's bowled over and the pressure might make Threet throw this route, open for the first down, in the dirt. (IN, 1, protection 1/2, McGuffie -1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(47), 10-0, 9 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M19||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Waggle||Moundros||Inc|
|The crappy thing is this: this would have worked as one of those counter-stretch plays we ran against Oregon and other teams last year, as both Miami LBs sold out to the stretch side and Moundros shot backside. After a brief—too brief—attempt at blocking the backside DE Moundros heads out into a pattern, which is covered by the weakside LB. Threet tries it anyway, under duress, and the ball falls incomplete. Odoms was wide open; Stonum was pretty open, too. (BR, 0, protection 0/1, -1 Moundros)|
|M19||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Threet||9|
|Again no respect shown Threet on the keeper and he makes them pay... sort of. He's got a ton of open space as both LBs and the backside DE freak out and head for the RB, but instead of cutting back to the open space he heads upfield into a linebacker. Okay, he does juke(!!!) the linebacker and falls forward for nine yards; he could have had significantly more. Pat White turns this into at least 20 and maybe way more.|
|M28||3||1||I-Form Twins||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Grady||2|
|Moundros obliterates the Miami linebacker, but Ortmann(-1) can't get enough push to kick the DE out of the hole and Grady runs into the pair. He does manage to fall forward, picking up the first.|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||30|
|Great, great block by Molk(+2) on the playside DT, getting his helmet across and stalemating him. When the center can do that by himself it's really hard to stop a stretch play. The guards get free releases to the second level and both of them kick their linebackers out of the hole created by Molk and Ortmann; Shaw has a monster hole to shoot up into. He makes a good, quick bounce cut around the traffic... I just wish he didn't slow up as he decided which side of Butler's block to go to.|
|O40||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Triple option dive||Shaw||15|
|Line slants to the left as if it's a stretch play, suckering in one Miami LB and erasing the DL. OLB nominally on Odoms and the backside DE have contain responsibility, so when Threet hands off to Shaw up the middle he's dealing with a crashing safety and no one else. Shaw(+1) sets up the safety, then runs through his diving tackle. The free safety eventually brings him down.|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Zone read bubble||Odoms||1|
|The eternal mystery to me: is this a read? More later. The beginning of this play is obscured by a picture of Rodriguez; when we return Miami has again lost contain on Threet on the zone read, only this time Threet pulls up and throws the bubble screen as he nears the LOS. Unfortunately, a Miami safety read it all the way—whoah—and tackles near the LOS. If this is a read Threet should know to keep the ball here, because he's got the same situation he gained nine on earlier this drive. (CA, 3, protection N/A, screen)|
|O24||2||9||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Flag||Odoms||Inc|
|Odoms is wide, wide open for what should be somewhere between first and goal from the five and a touchdown; Threet throws it so high Tacopants is like WTF. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O24||3||9||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Post||Butler||Inc|
|There's a window here for this; Threet wings it way high again. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(41), 10-0, 4 min 1st Q. I know crap about throwing mechanics but it looks like Threet isn't stepping into his throws and that's causing them to sail. Other than that, a great drive from Rodriguez with guys wide open all over the field and multiple easy shots at the endzone.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M14||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||Zone read keeper||Threet||12|
|This one's actually a small variant on the usual here with the defensive end getting blocked by Schilling; Threet is clearly looking downfield at the linebacker to the playside of the field, reading him. He comes charging up into the hole, looking to pop Shaw, so he keeps it, heading outside for good yardage. He even kind of jukes a safety. Sort of.|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||Bubble Screen||Odoms||6|
|ESPN late to this play so it's a little hard to tell what's going on. Butler gets a decent block on his guy, driving him downfield a bit, but can't get the bonus of sealing him inside; also if this got flagged for holding I wouldn't complain. The attempted block on the linebacker flying out to the ball, however, is not made and Odoms cuts it up for decent yardage. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M32||2||4||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||-7|
|Complete whiff by McAvoy(-2) gets a linebacker in virtually unblocked; McGuffie has no chance.|
|M25||3||11||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Flare screen||McGuffie||-11|
|Yakety Sax as the ball flies backwards out of Threet's hand; he recovers and tries to get back to the LOS. Charted as a BA for Threet.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 12 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble Screen||Clemons||-2|
|Hemingway completely whiffs a block on the outside receiver and Clemons gets crushed. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M18||2||12||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||19|
|Another excellent block from Molk(+2) seals the playside DT and allows McAvoy a free release to the second level. He crushes the Miami LB(+1) and Moosman(+1) cuts the other guy to the ground; McGuffie has a major hole he shoots up into.|
|M37||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||0|
|I believe Threet misses his read on this play, as both linebackerse crash to the stretch and the DE also crashes down. Threet keeps the ball, McGuffie cuts back into the unblocked backside DE, and Threet claps his hands, disgusted at himself. McGuffie probably should have tried to shoot up through a gap towards the frontside—play was blocked decently—but if he expects that DE to be farther outside I can understand the cut.|
|M37||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare screen||Shaw||3|
|I don't think this pass is located right, as it would make more sense to throw it in front of Shaw so he's a little nearer the LOS when he catches it and is already moving forward. I think it's the difference between Shaw shooting between a gap in the defense caused by the offensive linemen moving downfield what actually happens, which is the linebacker Moosman(-1) tries but fails to cut getting off the block and making the tackle a few yards downfield. (CA-, 3, screen).|
|A rare straight dropback and I think Threet finds an open Clemons about 12 yards downfield. Unfortunately, the pass is batted. Looked accurate, though it's hard to tell when you only get a few yards of trajectory. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 9 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M14||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Triple option dive||Grady||1|
|Sheridan in. He reads the end keeping contain and makes the correct handoff; Miami has slanted to the stretch side; Grady doesn't have the vision or agility to cut behind Ortmann to exploit the cutback lane opened up by the triple option fake.|
|M15||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare||McGuffie||-2|
|Miami's DE to that side is dropping off as part of a zone blitz and he's in perfect position to read this and kill it, especially because this gets out slowly and doesn't have McGuffie moving upfield. (CA-, 3, screen)|
|M13||3||11||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||QB Draw||Sheridan||9|
|Sheridan holds the ball out like he's going to hand it off to Grady, oddly, despite this appearing to be a legit QB draw with Grady as a lead blocker. McAvoy's downfield block is weak; this and the general non-Pat-White-ness of the QB keep it from being a first.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-3, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Reverse||Odoms||1|
|With Miami's DE crashing inside there's only an OLB between this and a big gainer; Threet should be in position to get a block but instead slows up, thinking he might take the DE with no shot at the play. Meanwhile, Hemingway sees the situation, thinks it's handled, and looks for someone to block downfield.|
|M32||2||9||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||Read counter||McGuffie||-2|
|Not zone blocked here, with Michgian pulling Schilling and Butler around Moosman. Unfortunately, a blitizng linebacker splits the pair and is right in on McGuffie before he can get going.|
|M30||3||11||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Fly||Hemingway||Inc|
|Wide, wide open; completely overthrown. Maybe a DE diving at Threet's feet had something to do with it, but not IMO. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-3, 13 min 3rd Q. All three of these plays could or should have worked but for execution errors, two by Threet, one by either Schilling or Butler. Rodriguez must want to murder people sometimes.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble Screen||Clemons||5|
|This looks horrible, with Clemons actually coming to a full stop instead of running the full route, and it allows the OLB and safety to come up and meet him a couple yards downfield. Clemons still powers forward for five. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M34||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||8|
|Well blocked as McAvoy(+1) kicks out a blizing linebacker and Molk again gets playside of a defensive end he doesn't have position on. Schilling had some issues with his guy, though; he reaches out an arm and impedes McGuffie's progress; McGuffie breaks free for a few more yards. Ortmann is injured on this play.|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Triple option pitch||McGuffie||2|
|Well played by Miami as the MLB doesn't buy the belly fake and shoots out to contain Threet, allowing the OLB to focus on the pitchman. Threet makes the pitch and it looks like McGuffie is doomed to a major TFL. HOWEVA, McGuffie makes an impressive cut up through the two linebackers and reaches the LOS before coming in contact with a safety.|
|M44||2||8||Shotgun Trips||Base 4-3||Run||Speed option pitch||McGuffie||-1|
|Looks like this will break big until Carson Butler(-2) completely whiffs his block. I mean... jesus, this is terrible. Nowicki(-1) whiffs his guy, too, forcing a slightly early pitch.|
|Well overthrown as per usual. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-6, 4 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||Ace Twins Unbalanced||Base 4-3||Run||Pitch sweep||McGuffie||25|
|Sheridan in. Butler covered up by a receiver so he can't go downfield. We shuffle a fullback. We run that way. I would ask if Debord had konked Calvin Magee on the head and taken over playcalling duties but this is an outside pitch we never saw in his day. Or, at least, never saw go for more than three yards because the pitch guy was always Kevin Grady. Anyway: playside Miami DE shoots inside Schilling, removing himself from the play no problem. Hemingway and Butler double the SAM, Moundros(+1) clubs the MLB, and woop off to the races for McGuffie. He smokes a filling safety and gets to the sideline for a good gain.|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||1|
|Butler still covered up, this time to the backside of the play. Molk's getting pretty good at getting playside of these DTs and not getting his ass blasted into the backfield, so there's a major crease for McGuffie to exploit... except Moosman(-1) totally whiffed on his linebacker. He tackles.|
|M46||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||Backside flare||Minor||Inc|
|We saw this a couple times in the first game with Shaw—the opening touchdown, for example. This time Sheridan gets pressured by the backside DE and throws it low; Minor can't dig it out. If accurate this is another 10+ yard play. (IN, 1, protection N/A)|
|M46||3||9||Shotgun Trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Out||McGuffie||7|
|It's open but there's no way it'll get the first down. Butler was breaking open on a wheel on the other side of the field, but given Sheridan's tendencies... well, this is okay, I guess. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-6, 1 min 3rd Q. I cannot believe how unbelievably moronic these announcers are. You f-ing punt. What would Lloyd do? Do that.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M13||1||10||I-Form Twins||Base 4-3||Run||Inside zone||McGuffie||12|
|Still Sheridan. Eight man front, and they run it up the gut looking for openings, shooting Moundros to the backside. Both Molk(-1) and Schilling(-1) let their guys to the inside, so McGuffie cuts back. Moundros(+1) did a good job with the backside DE; McGuffie(+1) makes the OLB miss, gets the corner, and picks up a first down. Late hit adds 15.|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble Screen||Stonum||9|
|Caught Miami in an OLB blitz, so there's no one within yards of Stonum when he gets this. Iffy but I guess okay blocking from Savoy and a good gain on first down. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M49||2||1||I-Form Twins||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Grady||3|
|Good read by Grady to see the DT spinning to one side of the double team and opt to cut the other way behind the block. Then it's a mess of bodies, but also a first down. Good thumping block by Moundros here.|
|O48||1||10||I-Form Twins||Base 4-3||Run||Pitch sweep||McGuffie||5|
|Credit where due: Carson Butler(+1) with an excellent block on the OLB, pushing him back and eventually to the ground, opening up the corner. Unfortunately, Stonum(-1) didn't seal his guy and he tackles after a moderate gain.|
|O43||2||5||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Sherdian||1|
|Middle linebacker is sitting on this, waiting, and Sheridan pulls it out because the DE crashes down. He looks for a moment like he'll throw the bubble screen—and probably should—but instead takes it up for a minimal gain.|
|O42||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare screen||McGuffie||27|
|Screen all the way but Sheridan does a good job of looking like he's surveying the field, which hold the linebacker for a fatal second. As he comes to McGuffie, Odoms slips out and is in position to cut him; Nowicki gets out and slices down the MLB, though I don't know if he had much of a shot at making a play. McGuffie then evades a safety who's coming up too hard and breaks into the secondary. Probably a touchdown if a Miami corner doesn't slow him with a shoestring grab. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||25|
|I've given Minor a lot of stick here, but this is an excellent run featuring something not often seen this year: a broken tackle. Good seal by Molk(+1); Nowicki does just meh, losing contact with his guy but to the outside; said guy dives at Minor's feeed but by hopping out he's provided a lane to cut into; Minor cuts it up, runs through the MLB's tackle, and vaults into the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(XP blocked), 16-6, 8 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 2-TE||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||McGuffie||0|
|Crappy blocks from Schilling(-1) and Nowicki, but everyone contributes. Mostly whatever, run run run punt, guys.|
|M49||2||10||I-Form Twins||Base 4-4||Run||Pitch sweep||McGuffie||1|
|They should probably get another play from the I.|
|50||3||9||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||0|
|Actually well blocked save for McAvoy's poor job on the LB, who smacks McGuffie at the LOS.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-6, 2 min 4th Q. This was a place for Lloydball. The last drive is kneeling and is not charted.|
Dude, Tacopants is going to catch 400 balls this year.
No, because even he’s watching these sail over his head, and he can be whatever height he wants to be because he is made of dreams and snails and puppy dog tails.
But seriously, folks, this may have been the worst quarterbacked game in the modern era(defined as Moeller forward) of Michigan football. Let’s go to the…
If you saw above, there’s a small change in the grading system made mostly for my own benefit: instead of “protection N/A” I’m scribbling “screen” down so I can distinguish between balls actually thrown downfield and, well, screens.
These are your quarterbacks so far:
And these are your results when they were suffered to throw it past the line of scrimmage:
Six total attempts, five of them uncatchable or nearly so. The other was a seven-yard stop to McGuffie on third and eleven. Michigan got literally nothing positive out of passes that crossed the LOS.
One not-insignificant point to make in Threet’s favor: he smoked Miami on the zone read multiple times, scoring a touchdown and running for a couple other first downs. Just Miami etc etc but an encouraging sign. He also found those open receivers he hilariously overthrew. He had a great game mentally. Now if he could only throw passes at people.
So, the Protection Metric is almost irrelevant but here it is: 11/13, Moundros –1, McGuffie –1. Small sample size against a poor team, maybe, but I’ll take it.
The receiver metric is boring and not worth discussing:
Everything caught was a screen except the one McGuffie thing.
Well, yeah, actually. I know it was just Miami (Not That Miami) but it seemed like Michigan was one block away from gashing the Redhawks on half of their crappy plays. I really like the design of the offense. It has six or eight core plays that all play off each other; it places opponents in space—even the defensive linemen—and turns a missed read or missed tackle into a big chunk of yards.
It’s not so much the change to the run game, because honestly the zone stretch plays Michigan is running are so similar to the ones Debord ran it’s freaky, but that the misdirection threats are much better conceived and used more frequently. Last year Michigan’s big “gotcha” when opponents sold out on the zone stretch was a waggle that occasionally worked for a first down or something but was also a tough pass made on the run with a defender in the face of the quarterback that got the ball in the hands of a tight end.
Woopty do. Yeah, it was great in 1997. Things change.
Under Rodriguez, Michigan either has a quarterback just take off—easy to do if you’re a fast guy and even functional if you’re Threet, apparently—or throws a bubble screen to a guy like Odoms and hopes he gets a block. The results so far are ugly but that’s because Michigan is failing to execute really simple things like “get in the way of this linebacker.”
Any players improve significantly?
I thought David Molk was great a week after being hurled back into the ballcarrier more than once. Against Miami he consistently got across the face of the defensive tackle lined up to the playside, allowing the guard a free release into the second level where he would either whack a linebacker and someone would run for 20 yards or whiff that linebacker and Michigan would get zero.
And it does make some sense that Molk would be good in this role. Michigan switched to a zone run game two years ago and immediately saw their offensive line recruiting implode—events probably not related. Molk was the only non-MAC prospect Michigan picked up that year, a guy ND ignored because of his size but also someone pretty well regarded by the recruiting gurus; you could see him as the first of the new generation of light, nimble Michigan offensive linemen.
The lingering fear is that this is more a function of the opponent than any great leap forward. In retrospect, against Utah Molk was getting the same excellent position on his man but after he got that position the DT picked him up and dropped him in the RB’s lap. He’s undersized and a redshirt freshman; he could end up physically overmatched by opponents outside of the MAC. We’ll see.
Others who looked better: McGuffie and Shaw were both impressive when given some blocking; all the WRs basically get incompletes.
And this Nowicki kid?
Yikes. Per his rep he was pretty ponderous; a lot of his playing time consisted of lunging at guys and missing. There were a couple good blocks in there, but this does not appear like it will be a sepia-toned Gameday profile anytime soon.
McGuffie, Shaw, Molk, Steven Threet’s legs.
Steven Threet’s arm, Angry Michigan Offensive Line Hating God, the crappy blocking of various receivers and tight ends.
What does it mean for Notre Dame?
I’m not sure how the blitz-happy Tenuta defense is going to match up against the Rodriguez offense, especially because ND runs a 3-4 and I don’t have much experience charting the zone stretch against a 3-4. I think the Molk-Ian Williams matchup will be crucial, and the results of the Gator Bowl…
…are encouraging, but Pat White isn’t walking through that door.
This will be a battle between whiffed blocks and whiffed tackles, IMO. Notre Dame was kind of meh against a zippy short passing attack and dodgy against the run game at times, and as we all know, San Diego State lost to D-III Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s women’s hockey team.